Vico, Collingwood, and the Materiality of the Past

The project of this paper is a reconstruction of the philosophy of Giambattista Vico via its confrontation with that of R. G. Collingwood. The aims are twofold: the first part seeks to rescue Vico’s peculiar form of what I call philosophical ‘materiality’ from the later idealist universal histories that would subsume him, while the second explores Vico’s idea of divine providence, particularly his differentiation between it and fate. Materiality and divine providence are importantly linked. I argue that any ‘return’ to Vico and his interest in a philosophically charged reception history, represents a rejection of the Cartesian grounding of modern philosophy, in the name of another potentiality for philosophical reflection that is grounded in the notion of materiality and divine providence. Although unambiguously influenced by Hegelian and in particular Crocean idealism, the fundamental hopes of Collingwood’s philosophy – namely the staving off of modernity’s regression into barbarism – resonates with this Vichean potentiality.