Universal Right

Illustrated. Translated from Latin and Edited by Giorgio Pinton and Margaret Diehl


This book is the first translation from Latin into English of the juridical writings of one of the greatest minds of the Enlightenment and one of the greatest figures in Italian philosophy. The complete text is fully annotated, supplied with an extensive introduction, completed by historical and biographical documents, and graced with evocative illustrations. Legal scholars, philosophers, historians, and political scientists throughout the world may now discover a classic by one of the world’s great jurists. Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) spent his entire life in Naples, where he taught at the University of Naples from 1699, the year he won the Chair of Rhetoric and Forensic Eloquence, to 1741, the year Gennaro Vico, his son, took over the duty of lecturer. In 1723, after having written the Universal Right, he competed, though without success, for the Chair of Civil Law, at the same University. He wrote the Universal Right in Latin, the official and universal language of scholarly works, to prove his competency in the field of law and jurisprudence. The Universal Right had a continuous relevance to the development and growth of juristic studies, both in Italy and in Europe, where it was translated into French and German. From the eighteenth to the twentieth century, the Universal Right influenced the writings and teaching of the practitioners of the Forum—Emmanuele Duni, Antonio Genovesi, Jules Michelet, Francesco Lomonaco, Mario Francesco Pagano, Gian Domenico Romagnosi, Cesare Lombroso, Pasquale Galluppi, Cesare Beccaria, and, among the many recent jurists, Emilio Betti, who taught in Italy and Germany, the author of Allgemeine Auslegungslehre als Methodik der Geisteswissenschaften. Due to the influence of Benedetto Croce’s disapproving interpretation, the Universal Right remained often overshadowed by the New Science in its three editions of 1725, 1730, and 1744. As we start the twenty-first century, scholars are by-passing Croce’s statement, and are looking at the Universal Right with due objectivity and renewed interest. While the New Science has been available since 1948, the Universal Right appears now, for the first time, in English, the contemporary universal language. Contrary to the opinion of some scholars, Vico, in the New Science, stated that he did not regret having written the Universal Right; he used the copy in his possession as a reference manual for all the works written afterward, until 1735. Andrea Battistini wrote, “When an English translation of the Diritto universale [Universal Right] is available, which will be able to rectify the trend toward contemporary relevance with a greater sense of historicity through an emphasis on the debt to Roman jurisprudence, one will finally arrive at a synthetic overall view, obscured today by the numerous specialized analyses. At all events, however, it is to be hoped that the multiplicity of voices, the dialectical battle of interpretations and the duel between historicity and contemporary relevance do not subside”. Isaiah Berlin stated that, “Vico was not read,” and, thus, his ideas were the treasure-trove in the hands of a few specialists and, in like manner, they remained to our day. Other scholars have mentioned the “copiatori di [copycats of] Vico” when speaking about the history and transmission of ideas. In regard to Universal Right, contemporary research and writing is pale and scarce, given the unavailability of translations and the difficulties of the original.

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Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) spent his entire life in Naples, where he taught at the University of Naples from 1699, the year he won the Chair of Rhetoric and Forensic Eloquence, to 1741, the year Gennaro Vico, his son, took over the duty of lecturer.
Giorgio Pinton earned his B.A. in philosophy from the Institute of Philosophy of Gallarate, Italy, 1955, and his Ph.D. in Renaissance and Reformation Studies from the Hartford Seminary Foundation in 1972. With the late Richard E. Weingart, he prepared The Logic of Divine Love: A Critical Analysis of the Soteriology of Peter Abailard (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1970). He taught at Laconia State School in New Hampshire, then philosophy at the University of Hartford from 1969 to 1976. Thereafter, having obtained a Master in Secondary Education from the University of Hartford, he taught within the Connecticut Correctional School District until his retirement in 1992. With Arthur W. Shippee, he translated Vico’s inaugural orations, a book published by Cornell University Press, in 1993, with the title On Humanistic Education, and Vico’s Institutiones Oratoriae, a book published by Editions Rodopi, B. V. in 1996, with the title The Art of Rhetoric. With Pierre Wolff, he translated The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, A New Translation from the Authorized Latin Text, a book by A Triumph Classic, in 1998.
Margaret Diehl has a B.A. from Earlham College and a Master in Primary Education from the University of Hartford. She worked in New York City and Boston, teaching the unteachable. For twenty years, she taught English as a Second Language within the Connecticut Correctional School District. She retired from teaching in May 1998. However, she is continuing to direct the highly successful Drama Program: it consists of a selected group of prisoners, who, after having been properly trained, visit schools and other youth organizations, to give witness to young audiences that drugs and crime destroy happiness and satisfaction in life.
”it is now possible to acquire even greater respect for one of the most important thinkers of the modern world … In the best of all possible worlds, every scholarly book and translation should be presented as lavishly as Universal Right. Hundreds of footnotes, explanations of thorny translations, letters from Vivo to a fellow historian Leclerc, bibliographies, and publication histories of Vico’s work accompany a text that is always understandable.” in: International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 17, 2004
Dedication List of Illustrations Foreword by Alain Pons Introduction by the Translators and Editors The Mental Life of Giambattista Vico (An Assumed Chronology) Summary of the Oration of 1719 Synopsis of Universal Right (July 1720) BOOK ONE: The One Principle and the One End of Universal Right (September 1720) Dedication to Francesco Ventura Work’s Prologue Notes to Work’s Prologue Beginning Notes to Beginning Part One of Book One (Chapters 1-86): The Origin Part Two of Book One (Chapters 87-166): The Circularity Part Three of Book One (Chapters 167-222): The Consistency Conclusion Notes to The One Principle and the One End of Universal Right BOOK TWO: The Constancy of the Jurist, That Is, The Guarding of Divine and Human Institutions [September 1721] Dedication to Francesco Ventura The Constancy of Philosophy and Philology The Constancy of the Jurist Part One of Book Two: The Constancy of Philosophy, That Is, The Guarding of Divine Institutions Part Two of Book Two: The Constancy of Philology, That Is, The Guarding of Human Institutions Conclusion of This Work List of Clarissimorum Virorum Censurae Notes to The Constancy of Philology BOOK THREE: Notes and Dissertations [August 1722] Dedication of the Notae to Giambattista Filomarino Notes to Dedication The Dissertations The Background Bibliography About the Author About the Translators and Editors Index of Vico’s Marginal Notes General Index