During the last 25 years Vico's ideas about history, language, anti-Cartesian epistemology, and rhetoric have begun to receive the recognition their admirers have long claimed they deserve. Increasing numbers of publications appear annually which bear the stamp of Vico's thinking. Even if he is not yet so renowned as some of his contemporaries, such as Locke, Voltaire, or Montesquieu, there are good reasons to believe that in the future he will be equally honored as a cultural theorist. As a theorist of historical process and its language, there is no more innovative voice than his until the twentieth century-which explains in part why such figures as Joyce and R.G. Collingwood freely drew on Vico's work, particularly his New Science, while creating their own. If Vico was Naples' most brilliant, if uncelebrated, citizen prior to the Enlightenment taking hold in Southern Italy, then Croce (1866-1952) is surely the city's most important thinker of modern times, and the single indispensable Italian philosopher since Vico's death. When a genius of Croce's interpretative prowess, evaluates the work of another, it is inevitable that an explosive mixture will result.
A great virtue of this book is its fusion of Croce's unique brand of idealism and aesthetic philosophy with Vico's epistemological, ethical, and historical theories. If Vico's theory of cyclical changes in history, the corsi e ricorsi, remains fruitful, it might be argued that Croce's evaluation of his countryman' ideas represented the next turn of the philosophical wheel toward enlightenment.
For many reasons, it does not come within my province to praise Labriola's book. But I cannot help saying as a needful explanation, that it appears to me to be the fullest and most adequate treatment of the question. The book is free from pedantry and learned tattle, whilst it shows in every line signs of the author's complete knowledge of all that has been written on the subject: a book, in short, which saves the annoyance of controversy with erroneous and exaggerated opinions, which in it appear as superseded. It has a grand opportunity in Italy, where the materialistic theory of history is known almost solely in the spurious form bestowed on it by an ingenious professor of economics, who even pretends to be its inventor.