On Giambattista Vico’s ‘The New Science’​ : Part Seven — Funnish ficts apout the shee.

‘ — venite, preteriti, sine mora dumque de entibus nascituris decentius in lingua roman mortuorum parva chartula liviana ostenditur, sedentes in letitiae super ollas carnium, spectantes immo situm lutetiae unde auspiciis secundis tantae consurgent humanae stirpes, antiquissimam flaminum amborium Jordani et Jambaptistae mentibus revolvamus sapientiam: totum tute fluvii modo mundo fluere, eadem quae ex aggere fututa iterum inter alveum fore futura, quodlibet sese ipsum per aliudpiam agnoscere contrarium, omnem demun amnem ripis rivalibus amplecti — recurrently often, when him moved he would cake their chair, coached rebelliumtending mikes of his same and over his own choirage at Backlane Univarsity, among of which pupal souaves the pizdrool was pulled up, bred and battered, for a dillon a dollar, chanching letters for them vice o’verse to bronze mottes and blending tschemes for em in tropadores and doublecressing twofold thruths and devising tingling tailwords too whilest, cunctant that another would finish his sentence for him, he druider would smilabit eggways ned, he, to don’t say nothing, would, so prim, and pick upon his ten ordinailed ungles, trying to undo with his teeth the knots made by his tongue, retelling humself by the math hour, long as he’s brood reel of funnish ficts apout the shee, how faust of all and on segund thoughts and the thirds the charmhim girlalove and fourthermore and filthily with bag from Oxatown and baroccidents and proper accidence and hoptohill and hexenshoes, in fine the whole damning letter… ‘

- James Joyce, (1889–1941), ‘Finnegans Wake’

Translation from the Latin:

‘Come without delay, ye men of old, while a small piece of second-grade imperial papyrus, concerning those to be born later, is exhibited with more propriety in the Roman tongue of the dead. Let us, seated joyfully on fleshpots and beholding in fact the site of Paris whence such great human progeny is to arise, turn over in our minds that most ancient wisdom of both the priests Giordano [Bruno] and Giambattista [Vico]: the fact that the whole of the river flows safely, with a clear stream, and that those things which were to have been on the bank would later be in the bed; finally, that everything recognises itself through something opposite and that the stream is embraced by rival banks.’

A return to the ‘Night Lessons’ episode of the Wake. Dolph (Shem) is leading Kev (Shaun) along the path of illicit knowledge when all of a sudden explanation is interrupted for it is already becoming apparent that his explanation is not entirely innocent of geographical, scatological, and metaphysical overtones for what he is about is introducing his brother to the secrets of the mother and the author in the guise of the professor friend breaks the narrative with a parenthesis of some five and a half pages whereby in Latin he invites the spirits of the ancients to sit in on the interesting lesson. (Ghosts and spirits speak in Latin apparently, that is why when Marcellus, in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, suggests to Horatio that he speak to the ghost of the dead king that has just appeared he says ‘Thou art a scholar’ because being a scholar he will know Latin).

Come, O past ones, while, in the Latin tongue of the dead, a little bit of paper liviana is exposed to view seated over pots of meat let us revolve in our minds the ancient wisdom of Giordano Bruno, (1548–600), and Giambattista Vico, (1668–1744) to wit that all flows as a river and that every river is embraced by rival banks. The professor discusses Dolph dean of idlers describing how albeit barely a stuttering boy he frequently coached rebellious Mikes at Backlane University for a dillar a dollar changing letters for them and blending schemes for them and double-crossing two-fold truths and devising tail-words all the while counting that another would finish his sentence for him he would smile a bit egg-wise and pick his ten dirty nails retelling himself by the hour a reel of funnish facts about the girl from the fairy hill, the charm-him-girl-of-love indeed he would review in his mind the whole damning letter how first of all and on second thought and third, and furthermore and fifthly….

‘… retelling humself by the math hour, long as he’s brood reel of funnish ficts apout the shee, how faust of all and on segund thoughts and the thirds the charmhim girlalove …’ …. to tell again, to relate anew, and to count again, math hour, in school, the hour of the day spent on math lessons, it’s as long as it’s broad, it comes to the same thing either way, it makes no difference, reel, an apparatus of varying form and dimensions capable of easy revolution by which a cord, line and such like may be wound up and unwound as required, in cinematography and photography a flanged cylinder on which film is wound, usually transferable, a length of film wound on such a cylinder, loosely, a long portion of a motion picture, facts, ficta (Latin), deceptions, untruths. Funnish that is Finnish facts/fictions about the shee, the she and the shee, (Anglo-Irish), fairy, faust, happy, lucky, and Faust or Faustus 16th century magician who sold his soul to the devil, subject of works by Christopher Marlowe, (1564–1593), and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, (1749–1832), first of all, before anything else is done or takes place, segundo (Spanish), second, and on second thoughts, on later and maturer consideration, charmhim girlalove, ‘It is a Charming Girl I Love’, from the operetta ‘The Lily of Killarney’, music by Sir Julius Benedict, (1804–1885), libretto by John Oxenford, (1812–1877), and Dion Boucicault, (1820–1890).

Funnish facts (or fictions?) about the she …

So, what is an educated mind? Is it a question that you have ever asked?

As it is Funnish ficts that we are at present about we can turn for an answer to Finnish philosopher Johan Vilhelm Snellman, (1806–1881), whose concepts of self-consciousness can be better understood with the knowledge that his immediate background was the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1831). Snellman was also a statesman, who had a commanding impact upon the developments that led to Finland’s independence in 1917 and one of his principle philosophical achievements was ‘Om del akademiska Studium’, (‘On Academic Studies’), regarded a classic of university studies in Finland albeit written in Swedish and as yet tobe translated into other languages besides Finnish. In the Finnish school of Hegelian thought education has been a major theme from very early on and as a young university teacher at the end of the 1830s Snellman found himself embarked upon a serious collision with the council of the Imperial Alexander University of Finland, (the University of Helsinki, Finland was a part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917), subsequent to which he was given a court sentence for refusing to obey the council. The conflict started upon Snellman being refused permission to teach a course on academic freedom and it came to a head upon Snellman’s realisation that he was being ordered to do things that contradicted the chief principles of a university hence he publicly disobeyed and went further in accusing the professors of not understanding what the university was really all about and his endeavour to defend what he considered to be the basic values of a university interrupted his promising university career (although he did later on become a professor in education).

The Jordan Peterson, (1962 — ), of his day one might say if that wasn’t such a gross insult to Snellman. But why does academic freedom in universities instead of being taken for granted persist on being an issue even to the extent that professors taking a stand in support of it can find themselves out of a job? And it happened to Snellman precisely because he desired to instrucy his students about academic freedom, ah, the irony. Funnish fact. Anyway, ‘On Academic Studies’, this was intended for a wide audience hence Snellman took pains to avoid the technical terms of Hegelian dialectics however there are really only two concepts to consider in order to follow his argument and they are self-consciousness and the moment. In the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ Hegel begins from the experiences of consciousness whereby the first major transition occurs upon a turn from the point of view of consciousness to the point of view of self-consciousness. At the first level consciousness is on its own in perceiving the environment but with the turn to self-consciousness that changes, it is no longer alone and the rest of the Phenomenology is a sustained discourse upon the different possibilities of experience with others. The view that a self is essentially not alone is generally acknowledged, by Charles Taylor, (1931 — ), for instance, who wrote in his ‘Sources of the Self’: ‘One is a self only among other selves. A self can never be described without reference to those who surround it’. In order to understand Snellman’s view one must take into account the social nature of being a self, in Hegel’s terms the possibilities of the Spirit [Geist] are defined as ‘’I’ that is ‘We’ and ‘We’ that is ‘I’ and Spirit means the totality of the relations between an individual and a group.

Hegel’s notion is that self-consciousness learns about itself in relation to others and the task of the Phenomenology is to chart the different possibilities of such learning, which is to say, its entire aim of was to achieve a better and wider self-understanding, and in order to succeed it does not suffice for an isolated individual to reach for self-understanding, no indeed, the right sort of Spirit is needed, and the right kind of relations between the I and the We. Dialogue is the thing, hence Plato’s dialogue the ‘Meno’ in which the no small matter of the paradox of education is discussed, (‘if you know what you’re looking for, inquiry is unnecessary. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, inquiry is impossible. Therefore, inquiry is either unnecessary or impossible). François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, (1651–1715), in the didactic novel ‘Les aventures de Télémaque, fils d’Ulysse’ and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, (1712–1778), in ‘Emile, or On Education’ opted for a form of dramatic presentation that also brings out the social settings of learning. Friedrich Schleiermacher, (1768–1834), Hegel’s rival as it happens and one of the principle figures in establishing a new university in Berlin, wrote that a lecture should have the nature of an old dialogue, though not its outer form.

As for the moment, in German one can speak of das Moment as well as die Moment whereby the latter means a short period of time and the former denotes a particular kind of part and this is what is significant for this present discussion. The tradition of thinking about wholes and parts began with Plato and das Moment was particularly important for Hegel albeit the tradition carried on after him. In Edmund Husserl’s, (1859–1938), ‘Logical Investigations’ the third investigation is entitled ‘On the Theory of Wholes and Parts’ wherein he introduces two possibilities of being part of a whole, first, pieces are the kind of parts that are separable from their wholes, a door is part of a house but as there is no issue in separating it from the house, it is a piece (das Stuck), and second, moments are the kind of parts that are inseparable from one another and from their wholes.

Robert Sokolowski, (1934 — ), provides an example of such a moment albeit one that is nothing to get excited over: ‘I cannot disengage brightness from colour, I cannot consider colour without locating it within a certain surface, and I cannot consider it without seeing it as a moment of an extended thing’. What Snellman has in mind when he writes about moments in ‘On Academic Studies’ are such parts that are so essentially tied to other moments that the whole does not exist without all of its moments. And we can see the immense significance of this for beginning with the connection between learning and the self that Plato established in the ‘Meno’, (see my article On Plato’s ‘Meno’: The Paradox of Inquiry), a connection that plays a role in later reflections upon higher education. With German Idealism self and self-consciousness are central and the Phenomenology endeavours to account for all the experiences of self-consciousness in different kinds of society. The word ‘university’ was originally tied to a special kind of community, universitas, meaning a community that is legally responsible as a community and Hegel whose learning was formidable wa well aware that since the days of Pythagoras, (570 — c. 495 BC), the highest education has taken place in special kinds of communities, and further, Hegel lived in the middle reformation of the university and this reformation was closely connected with philosophical views of the time.

One would of course expect ae university to take on board Hegel’s explication of the different possibilities of self-consciousnesses relating other and further one may well suppose that one of the highest possibilities for self-consciousness to appear would be that of the Spirit of a university community, although Hegel does not explicitly deal with the university but in his writings upon the topic several are directed towards the ministry of education and there are a few speeches he presented while rector of a gymnasium. Nonetheless Hegelian philosophers have supplemented his system later on employing an Hegelian framework to produce new models for universities, such work not carried out in Germany alone, for in France, Victor Cousin, (1792–1867), also regarded the objective of higher education to be self-cultivation. Cousin and his followers as it happens endeavoured to argue that women and members of the working class are not entitled to higher education albeit, from the point of view of Cousin’s own Cartesian theory there is no principal difference between a woman’s and a man’s self, (what a philosophical breakthrough).

‘The Great Fire of Turku of 1827’, Robert Wilhelm Ekman, (1808–1873). The fires started burning on 4 September 1827 in burgher Carl Gustav Hellman’s house on the Aninkaistenmäki the house possibly been lit on fire by sparks flying from the chimney of a neighboring building, a fire that destroyed 75% of the city. The Imperial Academy of Turku suffered great damage. Most Finnish archives, including practically all material from the Middle Ages were destroyed in the fire. ‘Without rhetorical exaggeration, a simply truthful combination of the miseries that have overwhelmed the noblest of nations and polities, and the finest exemplars of private virtue, forms a picture of most fearful aspect, and excites emotions of the profoundest and most hopeless sadness, counterbalanced by no consolatory result. We endure in beholding it a mental torture, allowing no defence or escape but the consideration that what has happened could not be otherwise ; that it is a fatality which no intervention could alter. And at last we draw back from the intolerable disgust with which these sorrowful reflections threaten us, into the more agreeable environment of our individual life the Present formed by our private aims and interests. In short we retreat into the selfishness that stands on the quiet shore, and thence enjoys in safety the distant spectacle of ‘wrecks confusedly hurled’ But even regarding History as the slaughter-bench at which the happiness of peoples, the wisdom of States, and the virtue of individuals have been victimised the question involuntarily arises to what principle, to what final aim these.enormous sacrifices have been offered’. — Hegel.

‘The Milky Way’

by Zachris Topelius (1818–1898)

And now the lamp is out

And now the lamp is out and now the night is silent and clear

and now all the memories of long lost days are rising

and gentle tales fly around like streaks in the blue

and wonderful and wistful and warm is the heart then.

The bright stars gaze down into the winter night’s glow

as blissful a smile as if there were no death on earth.

Do you understand their silent language? I know a story yet

I have it learned from the stars and do you want to hear it?

Far away on a star he lived in the splendour of the evening sky;

she lived in a different sun and in a different region.

And Salami was her name and Zulamit was his

and both loved so much and loved each other.

They both lived on earth before and loved even then

but were separated by night and death and sorrow and sin too.

Then white wings grew fast on them in the peace of death

they were judged far apart on different stars stay.

But they thought of each other in the home of the blue heights.

immeasurable lay a space of glory and suns between them

countless worlds wonders of the Creator’s wise hand

spread between Salami and Zulamit on fire.

And then Zulamit has an evening of the power of desire consumed

began to build a bridge of light from world to world

and then has Salami as he from the edge of his sun

begun to build a bridge from pole to pole.

For a thousand years they built with unwavering faith

and so the Milky Way was built a magnificent star bridge

that embraces the highest vault of heaven and the orbit of the zodiac

and binds together the shores of the ocean of space.

Horror gripped the cherubim to God rose their flight:

‘O Lord, look what Salami and Zulamit have built!’

But God Almighty smiled and a bright light spread far and wide

‘What love has built in my world I will not tear down’.

And Salami and Zulamit when the bridge was finished

they leapt into each other’s arms — and soon a star bright

the brightest on the vault of heaven ran up in their wake

that after a thousand years of mourning in bloom a heart beats.

And all that on the dark earth has loved tenderly and joyfully

and were separated by sin and sorrow and anguish and death and night

it only has the power to build itself from world to world a bridge

be sure it shall reach its love its longing shall find rest.


What precisely were the views of the fundamental duties of a university that Snellman regarded as being so important that he chose to sacrifice his career in order to defend them? He was not permitted to publish his views in Finland but happily he was able to do so in Sweden where his essay on academic studies was published wherein he states that there is an essential difference in the nature of knowing between school and university and he clarifies this difference by explaining the aims of each institute:

‘The school is an institution in which an individual is educated to self-consciousness … The university is an institution in which a thinking and willing subject is educated to knowing and ethical life, to a reconciliation between self consciousness and tradition’.

- ‘On Academic Studies’

In school the objective is to reach the stage of self-consciousness which then serves as a starting point for higher education, and in virtue of the highest level of education beginning when a person has attained the level of self-consciousness the community where this education takes place should be arranged to coincide with the level of the student’s development. In practice what this means is that the early stage of education is based upon the authority of the teacher and passive learning by heart (I have horrific memories from my own school days of having to learn poetry by heart and then reciting it in front of a class, the teacher reprimanded me on one occasion as I was reciting and he was looking at the poem in his own book, because of course no need to learn it by heart for him and then he looked up and saw I was furtively reading from a book .. oh unhappy days, fortunately it is not the kind of thing expected of a pupil in these more enlightened times). The task is typically to memorise assigned home work and repeat it upon being asked, for instance first the alphabet is learned and then one learns to read, and at that stage one does not expect a pupil to be able to reason why the alphabet is in a particular order or why it is read from left to right just as the pupil might also learn that Paris is the capital of France, but is not expected to reason why. And upon becoming university students pupils are expected to be able to reason about the facts they learn, as in an examination on Shakespeare it is not sufficient to repeat what Shakespeare wrote but one must be able to explain different interpretations of selected passages, likewise in an examination on the history of France it is not sufficient to state that Paris became the capital and in what year but one must also be able to explain the circumstances that led to this status.

Snellman was not the first to emphasise the difference between school and university for instance we discover similar differentiations in Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling’s, (1775–1854), lectures on the method of academic studies, ‘Vorlesungen über die Methode des akademischen Studium’, 1803), nonetheless Snellman’s text is an original contribution to the philosophy of higher education in many respects in particular his view of the difference between school and university relies upon what he means by knowing, according to which memorising facts alone does not constitute knowing in a strong sense of the word for real knowing has two sides, two moments in the philosophical sense as has just been explained, moments that are acts of self-consciousness and tradition: ‘Knowing, therefore, means that the subject grasps what is rational in the tradition’. If either of these moments is absent then we are no longer dealing with knowing in Snellman’s sense. How is this to be understood? Well, if learning is simply the adaptation of a tradition offered by authorities such as parents and schoolteachers then the facts a person learns depend solely upon what kind of education the person receives. In antiquity pupils would have learned that the sun revolves around the earth, in the nineteenth century, pupils were taught the reverse, while we are informed that movement in general is relative, and in that kind of learning what is learned ‘accidentally depends on what kind of education the individual has received’ hence real knowing does not simply mean that one knows the answers that are valid in that culture but rather that one should also have realised the validity of these facts by oneself. If Socrates, (c. 470 –399 BC), in the ‘Meno’, (see aforementioned article), had merely told the slave boy the correct answer to the geometric problem of doubling a square then the boy would not have known the answer in the Snellmanian sense albeit he would have been able to give the correct answer when asked. So one answer to the question on what is an educated mind, although this is actually what it is not, it is not necessarily being able to give a correct answer to a question.

In the case of the slave boy he learned the way to the correct answer by himself, he knew the answer in the strong sense, and he could demonstrate the result to others, not merely repeat the fact when asked, and the difference in Socrates’ teaching is that it leads to the students themselves knowing the answer. From Snellman’s point of view if the boy had only memorised the answer he would not have known the answer really as knowing demands that one has realised the truth of an answer by oneself, on the other hand mere subjective realisation of something without tradition does not constitute knowing, as in that case knowing would lack general validity. Were I to assert that the earth does not actually move at all, then I should connect this view to tradition in order to state it as knowledge, something more than my subjective opinion, and in order to know in the Snellmanian sense I should also be able to explain how I myself nderstand that tradition to be truthful. Within the university community the objective is not simply to memorise facts but rather to know the truth and as for how such a community is to be characterised the relationship between a professor and a student is according to Snellman completely different from the relationship between a teacher and a pupil, for in school the teacher is the authority who states the facts and the pupil should not normally question them (well that may be true enough if the subject is something like I.C.T. which is what I taught) but in university a professor explains how he (or she although in Snellman’s time it had not reached there yet) has himself reached certain results, he should lead the listener down the paths that led himself to knowledge just as with Socrates’ lesson in the ‘Meno’ Socrates’ objective was not to give answers to the questions but rather to demonstrate how to arrive at an answer by oneself, and in that kind of teaching the dead ends that do not yet lead to an answer are a substantial part of the process for the goal of university teaching, says Snellman, is not to learn facts but students should rather take on the professor’s understanding and conceptualisation of new knowledge themselves, while in school it may be a problem to present different or even conflicting views of the same topic but in the university this is precisely what should be done.

The professor should present different points of view, compare them and demonstrate how he himself came to support one of the possibilities, and furthermore students should be encouraged to choose a different point of view and to argue for it, and it is also a good idea to make corrections to textbooks and show how knowledge changes through the thinking of self-consciousness. Students should be given the freedom to evaluate what is genuinely truthful as well as models demonstrating how to think for themselves and ideally they enter the university at a stage when their self consciousness is newly awakened and they have started to think for themselves. At that stage students typically overestimate and overemphasise their abilities an attitude that Snellman designates as abstract selfishness:

‘The purpose of university education is, as has often been said, to guide a young man away from this abstract selfishness and to reconcile within him self-consciousness and tradition, subjective freedom and the valid just’.

- ‘On Academic Studies’

The objective is to become self-responsible and honour the rights and views of other selves within the community, and In order to succeed the community should acknowledge or recognise students as self conscious beings. Recognition, (Anerkennung), the key term in Hegel’s treatment of self-consciousness, what self-consciousness basically desires is recognition from another self-consciousness.

‘A scene from the Finnish war’, Albert Edelfelt, (1854–1905) The Finnish War fought between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Russian Empire from 21 February 1808 to 17 September 1809 which resulted in the eastern third of Sweden being established as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire. On 30 November 1939 there was a Soviet invasion of Finland after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. Despite superior military strength, especially in tanks and aircraft, the Soviet Union suffered severe losses and initially made little headway. ‘What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it’. — Hegel.

‘On the Border’

By Uuno Kailas (1901–1933)

Like a chasm runs the border

In front, Asia, the East

Behind, Europe, the West)

Like a sentry, I stand guard

Behind, the beautiful fatherland

with its cities and villages

Your sons defend you

My country, the greatest treasure

Nocturnal howling winds bring

Snow from across the border

— Lord, let my mother and father

Sleep, calmly dreaming!

Fill the bins with grain

Let the herds breed

Let thy hand bless the fields

– I am here, protecting them

The winter night is bleak and cold

There is an Icy breath from the East

Over there is slavery and forced labour

the stars look down and see

Far away on the Steppe rises

The ghost of Ivan the Terrible

A spirit of doom is at work, augering that

the morning shall see blood

But fathers, gray, rise from their graves

Phantom steeds they ride

Bear spears held in their hands

Rushing towards the border

— Blessed spirits of the forefathers

Listen to your sons oath

if I should betray my words, then come

as an army of vengeance — :

Their tread will not desecrate

the resting place of your heroes

From the iron-soled foot of the enemy -

I will protect your borders

Strangers will never take

your precious heritage

let them come like hounds from the steppes

they will find a place here under the soil

With a bears powerful chest

I charge against the lances

defending your women’s spinning wheels

and your children’s cradles

Like a chasm runs the border

In front, Asia, the East

Behind, Europe, the West

Like a sentry, I stand guard


The dispute between Snellman and rector Fredrik Wilhelm Pipping, (1783–1868), can thus be seen as a struggle for recognition whereby Pipping refuses to acknowledge Snellman’s right to teach and Snellman refuses to recognise Pipping’s right to give orders to him, a dispute well documented in the minutes of the university board and court sessions from November 1837 to June 1839. But what in practice does the recognition of a student as a self-conscious actually mean? For Snellman it means academic freedom. Students are to be given the freedom to judge questions of knowing and questions of actions for themselves, and one of Snellman’s principle ideas is that knowing and action are connected. It follows that as we acknowledge the students’ right to gain knowledge for themselves, we should in addition acknowledge their right to act freely:

‘A person, who has once demanded the right to decide on knowing for himself, will also demand the right to decide on his actions’.

- ‘On Academic Studies’

Truth and freedom should go hand in hand within the university community and as a consequence students should decide upon disciplinary measures themselves and produce rules to be followed within the student community of the university (a rather appealing thought in his own day perhaps … if only he could have foreseen what university students would be like in the 21st century). In his student years Snellman himself was very active in his student organisation or ‘nation’ and highly valued its autonomy highly, indeed student organisations or ‘nations’ had a strong role in the formation of the first universities and in the 1830s Snellman still saw their role as vital to the university community. When students are not just ordered to obey rules handed down from above they will also learn to think about how to construct a well functioning community. The ethical dimension of higher education follows from the understanding of the university as a community of selves. As Charles Taylor explains: ‘What I have been calling the self … exist only in a space of moral issues’, and if we are not merely ordered to follow the rules but in addition must produce them then along with freedom we will also gain responsibility. In Snellman’s view ethics is an internal part of university education, it is certainly not sufficient to enact laws and rules for students to follow, rather the objective is to think together how a community of selves aiming to truth could act freely, which is to say, how we as responsible beings should behave. Alasdair MacIntyre, (1929 -), has evinced concerns about the fact that we no longer think together about the idea of university and he points out a symptom of this condition, in the contemporary university it is no easy matter to reach an agreement ‘on what, if any, general education requirements should be imposed on undergraduates’. Philosopher and scholar of antiquity Martha Nussbaum, (1975 -) on the other hand while defending the Platonic or Socratic view on university education has states that all undergraduates should be given a set of courses in philosophy and other subjects in the humanities because these ‘will stimulate students to think and argue for themselves’

The kind of statement that always puts me in mind of Hegel’s observation:

‘Think for yourself’ is a phrase which people often use as if it had some special significance. The fact is, no man can think for another, any more than he can eat or drink for him. In point of contents, thought is only true in proportion as it sinks itself in the facts; and in point of form it is no private act of the subject, but rather that attitude of consciousness where the abstract self, freed from all the special limitations to which its ordinary states are liable, restricts itself to that universal action in which it is identical with all individuals’.

- ‘Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences: Preliminary Notion’

Thinking and arguing for themselves would doubtless have occurred in Snellman’s lectures about academic freedom if he had been allowed to give them. What Snellman’s view means in practice may perhaps be better understood through ‘Det pedagogiska sjalvet’, ‘The pedagogical self’, wherein Anne Huhtala of the University of Helsinki has collected material from essays written by students studying to become teachers of Swedish. The students were instructed to decide on the length of their essays themselves albeit it would have been easier if the students had received more precise instructions and had simply been told to write from 1,000 to 1,500 words, for instance. But in accord with Snellman’s view we should trust the students and allow them to decide for themselves as Huhtala did but students should understand that by freely deciding themselves how long the essay they are going to write will be they will be making an ethical decision on how long an essay suits the purpose of the researcher and what parts are meaningful from the point of view of the research project. From which it follows that the students in addition learn to think from the point of view of another self within the community, which is to say, from the point of view of future readers of the text. If the students were given exact instructions on how long the text should be they would not learn to evaluate the length of their writing themselves and in a Snellmanian universit, these students would never graduate. What Snellman’s ‘On Academic Studies’ instructs us is to see how such a small difference in the way students’ assignments are given, for instance, can be decisive to judging whether the teaching is truly university teaching or simply teaching that takes place in a university, and in order for teaching to be real university teaching in Snellman’s sense it should start with the recognition of the students as selves, as persons who can decide for themselves.

‘The Burnt Village — Scene from the Finnish Peasant Revolt of 1596’, 1879, Albert Edelfelt. The Cudgel War, (1596–1597), peasant uprising in Finland which was then part of the Kingdom, the name of the uprising deriving from the fact that the peasants armed themselves with various blunt weapons, such as cudgels, flails and maces since they were seen as the most efficient weapons against their heavily-armoured enemies. What was the cause of the outbreak of the Cudgel War? An increase of the tax burden upon the peasants, abuses and illegalities towards the peasants committed by the nobles and their armies in collecting taxes, the burdens of wartime and severe failed harvests, the chaos caused by war fatigue, political provocations, the exploitation of peasants by a nobility that who grew in number and wealth. ‘History is not the soil in which happiness grows. The periods of happiness in it are the blank pages of history’, — Hegel.


by Eino Leino (1878–1926)

Volatile youth like a rolling stream.

The threads already gray beat the golden bulge of life.

In vain, oh in vain do I grab it for a moment,

there is no joy in the company, no wine.

The proud days of my will will disappear.

The charms of my life were long gone.

I got up from the sag. Is it down my road again?

My only hope: a painless moment small.

I know, peace is in me.

There is no rest in the path of the seeker gentle,

the north speaks, the sun goes down in the storm,

ice red line: a powerless longing for beauty.

The dormant municipalities of the sea sank into the sea.

Man is poor: the ransom of songs is precious.

I gave it my all, I swayed for a moment,

the gold of the dream in my mind I paid.

I’m exhausted, ah, all the way to the heart!

Is the pathological burden of the pawn too much?

Or am I those who have the will, no power?

My victory is empty, the result of my work is ringing.

So it was a long time.

broken chains, burnt, beloved ships?

Now did I crash when everything was necessary?

I solidified into ice when my wound went scarred.

A hopeless battle against the powers of heaven!

Echo sounder; comfort the song not its children.

The mistress challenges, the melody rings with collapsing wings.

My gorge to peace like a beast dying yeast.


Upon which considerations we are now better placed to look at a second point of departure (see my previous article for the first), between Hegel and Vico with regard to their respective notions regarding philosophical history in Hegel’s ‘Lectures on the Philosophy of History and Vico’s ‘The New Science’, this time due to differences concerning first-order history and emergent rationality. Hold on a minute, I hear you protest, that’s a bit of a jump, where did that come from? Well, bear with me. As I have discussed in previous articles, (The Cunning of Reason- parts one to four), Hegel’s intention was to demonstrate that reason governs the world, that is to say, to render it a determinate constitutive principle, but Vico would contend that this was a doomed enterprise in virtue of his failure to see that what such an enterprise was in need of was a reconstitution of the historical facts themselves and not merely a higher-order interpretation put upon facts drawn from other sources, and what he should have produced was a philosophically enlightened first-order history and not, as he did, some kind of second-order history presupposing facts of a different sort.

It is evident enough from the briefest of glances through any of the versions of the ‘New Science’ that what Vico is presenting is in one aspect a new first-order history, one which, as he puts it, is ‘both a history and philosophy of humanity together’. His account of the poetic age, for instance, in which he goes back beyond the existence of written evidence, is heavily dependent upon an interpretation of the Homeric poems which he puts forward, which commits him to the view that, irrespective of whether or not a single Homer ever existed, the contents of the poems must be compilations of beliefs and customs drawn from two very different peoples living in places far apart, that the poems had been created in the poetic age, corrupted in the heroic age and received thus in the Homeric age, and that at no point had they disguised an esoteric and lofty philosophical wisdom such as many writers, from Plato onwards, had contrived to find in them. A discovery of the true Homer through historical reconstruction one might say, and from what has been discussed above you can detect where the problem lies here. What the poems are when properly interpreted according to Vico are an expression of the way in which an original poetic age saw its own civil history, and similarly Vico engages in a sustained polemic against the widely accepted view that the Law of the Twelve Tables (a set of laws inscribed on 12 bronze tablets created in ancient Rome in 451 and 450 BC, they were the start of a new approach to laws which were now passed by government and written down so that all citizens might be treated equally before them), was first produced by Solon, (c. 630 — c. 560 BC), for the Athenians and later transferred to Rome thereby concealing, what Vico takes to be true, that they were a compilation of the natural law of the gentes of Latium in their heroic period and can hence said to shed some light both upon a particular section of history and upon the nature of heroic law in general.

This is a part of what Vico explicitly asserts that such a science as his must contain and in third ‘New Science’ he lists seven principal aspects of his science, including a history of human ideas and the principles of universal history. It is true that Vico does not claim to have provided a universal history and, indeed, he frequently asserts that this would involve more learning than he himself possesses, nonetheless he does preface the second and third ‘New Science’ with a list of some of the most important facts in the histories of seven ancient nations, including, of course, those of Greece and Rome, constituted according to the principles involved in his science, while he also endeavours to extend this to include parts of European history after the Dark Ages.

‘Bishop Henry killed by Lalli’, 1877, Albert Edelfelt. An apocryphal story from Finnish legend in which one of the first Christian missionaries in Finland, Bishop Henry, in midst of travelling, together with his entourage stop by a local dwelling where only the matron of the house, Kerttu, is home. Bishop Henry asks for food and hay for the horses but the matron refuses him upon which Bishop Henry and his men then forcibly take the food and hay before continuing on with their journey. After they are gone, Lalli, the husband of Kerttu, returns and hears of what has happened, and upon hearing of the bishop ransacking his home becomes enraged and leaves to pursue the bishop, catching up with him on top of a frozen lake, Köyliönjärvi in the story, at Bishop Henry’s bidding his entourage flees and hides in a nearby forest, te bishop tries to calm the angered man but Lalli strikes and kills Henry with an axe. ‘Although Freedom is, primarily, an undeveloped idea, the means it uses are external and phenomenal; presenting themselves in History to our sensuous vision. The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their needs, their passions, their characters and talents; and impresses us with the belief that such needs, passions and interests are the sole springs of action — the efficient agents in this scene of activity. Among these may, perhaps, be found aims of a liberal or universal kind — benevolence it may be, or noble patriotism; but such virtues and general views are but insignificant as compared with the World and its doings. We may perhaps see the Ideal of Reason actualized in those who adopt such aims, and within the sphere of their influence; but they bear only a trifling proportion to the mass of the human race; and the extent of that influence is limited accordingly. Passions, private aims, and the satisfaction of selfish desires, are on the other hand, most effective springs of action. Their power lies in the fact that they respect none of the limitations which justice and morality would impose on them; and that these natural impulses have a more direct influence over man than the artificial and tedious discipline that tends to order and self-restraint, law and morality. When we look at this display of passions, and the consequences of their violence; the Unreason which is associated not ,only with them, but even (rather we might say especially) with good designs and righteous aims; when we see the evil, the vice, the ruin that has befallen the most flourishing kingdoms which the mind of man ever created, we can scarce avoid being filled with sorrow at this universal taint of corruption: and, since this decay is not the work of mere Nature, but of the Human Will — a moral embitterment — a revolt of the Good Spirit (if it have a place within us) may well be the result of our reflections’. — Hegel.

‘Vain Wish’

by Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877)

Uncountable breakers billow

Upon the shimmering sea.

O would that I were their fellow,

A wave in the ocean, free,

As blank in all my affections,

As blithely chilly and clear,

As empty of recollections

Of joys from a bygone year.

Yet, billow or wave or comber,

I’d follow the same way still.

I live here now with a number

Of waves as thoroughly chill.

They jest at delight and at torment,

Their tears and smiles are for play,

But I have my hot heart’s ferment –

And O, to be heartless as they!


Albeit the ‘New Science’ is amongst other things a history it is not only a history, as previously stated Vico himself claims that it must involve a relationship between philology and philosophy and that its product must be ‘both a history and philosophy of humanity together’ and furthermore another of the principal aspects of the science to which he makes constant if rather unhelpful reference is that of an Ideal Eternal History traversed in time by the histories of all nations’. This is a significant yet problematic notion which is nevertheless integral to the idea of something which is both an history and a philosophy together, hence in the first ‘New Science Vico writes:

‘By means of the foregoing properties we have established the eternity and universality of the natural law of the gentes. Since this law emerged with the common customs of peoples, which are themselves the invariable creations of nations, and since human customs are practices or usages of human nature, which does not all change at once but always retains an impression of some former habit or custom, this Science must provide, at one and the same time, both a philosophy and history of human customs, which together provide the kind of jurisprudence with which we are concerned, i.e., the jurisprudence of mankind. It must provide these, moreover, in such a fashion, that the first part unfolds a linked series of reasons [or rights] while the second narrates a continuous or uninterrupted sequence of the facts of humanity in accordance with these reasons, [rather] as causes produce effects which resemble them. In this way the certain origins and the uninterrupted progress of the whole of the universe of nations should be discovered. And in conformity with the present order of things laid down by providence, this science comes to be an ideal eternal history traversed in time by the history of all nations’.

- ‘The New Science’

There are two principal claims here, first, with regard to jurisprudence, which is Vico’s particular concern here, a linked series of reasons or rights must be unfolded in one part of his science while a second part must narrate the actual facts of the history of jurisprudence in such nations in accordance with this series, and second, and as a consequence, what is disclosed is some kind of eternal pattern, an ideal eternal history, which is exemplified by the history of all nations. So how does that work? One need only take a look at Vico’s account of the first two agrarian laws which, though he develops it in connection with Roman history, is meant to be a feature of all histories. This can be picked up at the point where, according to Vico, all ownership belongs immediately to God and mediately to the ‘fathers’ of the families in whom are united the roles of sage, priest and king. The father’s dominion extends over his family proper, who share with him the right to religion, marriage, children with certainty of descent and so on, and the famuli, that is, those who have come to the family for protection and whose status is that of serf or slave.

As a consequence of a prolonged period of war between these two classes the fathers are forced first to unite into aristocratic states under a yet higher king, to whom they make over some of their powers, and to grant bonitary, (beneficial, as opposed to statutory), ownership of the fields to the workers who, in return, accept the burden of the census and free service to the fathers in time of war. This law, the ‘first agrarian law’, was granted in Rome, according to Vico, at the time of Servius Tullius, (assassinated 535 BC), and he says of it that ‘nothing could be more restricted by nature’, for it allowed the famuli only to do their own cultivating but denied them the right to bring civil actions when their ownership was breached, or even to defend it by force. And what this meant was that their ownership was entirely at the mercy of the will of their lords or those members of the family from whom they held the land and to rectify this unstable condition, the famuli therefore struggled to obtain quiritary, that is, military or defensible, ownership of their lands, which constitutes the ‘second agrarian law’, and, in the case of Rome, Vico contends that this is what was involved in the struggle for the Law of the Twelve Tables.

But quiritary ownership is also an inherently unstable form of ownership, for the plebs as they now were could neither leave their possessions intestate to their family heirs, since, lacking the right to marriage, they had no heirs recognised in law, nor leave them by testament, for they were not citizens. Therefore their lands simply reverted to the lords upon their deaths and hence to put this right they proceeded to demand the right of connubium or solemnised marriage and because this required access to the religions of the nobles, the right to the latter as well. Therefore, by a series of steps involving a demand for an improvement in their legal rights, the plebs gained such an equality of status with the nobles, the heroes, as, in the end, to require a change in the form of the state from the aristocratic state, whose governing principle was the protection of the heroes’ great private interests, to the free popular state. Vico contends that this is what was involved in the enactment of the Publilian Law in Rome.

This example may help to clear up some aspects of the claim that the ‘New Science’ must provide both a philosophy and history of human customs, in this case of jurisprudence, by providing a ‘linked series of rights’ and a ‘continuous or uninterrupted series of facts’ in accordance with the series. For, first and most obviously, it demonstrates that the series of rights provides a principle which bears upon the constitution of the facts. It explains, that is to say, what people were trying to do and what it was that occurred in the major changes in Roman legal and constitutional history. In this sense, then, the series of rights can be thought of as contributing to the constitution of the facts themselves and thus as providing that inner connection for which Hegel unsuccessfully, as Vico would see it, searched. It would be incorrect, however, to claim that it did more than contribute to their constitution since, as mentioned earlier, Vico finds the most fundamental principles involved in the nature of the nation itself. This is made clear in the following passage:

‘When facts are problematic they should be taken in accordance with laws, while when laws are problematic they should be interpreted in accordance with nature, whence we must accept such problematic laws and facts as create neither absurdity nor impropriety, much less impossibility’.

- ‘The New Science’

Second, it throws some light on the nature of the links in the series of rights which Vico traces, the significant point here being that once the famuli have embarked upon the quest for even the most minimal form of ownership conceivable nothing can guarantee them in their possession of it short of full civil status in a state, the form of which is determined by that end. Thus the impossibility of guaranteeing even the notion of bonitary ownership, in virtue of the inherent instability of a situation in which such a demand can arise, generates a sequence of demands for rights which can come to rest only when there is a change in the basis of the state. And a further point to be noted in this connection, albeit it is not made in the above example, is that Vico views this sequence as rational because it finds its culmination only in a state in which an intelligent human nature exists and evinces itself. For, the third kind of law, that in which the sequence comes to rest, is ‘the human law which fully developed human reason dictates’, while the third kind of governments, the form of which alone can guarantee this kind of law, ‘are the human governments in which, through that equality of intelligent nature which is the nature proper to man, all are equal in law’.

Vico is rather consistent on this point since in the same passage he explains that either all are born free in such states or, if such states are monarchies, the monarchs make all their subjects equal in law by retaining for themselves the force of arms. But the second possibility is hardly compatible with the notion of a state which rests on ‘an equality of intelligent nature which is the nature proper to man’. To be consistent he ought to have admitted only the first alternative. But Vico insistst that this is the sort of state which is proper to man only when his nature is fully developed, for the third kind of nature is ‘human, an intelligent and therefore modest, benign and reasonable nature, which recognises conscience, reason and duty as laws’. Vico asserts elsewhere that this ‘intelligent’ substance is ‘the human substance proper to us’. And he also describes it as a state in which ‘men should no longer judge themselves to possess a nature different from, and superior to, that of others because of [differences in] strength, but should recognise that all are equal in respect of their rational nature, which is the proper and eternal human nature’. This implies that the governing notion in the principle which Vico adduces to explain the constitution of the facts is that of an emergent rationality, or capacity to understand, which enables men to see what is defective about inherently defective situations. This emergent rationality will not, however, consist in just the capacity to see what is defective or unstable in the situation, for the presuppositions which justified the situation must also be seen in their true light. Hence, the superior status of the nobility in law can only be overcome when the plebs realise that the divine origin of the nobles is a myth and that all share the same intelligent and reasonable nature:

‘But as, with the passing of the years and the further unfolding of the human mind, the plebs of the peoples finally saw this vanity of heroism for what it was, and understood themselves to share the same human nature as the nobles, they desired equal access to the civil orders of the cities.’

- ‘The New Science’

The notion of an emergent rationality is so important in Vico albeit it has often been denied by many commentators that it is worth considering another further passage from the first ‘New Science’:

‘It will be one of the continuous tasks of the Science to show in detail how, with the development of human ideas, laws and rights emerged first from the scrupulousness of superstitions, then from the solemnity of legitimate acts and the limitations of words, and finally from any of the physical aspects which were believed at first to constitute the very substance of the matter; and how they must be led to their pure and true principle, their proper substance, which is human substance: our will determined by our mind through the power of truth, which is what we call ‘conscience’.

- ‘The New Science’

In ‘Vico’s ‘Science of Imagination’ Donald Verene, (1937 — ), denies that there is any such progress and sees Vico’s third age as involving a collapse into an arid, over-intellectualised and over-technologised form of life. For which there is some evidence for this in so far as the third age is supposed to end in the ‘barbarism of reflection’ which, in turn, leads to the recurrence of the whole life-cycle of the nation. This is a standard difficulty of interpretation in Vico. But as human ideas develop so laws and rights change yet they do not change only in their content, for at the beginning their very substance is thought to be physical, whereas, by the end, they are understood to be nothing but expressions of will, the public will, informed by knowledge of the truth, that is, knowledge of the equality of our human nature.

My rather long preamble on university education in which students are supposed to reason about the facts they learn should highlight the problem here. Try and envisage a teaching history that constitutes a reconstitution of the historical facts. But this article is too long, I may take it up again later but for now I rest content in quoting from the Wake:

‘Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude, the evidencegivers by legpoll too untrustworthily irreperible where his adjugers are semmingly freak threes but his judicandees plainly minus twos’.

— Finnegans Wake’

- History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal. What if that nightmare gave you a back kick?

- The ways of the Creator are not our ways, Mr Deasy said. All human history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.

Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:

- That is God.

Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!

- What? Mr Deasy asked.

- A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.

- James Joyce, ‘Ulysses’

‘Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?’

- ‘Proverbs’, 1. 20–22


But, Hal, I prithee, trouble me no more with vanity. I would to God thou and I knew where a commodity of good names were to be bought. An old lord of the council rated me the other day in the street about you, sir, but I marked him not; and yet he talked very wisely, but I regarded him not; and yet he talked wisely, and in the street too.


Thou didst well; for wisdom cries out in the streets, and no man regards it.


O, thou hast damnable iteration and art indeed able to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon me, Hal; God forgive thee for it!

- Shakespeare, ‘Henry IV’, Part One, Act 1, Scene 2.

Time to lighten things up a bit albeit with some thunder:

The seventh thunder word of the Wake is on page 314 out of 628 pages, it is dead centre in other words serving as a synechdoche (in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa) for the work in its entirety it references many things found elsewhere in the book, Humpty Dumpty, Waterloo (see the second thunder word).

Bothallchoractorschumminaround: both all characters are chumming around

inaroundgansumum: in a round all round

ganz um (German) : all round

in a rum drum strum trum: all very musical sounding, beating away on drums after some perhaps, or beating on something anyway, see below

strum (Slang): f*ck, (sorry I am a bit coy, it is my puritanical upbringing, we can never completely shake off our upbringing), thrum (Slang): f*ck. (See thunder word four)

waultopoofooloo: Waterloo, and humptadump: Humpty Dumpty (nursery rhyme): ‘wall’.

loodheramaun (Irish): lazy idler.

waultopoofoolooderamaunsturnup: while those poor fools lazy idlers turn up, we can read the thunder word as a sentence … it rather reflects what is happening in the tavern anyway …

‘Thunder Rain’, 1924, Gabriel Engberg

Bothallchoractorschumminaroundgansumuminarumdrumstrumtrumina humptadumpwaultopoofoolooderamaunsturnup!

To be continued …



David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
David Proud

David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.