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Article

The Right to punish and the Obligation to Die: Hobbes and Vico on Voluntary Death

The article is focused on the chapters 19-22 of G. Vico's “New Science” of 1725. It deals with the Vichian reconstruction of the archaic self-consciousness of the Roman patricians. In contrast to the plebeians, the patricians, according to Vico, claimed the understanding of the language of the divine revelations. This “interpretative” privilege entailed the obligation to follow exclusively the indications of this fancied divinity. In this type of self-comprehension a peculiar dialectic of necessity and freedom, determining the self-consciousness of the patricians: their unlimited power upon other classes was preconditioned by their readiness to obey to the divine orders and, if necessary, to sacrifice themselves. Thus, the personal freedom and “great deeds”, distinguishing the patricians from other classes and usually considered as a manifestation of an ancient heroism were, according to Vico, not individual virtues of particular persons, but a principle of the collective mind of the upper class.