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Horst Steinke


cess, of the epistemic enterprise, and is ontologically irreducible.

This essentially pessimistic view


of the state of affairs, howev-

er, is not the only, nor necessarily the most important, ramifica-

tion: with equal justification, it can be valued as a recipe for

openness to alternatives, and as the condition of possibility of

constantly new ways of seeing and understanding.


Trichotomy in “Scienza nuova”

vs. trichotomy in “De antiquissima”

At several places above, analogies were drawn between Vico’s

assignment of theoretical burden to “philology” and the role of

mathematics in science. Mathematics, of course, is the main top-

ic – considered from an epistemological point of view – of Vi-


De antiquissima


. But mathematics is not considered in isola-

tion, rather in relation to metaphysics, on the one hand, and the

actual physical realm (“physics”), on the other hand, assigning it

a mediating function


. In Vico studies, a number of deeply-

running connections between

De antiquissima


Scienza nuova

have been elucidated, some of which interpret them cautiously in

a propaedeutic sense, whereas others discern a substantial degree

of continuity,


the distinct subject matters, which in the

former work concern the physical world, and in the latter, the

socio-historical realm


. A measure of caution in relating both

works certainly is indicated, in the first place, by their radically

different character.

De antiquissima

, aside from the fact that its

length is a fraction of the length of

Scienza nuova,

is part polemic

against, part exposé of, Cartesianism, but above all a fully-

developed counterphilosophy of science, and of its conditions of

possibility, at the core of which lies the



Against this backdrop, Vico’s strenuous effort in

Scienza nuova


work out a sound methodology of unearthing the origins, and

thus the invariants, of human affairs seem not remotely amena-

ble to being cross-referenced with the physico-mathematical in-

quiry of

De antiquissima

. However, upon closer scrutiny, certain

common underlying thinking patterns between the younger and