Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  104 / 298 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 104 / 298 Next Page
Page Background

Horst Steinke


knowledge, and then effectively applied to the task of giving

structure to knowledge-acquisition in the world of humans and



. As the fundamental, intuitive – though not

ex nihilo

notion of the “metaphysical point” in

De antiquissima

was behind

the correct mathematical definition of the geometric point, thus

forestalling major conceptual errors, so Vico’s “philosophy” in

Scienza nuova

with its fundamental notions about human nature,

in particular its irreducible social dimension, guided his social

and historical theorizing in “philology”, and enabled him to cast

alternative proposals in a critical light. Among the key results of

seeing mathematics in terms of a mediating role was the refuta-

tion of the Cartesian “mathematization” of nature, of the iso-

morphism between nature and geometry. Analogously, with re-

spect to “philology” in

Scienza nuova

, no totalizing claim is made,

all pretension to full congruence of theoretical description and

historical reality is abjured by making the three great constants of

human life, and uncontrollable “providence”, as integral to the

overall cognitive framework as the purely theoretical proposi-


Notes to Chapter 5


Referred to in footnote 160 above.


This approach raises the issue of anachronism, all the more so since

Vico himself made anachronism a fundamental point of argument against var-

ious important social theorists of the early modern era, including Grotius, Sel-

den, Pufendorf, Spinoza, and Hobbes. According to B. A. Haddock, Vico

maintained that their «misadventures in historical reconstruction are each at-

tributable to a predilection for using the present as a criterion to evaluate the

past» (Id.,

Vico and Anachronism

, in «Political Studies», 24, 1976, 4, pp. 483-487,

p. 483). Therefore, a brief account of the kinds of anachronisms employed in

the present exposition, as well as in common academic practice, is called for.

One type is more or less terminological. As pointed out above, Vico uses the

terms “philosophy” and “philology” in idiosyncretic ways, and while our sug-

gested terms “pre-theoretic” and “theory” capture the distinction, they are by

no means entirely congruent with the original terms. Similar observations