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Horst Steinke



See the description of a mundane physical system in category-theoretic

terms in my

Vico’s Three Realms

, cit., pp. 73-74.


The potentially vast difference between these two kinds of functors is

evident in the physical illustration referred to above, in which the forgetful

functor was embodied in the


whereas the contravariant functor

was made up by the far more massive and complex

heating/cooling system



Hösle raised the inevitable question whether Vico should be seen as an

empiricist or a rationalist, and comes down in favor of labeling Vico as the

latter (Id.,


, cit., pp. CXIII-CXVII, specifically p. CXIV, footnote



The significance of the “


contravariant” functor will be commented

on further below.


Hösle distinguished between two types of

a priori


i.e. between the «hy-

pothetical”, and its opposite or “dual”, the «apodictic»

a priori

. The apodictic



which is favored by Hösle in Vico’s case, is seen as possessing affinities

with Hegel’s philosophy of reality («Realphilosophie»). However, despite be-

ing arrived at in different cognitive ways, both kinds of

a priori

are in need of,

and depend on, confirmation and validation in the real (historical) world.

«Aber die begrifflichen Strukturen müssen

empirisch interpretiert

werden, weil sie

sich im Bereich der Realphilosophie aus begrifflichen Gründen empirisch

manifestieren müssen (But the conceptual structures must be

interpreted empiri-


since in the sphere of the philosophy of reality, they must necessarily

manifest themselves empirically)» (italics original) (Id.,


, cit., pp.

CXIV-CXVI). Already Flint had referred to this state of affairs by speaking of

«the tracing and testing of the ideas» (Id.,


, cit., p. 193).


G. Capograssi captured this cognitive direction by describing it as «il

tormento di Vico […] di scoprire l’idea nascosta nel reale (the strenuous effort

by Vico […] to discover the idea hidden in reality)» (As quoted in F. Lomona-


Ragione e diritto prima delle Scienze nuove

, in

Razionalità e modernità in Vico

, cit.,

pp. 79-95, p. 83, footnote 13).



, Chapter 16, § 1; similarly Chapter 17, § 1. This is of course

not the only fundamental insight that Vico arrived at and built into his philo-

sophical edifice. This is also not to claim originality or uniqueness when the

history of ideas clearly indicates otherwise, and as was acknowledged by Vico

himself. We are concerned mainly with Vico’s own (theorized) mode of

thought without dwelling on his indebtedness to other (Renaissance and early

modern) thinkers, which has been, and continues to be, fruitfully explored by

intellectual historians. This is true also with respect to the historical develop-

ments in the field of philology. Its historically changing conception and prac-

tice that were in the background of Vico’s reflections, are traced, for example