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Horst Steinke


tain aspects. As shown above, a juxtaposition


with Spinozan

thought can serve to bring Vichian thought into sharper focus.


Relationship of segments C and C’


Book II of

Scienza nuova,

entitled «Poetic Wisdom» («





, is routinely described as “encyclo-

pedic”, a term that fits the contents in more than one sense. Fol-

lowing the Prolegomena, the eleven major subdivisions of the

Book in terms of “sections”


– judging purely by their titles –

indeed are encyclopedic in the modern sense of a wide and di-

verse range of subjects


. However, Vico’s work, and especially

Book II, is encyclopedic primarily in the non-anachronistic sense

of the early modern period, or, more precisely, by the standard

of the “baroque encyclopedia”. Its aim was not mere compre-

hensive coverage but far more ambitious, namely, to put struc-

ture around knowledge, to organize it systematically


. The “en-

cyclopedic” scope of Book II can therefore be seen in this light.

It is evident not only in the subjects or areas of inquiry that Vico

chose to make part of the Book, but also, tellingly, what he failed

to include or pass over lightly. There are two areas, in particular,

that seem to fall into the latter category: (1) art, and (2) econom-


With respect to art, an important clarification and qualifica-

tion is called for: our subject is not aesthetics in general, nor aes-

thetics with respect to language in the form of poetry or other

literary genres


. Rather, we are concerned with the so-called

“visual arts” under which Giorgio Vasari, in the late Renaissance,

subsumed painting, sculpture, and architecture


. Apart from a

few scattered references to the visual or plastic arts elsewhere in

Scienza nuova

(§ 45, Egyptian pyramids, sculpture, casting; Greek

painting, sculpture, casting, engraving; § 99, Chinese painting,

porcelain; § 794, archaic Greek casting, engraving)


, in Book II

itself there is no “section” or even a short “chapter” devoted to

these arts. This is all the more noteworthy since in his observa-