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Vico’s Ring


commented on archaic art in certain contexts, but did not raise

art to the level of primordial status. From Vico’s perspective of

primacy in the development of human society, art as well as the

economic sphere are epiphenomena



This brief digression on art and economy was meant to cast

the “encyclopedic” scope of Book II


into a certain light, to put

the spotlight on its “poetic” intent, where “poetic” is a Vichian

technical term only tangentially related, albeit not absolutely un-

related, to literary genre and styles of expression. “Poetic”, simp-

ly put, is Vico’s “codeword” for two notions rolled into one,

first, diachronically, how things had to have been at the very be-

ginning of human civilization, and secondly, ontologically, as P.

Fabiani put it succinctly, «[p]oetry is the creation of meaning»



The encyclopedic range of Book II is thus consciously and

deliberately circumscribed and tightly controlled by Vico’s crite-

rium of such forces as were truly «originary»


, non-derivative, in

shaping human civilization. And, within the seeming plethora of

constitutive civilizing elements presented


, an apposite

question might be whether there could be present any kind of

further structure, weighting, or clustering of elements that might

shed light on the Book’s inherent characteristics, its


, so

to speak. This is where regarding Book II through the lens of

Book IV (that is, the part of Book IV that we consider to be



) becomes pertinent. Vico himself projected an arc

from Book II to Book IV: «Wherever, […] men begin to domes-

ticate themselves by religion, they begin, proceed, and end by

those stages which are investigated here in Book Two, to be en-

countered again in Book Four, where we shall treat of the course

the nations run […]» (§ 393). Toward the end of Book II, we

come across another explicit proleptic reference to the title of

Book IV, viz., «the uniform course run by all the nations» (§

737). And at various places in Book II, the next stage of theoret-

ical grasp of the course of civilization, once the groundwork has

been laid, is adumbrated, as in the central case of language; rather