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Vico’s Ring




(§ 460). One of the historical examples Vico cites

for this “imaginative”, because image-based, display is the Athe-

nian statesman Solon who took up the cause of «the plebeians»,

and was made into an icon of their push for civic rights and a

new identity: «[…] Solon was [a poetic character for] the Atheni-

an plebeians themselves, considered under this aspect [of know-

ing themselves and demanding their rights]» (§ 414). Because So-

lon became an iconic figure in the sociopolitical imagination, Vi-

co could then say something otherwise anachronistic: «The an-

cient Romans must also have had such a Solon among them», re-

ferring to the pleibeians in their power struggles with the ruling

elite (§ 415). These examples by Vico immediately follow a refer-

ence to «the nature of children» (of a certain age, to be sure) as to

their propensity, as well as ability, to engage also in a form of

iconicity that transcends the level of the purely gestural. Repris-

ing Axiom XLVIII (§ 206), he attributes to children the tendency

to find «resemblances» or «relations» between objects and people

they «see», or visually interact with (§ 412). Such equivalence rela-

tions are visual, literally iconic, in the case of children, and part

of their cognitive psychology. But what follows, not only literally

in the text, but by an implication explicitly made by Vico («Now

in view of the nature of children […] we assert that poetic

speech, in virtue of the poetic characters it employs, can yield

many important discoveries concerning antiquity», § 413), takes a

giant leap from cognitive psychology to the realm of social and



and discourse


. And yet, despite this unbridgeable

gulf, by this juxtaposition we are forced to draw the conclusion

that, in his view, sociopolitical activism can be better, or rather

must be, understood against the backdrop of anthropology.

Thus, in the realm of social/political actors, forms of (lowly)

iconicity have the potential of becoming “sublimated”


, raised

to their highest level of expression in societal values.

These aspects of Vico’s thoughts on language are relevant in

addressing the question that is highlighted in the section heading