Horst Steinke, Vico’s Ring. Notes on the“Scienza nuova”, its Structure, and the Hermeneutics of Homer’s Works
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Horst Steinke


above. The “tool” metaphor, and its allied “instrument” meta-

phor, seem to be a fixture in the study of language and linguis-

tics, and the resultant debates


. Tool and instrument, of course,

are by no means synonymous, but they significantly overlap in

meaning, specifically in terms of conveying the basic thought of

means or agency in contradistinction to subject or object. And,

for our purposes, we need to add the term “calculus”


as an-

other alternative designation by picking out of its complex con-

notations (semantic domains), the notion of method or system

of manipulation. By using these terms interchangeably or equiva-

lently, we are deliberately disregarding a variety of attributes that

underlie their individual semantics, such as the fact that proceed-

ing, conceptually, from tool to instrument to calculus, entails,

among other factors, recognition of increasing investment of in-

tellectual capital. In Vico’s case, there have been objections

raised, for various reasons, to interpreting his attitude toward

language as being a mere “tool”. It has been pointed out, for ex-

ample, that for Vico, social, communicative, and cognitive needs

always go together, and that it is impossible therefore to establish

any precedence of the process of making sense of the world, on

the one hand, over language, on the other hand


. A similar con-

clusion of the non-instrumental status of language – while com-

ing at the issue from a different direction – has been considered

an unavoidable consequence of recognizing the «autonomy» of

language in all human culture and activity


. The autonomous

status of language has also been asserted from a cognitive point

of view, in that language is considered to constitute itself a cer-

tain form of thinking rather than merely an external expression

of thought or its instrument



This brief selection of views on the privileged place which Vi-

co accorded to language in his philosophy shows remarkable

agreement, albeit of a negative kind, on one point, namely, that

language is not a tool, an instrument, or a calculus. It is remarka-

ble in view of the fact that the same conclusion is reached from