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Vico’s Ring


very different premises, or rather different types of premises. We

might also note that the rejection of the tool analogy seems to

rely more on a tacit, intuitive response to its potential implica-

tions than on a more systematic examination, not to suggest that

the end result would have turned out differently. Clearly, the

most fundamental implication allowed, although not forced up-

on us, by pursuing the tool metaphor would downgrade language

to being a mere implement, utensil, a view that clearly flies in the

face of everything Vico held dear, and had to say. There is a way,

nonetheless, to address this question more systematically. It con-

sists of positing the language question against the framework of

two fundamentally alternative conceptions, for the first of which

we will refer to language as “universal medium”, and for the sec-

ond, language as “calculus”.

Both in using this terminology and the conceptual framework

it relates to, we follow the work of J. Hintikka in the philosophy

of language and logic



Ab initio,

it must be admitted that these

terms are framed in ways that are far from obvious or transpar-

ent. This is especially true for the notion of language as universal

medium; in this compound, and therefore already complex ex-

pression, language, on the one hand, is taken as a medium of

communication and thought, however, the more highly operative

term is “universal”.

“Universal” in this context does not refer to the now trivial

fact that language is spoken (and also usually written) by all hu-

mans, diachronically and synchronically


. In the realm of phi-

losophy, however, it is necessary to point out the difference with

Leibniz’s vision and project of a “universal language” (

lingua uni-

versalis, lingua rationalis, lingua philosophica


), a formal, symbolic

language capable of expressing all knowledge, be it philosophical,

mathematical, or scientific


. The difference does not lie in a dif-

ferent choice of language, but in understanding the nature or on-

tology of language itself. Rather than speaking of “universality”

of language, it may be more accurate (and less polysemous) to