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Vico’s Ring


about the epistemological crux: the complex and fraught process

of determining the “subject(s)” (


) in the first place, and why

and how a given statement would pertain to one subject rather

than to another;

mutatis mutandis

, the same would apply to judg-

ing what is «ambiguous» or «obscure» or «appear[s] to contradict

one another»


. Viewed from the perspective of Spinoza’s tax-

onomy of knowledge, however, any recognition of high-level in-

tellectual interaction as being involved already in basic data col-

lection would have resulted in direct ontological conflict with the

other two kinds of knowledge


. On the other hand, in Bacon’s

framework, there is no denial of, or silence on, the role of the in-

tellect as early as the stage of initial data gathering, as outlined in

Novum Organum


. When Bacon describes the preparing of «ta-

bles», he says that the particulars about phenomena «must be

disposed and arranged», or, in keeping with his busy bee meta-

phor, «digested». «The tabulating activity involves a measure of

construction, since order cannot simply be “read off” from the



. Thus, already Bacon clearly understood and theorized

that all scientific observation, from the very initial phase, is in

some way “theory-laden”


. In this respect, what was “modern”

in the early modern period, has lost none of its modernity in the




After thus outlining the procedure for acquiring the first kind

of knowledge, Spinoza moves to the next stage, which consists

of eliciting the «meaning (


)», which is the second kind of

knowledge. At this place in his exposition, Spinoza does not yet

go further into how this may be done, except noting that it can

be elicited from the «context (


)». As he will subsequently

illustrate with Moses’s teaching that «God is jealous», Spinoza al-

ready here conveys that the real or main issue for him is not the

inquiry into «meaning» in the usual understanding of semantics,

as the very first sentence (in its Latin original) seems to propose,

but the separation of «meaning» from «truth»: «[…] I term a pro-

nouncement obscure or clear according to […] the context, and