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Vico’s Ring


type(s) of information that needed to be gathered in research.

However, although he withholds his own considered judgments

in these matters until later in the chapter, the brief statements

under this third point, numbered by himself, already provide a

preview, or rather, lay the groundwork. On the first concern,

having to do with the authors, their personalities and back-

ground, as well as the historical occasion/background of their

writings, his objective transcends historiography: it is «to know

which pronouncements were set forth as


and which as



», on the one hand, and «to avoid confusing teachings of

eternal significance

with those which are only of

temporary signifi-




. It is obvious that we are no longer in the realm of disin-

terested historical and linguistic studies pursued for the sake of

building up as accurate and complete a picture of moments in

history as the available evidence warrants, but in the realm of

theology proper


. With respect to the second subject, the text

itself as a physical object, the concern seems to be purely philo-

logical, in the academically accepted usage, such as «how many

variant versions there were». However, the technical question is

then transformed into the value-laden problematic of «whether

or not it may have been contaminated by spurious insertions,

whether errors have crept in, and whether these have been cor-

rected by experienced and trustworthy scholars». Nothing less

than «what is certain and incontrovertible (

quod certum et indubita-

tum est


will suffice. Spinoza has definite views and responses

on this problematic, but holds them in suspense until after he

has presented the perspective under which he wants the quest

for historical and linguistic understanding to be seen, as the next

section of his methodological essay shows.

This section


, of considerable length relative to the sketch of

his three major hermeneutical tasks, differs from what preceded

it in that it turns from the requisite first kind of knowledge in the

form of ‘raw’ data, heretofore considered, to the task of trans-

forming the accumulated data into the second kind of