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Horst Steinke


kind:] the belief in historical narratives (

fides historiarum

), however cer-

tain, give us [3


kind:] knowledge of God, nor, consequently, of the

love of God. […] and so [2


kind:] belief in historical narratives (



) is by no means essential to [3


kind:] the attainment of our

supreme good. However, […], I do not deny that [2


kind:] their study

can be very profitable in the matter of social relations. […], as far as



kind:] reason allows



This text portion is relevant to our inquiry by its reference to



; it provides a bridge to Vico’s treatment of “history”,

and thus can serve as the needed common ground on which to

develop comparisons. The main point, if we may reduce the

statement, is that developments in human history and culture,

and the “lessons” derived thereof

generalizing from Spinoza’s

treatment of biblical history – must, firstly, be considered of lim-

ited value, and, secondly, wholly contingent on expressing «rea-

son» in the form of «the knowledge of God[-Nature]». Such «rea-

son» alone can form the basis of community and political life

hitherto unrealized



When the same question is raised with respect to Vico’s over-

all objective or inquiry, the answer, in one respect is comparable:

it involves a reconstruction of (ancient) history


. A closer look,

nevertheless, is in order; it needs to identify more specifically in

what Vico’s “reconstruction” of history consists. It is, of course,

at one level a reconstruction of the very origins of civilization,

and the complex forces that were operative at that beginning, in-

cluding what may be called the prevailing «attitudes of mind»



alongside corresponding social and “political” conditions and in-

stitutions. However, as has already been commented on in con-

nection with Book II of

Scienza nuova

, entitled “Poetic Wisdom”,

far from portraying the knowledge of the “founding fathers” of

civilization as “primitive”, and inferior to subsequently achieved

intellectual states, he sees in them the originators of human

knowledge, creating the conditions of possibility of science; the

«imagination» and the resultant «imaginative universals» he as-