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Vico’s Ring


epistemically. Our earlier exposition of Spinoza’s epistemology

would suggest that Vico’s assessment is the reverse of Spinoza’s,

based as the latter’s is on the undisputed primacy of the third

kind of knowledge



Vico’s insistence on the epistemic priority of “poetry” over

“philosophy” is further argued on the basis of its primordial,

originary force. In what is, since Nicolini’s numbering, referred

to as Chapters V and VI of Section I, “Philosophical Proofs”,

comprising §§ 810 to 838, and “Philological Proofs”, §§ 839 to

872, Vico establishes that civilization began with predominantly

“poetic” rather than “philosophical” mind sets and creative abili-

ties: «Inasmuch as the poets came certainly before the vulgar his-

torians, the first historians must have been poets» (§ 813)


. In

going back to the beginnings of human culture, Vico adhered to

his own originally established principles in Book I, and Axiom

LXIV, in particular: «The order of ideas must follow the order of

institutions (


)» (§ 238). The virtually identical statement, in its

fundamental constituents, in Spinoza’s


(Part II, Proposi-

tion 7: «The order and connection of ideas is the same as the or-

der and connection of things») is plausibly considered as laying

behind Vico’s epigram


. However, if that is taken to be the

case, then Vico’s specific, or concrete, “application” of the prin-

ciple needs to be taken into consideration also, and already in the

Axioms, his non-Spinozan, if not ironically anti-Spinozan, thrust

is evident, namely, in the immediately following Axiom LXV that

bears a contrarian relationship to Spinoza’s metaphysics: «This

was the order of human institutions (

cose umane

): first the forests,

after that the huts, then the villages, next the cities, and finally

the academies» (§ 239)


. And it gets worse, in Book III, the



come to the fore in the guise of the «vulgar feelings [and]

vulgar customs of […] barbarous Greece», in evidence of which

he adduces «that the gods are esteemed according to their

strength» and capacity for violence


, as well as citing the «inhu-

man custom […] of denying burial to enemies slain in battle,