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Horst Steinke


to light in the process and progress of their works, and can thus

be related both to methodology and ultimate outcome of their

treatment of the material, Homer’s poems and Scripture, respec-

tively. In Spinoza’s case, it is the position of all things “language”

at the bottom of his epistemic pyramid that results in casting a

pall over the value of biblical studies; for Vico, however, his

model of the development of human civilization places high val-

ue on the “originary” processes which, for him, find expression

in the very language with which Spinoza takes issue


. In the

light of these fundamental incongruities, it would therefore seem

problematic to link Vico with Spinoza in his (Vico’s) hermeneu-

tical practice without complex qualifications



The fourth area introduced above, the question of authorship

of the Homeric poems, and the related question of the existence

of Homer, or rather Vico’s views of his existence, fits into, and

in fact needs to be studied in relation to, the overall framework

of Vico’s work on the poems; it also provides a platform for

consideration of the oft-posited thesis that Vico’s rejection of

the 8


century BC Homer as author of the poems echoed Spino-

za’s denial of Moses as author of the Pentateuch.


Vico and the “Homeric question”

As observed above, Vico frames his exposition in Book III of

the content of the Homeric poems (with its multiple strata) in

contradistinction to “philosophy”: «Homer the greatest of poets,

we denied that he was ever a philosopher» (§§ 836, 896). This as-

sertion goes to the heart of Vico’s engagement with the Homeric

poems: the poems (both the





are not, as Vico

repeatedly claims

more extensively than any other point or line

of argument

the product of a mind or minds of an age indulg-

ing in philosophical reflection or highly intellectual registers. The

“Homeric question”, therefore, assumes a different complexion

for Vico than for other readers of the early modern age


, or the

modern age, for that matter. In spite of the “corruption”