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Vico’s Ring


with having refuted him completely in the natural succession of

political forms […]. But it pleases us to add […] a refutation

based on the impossibilities and absurdities of his own posi-



. Vico’s placement of this topic in the center of the materi-

al serves to draw attention to it.

The third section switches back to the topic of Roman juris-

prudence, but in unexpected ways. Rather than elaborating fur-

ther on the achievements of Roman legal thinking and practice,

and its associated forms of state that he discussed in the first sec-

tion, Vico reverses course and returns (once more) to the very

beginnings, described in the subheading: “[



he Ancient Roman

Law Was a Serious Poem, and the Ancient Jurisprudence a Severe Kind of

Poetry, within Which Are Found the First Outlines of Legal Metaphysics

in the Rough, and How, among the Greeks, Philosophy Was Born of the


The “chapter” begins and ends on the same note: § 1027

recalls the “axiom” that «as men are naturally drawn to the pur-

suit of the


, […] when they cannot attain it, causes them to

cling to the


(italics added), and § 1045 brings closure:

«Hence, with regard to what is just, the


began in mute

times with the body. […] And finally, when our human reason

was fully developed, it reached its end in the


in the ideas

themselves with regard to what is just» (italics added). The mate-

rial enclosed by these bracketing statements makes it clear that

the topic is not the distinction of




as philosophical

concepts in isolation but the nature of law in its two aspects, alt-

hough they are intimately related, «the true [being] the universal

idea, the perfect form of equity and justice», and «the certain

embrac[ing] the set of heterogeneous, empirical facts»


. Vico

brings to bear on this distinction the historical reality of the early

days of the Greek and Roman peoples: «Because they did not

understand abstract forms, they imagined corporeal forms. […]

If they did not understand, they at least sensed in a rough way

that rights were indivisible» (§ 1035). However, in a reversal of

the traditional elevation of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, he por-