Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  39 / 298 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 39 / 298 Next Page
Page Background

Vico’s Ring


cupy the middle part of the section (§§ 246-294), with detailed

discussion of the conditions of possibility of aristocratically-

governed polities, including Rome.

This brings us to the third highlight of the second part of

Book IV, designated


, consisting of Vico’s refutation of

Bodin’s theory of the historical priority of monarchic rule


. This

provides a direct link to the “Elements”, § 255: «It is a vulgar

tradition that the first form of government in the world was mo-

narchical». In the next few paragraphs of the “Elements” Vico

explains that to the contrary, the first type of rule was patriar-



. The “Elements”


were not the time or place to engage

with the mistaken view polemically, but Vico evidently came to

feel strongly about this particular issue so as to digress from the

existing subject, and “shoehorn” into it a rebuttal of Bodin, in a

mode of discourse that might have been more suitable for the

lost so-called

Scienza nuova in forma negativa.

The reason is not dif-

ficult to see: the forms of justice (and all that revolves around

them), as well as socio-political structures in given eras are inex-

tricably intertwined with cultural conditions and mentalities. As

Vico states in another pithy axiom: «Governments must conform

to the nature of the men governed» (§ 246). This thrusts us into

the thicket of Vico’s anthropology and the history-dependence

(“historicity”) of human mentality and attitude, and vice versa.

And more than any other era in history, it is the earliest, most

remote times and the people of those times that garner most of

Vico’s attention in the “Elements”, “Principles”, and “Method”.

If, following Bodin, it were allowed to adhere to the priority of

monarchical rule which is incompatible with the earliest state of

affairs, then Vico’s conceptualization of history could be in dan-

ger of collapsing like a house of cards



In view of the aforesaid, it is not difficult to read the final part

of Book II as a continuation of Book I. The specifics in Book

IV, furthermore, we surmise, are used by Vico to cast a spotlight

on certain parts of Book I. In § 980, he identified his topic as the