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Horst Steinke


for the fundamental terms introduced as deliberate. In the words

of Mark,

Spinoza’s purpose in the


is not to discover new facts, but to pre-

sent conclusions which he believes to follow from general principles.

[…] For if the premises are granted and if the axiomatic method is cor-

rectly applied, then Spinoza is perfectly right that one cannot rationally

refuse to grant the conclusions as well



Spinoza, it seems, had in mind expounding on foundational

matters in another work, entitled

Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione






Despite the fact that this description of the formal character

of Spinoza’s


is broad-brushed, it should provide a sense of

its overriding characteristic which is its deductive logic. This then

will be our conceptual “template” against which to compare Vi-

co’s “Elements”; in other words, do the “Elements” with their

language of axioms


, definitions, propositions, postulates, prin-

ciples, corollaries, constitute such a deductive system also, as one

might reasonably expect by this terminology? In Vico studies,

this is anything but a new question, and we will simply draw on

some of the results that seem to be most pertinent, rather than

examine the question anew


. E. McMullin, for example, sub-

jected Vico’s “Elements” to tests in terms of various types of

reasoning and logic (“axiomatic”, “inductive“, “retroductive”)


by themselves, and in combination. Leaving aside all complexi-

ties and subtleties, the fundamental insight is unavoidable:

«Though Vico uses deductivist language constantly, the infer-

ences he makes are not really deductive most of the time. When

he says “from this axiom it follows […]” , or “this axiom proves

[…]”, the inference is usually far from a straight-line deductive



. To illustrate, Axioms LVIII (§ 228) and LIX (§§ 229-

230) read: