Horst Steinke, Vico’s Ring. Notes on the“Scienza nuova”, its Structure, and the Hermeneutics of Homer’s Works
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Vico’s Ring


Book II. As quoted above, Axiom X of

Scienza nuova

includes in

“philology” first of all everything that is language-related, but

secondly also, non-linguistic “material”, namely the full sweep of

history and culture of individual population groups, on the one

hand, and the relations and interactions between them, both pos-

itive (through travel and commerce) and negative (through war,

requiring peace treaties to end). The introductory description in


is more expansive but agrees with the later

Scienza nuova

on radically redefining philology as a discipline


(Chapter 1, §§


This sweeping redefinition of the scope of philology, howev-

er, is just one aspect of Vico’s project. Another key aspect is ex-

pressed in the title of the first chapter, “

Nova scientia tentatur



New Science is Assayed



. From a certain point of view, Vico’s

“philology” can be considered an «encyclopedic and ordering



. The encyclopedic scope is evident from Vico’s enu-

meration in Chapter 1, § 2: «Thus philologists follow their calling

when they write commentaries on commonwealths, the customs,

laws, institutions, branches of learning, and artifacts of nations

and peoples. They attend with great care to epigraphy, numis-

matics, and chronology». At the same time,


opens a win-

dow on the way in which Vico transforms philology – even in its

already more generalized practice of his day – into a “science”

that is able to hold its own even against modern demands of

“scientificity”, when he concludes the chapter with the pro-

grammatic statement: «Therefore, we have decided in this book

to discuss the


of humanity» (Chapter 1, § 27; italics add-

ed). In terms of scope of inquiry, Vico may not be much differ-

ent or more path-breaking than his contemporaneous research-

ers, but his real focus and interest is in explaining these cultural

and historical phenomena by means of underlying, and generally


«principles». In other words, he promises a


of human

society, with priority given to the development of the rule of law,

and forms of governance as determining the conditions for all