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Vico’s Ring


Before examining the meaning of the “functorial” relation-

ships within this tripartite scheme, it is important, as well as nec-

essary, to consider the “system” as a whole, at the metalevel.

There are a number of perspectives that offer themselves, with-

out being mutually exclusive. First of all, in essential agreement

with a dualistic perspective, the world of “reason” and “the true”

under the rubric of “philosophy” is as integral to Vico’s overall

epistemology as the empirical, historical, socio-political-cultural



. It remains therefore unproblematic to refer to the cate-

gory of “philosophy” as the

a priori

, which takes its place as

source of the contravariant functor(s)


from “philosophy” to

the empirical world, so that indeed it can be justifiably said that it

all starts with fundamental philosophical reflection, and with the

conceptual entities that are generated by such reflection. Then

the empirical world functions as the foil against which the ideas

of the

a priori

need to be concretely validated or invalidated



On the face of it, this account, at least in terms of its most

fundamental aspects and implications, seems to comprehensively

depict Vico’s knowledge-theoretic undertaking. However, in the

functorial or category-theoretic perspective, this portrayal, while

remaining essential, becomes only one side of a complex equa-

tion. As the above figure illustrates, the relationship between the

a priori

of Vichian “philosophy” and the real «world of nations,

or civil world» (§ 331) also involves connections in the opposite

“direction”, which, for lack of a better term, can be referred to as

forgetful functors. When we, again, for the sake of argument,

avail ourselves of a dualistic view of matters, in the cognitive

movement from phenomena in the real world (of humans) to the

world of “ideas”, it is obvious that an enormous amount, quanti-

tatively and qualitatively, of substance, information, properties,

structures, interactions, must be filtered and factored out


. It is

only at the culmination of a complex transformative process that

Vico, therefore, was in a position to say, for example, «that hu-

man beings are naturally social and that this natural disposition