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


know, to will, and to be able to do»


, is «to live in conformity

with eternal reason»


, is «naturally social and that this natural

disposition […] was planted in us […] through the […] idea of

equity in law»


, the matrix of these fundamental insights is able

to “catch” in its mesh a certain part or level of lived reality which

we might term “gross” of “large-scale”, by its generality. This is

why Vico could say immediately following the preceding state-

ment: «In pursuit of this equity human beings joined together in

communities and founded commonwealths»


. In other words,

from human nature, properly understood as inherently sociable,

it could be explained why humans formed communities. And the

God-given innate sense of justice can also more-or-less unmedi-

atedly be related to the rule of law


. To this degree the



be said to be at the root of the




However, this is essen-

tially the limit to which the


can take us; when it comes to

the “finer”, more detailed forms of social organization, govern-

ance, positive legislation, synchronically, and furthermore, dia-

chronically, the dynamics of their development over time, which

is actually one of Vico’s main preoccupations, the


, strictly

understood as a “class” by itself


, has reached its level of com-

petence. In the realm of ideas, of concepts belonging to “philos-

ophy”, one would be mistaken in attempting to look for insights

regarding the universal practice of religion, burial of the dead,

marriage or patriarchal, aristocratic/democratic, monarchic

forms of governance, or even the “ages” of the “gods”, “he-

roes”, and “men”




The mediating role of “philology”

Vico expressed this state of affairs by saying that «the philos-

ophers failed by half (

per metà

) in not giving certainty to their rea-

sonings by appeal to the authority of the philologians» (Axiom

X, § 140)


. This peremptory statement can be pressed into ser-

vice of our thesis at two levels. The first level is Vico’s insistence

on the epistemic insufficiency of “philosophy”, on the one hand,