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Vico’s Ring


As the above figure illustrates, this is not the only forgetful

functor that is involved; the other functor of this type,



actual world of humans


“philology”, implies that any theoreti-

cal constructs/interpretations/concepts have a source outside, in

the real world, and have entered the theoretical realm through a

complex transformative process. Vico pointed to this ultimate

ground of all philosophical reflection in Axiom LXIV (§ 238):

«The order of ideas must follow the order of institutions»


. The

human “institutions” (in the sense of Vico’s all-inclusive term



) make up the very first sphere in our trichotomous scheme,

and while, for heuristic reasons, the emphasis thus far – hopeful-

ly without doing violence to Vico’s own intent – has been on the

topos of “philology”, equal accentuation and space must be ac-

corded the “category” of the world of humans, and whose au-

tonomous status must be preserved epistemologically


. As stat-

ed before, epistemic access for “philosophical” reflection to the

sphere of actual human history is never direct but mediated by a

theoretical, conceptual framework. So, it is actually the “philo-

logical” discipline that avails itself of a forgetful functor to make

sense, however tentatively, of the confusing and fragmentary

trove of phenomena in the real world, and information about it.

This is indeed the subject and thrust of


, forming the

second part of Book II of

De uno

, featuring the propaedeutic, as

well as programmatic, subtitle “

Nova scientia tentatur”

. In view of

the transitivity of these two functors, Axiom LXIV, seemingly

connecting the sphere of “philosophy” and actual historical reali-

ty in a direct manner, more than anything else highlights the true

starting point of the cognitive enterprise


. As Vico declared in §

368 (Book II, Chapter II): «Thus our Science come to be at once

a history of the ideas, the customs, and the deeds of mankind.

From these three we shall derive the principles of the history of

human nature […]»


. As always, the field of juridical notions (in

particular Roman law in historical perspective) is paradigmatic in

Vico’s epistemology. It contains and involves all three spheres