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Vico’s Ring


functor, and finds them to be in non-compliance, or stated dif-

ferently, these theories did not “behave” correctly when tested

by insights arrived at from actual history



This brings us to the final element of our trichotomous

framework, the semicontravariant functor that engages “philolo-

gy” with the sphere of the actual human social and cultural do-

main. The prefix “semi” is simply meant to alert us to the fact

that this epistemic step can be only partly effective or success-



. It is just as much an informal figure of speech as Vico’s

expression «by half (

per metà

)» in Axiom X (§ 140)


. This is the

stage of the overall epistemic process at which the theoretical, in

form of “philology”, meets historical and human reality most di-

rectly. And, without downplaying the successful formulation of

“philological” Axioms that Vico felt he had achieved, it is in-

cumbent to give an account of the ways that theoretical con-

structs, in and of themselves, inherently can never fully capture

reality. Vico himself speaks of «encounter[ing] exasperating diffi-

culties which have cost [him] the research of a good twenty

years» (§ 338) in understanding something of the lost archaic



. However, he obviously considered his undertaking a

(qualified) success


. Another challenge is the fragmentary, in-

complete record of past ages and their cultures; nevertheless he

expressed confidence in having been able to integrate them in

this theoretical framework (§ 357)


. The real problem lies

somewhere else: intellectual entities by themselves can never en-

compass or exhaust the full scope of reality and experienced his-



. Vico’s brilliantly succinct statement that «its [the world of

civil society’s] principles are therefore to be found within the

modifications of our own human mind» (§ 331) might appear at

first glance to buttress the claim to the wholly commensurate

(philosophical/theoretical) power of the mind. As one reads on,

however, it becomes clearer where the relatively most pro-

nounced accent falls, which is not on

the modifications

or on the


, but on



. In terms of such lived humanity, Vico goes