Download Citation on ResearchGate | On Jan 1, , Gustavo Costa and others published De antiquissima Italorum sapientia di Giambattista Vico }. Download Citation on ResearchGate | On Apr 1, , David Marsh and others published ‘De Antiquissima Italorum Sapientia’ di Giambattista Vico. Indici e. La Congiura Dei Principi Napoletani, (Prima E Seconda Stesura), a Cura di Claudia Pandolfi. Opere di Giambattista Vico, o Costa – – New.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. If we wish to decide what it was that Vico meant, then we shall be committed to an inquiry into the meaning of his writings in the periods in which they were written.

If, on the other hand, it is what Vico means that interests us, then we shall examine the meaning of his writings in the present, whenever that happens to be. Nor is the problem solved if we concern ourselves only with one work, the De Antiquissima Italorum Sapientia, and one present, now. Similarly, even if we define the present as this present here and now we shall find ourselves undermined not only by the commonplace that any instant identified is already past, but also by the fact that at least with regard to reception there is no now than must not also be conceptualized as a here.

That is to say, your now and my now are different even if they are simultaneous because the questions that you take to the De Antiquissima are unavoidably different from the questions that I take to the De Antiquissima.

Furthermore, even if it is legitimate to think of a reader as a unitary spatial locus, it does not follow that the reader is unitary in a temporal sense, for a reader is coinvolved in a complex temporal process that may be thought to possess past, present, and future dimensions: Indeed, the essay will multiply this perspective, for it will make sense to think of the reader of the De Antiquissima as being subjected to pluperfect and future perfect tenses as well: Vico is a reader of Aristotle reading Zeno, and we shall also be considering an essay by Max Fisch that adopts the perspective of how Vico and the essay will and would have been received.

I At the end of a rather fine essay Max Fisch intimates to the reader that he is not finished, that he has more to say, but that he may never say it. It is characteristic of Fisch to use a cryptic style that hopes to make up with precision what it lacks in explicitation.

Fisch, pragmatist philosopher, scholar of C. Peirce and translator of Vico, is not ashamed, but instead proud to signal to the reader that there is more to be done and, indeed, it is a mark of his pragmatism that he puts such store — faith would be the wrong word — in future research communities. Thus, the very origin of the conception of reality shows that this conception essentially involves the notion of a COMMUNITY, without definite limits, and capable of a definite increase in knowledge.

He would have said: The English unpacking is that the true in the transcendental 4 C. The Greek formula has several advantages over the Latin. The Latin is retrospective; the Greek is, or may be, prospective. The Greek would have offered no such resistance. The Greek leaves room for possibility and for generality, and so for Scholastic realism; the Latin, while perhaps not excluding realism, favors nominalism.

Now the doctrine of transcendentals, though metaphysical, includes a theory of knowledge, and the theory of knowledge includes, at least by implication, a theory of meaning. The Greek formula lends itself better than the Latin to the disengaging of the theory of knowledge from the metaphysics, and of the theory of meaning from the theory of knowledge.

Vico disengages the theory of knowledge but not that of meaning. He saw that the question of truth in the transcendental sense is logically prior to that of truth in the non- transcendental sense; he did not see that the question of meaning is also prior to that of truth in the non-transcendental sense.

If he had thought in Greek instead of Latin, he might have taken that final step of disengaging the theory of meaning. If he had taken it, the result would have been pragmatism. And the meaning it prompts us to find is not so much how that business has been, has come to be, or is conducted, as how it would be conducted in a rational society.

Giambattista Vico

Fisch is quite correct, however, to insist on the importance of the syntactic position of the word factum. The perfect infinitive is a kind of limitlessness that is bounded at one end by the present and the present infinitive occupies a temporal position only insofar as it is not explicitly the perfect or future infinitive. The pressure of proximity to facere generates the word verare.

There is more, though. The extension of geometrical method to physics is right, but the Cartesians have misunderstood the nature of the move, which ought not to be motivated by a desire to found in physics a science as certain and sceptic-proof as the science of mathematics, but rather by a desire to practise in physics a kind of construction comparable to that practised in geometry. The relationship between these two passages is often misunderstood. They are neither synonymous nor contradictory.

Vico repeats the De Ratione sentence in the De Antiquissima with approval. The syntactic dimension of this issue is highly suggestive, but it is the semantic that is more conclusive. Vico says in his autobiography of the period in which the De Antiquissima was written that although useful in medicine and pharmacy he distained experimentalism because it seemed useless to him in the field that interested him primarily, namely law.


Gustavo Costa, De antiquissima Italorum sapientia di Giambattista Vico – PhilPapers

Vico is quite serious in implying, thus, that experiments are geometrical method applied to physics but as topic, and not as critic. That is to say, experiments do not merely succeed or fail. They do not merely prove or disprove the propositions of which they are operations.

Experiments partake of a history in which they appear not only as judgments but also as testimonies, contributing to the resolution of some questions and raising others. Speaking here in the language of law is quite appropriate, as we shall soon see, and the elision between natural philosophical inquiry and rhetoric should not be read as an obliteration of the former by the latter, but as an inclusion of the latter with the former. The consequence of saying that natural philosophical inquiry is opinable is not that all opinions are intellectually indistinguishable and that therefore disputes are settled in favour of the party that is 11 Vico, De Nostris Temporis Studiorum Ratione, in Opere Filosofiche, Cronistoria di un mito, Bologna, Il Mulino, Vico says in that he rejected experimental physics in the period around the publication of the De Antiquissima because he could not see its import for inquiry into the law.

It had been suggested to him that instead of involving himself in the endless difficulties of etymology, he ought to be concerned with Roman religion and law.

De antiquissima italorum sapientia. Testo latino a fronte

Indeed it antiiquissima our peculiar gift as finite beings that we are capable of confronting and even being surprised by our own limitations. Vico himself recognizes something similar in a passage in the De Antiquissima that, sapienti its proximity to one of the several articulations of the performative value of experiments, argues for the existence of both a latent continuity between experimental and legal construction in the De Antiquissima and, likewise, for the existence of a question on the value of falsification posed with regard to law, but answered only later in the Diritto Universale, and never posed with regard to experimental physics.

Aristotelian physics attempts to know universals when it ought, in the fashion of experimental physics, to imitate the particular effects of natural phenomena. It turns out, however, that Aristotelian generality and especially the errors it projects are useful and Vico 20 Vico, The New Science of Giambattista Vico. Ironically, it is the perversity of the law in the present that will make it just in the future.

Aristotelian physics is not truly knowledge from causes, Vico charges; it is rather knowledge from theses. In this terminological matrix, the implication is that physics should be knowledge from hypotheses, but because he emphasizes the perfection of Platonic forms, he pays more attention to the verification of particular constructions than he does to the falsification of particular hypotheses. So, Vico considers the value of exceptions brought into relief by the mistaken extension of Aristotelian genera in law, but he does not seem to consider the value of similar false projections in the case of experimental physics, but it is arguable that what holds in law holds in physics too, for it is in the production of anomalous results and the use of controlled experiments to generate as it were the topical categories of similarity and difference rather than in the perfect reproduction of natural phenomena that experimentation really pays dividends.

Peirce, Collected Papers, 6. It is both and neither: The supposition of such a dialogue is not far-fetched: That is to say, the doing here identified, which is convertible with the constitution of the true, is a dialectical generation of subject and object that is both reflexive and transitive. When he goes on to say that we make colours in seeing, flavours in tasting, sounds in hearing and heat and cold by touching it seems clear that he believes human sensations are the creatures of the human subject and not of the objects of those sensations, such that the dualism between subject and object remains.

But Vico offers a more precise formulation of the concept in his Second Response, where he is careful to speak in an impersonal mode that transcends, as much as the Italian will allow, the opposition between subject and object, activity and passivity: Olschki Editore,two volumes, I, 14, 80, 92,, Attention to the orientation of factum to the past brings into relief the various attempts to overcome it, by means of the perfect infinitive, the present infinitive and the future perfect in dialogical first and second persons.

Attention to these syntactic issues highlights in turn the semantic extension of facta from definitions to include laws and experiments, which suggests that facta are not only nominal, but also real objects. With the futurity and reality of facta secured, or at least suggested, in this way it becomes logical for Fisch to ask whether the subjects of these facta cannot become subject to them; that is to say, whether having made this civil world human beings may not themselves be re-made by it in return.

Different saplentia would probably give different accounts of the way in which Vico answered this question, but few, if any, would say that putting this question to Vico is in itself anachronistic. That the question came to Fisch in the terms that it did because he was a scholar of Peirce as well as of Vico, that it came to him, as it were, from the future is neither here nor there, it would seem.

They may disagree with what Fisch says, but they do not doubt that the manner in which he has framed his inquiry is permissible. To those who take the legitimacy of using Peirce to read Vico to be a non-question, let it also be said that such openness to the future is part of a broader account of the historicity of language — in its engagement both with the past and in the present, engagements to which we pass in sections two and three of this essay — in which meaning itself is only ever more or less determinate.


It may be that that assertion is somewhat less obvious. Yet even if it is clear that Vico believed himself opposed to the idea of the sophistic project, it does not follow that his engagement with language, with discursivity as such may not profitably be categorized as sophistical. To reject in theory that which one imitates in practice is certainly ironic, but it is far from impossible. In the proem Vico reports that while musing on the origins of the Latin language it occurred to him that aspects of the Latin lexicon seemed philosophical and that in order to explain this oddity he hypothesized a philosophical wisdom that had contributed to the lexical structure of the language but that had subsequently passed out of knowledge, remaining not in consciously held opinions but rather in unconsciously observed habits of speech.

Vico announces the Antiquiasima Antiquissima as an attempt to reconstruct this ancient philosophy and supposes that although such a project had not previously been attempted it might reasonably be numbered among the desiderata appended by Francis Bacon to the edition of his De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum and would in fact follow a mode of interpretation pioneered by Plato in the Cratylus.

Socrates adopts his characteristically ironic stance before the opinions of both interlocutors and it is difficult to ascribe to him more than a negative position. Quite what Plato, who should never be conflated wholly with Socrates, believed sapintia to be arguing in the dialogue dde a further problem and likewise a difficult one, for although it is possible that he was satirizing the sophistical habit of taking advantage of the equivocation of words antiquissiima is also possible that he was looking to demonstrate the sheer creative dw of language itself considered as a topos for the discovery of arguments.

There is reason to suggest otherwise. It is, we might say, the structuring of syntax to answer the demands of semantics. Moreover, it is analogous to the divine activity of intellecting, but instead of expressing it is concerned with composing and instead of working only with things italodum their elements, it trafficks with words that are symbols and notes of ideas that are symbols and notes of things.

Reading, as we have seen, suffers from iteration. The three passages sapeintia intended to do different work in each of their respective contexts, so we should not be scandalized if they are significantly dissimilar. Cicero omits the mediation of the human subject between words and things, but in Vico some such intermediary semiotic layer is reinstated.

It is tempting, however, to suspect that instead of directly reclaiming the expressivist and realist vernacular present in Aristotle, Vico is speaking in a seventeenth-century French idiom that he otherwise, for the most part, rejects. Attention to the strict delineation of word, idea and thing is characteristic, for example, of the Port-Royal Logique. Yet, as Vincenzo Vitiello has pointed out, the word idea equivocates in the Vico.

There is a close relationship between equivalence and equivocation, igalorum it should not be assumed that condemnation of the latter forbids an interest in the former. In fact, the relationship between equivalence and equivocation in words is one of cause and effect, for it is precisely in using one word in the place of another, as if they be convertible, that a single word comes to take on multiple meanings. The investigative method that focuses on transforming that which at first seems least reasonable into something that is, as it were, able to be reasoned has had a rather extensive fortuna.

Collingwood describes his stupefaction at the monstrosity of the Albert Memorial, he himself goes on to explain how the experience led him to formulate an account of what he calls the logic of question and answer, in which it is proposed that central to the comprehension of anything that may be taken as a kind of answer or resolution is an inquiry into the nature of the question or imperative that 45 See Robert Brandom, Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism, Cambridge Mass.

Two Studies in the History of Ideas, although he makes direct mention only of the German. See Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, 97b Vico writes in the Scienza Nuova that language originated in the attribution of a will to the heavens by primitive human beings moved to characterize a cause for the terror brought about in them by the thundering and flashing of the sky. The actual existence of an agent ve that will is probably denied in the Hobbes and is rendered irrelevant in the Vico, such that a Vichian reading of the Horace could, and in the Scienza Nuova will, refuse to insist on the reality of the author and the existence of anything like authorial intent.

It is the reader who is poet in Vico, not the divine artifex. Sapintia of how the matter truly stands, it is in behaving as if a communicative situation already exists that the possibility of language is established. This sa;ientia pays very specific dividends in accounting for the approach to reading and to interpretation in the De Antiquissima. It is worth noting that this dialectic between authority and judgment is functionally identical to that theorized by the Scienza Nuova in Axiom X.

Nor is the Zeno case isolated in this respect.