On Giambattista Vico’s ‘The New Science’​ : Part Four — Where dreams top their traums halt.

‘It was hard by the howe’s there, plainly on this disoluded and a buchan cold spot, rupestric then, resurfaced that now is, that Luttrell sold if Lautrill bought, in the saddle of the Brennan’s (now Malpasplace?) pass, versts and versts from true civilisation, not where his dreams top their traums halt (Beneathere! Benathere!) but where livland yontide meared with the wilde, saltlea with flood, that the attackler, a cropatkin, though under medium and between colours with truly native pluck, engaged the Adversary who had more in his eye than was less to his leg but whom for plunder sake, he mistook in the heavy rain to be Oglethorpe or some other ginkus, Parr aparrently, to whom the headandheelless chickenestegg bore some Michelangiolesque resemblance, making use of sacrilegious languages to the defect that he would challenge their hemosphores to exterminate them but he would cannonise the b — y b — r’s life out of him and lay him out contritely as smart as the b — r had his b — y nightprayers said, three patrecknocksters and a couplet of hellmuirries (tout est sacré pour un sacreur, femme à barbe ou homme-nourrice) at the same time, so as to plugg well let the blubbywail ghoats out of him, catching holst of an oblong bar he had and with which he usually broke furnitures he rose the stick at him. The boarder incident prerepeated itself’.

- James Joyce, (1882–1941), ‘Finnegans Wake’

Versts and versts from true civilisation, not where his dreams top their traums halt (tram halt). Dublin trams all halted at Nelson’s Pillarm on O’Connell Street, and the urban speaker here is measuring civilization by its proximity to the city’s center. Traum (German), dream, and traumhaft (German), like dream, charming. Beneathere! Benathere! the conductor on the tram to Howth is shouting a Gaelic name, Beinn Éadair for Ben Edar, anciently Howth, said to be named for Edar, a Dedanaan chief, buried on the hill.

This is actually the fourth traums halt in the Wake and as with the previous three the language of Joyce’s traumway is ‘nat language at any sinse of the world’, nat, English not and Danish night. Joyce’s non-language of night, employing every sense of the word, is based, like that of Sigmund Freud’s, (1856–1939), dreamer in ‘Traumdeutung’, (‘The Interpretation of Dreams’), upon the sins of the world whereby word and world are confused once again as word and world imply order and the effect of their apparent disordering here is dreamlike, this surface provides the feeling and texture of dream but the underlying structure is orderly enough for there is a shaper around albeit his shaping may not be logical unless you take this word in its sense of verbal, but it is musical and poetic. The chapter consists of six movements or strophes like those of a musical suite or of a long poem. Adding transitions or explanations would make the order of parts apparent there or here. Modern poets leave transitions out in the interest of intensity and Joyce left them out for that reason too, for the Wake is not unlike a poem in prose, and also for the effect of dream. Abrupt juxtapositions of incompatibles and sudden shifts of rhythm and tone are what are required for a designed effect and the six parts of the chapter include a brief introduction, and a long meditation on death and burial.

German, Trauminhalt, dream content, a Freudian term comprising both the remembrance of the dream, manifest dream content, and its underlying meaning, latent dream content. The concept of latency will come up again in what follows.

‘To Dreams’

by Peter Cornelius (1824–1874)

Open for me the golden gate

to your wondrous grove, o Dreams;

whatever blossomed and wilted for me,)

let it bloom afresh for me.

Show me those sacred places

of my bliss, my pain;

let me listen to lovely words

and drink deeply of these rays of love.

Open the golden gate for me,

Dreams; o let me be happy!

‘An den Traum’

Öffne mir die goldne Pforte,

Traum, zu deinem Wunderhain,

Was mir blühte und verdorrte,

Laß mir blühend neu gedeihn.

Zeige mir die heil’gen Orte

Meiner Wonne, meiner Pein,

Laß mich lauschen holdem Worte,

Liebesstrahlen saugen ein,

Öffne mir die goldne Pforte,

Traum, o laß mich glücklich sein!

‘The Architect’s Dream’, 1840, Thomas Cole

In my previous discussion of Giambattista Vico’s ‘New Science’ I mentioned how Vico’s three ages are about the process of condensation from the multiple to the one whereby the self-evolving nature of this virtual divine ended with a fully human model, a third age following the ages of gods and heroes. In this age humans had no magical powers, only there own ingenuity, nonetheless a little of the divine remained in the manner by which tricks, jokes, arts and other clever things seem to be beyond explanation. There is in every culture a great artist like Faust who has been taught by the devil or given a flute or violin made by the devil because no one can explain how they became so skilled. And there were in this third age still experiences that were uncanny, things could still be meaningful and amazing that could not be explained or described, in fact meaningfulness always appeared to elude us. We cannot find the words for it but it is none the less personally and emotionally significant,and in the third age, the age of humans, godly powers are abbreviated, domesticated, or missing entirely and heroics exist but without the usual assistance of the gods, only superpowers fictionally attached.

Does not metaphor vanish completely in this third age? Is not the metaphor little better than the standard analogy that lets us compare things in a very rational way? Not at all, because while Gods and demons have disappeared latency and portability have not and these are the ghost lines (pretending to know what is meant) of metaphor that endure even when the mediums of their existence have been secularised and normalised. There are several categories of latency (a state of existing but not yet being developed or manifest, concealment) and portability (transferable or adaptable in altered circumstances). In the uncanny we have experiences of clairvoyance and de ja vu time travel, and categories of the uncanny, the fantastic, include:

1. The double.

When he came to himself, he saw that the horses were tak¬ ing him along an unfamiliar road. There were dark patches of copse on each side of it; it was desolate and deserted. Suddenly he almost swooned; two fiery eyes were staring at him in the darkness, and those two eyes were glittering with malignant, hellish glee. ‘That’s not Krestyan Ivanovich! Who is it? Or is it he? It is. It is Krestyan Ivanovich, but not the old Krestyan Ivanovich, it’s another Krestyan Ivanovich! It’s a terrible Krestyan Ivanovich!’ . ..

‘Krestyan Ivanovich, I… I believe … I’m all right. Krestyan Ivanovich’, our hero was beginning timidly in a trembling voice, hoping by his meekness and submission to soften the terrible Krestyan Ivanovich a little.

‘You get free quarters, wood, with light, and service, the which you deserve not’, Krestyan Ivanovich’s answer rang out, stern and terrible as a judge’s sentence.

Our hero shrieked and clutched his head in his hands. Alas! For a long while he had been haunted by a presentiment of this.

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (1821–1881), ‘The Double’

2 Travels through time.

As I drove on, a peculiar change crept over the appearance of things. The palpitating greyness grew darker; then although I was still traveling with prodigious velocity at the blinking succession of day and night, which was usually indicative of a slower pace, returned, and grew more and more marked. This puzzled me very much at first. The alternations of night and day grew slower and slower, and so did the passage of the sun across the sky, until they seemed to stretch through centuries. At last a steady twilight brooded over the earth, a twilight only broken now and then when a comet glared across the darkling sky. The band of light that had indicated the sun had long since disappeared; for the sun had ceased to set, it simply rose and fell in the west, and grew ever broader and more red. All trace of the moon had vanished. The circling of the stars, growing slower and slower, had given place to creeping points of light. At last, some time before I stopped, the sun, red and very large, halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with a dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction. At one time it had for a little while glowed more brilliantly again, but it speedily reverted to its sullen red heat. I perceived by this slowing down of its rising and setting that the work of the tidal drag was done. The earth had come to rest with one face to the sun, even as in our own time the moon faces the earth. Very cautiously, for I remembered my former headlong fall, I began to reverse my motion. Slower and slower went the circling hands until the thousands one seemed motionless and the daily one was no longer a mere mist upon its scale. Still slower, until the dim outlines of a desolate beach grew visible.

…………

I cannot convey the sense of abominable desolation that hung over the world. The red eastern sky, the northward blackness, the salt Dead Sea, the stony beach crawling with these foul, slow-stirring monsters, the uniform poisonous-looking green of the lichenous plants, the thin air that hurts one’s lungs: all contributed to an appalling effect. I moved on a hundred years, and there was the same red sun a little larger, a little duller, the same dying sea, the same chill air, and the same crowd of earthy crustacea creeping in and out among the green weed and the red rocks. And in the westward sky, I saw a curved pale line like a vast new moon.

- H. G. Wells, (1866–1946), ‘The Time Machine’

3. A story within the story.

The Gracehoper was always jigging ajog, hoppy on akkant of his joyicity, (he had a partner pair of findlestilts to supplant him), or, if not, he was always making ungraceful overtures to Floh and Luse and Bienie and Vespatilla to play pupa-pupa and pulicy-pulicy and langtennas and pushpygyddyum and to commence insects with him, there mouthparts to his orefice and his gambills to there airy processes, even if only in chaste, ameng the everlistings, behold a waspering pot. He would of curse melissciously, by his fore feelhers, flexors, contractors, depressors and extensors, lamely, harry me, marry me, bury me, bind me, till she was puce for shame and allso fourmish her in Spinner’s housery at the earthsbest schoppinhour so summery as his cottage, which was cald fourmillierly Tingsomingenting, groped up. Or, if he was always striking up funny funereels with Besterfarther Zeuts, the Aged One, With all his wigeared corollas, albedinous and oldbuoyant, inscythe his elytrical wormcasket and Dehlia and Peonia, his druping nymphs, bewheedling him, compound eyes on hornitosehead, and Auld Letty Plussiboots to scratch his cacumen and cackle his tramsitus, diva deborah (seven bolls of sapo, a lick of lime, two spurts of fussfor, threefurts of sulph, a shake o’shouker, doze grains of migniss and a mesfull of midcap pitchies.

…………

He had eaten all the whilepaper, swallowed the lustres, devoured forty flights of styearcases, chewed up all the mensas and seccles, ronged the records, made mundballs of the ephemerids and vorasioused most glutinously with the very timeplace in the ternitary — not too dusty a cicada of neutriment for a chittinous chip so mitey. But when Chrysalmas was on the bare branches, off he went from Tingsomingenting. He took a round stroll and he took a stroll round and he took a round strollagain till the grillies in his head and the leivnits in his hair made him thought he had the Tossmania. Had he twicycled the sees of the deed and trestraversed their revermer? Was he come to hevre with his engiles or gone to hull with the poop? The June snows was flocking in thuckflues on the hegelstomes, millipeeds of it and myriopoods, and a lugly whizzling tournedos, the Boraborayellers, blohablasting tegolhuts up to tetties and ruching sleets off the coppeehouses, playing ragnowrock rignewreck, with an irritant, penetrant, siphonopterous spuk. Grausssssss! Opr! Grausssssss! Opr!

- ‘The Ondt and the Gracehoper’, in ‘Finnegans Wake’

4. A contamination of reality.

I am Ubik. Before the universe was, I am. I made the suns. I made the worlds. I createdthe lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there. They go as I say, they do as I tell them. I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows. I am called Ubik, but that is not my name. I am. I shall always be.

…………

Locating office 4-B, Runciter paced about restlessly. At last a moratorium attendant appeared, wheeling in Ella’ s casket on a handtruck. ‘Sorry to keep you waiting’, the attendant said; he began at once to set up the electronic communing mechanism,humming happily as he worked.

In short order the task was completed. The attendant checked the circuit one last time,nodded in satisfaction, then started to leave the office.

‘This is for you’, Runciter said, and handed him several fifty-cent pieces which he had scrounged from his various pockets. ‘I appreciate the rapidity with which you accomplished the job’.

‘Thank you, Mr. Runciter’, the attendant said. He glanced at the coins, then frowned. ‘What kind of money is this?’ he said.

Runciter took a good long look at the fifty-cent pieces. He saw at once what the attendant meant; very definitely, the coins were not as they should be. Whose profile is this? he asked himself. Who’s this on all three coins? Not the right person at all. And yet he’s familiar. I know him.

And then he recognized the profile. I wonder what this means, he asked himself.

Strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Most things in life eventually can be explained. But — Joe Chip on a fifty-cent piece?

It was the first Joe Chip money he had ever seen.

He had an intuition, chillingly, that if he searched his pockets, and his billfold, he would find more.

This was just the beginning.

- Philip K. Dick, (1928–1982), ‘Ubik’

‘The Broken Bridge’, 1937, Man Ray

In the genre of literature designated as the fantastic there are themes of the double and contamination of reality by dreams and works of fiction but even in serious subjects such as quantum physics there is the phenomenon of spooky entanglement. It does not take a great deal to crack the thin shell of reality, and many people take stories of wild conspiracies as real and all of us are fascinated by coincidences. As Samuel Beckett, (1906–1989), said: ‘To Joyce reality was a paradigm, an illustration of perhaps an unstatable rule. It is not a perception of order or of love, more humble than either of this, it is a perception of coincidence’. Metaphor conceals something. The metaphor of Jove hid what Jove meant to say in the thunder by making the thunder words so long and complex that it seemingly was a kind of cypher. The first humans had no enigma machines (encryption machines used to transmit coded messages) but they did have rituals designed to do the same thing. To see the sky and the signs of the sky they made clearings in the forest and these were the sites of the first altars, marriage ceremonies and funerals were held there because the clearings functioned as the first temples. Temple in fact comes from the root term meaning to divide (Latin templum, consecrated piece of ground or building for worship of a god, from a Proto-Indo-European root, tem-, to cut,from the idea of a space cleared or cut down for an altar). The sacrificial victim provided signs once dissected pertaining to the uncertain future but the temple of sacrifice was also the sky as the dividing line between Jove’s outward signs of thunder and skyward events and his concealed intentions to help or harm. From the point of metaphor’s invention of the term the sky was regarded as the source of all human laws. The Roman senate like many other cultures was required to meet beneath an open blue sky, the temple can be the sky or something smaller. It is the face of things behind which intentions and natures can be hidden. It became the basis of architecture’s strategy of concealing interiors behind facades, courtyard voids within solid buildings, turns and twists within spaces following the logic of the Daedalian labyrinth. In the standard facade of many American courthouses we observe the concealment in three forms, the sanctified interior of the main courtroom protected by oaths and laws, the vault containing deeds, maps, and charters that legitimize legal placement of citizens of the country, a tower surmounting the dome in reference to the antipodal legitimacy of the sky. And we can observe how this facade distributes its interest using the same schema as Vico’s gods, heroes and humans.

Knowing about metaphors ability to make a concealment function that is portable can be explained in a story Vico does not tell but is so efficient in making a point. Two painters in Ancient Athens decided to put to the question who was the better painter and to test this each would paint a mural along the same stretch of wall. Independent judges would critique each work and decide. The first painter Zeuxis was an expert in making life like representations and for his entry he painted a bowl of fruit upon a table beyond a trompe l’oeil window. It was so realistic that when the judges had the artist unveil the work a bird flying overhead saw the fruit and went for it cracking his head when he hit the wall. The judges were very impressed because the bird was completely objective and had lost his life upon betting the fruit was real. But when they moved on to the second painter Parrhasius they found his work was still curtained and Parrhasius made no move and the judges thought he was just depressed about his chance after such a brilliant demonstration by Zeuxis. Finally they ask him to pull back the curtain and show his work. He hesitated. But the curtain is my work he explained. The judges had to give the prize to Parrhasius. Why? Because although Zeuxis had fooled a bird Parrhasius had fooled the eyes of the human experts intent upon judging him. In Zeuxis case they all knew it was a painting, Parrhasius had made them believe the curtain was real,

Tems are like Parrhasius’s curtain for this has great significance for architecture whose business it is to construct tems whereby a tem is not a curtain or a wall per se rather it is the split between the viewer and the viewed that is active in all kinds of representations and built conditions. It is a distinction not a thing being distinguished. Architecture’s three part structure relates the sky to the earth in a way that replicates Vico’s eternal history. The original mythic division is latent within every architectural distinction between a structure, function and beauty, (veritas), and we can now see how the latency function of metaphor which sets up a way of knowing without knowing intersect’s the architecture’s own primal function of splitting spaces into actual and virtual.

‘The Statue of Olympian Zeus’, c. 1954, Salvador Dali

To return to Vico, he gives away all his secrets in the first 30 pages or so of the 1944 edition of the ‘New Science’. Carl Lodoli, (1690–1761), architect, designed the last minute visual picture of the ‘New Science’ accompanied by a commentary on each item in the emblem and its role in culture’s self-evolving history but he may have invented the whole last minute thing to demonstrate how metaphor could work as a kind of modern magic in an age far removed from the gods of myth. The image is a tour de force showing a divine eye inscribed in a triangle in a circle radiating down to metaphysics represented as a goddess figure standing on a celestial globe perched at the edge of an altar of the first human ceremonial cleaning. The bearded figure is Homer, the first great poet of humanity. Higher up we find the female figure of metaphysics atop the globe representing nature. The eye is God whose gaze meets that of Homer in metaphysics. There are numerous other symbols including a clock, a sword, an alphabetical text, and religious tools, among others. Vico regarded the frontispiece to be a reminder for all readers of the text’s contents and message.

Clearly Vico’s image was intended as an act of genius akin to the clap of thumder that had frightened the first humans into their own metaphorical consciousness. Vico presents this as a kind of fraud. The first humans think that there is a god behind the thunder which Vico says, as an orthodox Catholic, cannot be true. But the rest of the ‘New Science’ contends that this fake attribution had real and true effects namely tbringing about a culture of piety and poetry, a self-evolving consciousness. Our modern instances of this kind of genius focus upon the theme of violation. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s, (1749–1832), Goethe’s Faust breaks the rules when he makes a deal with the devil, but this is a modern translation of Vico’s first event of thunder. The first humans cannot help but see the sky as a divine presence.

‘New Science: Frontispiece’, 1744, Carl Lodoli

Faust has a choice but the role of ingenuity, what Vico designated ingenium, worked in the same way as the thunder.

FAUST:

Though some familiar tone, retrieving

My thoughts from torment, led me on,

And sweet, clear echoes came, deceiving

A faith bequeathed from Childhood’s dawn,

Yet now I curse whate’er entices

And snares the soul with visions vain;

With dazzling cheats and dear devices

Confines it in this cave of pain!

Cursed be, at once, the high ambition

Wherewith the mind itself deludes!

Cursed be the glare of apparition

That on the finer sense intrudes!

Cursed be the lying dream’s impression

Of name, and fame, and laurelled brow!

Cursed, all that flatters as possession,

As wife and child, as knave and plow!

Cursed Mammon be, when he with treasures

To restless action spurs our fate!

Cursed when, for soft, indulgent leisures,

He lays for us the pillows straight!

Cursed be the vine’s transcendent nectar, —

The highest favor Love lets fall!

Cursed, also, Hope! — cursed Faith, the spectre!

And cursed be Patience most of all!

CHORUS OF SPIRITS: (invisible)

Woe! woe!

Thou hast it destroyed,

The beautiful world,

With powerful fist:

In ruin ’tis hurled,

By the blow of a demigod shattered!

The scattered

Fragments into the Void we carry,

Deploring

The beauty perished beyond restoring.

Mightier

For the children of men,

Brightlier

Build it again,

In thine own bosom build it anew!

Bid the new career

Commence,

With clearer sense,

And the new songs of cheer

Be sung thereto!

- Goethe, ‘Faust’ (The Compact’)

Metaphor’s ability to create latency is the same as architecture’s ability to create voids where literal meanings are forbidden to enter. The void as such works like a womb where the idea of architecture can be miniaturised in full just like the models that were made for a client in anticipation of the intended building. A comparison of the model to the helmet of Hermes leads to some interesting connections for both use the logic of the lipogram, (‘leaving out a letter’, a kind of constrained writing consisting of writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is avoided. Extended Ancient Greek texts avoiding the letter sigma for instance), the latent or suppressed signifier, to make a union possible. In the theory of Antonio di Pietro Averulino, (c. 1400 — c. 1469), aka Filarete, ‘lover of excellence’, this is the impregnation of the mother architect by the father client. The building that itself has a void can exist in its own void as a void, a matrix or a mother whose secret is that she knows who the father is but the father will and can never know, the identity of the architecture lies with whoever designs and controls the voids.

‘Le Pont brisé’ (‘Pont d’Avignon’), 1936, Man Ray

‘For René Char’

by Paul Eluard, (1895–1952)

The pane with thoughtful streaks

Ends in a cutoff street

Its pure water quarry

The head with thoughtful laughs

Emits the slight tune hummed in the street

The shore with thoughtful lips

Sweetly kisses its reflection

The shore with thoughtful lips The town comes and goes sleeping and waking

The lame hours dance the capuccine

A warbling sun surrounds the Indian eye

Where the boats go by going nowhere

Madmen in a whiff of thought

Accompany them

Eager forehead and quite river.

__________________________

To return to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1831), and Vico, I ended in my previous article with an observation that according to Vico each nation will as a consequence of the operation of a constant and uninterrupted order of causes be guided through three consecutive kinds of nature and each of these provides the basis for three different but connected sets of institutions. The first runs from the customs of the nation to its natural law and, thence, to its form of government, and for each such set and for the purpose of communicating its contents there arises an appropriate form of language and of writing. And for the justification of the content of each set there arises an appropriate form of jurisprudence, of reason or right, and of judgement. At first sight it might look as though this is an hierarchical rather than holistic view of society, for the nature of the nation at any one stage appears to determine its customs and these, in turn, to determine its natural law and so on, but to see that it is holistic one must note that, although the nature of some kinds of institutions is determined by that of others, the nature of the nation, upon which everything rests, is not itself an institution.

Vico’s account of the first nature is that of the most primitive sort of man, and this nature is said to be ‘poetic or creative or, as we may even call it, divine’ because, in the absence of any very recognisably rational faculties, its primary mode of operation consists in the creation of imaginary entities by the imaginative projection of its own properties upon the world. Since Vico holds that man with this nature, ‘poetic’ man, is also wild, cruel, and self-regarding in the most unenlightened sense, this means that he projects these particular properties on to the world. The latter is thus conceived of in the most anthropomorphic way, the world is a cruel and vindictive being, who demands that others be at his service just as poetic man would like to use them for his own means. Hence poetic man tries to satisfy Him by sacrifices and offerings and tries to find out what He wants by developing the art of divination and the taking of the auspices. Moreover, this theological conception of the world affects every aspect of life. The law, for instance, which Vico thinks is necessary to any remotely social form of life, is conceived of as the penalties and retributions which this cruel and vindictive Being demands of man for his misdemeanours and sins. Since the only form of authority which poetic man recognises is that of this divine Being this must mediate all other authority. Political power hence must have divine approbation, with the consequence that in early societies the office of king and of priest are united.:

‘Assuming that all nations originated in the cult of some divinity, in the state of the families the fathers must have been the sages in the divinity of auspices, the priests who made sacrifices to procure them, that is, to understand them properly, and the kings who brought divine laws to their families.’

- ‘The New Science’

Here it is evident that a primary aspect of the nature of poetic man consists in a fundamental mode of mental activity, imagining, which explains the unified character of the whole set of institutions, but it would be wrong to suggest that this mode of mental activity determines the institutions, for Vico does not limit the human nature of a nation to its mode of thought. Rather it consists in the three attributes of knowledge, will and ability, the development of which, although logically prior to that of the institutions and customs of a society, occurs in and through them. Institutions, that is to say, exist for a purpose and must conform to certain capacities but, in the end, knowledge is the foremost of the attributes of human nature because it governs the conceptions, be they true or false, by which the objects of will are characterised.

A similarity to Hegel is to be found in Vico’s rejection of anything like the uniformity of nature or consciousness theses and this point can be most easily demonstrated if we turn first to Vico’s account of the differences between the three kinds of natures which develop in the course of the history of a nation. In the first kind of nature imagination, unconstrained by truth, is the primary characteristic of mind. It is a nature by which man creates a world through a failure of understanding.:

‘This imaginative metaphysics shows that homo non intelligendo fit omnia’.

- ‘The New Science’

In the second kind of nature, which is a development of the first, a certain kind of rationality has been acquired, it is the sort of rationality which puts a high premium upon the undeviating observation of rules. Vico illustrates it best in relation to the law, in which sphere it consists in ensuring the rigid application of the formulae in which the laws are expressed, which are still thought of as having had a divine origin. Thus, as he puts it, ‘whoever drops a comma loses the case’. (‘Qui cadit virgula, caussa cadit’). But this is not full rationality, for here there is too much reliance upon a non-human authority, to the extent that it is more important to apply the law than to understand its purpose.

In the third age, the age of ‘fully developed reason’, men have a grasp of the nature of things and use them in accordance with that nature, hence in law, again, they understand the rational principle of equity and frame and change laws in accordance with that principle. Thus, on Vico’s view, in the course of the development of human nature, there is a change in the primary mode of mental functioning from one which is almost wholly imaginative, to one which involves an inflexible and blind acceptance of authority, to one in which man can discern the truth. And this development affects, and is expressed in, every area of human practice and activity. Donald Verene, (1937 — ), denies that Vico sees this sequence as progressive. Since, on Verene’s account, the imagination is always the primary mode of mental functioning, he sees any displacement from the robust character of the early era towards the abstract thinking of the third era as regressive and in need of redress. Addressing the implications of this view for the notion of truth Verene concludes that maybe Vico never thought that truth, in any conceptual sense, could be reached. To grasp the truth which the ‘New Science’ contains, he suggests, is to perform the imaginative operations required to recollect its content.

Another respect in which Vico’s denial of any uniformity in human nature reveals itself is in his incessant attacks upon the natural law theorists and, in particular, on Hugo Grotius (1583–1645). The error of which he constantly accuses them is that of having believed ‘that natural equity, in its most complete conception, has been understood by the gentile nations from their very beginnings, without reflecting that some two thousand years were needed in order that philosophers should arise in them.’ The criticism here is not against the concept of natural law as such, for Vico thinks of himself as, in some sense, a natural law theorist, but against the assumption that the natural law of one age can be the same as that of another, and a failure to see that the human mind develops so that what it can grasp in a later age could not have been grasped in an earlier one. Vico does present an account of the natural order in which our ideas of a universal and eternal justice arise.

‘The Temple of Diana at Ephesus’, c. 1954, Salvador Dali

The fourth thunder word of the Wake … [whore] … so at least this article has an happy ending:

blyad (Russian), prostitute

moecha (Latin), promiscuous woman, adulteress

Hure (German), whore

hora (Swedish), whore

scrota (Latin), pl. of scrotum (harlot, strumpet)

porne (Greek), prostitute

nanny (slang), whore; and mennykocsapas (Hungarian), lightning-stroke

kekse (Lithuanian),whore

stipata (Latin), surrounded, pressed together

stripu (Shelta), whore

puttana (Italian), whore

‘Paysage aux eclairs’, (‘Landscape with Lightning’), 1670, Gaspard Dughet

‘Bladyughfoulmoecklenburgwhurawhorascortastrumpapornanennykocksapastippat appatupperstrippuckputtanach’.

To be continued …..

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David Proud

David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.