On Giambattista Vico’s ‘The New Science’​ : Part Nine — Birdflights confirm abbroaching nubtials.

Am. Dg.

Welter focussed.

Wind from the nordth. Warmer towards muffinbell, Lull.

As our revelant Colunnfiller predicted in last mount’s chattiry sermon, the allexpected depression over Schiumdinebbia, a bygger muster of veirying precipitation and haralded by faugh sicknells, (hear kokkenhovens ekstras!) and umwalloped in an unusuable suite of clouds, having filthered through the middelhav of the same gorgers’ kennel on its wage wealthwards and incursioned a sotten retch of low pleasure, missed in some parts but with lucal drizzles, the outlook for tomarry (Streamstress Mandig) beamed brider, his ability good.

What hopends to they?

Giant crash in Aden. Birdflights confirm abbroaching nubtials. Burial of Lifetenant-Groevener Hatchett, R.I.D. Devine’s Previdence.

Ls. De.

Art thou gainous sense uncompetite! Limited. Anna Lynchya Pourable! One and eleven. United We Stand, even many offered. Don’t forget. I wish auspicable thievesdayte for the stork dyrby. It will be a thousand’s a won paddies. And soon to bet. On drums of bliss. With hapsalap troth, hipsalewd prudity, hopesalot honnessy, hoopsaloop luck. After when from midnights unwards the fourposter harp quartetto. (Kiskiviikko, Kalastus. Torstaj, tanssia. Perjantaj, peleja. Lavantaj ja Sunnuntaj, christianismus kirjallisuus, kirjallisuus christianismus.) Whilesd this pellover his finnisch.

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

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God, a motto of the Jesuits, at Belvedere College, Dublin, (where Joyce excelled (how could he not?) despite a father who had a habit of messing up), pupils put letters A.M.D.G. at beginnings of essays.

Weather forecast, welter, he rolling, tossing, or tumbling of the sea or waves and Wetter (German), weather, and Welt (German), world, wind from the nord, (North, German and Norwegian), muffinbell, well easy to work that one out, the bell rung by a seller of muffins, a lull or short period of intermission or quiescence in a storm as our reverend column-filler also Saint Colmcille or Columba, Irish missionary, last month Slattery’s Mounted Foot, a song, and charity, and chetyre (Russian), four sermon — an address of a religious nature normally delivered during a church service a depression over Scandinavia, and schiuma di nebbia (Italian) foam of mist, a byge (Danish), shower muster that is the action, or an act, of showing, a manifestation, a display, and Muster (German), a pattern, paragon, and ‘The Master Builder’ (Norwegian: Bygmester Solness), a play by Henrik Ibsen, (1828–1906), varying, that varies, tending to vary or change, and vejr (Danish), weather, faugh, an exclamation of abhorrence or disgust, few, fog, signals, Halvard Solness, master builder from Ibsen’s play, hear kokken (Norwegian), the cook, and hoven (Norwegian), swollen, the hoof, and køkken (Danish), kitchen, and have (Danish), garden, and København (Danish), Copenhagen, ekstra (Danish), that is ekstra (Landsmaal, one of two official languages of Norway), extra, enveloped in an unusual suit of clothes that is clouds middle half, Middelhav (Norwegian, Danish), Mediterranean, of the same a person or animal that gorges or eats to repletion, glutton, kennel, the surface drain of a street, and Saint George’s Channel between Ireland and Wales, way westwards incursion or the action of running in or of running against, a hostile inroad or invasion, in particular one of sudden and hasty character, and occasioned, sotted, or drunken, and certain, retch or reach, range, scope, extent of application, effect, influence, and so on, and sodden rush, sudden ridge of low pressure, local drizzles small, fine, spray-like rain outlook, the prospect for the future, tomorrow, to marry, seamstress, someone who makes or mends dresses, and steamship, mandig (Norwegian), manly, and mandag (Norwegian), Monday (washday). and beam, to shed light upon, irradiate, illumine, and been, brighter, Streamstress Mandig beamed brider, visibility, and ability (Slang), sexual potency.

What happens today? (happened to them, and news after weather).

‘Slattery’s Mounted Foot’

by Percy French (1854–1920)

You’ve heard of Julius Caesar and the great Napoleon too,

And how the Cork Militia beat the Turks at Waterloo;

But there’s a page of glory that as yet remains uncut,

And that’s the warlike story of bold Slattery’s Mounted Fut.

This gallant corps was organised by Slattery’s eldest son,

A noble-minded poacher with a double-breasted gun.

And many a head was broken, aye, and many an eye was shut,

When practising maneuvers in bold Slattery’s Mounted Fut.


And down from the mountains came the squadrons and platoons,

Four-and-twenty fighting men and a couple of stout gossoons;

When going into action held each musket by the butt,

We sang this song and marched along with Slattery’s Mounted Fut.

and so on …..


A giant crash in aden, (a gland, and Eden, the abode of Adam and Eve at their creation, paradise, and Aden, seaport city, peninsula, and district, Saudi Arabia, the ‘Arabia Felix’ of the Romans, auspicium (Latin), divination, by observing bird flights, approaching, and abbrechen (German), to break off, to break up, nuptial, marriage, wedding, usually in plural, and nubes (Latin), and clouds, and nub (Slang), copulation, lieutenant-governor, the deputy of a governor, in particular in 1. the British colonies, the actual governor of a district or province in subordination to a governor-general, and 2. in the United States, the deputy-governor of a state with certain independent duties and the right of succession to the governorship, in case of its becoming vacant, groeve (Dutch), grave, bury the hatchet R.I.D. Requiescat in Deo (Latin) may he rest in God, previdence, foresight, and a four-stage Viconian cycle, thunder/fall, auspices/nuptials, burial, divine providence.

L.s., letter (not autograph) signed, and L.S.D., abbreviation for ‘pounds, shillings, and pence’, hence often used for ‘money’, and L[aus] s[emper] De[o] (Latin), praise to God always (Jesuit slogan), at Belvedere pupils put letters L.D.S. at ends of essays.

Arthur Guinness, Sons and Company, Ltd (advertisement), and genus sensibus competit (Latin), the genus accords with sense (perception), limited company, a company in which the liability of each shareholder is limited by the number of shares he has taken, so that he cannot be called on to contribute beyond the amount of his shares, Lynch, Anne, a Dublin brand of tea (advertisement), and Anna Livia Plurabelle, pourable, that may be poured, that flows easily. ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ (George Pope Morris (1802–1864) ‘Flag of the Union’), and on the first attempt of the Castlereagh government to force Irish Parliament to approve the Act of Union in 1800 the original motion was put down by a vote of 111 to 106, despite massive bribery of Irish Parliament members by the English. Tuesday, thieves’ date. Derby, the most noted annual horse-race in England, founded in 1780 by the twelfth Earl of Derby, and run at the Epsom races, usually on the Wednesday before, or the second Wednesday after, Whitsunday, and dyr (Norwegian), expensive, dear; animals, by (Norwegian), town, thousand to one, 1001 pities paddy, nickname for an Irishman, and paradise, soon-to-be, Samuel Pepys, (1633–1703): ‘and so to bed’, dreams, troth, one’s faith as pledged or plighted in a solemn agreement or undertaking, prudity, excessive regard for the proprieties in speech or behaviour, extreme or affected modesty or demureness and the four imperatives of the 1920s Oxford Group (Buchmanites): absolute truth, absolute purity, absolute honesty, absolute love. Which, and radio programmes due later in evening and week, fourposter, a four-posted bedstead, quartetto, a set of four persons. in music a composition for four voices or instruments, in particular one for four stringed instruments, a set of four singers or players who render a quartet. Keskiviikko (Finnish), Wednesday, and kalastus (Finnish), fishing, torstai (Finnish), Thursday, and tanssia (Finnish), to dance, perjantai (Finnish), Friday, and pelejä (Finnish), games, lauantai ja sunnuntai (Finnish), Saturday and Sunday, and kirjallisuus (Finnish), literature. Whilest (obsolete) whilst, while, till, until, finnisch (German), Finnish and whilst his pullover is finished.

I hope I have convinced you by now that the Wake is one of the most entertaining books every written. The passage is taken from a chapter in which the children have gone to bed and are upstairs with Anna Livia Plurabelle and the action focusses upon the goings-on downstairs in the bar of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker’s hotel or shack or public house and Humphrey the host or landlord as he may prefer to regard himself serves drink to his querulous customers while over the hubbub a radio can be heard heard broadcasting an adaptation of the tale of a humpbacked Norwegian captain attempting to buy a suit of clothes from a Dublin tailor, he later complains to the tailor that the suit doesn’t fit him, whereupon the tailor insists that the sailor is impossible to fit because of his hump at which the ship’s husband wishing to match the sailor with the tailor’s daughter successfully reconciles the two parties, the suit (this time a marriage suit) fits, and the sailor, having first been baptised, is married to the tailor’s daughter. There is a huge celebration in Dublin at the joyful news of this minor miracle. Enmity is momentarily laid aside and everyone is happy for a while … and some music is then broadcast, later a television set is turned on, and later again, a drunken Humphrey confesses exculptatorily to his sins while it is getting late and closing-time arrives and the customers are ejected from the pub while Humphrey finishes off the dregs left behind washes the empties and passes out ………..

The difficulty that the Wake narrative presents us with is real enough but it is also exaggerated.

Anyway, divine providence. There is something of a similarity between Giambattista Vico, (1668–1744), and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1831), in so far as for both the development of some kind of reason is a governing principle in a philosophical history albeit Vico does not actually use that term preferring instead to refer to his work as a science of humanity nonetheless he does conceive it as involving both an history and philosophy of the development of humanity at once. For Hegel such development is determined transcendently given the logical priority of the phases of the Idea whereas for Vico it develops internally and incrementally in a manner of speaking beginning from a somewhat imaginative foundation through the operation of the factors identified in my previous article, but in both conceptions we find a teleological aspect and it is important matter to look into whether or not and if so to what extent this overrides the notable difference just mentioned in their views about the role of reason in history.

Certainly for Hegel his theory has a teleological character given that Spirit bears its end within itself and everything that happens in world history happens on behalf of that end hence his assertion that what he is presenting is a theodicy or a justification of God’s ways to humanity for the pain and suffering involved in history are contended to be the only way in which humanity’s divine nature, his or her freedom, can be actualised and therefore to be justified by that fact. Vico’s theory is apparently teleological also though not so strongly as the interplay between the occasion and the cause or reason does not require that anything should occur on behalf of some further end. ‘Man as he is’ and ‘man as he ought to be’ are two elements, one of desire, the other of a slowly developing rationality or intelligence to which desire becomes subject that are involved in the explanation of the occurrence and direction of historical change, but here it is necessary only that reason develop to the extent of our being able to see that a new ideal must be created and implemented if a previous ideal is to be fulfilled. Unlike with Hegel there is no implication of an unseen but higher purpose or end is actualising itself through this process and the growth of man and woman’s humanity can hence be the outcome even the necessary outcome of this process without the suggestion that the process occurs on behalf of that outcome.

A problem. Vico discourses upon the process in two alternate ways, in a way that is perfectly consistent with the account as it has been developed thus far where he talks as though history is the story of humanity’s gradually developing intelligence as he and she slowly frees him and herself from a life grounded upon imagination, belief in the false, the superstitious and so on, until he and she is able to understand the true nature of things and govern his and desire by that understanding:

‘Men first [have a] sense [of things] without [conscious] consideration, then they consider [them] with a perturbed and agitated spirit, finally they reflect [upon them] with a pure mind. This axiom constitutes the principle of poetic judgements, which are formed by a sense of passion and feeling, in contrast to philosophical judgements, which are formed by reflection involving reasoning, whence the latter draw nearer to the true the more they ascend to the universal, while the former become more certain the more they are appropriate to particulars.’

- ‘The New Science’

However, while he discourses in such terms Vico perpetually reverts to the operations of another mind, that of providence, whose aims not merely differ from those of humanity but are fulfilled in place of them:

‘For, though men have themselves made this world of nations — and this became the first indisputable principle of this Science, since we despaired of discovering a science among the philosophers and philologists — it has without doubt been born of a mind often unlike, at times quite contrary to and ever superior to, the particular ends these men had set themselves, which narrow ends, made means to serve wider ends, it has always used to preserve the human race on this earth. Thus men would indulge their bestial lust and forsake their children, but they create the purity of marriage, whence arise the families; the fathers would exercise their paternal powers over the clients without moderation, but they subject them to the civil powers, whence arise the cities … Yet that which did all this was mind, for men did it with intelligence; it was not fate, for they did it by choice; nor was it chance, for, to the end of time, by their ever acting thus, the same things are born’.

- ‘The New Science’

What are we to make of this? The world is the product of humanity and it is the product of a superhuman mind that uses humanity’s particular ends to secure its own wider ends, including the preservation of humanity. The argument for this depends upon the unintended but salutary consequences of the actions undertaken on behalf of humanity’s particular ends, the creation of the family proper, of the city and so on, but on the other hand the defence of the assertion that the world is a product of mind lies wholly in the claim that ‘men did it with intelligence’ for Vico denies that it is the work of fate on the grounds that men did it by choice, or that it was the work of chance because men always do the same things at the corresponding points in the histories of nations from which the same things arise. Hence on the one hand we are informed that the world is not a product of humanity on the grounds that through the unintended consequences of his or her actions new institutions arise while on the other hand we are informed that it is a product of mind because humanity creates it by intelligence, by choice, and by making uniform intelligent choices on the same occasions.

Confronted with seemingly different contentions there are a wide range of interpretations of Vico’s concept of providence. According to Frederick Vaughan it is a deliberate endeavour by Vico to obscure a strongly naturalistic tendency in his thought that would explain the reason why he felt it necessary to guard himself against potential accusations of heresy. Donald Phillip Verene, (1937 -), identifies it with the ideal eternal history that he regards as an eternal but tragic pattern in virtue of which humanity’s activities engender their opposites and what seems like progress is ultimately and necessarily movement towards dissolution and recurrence. Benedetto Croce, (1866–1952), assimilated it to Hegel’s concept of the cunning of reason, a very dubious move. (See my articles The Cunning of Reason parts one to four). Be that as it may a naturalistic reading of providence whereby it is regarded as a kind of natural and naturally recurrent pattern arising from humanity’s nature as part of the natural world is evidently at odds with Vico’s notion of the nature of historical development.

A great deal of Vico’s contentions concerning providence can be rendered intelligible in the light of the distinction between the occasion and the cause of historical change albeit there are very different kinds of contexts in which Vico refers to the action of providence such as, for instance, implanting in poetic man a confused idea of divinity or causing him to classify things before explaining them and such needs explaining but for now the focus is upon the single general contention that providence attains its aims through those of humanity.

In the above passage it is evident that it is humanity’s particular ends that provide the occasion for the change and providence’s wider aim that is the cause or ground of the result, for the fathers’ abuse of their powers over their clients is the occasion of a change and the unintended consequence of which, the formation of the cities, is presented as the fulfilment of a higher aim. In what manner are the two aims related? If Vico’s contention were that the individual’s particular aim was the occasion of a change to which somehow and in a quite bewildering manner providence gave a certain rational structure the position would be hard to defend for it would be to regard providence as the action of a deus ex machina and as with all such beings if their operation is wholly inexplicable their introduction merely serves to draw a veil over a failure of explanation in the theory that requires us to appeal to them. Nonetheless the distinction between occasion and cause points to a somewhat alternate conception, the occasion was the aims of individuals in their various social capacities, the fathers for instance abusing their legitimate paternal power over their clients but the cause was a wider conception the rational force of which was felt by all concerned. And so in the case of the first agrarian law the necessity to submit to the census and to fight for their lords was seen by the members of the famuli as just if they were to have bonitary possession of the fields.

And the reason why this is so is that the occasion is related to and discloses faults and inadequacies in an earlier phase of the development of a rational ideal, for the fathers do not abuse their clients in order to disclose this deficiency, their action has its source from self-love that Vico discusses elsewhere in ‘The New Science’, yet in so far as it is abuse of their clients it discloses the unsatisfactory nature of the institutional system and thereby serves to occasion further thought about how to secure the ideal that it is failing to secure. Looked at in this way the cause is the new conception which arises from progressively more rational reflection upon faults in the principle revealed by the breakdown which occasions the reflection and ‘providence’ thereby becomes the name for a higher wisdom, an understanding of more adequate concepts, that develops in nations in the course of their historical experience. It is a wisdom that can develop only in the context of a nation for it is concerned with the moral and legal relationships between classes in a community therefore it is something in which an individual can share only as a member of an historical community or nation and for that reason we may allow for it to be designated as ‘superhuman’:

‘And must we not consider this the plan of a superhuman wisdom, regulating and leading [things] in a divine manner, not by the force of laws … but by utilising those very wisdoms of men whose practice is as free from force as is man’s celebration of his own nature?’

- ‘The New Science’

The term ‘superhuman’ serves in this context to describe an historically developing collective wisdom as the nation works its way through a series of intermediate but necessarily connected concepts to an apprehension of those concepts which disclose the nature of things and hence there is no requirement to regard the possessor of this wisdom as anything other than the nation as such and hence no need to regard it as a deus ex machina albeit certain objections can be raised against such a reading. It may be objected that it lays too much emphasis upon an implicit rationality in humanity as the directive force in history thereby drawing Vico with his accentuation of the importance of the obscure and the irrational primitive eras near to Hegel in a somewhat implausible manner to which the response can be made that Vico does indeed take the history of a nation to be the history of the emergence of a rational humanity from an irrational barbarism and that at some point recognisably rational elements must start to play a role, and furthermore, take regard that self-love and human corruption are still indispensable to the process. Does that satisfy? Hardly. What are we to make of the suggestion that Vico regards historical change as being grounded in an appreciation of the rationality of the change whereas corrupt beings such as men and women (I rather like corrupt women as it happens but they are generally absent from Vico’s discourse) can regard something as rational but still fail to do it for reasons of self-interest.

Hence what is needed is an account of why it is that corrupt, self-loving beings should accept what is rational and in the context of providence Vico contends that it uses humanity’s narrow ends to preserve the human race upon earth, for if providence is interpreted as a growing communal wisdom the recognition that certain things must be done if society is to be preserved thereby becomes part of that wisdom. And the account of why people who are individually self-centred and vicious will accept an institutional arrangement grounded upon a rational ideal will then be that they see that, if they do not, they will perish along with the nation thereby a form of individual self-interest is situated at the centre of historical change. And the contention that it is the nation’s developing rational insight into certain ideals which explains the direction of historical change without requiring that the individual acts only under the inspiration of that developing ideal remains intact.

After all it is his sense of self-interest in whatever that consists that eventually compels him to do so. But there is another problem. The interpretation as just presented cannot account for Vico’s contention that at a certain point a nation’s development ceases and that a state of sophisticated corruption and vice, the ‘barbarism of reflection’, prevails, from which the only salvation, that is to say providence, Vico declares, ‘avails itself of this remedy’ is a return to the original barbaric era and a recurrence of the complete civilising process.

Well this is indeed a problem. Vico’s general account for the recurrence of the course of national history is that the advent of the ‘fully human age’ brings with it finally an arrogance of the intellect that coincides with and is responsible for a decline in religious belief that he insists is the only force capable of holding humanity’s vicious nature at bay through its hold on his and her emotions. (Discuss). He is thus committed to the indispensability of religious belief for any recognisable form of human society, a thesis he so strongly held to that he was prepared to reject Pierre Bayle’s, (1647–1706), contention that non-theistic societies can exist and to castigate travellers who told of such societies as ‘seeking a sale for their books with their outrageous reports,’

This is evidently at odds with the foregoing interpretation whereby there is a general development of human rationality that ought to lead to an improvement rather than a deterioration in our capacity to resolve any problems of social and political structure which may confront us to which the response may be made that Vico’s belief that religion was indispensable for any form of social life is incompatible with the theoretical foundations of his account of the progressive socialisation of human nature. Recollect two claims that are maintained throughout ‘The New Science’, that man is by nature ‘weak and fallen’ and that a major part of his historical development consists in the way in which he is freed from the potentially disastrous consequences of his naturally vicious proclivities by his progressive socialisation. Given these two contentions the question at issue is whether it is open to Vico to argue that when the state of complete rationality is attained human nature can relapse into its state of original bestiality as though the intervening process of socialisation had never occurred and had never had any internal effect upon his human nature.

A resolution of the issue may be found through a reconsideration of his explanation of the way in which the progressive socialisation of human nature transpires, for Vico insists that human beings always act in the light of what they take to be their self-interest. (Discuss. A rather vague notion. People make sacrifices, that is without doubt, a soldier throwing himself on a live grenade to save his comrades for instance, that could be interpreted as done out of self-interest, even self-love, he wants to be thought of as a hero. This is why I tend to be happier, well more content, reading Hegel for there is less of such vagueness and ambiguity that infect philosophy). The social progress which transpires in the course of human history nonetheless depends largely upon changes in what they take that self-interest to consist in.

And so the sequence works itself out in this manner. The original brutish man conceives of his interests without any social constraint and as solely those of the particular individual he is, the more socialised father conceives of his interests as an individual as identical with those of his family, later the nobles conceive of their particular interests as identical with those of semi-divine genesis, later again the citizens and the members of the nation conceive of them within similarly altered conceptions. Throughout this process and this is something Vico insists upon humanity acts only in what he or she takes to be his or her own interests but what is happening is that his or her conception of these interests is changing in accordance with an increasingly socialised sense of the self. And as a consequence what counts as his or her interests is changing as increasingly he or she thinks of him or herself as basically identical in nature with some or other legally and socially structured section of the total nation. Furthermore, as the notion of equity develop the movement is from conceiving of him or herself as identical in nature to some sub-section of the total nation to conceiving of him or herself as identical in nature with the whole nation, a nation in which everyone is equal under the law.

Certainly this does not imply that he or she lacks interests that are proper to him or herself as the particular individual he or she is but it does mean that he or conceives of him or herself in such a way that his or her right to pursue these interests is conditional upon the extent to which the pursuit of these interests is compatible with his or her conception of him or herself as a member of the nation. From an ontological point of view the latter conception is prior to the former but if this is the case and if the developing sense of the self and of where its legitimate interests lie is fundamental to the progressive socialisation of man and woman it is not open to Vico to suggest that in the fully human age people could or indeed must as he asserts lose this progressively socialised nature and revert to a kind of nature which is proper only to man and woman in his or her original brutish and unsocialised state. The fact that in the third age the individual’s interests are subservient to those of the nation as a whole rather than to some sub-section which is at war with some other sub-section within it does not imply that they are sub-servient to nothing at all as in the case of original man.

Indeed were this to be possible Vico would have had to amend his general theory of the progressive socialisation of human nature in such a manner as to permit that in one part of his or her nature man and woman always retained his or original brutish capacities and instincts and yet to demonstrate how in spite of that progressive socialisation could occur. The requirement would indeed be stronger than this in virtue of his contention being not simply that this socialisation can and does take place but that it takes place because it must take place, but if as is implicated by the theory of the collapse of social man in the third age and the re-emergence of original man in his full horror it is always possible for original man to reassert himself,no matter what degree of socialisation has taken place, from a logical point of view this must be possible at any prior stage. As a consequence it would be impossible for Vico to maintain as indeed he does that the sequence through the three kinds of natures is both necessary and fundamental to the constitution of human nature itself. We are thereby confronted with two incompatible alternatives, either primitive man is transformed in his progressive socialisation in history in such a way as to entail that he cannot arise full-born in the third age, in which case Vico’s accounts of the collapse of civilisation in the ‘barbarism of reflection’ and of the recurrence of the pattern must be discarded, or he is not thus transformed and can arise both then and at any prior stage in the progressive socialisation of man in which case Vico’s claim that this process is necessary must be discarded.

As a consequence Vico’s theory of the recurrence of the developmental pattern is incompatible with his account of the factors that make the pattern necessary in the first place and originates from a failure on his part to think through the full implications of his theory of human nature, and from this in turn it follows that he has no good grounds for maintaining that, in the third age, ‘fully developed reason’ cannot resolve whatever social and political problems may arise or that it cannot, should it be required, replace the social bond which religion supplies by some other conception albeit Vico himself without doubt considered religion to be a necessary social bond. But the principle point here is that given that this belief is incompatible with his general theory of social development the fact that the account of his theory just presented cannot account for why he held this belief is not after all an impediment to accepting it as a plausible account of his general theory.

Taking such an account to be correct two consequences follow. First, with regard to the naturalistic interpretation of Vico according to which Vico’s theory of the providential pattern and its necessary recurrence in history is accounted for by the fact that he views humanity as part of the natural world and consequently sees no reason why the pattern of birth, growth, decline, decay and rebirth, that is discovered throughout the organic world, ought not also be a property of the life of the nation. Hence on such a view his account of the necessity for the pattern and its recurrence can only be a consequence of his treating the life of a nation as though it were another organic pattern in nature, yet in this case it is somewhat difficult to make sense of the distinction between the occasion and the cause of the developments which constitute the life of the nation. This distinction is surely intelligible only within a conceptual framework within which human nature is viewed as necessarily social and in which ontological primacy is accorded to social consciousness but is this possible on a purely causal view of human nature or of human consciousness?

A naturalistic view of human nature can hardly account for the development of new institutions in virtue of the ideas upon which these depend having to be ontologically dependent upon institutions themselves, therefore either the naturalistic account must be false or some way must be found of doing away with that which Vico declares about the manner whereby new ideals are engendered, at the social level, as former ideals are seen to be inadequate to their task. But certainly Vico’s view of the life, death and rebirth of the nation, as a cultural and social entity, may have been affected by an analogy between this process as it happens in nature and in individuals, albeit if Vico’s philosophy were completely naturalistic as sometimes interpreted then his endeavour to account for the development of new ideals and new modes of institutional life grounded upon them as has just been outlined would be somewhat incomprehensible and could merely imply a degree of conceptual confusion on his part. (But one needs to read the whole work, at one point he provides a sense of ‘necessity’ that is involved at least in one of Vico’s uses of the idea of what is natural. Conceptual confusion is an easy quagmire to fall into).

Furthermore, in spite of Vico’s use of teleological language primarily as expressed in his assertions concerning providence and the manner in which its aims relate to those of the agents in human history there is no appeal to any transcendent teleology in his conception of the historical development of man and woman’s humanity. Nothing that happens earlier does so on behalf of the attainment of some hidden end albeit what comes about does so necessarily, and this is far removed from Hegel’s notion of Spirit creating the conditions necessary for the actualisation of an end which is internal to itself. The ends which are important in Vico’s theory are transpersonal or communal ends, formalised even though not willingly by the insight that a developing social mentality can have into the real deficiencies in the concepts, moral, social and political, in terms of which it structures its life. The ‘superhuman’ mind whose ends transcend those of individuals and classes is nerely the collective wisdom of the nation as, upon the occasion of self-interested individual and class conflict, it re-examines the rationality of its own procedures in the light of its knowledge of their historical development. And yet if Vico is free of some of the difficulties that confronted Hegel, (which he may be but only because he does not go in so deep) especially those which arose from the notion of Spirit actualising an end which it contains within itself, his theory certainly has difficulties of its own to deal with.

‘The Rape of Lucrece’ (excerpt)

by William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

Time’s glory is to calm contending kings,

To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light,

To stamp the seal of time in aged things,

To wake the morn and sentinel the night,

To wrong the wronger till he render right,

To ruinate proud buildings with thy hours

And smear with dust their glittering golden towers;

To fill with worm-holes stately monuments,

To feed oblivion with decay of things,

To blot old books and alter their contents,

To pluck the quills from ancient ravens’ wings,

To dry the old oak’s sap and blemish springs,

To spoil antiquities of hammered steel,

And turn the giddy round of fortune’s wheel;

To show the beldam daughters of her daughter,

To make the child a man, the man a child,

To slay the tiger that doth live by slaughter,

To tame the unicorn and lion wild,

To mock the subtle in themselves beguiled,

To cheer the ploughman with increaseful crops,

And waste huge stones with little water-drops.

The ninth thunder word (cough) of ‘Finnegans Wake’:

Husten (German): cough

tussem (Latin): a cough

tosse (Italian) = tosse (Portuguese): cough

na casachta (nu kosokhte) (Gaelic): of the cough, and casacht, casachtach (kosokth/okh) (Gaelic): cough

bêx (Modern Greek): cough (Pronunciation ‘bix’)

toux (French): cough

peswch (Welsh): cough

bêchos (Modern Greek): of a cough

kashalj (Serbian): cough


To be concluded ….



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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.