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This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Reading Giambattista Vico in 2016 USA

Giambattista Vico
In utter disbelief and bewilderment my European friends keep asking me about Donald Trump.
    I point them to Giambattista Vico, a virtually unknown but greatly influential Italian thinker of early enlightenment. In 1725 Vico published his “Principi di Scienza Nuova” Principles of the New Science and thus initiated a whole new discipline of philosophy of history.

     According to Vico, civilization and its political structures follow a recurring cycle (ricorso) of three ages: the divine age, the heroic age, and the human age. The divine age can be equated to what we would call tribal societies, the heroic age to monarchies and the human age to democracies. An integral part of Vico’s insight, his “New Science”, was an observation that each age was characterized by its own tropology (figurative form of language) and consequently epistemology (modes of understanding). Metaphors were characteristic for the divine (tribal) age, metonymy was instrumental in the heroic age (feudalism), and the age of man (democracy) was characterized by irony.
    Having studied bronze age myths recorded on cuneiform tablets, I easily recognized gnoseological power of metaphors for that particular age. And hailing from Europe - steeped in medieval history and peppered with impressive castles and cathedrals - I innately understood the life-organizing principle of metonymy and synecdoche in age of feudalism. But I always struggled with the irony as a prevalent principle for the age of democracy.
    For me, democracy was a rational system verging on scientific, exactly like Vico described it. I could appreciate the quintessential function of irony (this all-questioning principle) for science as well as for a healthy democracy. But I could not fathom how irony, as vital as it was for science and democracy, might become corrosive and lead to social collapse and a return to barbarism.
    This year and this electoral cycle in the USA have opened my eyes! Irony, or perhaps its twin sister Parody, or even better their cousin Farce, has already put on stage an ignorant clown and with him a great and real danger of “ricorso” with its dissolution of norms and return to barbarism. Thus Scienza Nuova, this three millennia old New Science, gives us something to think about. Perhaps we should dust off old myths and familiarize ourselves with ancient metaphors; the divine age might be fast approaching.

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