“The universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express the things of the mind and spirit. The order of ideas must follow the order of things.” —Giambattista Vico, The New Science
depicted is a revised 1744 edition
Giambattista Vico or Giovanni Battista Vico (June 23, 1668 – January 23, 1744) was a Counter-Enlightenment Italian philosopher, best known for his New Science. Vico was an outsider genius, who lived in near poverty and never met a thinker of equivalent magnitude.
New Science (original Italian Scienza Nuova) is his magnum opus; it was poorly received during his own lifetime but has since inspired a cadre of famous thinkers and artists. New Science’s core concepts are the eternal return (the age of gods, the age of heroes, and the age of humans), verum factum and common sense.
James Joyce was influenced by Giambattista Vico’s New Science. Joyce puns on his name many times in Finnegans Wake, including the “first” sentence: “by a commodius vicus of recirculation”. Recirculation is a reference to Vico’s theory of eternal return. Finnegans Wake begins in mid-sentence, with the continuation of the book’s unfinished final sentence, creating a circle whereby the novel has no true beginning or end.
In addition, Feldman and Richardson (1972: 50-61) argue that the study of popular culture as a scholarly discipline can be traced back at least as far as the writings of Giambattista Vico, who anticipated today’s cultural studies programs as he attempted to discover the “principles of humanity” in his New Science of 1775.
To end on a personal note: I discovered Vico through the concept of eternal return, and first actually read him in Adultery in the Novel, where he etymologically explained the origins of civilization.
From memory from that book: At first humans lived in blissful ignorance, everyone was doing “it” with everyone and nobody knew which children were whose. Then came the concept of matrimony (notice the word mater or mother in that word), which allowed one to know which offspring was whose, and also introduced the hereditary system (whereby property is passed along from generation to generation and which allows long term projects), et voila, the birth of civilization. I just ordered a copy of New Science via Amazon.