He does entertain an intersting thought expirement as to how our neolithic ancestors were “sunk in the senses, numbed by passions, and buried in their bodies.” Still he has a hard time imagining their way of thinking to have come up with pagan thinking (as opposed to Christian) – what will people in 8000 years think of us?
Accodring to Vico, great poetry has 3 tasks: to invent sublime myths, to excite ecsatsy, and to teach the masses to act virtiously. Pretty narrow definition, but he is ascibing this to the earliest poets who had to use their imaginations (from the Muses) to explain the world.
According to Tacitus, the ancient Germans living near the Arctic could hear the sun at night as it passe by sea from west to east, and they could see the gods (aurora?). In a way they really could.
Poetry began as literally divine. Poetry = Divine = The Muses (inspiration from the divine). Where else could imagination come from (when told well) from anywhere other than the divine? They were ignorant of true causes (say lightning) and so were inspired to explain it from a feeling of wonder.
The attitude of westeners towards other “lesser” cultures is wholly evident here. He says the first peoples of the pagans lacked the power of reason. Well, no they didn’t, they just didn’t have the knowledge we do, or their facts were different than ours. To say they lacked reason would mean they wouldn’t even be able to form a civilization.
This is some extreme typology he’s indulging in when talking about these giants being descended from Ham, Japheth, and Shem. Yes the bible mentions giants, but I’m still keeping more with how Caesar probably used the term to oversell the enemy and make them less human and more dangerous.
“We may say, then, that the poets were the sense of mankind, and the philosophers the intellect,” – Aristotle, “Nothing is found in the intellect which was not found first in the senses,”. And so when we try to understand something, we first need to have an impression of it (such as fear of lightning creating Zeus, for example).
He’s saying here that we have a natural inclination to invent myth and to do so with poetic decorum. We create archetypes (ideal models) that can be held up to compare the comon, current man to (do we measure up?).
What we learn early on (such as our parents, first friends) – even through social memory (the collctive memory of a society) is what we use to judge all things new. Myths are the measure we hold up to our current selves and society to comapre and judge worthy or not.
“People tend naturally preserve the memory of the laws and social orders that keep them within a society”. Conservatism. Holding onto past ways of thinking and doing things becuase that is what got us here in the first place and then would explain why old ideas / traditions dont go away – like a superstitiotn almost.
Early myths might contain civil truths and are the histores of the earliest peoples (such as the Jews in the Bible).
So he’s saying that these early nations (full of ignorant peoples)could not be founded without religion nor grow without virtue. And when two communities come in contact they could either be like giants to each other (grotesque) or they could see how they have uniform ideas rising up independtly that tie them together (in a basic humanity).
Polybius, “If the world had philosophers, it would not need religions.”
Odd, Vico then goes on to say that “Whenever man is sunk in ignorance, he makes himself the measure of the universe” which I do agree with, yet he is holding onto religion and its associaed myths and “ignorance” as being the opposite of ignorance.
On Thomas Hobbes he disagress with Levithian and the social contract theory since he believes religion, not materialism is what drives communities towards cohesion and unity. He’s applying the same myths as power over the ignortant whereas Hobbs (as I understand it in this slice) is allowing eduction (reason) to be the driving force.
“Religion is the only means powerful enough to subdue [humanity]”. Of course now it’s edua]cation that fills the role so we’ve gone from warfare as the dominant social glue, to religion, to education. In the religious phase he say in people’s fears of an imaginary deity they established order
Here we get more into wht myth is driving at when he talks of the ancient giants. He equates these giants to how Caesar described the Germans as being giant but we know Caesar understood the use of exaggeration to heighten his victories. And in 172 he says how the giants were grotesque while the Jews were normal buid: one wonders how these so-called giants felt about all this?
He’s probably not too far off the mark when he says we started off as small groups families) and then grew from there into lager communities. He also points out how the Jews preserved their traditions in the bible – religious tradition
“The nature of human institutions presupposes a conceptual language which is common to all nations.” So I gather here he is saying all our needs are basically the same and so our institutions have similarities, too.
Axion means a truth that is selfevident so he is using the term rather loosely here; it’s a lot of assumption
“Myths are ideal truths, since they conform to the merit of the figures they celebrate.”, “Poetic truth is metaphysical truth [nature of reality]; and any physical truth which does not conform to it must be judged false”. This further strengthens why these myths are so powerful.
He’s just reinventing myth by imagining what happened after the flood. It’s like a 2001 situation with a lot of grunting, ignorant, wordless apes groping about for securit and answers. In a way he’s not that wrong, but even lacking advanced language, I’m guessing our neolithic ancestors were not so simple