On present day "constructivist" readings, Vico is supposed to have promoted a vision of man and society as moving in parallel from barbarism to civilization.
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As societies become more developed socially, human nature also develops, and both manifest their development in changes in language, myth, folklore, economy, etc. Vico would therefore be using an original organic idea that culture is a system of socially produced and structured elements. As such, one may find a dialectical relationship between language, knowledge and social structure. Relying on a complex etymology, Vico argues in the Scienza Nuova that civilization develops in a recurring cycle ricorso of three ages: the divine, the heroic, and the human.
Each age exhibits distinct political and social features and can be characterized by master tropes or figures of language.
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The giganti of the divine age rely on metaphor to compare, and thus comprehend, human and natural phenomena. In the heroic age, metonymy and synecdoche support the development of feudal or monarchic institutions embodied by idealized figures. The final age is characterized by popular democracy and reflection via irony ; in this epoch, the rise of rationality leads to barbarie della reflessione or barbarism of reflection, and civilization descends once more into the poetic era.
Therefore, it can be said that all history is the history of the rise and fall of civilizations, for which Vico provides evidence up until, and including the Graeco-Roman historians. Through an elaborate Latin etymology, Vico establishes not only the distinguishing features of first humans, but also how early civilization developed out of a sensus communis or common not collective sense.
The metaphors that define the poetic age gradually yield to the first civic discourse, finally leading to a time characterized by "full-fledged reason" ragione tutta spiegata , in which reason and right are exposed to the point that they vanish into their own superficial appearance. At this point, speech returns to its primitive condition, and with it men.
Hence the "recurring" ricorso of life to "barbarism" barbarie. It is by way of warning his age and those stemming from it of the danger of seeking truth in clear and distinct ideas blinding us to the real depths of life, that Vico calls our attention back to a classical art of moderating the course of human things, lest the liberty enjoyed in the "Republic" be supplanted by the anarchic tyranny of the senses.
Crucial to Vico's work remains a subtle criticism of all attempts to impose universality upon particularity, as if ex nihilo. Instead, Vico attempts to always let "the true" emerge from "the certain" through innumerable stories and anecdotes drawn mostly from the history of Greece and Rome and from the Bible. Here, reason does not attempt to overcome the poetic dimension of life and speech, but to moderate its impulses so as to safeguard civil life.
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While the transfer from divine to heroic to human ages is, for Vico, marked by shifts in the tropological nature of language, the inventional aspect of the poetic principle remains constant. In the Scienza Nuova , then, the verum factum principle first put forth in De Italorum Sapientia remains central. As such, the notion of topics as the loci or places of invention put forth by Aristotle and developed throughout classical rhetoric serves as the foundation for "the true", and thus, as the underlying principle of sensus communis and civic discourse. The development of laws that shape the social and political character of each age is informed as much by master tropes as by those topics deemed acceptable in each era.
Thus, for the rudimentary civilization of the divine age, sensory topics are employed to develop laws applicable on an individual basis. The SIF organizes an annual national congress of study at one of the Italian universities. Its other major initiatives are the management of the " Enrico Fermi " International School of Physics an annual summer school held in Varenna , and the organization of conferences on specific topics. There are two types of membership in SIF: regular members "can be effective partners individuals and charities" and honorary members "may be honorary members persons who have attained an eminent position in the physical science".
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