Vico’s Poetic Logic

In his discussion of Poetic Logic, Vico suggests that the first people had vast imaginations and little ability in abstract reasoning. These faculties allowed them to attribute divinity to things around them such as the sun, earth, and storms. At first, the people made no distinction between the divinities and the external objects or phenomena that they represent. Vico suggests that as the people developed the ability of abstract reasoning, they began to depict these gods as having human form and simply maintaining control over the force that they were originally associated with rather than actually existing as that force or object. Vico claims that this process resulted in the creation of the first mythologies, which later became ingrained in fables. He describes fables as being “imaginative class concepts,” and claims that the mythologies can be thought of as the allegories corresponding to the fables. He then argues that these allegories become the etymologies of the poetic languages. In this way, the poetic language seems to develop at the same rate that the people are developing their mythologies. Since the mythologies become more abstract and complex as the early people lose their imagination and strengthen their reason, it seems that the poetic language will also become more abstract and metaphorical. Although the mythologies and consequently the poetic language are rooted in the early people’s sense perceptions and deification of aspects of their physical world, the continued progression of man’s reason will result in a poetic language that would be mostly incomprehensible to more primitive men.


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