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The Scenic ImaginationOriginary Thinking from Hobbes to the Present Day$
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Eric Gans

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780804757003

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804757003.001.0001

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Alternative Anthropologies: Vico and Herder

Alternative Anthropologies: Vico and Herder

(p.66) Chapter 3 Alternative Anthropologies: Vico and Herder
The Scenic Imagination
Stanford University Press

Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) offers a historically unique insight into the generative relationship between the sacred, language, and human order. He argues that language is a product of mimesis, that the first language was participatory rather than simply referential, and that the objects of this language were sacred rather than profane. For Vico, this elementary sacred, constituted by anthropomorphic explanations of natural phenomena, is a providential means for imposing order through terror on “savage” society. Vico's “new science” posits that we can only fully know (that is, analyze) what we ourselves have constructed—a principle reminiscent of the originary hypothesis. In his book La Scienza Nuova (1730–1744), Vico variously describes the first linguistic signs as gestures, graphic representations, onomatopoetic sounds, emotional interjections, and rhythmic monosyllables derived from song. In his Essay on the Origin of Language (1772), Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) rejects Etienne de Condillac's attempt to derive human language from natural signs.

Keywords:   Giambattista Vico, sacred, language, human order, Johann Gottfried Herder, signs, La Scienza Nuova, Essay on the Origin of Language, mimesis, Etienne de Condillac

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