Vico and Rhetoric - A Glossary

Vico and Rhetoric - A Glossary

In his edition of Vico's Selected Writings, Leon Pompa provides a glossary of 12 key terms in Vico's philosophy. The following glossary is intended as a supplement to Pompa's work, focusing on the subject of rhetoric in Vico's writings.

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Although Vico held the chair of rhetoric at the Royal University of Naples for 42 years (1699-1741), his writings contain remarkably few instances of the word rhetoric. In fact, he uses the word only once in his Autobiography, when he begins to narrate the circumstances by which he obtained his teaching position:

A short time later, by the death of the incumbent professor, the chair of rhetoric [la cattedra della rettorica] fell vacant. (136; interpolation added)

1. Oration VI: On the Proper Order of Studies (1707)
During his early years at the university, it was Vico's duty as professor of rhetoric to offer the convocation at the beginning of the new academic year; yet, of the seven orazioni inaugurali presented between 1699 and 1708, his audience would have heard Vico use the word rhetoric only in the sixth oration (1707) and would have heard it only once:

Hence about things divine and human, we either debate among the learned or converse among the common man, and with the former it is necessary that we discourse in truth, and with the latter it is necessary that we use a speech that is appealing. Truth is the purpose and goal of logic in speech [oratio logicae], while rhetoric [rhetoricae] teaches an appealing way of speaking free from eter, and an appealing speech in verse is the purpose and goal of the art of poetry [poëticae artis]. (133; interpolations added)

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