Abstract: Vico's theory of metaphor is best understood as a monster in the tradition of classical rhetorical invention. It is the mutant offspring of metaphor characterized as “necessary” (an “ear” of com, for example) and metaphor characterized in terms of analogy. From the perspective of his method. Vico marries these apparently incompatible forms inherited from Aristotle and thereby identifies a third type of linguistic metaphor. I argue that the metaphor identifies a stipulatory definition taken out of context. In order to situate this claim, I outline Vico's genetic analysis and elaborate in general terms what metaphor and definition share. Most importantly. Vico insists that beings, actions, and events are linguistically identified in some particular diseursive context. Indeed, in many cases that context alone determines whether the expression can be called a definition or a metaphor. Like Cicero's ideal jurist, Vico's hero employs motivated words and realizes possibilities available to common sense. Henee Vico's theory of metaphor is both “constructivist”—language has the power to makes things—and “humartist”—it must do so in a form appropriate to history and culture. Vico's theory is consequently important to us because it challenges the proper/figurative distinction championed in the philosophy of language and adds a pragmatic dimension to contemporary views of metaphor at work in literary theory.
- Copyright 1996, The International Society for the History of Rhetoric