concept: ingenium-ratio

G. Vico in his New Science positions the imagination (ingenium) as prior to and at least equal in dignity to the rational intellect (ratio), because how you operate in the world has everything to do with with your functional model or map of the world, with how you imagine the world to be or to behave. Hence the primacy of metaphor not just in aesthetic expression, but in civic life. The notion that ingenium is prior to ratio is similar to the notion that concept is prior to percept (i.e. the intelligible as prior to the sensible). But where a concept is like a container word, e.g. the concept of water as any wet, thirst-quenching stuff under the rubric of which lots of experience can be labeled and organized, an operational metaphor is tacit and diffuse and can govern any number of concepts.


A metaphor is a relation of identity, this is that. The mechanical or mechanistic imagination, for example, posits a world like a mechanical watch or a hand-cranked Laplacian astrolabe, where all events and phenomena are determined by physical causes that specify themselves as a nexus along which travels the arrow of time, rather like a phonograph needle or stylus. The organic or dialectical imagination depicts events or phenomena developing as would a living thing develop. As an organism develops it produces its own possibilities and constraints according to its historical conditions within and with respect to a larger system.

For me, here, and for the purposes of this blog, metaphor or the imagination is prior to enthymeme and paradigm—the elements of rhetorical logic, or ratio—because your metaphor or metaphors of the world is the source of the often tacit assumptions upon which enthymemes (assumptions) and paradigms (examples, instances) are grounded.


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