Guide Visions of Politics: Renaissance Virtues (Volume II)

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But if that is so, then one ought not to start moving the targets. On the other hand, I have not hesitated to improve the presentation of my arguments wherever possible. I have corrected numerous mistranscriptions and factual mistakes. I have overhauled as well as standardised my system of references. I have inserted additional illustrations to strengthen and extend a number of specific points.

I have updated my discussions of the secondary literature, removing allusions to yesterday's controversies and relating my conclusions to the latest research. I have tried to make use of the most up-to-date editions, with the result that in many cases I have changed the editions I previously used. I have replied to critics wherever this has seemed appropriate, sometimes qualifying and sometimes elaborating my earlier judgements.

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Finally, I have tinkered very extensively with my prose, particularly in the earliest essays republished here. I have toned down the noisy polemics I used to enjoy; simplified the long sentences, long paragraphs and stylistic curlicues I used to affect; taken greater pains to make use of gender-neutral language wherever possible; and above all tried to eliminate overlaps between chapters and repetitions within them. An unknown error has occurred.

His reflections on the human soul are mainly concentrated in De anima et vita On the Soul and Life , , a study of the soul and its interaction with the body, which also contains a penetrating analysis of the emotions.

Visions of Politics Volume II: Renaissance Virtues

Ramus was another humanist who criticized the shortcomings of contemporary teaching and advocated a humanist reform of the arts curriculum. In , he published Dialecticae partitiones The Structure of Dialectic , which in its second edition was called Dialecticae institutiones Training in Dialectic , and Aristotelicae animadversions Remarks on Aristotle.

These works gained him a reputation as a virulent opponent of Aristotelian philosophy. He considered his own dialectics, consisting of invention and judgment, to be applicable to all areas of knowledge, and he emphasised the need for learning to be comprehensible and useful, with a particular stress on the practical aspects of mathematics. His own reformed system of logic reached its definitive form with the publication of the third edition of Dialectique Humanism also supported Christian reform.

The most important Christian humanist was the Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus c. He was hostile to Scholasticism, which he did not consider a proper basis for Christian life, and put his erudition at the service of religion by promoting learned piety docta pietas. In , he published Enchiridion militis christiani Handbook of the Christian Soldier , a guide to the Christian life addressed to laymen in need of spiritual guidance, in which he developed the concept of a philosophia Christi.

His most famous work is Moriae encomium The Praise of Folly , a satirical monologue first published in that touches upon a variety of social, political, intellectual, and religious issues. Humanism also had an impact of overwhelming importance on the development of political thought.

With Institutio principis christiani The Education of a Christian Prince , , Erasmus contributed to the popular genre of humanist advice books for princes. These manuals dealt with the proper ends of government and how best to attain them. Among humanists of the fourteenth century, the most usual proposal was that a strong monarchy should be the best form of government. Petrarca, in his account of princely government that was written in and took the form of a letter to Francesco da Carrara, argued that cities ought to be governed by princes who accept their office reluctantly and who pursue glory through virtuous actions.

In Laudatio florentinae urbis Panegyric of the City of Florence , Bruni maintained that justice can only be assured by a republican constitution. In his view, cities must be governed according to justice if they are to become glorious, and justice is impossible without liberty. A fundamental belief among the humanists was that a ruler needs to cultivate a number of qualities, such as justice and other moral values, in order to acquire honour, glory, and fame.

Machiavelli deviated from this view claiming that justice has no decisive place in politics. Machiavelli did not hold that princely regimes were superior to all others. In his less famous, but equally influential, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy , , he offers a defense of popular liberty and republican government that takes the ancient republic of Rome as its model.

During the Renaissance, it gradually became possible to take a broader view of philosophy than the traditional Peripatetic framework permitted. No ancient revival had more impact on the history of philosophy than the recovery of Platonism. The rich doctrinal content and formal elegance of Platonism made it a plausible competitor of the Peripatetic tradition. Renaissance Platonism was a product of humanism and marked a sharper break with medieval philosophy.

Many Christians found Platonic philosophy safer and more attractive than Aristotelianism. The Neoplatonic conception of philosophy as a way toward union with God supplied many Renaissance Platonists with some of their richest inspiration.


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The Platonic dialogues were not seen as profane texts to be understood literally, but as sacred mysteries to be deciphered. In the treatise In calumniatorem Platonis Against the Calumniator of Plato , Cardinal Bessarion — defended Plethon against the charge levelled against his philosophy by the Aristotelian George of Trebizond — , who in Comparatio philosophorum Aristotelis et Platonis A Comparison of the Philosophers Aristotle and Plato had maintained that Platonism was unchristian and actually a new religion.

He considered Plato as part of a long tradition of ancient theology prisca theologia that was inaugurated by Hermes and Zoroaster, culminated with Plato, and continued with Plotinus and the other Neoplatonists. Like the ancient Neoplatonists, Ficino assimilated Aristotelian physics and metaphysics and adapted them to Platonic purposes.

In his main philosophical treatise, Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animorum Platonic Theology on the Immortality of Souls , , he put forward his synthesis of Platonism and Christianity as a new theology and metaphysics, which, unlike that of many Scholastics, was explicitly opposed to Averroist secularism.

Another work that became very popular was De vita libri tres Three Books on Life , by Ficino; it deals with the health of professional scholars and presents a philosophical theory of natural magic. He is best known as the author of the celebrated Oratio de hominis dignitate Oration on the Dignity of Man , which is often regarded as the manifesto of the new Renaissance thinking, but he also wrote several other prominent works.

History of Humanism With Ancient Renaissance Philosophers

They include Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem Disputations against Divinatory Astrology , an influential diatribe against astrology ; De ente et uno On Being and the One , a short treatise attempting to reconcile Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysical views; as well as Heptaplus Seven Days of Creation , a mystical interpretation of the Genesis creation myth. He was not a devout Neoplatonist like Ficino, but rather an Aristotelian by training and in many ways an eclectic by conviction. He wanted to combine Greek, Hebrew, Muslim, and Christian thought into a great synthesis, which he spelled out in nine hundred theses published as Conclusiones in He planned to defend them publicly in Rome, but three were found heretical and ten others suspect.

To this end he defended the use of magic, which he described as the noblest part of natural science, and Kabbalah, a Jewish form of mysticism that was probably of Neoplatonic origin. Platonic themes were also central to the thought of Nicholas of Cusa — , who linked his philosophical activity to the Neoplatonic tradition and authors such as Proclus and Pseudo-Dionysius. The main problem that runs through his works is how humans, as finite created beings, can think about the infinite and transcendent God.

His best-known work is De docta ignorantia On Learned Ignorance , , which gives expression to his view that the human mind needs to realize its own necessary ignorance of what God is like, an ignorance that results from the ontological and cognitive disproportion between God and the finite human knower. Correlated to the doctrine of learned ignorance is that of the coincidence of opposites in God. All things coincide in God in the sense that God, as undifferentiated being, is beyond all opposition. Two other works that are closely connected to De docta ignorantia are De coniecturis On Conjectures , in which he denies the possibility of exact knowledge, maintaining that all human knowledge is conjectural, and Apologia docta ignorantiae A Defense of Learned Ignorance , One of the most serious obstacles to the reception and adoption of Platonism in the early fifteenth century was the theory of Platonic love.

Yet by the middle of the sixteenth century this doctrine had become one of the most popular elements of Platonic philosophy. Bessarion and Ficino did not deny that Platonic love was essentially homosexual in outlook, but they insisted that it was entirely honourable and chaste. To reinforce this point, they associated Platonic discussions of love with those found in the Bible.

Another way in which Ficino made Platonic love more palatable to his contemporaries was to emphasise its place within an elaborate system of Neoplatonic metaphysics. In Gli Asolani , the humanist Pietro Bembo — appropriated the language of Platonic love to describe some aspects of the romance between a man and a woman. In this work, love was presented as unequivocally heterosexual.

Most of the ideas set out by Ficino are echoed by Bembo. However, Ficino had separated physical love, which had women as its object, from spiritual love, which was shared between men.

The two sides of Niccolò Machiavelli

Castiglione carried on the trend, initiated by Bessarion, of giving Platonic love a strongly religious coloring, and most of the philosophical content is taken from Ficino. The work consists of three conversations on love, which he conceives of as the animating principle of the universe and the cause of all existence, divine as well as material. The first dialogue discusses the relation between love and desire; the second the universality of love; and the third, which provides the longest and most sustained philosophical discussion, the origin of love. He draws upon Platonic and Neoplatonic sources, as well as on the cosmology and metaphysics of Jewish and Arabic thinkers, which are combined with Aristotelian sources in order to produce a synthesis of Aristotelian and Platonic views.

Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Skepticism underwent a revival over the course of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as part of the ongoing recovery of ancient literature and thought. The revival of Stoicism began with Petrarca, whose renewal of Stoicism moved along two paths. The first one was inspired by Seneca and consisted in the presentation, in works such as De vita solitaria The Life of Solitude and De otio religioso On Religious Leisure , of a way of life in which the cultivation of the scholarly work and ethical perfection are one.

The second was his elaboration of Stoic therapy against emotional distress in De secreto conflictu curarum mearum On the Secret Conflict of My Worries , an inner dialogue of the sort prescribed by Cicero and Seneca, and in De remediis utriusque fortunae Remedies for Good and Bad Fortune , , a huge compendium based on a short apocryphal tract attributed at the time to Seneca. They accused the Stoics of suppressing all emotions and criticized their view for its inhuman rigidity.

In contrast to the extreme ethical stance of the Stoics, they preferred the more moderate Peripatetic position, arguing that it provides a more realistic basis for morality, since it places the acquisition of virtue within the reach of normal human capacities. Another Stoic doctrine that was often criticized on religious grounds was the conviction that the wise man is entirely responsible for his own happiness and has no need of divine assistance.

The most important exponent of Stoicism during the Renaissance was the Flemish humanist Justus Lipsius — , who worked hard to brighten the appeal of Stoicism to Christians. His first Neostoic work was De constantia On Constancy , , in which he promoted Stoic moral philosophy as a refuge from the horrors of the civil and religious wars that ravaged the continent at the time. Together they constituted the most learned account of Stoic philosophy produced since antiquity.

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