Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy

Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy

Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy

Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy


This volume consists of 21 essays on Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), the great Florentine scholar, philosopher and priest who was the architect of Renaissance Platonism and whose long-lasting influence on philosophy, love and music theory, medicine and magic extended across Europe. Grouped into three sections, they cover such topics as priesthood, the influence of Hermetic monism, Plotinus and Augustine, Jewish transmission of the prisca theologia, the 15th c. Plato-Aristotle controversy, the soul and its afterlife, the primacy of the will, theriac and musical therapy, the notions of matter, seeds, mirrors and clocks, and other fascinating philosophical and theological issues. Also considered are Ficino's critics, his relationship to the Camaldolese Order, his letters to princes, his influence on art, on Copernicus, on Chapman, and the nature of the Platonic Academy. Contributors include: Tamara Albertini, Michael J. B. Allen, Francis Ames-Lewis, Donald Beecher, Christopher S. Celenza, Stephen Clucas, Arthur Field, Hiroshi Hirai, Moshe Idel, Dilwyn Knox, Sergius Kodera, Jill Kraye, Dennis F. Lackner, Jörg Lauster, Anthony Levi, John Monfasani, Valery Rees, Clement Salaman, Peter Serracino-Inglott, M. Stéphane Toussaint, and Angela Voss.


Michael J.B. Allen

Animarum gradus colligamus

Marsilio Ficino (1433–99), the eminent Florentine Platonist and one of the most learned and influential thinkers of his age, was ordained in 1473 and elected a canon of Florence's cathedral in 1487. Destined for a medical career by his father, a doctor in the service of the Medici, he acquired, in addition to much medical learning, a rare mastery of Plato, Aristotle and later Greek philosophy. Under the patronage of Cosimo de' Medici who gave him a villa at Careggi in 1463, he set out to render all of Plato's dialogues into Latin, but interrupted this task almost immediately in order to translate the Corpus Hermeticum under the title of the Pimander which was named after the first of the fourteen treatises known to him (Tommaso Benci produced a vernacular translation of this within the year). in 1464 Ficino actually read his versions of Plato's Parmenides and Philebus to Cosimo on his deathbed. Eventually, with financing from Filippo Valori and other admirers, and having selectively consulted the renderings of some of the dialogues by such humanist predecessors as Leonardo Bruni, he published the complete Plato in 1484 (a date coinciding with a grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn) and dedicated it to Lorenzo de' Medici. He included prefaces (argumenta) for each dialogue and a long commentary on the Symposium that he had written by 1469 and called the De amore (a vernacular version of which he also prepared). This became the seminal text of Renaissance love theory. Later he composed other magisterial Plato commentaries, some complete, some not, on the Timaeus, Philebus (the subject too of a public lecture series), Parmenides, Phaedrus, Sophist, and on the Nuptial Number in Book viii of the Republic.

While continually revising his Plato during the 1470s and publishing his De Christiana religione in 1476 (which was partly indebted, we now realize, to earlier anti-Jewish and anti-Moslem polemicists), he compiled his original philosophical masterpiece, an eighteen-book summa on metaphysics and the immortality of the soul which he did . . .

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