Renaissance Philosophy

By Charles B. Schmitt; Brian P. Copenhaver | Go to book overview

I
The Historical Context of Renaissance Philosophy

The philosophical heritage of antiquity and the Middle Ages

During the Renaissance, people taught and learned philosophy with a reverence for authority that the modern reader may find misplaced or alien, but not because philosophers simply aped their predecessors or put no premium at all on original thought or novel solutions to old problems. Ancient authority sometimes bestowed a paradoxical licence for innovation on thinkers accustomed to hide their creativity behind antiquity and precedent. A new thought reflecting a pattern hallowed by custom might seem safer, even if its deference to the past was superficial. A distinctive trait of philosophical discussion in the Renaissance, in any event, was that it usually began with reference to some distant authority, some sage of ancient Athens or master of medieval Paris -- a Plato or an Aristotle, a Thomas Aquinas or a Duns Scotus. Moreover, many people assumed not only that God had given a single unified truth to humanity in the distant past but also that the remains of Greek philosophy, especially the works of Plato and Aristotle, had preserved part of this original deposit of divine wisdom. Hence it was no surprise and no scandal if an ancient answer to some questions was the right one. In the beginning of his Lives of the Philosophers -- the closest thing to a comprehensive history of philosophy to have survived from antiquity and an important find of fifteenth-century humanism -- Diogenes Laertius provided historical evidence for the ultimate unity of dogma, implying that truth is one because many peoples found different paths to the same wisdom in a primeval past. This ancient

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Renaissance Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Opus General Editors ii
  • Title Page iii
  • P. O. Kristeller v
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • 1 - The Historical Context of Renaissance Philosophy 1
  • 2 - Aristotelianism 60
  • 3 - Platonism 127
  • 4 - Stoics, Sceptics, Epicureans, and Other Innovators 196
  • 5 - Nature against Authority: Breaking Away from the Classics 285
  • 6 - Renaissance Philosophy and Modern Memory 329
  • Bibliography 358
  • Index 433
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