Renaissance Philosophy

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

2
Aristotelianism

Renaissance Aristotelianisms

For many students of pre-Cartesian thought, the words 'scholasticism' and 'Aristotelianism' have evoked visions of a sterile, derivative, and monolithic system obsessed with logic-chopping and leading its abstracted victims on a bookish hunt for the irrelevant.1 Erasmus, Rabelais, and other critics immortalized the depression, enervation, and terror that they suffered in interminable bouts of indoctrination into a subject- matter that they found impoverished and insipid, thus moving Descartes and his contemporaries to turn their backs on school philosophy and to revile Peripateticism as false, ridiculous, and redundant. Descartes thanked his teachers for 'the fact that everything they taught me was quite doubtful; . . . [otherwise] I might have been content with the smattering of reason which I found in it.'2 To confirm such sour memories, we have more than enough evidence of bad, dull, doctrinaire performance in early modern classrooms. Allowing for a natural urge in students of any period to resist the formal requirements of systems to which they are introduced, one none the less hears an insistent note in the chorus of complaint about the lifelessness of the late scholastic curriculum, its stony deafness to the prospect that philosophy might answer pragmatic human questions. For those who despised scholasticism as a labyrinth of dreary trivialities, the contrast with humanist engagement in moral and political debate lowered the reputation of the

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1
For a recent analysis of Aristotelianism in the Renaissance, see Schmitt 1983a); see also the pioneering works of Kristeller, esp. ( 1961a: 24-47, 92-119; 1965c); and Garin ( 1947-50); Randall ( 1961); During ( 1968); Poppi ( 1970a); Grant ( 1978); above, Ch. 1, nn. 4, 7.
2
Descartes ( 1985: ii. 411 [ Murdoch and Stoothoff trans.]).

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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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