Renaissance Philosophy

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

3
Platonism

From Aristotle to Plato

Aristotle remained the dominant force in early modern philosophy before Descartes, and in some respects early modern thinkers knew Aristotle as the medieval schools had known him. When Renaissance philosophers recovered Aristotle's Greek and put it in better Latin, they still preserved much of the scholastic apparatus for understanding his ideas. One strong challenge to scholastic Aristotelianism came from the recovery of other ancient philosophies that could claim equal intellectual authority, and it was Aristotle's teacher, Plato, for whom such claims were most credible. The career of Platonic philosophy in the early modern period differed from the contemporary development of Aristotelianism in at least two ways: Renaissance Platonism, clearly a product of humanism, marked a sharper break with medieval philosophy; and one person, Marsilio Ficino, can be called the moving spirit of the Platonic revival. Despite his extraordinary mastery of Greek and his extensive knowledge of ancient texts long unread in the West, Ficino was no humanist in the strict sense of the term; he was a philosopher, not a philologist. But the enormous success of his translations and interpretations of the Greek works of Plato and the Neoplatonists presupposed the humanist revival of antiquity as the prevailing intention of the high culture of quattrocento Florence, where Plato was reborn and whence his fame soon spread all over Europe.

In the earliest period of Italian humanism, in the fourteenth century, some thinkers who knew little about Plato none the less preferred him to Aristotle. In 1367, for example, Petrarch wrote an invective On His Own Ignorance and That of Others that spared Aristotle himself from the harshest charges brought against Aristotelian scholastics, but Petrarch still found Plato

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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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