Phil 735: Renaissance Philosophy
Instructor: Dr. Tamara Albertini, 956-6030 (
Time: T 12:45-03:15 p.m.
Office Hours: M/Th 10–11 a.m. and by appointment (Sakam D-303)
This course is designed to introduce graduate students to the intricacies of Renaissance philosophy by arranging primary sources around a series of “period-specific” topics, themes, and philosophical means such as:
1. Ingenium-theory. This is part of a creativity theory not to be confused with the concept of genius developed during Romanticism. (Leon Battista Alberti)
2. Human nature. Human nature is ontologically indeterminate, to be shaped by each human being individually. (Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Machiavelli, Charles de Bovelles)
3. Infinity. The universe is homogenous, center-less, and infinite. (Nicholas of Cusa, Giordano Bruno)
4. Doctrine of opposites. Renaissance doctrines of opposites are characterized by the notion of a middle generating the extremes that is itself generated by the extremes. (Nicholas of Cusa, Charles de Bovelles)
5. Thinking by the use of geometric images. Creating geometric images and allowing oneself to be informed by these same images is a characteristic means of Renaissance rationality. (Nicholas of Cusa, Marsilio Ficino)
6. Mirror-metaphors. Rather than being inert and inept doubles, mirror-images indicate the creative powers of the mind. (Nicholas of Cusa, Marsilio Ficino, Charles de Bovelles)
7. Intellect and will. These stand for the mind’s “exteriority” and “interiority” forming a fruitful epistemological tension. (Marsilio Ficino, Giordano Bruno)
Graduate students are expected to
- acquaint themselves with at least four major figures of Renaissance philosophy;
- read at least three ground-breaking philosophical texts of that period;
- know of the major 20th c. philosophical appreciations of Renaissance thought;
- learn to appreciate Renaissance philosophy as a Western period of thought in its own right;
- learn how to read a Renaissance philosophical text; and
- discover under the instructor’s guidance figures of thought, concepts, means and strategies that are typical of Renaissance philosophical texts.
Instructor comments for several weeks on Renaissance texts emphasizing “period-specific” topics and means (see above) to acquaint students with reading strategies adapted to the period’s thought expression. Graduate students will then be expected to display their own reading command of Renaissance philosophical works by presenting on texts of their choice.
Students are required to present one Renaissance text in class (30%) and write a final paper (18-20 pp.) focusing on a topic to be determined after consultation with the instructor. The final paper must include other or more sources than the one introduced in class (60%). There will also be a grade for active participation and class preparation (10%).
- Cassirer, Ernst. The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy. Dover: Mineola, N.Y., 2000. [0-486-41438-8 (pbk)] [Xerox Copies]
- Cassirer, Ernst/Kristeller, P.O./ Randall, J. H. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press: 1956. [0-226-09604-1]
- Hankins, James. Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy. Cambridge, New York...: Cambridge University Press, 2007. [978-0-521-60893-0]
- Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Nicholas of Cusa. Trans. by Jasper Hopkins. Minneapolis: Arthur J. Banning Press: 2001 [Free download: http://cla.umn.edu/sites/jhopkins/]
Reader: Leon Battista Alberti’s Autobiography and many excerpts from the works of Marsilio Ficino, Charles de Bovelles, and Giordano Bruno.
S C H E D U L E
August 26 General Introduction
September 2 Discussion of Ernst Cassirer’s Individual and Cosmos...
September 9 Renaissance Theory of Ingenium (Alberti’s Autobiography) and Self-Transformation (Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, De Dignitate Hominis)
September 16 The universe is infinite (Nicholas of Cusa, De Docta Ignorantia)
September 23 Doctrine of Opposites (Nicholas of Cusa, DDI and Charles de Bovelles, Ars Oppositorum)
September 30 Geometric Images and Mirror-Metaphors (examples from: NC, ChB, MF)
October 7 Graduate Student Presentation
October 14 Graduate Student Presentation
October 21 Graduate Student Presentation
October 28 Graduate Student Presentation
November 4 Election Day
November 11 Veterans’ Day
November 18 Graduate Student Presentation
November 25 Graduate Student Presentation
December 2 ` Graduate Student Presentation
December 9 Last Session
Final Papers due on December 9, 2008
Bibliography of Renaissance Philosophy (selection - on reserve)
*Burckhardt, Jakob. Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien. Basel 1860. (First translated in English as The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy in 1878.)
*Cassirer, Ernst. The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972, c1963.
Celenza, Christopher S. The Lost Italian Renaissance: Humanists, Historians, and Latin's Legacy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
Hankins, James. Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy. Cambridge, New York...: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Renaissance and Early Modern Philosophy. Ed. by Peter A. French, Howard K. Wettstein, and Bruce Silver. Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishing, 2002.
Contents: "Always to do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succour": women and the chivalric code in Malory’’s "Morte Darthur" / Felicia Ackerman -- Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464): first modern philosopher? / Jasper Hopkins -- Marsilio Ficino on "Significatio" / Michael J. B. Allen -- Pomponazzi: moral virtue in a deterministic universe / John L. Treloar -- The secret of Pico’’s "Oration": Cabala and renaissance / Brian P. Copenhaver -- Between republic and monarchy? Liberty, security, and the Kingdom of France in Machiavelli / Cary Nederman and Tatiana V. Gom´´ez -- Montaigne, "An apology for Raymond Sebond": happiness and the poverty of reason / Bruce Silver -- The natural philosophy of Giordano Bruno / Hilary Gatti -- Francis Bacon ahd the humanistic aspects of modernity / Rose-Mary Sargent -- Hobbes’’s atheism / Douglas M. Jesseph -- New wine in old bottles: Gassendi and the Aristotelian origin of physics / Margaret J. Oster -- Descartes. mechanics and the mechanical philosophy / Daniel Garber -- "Presence" and "Likeness" in Arnauld’’s critique of Malebranche / Nancy Kendrick -- Pascal’’s wagers / Jeff Jordan -- Eternity and immortality in Spinoza’’s "Ethics" / Steven Nadler -- Occasionalism and efficacious laws in Malebranche / Micholas Jolley -- What kind of a skeptic was Bayle? / Thomas M. Lennon -- From Locke’’s "Letter" to Montesquieu’’s "Lettres" / Edwin Curley.
The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy. Ed. by Charles B. Schmitt, Quentin Skinner, Eckhard Kessler, and Jill Kray. Cambridge [England], New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. Ed. by Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller [and] John Herman Randall, Jr.... Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1948. [Anthology]
*Koyré, Alexandre. From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1968, c1957.
*Wind, Edgar. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968 [c1967].
“The Munich School”
Ernesto Grassi (founding figure), Eckhard Kessler, Hanna-Barbara Gerl. (Emphasis on Humanism)
Stephan Otto (founding figure), Paul Richard Blum, Tamara Albertini. (Emphasis on Renaissance philosophy)
Alberti, Leon Battista (1404-1472)
Grafton, Anthony. Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance. New York : Hill and Wang, 2000.
Bovelles, Charles de (Carolus Bovillus, 1479-1567)
Victor, Joseph M. Charles de Bovelles, 1479-1553 [sic!]: An Intellectual Biography. Genève: Droz, 1978.
[For your teacher’s publications on Bovelles kindly check her CV.]
Society: The International Charles de Bovelles Society.
Colonna, Francesco (d. 1527)
Colonna, Francesco. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Venice 1499 (reprint New York: Garland Pub., 1976).
Colonna, Francesco. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: The Strife of Love in a Dream. The entire text translated for the first time into English with an introduction by Joscelyn Godwin. New York : Thames & Hudson, 1999.
Lefaivre, Liane. Leon Battista Alberti's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: Re-cognizing the Architectural Body in the Early Italian Renaissance. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997.
Nicholas of Cusa (Nicolaus Cusanus, 1401-1464)
a) Primary literature
Opera. Parisiis, 1514. [Reprint Frankfurt am Main: Minerva, 1962].
Critical edition: Nicolai de Cusa opera omnia iussu et auctoritate Academiae litterarum heidelbergensis ad codicum fidem edita. Lipsiae, In aedibus Meiner, 1932-.
b) Secondary literature:
Albertini, Tamara. "Nicholas of Cusa's Mathematics and Astronomy." In Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man, ed. by Christopher M. Bellito, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Gerald Christianson, Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist, 2004, 373-406.
Brient, Elizabeth. The Immanence of the Infinite: Hans Blumenberg and the Threshold to Modernity. Washington, D.C. : Catholic University of America Press, 2002.
Cranz, F. Edward. Nicholas of Cusa and the Renaissance. Aldershot, Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 2000.
Harries, Karsten. Infinity and Perspective. Cambridge, Mass., London: MIT Press, 2001.
Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A Guide to a Renaissance Man. Ed. by Christopher M. Bellitto, Thomas M. Izbicki, and Gerald Christianson. New York: Paulist Press, 2004.
Table of contents: http://www.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip0412/2003026928.html
Of special interest:
- Buddhist and Western Philosophy. Edited by Nathan Katz. New Delhi: Sterling, 1981.
Contents: Zen and Nietzsche / Masao Abe -- Nirvana as a negative image of God / Thomas J.J. Altizer -- Tautology as philosophy in Nicolaus Cusanus and Na¯¯ga¯¯rjuna / Gustavo Benavides -- Aspects of the Indian and Western traditions of formal logic and their comparisons / Douglas Dunsmore Daye -- The Zen understanding of the initial nature of man / Richard J. Demartino -- The conflict between analytic philosophy and existentialism in Buddhist perspective / M.W. Padmasiri de Silva -- Buddhism and Marxism in the socio-cultural context of Sri Lanka / Gunapala Dharmasiri --Martin Buber and oriental religions / Maurice Friedman -- Heidegger and Zen on being and nothingness: a critical essay in transmetaphysical dialectics / Charles Wei-Hsun Fu -- Nagarjuna, Aristotle, and Frege on the nature of thought / Ashok K. Gangadean. con.’’t Dionysus against the Buddha: Nietzsche’’s "yes" and the Buddhist "no" / Steven Heine -- Problematics of the Buddhist nature of self / Kenneth K. Inada -- On the notion of verification in Buddhism and in logical positivism: a brief philosophical study / A.D.P. Kalansuriya --Na¯¯ga¯¯rjuna and Wittgenstein on error / Nathan Katz -- Buddhism and modern philosophies of existence / Bhikkhu N˜~a¯¯naji¯¯vako -- Nihilism and Su¯¯nyata¯¯ / Keiji Nishitani --On the supramundane and the divine in Buddhism / D. Seyfort Ruegg -- Temporality and consciousness in A¯¯bhidharmika Buddhism: a phenomenological approach / Braj M. Sinha -- Problems of the application of western terminology to Therava¯¯da Buddhism, with special reference to the relationship between the Buddha and the gods / Ninian Smart -- Who understands the four alternatives of the Buddhist texts? / Alex Wayman.
- Burgevin, Frederick Haviland. Cribratio Alchorani. Nicholas Cusanus's Criticism of the Koran in the Light of His Philosophy of Religion. New York, Vantage Press, 1969.
- Nederman, Cary J. Worlds of Difference : European Discourses of Toleration, c. 1100-c. 1550. University Park : Pennsylvania State University Press, c2000.
Contents: Beyond intolerance: sources and sites of medieval religious dispute -- Demonstration and mutual edification in inter-religious dialogue -- Skepticism, liberty, and the "clash of ideas" in John of Salisbury’’s writings -- Negotiating the tolerant society: the travail of William of Rubruck -- Heresy and community in Marsiglio of Padua’’s political thought -- Nationality and the "variety of rites" in Nicholas of Cusa -- Equality, civilization, and the American Indians in the writings of Las Casas.
English translators: Jasper Hopkins and Lawrence Bond.
Societies: American Cusanus Society and Cusanus-Gesellschaft.
There is also a series dedicated to Nicholas of Cusa called “Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanus-Gesellschaft” (Mainz: Matthias Grünewald-Verlag, 1961-).
Ficino, Marsilio (1433-1466)
a) Primary literature
Opera Omnia. 2 vols. Torino: Bottega d'Erasmo, 1959 (reprint of the 1576 ed. published by H. Petrina. Basileae).
Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love. An English translation by Sears Jayne. 2nd revised edition. Dallas, Tex. : Spring Publications, c1985.
Icastes: Marsilio Ficino's Interpretation of Plato's Sophist. Five studies and a critical edition with translation by Michael J. B. Allen. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1989.
Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer. Introduction, texts, translations by Michael J. B. Allen. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1981.
Theologica Platonica. English & Latin. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2001-.
The Philebus Commentary. A critical edition and translation by Michael J. B. Allen.Tempe : Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2000.
Three Books on Life. A critical edition and translation with introduction and notes, edited and translated by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark. Binghamton: Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton, c1989.
b) Secondary Literature:
Albertini, Tamara. Marsilio Ficino: Das Problem der Vermittlung von Denken und Welt in einer Metaphysik der Einfachheit. München: W. Fink Verlag, 1997.
—, "Intellect and Will in Marsilio Ficino: Two Correlatives of a Renaissance Concept of the Mind." In Marsilio Ficino: his Theology, his Philosophy, his Legacy, ed. by Michael J. B. Allen and Valery Rees, 203-225. Leiden: Brill, 2001.
Kristeller, Paul Oskar. The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino. Gloucester, Mass.: P. Smith, 1964. [Original German version appeared only in 1972.]
—, Marsilio Ficino and His Work After Five Hundred Years. [Florence]: Leo S. Olschki, .
Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy. Edited by Michael J. B. Allen and Valery Rees with Martin Davies. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2002.
Web Site/Electronic Resource:
Allen, Michael J. B. The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of his Phaedrus Commentary, Its Sources and Genesis. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1984.
Allen, Michael J. B. Plato's Third Eye: Studies in Marsilio Ficino's Metaphysics and Its Sources. Aldershot, Hampshire, Brookfield, Vt.: Variorum, 1995.
English translator: Michael J. B. Allen.
Society: Marsilio Ficino Society.
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494)
Farmer, S. A. Syncretism in the West: Pico's 900 theses (1486). The Evolution of Traditional, Religious, and Philosophical Systems. With text, translation, and commentary. Tempe, Ariz. ; Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1998.
Heptaplus: or, Discourse on the Seven Days of Creation. New York : Philosophical Library, c1977.