Rediscovering Plato and the Mystical Science of Dialectic

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Among his main works are the collected logical works Opera logica , which are mainly devoted to the theory of demonstration, and his major work on natural philosophy, De rebus naturalibus There were also forms of Aristotelian philosophy with strong confessional ties, such as the branch of Scholasticism that developed on the Iberian Peninsula during the sixteenth century. Their most important writings were in the areas of metaphysics and philosophy of law.

The humanist movement did not eliminate older approaches to philosophy, but contributed to change them in important ways, providing new information and new methods to the field.

Humanists called for a radical change of philosophy and uncovered older texts that multiplied and hardened current philosophical discord. Some of the most salient features of humanist reform are the accurate study of texts in the original languages, the preference for ancient authors and commentators over medieval ones, and the avoidance of technical language in the interest of moral suasion and accessibility.

Humanists stressed moral philosophy as the branch of philosophical studies that best met their needs. They addressed a general audience in an accessible manner and aimed to bring about an increase in public and private virtue. Regarding philosophy as a discipline allied to history, rhetoric, and philology, they expressed little interest in metaphysical or epistemological questions. Logic was subordinated to rhetoric and reshaped to serve the purposes of persuasion.

One of the seminal figures of the humanist movement was Francesco Petrarca — In De sui ipsius et multorum aliorum ignorantia On His Own Ignorance and That of Many Others , he elaborated what was to become the standard critique of Scholastic philosophy. One of his main objections to Scholastic Aristotelianism is that it is useless and ineffective in achieving the good life.

Moreover, to cling to a single authority when all authorities are unreliable is simply foolish. Petrarca returned to a conception of philosophy rooted in the classical tradition, and from his time onward, when professional humanists took interest in philosophy, they nearly always concerned themselves with ethical questions.

Among those he influenced were Coluccio Salutati — , Leonardo Bruni c. One of the most original and important humanists of the Quattrocento was Lorenzo Valla — His most influential writing was Elegantiae linguae Latinae Elegances of the Latin Language , a handbook of Latin language and style. He is also famous for having demonstrated, on the basis of linguistic and historical evidence, that the so-called Donation of Constantine, on which the secular rule of the papacy was based, was an early medieval forgery.

His main philosophical work is Repastinatio dialecticae et philosophiae Reploughing of Dialectic and Philosophy , an attack on major tenets of Aristotelian philosophy. The first book deals with the criticism of fundamental notions of metaphysics, ethics, and natural philosophy, while the remaining two books are devoted to dialectics.

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Throughout the fifteenth and early sixteenth century, humanists were unanimous in their condemnation of university education and their contempt for Scholastic logic. Humanists such as Valla and Rudolph Agricola — , whose main work is De inventione dialectica On Dialectical Invention , , set about to replace the Scholastic curriculum, based on syllogism and disputation, with a treatment of logic oriented toward the use of persuasion and topics , a technique of verbal association aiming at the invention and organization of material for arguments.

According to Valla and Agricola, language is primarily a vehicle for communication and debate, and consequently arguments should be evaluated in terms of how effective and useful they are rather than in terms of formal validity. Accordingly, they subsumed the study of the Aristotelian theory of inference under a broader range of forms of argumentation.

This approach was taken up and developed in various directions by later humanists, such as Mario Nizolio — , Juan Luis Vives — , and Petrus Ramus — Vives was a Spanish-born humanist who spent the greater part of his life in the Low Countries.

He aspired to replace the Scholastic tradition in all fields of learning with a humanist curriculum inspired by education in the classics. In , he published In Pseudodialecticos Against the Pseudodialecticians , a satirical diatribe against Scholastic logic in which he voices his opposition on several counts.

Another area in which Vives enjoyed considerable success was psychology. His reflections on the human soul are mainly concentrated in De anima et vita On the Soul and Life , , a study of the soul and its interaction with the body, which also contains a penetrating analysis of the emotions.

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Ramus was another humanist who criticized the shortcomings of contemporary teaching and advocated a humanist reform of the arts curriculum. In , he published Dialecticae partitiones The Structure of Dialectic , which in its second edition was called Dialecticae institutiones Training in Dialectic , and Aristotelicae animadversions Remarks on Aristotle. These works gained him a reputation as a virulent opponent of Aristotelian philosophy. He considered his own dialectics, consisting of invention and judgment, to be applicable to all areas of knowledge, and he emphasised the need for learning to be comprehensible and useful, with a particular stress on the practical aspects of mathematics.

His own reformed system of logic reached its definitive form with the publication of the third edition of Dialectique Humanism also supported Christian reform. The most important Christian humanist was the Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus c. He was hostile to Scholasticism, which he did not consider a proper basis for Christian life, and put his erudition at the service of religion by promoting learned piety docta pietas.

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In , he published Enchiridion militis christiani Handbook of the Christian Soldier , a guide to the Christian life addressed to laymen in need of spiritual guidance, in which he developed the concept of a philosophia Christi. His most famous work is Moriae encomium The Praise of Folly , a satirical monologue first published in that touches upon a variety of social, political, intellectual, and religious issues. Humanism also had an impact of overwhelming importance on the development of political thought.

With Institutio principis christiani The Education of a Christian Prince , , Erasmus contributed to the popular genre of humanist advice books for princes. These manuals dealt with the proper ends of government and how best to attain them. Among humanists of the fourteenth century, the most usual proposal was that a strong monarchy should be the best form of government.

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Petrarca, in his account of princely government that was written in and took the form of a letter to Francesco da Carrara, argued that cities ought to be governed by princes who accept their office reluctantly and who pursue glory through virtuous actions.

In Laudatio florentinae urbis Panegyric of the City of Florence , Bruni maintained that justice can only be assured by a republican constitution. In his view, cities must be governed according to justice if they are to become glorious, and justice is impossible without liberty. A fundamental belief among the humanists was that a ruler needs to cultivate a number of qualities, such as justice and other moral values, in order to acquire honour, glory, and fame.

Machiavelli deviated from this view claiming that justice has no decisive place in politics. Machiavelli did not hold that princely regimes were superior to all others. In his less famous, but equally influential, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy , , he offers a defense of popular liberty and republican government that takes the ancient republic of Rome as its model.

During the Renaissance, it gradually became possible to take a broader view of philosophy than the traditional Peripatetic framework permitted.

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No ancient revival had more impact on the history of philosophy than the recovery of Platonism. The rich doctrinal content and formal elegance of Platonism made it a plausible competitor of the Peripatetic tradition. Renaissance Platonism was a product of humanism and marked a sharper break with medieval philosophy. Many Christians found Platonic philosophy safer and more attractive than Aristotelianism. The Neoplatonic conception of philosophy as a way toward union with God supplied many Renaissance Platonists with some of their richest inspiration.

The Platonic dialogues were not seen as profane texts to be understood literally, but as sacred mysteries to be deciphered. In the treatise In calumniatorem Platonis Against the Calumniator of Plato , Cardinal Bessarion — defended Plethon against the charge levelled against his philosophy by the Aristotelian George of Trebizond — , who in Comparatio philosophorum Aristotelis et Platonis A Comparison of the Philosophers Aristotle and Plato had maintained that Platonism was unchristian and actually a new religion. He considered Plato as part of a long tradition of ancient theology prisca theologia that was inaugurated by Hermes and Zoroaster, culminated with Plato, and continued with Plotinus and the other Neoplatonists.

Like the ancient Neoplatonists, Ficino assimilated Aristotelian physics and metaphysics and adapted them to Platonic purposes. In his main philosophical treatise, Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animorum Platonic Theology on the Immortality of Souls , , he put forward his synthesis of Platonism and Christianity as a new theology and metaphysics, which, unlike that of many Scholastics, was explicitly opposed to Averroist secularism.

Another work that became very popular was De vita libri tres Three Books on Life , by Ficino; it deals with the health of professional scholars and presents a philosophical theory of natural magic.

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He is best known as the author of the celebrated Oratio de hominis dignitate Oration on the Dignity of Man , which is often regarded as the manifesto of the new Renaissance thinking, but he also wrote several other prominent works. They include Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem Disputations against Divinatory Astrology , an influential diatribe against astrology ; De ente et uno On Being and the One , a short treatise attempting to reconcile Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysical views; as well as Heptaplus Seven Days of Creation , a mystical interpretation of the Genesis creation myth.

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He was not a devout Neoplatonist like Ficino, but rather an Aristotelian by training and in many ways an eclectic by conviction. He wanted to combine Greek, Hebrew, Muslim, and Christian thought into a great synthesis, which he spelled out in nine hundred theses published as Conclusiones in He planned to defend them publicly in Rome, but three were found heretical and ten others suspect. Philosophy portal. Luc Brisson , translator and commentator. Harold F. Cherniss , major Plato scholar. Ellen Francis Mason , translator of Plato. Diogenes mentions as one of his sources the Universal History of Favorinus. According to Favorinus, Ariston, Plato's family, and his family were sent by Athens to settle as cleruchs colonists retaining their Athenian citizenship , on the island of Aegina, from which they were expelled by the Spartans after Plato's birth there. Jens Halfwassen states in Der Aufstieg zum Einen' that "Plotinus' ontology—which should be called Plotinus' henology —is a rather accurate philosophical renewal and continuation of Plato's unwritten doctrine, i.

Montoriola , p. Another description is by Reale and Reale A thorough analysis of the consequences of such an approach is given by Szlezak Another supporter of this interpretation is the German philosopher Karl Albert , cf. Albert or Albert Hans-Georg Gadamer is also sympathetic towards it, cf. Grondin and Gadamer Gadamer's final position on the subject is stated in Gadamer This is in accordance with the practice in the specialized literature, in which it is common to find that the terms allegory and myth are used as synonyms.

Nevertheless, there is a trend among modern scholars to use the term myth and avoid the term allegory, as it is considered more appropriate to modern interpretation of Plato's writings. The South Atlantic Quarterly.