Italian Renaissance Philosophy

In these episodes we explore the philosophical riches of the Italian Renaissance, which for the purposes of the podcast will be considered to refer to the 15th and 16th centuries. (Figures of the northern Renaissance, such as Erasmus, are covered in the following "seasons".) During this period we see the rise of humanism with its attention to Latin and Greek language and recovery of such ancient philosophical schools as Epicureanism and Skepticism. Under the influence of visitors from the Greek East, scholars like Marsilio Ficino and Nicholas of Cusa are inspired to revive Platonism, yet traditions of scholastic philosophy also continue with Aristotle and Averroes influencing such thinkers as Pomponazzi and Nifo. It is also a time of great achievement in political philosophy, especially with the thought of Machiavelli, and of explorations in science and alchemy, astronomy and astrology: Cardano, Tycho Brahe, Bruno, and Galileo are just a few of the thinkers we will discuss under this heading. Also in focus will be Jewish philosophers like del Medigo and Abravanel, and women philosophers including Christine de Pizan. And as always the podcast will look at philosophical aspects of other cultural developments, like Renaissance art, history writing, and legal theory. Interview guests include Brian Copenhaver, Sabrina Ebbersmeyer, Guido Giglioni, Dag N. Hasse, Cecilia Muratori, Jill Kraye, David Lines, Ingrid Rowland, Denis Robichaud, and Quentin Skinner.

Further Reading

• R. Black, Humanism and Education in Medieval and Renaissance Italy (Cambridge: 2001).

• C.S. Celenza, The Lost Italian Renaissance: Humanists, Historians, and Latin’s Legacy (Baltimore: 2004).

• P. Godman, From Poliziano to Machiavelli: Florentine Humanism in the High Renaissance (Princeton: 1998).

• E. Garin, Storia della filosofia italiana, 3 vols (Turin: 1966).

• J. Kraye, "The Philosophy of the Italian Renaissance," in G.H.R. Parkinson (ed.), The Renaissance and Seventeenth-Century Rationalism (London: 1993), 1-64.

• P.O. Kristeller, Eight Philosophers of the Italian Renaissance (Stanford: 1964).

• J.M. Najemy, Italy in the Age of the Renaissance (Oxford: 2004).

• J. Monfasani, Language and Learning in Renaissance Italy (Aldershot: 1994).

Episodes 328 - 370: Italian Renaissance

328. Old News: Introduction to the Italian Renaissance

Posted on 30 June 2019

A first look at the themes and figures of philosophy in the Italian Renaissance.

329. Greeks Bearing Gifts: Byzantine Scholars in Italy

Posted on 14 July 2019

Bessarion and George Trapenzuntius, rival scholars from the Greek east who helped inspire the Italian Renaissance.

330. Republic of Letters: Italian Humanism

Posted on 28 July 2019

Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruni combine eloquence with philosophy, taking as their model the refined language and republican ideals found in Cicero.

331. Literary Criticism: Lorenzo Valla

Posted on 8 September 2019

Lorenzo Valla launches a furious attack on scholastic philosophy, favoring the resources of classical Latin.

332. Jill Kraye on Humanism

Posted on 22 September 2019

Jill Kraye returns to the podcast to discuss the nature of humanism, its relation to scholasticism, and its legacy.

333. Difficult to Be Good: Humanist Ethics

Posted on 6 October 2019

Humanists from Bruni and Valla to Pontano and Castiglione ask whether ancient ethical teachings can still help us learn how to live.

334. Chance Encounters: Reviving Hellenistic Philosophy

Posted on 20 October 2019

The rediscovery of Epicurus, Lucretius, and Sextus Empiricus spreads challenging ideas about chance, atomism, and skepticism.

335. Sabrina Ebbersmeyer on Emotions in Renaissance Philosophy

Posted on 3 November 2019

An interview with Sabrina Ebbersmeyer about the relation of emotion to reason and the body, and panpsychism, in the Renaissance.

336. We Built This City: Christine de Pizan

Posted on 17 November 2019

Christine de Pizan's political philosophy, epistemology, and the refutation of misogyny in her "City of Ladies".

337. More Rare Than the Phoenix: Italian Women Humanists

Posted on 1 December 2019

Cassandra Fedele, Isotta Nogarola, and Laura Cereta seek fame and glory through eloquence and learning.

338. All About Eve: the Defense of Women

Posted on 15 December 2019

Refutation of misogyny in Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella.

339. I’d Like to Thank the Academy: Florentine Platonism

Posted on 29 December 2019

The blossoming of Renaissance Platonism under the Medici, who supported the scholarship of Poliziano, Ficino, and Pico della Mirandola.

340. Footnotes to Plato: Marsilio Ficino

Posted on 12 January 2020

Marsilio Ficino’s revival of Platonism, with a focus on his proofs for the soul’s immortality in his magnum opus, the Platonic Theology.

341. True Romance: Theories of Love

Posted on 26 January 2020

Ficino describes a “Platonic” love purified of sexuality, prompting a debate carried on by Pico della Mirandola, Pietro Bembo, and Tullia d’Aragona.

342. Denis Robichaud on Plato in the Renaissance

Posted on 9 February 2020

An interview with Denis Robichaud on how, and why, Plato was read in the Italian Renaissance.

343. As Far as East from West: Jewish Philosophy in Renaissance Italy

Posted on 23 February 2020

Jewish philosophers in Renaissance Italy, focusing on Leone Ebreo’s Dialogues of Love, the Averroism of Elijah del Medigo, and Italian Kabbalah.

344. The Count of Concord: Pico della Mirandola

Posted on 8 March 2020

Pico della Mirandola argues for the harmony of the ancient authorities, draws on Jewish mysticism, and questions the value of humanist rhetoric.

345. What a Piece of Work is Man: Manetti and Pico on Human Nature

Posted on 22 March 2020

Pico della Mirandola and Giannozzo Manetti praise humans as the centerpiece of the created world. But what about the other animals?

346. Cecilia Muratori on Animals in the Renaissance

Posted on 5 April 2020

An interview with Cecilia Muratori, an expert on the surprisingly modern ideas about non-human animals that emerged in the Renaissance.

347. Bonfire of the Vanities: Savonarola

Posted on 19 April 2020

The prophetic preacher Girolamo Savonarola attacks pagan philosophy and puts forward his own political ideas, before coming to an untimely end.

348. The Sweet Restraints of Liberty: Republicanism and Civic Humanism

Posted on 3 May 2020

Did “civic humanism” really make republicanism a newly dominant political theory in the Italian Renaissance?

349. No More Mr Nice Guy: Machiavelli

Posted on 17 May 2020

Machiavelli’s seminal work of political advice, The Prince, tells the ruler how to be strong like a lion and cunning like a fox.

350. The Sentence: Machiavelli on Republicanism

Posted on 31 May 2020

Peter celebrates reaching 350 episodes by explaining a single sentence in Machiavelli's "Discourses."

351. Quentin Skinner on Machiavelli

Posted on 14 June 2020

Leading Machiavelli scholar Quentin Skinner joins Peter to discuss morality, history, and religion in the Prince and the Discourses.

352. The Teacher of Our Actions: Renaissance Historiography

Posted on 28 June 2020

Bruni, Poggio, Machiavelli, and Guicciardini explore political ideas and historical method in works on Roman and Italian history.

353. The Good Place: Utopias in the Italian Renaissance

Posted on 12 July 2020

Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun and other utopian works of the Italian Renaissance describe perfect cities as an ideal for real life politics.

354. Greed is Good: Economics in the Italian Renaissance

Posted on 26 July 2020

Leon Battista Alberti, Benedetto Cotrugli, and Poggio Bracciolini grapple with the moral and conceptual problems raised by the prospect of people getting filthy rich.

355. Town and Gown: Italian Universities

Posted on 13 September 2020

The blurry line dividing humanism and scholastic university culture in the Italian Renaissance.

356. I’d Like to Thank the Lyceum: Aristotle in Renaissance Italy

Posted on 27 September 2020

Aristotle’s works are edited, printed, and translated, leading to new assessments of his thought among both humanists and scholastics.

357. David Lines on Aristotle's Ethics in the Renaissance

Posted on 11 October 2020

An interview with David Lines on the Renaissance reception of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

358. Of Two Minds: Pomponazzi and Nifo on the Intellect

Posted on 25 October 2020

Pietro Pomponazzi and Agostino Nifo debate the immortality of the soul and the cogency of Averroes’ theory of intellect.

359. There and Back Again: Zabarella on Scientific Method

Posted on 8 November 2020

Jacopo Zabarella outlines the correct method for pursuing, and then presenting, scientific discoveries.

360. Dag N. Hasse on Arabic Learning in the Renaissance

Posted on 22 November 2020

An interview with Dag Nikolaus Hasse on the Renaissance reception of Averroes, Avicenna, and other authors who wrote in Arabic.

361. The Measure of All Things: Renaissance Mathematics and Art

Posted on 6 December 2020

The humanist study of Pythagoras, Archimedes and other ancient mathematicians goes hand in hand with the use of mathematics in painting and architecture.

362. Just What the Doctor Ordered: Renaissance Medicine

Posted on 20 December 2020

Connections between philosophy and advances in medicine, including the anatomy of Vesalius.

363. Man of Discoveries: Girolamo Cardano

Posted on 3 January 2021

The polymath Girolamo Cardano explores medicine, mathematics, philosophy of mind, and the interpretation of dreams.

364. Guido Giglioni on Renaissance Medicine

Posted on 17 January 2021

An interview with Guido Giglioni, who speaks to us about the sources and philosophical implications of medical works of the Renaissance.

365. Spirits in the Material World: Telesio and Campanella on Nature

Posted on 31 January 2021

Was the anti-Aristotelian natural philosophy of Bernardino Telesio and Tommaso Campanella the first modern physical theory?

366. The Men Who Saw Tomorrow: Renaissance Magic and Astrology

Posted on 14 February 2021

Ficino, Pico, Cardano, and other Renaissance thinkers debate whether astrology and magic are legitimate sciences with a foundation in natural philosophy.

367. Brian Copenhaver on Renaissance Magic

Posted on 28 February 2021

Brian Copenhaver joins us to explain how Ficino and other Renaissance philosophers thought about magic.

368. Boundless Enthusiasm: Giordano Bruno

Posted on 14 March 2021

Giordano Bruno’s stunning vision of an infinite universe with infinite worlds, and his own untimely end.

369. The Harder They Fall: Galileo and the Renaissance

Posted on 28 March 2021

Did Galileo’s scientific discoveries grow out of the culture of the Italian Renaissance?

370. Ingrid Rowland on Rome in the Renaissance

Posted on 11 April 2021

For our finale of the Italian Renaissance series we're joined by Ingrid Rowland, to speak about art, philosophy, and persecution in Renaissance Rome.