A History of Western Philosophy: 3

Renaissance Philosophy



Oxford New York





1 The Historical Context of Renaissance Philosophy



The philosophical heritage of antiquity and
the Middle. Ages



Philosophy in a Renaissance context






Church and state



The Renaissance transformation of philosophy



2 Aristotelianism



Renaissance Aristotelianisms



Unity and diversity in the Aristotelian tradition



Eight Renaissance Aristotelians



3 Platonism



From Aristotle to Plato



Marsilio Ficino



Giovanni Pico and Nicholas of Cusa



Pious, perennial, and Platonic philosophies:
Francesco Patrizi



4 Stoics, Sceptics, Epicureans, and Other Innovators



Humanism, authority, and uncertainty



Lorenzo Valla: language against logic



The simple method of Peter Ramus and
its forerunners



The crisis of doubt



Justus Lipsius on a new moral code



Politics and moral disorder: Erasmus, More, and





5 Nature against Authority: Breaking Away
from the Classics



Books of learning and nature



Giordano Bruno's philosophical passions



New philosophies of nature



6 Renaissance Philosophy and Modern Memory













Renaissance Aristotelianisms

For many students of pre-Cartesian thought, the words 'scho-
lasticism' 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 im-
mortalized 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; . . . [other-
wise] 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 perform-
ance 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 lifeless-
ness of the late scholastic curriculum, its stony deafness to the
prospect that philosophy might answer pragmatic human ques-
tions. 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



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.


Descartes ( 1985: ii. 411 [ Murdoch and Stoothoff trans.]).


schools all the more, even though humanism left its own
miasma of mind-numbing pedantry.

Humanist rhetoric spoke more persuasively than scholastic
dialectic to Europe's bustling commonwealth of letters, so the
mockery of an Erasmus or a Rabelais weighed deeper in
modern memory than the achievements of scores of Aristot-
elians from Alessandro Achillini to Marcantonio Zimara, lead-
ing philosophers of the Renaissance who rated no entries when
the Encyclopedia of Philosophy appeared in 1967. Although
the humanist burlesque of the Peripatetics had a basis in fact,
the. picture they painted was by no means fair or complete;
like all caricature it obscured the complexity and diversity of
its victims. Possession of a common set of texts and deference
to a single system enabled Peripatetic philosophers to talk
coherently to one another, but their doctrinal unity was some-
times weak and their mutual allegiances superficial. No list of
leading Renaissance Aristotelians longer than four or five
names will guarantee a harmony much deeper than the habit
of beginning philosophical investigation with Peripatetic texts
or principles or problems. Consider these eminent names: Paul
of Venice, Leonardo Bruni, George of Trebizond, Lefèvre
d'Étaples, John Mair, Pietro Pomponazzi, Francisco de Vitoria,
Joachim Périon, Jacopo Zabarella, John Case, Giulio Pace,
and William Harvey. All were major actors in the develop-
ment of Aristotelian thought, but their Aristotelianisms were,
at the least, different from one another and, in some cases,
antagonistic. Some disparities among disciples of the Stagirite
reflected strong commitments by contemporaries or near con-
temporaries to incompatible methods -- Pomponazzi and Périon,
for example, who were only a generation apart; Périon meant
his Ciceronian translations of Aristotle to displace the crabbed
Latin that Pomponazzi found indispensable. Other differences
emerged over longer spans of time. Paul of Venice, born
around 1369, anchors one end of the list above to the great
scholastic syntheses of the high Middle Ages; at the other end,
William Harvey, who lived until 1657, connects the Aristotelian
tradition with the birth of modern science.

Some Aristotelians were deeply immersed in natural philo-


sophy as a demonstrative science, while others avoided scien-
tific problems and followed the humanists toward ethics and
politics as openings to the vita activa. Some saw their job as
helping students understand precisely what Aristotle had dis-
covered and codified; others took a broader view, finding
useful signposts in Aristotle's works but admitting the Philoso-
pher's deficiencies and supplementing his teachings with more
reliable and more recent information. Of hundreds of thinkers
who taught and wrote as Aristotelians between 1400 and 1600,
few left any trace of real individual genius, and most marched
on like good soldiers in an army battling for the one great
truth; but the results of their struggles were far from homo-
geneous. The emergence of a wide variety of Renaissance
Aristotelianisms can be explained from various perspectives. 3
Looking at the Peripatetic system from the inside, for example,
it was inevitable that ambiguities or even contradictions in
doctrine and interpretation would surface after centuries of
scrutinizing the same range of texts. From an external point of
view, it was natural that new cultural conditions in early
modern times would raise questions not treated in the extant
Aristotelian Corpus or its commentary tradition, thus stimu-
lating new attitudes and interpretations even among philoso-
phers who remained Aristotelian in some strong sense of the
term. In the latter part of this chapter, the reader will meet
eight Renaissance philosophers -- Bruni, Trapezuntius, Lefèvre,
Mair, Pomponazzi, Vitoria, Zabarella, and Case -- who ex-
pressed their esteem for Aristotle in quite different ways; but
first it may be useful to take a broader look at the rich tradi-
tion that such thinkers represented.

Unity and diversity in the Aristotelian tradition

The Aristotelian philosophy that passed from the Middle Ages
to the Renaissance was a well-defined and clearly organized



Peterson ( 1921); Ritter ( 1921-2); Garin ( 1937b; 1939; 1947-50); Kristeller
( 1961a: 24-47; 1965c; 1985e: 209-16; 1990a: 102 -18); Rokita ( 1971); Margolin
( 1974); Schmitt ( 1981: ch. 6; 1983a; 1983b; 1984; 1987). For Achillini,
see Münster ( 1953); Matsen ( 1968; 1974; 1975); Zambelli ( 1978); for Zimara,
see Nardi ( 1958: 321-63); Poppi ( 1966: 237-56); Antonaci ( 1971-8).


system forged in the universities at a time when intellectual
confidence ran strong. When critics spotted weakness or in-
consistency, the schoolmen responded vigorously with new
solutions and ingenious arguments, so that by the second half
of the fourteenth century many internal problems had found
answers more convincing to medieval thinkers than those pro-
vided by the Philosopher himself. From a twentieth-century
perspective, logic is surely the leading case of a major division
of philosophy in which medieval Aristotelians made great ad-
vances on the original Corpus. Peter of Spain Summulae
logicales, a thirteenth-century beginner's text that still domin-
ated the introductory arts curriculum in the first decades of the
sixteenth century, was meant to teach logic to boys, but it
handled the problem of quantification better than any part of
the Organon. Technical progress of this sort has endeared
medieval logicians to their counterparts of the post-Frege
period, but from an internal point of view the crowning triumph
of scholasticism was, of course, the Christianization of the
Peripatetic tradition. 4 Aquinas, the greatest scholastic, was no
great logician, but his philosophical theology put the pagan
Aristotle at the service of the church, an inestimable boon to a
culture that badly needed to recover and purify the wisdom of
its heathen past. Medieval Aristotelians also improved the
state of natural philosophy. To cite but one example, Aris-
totle's implausible treatment of projectile motion gave way to
a'new analysis whose clarity and conformity to common ex-
perience improved greatly on the position of the Physics and
pointed toward later progress in mechanics in the seventeenth
century. Paris and Oxford masters of the fourteenth century
also proposed new ways of handling those problems of physical



For medieval and post-medieval logic and method, see Prantl ( 1855-70);
Crombie ( 1953); Howell ( 1956); Vasoli ( 1958b; 1959; 1968a; 1983a; 1984a);
Gilbert ( 1960); Kneale and Kneale ( 1962: 189-320); Risse ( 1964); Wightman
( 1964; 1973); Crescini ( 1965; 1972); Ashworth ( 1974; 1982; 1985; 1986;
1988); Michaud-Quantin ( 1969); Schüling ( 1969); Bochenski ( 1970); Wallace
( 1972-4; 1981b); Edwards ( 1976); Dumutriu ( 1977: vol. ii); Nuchelmans
( 1980); CHLMP: 101-381, 787-822); Schmitt ( 1983a: 21-2); Broadie ( 1985;
1987); Giard ( 1985); Jardine ( 1974b; 1977; 1981; 1982; 1983; 1988); Stump
( 1989).


quantity to which Aristotle's aversion was notorious. 5 Thus, as
Aristotelianism reigned supreme in the universities and spread
to the furthest corners of Europe in the years after the Black
Death, it was still a growing organism whose coherence permit-
ted change. The system remained flexible in the early fifteenth
century, when the novelties of Renaissance culture required
Peripatetics to let their beliefs and practices evolve even further.

A particularly lively source of new energies and troubling
challenges was humanism, whose influence (despite the com-
mon view that all humanists abandoned Aristotle in favour of
Plato) on the character of Aristotelianism in our period was
enormous. On the assumption that the age of an idea was an
index of its value, the humanists elevated antiquity itself -- all.
of it -- to a position of cultural superiority. Thus, although
Plato was new and hence fashionable in many quarters, there
was no exclusive commitment in humanist methodology or
ideology to him or to any other ancient philosopher. Humanists
with philosophical interests took Sceptical and Stoic as well
Platonist and Aristotelian positions. And since Aristotle's
works were so numerous and influential, humanists from the
early fifteenth century onward devoted considerable time and
energy to making Aristotelian texts clearer, more precise, and
more readable. Especially important were their efforts to pro-
duce better Latin translations of Aristotle and his ancient
commentators. Leonardo Bruni began to classicize Aristotle in
the fifteenth century, and the labour continued as a central
task of humanism until after the time of Giulio Pace, who
revised Isaac Casaubon's complete edition of Aristotle in 1597.
During the two intervening centuries, scholars spilled much
ink in debating how or whether Aristotle should be made to
speak better Latin. Some wanted a Latin Aristotle who closely
mimicked Cicero, widely regarded as the supreme exemplar of
Roman eloquence. Others, valuing medieval terms and con-
cepts as philosophical advances over the remains of antiquity,
saw more utility in the language of scholasticism. By the end



Weisheipl ( 1971); Grant ( 1971: 36-59); Wallace ( 1972-4: 27-139; 1978);
M. Mahoney ( 1978); Brown ( 1978); Murdoch and Sylla ( 1978); CHLMP: 521-


of the sixteenth century, a compromise had evolved, applying
new philological resources to traditional philosophical needs in
an attempt to render the text of Aristotle in a Latin faithful to
the Greek original, mindful of its own ancient usage but still
attentive to philosophical requirements. Many translations
meant for philosophical use were not written as free-standing
texts to be read independently; they were designed to accom-
pany a facing page of Greek, as in a modern Loeb volume.
The publication of parallel texts, in the context of broader
improvements in the study of Greek, made it easier to pene-
trate the meaning of Aristotle's sometimes enigmatic language
and to place obscure passages more meaningfully in their larger
textual surroundings. What one means by 'the genuine thought
of Aristotle' remains evasive and always disputable, but the
humanists helped philosophy get nearer this blessed state in
the Renaissance. 6

In the course of the sixteenth century, the humanist approach
to Aristotle gradually merged with traditional scholastic
methods, though fusion never removed all stresses between
the two. Tensions had been stronger in the fifteenth century,
however, when the few humanists who had any role in univer-
sities rarely worked as professors of philosophy. But humanists
eventually gained firmer footholds in the universities. In 1497
the University of Padua established a chair for the teaching of
Aristotle in Greek, though only a handful of students could
take advantage of the opportunity at this early date. Fifty
years later, philosophical instruction in Greek became more
effective in several places, most notably the Collège Royal of
Paris. Publishers in the scholastic citadel of Paris printed many
Greek editions of Aristotle at low cost for use by students,
whose notes often fill the margins and flyleaves of surviving
copies of these Renaissance versions of the academic paper-
back. More advanced Aristotelian studies published in Paris in
the early decades of printing also show the mark of humanism
and its new Greek expertise; as the new fashion spread, even



Garin ( 1947-50); Schmitt ( 1983a: 64-88); Hankins in Bruni ( 1987: 197-
212); Copenhaver ( 1988b).


conventional commentators in Italy of the later sixteenth cen-
tury sprinkled their treatises with Greek phrases and philo-
logical notes, though some of their colleagues insisted on
philosophizing in a thoroughly medieval style. Some lectured
on nothing written after the fourteenth century and used no
humanist text or technique. Humanism did not win all its fights
with scholasticism in the Renaissance, and among philosophers
there was no complete and systematic resolution of the con-
tinuing contest between the two movements.

Almost all that we now have of the Aristotelian Corpus was
available by the close of the thirteenth century, but by the
early fifteenth century the humanist search for ancient texts
had turned up two important and previously little-known works
beating the Philosopher's name -- the Mechanics and the Poetics.
Both these short treatises were copied 1457 for Cardinal
Bessarion in an important Greek manuscript that was to help
shape the printed tradition of Aristotle's non-logical works.
Most modern critics believe that the Mechanics (or Mechanical
) is spurious, composed in all probability by one of
the master's disciples soon after his death. It is unique among
works attributed to Aristotle because it focuses on simple
machines, thus providing a rare look at ancient thinking about
pulleys, gears, levers, and other devices that produce mech-
anical advantage. In fact, the Mechanics is one of the most
advanced treatments of technology to have survived antiquity,
but there is no good evidence of its being known in the West
before a Greek manuscript appeared in Italy in the early
fifteenth century. For nearly a hundred years thereafter, its
main readers were humanist scribes and scholars who had little
interest in its contents, but at the turn of the sixteenth century,
around the time of its first Greek printing in the Aldine edition
of Aristotle ( 1495-8), researchers began to look at the Mech-
more closely, creating demand for improved editions,
Latin translations, vernacular versions, and commentaries that
made the work more widely available; Niccolò Leonico Tomeo's
Latin version of 1525 was especially influential, though it came
eight years after the first Latin Mechanics by Vittore Fausto.
Inside and outside the universities, mathematicians and engin-


eers began to study it and apply it to various theoretical and
practical problems. At the University of Padua from 1548 to
1610, professors of mathematics lectured on the Mechanics.
The last in this line was Galileo Galilei, who taught at Padua
from 1592 to 1610. His commentary on the Mechanics has
been lost, but the imprint of this ancient treatise is visible in
the great scientist's work during one of his most productive
periods. Galileo's new physics far surpassed the state of the
field expressed in the Mechanics, but, despite his scorn for
things Aristotelian, he found this ancient work useful, referred
to it frequently, and drew fruitful ideas from it. Galileo was
not alone in admiring the Mechanics; many other authorities
on mechanics and applied mathematics used it as well. 7

No work of Aristotle's is more unlike the Mechanics than
the Poetics, which entered Europe's consciousness at about the
same time and with even more dramatic effect. Little known in
the Middle Ages, when only a paraphrase by Averroes supple-
mented the few manuscripts of a translation by William of
Moerbeke, this genuine fragment of Aristotle's original began
to excite interest by the middle of the fifteenth century, even
though it was not published until 1508 in the Aldine edition of
the Greek Rhetoricians. Lorenzo Valla (possibly), Angelo
Poliziano, and Ermolao Barbaro knew the Poetics before
Giorgio Valla made his defective Latin translation in 1498,
superseded in 1536 by the version of Alessandro Pazzi. Once
accessible, its impact was extraordinary. Even in its partial
state, the Poetics was the most comprehensive work on literary
theory and criticism surviving from the classical period, and it
soon came to dominate literary discussion. Since the x
bears the stamp of Aristotle's authority, it is unsurprising that
modern critics regard its reappearance as a key event in the
development of literary theory during the Renaissance and no
wonder that it eventually surpassed the Ars poetica of Horace
and ruled the field until Coleridge and the Romantics. Early
modern scholars commented on the Poetics frequently and at



Rose and Drake ( 1971); De Bellis ( 1975; 1980); Geanakoplos ( 1989: 114-
29); Schmitt ( 1981: chs. 5, 12). For Galileo, see Gilbert ( 1963); Koyré ( 1966a);
Drake ( 1976; 1981); Jardine ( 1976); Wallace ( 1981a; 1981b; 1984).


length, but only in the second half of the sixteenth century did
they gradually dislodge it from the critical framework con-
structed by Horace, and they continued to read both works on
poetics as if their aims were rhetorical. Although its subject-
matter has not been a favourite of philosophers, the Poetics
approaches issues of literary structure, genre, and quality with
the standard tools of Aristotle's logic, metaphysics, and psy-
chology. Along with the Rhetoric, with which publishers and
interpreters often linked it, the Poetics naturally enjoyed great
influence among thinkers of a humanist disposition, and it also.
attracted attention in the universities. 8

The recovery of the Mechanics and the Poetics shows the
range and vitality of Aristotelian thought in the Renaissance,
when natural philosophers who prepared the way for the
Scientific Revolution and humanists who reshaped Europe's
habits of expression both felt the effects of new material from
the ancient Stagirite, who had long towered over the medieval
schools. Equally important for the continued growth of the
Peripatetic synthesis was the recovery and diffusion of the
Greek commentaries on Aristotle. 9 These treatises, about ten
times longer than the works they discuss, were written by
pagans and Christians, Platonists and Peripatetics in late anti-
quity, between the second and seventh centuries in the Greek
world of the Eastern Mediterranean, and then again in twelfth-
century Byzantium. The most important of the two dozen
commentators were Alexander of Aphrodisias, Ammonius,
Simplicius, Themistius, and John Philoponus. Of these five,
only Alexander and Themistius were Aristotelians; the others,
like most of the larger group of commentators, were Neopla-
tonists, and whether they were pagan or Christian, they saw
Aristotle's philosophy as preliminary to a higher spiritual wis-
dom. Thus, long before James of Venice could visit the last of



Weinberg ( 1961: 349-423, 474-7, 559-63, 632-4); Tigerstedt ( 1968);
Boggess ( 1970); Garin ( 1983b: 16-19); Monfasani ( 1983b: 184-5); Vickers
( 1988b: 715-24).


For the texts of the commentators, see Diels ( 1981); see also Cranz ( 1958;
1987); Nardi, ( 1958: 365-442); Lohr ( 1974; 1975-80); Buck and Herding
( 1975); Mahoney ( 1982b: 169-73); Schmitt ( 1983a: 23-5, 49-52, 92-3; 1984:
ch. 6); Grafton ( 1988b: 776, 785-6, 790-1; Sorabji ( 1990: 1-30).


the commentators, Michael of Ephesus, in twelfth-century
Byzantium, Neoplatonic students of Aristotle had already
adapted his philosophy to religious purposes. Philoponus, the
first Christian commentator, developed a creationist cosmology
and wrote a tract Against Proclus on the Eternity of the. World
in 529; the last pagan commentator was Olympiodorus, who
died in the last third of the sixth century. Earlier in the same
century, Boethius had begun to transmit the commentary
literature to the Latin West. Medieval scholars knew some
commentaries, a few in Latin translation, but more from allu-
sions, fragments, and summaries in the writings of Averroes
and other Muslim philosophers. The ancient commentators
enjoyed a fuller knowledge of classical Greek thought than
any medieval writer could command, including access to lost
works that could be reintegrated into philosophical discourse
once the commentaries were recovered in the Renaissance. It
was particularly significant that the commentators knew the
objections raised in antiquity to Aristotle's positions on a num-
ber of topics. Their recovery, publication, and translation took
some time, but almost all circulated in Greek and Latin by the
1530s. They do not cover all of Aristotle, but several treat
such key texts as the Organon, the Physics, and De anima,
thus making them useful ammunition in such controversies as
the immortality dispute provoked by Pietro Pomponazzi and
his colleagues.

Through the first two-thirds of the fifteenth century, Pom-
ponazzi's. predecessors at Padua seem not to have used the
ancient commentators, but philosophers of the next genera-
tions--most notably Nicoletto Vernia and Agostino Nifo--
began to consult them in new translations by Ermolao Barbaro
and others. Barbaro's charge that Averroes had lifted his doc-
trines on the soul from the commentators surely helped excite
interest in them. Vernia and Nifo both called on the com-
mentators along with Neoplatonic and medieval sources when
they joined the great debate on personal immortality and the
unity of the intellect that had been under way since the Latin
Averroes had first become available in the West. Until 1492
Vernia took Averroist positions on the human soul's relation


to the body, its individuality, and its immortality, but in that
year he composed an attack on Averroes, not printed until
1504, which was influenced not only by Albertus and by Plato
and. Plotinus in Ficino's translations but also by Alexander,
Themistius, and Simplicius. Themistius helped persuade Vernia
that each person has an illuminated intellect that lives on after
the body dies, and Vernia maintained that Simplicius agreed
with Themistius in rejecting the unity of the intellect. Nifo,
who was Vernia's student, also used Plotinus in Ficino's ver-
sion as well as the latter's commentary on the Enneads, but he
reached a conclusion at odds with his teacher's understanding
of Simplicius and Themistius, insisting that they had regarded
all humans as sharing a single intellect, but allowing that
Ammonius, Plotinus, Proclus, and other Platonists upheld
Christian doctrine on the plurality of souls. Sixteenth-century
philosophers in Zabarella's time and beyond also referred to
Themistius, Simplicius, and other commentators on these and
related points. 10

Philoponus, a monophysite Christian in religion but a Neo-
platonist in philosophy who lived in sixth-century Alexandria,
was another major commentator of great influence in the Re-
naissance. Like others of the Neoplatonic school, he looked to
Aristotle's works on logic and natural philosophy to compen-
sate for thin treatment of these subjects in Plato's dialogues.
Although he took his lead from Aristotle on these topics, he
felt free, as a Christian Neoplatonist, to register his firm dis-
agreement with Aristotelian dogma on particular issues, such
as the eternity of the world. In Book IV of his Physics, Aris-
totle had argued forcefully against the possibility of a void or
empty space in nature. He maintained, for example, that ob-
jects falling in a void would all move at the same infinite
velocity if they met no resistance. Drawing upon earlier critics,
Philoponus saw defects in Aristotle's view, and he made good
use of experience and common sense to reach the conclusion
that the identical velocity at which all bodies would move in a
void must be finite, not infinite. After Philoponus' commentary



Branca ( 1973; 1980); Mahoney ( 1992b: 169-73; 1986: 511-24).


on the Physics was published in 1535, his clever criticisms
added fuel to the fire that eventually consumed Peripatetic
natural philosophy. From medieval times onward, even loyal
Aristotelians had questioned the master's judgement on one
issue or another, and the accumulation of doubts and differ-
ences helped prepare the eventual downfall of the system.
When the Renaissance recovered Philoponus, it created new
access to a work of Aristotelian explication which hastened
Aristotle's demise. Between 1504 and 1583, Latin and (in most
cases) Greek texts of his commentaries on the Posterior Analy-
, Categories, Metaphysics, Physics, On the Soul, Meteorol-
, On Generation and Corruption, and Generation of
appeared in print. Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola
was the first to take full cognizance of Philoponus against
Aristotle on place and the void in his Examen vanitatis doc-
of 1520. By the last decade of the sixteenth century,
Galileo had raised even more searching questions about Aris-
totelian physics, and a few years later he exposed fatal weak-
nesses in traditional natural philosophy, which he proposed to
replace with his own new science. The criticisms of Aristotle in
Galileo's early treatise On Motion include reference to the
commentary of Philoponus. 11

From Philoponus, Simplicius, Themistius, and the other an-
cient commentators it is evident that the Renaissance did not
need to invent variation and disagreement among expositors of
Aristotle. Indeed, such differences emerged with his earliest
successors, Theophrastus and Strato, before wider cleavages in
the structure of Peripatetic thought appeared in the. Middle
Ages. Peter Abelard and other masters of the logica vetus (old
logic) debated nominalism and realism in the twelfth century.
A later phase of the same controversy occupied scholastics of
the fourteenth century, by which time followers of such in-
fluential doctors as Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, and
Duns Scotus had taken well-defined and contrary positions
that made them Albertist or Thomist or Scotist on various
topics. In Paris, Cologne, Prague, and other centres, battles



Schmitt ( 1983a: 25, 41, 49, 92-3, 162, 171; 1981: chs. 7, 8, 12; 1989: ch.
8); Mahoney ( 1982b); Sorabji ( 1987: 1-40). For Galileo, see above, n. 7.


over points of logic and metaphysics were particularly strenu-
ous, and contending forces almost always deployed themselves
along institutional lines. If Dominicans were loyal to Thomas,
Franciscans backed the Scotist cause. The University of Padua
established separate Thomist and Scotist chairs in metaphysics
and theology, both of them occupied by prominent philoso-
phers and theologians who involved themselves in wider strug-
gles, including the religious rivalries of the Reformation. And
Padua was not the only place where the same university gave
official sanction to rival versions of Aristotle. Similar intel-
lectual and organizational conflicts continued throughout our
period and beyond, so that seventeenth-century publishers still
found a good market for philosophical textbooks ad mentem
(according to Thomas) or ad mentem Scoti (according
to Scotus).

Another medieval distinction that made a difference in early
modern times was the contrast between the theological leanings
of philosophers in Northern Europe and the scientific bent of
Italian professors, a divergence traceable to famous disputes in
the thirteenth century between naturalist Aristotelians of the
Paris arts faculty and their conservative opponents in the theo-
logy faculty, culminating in the contest between Siger of
Brabant and Thomas Aquinas that led to the condemnation of
1277. As early as 1210, many works of Aristotle himself had
been forbidden, yet their suppression stimulated even more
troublesome analyses of physical problems unrestrained by the
usual Aristotelian conventions of inquiry. 12 Man's competing
obligations to God and nature excited the academic imagina-
tion throughout the early modern period and beyond, as new
social and intellectual conditions enriched the mix of philoso-
phical motivations. Continuing friction in Renaissance Aristo-
telianism between theological and scientific interests does not
prove that Italy harboured a sect of atheist Aristotelians. It is
true, however, that some philosophers read Aristotle for scien-
tific or secular reasons, with no direct interest in religious or
theological questions. While it is hard to make windows into



Above, Ch. 1, n. 7.


souls, cultural circumstances prevailing in Italy before and
after the Reformation suggest that most secular Aristotelians
were pious Christians who simply had no reason to connect
their piety with philosophy. They were paid to teach logic and
natural philosophy as gateways to medicine, so they saw no
strong bond between professional duty and personal spiritual-
ity. The very fact that professional life could distance private
devotion from profane duty was, of course, a further inducement
to secularization. 13 In philosophy, one of the consequen-
ces is that we know little of what Italian secular Aristotelians
thought about theology, which is not true of our information.
on Peripatetic philosophy in Catholic Spain or Protestant

Consider three close contemporaries: an Italian, Cesare Cremonini
( 1550- 1631), a Spaniard, Francisco Suárez ( 1548-
1617).14 and a German, Bartholomew Keckermann ( 1571-
1609). All wrote copiously on many subjects, and all were
professors of Aristotelian philosophy. Only Cremonini treated
philosophy as a purely secular calling, making it clear that his
task in the university began and ended with the explication of
Aristotle. His large philosophical output (accompanied by a
good deal of poetry and many ceremonial speeches) included
commentaries, lectures, and other works meant to interpret
Aristotle on a purely natural level. His naturalism attracted
the attention of the Inquisition in the latter part of his career,
all of which he spent at Ferrara and Padua. Cremonini applied
philosophy to the natural cosmos in which humans live and left
it at that, but the famous Jesuit Suárez went on to lead philo-
sophy through the portals of theology to higher inquiries about
the world of divinity. Thus, like many medieval doctors, Suárez



Renan ( 1882); Charbonnel ( 1919); Nardi ( 1945; 1958); Kristeller ( 1961a:
24-47; 1968a; 1979a; 1985e; 135-46, 209-16; 1990a: 111-18); Aristotelismo
( 1960); Randall ( 1961; 1968; 1976); Gilbert ( 1963); Di Napoli ( 1963);
Poppi ( 1964; 1966; 1970a; 1983); Edwards ( 1967); Mahoney ( 1974); Convegno
. . . l'Averroismo
( 1979); Schmitt ( 1983a: 25-33).


Mabilleau ( 1881); Werner ( 1889); Van Zuylen ( 1934); Copleston ( 1960-
6: iii. 353-405); Dibon ( 1954-); Gilbert ( 1960: 213-20); Seigfried ( 1967); Del Torre
( 1968); Andrés ( 1976-7); L. Kennedy ( 1979; 1980); Simposio F. Suarez
( 1980); Olivieri ( 1983: 637-59); Vasoli ( 1983a; 1984a); Muller ( 1984); Schmitt
( 1984: ch. 11); Lohr ( 1988: 609-18, 632-8).


kept philosophy subservient to theology in his many volumes,
one of which was an extremely influential treatise on meta-
physics. Although he lived a few years in Rome, mainly at the
Collegio Romano, he spent most of his life in universities of
Spain or Portugal. Like Suárez, the Lutheran Keckermann
also used philosophy as a means to theological ends, but in a
Protestant context. His confessional commitment made him a
very popular interpreter of Aristotle in the Protestant countries
of Northern Europe, where he taught at Heidelberg and
Gdansk for many years. Neither the tension between religious
and secular aims nor the hostility between Catholic and Pro-
testant factions prevented Keckermann, Suárez, Cremonini,
and their many colleagues from using Aristotle, along with
other pagan thinkers, for a multitude of philosophical ends,
and each religious party or ideological disposition produced its
share of prominent Peripatetics.

In 1517, the year that started his epochal break with Rome,
Martin Luther exulted that 'our theology and St. Augustine
are progressing well, and . . . rule at our university. Aristotle is
gradually falling from his throne, and his final doom is only a
matter of time.' 15 Yet Melanchthon and other followers of
Luther soon found that they could not see far without the
Stagirite as they worked to fashion a reliable programme of
education for the new faithful. After the Reformation, the
Aristotelianism that survived and then prospered in Protestant
lands was as strong or perhaps stronger than the Peripatetic
tradition sustained in some Catholic regions. All the reformed
universities, whether new foundations or renovations of pre-
viously popish institutions, looked steadfastly to Aristotle to
show them the way in philosophy. In the course of the sixteenth
century, Germany saw Freiburg and Cologne remain loyal to
the old religion, as Tübingen and Wittenberg turned to the
new faith, while Würzburg founded a Catholic university and
Jena established a Protestant institution. Old or new, Romish
or reformed, all kept Aristotle at the centre of philosophical
studies, which is not to say that these universities were totally



Luther ( 1958-: xlviii. 42); Rupp ( 1964: 46).


Aristotelian. At Tübingen in the 1570s and 1580s, for example,
Platonizing members of the arts faculty may have inspired the
young Kepler, but Protestant scholars in sixteenth-century uni-
versities rarely had to face temptations that might cause them
to stray from the Peripatetic way, and the same was true for
Catholic students. From the Collegio Romano, their head-
quarters in the ancient capital of Christendom, the Jesuits
marshalled a stunningly effective campaign of educational
reform whose philosophical armoury was aggressively Aristo-
telian. In the struggle against heresy another Peripatetic head-
quarters was the School of Salamanca, which nurtured Suárez
and other heroes of the Counter-Reformation. Distant as they
were from Paris, both Salamanca and the Collegio Romano
grew in the long shadow of its ancient university, which had
been the great bulwark of Aristotelianism since the age of
Abelard and whose enduring intellectual might in the cen-
tury of Calvin and Bruno continued to bolster the Peripatetic

Both Protestants and Catholics admired that tradition be-
cause its scope and coherence flattered their conviction that
truth was one and theirs alone; but the eclectic reality of
Renaissance Aristotelianism stymied the wish for a single,
exclusive route to doctrinal conviction. As applied to early mod-
ern philosophy, the adjectives 'Peripatetic' and 'Aristotelian'
cover a multitude of sins against dogmatic consensus. If
an Aristotelian is someone who accepts the Stagirite's teaching
at each and every point, there were no Aristotelians in the.
Renaissance--or in the Middle Ages, for that matter. Even
Aristotle's most avid disciples differed with him on some issues.
Those less devoted to him naturally took even more liberties
when they found his views convincingly challenged by other
philosophers -- classical or contemporary -- by personal experi-
ence or by the dictates of reason. Given the -- enormous impact
on early modern Europe of broader access to the full range of
ancient philosophical opinion, one must take special note of
the variety of efforts to amalgamate Aristotle with the other
philosophical riches newly mined from antiquity. When Re-
naissance thinkers blended Aristotelian ideas with these other


materials, they produced alloys of as many kinds as there were
philosophers newly equipped with the tools of humanism to
prospect for inspiration, matter, or method among the ancient
ruins. What they fashioned was a spectrum of eclectic Aristo-
telianisms. Some Renaissance philosophers who admired Aris-
totle also took up Platonic or Stoic positions at crucial points,
as Philoponus had done a millennium before, and few of their
peers regarded such eclecticism as anything but normal. On
many issues Aristotle seemed the best guide, but for other
questions the wiser answer might be found in Plato, Cicero,
Albertus, Aquinas, Scotus, or Averroes. Even beliefs as dis-
reputable to modern eyes as magic and astrology attracted
Renaissance philosophers such as Nifo, Achillini, and Pom-
ponazzi whose orientation was predominantly Aristotelian, des-
pite the fact that the textual basis in the Aristotelian Corpus
for such ideas is slim. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
abounded in unorthodox thinkers, some of whom can be called
Aristotelians only in the loosest sense. None was as influential
as Thomas or Scotus, none as daring as Descartes or Bacon,
few as gifted as Machiavelli or Montaigne, but some contri-
buted new ideas on a humbler scale that echo some of the
dominant themes of the Renaissance and anticipate the bolder
novelties of the seventeenth century.

Eight Renaissance Aristotelians

Leonardo Bruni was born in Arezzo in 1370, when Petrarch
was still alive, but while still a young man he came to Florence,
the great city that shaped his destiny and in whose church of
Santa Croce he has lain since 1444, in a fine marble tomb that
expressed the life of its occupant by becoming a model of its
kind. 16 His early education followed the standard medieval



Bruni ( 1969) is a reprint of Baron 1928 edn. of the 'humanistic-philoso-
phical' works; Bruni ( 1987) contains introductions to translations of many of
the most important texts and a full bibliography; the letters are in Bruni
( 1741). For secondary literature, see Troilo ( 1931-2); Soudek ( 1958; 1968;
1976); Garin ( 1961a: 3-37; 1965a: 33-43; 1972: 1-29); Baron ( 1966; 1968a;
1968b); Goldbrunner ( 1968); Harth ( 1968); Seigel ( 1968: 89-169); Cochrane
( 1981: 3-9, 15-33); Geri ( 1981); Fryde ( 1983: 3-53); Schmitt ( 1983a: 16-17,


pattern, but after moving to Florence he came under the
influence of Coluccio Salutati, the city's humanist chancellor,
and of Manuel Chrysoloras, the Byzantine scholar from whom
Renaissance Italy's first generation of Hellenists learned their
Greek. Encouraged by Salutati's circle, he applied himself to
translating a number of Greek works, including Plato Phaedo
in 1405, the Apology and Crito by 1409, and the Gorgias in
1409, after which time he produced no fresh version of any
complete dialogue, though in 1426 he collected the dialogues
translated earlier, adding selections from the Phaedrus and
revising his Apology and Crito. He also translated the Letters
in 1426 and a piece of the Symposium in 1435. Various features
of these works interested Bruni: he saw them as historical
sources for the life of Socrates, as educational examples of
rhetoric in the service of ethics, and as a philosophical armoury
for the Christian soldier. This last motive, amplified by Bruni's
political and social attitudes, tempted him -- especially in the
later translations -- to suppress or transform Plato's views when
they offended him.

Having finished his most important Plato translations, and
after a decade of service as papal secretary in Rome and
elsewhere, Bruni returned to Florence in 1415, to start his
History of the Florentine People and also to write a life of
Cicero. Soon afterward, in 1416, he finished his first translation
of Aristotle, the Nicomachean Ethics, though he may have
turned toward Aristotle three years earlier. A classically
Latinate Aristotle had begun to appear in 1406 with Roberto Rossi's
Posterior Analytics; it was complete in its first phase by
the first quarter of the next century. After the Nicomachean
Ethics, Bruni contributed the Oeconomics
in 1420 and the
Politics in 1437-8. Around 1425 Bruni wrote an unoriginal but
influential Introduction to Moral Philosophy that ignored Plato
and Socrates and preferred Peripatetic to rival ethical systems
outlined by Cicero; a more interesting Life of Aristotle ap-
in 1429, two years after he rose to the chancellorship of



67-74); Copenhaver ( 1988b); Hankins ( 1990a: i. 29-81; ii. 367-400); Kristeller
( 1990a: 39-56, 78-89).


Florence. Thus, Bruni reached his apex as 'civic humanist'.
after his philosophical tastes had shifted from Plato to Aris-
totle; his mature thought owes no major debt to Plato. 17 Bruni
Life of Aristotle depicts the Stagirite as a man of wealth and
property immersed in the political and social whirl that Petrarch
had shunned in his later years. A worldly and engaged Aristotle
answered. Bruni's needs better than the ascetic Plato, whose
Republic disturbed him by proposing the sharing of women
and goods, whose Gorgias reviled the rhetoric that Bruni found
essential to republican politics, and whose philosophical style
seemed incoherent and badly suited to teaching. In his last
recorded statement on moral philosophy, a letter to Lauro
Quirini of 1441, Bruni went so far as to write that 'the con-
templative life is not the proper life of man', thus distorting
Aristotle's view in order to elevate the standing of the active
life as lived by his Florentine compatriots. 18

It was also in Bruni's interest to misapply Cicero's praise of
Aristotle's prose by linking the great orator's commendation
of the lost 'exoteric' writings with the surviving 'esoteric' works.
When Bruni claimed in his preface to the. Nicomachean Ethics
that the Philosopher 'was ever studious of eloquence and con-
nected wisdom with the art of speaking', his command of
Greek made his judgement all the more credible to a humanist
readership unlikely to heed those who feared philosophy's
subjugation to rhetoric and denied that Aristotle cared about
eloquence. 19 By propagating these views and others, Bruni
inaugurated a tradition of humanist Aristotelianism that en-
dured long after him. The other great Aristotelian translators
of the fifteenth century were Greeks who acquired Latin with-
out the advantages of cultural proximity that Bruni enjoyed as



Weiss ( 1977: 227-77); Bruni ( 1987: 15-46, 255-64); Geanakoplos ( 1989:
9-12); Hankins ( 1990a: i. 40-81; ii. 367-400); below, Ch. 4, n. 3. Primary
sources for Salutati are Salutati ( 1891-11; 1913; 1947; 1951; 1957; 1985); for
secondary works see Iannizzotto ( 1959); Ullman ( 1963); Kessler ( 1968); Witt
( 1976; 1977; 1983); De Rosa ( 1980); Trinkaus ( 1989a).


Translation in Bruni ( 1987: 264-7, 294, 387-8); Hankins ( 1990a: i. 54-
8, 64-6).


Translation in Bruni ( 1987: 197-201, 208-213); Copenhaver ( 1988b: 92-
6); Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 1. 10. 22; Academica 2. 38. 1119.


an Italian. The same cultural circumstances made Bruni a born
enemy of scholasticism with no patience for the technical rig-
ours of logic and physics recently come south to Italy from the
England of the Oxford Calculators. Bruni agreed with Petrarch
and Valla that the philosophy of the uncouth north was barren
and its language outlandish; the very names of the barbar-
ous Merton doctors -- Swineshead, Heytesbury, Dumbleton --
grated on the Italian ear as much as their neologized Latin and
logical jargon offended the classicist eye. Given the disposi-
tions of his time and place, Bruni's Aristotle had to take a
form quite unlike the Philosopher of the medieval universities.

In certain respects, religion being the great exception, Bruni
had more in common philosophically with Cicero than with
Swineshead. As chancellor of Florence, he shared Cicero's
commitment to affairs of state, and like his ancient hero he
applied his oratorical gifts and rhetorical skills to political
ends. If not unique in this respect among Aristotelian thinkers
of his day, he was certainly unusual, and, in order to emulate
Cicero's oratorical politics while professing loyalty to Peripa-
tetic philosophy, Bruni had to trim his Aristotle to a Ciceron-
ian pattern -- particularly in trying to find a balanced position in
the ancient debate on the active and contemplative lives.
Doubtless he owed as much to Cicero's letters, speeches, ora-
torical treatises, and writings on ethics as to the broader range
of philosophy in the Aristotelian Corpus. Bruni's philosophical
perspective was narrow, skewed, and personalized, yet from
this point of view he saw an Aristotle -- most of all, the author
of the Nicomachean Ethics, Oeconomics, and Politics -- who
still spoke persuasively to the citizens of quattrocento Florence.

In these three works Aristotle taught lessons of personal,
familial, and civic virtue that Bruni found relevant to his times.
Thomas Aquinas had made the same teachings useful for the
thirteenth century, but Thomas was a celibate friar who lived
in the communal discipline of religion with duties and oppor-
tunities unlike those that Bruni met as a married layperson
and citizen. Thomas, named the Angelic Doctor, earned his
sainthood and his philosophical glory in a career defined under
the aspect of eternity, while Bruni won his chancellorship, as



well as a great measure of fame, by facing political and econ-
omic responsibilities in the evolving temporal order of Floren-
tine commerce and statecraft. In Bruni's context, Aristotle
Oeconomics -- a work on household or estate management --
took on new meaning and value. For laypersons worried about
the changing roles of spouses, children, and servants in the
early modern family, Bruni's version of the text that he called
De re familiari was of great interest and became an immense
success. Except among some recalcitrant university philoso-
phers, his new translation and commentary soon eclipsed the
medieval versions and remained the standard through the six-
teenth century. On the evidence of surviving manuscripts (over
two hundred) and early printed editions (fifteen incunabula), it
was vastly more popular, for example, than Leon Battista
Alberti's original vernacular treatise On the Family. Modern
scholarship has generally treated the Oeconomics as spurious,
and medieval readers who regarded it as Aristotle's were not
enthusiastic about it. But in the Renaissance, because Bruni's
translation was aesthetically attractive and because the increa-
singly secular context of the Italian city-states created a new
audience for it, the Oeconomics became widely influential and
set Aristotle's seal of approval on important new attitudes
about the status of women, wealth, marriage, and business. A
work previously of middling interest to university people found
a wider readership -- a 'public' in the modern sense -- after
Bruni put it in better Latin. For most of the fifteenth century,
the universities remained wary of Bruni Oeconomics, as in
general they were suspicious of humanist innovations in Aris-
totelian studies; but gradually even the professors relented,
and during the sixteenth century this and other parts of the
Peripatetic system became best known in their new humanist

The author of the first book of the Oeconomics introduced
his work by explaining how 'economics and politics differ'. In
Greek his opening words were hê oikonomikê kai hê politikê
, rendered in Latin by a thirteenth-century scholar as
yconomica et politica differt but by Bruni as res familiaris et res
publica inter se differunt
. The medieval translator's intention


was to make his Latin correspond word for word with the
Greek, without great regard for classical diction or syntax.
Even though ancient Latin authors had used oeconomicus and
politicus, Bruni knew that these were unusual terms, Greek
borrowings alien to the Roman genius, words whose roots
(oikos for 'house', polis for 'city') were not Latin and hence
drew no instinctive response from a Greekless Latin or Italian
reader. Instead, Bruni chose expressions -- res publica and res
-- which accurately reflected the conceptual distinc-
tions in the first lines of the Oeconomics in a Latin much closer
to its classical state than the language of the medieval trans-
lator. However, just because Bruni's phrases were key terms
for Cicero and Livy, they implied a community of political
interests between Greece and Rome that Aristotle could never
have imagined. 20 In other words, Bruni's wish to use the
classical languages in pure and original forms unstained by
Gothic barbarism encouraged a vision of the ancient world
with no strong sense of discrimination between the various
periods and places of antiquity. This vision was ideological
inasmuch as it answered Bruni's political needs: in the case of
the Oeconomics, if a Ciceronian vocabulary made Aristotle's
ideas more pleasing to the Florentine republic, so much the
better. On the other hand, Bruni's vision was also historical,
for he sincerely wanted an accurate picture of a past that
medieval ignorance had obscured. The critical point for Re-
naissance philosophy is that Bruni's historical programme had
the defects of its virtues, and those virtues were above all
philological. To make Aristotle an actor in the drama of clas-
sical politics as humanism conceived of it, Bruni wrote him a
Romanized script that in some respects was anachronistic. In
terms of fidelity to Latin usage, his res familiaris was a great
gain over the medieval yconomica, which none the less was
truer to Aristotle just because it was a Latin graecism that did
not invoke Roman realities.



Santinello ( 1962); Gadol ( 1969); Ponte ( 1981); Aristotle ( 1984: vol. i, p.
Xiii; ii. 2130); Bruni ( 1987: 300-17); Aristotle, Oeconomics 1343a1; Cicero,
Familiar Letters 1. 9. 5; On Old Age 7. 22; Against Catiline 1. 2. 4; Livy 8. 4.
12, 25. 7. 4.


Words like yconomica, oligarchia, and democratia look
familiar enough to the modern reader, but they jarred Bruni's
humanist sensibility in several ways: first, in departing from
authoritative classical usage; second, in their lexical and ety-
mological obscurity; and finally, in seeming ugly. This last
judgement followed from extending the principle of authority
into the sphere of aesthetics, wherein the humanist canon of
mimesis regulated literary and other forms of creativity by
judging their success in emulating classical models. Mimesis
was an ancient idea well-known to the Middle Ages, but
Petrarch, Bruni, Valla, and other humanists established new
norms for its expression that unquestionably enriched the
scanty historical insights available to medieval thinkers. One
consequence of their new aesthetic historicism was the as-
sumption that any ancient text was likely to be more beautiful
than an analogous product of the Dark Ages; another was the
ensuing conviction that good contemporary writing, including
philosophical translation, should conform to superior classical
standards. Having heard Cicero's persuasive oratory and having
seen the elegance of Plato's dialogues, Bruni and other human-
ists concluded that all language, even philosophical language,
should strive for beauty as a good in itself but also as a means
to rhetorical ends.

The first important philosophical product of these new atti-
tudes was Bruni Nicomachean Ethics, whose preface con-
tained provocative criticisms of earlier versions while insisting
on the beauty of Aristotle's prose and on the fitness of Latin to
reproduce his Greek accurately without the coarse contrivances
of medieval translators. Criticism came quickly, and ' Bruni
replied about ten years later with an influential treatise On
Correct Translation
, only to face another, fiercer assault a few
years afterward from a Spanish churchman, Alfonso of Carta-
gena. The most discussed items in the 'Ethics controversy'
were Bruni's misunderstanding of the Greek term tagathon, an
unusual spelling which he took to mean 'supreme good' in a
place where Aristotle meant only 'good', and his reformulation
of a rule he had learned from Chrysoloras, that the translator
should render meanings before worrying about words. At a


deeper level his quarrel with Alfonso and other critics con-
cerned the relation of language to text. Alfonso, who knew no
Greek, thought of Aristotle's text as expressing truths uncon-
strained by time and place and hence unbound by any par-
ticular language, but Bruni and other humanists treated every
text as a contingent artefact of the particular language in which
it happened to be written. For Bruni, a faithful translation of
Aristotle required fidelity not only to his Greek but also to
norms of Latinity discovered in other ancient texts. For Alfonso,
however, such scholarly and literary duties were irrelevant to
the truths expressed imperfectly in any given text; he argued
that the real object of translation was ratio, a metachronic
structure that transcends history and philology. Bruni saw
translation very differently, as a movement from lingua Graeca
to lingua Latina, where both terms of the transaction were
embedded in historical particulars. For this reason, he required
the translator to master the broader cultural context in which a
text had emerged. To understand Aristotle fully, one must
know the world in which Aristotle lived as well as the language
that he and other Greeks spoke. 21

This new way of reading ancient texts entailed changes not
only in the method of translation but also in the mode of inter-
pretation. Where medieval commentators had by and large
limited themselves to the immediate body of conceptual prob-
lems as given or implied in a philosophical text, Bruni enlarged
the scope of commentary to help the reader see the text in
wider historical and philological perspective. At the beginning
of the Oeconomics, for example, where the text cites a line
from Hesiod, Bruni takes great pains not only to identify the
poet but also to exculpate Aristotle's misogyny by showing how
he misunderstood Hesiod's use of the word gunê ('woman'). 22
By the sixteenth century the more expansive philological com-
mentaries in Bruni's manner merged with the traditional philo-
sophical style of annotation in a fusion of medieval and



Bruni ( 1987: 201-12, 217-29); Copenhaver ( 1988b: 89-100); Aristotle,
Nicomachaean Ethics 1094a1-3.


Bruni ( 1987: 304, 311); Aristotle, Oeconomics 1343a20-4; Hesiod, Works
and Days


humanist expositions of Aristotle. Although Bruni was neither
an original philosopher nor a great mind of any kind, his work
as expositor and translator helped bring about momentous
changes in the reading and writing of philosophy, not to speak
of other disciplines. He represents the kind of Renaissance
philosopher who saw the discipline as necessarily allied to
history, rhetoric, and philology, but who expressed little or no
curiosity about scientific, metaphysical, or epistemological
issues. Despite his lack of interest in these core concerns of the
Peripatetic tradition, Bruni was an important Aristotelian in
his time; his way of doing philosophy must be taken into
account if we are to grasp Renaissance Aristotelianism in all
its variety.

When Bruni's Greekless critic, Alfonso, heard the great
humanist's translation of an oration by Demosthenes read
aloud in 1426, several years before he encountered Bruni
Ethics, he admired it, probably because it was a text of no
professional concern to him. George of Trebizond ( Trapezun-
tius), whose native language was Greek and who became an
eminent Latinist, was harder on Bruni's version of Demosthenes
' speech On the Crown, one of many Greek works that
George himself translated in the years before and after Bruni's
death in 1444. 23 On the whole, however, George admired
Bruni, whose Life of Cicero inspired his own work of 1421 On
the Praises of Cicero
. When he wrote this treatise on the
patron saint of civic oratory, Trapezuntius had been in Italy
only about five years, having come to Venice in 1416 around
the age of twenty at the invitation of Francesco Barbaro.
Except for a stay in his native Crete for a few years after 1423,
he spent the first two decades of his Italian career mainly in
Venice, first learning Latin, then teaching it. He left for
Bologna, Florence, and eventually Rome in 1437 after quarrel-
ling with another eminent teacher, Guarino Guarini of Verona.



The following section on George of Trebizond is indebted mainly to
Monfasani ( 1976) and Trapezuntius ( 1984), ed. Monfasani; see also Vasoli
( 1968a: 81-99); Lojacono ( 1985); Bruni ( 1987: 203-4); Geanakoplos ( 1989·
17-21, 68-90); Hankins ( 1990a: i. 165-263; ii. 429-48).


In Florence and Ferrara he probably visited other Byzantine
scholars who attended the Council convened there in the late
1430s to unite the Greek and Latin churches. Finally, in 1440,
he found a post in the Roman curia that supported so many
humanists, and he spent the thirty-three years remaining to
him as a creature of papal generosity, which waned as often as
it waxed. Patronage in the best of circumstances makes an
unsteady living; Trapezuntius, one of the more ambitious,
pugnacious, and flamboyant figures in the history of philo-
sophy, pressed his benefactors to the limit, and sometimes

George's first twelve years in Rome were his best in that
city, during the reigns of Eugenius IV and Nicholas V, the
popes for whom he produced most of his translations. More
plentiful than Bruni's and even more controversial, his Latin
versions were mainly patristic or philosophical, especially the
libri naturales of Aristotle, which he completed by 1452and
issued in a comprehensive collection in 1455. Of Plato's dia-
logues he rendered the Laws and Epinomis in 1451 and the
Parmenides in 1459; each was important in its way, and the
bulk of the three exceeded the output of any Plato translator
before Ficino. In 1451 the first two translations caused him to
write a letter to Francesco Barbaro that advanced the develop-
ment of the political theory of mixed constitutions, of which
the Venetian was the most famous current example. In 1459
he dedicated his Parmenides to Nicholas of Cusa, whose meta-
physical curiosity could not be satisfied by the abbreviation
found in William of Moerbeke's translation of Proclus' com-
mentary on the dialogue. George's complex theory of trans-
lation, which required literal renderings for sacred or 'sublime'
texts but permitted freer translation of others, allowed him to
produce a Latin Laws that can only have been meant to dis-
grace Plato, a motive compatible with George's later attacks
on the ascetic, disembodied authoritarianism of the Laws.
George Parmenides translation was literal and more precise,
but no match for the dialogue's metaphysical depths. During
his most active time as a translator, Trapezuntius also ruled
the teaching of humanities in the holy city, but his grip on


fame and papal favour began to loosen in 1449-50 when
Theodore Gaza, another learned Byzantine who had been at
Florence, came to Rome from Ferrara. After public clashes
with Gaza, George gradually found himself an ex-member of
the club that surrounded Basil Bessarion, the Greek cardinal,
and in 1451, after vying with Lorenzo Valla for a teaching
post, he decided to withdraw from the competition. In the
same year worse trouble came when he suggested to Nicholas
V that someone check his new translation of Ptolemy Alma-
. When the reader had harsh words for his work, George
irritated Nicholas and Bessarion by refusing to revise. Having
let his curial support dwindle, he saw it dry up altogether in
1452 when he came to blows with another papal secretary,
Poggio Bracciolini. The disgraceful brawl put him in jail and
eventually forced him to leave Rome for Naples.

It was not George's translation of Ptolemy but the accom-
panying commentary that started the quarrels that drove him
from Rome; but there is no question that his versions of Greek
texts invited hostility. He made himself doubly vulnerable to
critics by applying two standards, one to offend those who
insisted on close rendering, another to annoy those who ob-
jected to literalism. Without aping the word-for-word style of
medieval translators whom he respected, he took a literal
approach to 'sublime' works like the Parmenides and to tech-
nical philosophical texts like those of Aristotle, but he preferred
a freer style for the apologetic and homiletic works of the
Fathers. The latter principle tempted him to play fast and
loose with the Preparation for the Gospel by Eusebius; he
cannot be blamed if the Greek manuscript from which he
worked omitted one whole book out of fifteen in this long
treatise, a major source for early Christian attitudes to philo-
sophy, but he treated the text that he had with scant respect
for the original. The opposite rule of literalism for technical
writing brought into renewed conflict with Gaza, who
retranslated the Aristotelian libri naturales for Pope Nicholas
after George's fall from grace. George had almost finished
Latinizing the pseudo-Aristotelian Problemata before leaving
Rome in 1452; news of a rival version by Gaza in 1454 moved


him to finish his own Problems in that year. Two years later he
wrote a Protection Against the Perversion of Aristotle's Prob-
lems by a Certain Theodore Cages
, in which he complained
that Gaza sacrificed accuracy to preserve Latinity and that this
yielded a text too imprecise for close study. Better for a
philosophical translation to be inelegant than inexact, he main-
tained, preferring even a clumsy medieval product if it rendered
the Greek more, strictly than a refined but clouded humanist
effort. 24

One of George's complaints about Gaza's disrespect for the
medieval versions was that he undermined the textual and
terminological basis of the philosophical and theological sys-
tems of the great scholastics, especially Albertus and Aquinas.
In effect, he treated Gaza as the fellow-traveller of a conspiracy
aimed at Christian theology and its Aristotelian infrastructure;
as the great Satan of this plot he named George Gemistos
Plethon, who had been a Greek delegate at Ferrara and Flor-
ence. While at the Council, Plethon wrote a book in Greek On
the Differences between the Platonic and Aristotelian Philoso-
. 25 George accused Plethon of being a pagan, and he
seems at least to have strayed from orthodoxy; Plethon Book
of Laws and his Summary of Zoroastrian and Platonic Doctrine

advocated a Hellenism steeped in Neoplatonic theology and
gave instructions for pagan worship. Naturally, Plethon pre-
ferred Plato to Aristotle, refuting the Stagirite's criticisms of
his teacher and showing why Christians should favour Plato on
religious grounds. His leading Greek disciple was Bessarion,
who had won his cardinal's hat by supporting the cause of
union but whose office ceased to protect Trapezuntius after



Monfasani ( 1976: 71-82, 150-78); for Gaza, see also Stein ( 1889); Taylor
( 1925a; 1925b); Mohler ( 1943-9); Labowsky ( 1968); Geanakoplos ( 1989: 68-
90); Hankins ( 1990a: i. 203-11).


De differentiis is translated in Woodhouse ( 1986: 191-214); besides
Monfasani ( 1976), see also Taylor ( 1921); Anastos ( 1948); Knös ( 1950); Masai
( 1956); Garin ( 1958: 153-219); Tavardon ( 1977); and Kristeller ( 1979b: 150-
68) on Plethon; for Bessarion see Mohler ( 1923-42); Labowsky ( 1961-8;
1979); Centenario . . . Bessarione ( 1973); Il Cardinale Bessarione ( 1974); Coccia
( 1974); Miscellanea marciana ( 1976); Neuhausen and Trapp ( 1979); Bianca
( 1980); Stormon ( 1980); Monfasani ( 1981a; 1983a); below, Ch. 3, n. 15.


the ruckus with Poggio in 1452. George linked Gaza's anti-
medievalism with Plethon's alleged neo-paganism as twin trea-
sons against the faith. One bizarre basis of his suspicions
emerged in 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Turks and
within a month he had written On the Truth of the Faith of
Christians to the Emir
; the emir was the conqueror, Mehmed
II. It was not unusual that George fantasized about converting
Mehmed and adapting Islam to Christianity, but it was impolitic
of him to address Europe's most feared enemy as king of kings
by divine right and, in a later work of 1467, to picture him as
the 'divine Manuel', not an Ishmaelite Antichrist but a Chris-
tian emperor who would conquer Rome itself and then move
on to Ceylon and Britain. Shortly before writing these reckless
words, George had actually travelled to Constantinople to
present his works to the emir, and on the return trip he tried
to steal the entire corpse of a recent, if dubious, martyr. His
international escapades landed him in jail again on his return
to Rome in 1466. 26

In one sense, differences as transient as those between Greek
and Latin churches or Platonic and Aristotelian philosophies
might have vanished in the perspective of George's chiliastic
prophecies, but the fact is that he found a role for Platonic
forces of evil in his vision of history as grand conspiracy: he
divined that Plato had bequeathed his perversions to none
other than Mohammed, from whom they passed eventually to
Plethon and his student Bessarion. This genealogy of darkness
appeared in 1458 in George's Latin treatise on the Comparison
of the Philosophies of Aristotle and Plato
, which was one of
several reactions from Byzantine scholars to Plethon Greek
De differentiis of 1439. The Plato of George's first book is too
dazed and deceitful to be instructive, unlike Aristotle, the
orderly pedagogue; Book II shows Platonism to be incompa-
tible with Christianity, described as much closer to Aristotle's
monotheism than to Plato's polytheist perversities; Aristotle in
Book III is an upstanding citizen and moral paragon, while.
Plato is a libertine degenerate. If George's polemic sounds too



Monfasani ( 1976: 125-36, 183-94); Hankins ( 1990a: i. 193-208).


wild to be credible, note that he was clever enough to buttress.
his charges with the newest devices of humanist philology,
which made an impressive cover for his blunders and slanders.

In hoping to distance Aristotle from Christian dogma on
immortality, providence, creation, and other issues, Plethon
had already drawn from a contrary tradition reaching back to
the Neoplatonists and beyond, but his Greek treatise had
almost no detectable impact on Latin writers of the fifteenth
century. Byzantine scholars in the East began to respond within
a few years of Plethon's writing, and their émigré compatriots
in the West joined them by the late 1450s, when Bessarion and
Trapezuntius crossed swords, at first on the relatively restricted
topic of nature and art. In 1458 the cardinal published a direct
attack on Trapezuntius in a longish work on this subject;
George issued his Comparison in the same year and pursued
the fight over the next decade, at the end of which, in 1469,
Bessarion published a Latin response Against Plato's Calum-
, although three Greek versions had been prepared over
the previous ten years. Bessarion, who cared enough about
Aristotle to produce a durable translation of the Metaphysics
by 1450, refused to accept the idea that Plato and his disciple
were deeply at odds. Their differences were verbal, although
Plato's teaching was better suited to Christianity; his works
were also better written, better informed, and of better moral
fibre than his student's. To refute the cardinal's arguments,
George sought support from scholastic allies, but no help
arrived, and in Italy the noise of applause for Bessarion even-
tually covered his rival's protests. For a time, however, events
worked in George's favour when Paul II -- who as Pietro Barbo
had been George's student -- rose to the papal throne in 1464,
but George's international adventures cancelled this advantage
until 1468, when the pope brought charges of sodomy, heresy,
and sedition against Bartolomeo Platina, Pomponio Leto,
and others associated with the Roman Academy. Some of
Leto's circle were also friends of Bessarion, whose Platonism
thus became more vulnerable to George's charges of immoral-
ity. Bessarion's response in the Calumniator did nothing to
quash his enemy, but when he and George both died around


1472, their passing ended this first phase of the controversy
about Plato and Aristotle. 27

George was not born an anti-Platonist. In fact, although he
leaned toward Aristotle and away from Plato early in his
career, he expressed no real malice toward. Plato until he
published the Comparison in 1458, and in that work he ex-
plains that it was the Gorgias that turned him against Plato.
An early Oration on the Praises of Eloquence uses the argu-
ments of the sophist Gorgias against Plato's Socratic attack on
rhetoric. Thus, the ingredients of anti-Platonism showed in
George's thought before he wrote his Five Books of Rhetoric
in 1433-4; his movement toward the Western church in the
1420s as well as his perception of Plato's disloyalty to Pericles
and other Greek heroes may have helped inspire his anti-
Platonism, but his original insight into the anti-rhetorical ani-
mus of Platonic philosophy was reason enough. 28 Although he
eventually produced a popular translation of Aristotle Rhe-
, it was not Aristotle but Hermogenes of Tarsus, a rhe-
torician of the second century CE, whom he chose as his
guide in rhetorical theory and its philosophical appendages.
Hermogenes left a number of works that were assembled during
the sixth century into a manual that became the main authority
on rhetoric in the Byzantine world; his two chief contributions
were an intricate analysis of style and, more important for the
history of philosophy, an equally complex theory of stasis, or
status in Latin, so called from the point at which a court case.
was said to 'stand' when deliberations first reached a critical

Aristotle did not deal with stasis, and in his work On Inven-
Cicero actually gave it a third name, constitutio, taking his
material from an earlier Greek work, now lost, by Hermagoras
of Temnos. Hermagoras taught that a jurist could begin finding
(invenire in Latin, hence the name 'invention' for the part of
rhetoric at issue) material by considering the first stasis in the
case, which is a stasis of fact if a defendant rejects a charge



Monfasani ( 1976: 156-66, 201-29); Hankins ( 1990a: i. 208-17, 236-45).


Monfasani ( 1976: 6, 18-19, 258-61); Hankins ( 1990a: i. 167-74).



outright, as when someone accused of burglary simply denies
taking anything. Stasis of quality arises if the alleged burglar
admits taking something but claims justification, and stasis of
definition turns on whether one can define the action as bur-
glary. Finally, a stasis of transference occurs if the accused calls
the court's jurisdiction into question. Following Hermagoras,
Cicero advised the orator who had explained the constitutio or
status of a case to urge the court toward favourable judgement
by selecting a particular line of argument and looking in the
right places (loci, or topoi in Greek) for material to support it.
In the Rhetoric and the Topics, Aristotle had written about
various kinds of places or topics, which came to be called
dialectical or rhetorical, common or particular; Cicero devoted
a whole work to their interpretation, also called the Topics.
Common topics include terms like genus, species, difference,
cause, effect, and others of philosophical interest; hence, ques-
tions of logic or dialectic confronted the rhetorician as he
searched in various places for the makings of his arguments.
Cicero listed abstract dialectical places in his Topica, but in De
and elsewhere he also gave more concrete advice in
topical form, suggesting four loci, for example, to capture a
court's goodwill. The places where the orator should look to
inspire benevolence were his own noble or at least sympathetic
character, the hateful nature of the other side, the esteemed
person of the judge, or, failing all else, the merits of the
case. 29

Hermogenes, whose textbook Trapezuntius identified as his
quickest path to glory in the West as early as 1420, used the
same four divisions of stasis (fact, definition, quality, trans-
ference) that Cicero had found in Hermagoras, but he trans-
formed the staseis profoundly by organizing them in a hierarchy
formed by diairesis or division. Beginning with an issue that
may be certain or uncertain, defined or undefined, qualified or
unqualified, the orator finds its stasis by moving through the
nested dichotomies shown in Fig. 1. This simple scheme of
subordinated divisions was an ancestor of the pedagogical



Monfasani ( 1976: 248-55); G. Kennedy ( 1980: 82-105).



FIG. 1.

method made famous (but not invented) by Johann Sturm,
Peter Ramus, and others in the sixteenth century. Although
Trapezuntius ignored diairesis, he introduced Hermogenes to
the West and hence deserves credit (or blame) for having
helped spark the fad that filled so many thousands of school
texts with the bifurcating charts of the Ramists. Having left the
hierarchy of staseis out of his rhetoric, George did not forget
the topics, which he presented both in the usual Latin form
and also in the Greek manner. Although his favourite subject
was style or elocutio, he gave a great deal of attention to
argument as well, and his theory of argument paid more atten-
tion to topics as dialectical abstractions than as concrete ora-
torical opportunities. In this regard, he was influenced by
Peter of Spain and other medieval logicians. He thought of the
humanities as a preparation for persuasive speech in public
life, and hence he excluded philosophy, seeing in it no need
for eloquence. He considered philosophy a poor education for
civic life, yet he respected scholasticism for its own technical
strengths. His goals for rhetoric were technical as well; the
orator was to apply his art to political ends of the narrowest
kind. George did not mean his Rhetoric to build character or
break new artistic ground. It was a tool for lawyers and politi-
cians, and readers found it handy enough to pay for ten printed
editions through the middle of the sixteenth century, when
direct access to Greek or Latin versions of Hermogenes made
it redundant. 30




Monfasani ( 1976: 255-99, 318-27); G. Kennedy ( 1980: 103-4); see also
Patterson ( 1970).





Much more popular was the little book on logic that George
published in 1440, the Introduction to Dialectic, the first logic
in humanist dress. The Isagoge saw fifty-seven editions, almost
all in the six decades before 1567; during this period it became
the companion to Rudolf Agricola bestseller On Dialectical
, which was finished around 1479, published in 1515,
and rose to peak demand shortly before mid-century. As its
title implies, Agricola's larger work focuses on invention, the
location of arguments, rather than on their judgement or eva-
luation, which was the subject left to George Introduction as
adjunct to Agricola. Lefèvre d'Étaples saw the Isagoge as a
vehicle for humanist reform of logic, but George's goals were
more modest. In order to help the orator reason, invent,
define, and divide, he wanted to isolate only the required parts
of dialectic and put them in a short handbook of demonstrative
reasoning for quick consumption. Shrinking the domain of
logic had long been part of the humanist cause, from Petrarch
through Bruni and Valla to Juan Luis Vives and other sixteenth-
century writers, but George did not share their programmatic
dislike of scholasticism. Philosophy has its own technical dis-
course, he maintained, which grammarians may not restrict on
philological grounds. He used Paul of Venice and earlier
medieval logicians, and he included at least brief reference to
some of the more advanced features of later medieval logic.
His dialectic has no overt metaphysical content, but this was
also true of much scholastic logic of the time. Having covered
the loci in detail in his Rhetoric, he only mentioned them in
the Isagoge, and he emphasized the new logic of propositions --
in contrast to the older Aristotelian logic of classes -- when
discussing how topics find arguments that must be assembled
in inferential order. Unlike Agricola, he had no wish to make
invention a part of dialectic. 31 His larger aims remained rhe-
torical, but when he reached the limits of oratorical interest,
he recommended Aristotle and the Peripatetics for more help
on logic than an orator's handbook could give. Within the
domain of philosophy, George's views contrast most strongly



Ashworth ( 1974: 10, 14, 19); Monfasani ( 1976: 300-17, 328-37; 1990).


with the teachings (discussed below) of his brilliant and equally
belligerent contemporary, Lorenzo Valla. 32 Moral philosophy
aside, his humanist writings matched Valla's in scope, surpass-
ed them in impact, but fell short in originality. Unlike Valla,
Trapezuntius was a humanist who combined philological ex-
pertise with fidelity to Aristotle and respect for scholasticism.

Calling them Goths and barbarians, Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples
had less patience for medieval thinkers, though he shared their
desire to harness Aristotelian philosophy to the burdens of
Christian faith. 33 In 1508 he edited George of Trebizond
Isagoge, which reappeared in his version fourteen more times
by 1560, and George's manual was only one of Lefèvre's
logical publications; he also brought out an Art of Suppositions
in 1500 and an edition of Aristotle Organon in 1501. But his
most important contribution to logic was his earliest, the
Logical Introductions of 1496, to which Josse Clichtove added
an excellent Commentary in 1500; with and without Clichtove's
commentary, the Introductiones logicales appeared twenty-six
times by mid-century. Lefèvre, who until 1508 spent about
twenty years teaching in the arts faculty of the University of
Paris, specialized in books designed to clear the student's path
through the philosophical jungle of the arts curriculum. His
first printed work, Paraphrases of the Whole of Aristotle's
Natural Philosophy
, appeared in 1492, followed by Introduc-
to the Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics in 1494; in
various forms the latter work saw nearly fifty editions and
printings. Lefèvre enjoyed great success as an author. In the
half-century after 1492, his works were edited or reprinted
more than three hundred and fifty times, and about a third of
them, either translations or teaching texts, focused on Aristotle.
Like Bruni, Trapezuntius, Ermolao Barbaro, and others whom



Below, pp. 209 -27.


On Lefèvre see Renaudet ( 1953; 1969); Vasoli ( 1968a: 183-213;) Rice
( 1976; 1970; 1971; 1976); Simone ( 1969: 155-78); Heller ( 1972); Bedouelle
( 1976); Gosselin ( 1976: 49-63); Copenhaver ( 1977); Cavazza ( 1982); Hughes
( 1984); Pantin ( 1988); for Lefèvre's opinion of medieval logic, see his pre-
fatory letter to the 1496 Introductiones logicales in Lefèvre ( 1972: 38-41, with
Rice's introd. pp. xi-xxv). See also Copenhaver ( 1978a); Ashworth ( 1986).


he admired, Lefèvre proved that 'humanist Aristotelian' is a
meaningful term; moreover, he wanted to give a new force to
reformed Peripateticism by making it a step toward spiritual
rebirth as well as cultural renewal.

The aim of the early Logical Introductions was humbler than
the evangelical purposes to which Lefèvre gave the latter part
his life. His prefatory letter is more than customarily apologe-
tic, comparing the work to 'quick travel-money sent in advance'
to students about to enter foreign territory. The best reason
Lefèvre can give for mastering the current style of logic is that
students who ignore it will be thought ignorant: when in bar-
bary, do as the barbarians do. Listing the divisions of the
'outlandish and vulgar literature' that he despised, he mentions
'suppositions, ampliations, restrictions, appellations, expon-
ibles, insolubles [and] obligations'. 34 Most of these terms are
headings in the seventh part of the most popular logic text of
Lefèvre's day, the Logical Summaries of Peter of Spain, a
thirteenth-century work of which Renaissance readers deman-
ded more than one hundred and sixty printings. The first
six sections of the Summulae logicales correspond more or less
to Aristotle Organon, but the seventh, the Parva logicalia or
Little Logicals, deals with issues outside the range of the Aris-
totelian Corpus, and this departure was one cause of Lefèvre's
unease. 35 He wanted to restore Aristotle, through the Greek
text, to a purer state than the Middle Ages had known, a task
that would require scraping away the accretions still surround-
ing his Logical Introductions. Lefèvre felt that for the sake of
his students he had to cover some of the alien ground where
humanist feet should not tread. But his embarrassment went
deeper than mere worry about inconsistency. To gauge the
depth of his discomfort, one may note how the same items
presented in Lefèvre's book became comic in the writings of
François Rabelais.

Lefèvre's base in Paris was the College of Cardinal Lemoine,



Lefèvre ( 1972: 39).


Kneale and Kneale ( 1962: 234-5); Peter of Spain ( 1972: pp. ix-lxi,
lxxxviii-c); Ashworth ( 1974: 1-4); Noreña ( 1975: 1-12); Kenny and Pinborg
( 1982: 17-19); Ong ( 1983: 53-91).


home to many of the faculty who wished to reorient the uni-
versity in directions marked out by Italian humanists. Around
the turn of the century, while Lefèvre was still teaching, the
College of Montaigu stood at the opposite point of the cultural
compass. Montaigu's leader was Jean Standonck, a rigorist
ascetic and clerical reformer who rescued the fortunes of his
college while making it a puritanical bootcamp, hellish even by
late medieval standards, for the needy students who were his
special charges. In 1495 one of Montaigu's victims was Eras-
mus, who complained of Standonck as one

whose intentions were beyond reproach but [who was] . . . entirely
lacking in judgement. . . . [To make sure that students] did not have
too soft a life, he [used] . . . bedding so hard, diet so coarse and
scanty, sleepless nights and labors so burdensome, that within a year
he had succeeded in killing many . . .; and others . . . he reduced to
blindness, nervous breakdowns, or leprosy. . . . I omit the astonish-
ingly savage floggings, even of the innocent. . . . How many rotten
eggs used to be eaten there! How much bad wine drunk! Perhaps
these conditions have been corrected; but too late, obviously, for
those who have died or carry a diseased body about. 36

Erasmus immortalized the place that he called Vinegar College
(Mons aceta instead of acuta) in his Colloquies, a work first
published in 1518 and better remembered than all the treatises
of Jean Mair or Major, who came from Scotland via Cambridge
to Paris in the early 1490s, became Master of Arts in 1494 and
began theological studies at Montaigu a year later, when Eras-
mus also arrived. Mair, who stayed in Paris until 1517 and
returned there twice from Scotland before his death in 1550,
made Montaigu the centre of the Parisian revival of nominalist
scholasticism or terminism, so called for its fascination with
the properties of terms (termini) that make up propositions.
Gathering a large circle of Scots and Iberian disciples to extend
his influence, Mair published original works, such as his Liber
of 1501, but he also edited and commented on
medieval texts, as in his Commentaries on the Summulae of
Peter of Spain
of 1505. After earning his fame as a logician,



Erasmus ( 1965a: 351-3 [ Thompson trans.]); Renaudet ( 1953: 171-83,
260-80, 302-13).


Mair went on to other important studies in ethics, politics, his-
tory, and theology. In his long career in France and Scotland,
he had the distinction of teaching not only John Calvin, John
Knox, and George Buchanan, but also Ignatius of Loyola. 37
While few have read his work since the terminist movement
evaporated in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, many
more have seen his name attached to a book not of his making:
MajorisDe modo faciendi boudinos.

Major, On Making Sausages was the brainchild of Rabelais,
who put it in a list of books -- mostly invented, some real --
seen by the giant Pantagruel when he came to Paris from
Orléans and inspected the renowned Library of Saint Victor.
Other books in the long and hilarious catalogue are: Tartaret,
On How to Shit; Bricot, On Differences among Soups; Beda,
On the Excellence of Tripes; and, without attribution, Whether
a Chimera
, Humming in the Void, Can Dine on Second Inten-
, a Most Delicate Question Debated for Ten Weeks at the
Council of Constance
. In the midst of gullet and toilet jokes,
the last anonymous title clarifies the others. Mair and his
students debated endlessly about chimeras (non-entities with
meaningful names) and second intentions (names of names, in
Mair's brief description) in a refined and intricate logic that
Rabelais found obscure and illiterate. As for the authors iden-
tified: Pierre Tataret spoke for Scotist realism at Paris when
Mair advocated nominalism; Noël Beda succeeded Standonck
as master of Montaigu; and Bricot might be either Thomas, a
nominalist of the generation before Mair, or. Guillaume, who
persecuted Johann Reuchlin, a humanist pioneer of Jewish
studies for Christians. ( Mair himself sat on the infamous Paris
commission that condemned Reuchlin in 1514.) 38 When
Rabelais belittled these thinkers, he had the butt of his humour
well in his sights, as one can see from his tale of Gargantua,
Pantagruel's father, who stole the bells of Notre-Dame.



Mair ( 1892: pp. xxix-cxxx); Élie ( 1950-1); Renaudet ( 1953: 366-70,
404-9, 456-72, 591-7, 647-60, 698-701); Burns ( 1954); Oakley ( 1962; 1965);
Torrance ( 1969-70); Noreña ( 1975: 12-20); Broadie ( 1985: 1-6). Torrance
stresses Mair's debts to Scotus as well as to Ockham, and characterizes his
teaching as a 'combination of logical analysis and empirical realism' (p. 261).


Rabelais ( 1973: 238-44); Screech ( 1979: 60-3); see also Frame ( 1977).


Gargantua's theft of the bells put the disputatious Parisians
in an uproar, and 'after having therefored pro and con, they
concluded in Baralipton to send the oldest and ablest of the
faculty to Gargantua'. Although some faculty would have sent
'an orator instead of a sophist', it was Master Janotus de
Bragmardo who went -- hooded, glutted, and sprinkled with
holy water. After much slinging of bad Latin, the lewd old
cougher made his point not rhetorically but syllogistically, one-
upping the syllogism in Baralipton (a mood of the disputed
fourth figure; see below) that started his embassy to the giant:

Omnis clocha clochabilis, in clochetio clochando clochans clochative,
clochare facit clochabiliter clochantes. Paris habet clochas. Ergo gluc.

Every bellable bell, belling bell-like in the belfry by belling, makes
belling's bell bellishly. Paris has bells. Therefore, gluc.

Unable to recall features of his syllogism as basic as figure and
mood (which Rabelais correctly identifies as Darii, the third
mood of the first figure), Janotus is none the less delighted
with himself. Down to the final gluc, which mocks the non-
sense words (buf, baf, blitiri) that represented non-signifying
terms in terminist logic, the syllogism is an exquisite send-up
of the tortured speech that Mair's school had to use because
their Latin did double duty as natural language and as thinly
formalized metalanguage. The travesty becomes even more
pointed when Gargantua's tutors decide to reward Janotus for
splitting their sides with laughter. His main prize is a length
of cloth, but when Janotus carries it off, the artless master
(maistre inerte) Bandouille objects to the indignity of so great
a person's hauling his own load. Janotus will have none of it.
'Ha! Jackass', he shouts, 'Jackass! You don't conclude in mood
and figure. What good are the suppositions of the Little Logi-
In place of what [pro quo] does the cloth go [supponit]?'
'Confusedly and distributively', answers Bandouille. 'Ass', re-
torts Janotus, 'I'm not asking in what way [quo modo] but in
place of what [pro quo] it goes. It goes in the place of my
shins, jackass, and so I myself shall bear it just as the subject
[suppositum] carries the predicate [adpositum].' The fun in this
joke is the doctrine of supposition, the hub of terminist logic,


the first of six parts in Peter of Spain's Little Logicals, and also
first in the list of ugly words that made Lefèvre squirm in his
Logical Introductions. 39

The terminists' theory of supposition grew out of their view
of signification, (significatio, which served for 'meaning' and
'reference' as well as 'representation'), based on a hierarchy of
mental, spoken, and written signs. 40 Canis natat (LS1) and 'a/
the dog swims' (ES1) are Latin and English sentences in good
grammatical form, but the Latin sentence LS1, is not a well-
formed proposition in the logic of Peter of Spain or John Mair.
Since all propositions need three terms--subject, predicate,
and copula--the logician's task in this case is to unpack the
two-word sentence into a three-term proposition, a harder job
in Latin because its ordinary present-tense verbs lack auxiliary
forms like 'is swimming.' The terminists meant their logical
analysis to replace written or spoken phrases with logical pro-
positions (DPn) also expressed in strings of Latin words but
corresponding more closely to mental propositions (Mpn) which,
unlike speech and writing, signify autonomously; i.e. the English
and Latin sentences ES1 and LS1 have no signification unless
they correspond to a mental proposition MP1, which signifies
in its own right. Strings of letters, syllables, and words in any
sentences LSn or ESn relate to their significations as linguistic
accident to linguistic substance; such relations can change in
numerous ways that the terminists loved to puzzle out. In
sentence LSI, for example, canis refers to a more restricted
class, dogs able to swim, than the same word outside the
context of LS1. Thus, the terminists said that terms and pro-
positions written or spoken in conventional languages could be
imposed--that they could lose or gain a signification. But,
because mental terms (MT) and propositions are modifications
of mind, within the sphere of language MTn and MPn are not
changeable substance/accident composites. As a linguistic en-
tity, the mental term MT1 does not become another mental



Rabelais ( 1973: 88-95); Screech ( 1979: 150-62); Broadie ( 1985: 39);
above, nn. 29 - 30 ; below, pp. 224 -30.


Kneale and Kneale ( 1962: 246-74); Ashworth ( 1974: 4-8, 26-89; 1988);
Broadie ( 1985: 7-76; 1987: 1-31).


term MT2; instead, one. modification of mind stops and another

Beginning with their sophisticated account of signification,
the terminists treated supposition as the key feature of terms
as they appear in one proposition or another. To say that a
term (T) supposes for a concept (C) means that the term's
appearance in some particular proposition (Pa) entails a dis-
tinction between two linguistically identical but logically dif-
ferent terms (T1a and T1b), such that term T1a has supposition
S1a in proposition Pa. Taken independently or in another pro-
positional context (Pb), a term (T1b), linguistically indistin-
guishable from T1a may signify differently and have a different
supposition (S1b). When Janotus harries the artless master for
criticizing his carrying the cloth, he asks: panus pro quo sup-
ponit? Taken as a question in ordinary rather than logical
language, his bad Latin means 'where does the cloth go [when
worn]?' But as a good terminist, the hapless Bandouille has
every right to think that Janotus wants to know the supposition
of the term panus or 'cloth', literally 'for what does "cloth"
suppose?' Janotus explodes in fury at Bandouille's inept and
abstracted resort to the Little Logicals, as Lefèvre had vented
his frustration at having to cover Peter of Spain's curriculum in
his own Logical Introductions. As Lefèvre's list shows, sup-
position was only the broadest of several appendices to Aris-
totle's original logic. 41 John Mair's treatment of ampliation as
a special case of supposition provides just one example of how
the terminists and their predecessors expanded their logic and
exasperated the humanists. Ampliation is the analysis of sup-
position from the point of view of time and modality; it is the
supposition of terms predicated of subjects through verbs not
in the indicative mood of the present tense. Mair used amplia-
tion to make sense of odd propositions on the pattern of 'an
old man will be a boy', but critics of Lefèvre's type saw such
efforts as vicious nonsense. Mair's analysis of tense structure
expanded these paradoxes into expressions on the pattern of
'one who is or will be an old man will be a boy', by which he



Rabelais ( 1973: 94-5); above, nn. 29 - 30.


seems to have meant something like 'an old man will have
a boy'. 42

Supposition, ampliation, restriction, appellation, and the
other parts of the Little Logicals clarified thought for Mair but
perverted speech for Lefèvre. In its extreme form the gulf
between the two Parisian masters can be sensed in Mair's
dictum that 'science has no need of fine language', a fair infer-
ence from the terminist theory of signification. 43 If Lefèvre
knew them, Mair's words must have seemed hostile and pre-
posterous. Lefèvre valued Peripatetic logic only as the begin-
ning of a larger programme of learning whose motives were
chiefly pedagogical, where Mair's were largely professional.
By the time the two men began teaching at Paris in the 1490s,
logic carried the weight of nearly three centuries of growth and
refinement since Peter of Spain had finished his textbook.
Early fifteenth-century scholars had codified the work of
Ockham, Buridan, Burley, and others, and at the end of the
century Mair's predecessors at Paris added another intricate
layer to this monument of abstraction. Terminist logic was not
kind to the teenagers who studied the arts in Paris. Teachers
like Lefèvre, who respected Aristotelianism primarily as moral
philosophy, metaphysics, or natural philosophy, resented the
logicians as competitors for curricular space. Metaphysics and
ethics had to share the third of a three-year arts curriculum
with natural philosophy; the second year went to the logic of
Porphyry and Aristotle; the whole first year to Peter of Spain.
As Mair and his talented students elevated nominalism to
some of its greatest achievements in logic, they also pushed
their curriculum toward destruction at the hands of other pro-
fessors who wanted time to teach other parts of philosophy to
students unhampered by a hypertechnical logic.

Thus, one dimension of Lefèvre's humanist Aristotelianism
was a pedagogy that cared for students; another was his
humanist respect for the classical languages; and a third was
the religious instinct that caused Noël Beda to call him a



Broadie ( 1985: 76-88; 1987: 31-7).


Renaudet ( 1953: 464).


'theologizing humanist'. 44 Lefèvre and his students improved
the Latin Aristotle read in northern Europe either by reissuing
earlier versions done by Bruni and others in fifteenth-century
Italy or by making their own translations, which as a rule took
the medieval Latin as a basis for revision in order to preserve
as much of the traditional understanding of the text as human-
ist principles (e.g. no transliterated Greek) permitted. Except
to criticize them, Lefèvre took little notice of ancient or
medieval commentators, and his own commentaries discarded
the scholastic quaestio in favour of a philological style that
hewed closer to the language of the text and looked into its
historical circumstances. His many introductions to Aristotle's
thought and paraphrases of his works digested Peripatetic doc-
trine to make it easy fare for students. In 1492 he began his
publishing career with a resounding pledge of loyalty to the
Stagirite, lauding him as 'chief of all philosophers' and praising
his doctrine as 'useful, beautiful and holy'. That Lefèvre rejected
the Epicureans and castigated the same Hermetic writings that
he edited was normal in so pious a Christian, but, in light of
his devotion to Dionysius the Areopagite and Nicholas of
Cusa, it is surprising that he also denounced the Platonists as
'bitter enemies of the faith'. 45

Another discordant note in Lefèvre's attitude toward Pla-
tonism was his interest in its Florentine revivers, Marsilio
Ficino and Giovanni Pico. He made his first trip to Italy in
1491 - 2 because he wanted to meet Pico, and he republished
Ficino's translation of the Hermetica in 1494 and 1505. More
important, it was the prisca theologia -- Ficino's and Pico's myth
of philosophy's origins in an ancient Eastern theology -- that
enabled Lefèvre to treat Aristotelianism not just as a useful
and beautiful system but also as a holy one. In the preface to
his Introduction to the Metaphysics ( 1494), he traced the begin-
nings of 'divine philosophy' to 'Egyptian priests and Chaldaean
magi' who passed on their wisdom to the philosophers, of
whom 'those who emphasize ideas are Platonists, while those



Rice ( 1970); also in Lefèvre ( 1972: pp. xxiii-xxiv); Ashworth ( 1974: 5-
8); Noreña ( 1975: 2-5); below, Ch. 4, n. 8.


Lefèvre ( 1972: pp. xi-xxiv, 1); Rice ( 1970: 138-44).


who pursue divine and eternal reasons are Aristotelians, and
their theology agrees and conjoins with Christian wisdom in a
great harmony and affinity'. Although he departed from Ficino
in preferring Aristotle to Plato, Lefèvre resembled the great
Florentine in reaching beneath the surface of a philosophical
text for its deepest meaning. This hermeneutic strategy, whose
ancestry is more Neoplatonic than Peripatetic, enabled him to
locate grades of spiritual progress within Aristotle's system --
rising from natural philosophy through moral philosophy to
metaphysics -- and then to identify the system itself as only the
first of three stages, the two higher levels being a patristic
reading of scripture and a final ascent to mystical theology
with Cusanus and Dionysius. In his own work, Lefèvre finished
with the philosophers, the Fathers, and the mystics by 1520; he
gave the last sixteen years of his life to biblical studies, a hot
but risky field in the early years of the Reformation. His
evangelical leanings put him in danger for a few years after
1523, but royal authority protected him in his last decade. 46

More loyal than Lefèvre to the matter and form of scholastic
thought was his close contemporary, Pietro Pomponazzi, an-
other famous -- some would say notorious -- Aristotelian of their
day. 47 Born in Mantua in 1462, around the same time as
Lefèvre and about ten years before Trapezuntius died, Pom-
ponazzi remained active through the third decade of the next
century. Although the new humanist methods that Bruni pro-
moted had spread to the universities by Pomponazzi's day,
elegance and erudition did not interest him, yet he still profited
in various ways from the revival of antiquity. Pomponazzi
stood at a crossroads in the history of Aristotelianism. On the



Lefèvre ( 1972: pp. xii-xiv, xxii-xxiv, 21); Rice ( 1970: 140-4).


Fiorentino ( 1868); Kristeller ( 1951a; 1955-6; 1956: 279-86; 1961a: 35-
42, 134-8; 1964a: 72-90; 1972b: 37-42; 1983a; 1990a: 102-110); Di Napoli
( 1963); Nardi ( 1965); Poppi ( 1970b), ( 1988: 653-60); Cassirer ( 1974: i. 98-
120); Zanier ( 1975b); Graiff ( 1976; 1979); Schmitt ( 1983a: 98-102); Garin
( 1985); Pine ( 1986); Kessler ( 1988: 485-507); Lohr ( 1988: 597-604). For
primary sources, see Pomponazzi ( 1567; 1954; 1957; 1966-70; 1970); the
treatise On the Immortality of the Soul is translated in Cassirer, Kristeller, and
Randall ( 1948: 257 - 381 ).


one hand, he studied logicians and natural philosophers of the
fourteenth century who were passé for most of his Italian
colleagues; these medieval doctors were still known in Galileo's
time and beyond, but Pomponazzi was one of the last in Italy
to regard them as central to his inquiries. On the other hand,
some of Pomponazzi's philosophical peers -- his adversary
Agostino Nifo, for example -- were taking up Greek as a direct
route to a more genuine Aristotle. Encouraged by Ermolao
Barbaro the younger, Angelo Poliziano lectured in Florence
on Aristotle's Greek text and sided with Cicero against John
Argyropoulos on a key point of terminology in his Miscellanea
of 1489. A few years later, cracks in the fortress of Latin
Aristotelianism at Padua encouraged the hiring of Niccolb
Leonico Tomeo, an Italian-born Greek, to lecture on the Greek
Aristotle. Demetrius Chalcondyles had begun teaching Greek
poetry and grammar in Padua nearly three decades earlier,
and Aristotle was probably also one of his subjects. His suc-
cessor, Marcus Musurus, taught the Greek poets and play-
wrights after 1503 while helping Aldo Manuzio follow up his
Aristotle edition with other Greek books, including the ancient
commentators as well as Plato. 48 Much of this was lost on
Pomponazzi, who never mastered Greek. His Latin was closer
to Swineshead's than to Cicero's, but he responded philoso-
phically to the achievements of humanism, as when he applied
recently revived Neoplatonic teachings on the soul to the hotly
disputed problem of immortality. He spoke warmly of Lefèvre
as an authority on Dionysius the Areopagite, but if he had
known how the Parisian used Aristotle's metaphysics as a
conduit to mysticism, it is hard to imagine that his admiration
would not have cooled.

Pomponazzi began his studies at Padua in 1484; then he
taught there with great success for twenty years, moving only
briefly to Ferrara; he settled at Bologna in 1511, where he
worked until his death in 1525. Nicolaus Copernicus and



On Nifo see Nardi ( 1958); Poppi ( 1970a); Mahoney ( 1968; 1970a; 1970b;
1971a; 1971b; 1976c; 1983; 1986); Zambelli ( 1975); L. Jardine ( 1981); see also
Geanakoplos ( 1962: 111-67; 1974; 1976: 231-64; 1989: 24-9, 52-3, 60-1,
114-29); Grafton ( 1988a: 48-50).


Thomas Linacre both came to Padua during Pomponazzi's
tenure, in the same years when Paduan professors pioneered
new approaches to human anatomy in medical education, a
development that culminated in Vesalius' researches at Padua
later in the century. During the twelve decades or so between
Pomponazzi's arrival and Galileo's departure in 1610, the
learned community that Shakespeare called 'fair Padua, nur-
sery of arts', achieved a distinction in scientific and medical
studies unmatched elsewhere in Europe. Thus, Pomponazzi's
career in northern Italy brought him close to the most exciting
advances of his time in science and medicine. In keeping with
the nature of his university appointments, he approached Aris-
totle from a perspective quite distant from Bruni's humanism
or Lefèvre's theologizing. Bruni saw Aristotle almost uniquely
as an authority on moral philosophy; Lefèvre used him as a
stepping-stone to divinity; but Pomponazzi's Aristotelianism
developed entirely within the framework of natural philosophy,
assuming that one understands natural philosophy to include
the psychological and epistemological issues raised by Aristotle's
De anima and, by extension, the metaphysical, ethical,
and theological consequences of interpreting that work in a
Christian context. Pomponazzi published a number of books
on Aristotlelibri naturales or on topics growing out of them;
he also left a substantial body of manuscripts, some still un-
published. When a moral or theological problem arises in
these works, its motivations come from natural philosophy,
and Pomponazzi's answers to such questions have a decidedly
naturalistic ring. One issue that attracted a good deal of his
attention in later life was the problem of miracles. Pomponazzi
excluded miracles less rigorously than Hume, but his whole
strategy was to find purely natural causes for effects that
seemed to be supernatural. By leaving no room within philo-
sophy for faith or supernatural agency, he provoked criticism
from religious quarters and aroused suspicions among believers
that colour his reputation to this day. 49



Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew 1. ii. 2; Randall ( 1961); Poppi
( 1970a); Siraisi ( 1973); Schmitt ( 1984: ch. 1); Pine ( 1986: 110-11); above,
n. 13.


In his own century and later, even in the era of Leibniz,
Kant, or Hegel, Pomponazzi's fame (or notoriety) endured
because he prominently revived an old philosophical challenge
to an indispensable Christian dogma, the immortality of the
soul. Aristotle says in De anima that part of the human soul,
the psuchê that enlivens the body, is mortal, perishing with the
body, while another part continues to exist eternally even after
the body dies. But Aristotle fails to say whether the immortal
part of the soul preserves its individuality after death; perhaps,
as some of his greatest students were to argue, the soul enters
into a state of unitary immortality for mankind in general, so
that whatever survives has no personal identity and, hence, no
stake in an after-life of pain or pleasure dependent on indivi-
dual moral choices. The crucial passage of De anima is obscure,
even when elucidated by other relevant texts, and its inter-
pretation had long baffled Aristotle's expositors. 50 Ancient
pagan commentators found the Philosopher's meaning elusive,
and medieval Christian readers saw this vexed question as
more and more perplexing. By referring to the resurrection of
the body and to an eternity of reward or punishment, the first
Christian creeds testified to the development of a doctrine of
personal immortality in the primitive church. These early
Christian views were heavily influenced by Neoplatonic read-
ings of Plato, who taught that the human soul is immaterial
and the human person immortal. Once purged of concomitant
elements (such as metempsychosis) that were religiously un-
acceptable, a Platonic psychology and eschatology became the
core of later Christian doctrine on the fate of the individual
soul. Meanwhile, in the second century CE, Alexander of
Aphrodisias wrote commentaries on De anima that were to
conflict with Christian teaching on the soul, and, in the twelfth
century, Averroes proposed another line of interpretation that
was equally offensive. Beginning in the thirteenth century,
scholastic philosophers and theologians in Paris and elsewhere
debated this question hotly and often. Although their argu-



Aristotle, On the Soul 413b25-9, 415b1-7, 429a18-21, 430a20-6; Lloyd
( 1968: 184-7, 195-201); Pine ( 1986: 75-7).


ments continued long after his death, Thomas Aquinas offered
a compromise that satisfied many Catholic authorities, what-
ever its fidelity to Aristotle's original intentions. He described
the higher intellective soul both as the form of the body and as
a substance separable from it. Thomas regarded the claim that
the individual human soul (at least the highest part of it) is
immortal as a philosophically sound position in accord with
Aristotle. After the early fourteenth century the controversy
simmered, but then it boiled over again at Padua in the late
fifteenth century, when Pomponazzi was a student. 51

From early in his career at Padua, Pomponazzi found him-
self at odds with Nicoletto Vernia and his students. Vernia
began his public career with an Averroist Question on the
Unity of the Intellect
but was compelled by church authority in
1489 to retract his Averroism and eventually to prepare an-
other work Against the Perverse Opinion of Averroes on the
Unity of the Intellect and the Happiness of the Soul
. A succes-
sion of north Italian professors ( Blasius of Parma, Paul of
Venice, and others) had prepared the way for Vernia, as
Vernia anticipated some of Pomponazzi's positions, especially
in making use of the ancient Aristotelian commentators and
also of Neoplatonic ideas. Pomponazzi succeeded Vernia at
Padua in 1499 as professor of philosophy, remaining in that
position for ten years and at first presenting a thoroughly
Averroist version of Aristotle. Very soon, however, he began
to develop a more independent line of his own on the soul. By
1516, when he finished his famous work On the Immortality of
the. Soul
, his efforts to discover how a single soul could simul-
taneously sustain many different vital functions had led him to
question Averroes, Thomas, and Ficino, and finally to move
closer to Alexander of Aphrodisias, but under strong Neopla-
tonic influence. Since all parties agreed that the soul's powers
of growth (vegetative) and perception (sensitive) must perish
with the body, only its powers of thought (intellective) might
require immortality; but Pomponazzi showed that even mind



Copleston ( 1960-6: ii. 375-87, 423-41); Lohr ( 1982: 87-94); Kuksewicz
( 1982a: 595-6; 1982b); Mahoney ( 19820c: 611-15); Pine ( 1986: 78-90).


needs matter to do its intellective work and hence must cease
to be when the body dies. No mental act, no matter how lofty
or abstract, occurs without connection to matter via images or
phantasms; hence, mind cannot survive the destruction of the
body that sustains it. Inspired by the Neoplatonic notion of
degrees of being between matter and non-matter, Pomponazzi
eventually described the soul as matter's highest form; philo-
sophy could go no further, and as for the soul's immortality,
this was a philosophically 'neutral' issue insoluble by reason
and ultimately the province of revelation. Meanwhile, in 1512
the Roman Catholic church had convened a great meeting, the
Fifth Lateran Council, primarily to deal with complaints of
ecclesiastical corruption and to consider plans for church re-
form. In its main purpose the council failed; Martin Luther
began his revolt in 1517, the very year the council ended. But
in 1513, pulling the reins on the wrong horse as the team was
about to belt, the church solemnly decreed that the immortality
of the individual human soul was a truth of religion that
philosophers must teach and make clear. 52

Pomponazzi's denial that philosophy can prove immortality
was by no means original; others had often said as much, even
an authority as revered as Duns Scotus, and his troubling
conclusion emerged in De immortalitate only after a long ex-
change of argument and counterargument in the scholastic
style. The fact remains, however, that the promulgation of the
Lateran decree put Pomponazzi in special danger of heresy
charges, which his enemies were glad to make. At the same
time (and somewhat foreshadowing Galileo's tactics in the
Discourse), Pomponazzi may have deliberately provoked the
cucullati, the hooded monks, by making a Dominican speak
for controversial points in his treatise, thus embarrassing the
head of this powerful order, Thomas de Vio, who had also de-
clared against the Lateran position but only before the actual
decision of the council. In any event, Pomponazzi did not
insist that the soul is mortal, only that tools of reason used by



Pine ( 1986: 55-65, 86-95, 99-102); on Vernia see Mahoney ( 1968;
1976b; 1978a; 1982a; 1982b; 1983; 1986); see also Kenler ( 1988: 485-96).


philosophers cannot prove its immortality. After much com-
plicated analysis, he concluded that the human soul has an
intermediate status between material and immaterial entities,
ending on a theme that echoes and transforms the Neoplaton-
ism of Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico, whose works date
from only a generation earlier. The soul is mortal in one sense,
in another sense immortal.

The immortality of the soul is a neutral problem. . . . No natural
reasons can . . . [prove] that the soul is immortal, . . . still less . . .
mortal. . . . Wherefore we shall say, as Plato said . . . , that to be
certain of anything, when many are in doubt, is for God alone. . . .
Moreover, every art ought to proceed by things proper and fitting to
that art, . . . as Aristotle says. . . . But that the soul is immortal is an
article of faith . . . proved by what is proper to faith, . . . revelation
and canonical scripture. . . . Other reasons are foreign, and . . . [do]
not prove what is intended. Hence it is not surprising if philosophers
disagree . . . about the immortality of the soul. . . . Plato wrote so
many and such great things about . . . immortality, . . . yet I think that
he did not possess certainty. . . . But those that go the way of the
faithful remain firm and unshaken. . . . And therefore these are the
things that must be said in this matter, yet always submitting myself in
this and other matters to the Apostolic See. 53

As many arguments support immortality as refute it,. and
philosophy has no sure answer. For assurances of immortality
one must look to faith and ecclesiastical authority.

To take the measure or to test the sincerity of Pomponazzi's
fideism, one must consider the conditions of ecclesiastical cul-
ture and theological doctrine in which he reached his conclu-
sions. Throughout the fourteenth century the power of church
hierarchy in Europe had been severely tested by the removal
of the popes to Avignon, by the domination of French interests,
and, finally, by scandalous disputes over the succession to the
throne of St Peter, but with its success at the Council of
Constance in the early fifteenth century, the papacy recovered
for a time from decades of schism and confusion. The church's
central authority not only prevailed against various institutional



Translation in Cassirer, Kristeller, and Randall ( 1948: 377-81); Pine
( 1986: 109-12).


disruptions but also restrained any intellectual dissent that
might have been provoked by thinkers as creative as Ramon
Lull. The Thomist view of church power and of the relation
between philosophical and revealed truth flourished in this
context; by the same token, Thomas's account of Aristotle's
epistemology shored up ecclesiastical authority by denying the
sufficiency of interior illumination, the inner light that was to
guide so many dissident spirits of the Reformation. North of
the Alps, a confident scholasticism had established metaphysics
as a science useful to the church, and had developed metaphy-
sical support for Christian teachings on creation, immortality
and other topics at odds with Aristotelian positions. When the
friars came to Italy to establish Scotist and Thomist chairs of
philosophy, they brought their theologized metaphysics with
them, and it deeply offended the sensibilities of the Italian
natural philosophers in Pomponazzi's tradition. Thus, in deny-
ing a philosophical basis to the doctrine of immortality, Pom-
ponazzi was proclaiming the autonomy of his profession,
advocating secular philosophy in a Christian culture, but he
was also roiling the intellectual waters beneath the expensive,
delicate ship of late medieval theology. In fact, some critics,
noting Pomponazzi's clever arguments not only against demon-
strable immortality but also on behalf of mortality, have doubted
his sincerity in leaving the issue philosophically undecided. On
the soul, on miracles, on demons and angels and other topics,
he reached heterodox conclusions, yet no biographical evidence
proves that he professed his faith cynically. As he died, he said
that he would go happily 'where all mortals go', leaving an
ambiguous testament that will not settle the argument. 54 May
it not be that in contending honestly with difficult and danger-
ous questions, questions that he could not resolve, he simply
located the boundary between faith and reason differently
from the way most of his contemporaries dared or, indeed,
otherwise than church officials would have liked?

Pomponazzi spent much of his career at Padua, whose faculty



Gilson ( 1986: 217-25); Kristeller ( 1964a: 84-90); Lohr ( 1988: 596-606);
cf. Pine ( 1986: 3-39, 48-53, 103, 109, 119-23, 344-68, with quotation on
p. 51).


included not only its long-standing complement of natural
philosophers and logicians, who shared his wish to explicate
Aristotle without accommodating theological interests, but also
theologians and metaphysicians whose orientation was con-
spicuously religious. Dominican Thomists and Franciscan
Scotists were his teachers, colleagues, and adversaries. Before
its author died in 1525, De immortalitate had provoked eight
different published refutations; the most important rebuttals
came in 1518 from Agostino Nifo, a student of Vernia, and in
1519 from Ambrogio Flandino, an Augustinian. The Pom-
ponazzi affair was one of the causes célèbres of Renaissance
philosophy, and its effects reverberated through the next cen-
tury. No wonder that when Pomponazzi finished his treatises
On Fate and On Causes of Natural Effects or on Spells in 1520
he withheld them from publication. In the latter work Pom-
ponazzi eliminated all non-natural agency from physical causa-
tion, denying, in other words, the traditional Christian view of
angels, demons, and even miracles attested in scripture. Having
eliminated these supernatural forces, Pomponazzi replaced them
with divine action as transmitted through the celestial intel-
ligences and ultimately through astrological influences. Pom-
ponazzi preferred stars and planets to demons and angels
because he regarded the heavens as natural causes of earthly
effects. His naturalist defence of astrological and occult powers
jars modern sensibilities, just as he outraged contemporary
opinion by suggesting that religion itself, even the Christian
religion, can be understood as the result of world cycles plotted.
by astrologers. In the five books of De fato, he threatened
orthodox belief on another key point, the freedom of the will,
presenting a thoroughly determinist picture of the world along
Stoic lines in Books I and II, but in the last three providing a
milder Thomist account of predestination compatible with
Christian ethics. Here, as elsewhere in his work, Pomponazzi's
presentation of the Christian position has convinced some
readers that he wanted to weaken the church's case. 55 That we
will ever be sure of his intentions is unlikely, but we can be



Di Napoli ( 1973: 85-159); Pine ( 1986: 275-343); Poppi ( 1988: 653-60).


certain, that his achievement in Aristotelian natural philosophy
was memorable.

Of Francesco de Vitoria's accomplishments in moral and legal
philosophy we can say the same. 56 Vitoria was born in Burgos
around 1492, a momentous year for the New World whose
impact on the Old he was greatly to influence. In 1509 he came
as a novice Dominican friar to the Convent of St Jacques in
Paris, where his early work as an arts student included Greek
and other humanist instruction, preparing him broadly for
higher studies in philosophy and theology. While still very
young he seems to have helped Pierre Crockaert, restorer of
the via antiqua in Paris, with an important new edition of the
Secunda secundae of Thomas Aquinas, a large section of the
Summa theologica that deals with 'special ethics' or particular
moral issues. After finishing his licentiate and doctorate in
theology in 1522, Vitoria returned to Spain and quickly rose to
the first chair of theology at Salamanca, where he taught until
he died in 1546. Publishing almost nothing in his lifetime,
Vitoria devoted himself to a remarkably effective career of
teaching that made him a major force in shaping the 'School of
Salamanca' in its earlier Dominican and later Jesuit phases. In
ordinary lectures he commented on the great Summa of
Aquinas, emphasizing applied moral philosophy and slighting
traditional scholastic interests in logic, metaphysics, and
natural philosophy; what little we know of this main body of
his teaching comes indirectly from the notes of his students.
Vitoria's extraordinary lectures or relectiones, delivered be-
tween 1527 and 1540 on thirteen pressing moral problems of
the day, saw frequent posthumous publication; they covered a
wide variety of subjects, ranging from homicide, marriage, and
magic to church-state relations and the familiar contest be-
tween papal and conciliar authority. It was chiefly these topical
relectiones that earned Vitoria the title of doctor resolutissimus



Getino ( 1930); Beltrán de Heredia ( 1939); García Villoslada ( 1938);
González ( 1946); Hanke ( 1959); Hamilton ( 1963); Noreña ( 1975: 36-149);
Fernández-Santamaria ( 1977: 58-119); Pagden ( 1982: 24-37, 59-118).


or 'doctor most steadfast' when he addressed sensitive ques-
tions with small regard for the risk of official reprisal. His
reputation as a sympathetic critic of Erasmian humanism, no
easy label for a Spanish Dominican to wear, helps explain his
engagement in contemporary moral debates and his readiness
to take controversial stands.

As the leading Dominican theologian of Salamanca, Vitoria
was expected not only to educate his students but also from
time to time to advise the Spanish monarchy and its ministers
on affairs of state and Christian conscience. Beginning in 1504,
canon and civil lawyers, theologians, and other academic ex-
perts had reassured the most Catholic kings in a series of
consultations or juntas that the conquest and enslavement of
the indigenous peoples of the Americas were well founded in
law and morality. Some Dominicans, especially the mission-
aries who had witnessed the suffering of Indians at the hands
of the conquistadores, complained about the brutality of
Spanish imperialism; but the findings of the first juntas sup-
ported government policy, whose original basis was a papal
bull of 1493 that transferred to Spain rights in the New World
granted earlier to Portugal. Since the pope's authority to make
such arrangements involved him in temporal jurisdictions, this
claim naturally offended those who wished to confine papal
powers to the spiritual realm. Thus, in order to find a firmer
foundation for Spanish policy, it was expedient for a junta in
1521 to invoke a different principle, the theory of natural
slavery recently set forth in a commentary on the Sentences of
Peter Lombard by John Mair, who took his ideas from Aristotle's
Politics. 57

In the first pages of the Politics and elsewhere, Aristotle
treated the human condition not as a fixed essence belonging
equally to all members of the biological species but as a telos,
a state of completion or perfection, against which individuals
might be judged as attaining the fullness of humanity more or
less completely. Aristotle measured the spectrum of the more
human and the less human psychologically, describing states of



Noreña ( 1975: 1-20, 37-68, 87-92, 97-101); Pagden ( 1982: 37-41).


soul governed in the best people by intellect, in the worst by
appetite. This view of biological mankind as graded between
ideally 'intellectual humans and bestially appetitive not-so-
humans enabled Aristotle to claim that when 'there is such a
difference as that between soul and body or between men and
animals . . . , the lower sort are by nature slaves, and it is
better for them . . . [to] be under the rule of a master'. Seizing
on this and other pronouncements of the Stagirite, apologists.
for Spanish colonial policy asserted not only that Indians were
slaves by nature but also that enslavement would help them
become more human by forced association with European
masters -- a Christian scholastic vision of the white man's bur-
den whose appalling arrogance needs to be seen in its time and
place. Faced with whole new worlds of humanity and nature in
the Americas, Europeans 'scurried for the handiest categories
as they groped to comprehend the novelties of conquest, and
naturally they found many answers ready for the taking in the
prevailing Peripatetic philosophy. Aristotle had not only de-
vised the convenient concept of natural slavery, he had also
reinforced the older Greek notion of the barbarian, recalling
how 'the poets . . . thought that the barbarian and the slave
were by nature one'. Having identified the uncultured bar-
barian with the half-human natural slave, Aristotle gave his
Renaissance expositors the license they sought to enslave people
whose religion was not Christian and whose behaviour was
not European. 58 What better proofs could there be of barbar-
ism and natural unfitness for the pursuit of virtue in civil

These arguments and other rationalizations of Spanish policy
in the Americas found their harshest voice in Juan Ginés de
Sepúlveda, an Italianized and dogmatic minister of the crown
who wrote his Democrates secundus around 1544, only to see it
swiftly condemned and denied publication by the Universities
of Salamanca and Alcalá. Sepúlveda's interesting polemic also



Pagden ( 1982: 10-24, 41-50); Aristotle, Politics 1252a24- 1255b39,
1259b16- 1260b20, 1332a39- 1334b26, 1337a33- 1338b38 ( Jowett trans.);
Nicomachean Ethics 1095a14-30, 1142b34- 1143a4, 1145a26-33, 1148b15-
1149a21; Parts of Animals 6 73)a19-26; Wonderful Things Heard 8 36)a6-19.


aroused the wrath of Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Dominican
missionary bishop who became his century's most celebrated
advocate of humane treatment for the Indians. Inasmuch as
his book remained suppressed, Sepúlveda lost his case against
the Indians in the famous debate with Las Casas at the Val-
ladolid junta of 1550-1, but government policy did not change
dramatically in response to this academic spectacle. Spain's
American empire continued to evolve along political and econ-
omic lines of least resistance. 59 Within the academic province
of moral philosophy, the basis for opposition to Sepúlveda had
been established by Vitoria; as early as 1534 he showed im-
patience with the barbaric treatment of native Americans by
Europeans who so ruthlessly manipulated the taxonomy of
civilization and barbarism.

In 1521 Tenochtitlán and the Aztec empire of Montezuma
fell to the forces of Hernan Cortés. Eleven years later Francisco
Pizarro imprisoned and then killed the Inca Atahualpa, and by
late 1533 Pizarro had taken Cuzco, the Inca capital. The two
Francisco de Montejos, father and son, campaigned against
the Maya in Yucatán from 1527 until the fall of the peninsula
in 1546. In conquering these Indian kingdoms the Spanish
encountered cultures whose structure and complexity matched
European expectations better than the smaller and simpler
societies ravaged in the earlier Caribbean phase of empire-
building. The tragedies of Peru and Mexico belied the claims
of Sepúlveda and others who saw Indians as mentally deficient
savages incapable of social, civil, or cultural achievement. The
murder of Atahualpa especially enraged Vitoria, who wrote in
1534 that 'if Peruvian natives were monkeys instead of human
beings, I would recognize that they could not be victims of
"injustice". However, being our fellow-men and subjects of
the Emperor, I cannot . . . excuse the conquistadores. . . [or]
praise their . . . massacres and their pillages.' 60



Andrés Marcos ( 1947); Losada ( 1948-9); Bruton ( 1953); Giménez Fernández
( 1962); Hanke ( 1974); Mechoulan ( 1974); Noreña ( 1975: 97-101);
Pagden ( 1982: 109-45); cf. Fernández-Santamaria ( 1977: 163-236), who takes
a less negative view of Sepúlveda.


Translation of a letter written by Vitoria in 1534, in Noreña ( 1975: 63).


Vitoria's most effective statements imperial policy
came in his two relectiones of 1539 On the Indies and On the
Right of War
, particularly the former. In the first part of the
Relectio de Indis, he refuted four arguments that denied the
Indians political autonomy. That Indians were sinners he found
irrelevant: only John Wyclif and other heretics made grace a
prerequisite of political dominion, which in Vitoria's Thomist
politics was a natural consequence of human sociability. Like-
wise, the description of Indians as infidels evaporated with the
scholastic distinction between invincible and invincible ignorance.
Evidence of civil, social, economic, and cultural order in Indian
societies disposed of the two remaining arguments, that Indians
were either mentally defective humans or else irrational sub-
human creatures of some other kind, fit only for slavery.
Although Vitoria debated these points pro and con in the
scholastic manner, his clear belief, already institutionalized in
the bull Sublimis deus
issued by Paul III in 1537, was that the
Indians were not slaves by nature. His view was less brutal in
its motives and implications than Sepúlveda's, yet it demeaned
the Indians as children--if not slaves--of nature, classifying
them as underdeveloped humans whose mental powers had
not progressed fully from potency to act. The missionaries who
had first condemned the conquistadores wanted fully human
souls to convert and new Christian subjects for the empire.
Their intentions were nobler than those of the encomenderos
for whom the Indians were only so much chattel labour, free
people only in the abstract terms of a grant of encomienda; but
the missionaries still paid small respect to cultural autonomy
or individual liberty. As for Vitoria, he knew that the tide of
empire was irreversible in the Americas, and on religious
grounds he had to regard Christianization of the Indians as
good and necessary. He drew the line only at forced conver-
sion, denying any right of violence against Indians who simply
refused the gospel, but admitting force readily and perhaps
cynically when needed to defend agents of the faith against the
aggression of their unwilling beneficiaries. 61



Noreña ( 1975: 74-122); Fernández-Santamaria ( 1977: 75-87); Pagden
( 1982: 57-108).


Vitoria was a priest who used his command of Aristotelian
philosophy to impugn the justice of Spanish conquests that
subdued half a hemisphere. Jacopo Zabarella was a lay Aris-
totelian whose accomplishments in logic, epistemology, and
psychology caused a stir only in the narrower world of the
university. If the moral theologian Vitoria showed small inter-
est in natural philosophy, Zabarella, a logician and natural
philosopher, expressed his Aristotelianism in a contrary man-
ner. He tried to keep Aristotle's authority independent of
theology and subject to rational criticism: 'I will never be
satisfied with Aristotle's authority alone', he wrote; 'I will
always rely upon reason . . . and . . . imitate Aristotle in using
reason.' 62 Born in Padua in 1533, Zabarella died there in 1589,
having been granted the doctorate by his city's university at
the age of twenty, whereupon he immediately began almost
four decades of teaching and writing philosophy in Padua.
Although a generation separated the beginning of his career
from the end of Pomponazzi's, Zabarella worked in the same
tradition of natural philosophy and logic, the secular Aristotel-
ianism of the north Italian universities. For a few years he
taught logic in Padua's lowest-paid position, then moved to the
second chair of natural philosophy, and finally won the first
chair in that field, the loftiest and most lucrative philosophical
post in the university. Italian universities paid their medical
professors better, however,, and held them in greater esteem,
so many philosophers, who had often earned medical degrees
along the way, also taught medicine. Gabriele Falloppia,
Andrea Cesalpino, and Ulisse Aldrovandi were all famous
physicians of Zabarella's day who taught philosophy before
proceeding to chairs of medicine, but Zabarella himself chose
not to teach medicine. He belonged to the same faculty that
taught medicine, however, and most of his students encoun-



Translation in Schmitt ( 1983a: 10-12, 16-18, 30-32, 153); on Zabarella
see also Edwards ( 1960; 1969); Gilbert ( 1960: 164-79, 211-18); Randall
( 1961: 48-68); Dal Pra ( 1966); Bottin ( 1972); Poppi ( 1972); Wallace ( 1972-4:
139-55); Crescini ( 1972); Cassirer ( 1974: i. 136-44); Jardine ( 1974a: 54-8);
Schmitt ( 1981: ch. 8); Ashworth ( 1988: 145-6, 169-72); Park ( 1988: 479-84);
Kessler ( 1988: 530-34); N. Jardine ( 1988: 686-93).


tered philosophy while preparing for medical careers. The
professional climate of his university was thus quite hospitable
to Zabarella's zeal for natural philosophy.

The Paduan passion for science was a continuing theme in
its history, well in place long before Pomponazzi arrived; but
the university had also evolved in the fifty-three years between
his death and the publication of Zabarella's most important
work, the Opera logica of 1578. Zabarella's education, unlike
Pomponazzi's, was thoroughly humanist, and he put it to good
use in explicating Aristotle. When he felt the need to analyse
an Aristotelian text in its original language, he did not hesitate
to use Greek words and phrases in his commentary. In one
case, for example, he shows that certain logical distinctions are
hard to make in Latin because that language lacks a definite
article: the difference between 'a man' and 'the man' in English
or un uomo and l'uomo in Italian corresponds more or less to
anthrôpos and ho anthrôpos in Greek, but the Latin homo
must cover both cases. In appreciating such distinctions,
Zabarella had learned from Bruni and Valla, but he also
inherited scholastic habits of mind from Aquinas and Pietro
d'Abano, the latter an eminent Paduan physician of the early
fourteenth century. Although logic, method, and natural philo-
sophy were Zabarella's great loves, he shared with Bruni and
other humanists a taste for the rhetorical and literary side of
Aristotle's works. He wrote no treatises on these subjects like
those of his Paduan contemporary, Antonio Riccobono, but
he discussed the role of rhetoric and poetics in the larger
philosophical encyclopedia. Like other Aristotelians who
taught in the Italian universities, he was active in several
Paduan academies devoted to broader cultural pursuits. By
action and by inclination, he joined the scientific impulse of
the Paduan tradition to the humanist love for letters without
contradiction or inconsistency.

Zabarella wrote commentaries on several Aristotelian texts,
most notably the Posterior Analytics, the De anima, and the
Physics. More widely read, however, were his Opera logica of
1578 and a 1590 collection of short treatises On Scientific
Subjects (De rebus naturalibus)
. His natural-philosophical


works were among the finest products of late Renaissance
Aristotelianism, but he is best remembered as a logician. Given
his obligations as a teacher, it comes as no surprise that
Zabarella saw logic and method as approaches to medical and
scientific problems, and in this sense his Opera logica represent
the culmination of a very long development within Latin Aris-
totelianism. Along with his extensive, learned, and penetrating
commentary on the Posterior Analytics, which was Aristotle's
primary statement on what we would call 'scientific method',
the Opera logica also include two brief but much discussed
treatises On Methods and On Regress. The similarity between
these works of Zabarella and certain questions pursued by
Galileo has long been recognized, and in his concern with
scientific demonstration one can see a link to the interests of
Bacon as well as Galileo. More clearly than most philosophers
of the scholastic type, he acknowledged the need for an em-
pirical connection in scientific knowledge, and he took great
pains to delineate the various stages of scientific demonstra-
tion. In his treatise On Methods, he uses the phrase scientificae
, but it would be wrong to take these words as mean-
ing 'scientific methods' in the modern sense. 63

The methods that Zabarella had in mind were based on his
interpretation of the Posterior Analytics by way of Aristotle's
Greek and Muslim commentators. A major topic in Peripatetic
discussions of demonstration was the problem called regressus
or demonstrative regression, which arose from Aristotle's dis-
tinction in the Posterior Analytics between demonstrating the
dioti (the 'wherefore' or propter quid in Latin) and demonstra-
ting the hoti (the 'that' or quia). The former procedure, which
the Latins called methodus compositiva or demonstrativa, in-
volved inference from a known cause to its unknown effect;
the reverse process from effect to cause was the methodus
. 64 Aristotle permitted the middle term (see below)
of a demonstrative syllogism to express either cause or effect,



Gilbert ( 1960: 171); Randall ( 1961: 49, 61); Wallace ( 1972-4: 144-5).


Aristotle, Posterior Analytics 78a22-9; Crombie ( 1953: 24-9, 55-90,
296-308); Gilbert ( 1960: 104-7, 167-7); Randall ( 1961: 50-2; 1968); Cassirer
( 1974: i. 136-43).


likewise for the major term, yielding two basic arrangements,
of which one may be symbolized as follows:


All NE are NT.


All P are NE.


Therefore, all P are NT.

This shorthand represents Aristotle's view that heavenly bodies
which do not twinkle (NT bodies) are those near the earth
(NE), so that nearness to the earth causes the non-twinkling of
the planets (P). In this case, when the middle term of the
syllogism (NE) stands in a causal relation to the major term
(NT), demonstration proceeds a priori by composition, while
resolution follows the opposite a posteriori path when the
middle term (now NT) is the effect and the major term (now
NE) is the cause:


All NT are NE.


All P are NT.


Therefore, all P are NE.

Zabarella believed that the first or compositive method leads
to knowledge of substance, so planets may be defined as hea-
venly bodies that do not twinkle; resolution only provides
information about accidents, such as that planets happen to be
near the earth. Together the two patterns of reasoning cover
all cases of demonstration. But since effects are better known
to us than their causes, while causes are better known in
than their effects, the best possible demonstration
must involve middle terms of both types: it must 'regress' or
move from one to the other, from resolution to composition.
Unlike some of his predecessors -- Agostino Nifo, for example --
Zabarella invested great epistemological confidence in this
double method, concluding that logic is a powerful instrument
that can produce new demonstrative knowledge of causes.
Yielding the sceptics no quarter, he distinguished the two
methods leading to new knowledge from mere procedures that
only reshuffle knowledge that already exists. The joint product
of the resolutive and compositive methods is the construction
of natural philosophy, whose aim is to know the states of bodies
as they can be observed. Despite his appreciation of experi-


ence, Zabarella treated induction as a weaker kind of resolu-
tive method, not as a distinct type of inference. He regarded
sensible images as stimuli that cause the possible intellect, a
passive phase of mind, to receive from the mind of God signs
of universals presented to it by the agent intellect, mind's
active phase. Hence, there is no genuine inference in induction,
only a kind of feedback or movement between two analogous
structures of information, from observed individuals as tokens
of universals to other tokens of the same universals presented
by the agent intellect to mind. 65

Despite his weak view of induction, Zabarella had great
confidence in observation and experience, respecting the
Thomist principle that nothing comes into the intellect except
by way of the senses. 66 The concreteness of Zabarella's epis-
temology as well as the technical refinement and rigour of his
logic were the strengths of his philosophical achievement,
whose major defects lay in the areas of mathematics and
method. Most important, Zabarella failed entirely to appre-
ciate the role of mathematics in understanding nature. But the
incomprehension of mathematics was a weakness of Aristotel-
ian natural philosophy in general, not just of Zabarella's ver-
sion. Medicine and biology -- which, despite William Harvey's
work on circulation, would long remain impervious. to quanti-
fication -- continued to preoccupy Zabarella and other Italian
Aristotelians just at the moment when Galileo and Kepler
were about to make their great breakthroughs in mathema-
ticized physical science. Moreover, even those Peripatetic
philosophers who shared Zabarella's openness to experience
had few productive ideas about organizing the data of sensa-
tion in scientifically useful ways. Bacon's attempts to construct
a discipline of observation. were little better in their direct
benefits for the practice of natural philosophy, but at least they
proclaimed an empiricist ideal that proved more inspiring than
Zabarella's efforts to reform Peripatetic methodology.



Aristotle, Posterior Analytics 71b6-72a5, 78a22-b2; Randall ( 1961: 53-
60); L. Jardine ( 1974a: 54-8); N. Jardine ( 1988: 686-93).


Schmitt ( 1981: ch. 8); above, Ch. i, n. 38.


History has been kinder to Bacon than to Zabarella, but less
generous with John Case, Britain's leading Aristotelian at the
end of the sixteenth century. 67 Case's obscurity results in part
from the generally impoverished condition of academic philo-
sophy in the British Isles between the last quarter of the
fourteenth century, when the great days of Oxford's Merton
College came to an end, and the last quarter of the sixteenth,
when Case's generation effected a reawakening of Peripatetic
thought. From the late fourteenth until the early sixteenth
century, the influence of the Merton school worked more
powerfully in Italy and the centre of the Continent than in
England, where philosophy at Oxford and Cambridge became
routinized and derivative. Only John Mair, a Scots Franciscan
who did his best work at Paris at the opening of the sixteenth
century, recalled the level of excitement provoked by Walter
Burley in later medieval England. After 1525, even England's
attenuated Aristotelianism dried up when humanist rhetoric
displaced scholastic logic in the curriculum and vigorous Pro-
testant theologies washed over the arid subtleties of Scotus.
The Spain of Vitoria, the Germany of Melanchthon, the France
of Lefèvre, and the Italy of Pomponazzi nurtured new variants
of the Peripatetic tradition, but scholasticism in England all
but vanished in the middle quarters of the sixteenth century.
The publication of English logic-books illustrates this trend. 68
The last truly medieval logic text was printed in England in
1530, one of about twenty such works published in the pre-
vious fifty years. Readers then waited fifteen years for the first
edition of John Seton's popular Dialectica, whose appeal rested
on its adherence to the anti-scholastic views of Valla and
Rudolf Agricola. Next in 1551 came Thomas Wilson's Rule of
Reason, a very successful vernacular logic. Until 1570, when
Richard Stanyhurst published his Harmonia seu catena dialec-
in London, editions of Seton or Wilson were all that
England had to offer, and only after this time did frequent
publication in logic begin again. At least twenty-four logic



Schmitt ( 1983b).


Howell ( 1956); Ashworth ( 1974: 2-3; 1988: 143-53, 162-3); Schmitt
( 1983b: 13-76); L. Jardine ( 1988: 181).


texts appeared in England in the 1580s. Twenty of them were
in Latin; one was John Case Summa veterum interpretum of
1584, which went through seven other editions in Oxford and
Frankfurt by 1622.

Born near Oxford around 1546, Case spent his whole adult
life serving the university in one way or another until he died
in 1600. He entered St John's College in 1564, ten years after
its foundation, and his undergraduate education seems to have
mixed the new humanism with the tired scholasticism of the
time, leading him to the BA in 1567, the MA in 1572, and a
fellowship in the same year. In 1574 he lost his fellowship
when he found it prudent to marry the widow of the keeper of
Bocardo, Oxford's prison; he turned to making a living by
private teaching at home, the calling that fed him for at least
fifteen years thereafter. He took his MD in 1589, and during
the same year income from a church benefice improved his
financial picture, which had grown solid enough by 1584 to
allow him to make a sizeable gift of money to St John's. 1584
also saw his first publication, the work on logic mentioned
above, the Summary of the Old Interpreters of Aristotle's Whole
, and eight other published works followed by 1599.
Thirty-eight editions of his books eventually appeared in Eng-
land and Germany, the latest in 1629; he dedicated them to
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir
Thomas Egerton, and Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, all
of whom connected him with the world of Elizabethan court
patronage. Except for a few school texts, his books were more
often reprinted than any other British works of philosophy of
the sixteenth century. They represent the acme of revived
Aristotelianism in Renaissance England.

Like most Peripatetics in northern Europe of the sixteenth
century, Case was more interested in moral philosophy and
dialectic than in metaphysics or natural philosophy, and this
choice was in keeping with the educational programme of the
English universities, which at this time were less concerned
with the higher faculties of law, medicine, and theology than.
with the broader mission of the arts curriculum in its post-
humanist version. Case Summa veterum interpretum of 1584,


for example, is a sketchy beginner's logic oriented toward the
rhetorical task of persuasion in moral discourse; it slights the
problems of demonstrative inference explored in depth by
Zabarella and others who emphasized natural philosophy and
medicine. Two other works are even more elementary: the
ABCedarium moralis philosophiae of 1596 is a primer on moral
philosophy for very young readers; and the Ancilla philosophiae
of 1599 is its counterpart in natural philosophy. Case's other
Aristotelian treatises aim at a more advanced readership. Four
are expositions of Aristotle's moral and political works. The
Mirror of Moral Questions comments on the Nicomachean
; the Reflection of the Moral Mirror analyzes the Magna
; the Sphere of the Commonwealth treats the Politics;
and the Treasury of Economy deals with the Oeconomics. Of
these the most important was the Sphaera Civitatis of 1588,
launched in the Armada year to attract a European audience
to an English political philosophy. Case's treatment of Aristotle's
Physics, the Lapis philosophicus or Philosopher's Stone of
1599, was an equally original offering in natural philosophy. 69

Case organized his books methodically and with didactic
intent, following the argument of the corresponding Aristote-
lian texts book by book but not covering every topic introduced
in the original. His chief tool of analysis was the familiar
medieval quaestio, usually followed by a handy summary in
the form of a tabula or bifurcating outline of the kind popular-
ized (though not invented) by the Ramists. Case's motives, set
forth in the prefaces to his books, were those of a teacher, but
he also wished to make his own mark on philosophy. To this
end, he consulted an impressive range of sources, contem-
porary and medieval, and he was not afraid to follow where
his inquiries led. Although some accused Case of being a
secret papist at a time when Catholicism was dangerous and
unpopular in England, he seems to have kept the Anglican
faith, which did not prevent him from making Thomas Aquinas.
his most cited author. His lists of authorities also name Scotus,
Buridan, and Burley among the medieval doctors, as well as



Schmitt ( 1983b: 77-105).


Francisco de Toledo, Juan de Celaya, Benito Pereira,
Sepúlveda, and the Jesuits of Coimbra among the moderns.
When commenting on Aristotle's Oeconomics, he used Bruni's
translation, and he also depended on the humanist Aristotel-
ianism of Donato Acciaiuoli, Lefèvre d'Étaples, Pier Vettori,
and Giulio Pace. His choice of reading was eclectic, like much
of the Peripateticism of his day, and it was at least open-
minded, if not in the advance guard of Renaissance thought.
Above all, Case's philosophy was forthrightly Aristotelian, as
he wrote in the preface to his Ancilla: 'Since without Aristotle
every short-cut [compendium] in philosophy is a detour [dis-
], let me bring Aristotle to your attention as the only
one who does philosophy, when the vain and varied opinions
of this age have been left behind.' 70

Case's loyalty to Aristotle permitted him, in the spirit of his
age, to consult other philosophers as well, especially the
ancient schools and sages revealed by the researches of the
humanists. He adopted the common scheme of the prisca
or 'ancient theology' as an account of the earliest
history of philosophy, tracing its genealogy backward from
Aristotle and Plato through the pre-Socratics to the fabled
wisdom of Egypt and Chaldaea. Where he saw the need, he
applied Platonic or Neoplatonic solutions to problems that
arose in a generally Aristotelian context. On the other hand,
his vituperative criticisms of Machiavelli and Paracelsus were
motivated not only by the material errors that he discerned in
their writings but also by the threat that they posed as original
critics of the traditional world-view sustained by -- and sustain-
ing -- the Peripatetic philosophy of the schools. Case was con-
servative, but not doctrinaire. In the Lapis philosophicus he
took an innovative view of the art/nature relation that left
more room than many Peripatetics would allow for the al-
chemical art to improve on nature. He was no humanist him-
self, but he read Aristotle in the framework created by
humanism, deciding points of interpretation from the form of
Greek words, for example, or rejecting the De mundo as



Case ( 1599: 1 ); Schmitt ( 1983b: 139 -63).


inauthentic for philological reasons. Philological analysis of
Aristotle touched his own work closely in the case of the
Oeconomics, whose first and third books he regarded as gen-
uine, while isolating the second as spurious on grounds of
doxographic and stylistic evidence previously set forth by
Lefèvre. 71

Case was an unusual figure in his own country, but a
characteristic type on the larger stage of Protestant northern
Europe. More effectively than any other Englishman, he com-
bined traditions of scholastic and humanist Aristotelianism
that had been separate in the previous century. He paid more
attention to history and philology than any scholastic, but he
maintained scholastic forms of organization and inquiry in his
expositions of Aristotle. It was Case who brought the new
humanist-scholastic Aristotle to Renaissance Oxford, reviving
interest in standard philosophical questions which had found
few substantive answers in England since the Reformation and
preparing the intellectual revival that began early in the next
century. Case left a body of philosophical works more compre-
hensive in coverage and more serious in intent than any English
university philosopher since Burley. If, from a broader perspec-
tive, one takes philosophy to include new currents in political
and theological speculation outside the university tradition, his
only rivals or betters were John Colet, Thomas More, Thomas
Cranmer, Richard Hooker, and a few other original thinkers
of the Tudor period. Case bequeathed a renewed sense of
Peripatetic philosophical discipline to the next generation of
Englishmen, the most adventurous of whom, most notably
Francis Bacon, were to abandon it more decisively than Case's



Schmitt ( 1983b: 164 -7, 172 -8, 181 -6, 191 - 216 ).



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