Lectio & Praelectio – (The Syllabus)
Selections from Marcilio Ficino: I chose this text, both because Ficino was a Renaissance man interested in the new translations from the Arabic, but also because he attempted to reconcile alchemy & Plato with Christianity. Since we will have seen that the Medieval Era “Everyman” viewed the planets as solar powers with spiritual virtues, we can see the development and furtherance of this same view in some men of the Renaissance. Rather than seeing a contrast between the “Dark Ages” and “Rebirth”, we see them (in Ficino) as essentially contiguous, dependent upon each other.
Humanist without Portfolio, Wilhelm Humboldt. This is not, strictly speaking, a Renaissance text, but it falls within “birth of the modern”, as a sequel to the Renaissance. Humboldt opened up the field of classical studies to include anthropology, linguistics, and other branches of knowledge that possibly only Nietzsche treated with such sophistication.
Pico de Mirandola‘s Oration on the Dignity of Man. If you want to refute humanism, you’ll have to read the source. One of the tasks of classical education (which has many enemies, including Christians) is to provide the student with the opportunity to “Know Thyself”. This text is a watershed mark which argues that Jerusalem and Athens are, in fact, a continual stream of Tradition. We are not traditionalists, or humanists, here at argus&phoenix, but believe in Truth. And truth is one. Whether or not Mirandola is on target, his arguments assume that Truth is One.
Castiglione‘s The Courtier. Perhaps the most widely read handbook for nobility and gentlemen of the Renaissance era.
Machievelli’s The Prince. No period study of Renaissance thought could afford to neglect a man who, fortunately or not, still affects our own time. Like Marx, he rules from the grave.
Walter Pater’s The Renaissance. I don’t normally include summaries or commentaries, but sometimes, they are helpful. Pater is an ambiguous modern figure, on the cusp of full modernity, but with a backward glance at what has passed before.