328. Old News: Introduction to the Italian Renaissance

Posted on

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



Further Reading

• C.S. Celenza, “What Counted as Philosophy in the Italian Renaissance? The History of Philosophy, the History of Science, and Styles of Life,” Critical Inquiry 39 (2013), 367-401.

• P.F. Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy: Literacy and Learning, 1300-1600 (Baltimore: 1989).

• J. Hankins and A. Palmer, The Recovery of Ancient Philosophy in the Renaissance: a Brief Guide (Florence: 2008).

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

• P.O. Kristeller, Medieval Aspects of Renaissance Learning (Durham: 1974).

For more general reading see the page for the whole series of episodes.


Paschal Scotti on 30 June 2019


This was an excellent episode and I cannot wait for the rest. While Kristelleller was no longer teaching at Columbia in my years there, his influence was certainly strong. It is so nice not to hear the same tired cliches about the Renaissance. 

Finkewitz on 1 July 2019


I enjoyed this episode, but I would like to make a remark:

Another book which could be mentioned here is EricMacPhails "The Sophistic Renaissance". This could be add to your list in my opinion. It deals with Renaissance Philosophy from a rhetorical point of view. Ficino and other Renaissance thinkers are mentioned there.  But maybe you already know it. It came out 2011.  If you know MacPhails book already> what do you think about it? Do you share his view of the "Sophistic" Renaissance? But maybe we should discuss this subject not already at the beginning of this series , but during this series. What do you think?

PS: I could also mention a second book which deals with Renaissance philosophy from a rhetorical point of view. If you are interested, just let me know.

In reply to by Finkewitz

Peter Adamson on 1 July 2019

Sophistic Renaissance

Thanks for the suggestion! I don't know the book actually but it is perhaps something I could use later in episodes on the reception of Greek philosophy in the Renaissance.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Finkewitz on 2 July 2019

"Sophistic Renaissance"

Well, I think you can use it for later episodes! It is worth reading and its deals with the reception of greek philosophy in the Renaissance. 

Another book which can be mentioned in this context is this here: "Sperone Speroni and the Debate Over Sophistry in the Italian Renaissance" .

It came out 2017 and the author of this book is Teodoro Katinis. I enjoyed reading it!  It also deals with the reception of greek philosophy in the Italian Renaissance. Maybe you could use this for an episode about Sperone Speroni, who is another interesting Renaissance thinker!  But I don't know if there are any plans on your side to make an episode about this italian Renaissance thinker.   It would be nice to have such an episode about Speroni!


In reply to by Finkewitz

Peter Adamson on 2 July 2019


Ok thanks! I'll make a note of that and think about it. I wasn't planning a whole episode on sophistry but I will see if I can squeeze it in.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Finkewitz on 2 July 2019

"Sophistic" Renaissance

Thank you! I think I would appreciate it! Even if it's not a whole episode on this subject!

Al-Maʿarri on 10 July 2019

Hello. That username is not

Hello. That username is not my name. He is a arabic poet and philospher. i like hhim becasue he's vegan and antinatalist and against dogma and he's irrelgious( deist :(           ) Could you do a thing on him? Am i stupid?sorry

Jenniver on 13 July 2019

Broken link

Hi, love the podcast btw, but the link for the series page just leads to a "404 error" page instead. Sorry if this is the wrong place to mention it.

In reply to by Jenniver

Peter Adamson on 13 July 2019


Oh thanks for pointing that out, I fixed it.

Sati on 14 August 2019


Genuinely excited about the upcoming episodes. Thank you.

David Ayala on 25 February 2020

Worries about a gap

Hi, I've just listened to this episode and I loved it! You say that you will cover the Renaissance period with the Italian Renaissance followed by the Renaissance in northern Europe. If that is going to be the whole philosophy in the XV and XVI century, I feel that there might be a gap of the size of the Iberian Peninsula in your history: are you planning to cover Spanish and Portuguese authors of the time, like Sanches, Suárez, the Coimbrans, the Jesuits, the Salamantine school, etc.? Will they belong to a section not called "the Renaissance"? If you do cover them, I'd be really excited and willing to wait as long as necessary for it!


In reply to by David Ayala

Peter Adamson on 27 February 2020

Worry no more

Yes good point. The plan is to do a big series next on "philosophy in the Reformation" which would take a broad view of that which includes norther Europe, England, Scotland, and the counter-Reformation, sometimes called the Catholic reformation. There will be a sizable chunk on Iberian philosophy. One could also think of the current series on the Italian Renaissance and then the future one on the Reformation(s) as tackling "the Renaissance" in a broader sense of everything that happened in the 15-16th century. This will be two volumes worth of material in the book series.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

David Ayala on 1 March 2020

Good! I look forward to those

Good! I look forward to those episodes. This section has been one of my favourites so far. 

Maybe this website will help you with some information about Iberian philosophy in the XVI century, maybe one of the most underrated group of philosophers ever: http://www.conimbricenses.org/contents/

Luiz Eva on 31 July 2020

just a suggestion

First of all, thank you very much for all this fantastic work. I suppose you might have this in mind, but there could be an episode focusing on French Renaissance, specially Montaigne. (Maybe more appropriate to be placed in the series on Reformation). I do not know how much room will you be planning for this, but it could cover the reception of Pomponazzi and other ancient humainstic litterature in France (Cicero, Putarch, Pliny), going through authors as Vicomercato, Rabelais, Pierre de la Ramée, Omer Talon, Guy de Brués, Juste Lipse, to reach the most important one, surely Montaigne (and maybe his disciple Charron). An useful source (in French) is Pierre Busson (Le Rationalisme dans la Littérature Française de la Renaissance).

Thank you again.


In reply to by Luiz Eva

Peter Adamson on 31 July 2020

French Renaissance

Yes, actually there will be more than one episode on this: I am planning on doing a whole mini-series on what happened in France during the period of the Reformation. And then later there will be a series on early modern philosophy in France, I think (i.e. 17th-18th century). So lots to come on this!

By the way I didn't know all those names or the Busson reference so that is very useful, many thanks!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Luiz Eva on 3 August 2020

French Renaissance

Dear Peter Adamson:

My pleasure! Some of these philosophers are mentioned in a passing way by Richard Popkin's "History of Scepticism from Savonarola to Bayle" (another important and more known reference, and he quotes Busson himself). I look forward to these coming episodes.

Thank you again!


In reply to by Luiz Eva

Peter Adamson on 4 August 2020


Excellent, thanks for the reference! I have noted that down.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.