What to expect when you're expecting Renaissance philosophy

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Since the series on Byzantine philosophy is drawing to a close (it will end with episode 327), it's time to look forward to the series on Renaissance philosophy! It will launch June 30. I have already been reading up for it and consulted some expert advice, plus received lots of great suggestions from listeners here on the website and on social media. So here is the tentative list of episodes not including interviews. Broadly speaking it kind of moves from humanism to Platonism to Aristotelianism to science and other philosophy-related fields, but without a strict division between these topics.

Three caveats: 1. Some thinkers you may be looking for would be covered in a thematic episode, e.g. Vernini, Achillini, and Prassicio alongside Nifo in the Averroism episode. 2. Some topics could expand to be two episodes. 3. Most importantly, if you are looking for a figure of the northern Renaissance like Erasmus, they will not be on here! There will be a further series called, for convenience, "Philosophy in the Reformation" and that will include the northern Renaissance and also aspects of the counterreformation e.g. Spanish scholasticism.

In the book series, my plan is to combine Byzantium and (the Italian) Renaissance in one volume, and then to do the Reformation series as a further volume of its own.

Hope you are all looking forward to this as much as I am!

Introduction to Renaissance Philosophy
Learning from the Greeks
Lorenzo Valla
Reviving Hellenistic philosophy
Humanism and ethics
Christine de Pizan
The defense of women
Nicholas of Cusa
The “Platonic Academy”
Marsilio Ficino
Pleasure and love
Pico della Mirandola
Renaissance universities
Renaissance logic
The reception of Aristotle
Pietro Pomponazzi
Islam and the Renaissance
Agostino Nifo and Averroism
Jewish Renaissance thought
Renaissance legal thought
History writing
Renaissance economic theory
Science in the Renaissance
Renaissance art and aesthetics
Musical theory
Giambattista della Porta
Girolamo Cardano and Renaissance mathematics
Magic and alchemy
Astronomy and Astrology
Giordano Bruno


Derek A Michaud on 13 April 2019

This is great news and I

This is great news and I applaud your decision to publish on Byzantine and Italian Renaissance philosophy in a single volume. The lines of continuity between them are too often ignored in favor of a mythologized sense of the miraculous “Renaissance.”

In reply to by Derek A Michaud

Peter Adamson on 13 April 2019

Yes, I agree. Actually to be

Yes, I agree. Actually to be honest that was originally more a pragmatic than intellectual consideration (like, how much material do I need for the next book) but the more I have worked on this the better I think it is in terms of illuminating the material.

Alexander Johnson on 15 April 2019

Just curious, are there going

Just curious, are there going to be no multi-parters in renessance, or does this list not include people getting a 2+ parter?  I see we haven't had any since Ockham.  I really like the multi-parters because being able to dive a bit deeper into one thinker is a nice change of pace, and also can be an anchor that makes those around them easier to understand in contrast.

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 16 April 2019

Not sure, actually - I can

Not sure, actually - I can imagine that some topics might spill into two-parters, e.g. Machiavelli. Of course the interviews will also give us further depth on some things covered in only one scripted episode.

dukeofethereal on 17 April 2019

No episodes devoted to

No episodes devoted to Rhetoric (Ciceronian Latin and Vernacular Italian)  and Grammar (been a while since your episode on Speculative grammar)? Books by Peter Mack would be beneficial professor.

An episode devoted to Italian renaissance theory of Vision and light ? 

An episode devoted to Francesco Patrizi of Cherso



An episode devoted to 'The Book of the Courtier' by Baldassare Castiglione (Ethics)


I believe Ficino, Mirandola, Zabarella, Pietro Pomponazzi (works on the mind/truths) and Valla would need multiple episodes. 

An episode on Francesco Guicciardini (who would be also included in the episode of 'History writing') critique of Machiavelli 

You should include Aurelio Lippo Brandolini work ('Republics and Kingdoms Compared) (James Hankins HUP book would help) when you discuss Republicanism as he was a pre-Machiavelli Political theorist

Giannozzo Manetti 'On Human Worth and Excellence', 

Alessandro Piccolomini works on Natural and Moral Philosophy

Giulio Camillo ; 'Theatre of Memory'


In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 18 April 2019

Thanks! That's really helpful

Thanks! That's really helpful. Not sure I will be able to make space for all of that but I'll do my best.

mehmet on 24 April 2019

Seems very impressive. I have

Seems very impressive. I have two suggestions:

1) An episode about "continuing scholastic tradition" would be nice.. There, figures like Gabriel Biel and Thomas Holcot may be covered..

2) There is the research of Dame Frances Yates on the Art of Memory, continued by Mary Carruthers. Maybe an episode can be added summarizing it. It is highly related to Giordano Bruno's thought..

Also, in my belief cardinal figures like Ficino, Pico and Bruno must receive multi-episodes. Understanding the rest depends on understanding these central figures well...


In reply to by mehmet

Peter Adamson on 25 April 2019

Thanks for the suggestions!

Thanks for the suggestions! Actually the continuation of scholasticism will be a major theme, not just an episode or two. I think this will be more in the Reformation series which is where I'd cover Biel; Holcot is really 14th c so I should have done him already, but I think I didn't cover him properly. So many post-Ockham scholastics, it was hard to touch on them all!

dukeofethereal on 8 January 2020

Perhaps it is too early to

Perhaps it is too early to ask this question Professor but which year or figure do you plan on ending when you are working on the Reformation series? This current Italian renaissance series will cover up to Marinella (dies in the 1653) and we're currently just concluded Italian Humanists and working on the reception of Plato. 

Will it reach up to Descartes or do you plan on finishing Descartes philsophical work and carry on from the reaction of Cartesianism/Spinoza/Malebranche as the next series after Reformation?  This  mini series (between Descartes) could reach up to the Age of Enlightenment (1715).


Just some food for thought :P



In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 8 January 2020

Great question. I don't

Great question. I don't really know which specific figure(s) but chronologically my idea was that "Reformation" would only go through the end of the 16th century. Then I was thinking I would do 17-18th centuries together, three times with three geographical blocks: France/Holland, Britain/Early US, Germany/Eastern Europe. each of which in theory could be a self-contained podcast series and volume in the book series. We'll see about all that but basically the idea is that 1600 is the cutoff for both the Italian Renaissance and Reformation, then it's on to the 17th century, one way or another.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

dukeofethereal on 13 January 2020

That's not a bad idea

That's not a bad idea regarding geographical separation during the 17/18th century. Where would you fit the Iberian Peninsula? would that be linked with France/Low Countries given that Spain (Habsburg) held part of the Low countries?


France/Low Countries/Iberian Peninsula

Great Britain/Ireland/Early US  

Germany (Austria/Switzerland) /Eastern Europe/Russia  



In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 13 January 2020

That's a good question and in

That's a good question and in fact I have also been wondering about Italy in the 17th-18th centuries. I was thinking I'd do the counter-Reformation as part of the Reformation series and that could include the Iberian stuff but not really that far chronologically. Difficult, and in fact I have to decide rather soon since there are Italian thinkers who bring us into the 17th c like Campanella, or even later, Vico; so there is a question about whether to do them at the end of the current Italian Renaissance series or save them for later.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

dukeofethereal on 14 January 2020

I'd include Campanella since

I'd include Campanella since he was born earlier and died earlier than Marinella  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/lucrezia-marinella/ who you already have covered.

The question is Professor.. is there enough material from 17th/18th Century Italian Philosophy to warrant it's own book?  or is the content small that it may have to be slotted in a mini chapter or sub heading under Germany/Eastern European section?  

Vico, Campanella, Cesare Beccaria (Jurist), Pietro Verri (Political Economist) are some of the notable figures from those two centuries highlighted. 

Campanella would fit just like how you covered Maximus the Confessor in Later Antiquity section when he himself was part of the Byzantine world (Church father under 'Ancient Christianity' subheading). Just like how you are saving Nicholas of Cusa for Northern Renaissance/Reformation series when he could also fit under Italian Renaissance series. 

I think Vico would fit in Germany 18th Century Philosophy in the context of  Johann Georg Hamann and Johann Gottfried Herder who were also enganged in Literary Criticism.




At the end of the day it is your decision Professor. 

In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 15 January 2020

Ok thanks, that's very

Ok thanks, that's very helpful. I like your suggestion about Vico (though a bit hard on him since the way I am projecting the series that postpones him for a couple hundred episodes!). Of course there is no one right way of doing it but I think the southern European thinkers post 1600 are probably going to get slotted in where they seem thematically resonant - can't imagine having a whole book just on modern Italian philosophy. I do think I will do Campanella in the current series, since he goes well with Telesio who is 16th c. I already have them penciled in in my list as a matter of fact.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

dukeofethereal on 21 January 2020

No worries professor. Here

No worries professor. Here are some books for theories on Magic/Alchemy that will tie in for both Renaissance and Reformation


Vanities of the Eye by - Stuart Clark 

Eros and Magic in the Renaissance by Ioan Couliano  = Renaissance looks at Pico, Bruno and Ficino 

The Alchemy of Light by Urszula Szulakowska =  Reformation Series ( John Dee, Heinrich Khunrath, Michael Maier, Valentin Weigel, Johannes Arndt and Robert Fludd) 

John Dee's Natural Philosophy by Nicholas Clulee  =  Reformation series/Northern Renaissance

Seeing the Word by Hakan Hakannson =   Reformations eries ( Looks at John Dee )

Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance - William Huffman


An episode devoted to Jakob Böhme who could fit in Reformation series or 1600-1800 German philosophy, played a key role in later German Idealism/Romantacism and Hegel called him 'first German Philosopher'. Your upcoming guest Dr Cecilia Muratori has a book on him 'The First German Philosopher: The Mysticism of Jakob Böhme as Interpreted by Hegel' also 'Light ind Darkness: The Mystical Philosophy of Jacob Böhme',

In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 22 January 2020

Cool thanks! I actually had

Cool thanks! I actually have these titles already noted in my incredibly messy file of ideas for stuff to cover in the Reformation (I'm guessing you sent them previously, actually?) but this is very useful also for others who check in on this page. I should perhaps have Cecilia on again to talk about Böhme when I get there.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

dukeofethereal on 5 March 2020



Professor would you also cover the new world when you start your series on Northern Renaissance and Reformation/Counter reformation? 

Figures such as Vittoria (School of salamanca)Bartolomé de las Casas, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and Juan de Zumárraga. 

Vasco de Quiroga built hospital towns that were inspired by More's 'Utopia'  and Friar Alonso de la Veracruz was the first philopsher of New Spain and Tomás Mercado (Spanish Economist) 


Once you start to cover 1600- 1800 Iberian, France and Low Countries -  Latin American Philosophers you can cover would be Miguel Sánchez ( author of 'Imagen de la Virgen María'),  Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora (scientist author of 'Libra astronómica y filosófica'.

Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz (author of 'Primero sueño' and '“Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz”'



In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 6 March 2020

Thanks for the tips. As I

Thanks for the tips. As I said in the other comment where I just replied to you, I actually have in mind a whole volume's worth of stuff on the Americans which would start with Incan, Aztec, and Native American thought and then look at the impact of colonialism and go up to, maybe, 1900 or something. But the other figures you mention like Vittoria and las Casas will certainly come up sooner in the Reformation book, as you say.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Alexander Johnson on 10 March 2020

One more problem with this

One more problem with this plan is also that Rousseau will go before Hobbes and Locke.  (Hume will also go before Leibniz, but i'm not sure how important that is for context).

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 10 March 2020

Yeah I think that any way I

Yeah I think that any way I could do it, I would at least sometimes have to say "ok to understand thinker A, we need to say a little about thinkers B and C for background, even though we haven't gotten to them yet". The only way I can think of avoiding this is to do all of Europe as one story, strictly chronologically, but even then you have the problem of numerous simultaneous figures. So I think there will just have to be thumbnail sketches of, say, what Hobbes and Locke mean for Rousseau without properly having done Hobbes and Locke yet.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Alexander Johnson on 20 March 2020

Yeah, I understand that, but

Yeah, I understand that, but even then it seems a bit more than necessary.  However, if you did it one century at a time, that plan actually works out ok.  people born between 1570 and 1670 (so people writing 1600-1700), you'd have in rough order, Descartes, Pascal, Spinoza, Malenbrache, then Hobbes & Locke, then Leibniz (and plenty of room for lesser known individuals/regions in the Leibniz section).  Hobbes coming after Locke, Spinoza, & Malenbrache is the only weird thing for the people you'd probably be spending 3+ episodes on.

The only question then would be if you'd have enough content for a full section.  However, you spent 40 episodes on the 13th century, and classical has 51 episodes, so if you end up with the podcast growing even 25% more, it would fit into a "section" decently well.  Or you could just do a double loop in one section (or two loops, and then give Hume vs Kant a shared section, as a nod to them being so important)

Either way, i think there is some way to incorporate the convenient 40 year split between Leibniz and Berkeley (and the convenient historical clustering of Spinoza, Locke, Malenbrache, and Leibniz) in order to avoid what would be the equivalent of trying to explain John Burdian after not having talked about a full 2/3's of the people between Anselm and himself.  Just idle speculation on the issue.

In reply to by Alexander Johnson

Peter Adamson on 20 March 2020

Thanks that is very helpful.

Thanks that is very helpful. I guess the two main approaches I am considering is whether to do 17-18th c three times, in three geographical areas namely France/Holland, Britain/USA, and Germany/Eastern Europe, or 17th c (with the same geographical split within that) and then 18th c (again, geographically split). One thing that makes me lean towards the former is the pressure of fitting it into sensible books: the latter plan sounds like two books each of which is way too long. Plus dividing by century just seems kind of unoriginal and obvious, though as you say it has practical advantages too. I think ultimately I will need to sit down and sketch out what episodes I need, then tinker with different ways of dividing it all up. But it seems clear to me that doing all of Europe in both centuries will be at least 200 episodes.

Incidentally one difference between how you and I are thinking about it is that I am not so focused on big figures, because, although they obviously will get more coverage, in fact the majority of episodes will not be about big hitters like Kant or Locke, but about more general movements, "minor" figures and groups, etc. And that may itself provide context of a different and more novel kind for the famous names.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Alexander Johnson on 23 March 2020

It is not so much that I am

It is not so much that I am forcused more on major figures, in fact my own biases are towards when there are identifiable "schools of thought" to follow, regardless of the figures inside of it (that's part of what drew me into economics).  However, I used the major figures as examples for a few reasons.

A.  I don't know any minor figures from this era.  So i couldn't really use any minor figure as an example.  In fact, prior to starting your podcast and philosophize this, i didn't know most of the major figures listed either.  Pretty much just Locke, & Montesquieu (because of their importance to the American constitution).  Hobbes and Rousseau (and i wouldn't have been able to remember which was which).  And Descartes, Pascal, and Leibniz (because math).  Even the name Kant was completely new to me.  So if i wanted to give an example, it had to be with someone i did know.

 B.  I don't think there is much of a risk of you not considering the lesser known figures of philosophy.  Your rules and this being your focus will ensure that you will take care of that without it being mentioned.  However, as you are an acadmeic philosopher who talks daily with other academic philosophers, I imagine you would be more at risk of assuming your listeners are already familiar with the major figures, or that certain things are common knowledge which wouldn't be to anyone who didn't take a philosophy class in college.  So I wanted to push a little back by reminding you that many of your listeners may be hearing about such individuals as Spinoza and Hume for the first time from you.  And it will certainly be the best presentation about them the majority of your listeners will ever heard about them.  

C:  The last reason I used major figures is because even if i did know a minor figure to list, it wouldn't be totally clear to me if their influence was more localized or continent wide.  Some major figures I'd still be unsure of (did Spinoza influence Hume at all? I have no clue), but I am pretty sure Hobbes and Locke are very real sources of influence for Rousseau (both foundational and as antagonists).  So given that part of the promise of this podcast is that, by not leaping ahead and skipping over figures and eras, we provide a solid foundational context for the figures that would be covered in a gaps allowed format, so that both the interesting lesser knowns get covered AND the better knowns get understood better.  So if Hobbes and Locke had a real influence in France, it is hard to fill the 2nd promise (for Rousseau, or any french political philosophers around Rousseau) via 200 jumps.  

Is there a reason why you can't just set an arbitrary year that isn't a century end?  Just setting an arbitrary year (and then choosing who goes on which side of that line equally arbitrary) gives you far more control than a strict geographical deliniation would.  At the very least, though, i think if you were to split it into 3 in clean lines, and did want to focus into schools, you might be better off with 1. rationalism.  2.  empiricism.  3.  idealism and political philosophy.  Then you'd be covering it closer to how you handled the stoics vs the skeptics.

Anyways, as you said.  You can't really make a decision until you start working on an outline, so you have plenty of time to think about those issues and I'm sure you will come up with a solution you will not be too displeased with.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Aelton Barbosa on 13 April 2020

An approuch that would solve

An approuch that would solve some problems (and give you anothers): look into this period through disciplinary boundaries. You would then have a series on Early Modern Metaphysics; Early Modern Political Theory; Early Modern Ethics; etc going through XVII and XVIII centuries. The biggest problems I see with this solution: a) major figures like Locke or Kant would be split in episodies that could be months or years away from each other;  b) episodic minor themes would be covered as part of this bigger issues, or get an "anything else" section at the end. 

Another approuch (my favorite one) would be: cover the 17th century cronologically for all of Europe, and then have three series on the 18th century: British Enlightenment (plus North-American thinkers), French Lumières (plus Dutch & Mediterranean philosophers), and German Aufklärung (plus Central and East Europe philosophers). That would solve Rousseau-before-Hobbes or Hume-before-Leibniz problems, as the foundations of theories that are everywhere in the 18th century - that is, Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz and Locke's ideas - are already covered when you dig into deeply geographically-based debates in the 18th. That would also follow the major flux of ideas, as British ideas heavily influenced French Enlightenment, and both influenced its German counterpart.

In reply to by Aelton Barbosa

Peter Adamson on 13 April 2020

I think the first suggestion,

I think the first suggestion, though it has merit as a possible thing someone could do, would be too big a departure from the usual approach of the podcast. But the second suggestion definitely strikes me as useful; I like the idea of setting down a platform before then following each geographic thread. One practical worry is that a chronological look at the 17th c might get unfeasibly huge. But I will definitely think about this, thanks!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

dukeofethereal on 27 May 2020

Regarding how you will handle

Regarding how you will handle 17th century Europe professor.

There are two ways; but both do consist of you covering 17th Philosophy perhaps in two volumes based on how much work was available from this period and emerging new themes/scientific tools of understanding.


1) - You extend your series on Northern Renaissance/Reformation past 1600 AD, like you are doing currently with Italian renaissance, perhaps you should cover Reformation up to 1619 ending up to the emergence of Descartes (his first working being a Musical treatise). 

You plan on having an entire volume solely on Northern Renaissance/Reformation so it ought to be a 'meaty' volume like your series on Medieval Philosophy. Italian/Byzantium will be a combined volume.

You can then tackle Philosophy from Descartes (1618) up to 1715 (Age of enlightenment) , covering major European figures such as Hobbes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Pascal, Cambridge Platonists

Not well known 17th century philsophers = Kenelm Digby, David Derodon (Calvinist logician), Antoine Arnauld, Pierre Bayle, John Bramhall, Isaac Beeckman (atomism), Jean BodinSamuel Clarke, etc..



Part 2) You cover Northern renaissance/Reformation up to 1600ad, then you cover the entire 17th century Philosophy (from 1600ad) in two separate volumes (Part 1 and Part 2 respectively labelled). 


In any case, 17th century philosophy and onwards will get more expansive based on body of work that remains. You will probably have an two volumes worth of each century dedicated. We're still a few years way from that so you will have plenty of time to think about it. 

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