Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pico della Mirandola on the Sects of Philosophers

I've done gone and gotten myself interested in renaissance philosophy. I'm starting with Pico and Ficino and will move on from there. The following is from Pico's treaties On the Dignity of Man, transl. by C.J. Wallis p.22-24:

"Further, in each school there is something notable that it does not have in common with theothers. But let me now begin with ourselves, whom philosophy has at least reached. In John Scotus there is certain vigor and breadth. In Thomas, a solidity and equilibrium. In Aegidius, a terseness and precision. In Francis, a sharpness and pointedness. In old Albert, spaciousness and grandeur. In Henry, so it seems to me, there is always something sublime and venerable. Among the Arabs, there is in Averroes a firmness and steadiness. In Avempace and in Alfarabi, something grave and well meditated. In Avicenna, something divine and Platonic. Among the Greeks universally there is, especially, a certain brilliance and chasteness of philosophy. In Themistius, elegance and concision. In Alexander, steadfastness and learning. In Theophrastus, a serious working out of things. In Ammonius, a smoothness and pleasingness. And if you turn to the Platonists, to go over a few of them: in Porphyry you will be pleased by an abundance of materials and a complex religion. In Iamblichus you will feel awe at a more hiddenen philosophy and at the mysteries of the barbarians. In Plotinus there is no one thing in particular for you to wonder at, for he offers himself to our wonder in every part; and while he speaks in a divine manner about divine things, and of human things in a manner far above man, with a learned indirectness of discourse, the sweating Platonists scarcely understand. I pass over the more recent: Proclus, abounding in Asiatic fertility, and those who have flowed from him, Hermias, Damascius, Olympiodorus and many others, in all of whom there always shines that to theion, that is, divine something, the peculiar emblem of the Platonists. Further, if there is a school which attacks truer doctrine and ridicules with calumny the good causes of thought, it strengthens rather than weakens truth, and as by motion it excites the flame rather than extinguishing it. Moved by this reasoning, I have wished to bring into view the things taught not merely according to one doctrine (as some would desire), but things taught according to every sort of doctrine, that by this comparison of very many sects and by the discussion of manifold philosophy, that radiance of truth which Plato mentions in his Letters might shine more clearly upon our minds, like the sun rising from the deep.

No comments: