This is six-volume edition and translation of Ficino's eighteen-book
Platonic Theology. The final volume includes Ficino’s brief
Introduction or argumentum which was probably written as a report
about the work in progress (see Note on the Text). As in the
previous volumes, Michael Allen is responsible for the English
translation and notes, and James Hankins for editing the Latin text,
though each has gone over the other's work. While some corrections
to the first five volumes have come to their attention and are
listed in the Corrigenda in the final volume, it is predictable
that other scholars will eventually enrich our understanding
of this monumental work's varied sources and debts, particularly,
one suspects, to Aristotle, Augustine, Proclus, Averroes, and the
Scholastics, as they look beyond the network of identifications
They gave us the courage to begin what we knew would be a long and arduous climb up one of the loftiest peaks of Renaissance thought. The result for us at least has been an alpine view of horizons as far as Mt. Ventoux, of reasoning's escarpments and faith's plunging ravines. Our hope now is that others will explore this whole magnificent terrain.
As the structure of the Platonic Theology is only partly reflected in its book and chapter divisions, so the translators provided an outline of the work's overall plan in the 6th final volume, following for the most part cues given in the text itself.
I. Volume 1. Books I–IV.
Ficino's Platonic Theology: A Renaissance humanist and leader of the Florentine Platonic Academy whose wide-ranging interests encompassed philosophy, music, medicine, astrology, and magic, Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) is best known for having initiated the Renaissance revival of Plato. The Platonic Theology, in which Ficino reconciles Platonism with Christianity, was written during the early 1470s when he was completing his translation of Plato's works, during which time he was also preparing for the priesthood, which he entered in 1473. In their introduction to the volume, Michael Allen and James Hankins provide compelling commentary on the philosophical and political contexts of the Platonic Theology, together with incisive analyses of the text's structural and rhetorical features. The work, they argue, represents Ficino's 'mature attempt to sketch out a unitary theological tradition, and particularly a theological metaphysics' that he firmly believed could be traced from Orpheus to Hermes Trismegistus and Zoroaster, 'even as it had culminated in the Christian revelation most luminously articulated for him by the Areopagite, Augustine, and Aquinas.' Ficino thought of the Platonic Theology as his most inspired and independent work. At the heart of it lies not only his affirmation of the soul's immortality, but also his redefinition and reconceptualization of 'the figura, of the human entity.' A text of deeply 'personal if not autobiographical apologetics,' the Platonic Theology is also the product of its 'Renaissance Italian, specifically Medicean, context' in that it represents 'a bold, albeit problematic, attempt to appropriate' late classical philosophy 'for the ingeniosi, the intellectuals, the forward wits of the republic and its governing elites.' The work's dense philosophical and political orchestrations may account for the complexity of Ficino's style, which on one hand conceptualizes sublimity, after Plotinus, 'in an unadorned and apparently artless way' at the same time as it is 'rhetorically challenging, with its frequent asyndeton (making the reader work it out), its unbalanced periods (drawing the reader into the mazes of the argument) ... and its intermittent flights of poetic imagery contributing to a sense of allocutionary trance.'
Modelled after the Harvard Loeb Classical Library series, the I Tatti translations are in dual-language format (with the Latin text on the left page and the translation on the right), facilitating comparison. Michael Allen's translation of the Ficino volume is careful and meticulous, as is the editorial apparatus. In addition to the critical introduction, the volume includes two sets of explanatory notes (to the text and to the translation respectively), a selected bibliography of secondary sources, and a valuable author and subject index. The volume promises to become indispensable to Renaissance scholarship in general.
Ficino's immortality proofs and answers to questions in the later books of the Theology presuppose and are founded upon his general systematic account in these first four books of God, creation and the place of the soul within creation. These reverse the usual order of the medieval summa, itself founded on Neoplatonic models. The medieval summa generally deals in hierarchical order beginning with God and moving down through creation in general, angelic and human nature; it then follows the flow of the divine creative act back to its source by treating the redemption of human nature, understood as that nature's return via reason, love, and grace to the source of its being. Ficino begins instead with what is known quoad nos, i.e. with the material world known to the senses, and ascends through the five grades of reality to God. He then descends again to the level of soul and discusses its nature and species. His system thus follows a psychological or heuristic rather than an ontological or generative order.
Volume 1. Books I–IV.
A. Book I. Ascent to God through the four created substances: body (inert extended matter), form divided in body or quality (an active principle of change), rational soul (active, both divided in body and undivided, mobile), and angel (active, undivided and immobile). See i.i.z. The ascent is also a philosophical itinerary, from pure corpuscularism (as in the Democriteans, Cyrenaics and Epicureans), to a higher awareness of an active shaping power in bodily nature (as in, for Ficino, the Stoics and Cynics), to recognition of the existence of a more excellent form beyond body which is the seat of the rational soul (as in Heraclitus, Varro, Manilius), to realization of an unchangeable mind beyond changeable soul (as in Anaxagoras and Hermotimus), and finally to the light of truth itself, God (as in Plato and the Platonists).
B. Book II. God. i. The divine essence: God is unity, truth, and goodness.
2. What God is not. Why there is not an infinity of equal gods on the same metaphysical level; why there is not an infinity of gods arranged hierarchically.
3. The divine attributes: God's power is infinite; He is everlasting; omnipresent; the source of motion and the immediate cause of all change; God acts by His being; He understands infinite things; His understanding is infinite; He has will and acts through will; His will reconciles freedom and necessity; God is loving and provident.
C. Book III. Descent through the grades of being and comparison of the grades among themselves. Ficino establishes the soul's status as the third and middle essence, "the link that holds all nature together," giving life to things below it, and knowing itself and things both above and below it.
D. Book IV. The three species of soul: the world soul; the souls of the twelve spheres, including planetary and elemental spheres; the souls of living creatures within and distinct from those spheres. The souls of the spheres cause circular motion in accordance with the laws of fate.
II. Volume 2. Books V–VIII.
This second volume of edition and English translation of Marsilio Ficino's Platonic Theology contains books five to eight. Five volumes are expected, so as to cover the whole Ficino's work. Principles of edition and general introduction are to be found in the first volume. This edition, made by James Hankins, with William Bowen, depends on that of Raymond Marcel (Paris, 1964-1970). As the authors explain in the introduction to the first volume, there are only two independent witnesses to the text: the editio princeps, published in Florence in 1482 (= A), which Ficino himself corrected, and the manuscript dedication copy written for Lorenzo de Medici (Florence, Laurenz., Plut. LXXXIII, 10) (= L). These two witnesses have been entirely collated again by Hankins and Bowen. Marcel's edition is mostly reliable, yet the authors suppressed most of Marcel's conjectures, for they were not necessary to the comprehension of the text. These conjectures are not to be found in the apparatus of the new edition, and the authors are right doing so, because most of Marcel's conjectures consisted in additions of several "ergo" or "autem" into the Latin text, often even not translated into French. For example, in Book V, 1, 3, in the sentence "non secundum, quia spontaneus motus assiduus comes est eius", Marcel adds "non" before "assiduus", yet he does not translate it: "ni la seconde, parce que le mouvement spontane/ est le compagnon assidu de..." In Book V, 14, 4, Marcel omits "non", as Allen-Hankins's apparatus shows, in the sentence "ut calor non suscipit frigus", yet he does translate it: "par exemple, la chaleur ne rec,oit pas le froid."
Latin text and English translation lie on opposite pages, and all the notes are relegated to the end of the volume. In both Latin and English texts, each chapter is divided into paragraphs, which make the text easier to read and refer to. The "notes to the text" are readings or conjectures which have been rejected by the editors, indicated by reference marks within the text. The "notes to the translation" are other possible translations, needed explanations of the text, sources of quotations or allusions. Those notes are always short, precise and clear. Although a general index of sources will come only with the last volume, there is an useful index of names, after the bibliography.
Although fewer witnesses were used for this edition, the Allen-Hankins apparatus is more complete (notably giving variants of A before correction) and more precise than that of Marcel. Here are a few examples.
Book V, 1, 2: ... numquam desinit vivere. Si enim quod movetur... moveri desinit numquam.
Allen-Hankins, Book V, n. 3: "A omits Si enim -- numquam before correction".
Marcel, p. 174, n. 1: "A: Ubi scribitur: desinit vivere, subiunge haec Si enim... desinit numquam. Sequitur: Praeterea..." By these unclear words, Marcel means that A (but he omits to say "before correction") made a "saut du me^me au me^me", but we would have understood this without help.
2) Book V, 4, 2 (last line): ...et, si humiditas, quomodo siccitatem?
Allen-Hankins, Book V, n. 7: "A omits si before correction". Marcel, p. 177, n. 2: "si add. A. " I must say that I don't understand what Marcel means here.
3) Book V, 7, 3:
Allen-Hankins, p. 38-39: "atque illas in esse perducit" (translated:
"and brings them forth into existence"), and n. 19: Marcel corrects silently to producit, perhaps correctly.
Marcel, p. 186: " atque illas in esse producit" (translated: "et les ame\ne a\ l'existence"), but the correction is not silent, since he writes n. 1: "perducit LHABC". From that we must understand that
"perducit" is the reading of A and L, of the second manuscript of the text, Haleianus 3482 (H), and of the two Venice editions (published in 1491 and 1524) (B and C). So, it is not necessarily a correction either, but, if the apparatus is correct, "producit" might be the reading of four more recent editions, published in Paris and Bale, between 1559 and 1650 (D, E, F and G). This is doubtful though, and I would rather believe that "producit" is a conjecture of Marcel, as Allen-Hankins think.
It was necessary to have a revised edition and English translation of Ficino's Platonic Theology in a more accessible publication. This work is important not only to those who are working on Ficino and Italian Humanism, but also to anyone dealing with Platonic revival in the middle ages and renaissance. The translation has been made by probably the most competent specialist of Ficino nowadays, Michael Allen, with the collaboration of John Warden. The translation is absolutely necessary to give to those who don't know Latin an access I to this very important text, and also it helps those who know some Latin, for the text is sometimes difficult and elliptic. To sum up, it is quite rare nowadays to see such a fine, accurate and ascetic piece of philology.
Immortality proofs. See 1.1.3: After describing the nature of soul and its place in creation, Ficino says that he is going to seek to establish that the condition and nature of the soul is such as he has described, "firstly by general arguments (rationes communes), secondly by specific proofs (argumentationes propriae), thirdly by signs (signa), and lastly by resolving questions (solutiones quaestionum).
Volume 2. Books V–VIII
A. Book V. The rational soul's immortality is shown from rationes communes—i.e., the general metaphysical principles and characteristics of soul as third essence. These include: the fact that it is capable of self-induced circular motion but is unchanging in its substance; its natural attraction both to divine and material things; its ability to rule matter while remaining independent of it; its indivisibility; the relation of essence and existence in soul; the nature of soul as pure form; the self-subsistence of soul; its dependence on and resemblance to its divine cause; the fact that the soul is not potential with respect to existence and is directly dependent on God for its existence; the fact that it is the principle of life, and a power inherently superior to body.
B. Books VI-XII. The rational soul's immortality shown from rationes propriae, i.e. particular arguments. These rationes propriae consist of more detailed demonstrations of some of the rationes communes in II.A.
Book VI.i Introductory interlude. This takes the form of a dialogic intervention by Giovanni Cavalcanti, the only one in the Theology, revealing for the first time that the previous five books had been a disputation held at the country home of Giovanni Cavalcanti in the presence of Cavalcanti, Cristoforo Landino, Bernardo Nuzzi and Giorgio Antonio Vespucci. Cavalcanti lays out five possible views of the nature of soul and demands that Ficino explain why the Platonic one is correct. These views include various Presocratic and Stoic views, i.e., that the soul is a pneumatic or a fine-material substance or that the soul is a quality dependent on material potencies. The fifth and highest view is that of Plato and the ancient theologians, "in whose footsteps Aristotle, the natural philosopher, for the most part follows" : namely that the soul is divine, i.e. "something indivisible, wholly present to every part of the body and produced by an incorporeal creator such that it depends only on the power of that agent," and not on any material potency. Ficino is challenged to refute the four materialists`and prove the view of Plato.
2. Book VI.2. Ficino's response: Refutation of the materialists by analysis of the soul's three officio or roles: acting in the body (the vegetative power), acting through the body (the sensitive power) and acting through itself (the intellective power). Ficino argues that the "vulgar philosophers" who hold to materialism have been misled by "perverse custom" and the influence of the body, and he devises educational thought-experiments drawn from Avicenna, Plato's analogy of the Cave in Republic 7 and other sources to reveal the true nature of the soul as "invisible, life-giving, sentient, intelligible, intelligent, independent of body, active of its own accord, heat-giving, life-giving, sentient, capable of attaining things above, a substantial unity." The argument in II.B.2 is described as a "first foray, a sort of prelude" or protreptic to purge the mind of the vulgar of their "wretched lack of trust" which keeps them from acknowledging the realm of immaterial spirit.
3. Books VI.3-VIII. Return to the main argument of the Theology. Ficino takes up in turn the rationes propriae which will demonstrate the rationes communes in greater detail, beginning with the ratio communis of the soul's indivisibility in body. Other rationes are then addressed in ascending hierarchical order. The soul's indivisibility in body (and therefore its immortality) is demonstrated from its three officio (or virtutes, powers) as described in II.B.2, arranged hierarchically from lowest to highest.
a. Book VI.4–13. The soul's lowest or vegetative powers, of nutrition, locomotion and growth, already show why the soul cannot be material or be form-in-matter: soul is a principle of activity that applies to all bodily parts; it is not spatially divided.
b. Book VII. Proofs that the soul is not divisible from the power of sensation: general proofs from the nature of sensation itself and specific proofs from the soul's complexions and the harmony of its humors.
c. Book VIII. Proofs that the soul is not indivisible as inferred from the nature of intellection. Topics include the intellect's relation to truth; the nature of the intellective power in itself; its instruments (i.e., intelligible species); its operations; the objects of intellection (i.e., universals); the possibility of communication as such; the incorporeal way the mind is modified by form; the goals of intellection; the infinite force of the intellective power.
Volume 3. Books IX–XI.
4. Book IX. Immortality proofs based on a second ratio communis: the soul's independence of body.
5. Book X. Immortality proofs based on general structural or aesthetic principles, i.e. the fitness of immortality, given the soul's relationship to the things below and above it in the order of nature. Answers are given to objections from Epicurus, Lucretius, and the Stoic Panaetius.
6. Book XI. Immortality proofs based on the soul's eternal and immaterial objects, i.e., the Ideas. The nature of the Ideas. Confirmation of their nature by signs. Answers to Epicureans, Skeptics, and Peripatetics.
This is the fourth volume of the I
Tatti Renaissance Library project of reediting Marsilio Ficino's
Platonic Theology, thus superseding Raymond Marcel's pioneering
edition and French translation published in 1964-1970. In addition,
this new edition provides for the first time an English translation
facing the Latin text, making Ficino's Platonic Theology available
to a wide readership. It also includes, at the end of the volume,
two sets of explanatory notes (to the text and to the translation),
a selected bibliography of secondary sources, and an author and
Volume IV of the I Tatti edition contains Books XII-XIV of Ficino's Platonic Theology. It includes some of the most important Renaissance texts on the immortality of the soul and on the concepts of theurgy, phantasy and vacatio. Book XII demonstrates that the soul is immortal because it is formed by the Divine Mind, and deals with the soul's ascent to the divine ideas. Book XIII demonstrates the soul's immortality by four signs : phantasy, reason and prophecy, arts, and miracles. Book XIV demonstrates the soul's immortality from the fact that the soul strives to become God.
1) The text:
The text incorporates several significant improvements to Marcel's edition, avoiding numerous misprints and unnecessary conjectural emendations. At the end of the volume the "notes to the translation" include the variant readings of the different witnesses and indicate departures from Marcel's edition.
As previously shown by Marcel (Marsile Ficin. Théologie Platonicienne. Tome I. Livres I-VIII, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1964, pp. 17-30), the text of Platonic Theology is preserved in two manuscripts, the London manuscript Harleianus 3482 (the personal copy written for King Fernando the First), and the Florence manuscript Pluteus 83.10 (the dedication copy written for Lorenzo de' Medici). Harleianus 3482 derives from the second edition printed in Venice in 1491 and can therefore be eliminated from the apparatus. Laurentianus Pluteus 83.10, however, contains a text that is independent of the editio princeps (Florence 1482). There are therefore two primary witnesses, which probably derive independently from the same archetype: the editio princeps, printed in Florence in 1482, which Ficino saw through the press and probably corrected himself (= A), and the Florence manuscript Pluteus 83.10 (= L). The text is also preserved in five early modern editions, including the famous Basle edition of 1576 of Ficino's complete works. Excerpts of the text are to be found in other works by Ficino: the Disputatio contra iudicium astrologicum (preserved in the codex unicus Magliabechiano XX, 58), as well as his Letters, his Compendium Platonicae Theologiae, and his De Christianae Religione.
As stated in the first volume of the edition (p. 315), the I Tatti editors have drawn from Marcel's edition, which is based upon the collation of the two manuscripts (H and L), the first two editions printed during Ficino's lifetime (A and B), and the five other early modern editions. However, they have completely re-collated the text's two primary witnesses and, as a result, they have been able to emend Marcel's collation, which was not always accurate. They also tend to adopt, when possible, the text as it is preserved in the manuscripts/editions and sensibly delete Marcel's sometimes unnecessary corrections and conjectural additions. For example, in XIII, 4, section 16, the editors have avoided Marcel's conjecture illa, preferring AL's reading ille (si quando anima hominis ita fingat aciem suam in deum divinoque lumine impleatur rapiaturque ut ILLE tunc aeque coruscat, ...). In one place (XIV, 10, § 11), however, the editors follow Marcel's excellent conjecture delebit instead of A's debebit and L's habebit (itaque si deum colere cogit certa quaedam positio siderum, brevi positio contraria e memoria hominum divinos DELEBIT honores).
Hankins' re-collation of the two primary witnesses (A and L) also indicates that Marcel's text followed sometimes too readily that of the Basle edition (which had itself been unnecessarily corrected by its editor) in places where A and L offer a better reading (e.g. converso : e converso Marcel, Op; suppliciter : simpliciter Marcel, Op; appetant : appetent Marcel, Op; quid mirum : quid mirum est Marcel, Op; appetit : petit Marcel, Op.).
2) The translation:
The I Tatti Renaissance Library also provides for the first time an English translation of Ficino's Platonic Theology, facing the Latin text. It is divided into chapters and paragraphs and annotated. Michael J. B. Allen, who has already edited, translated and commented upon several works of Ficino (including Ficino's commentaries on Plato's Sophist, Philebus, Phaedrus), provides here an altogether elegant and readable translation.
The "notes to the translation" include Ficino's sources for quotations and allusions. Although they follow closely Marcel's references, Allen's notes are more complete and accurate (e.g. the reference in XII, 1 is to Psalm 4, 6 and 36, 9 and not, as indicated by Marcel, Psalm 4, 7 and 25, 10). One will also find useful explanations to the text and alternative translations of difficult passages, as well as some basic information concerning the sources used by Ficino and the broader context in which these sources are used.
A very short bibliography at the end of the volume lists secondary sources on Ficino and Renaissance humanism, including two bibliographies (Kristeller's Marsilio Ficino and His Work after Five Hundred Years and the bibliography updated annually in the journal Accademia). To the works mentioned, however, the editors ought to have added major contributions by scholars in other languages than English, and in particular the seminal works of Eugenio Garin and Cesare Vasoli.
Volume 4. Books XII–XIV.
7. Book XII.1-4. Immortality proof based on relationship of the mind to God; its being formed by God. The general structure of the argument is as follows: if the mind is formed by the Divine Mind, it is immortal; but it is in fact formed by the Divine Mind for suchand-such a reason, therefore etc. Ficino then answers a possible objection: why are we nor ordinarily conscious of being formed by the Divine Mind?
8. Book XII.5-7. Three confirmations of the arguments in II.B.1-7 derived from a consideration of sight, hearing, and the mind. These confirmations take the form of extensive quotations from Augustine. This provides a bridge to the next section on signs.
C. Books XIII-XIV. Immortality shown by 'signs' (rather than reasons)
1. Book XIII. The soul shown to be immortal by signs of the soul's power over things beneath it and its own body, for example in psychosomatic phenomena, in phantasy, prophecy, the arts, and in the performance of miracles. The magical powers of the soul.
a. Book XIV. Twelve signs from the soul's imitation of what is above it: i.e. the soul's desire to be like God. Remarks on the nature and universality of religion. Answer to the Lucretians.
Volume 5 Books XV–XVI.
III. Books XV-XVIII. Resolution of five questions relating to the soul's immortality.
A. Book XV. Question Is there one soul for all mankind? This book contains an exhaustive refutation of Averroes, and is in a sense the centerpiece of the entire work, in that it draws extensively on Ficino's prior exposition and argumentation.
B. Book XVI.1-6. Question 2: Why then did God put souls in bodies at all? Answers to Epicureans.
C. Book XVI.7. Question 3: Why do rational souls experience tumultuous emotions?
D. Book XVI.8. Question 4: Why do rational souls depart unwillingly from bodies? I.e., why is there fear of death if souls are just returning to their true home, and departing from the miseries of this life?
Volume 6. Books XVII-XVIII.
E. Books XVII-XVIII. Question 5: What is the status of soul before entering the body and after leaving it? The creation and composition of souls; their kinds and their circuits (i.e., their descents and ascents).
I. Book XVII. Excursus on issues of interpretation: what is the true Platonic position on transmigration?
a. Book XVII.2-3. The interpretation of the last two ancient Platonic academies.
b. Book XVII.4. The interpretation of Plato of the first four academies, and the two better academies. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls is condemned.
2. Book Excursus on the nature of creation in general, presenting and defending "the theology common to the Hebrews, Christians, and Arabs," i.e. (a) that the world was created at a certain moment of time; (b) that angels were created from the beginning; (c) that new immortal souls are continuously created in time. Ficino's goal is to establish a wider theological framework, creation in general, for his discussion of point (c): the continuous or sequential creation of individual souls in time.
XVIII.1. Arguments that the world was created in time. XVIII.2. Arguments for the creation of angels and souls in time.
3. Book XVIII.3. The creation of human souls in time. Arguments for the continuous, sequential creation of souls by God. The creation of souls is regulated by Providence, not by chance sexual unions. Why souls had to be created successively rather than all at once.
4. Book XVIII.4-7. The descent of souls.
a. Book XVIII.4. The descent of the soul into the body. The aethereal vehicle of the soul. The theory that the soul has three vehicles, celestial, aerial, and elemental.
b. Book XVIII.5. In what part of heaven souls are created. The influence of the stars and their configurations on the soul in its descent.
c. Book XVIII.6. Physical generation in the body; the soul's attendant genius; our souls' need for the protection of higher powers.
d. Book XVIII.7. Infusion of the soul into the mid-point of the body, the heart, and the soul's relation with the body's heat, its spirit, its humors and heavier members.
5. Book XVIII.8-12. The ascent of souls, or more broadly, what happens to the soul and its body after death.
a. Book XVIII.8. The state of pure souls after separation from the body, i.e., the souls of the blessed. The capacity of the rational soul to see the light of God; capacity of the soul to love God's light. The ninefold degrees of blessedness; the changelessness of the pure soul; the nature of its union with God; that even the lowest species of soul—the human rational soul — is capable of union with God; ranking of souls in heaven; rest of reason in the vision of God; rest of the will in the love of God.
b. Book XVIII.9. On the bodies of pure souls after death, i.e. the resurrection of the body, prefigured in pagan religion and confirmed by the three modern religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Four proofs of the Resurrection from "Christian theologians", i.e. Thomas Aquinas. Further arguments from the order of nature.
c. Book XVIII.10. The state of the impure soul. Platonic and Christian doctrines of rewards and punishments compared; the four ways of living life; the possibility that impure souls without fixed habits of evil can attain blessedness after death; the doctrine of the afterlife and hell in the ancient theologians.
d. The middle state of rational souls that are neither pure nor impure. What happens to children who die before they are capable of making a choice of life; what happens to persons who are mentally defective.
e. Concluding exhortation to live for eternity, not for this life.
Commentaries on Plato, Volume 1, Phaedrus and Ion (The I Tatti Renaissance Library) by Marsilio Ficino and Michael J. B. Allen (Harvard University Press) Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), the Florentine scholar-philosopher-magus, was largely responsible for the Renaissance revival of Plato. The publication of his Latin translations of the dialogues in 1484 was an intellectual event of the first magnitude, making the Platonic canon accessible to western Europe after the passing of a millennium and establishing Plato as an authority for Renaissance thought. This volume contains Ficino’s extended analysis and commentary on the Phaedrus, which he explicates as a meditation on “beauty in all its forms” and a sublime work of theology. In the commentary on the Ion, Ficino explores a poetics of divine inspiration that leads to the Neoplatonist portrayal of the soul as a rhapsode whose song is an ascent into the mind of God. Both works bear witness to Ficino’s attempt to revive a Christian Platonism and what might be called an Orphic Christianity.
Review by Giorgio A. Pinton:
In my reviewing of this volume, I will mainly limit myself to the consideration of its structural organization, with fewer remarks about the content, and even less about its enormous importance for the study of the father of the Renaissance.
The book is volume 1 in the i Tatti Renaissance Library series that intends to make available to scholars all the writings of Marsilio Ficino on Plato. To this end, Michael J. B. Allen has written about the important presence and place of the Phaedrus within Plato’s and Ficino’s thought, method, and historiography and their textual encounter. In the introduction, Allen corrects the date given to Plato’s writing of Phaedrus and places it between 1466 and 1468. He also underlines the importance of handling this dialogue with “extreme delicacy and circumspection” (p. xxi) given the opinions expressed on its subject matter: the frenzy of love, physical and celestial. The notions expressed by Socrates often are those of his predecessors, the Pythagoreans, rather than his own or Plato’s. Socrates, says Allen, is speaking as the medium of an earlier wisdom. With Oscar P. Kristeller Allen claims that the eventual publication of Ficino’s Platonic works in 1484 far surpassed all other translations of the time and constituted “an intellectual event of the first magnitude, since they established Plato as a newly discovered authority for the Renaissance who could now take precedence over Aristotle” (p. xxiii). Eugenio Garin said that Ficino relied at first on Latin translations of Plato; that he studied Greek beginning in 1458-59 and that it was only in 1462 that Cosimo the Elder and Amerigo Benci gave Ficino the gift of a Platonic Codex that Ficino began to translate into Latin. As Allen says, the 1460s was “the most productive decade in an exceptionally productive life” (p. xxii).
The introduction, translation of the text, appendices, notes, bibliography, and index are due to the editor-translator. The rest is by the hand of Ficino, who translated from Greek the central part of the dialogue, which has traditionally been identified by the paragraphs and the sentences numbered 243E9-256A7, and named the "mythical hymn,” as Socrates refers to it at a different spot in the dialogue, at 265C (in the Stephanus pagination, known as the standard subdivision of Plato’s dialogues). As the`serious student will read the full introduction, so must the general reader and the interested student because, from p. 1 on, this book at first glance may seem a muddle. Recognizing the problem, the editor has provided the map (p. xxviii). His personal evaluation of Ficino’s translation of the Phaedrus (part 1: from pp. 2-3 to pp. 36-37), Ficino’s commentary on Phaedrus (part 2: from pp. 38-39 to pp. 102-103), and Ficino’s own summaries of the chapters of the whole dialogue (part 3: from pp. 104-105 to pp. 192-193) is found at pp. xxix-xxxvii.
Part 1, or the mythical hymn, is the central core of the dialogue and is composed of twenty-one (from chapter 13 to 33) of the fifty-three chapters into which the dialogue is subdivided in Ficino and which are all presented in a kind of interpretative summa in part 3 (pp. xxxi-xxxii). It was natural for Ficino to concentrate his commentary (part 2) on the twenty-one chapters, or mythical hymn (part 1), since they were the ones that captured his inner soul and tormented him for many years thereafter with the anguish of finding the final interpretation and solution to the problems they raised, as one can see in part 2 (the palinode).
Part 2, or the commentary, unfortunately is at its own turn divided by Ficino into eleven chapters, the first three of which were once a unity for “the assessment of the Phaedrus in the 1460s” (p. xxix). It is a confirmation of the fact that he did not renege on or revise it, when he put it into the present format. The next eight chapters constitute the commentary proper. Chapter 4 begins with 245A and “deals exclusively with the divine frenzies, primarily the poetic” (p. xxx). Chapters 5 and 6 address the rigorously syllogistic section from 245C to 246A, which concerns the soul’s immortality. Chapters 7, 8, and 9 treat of the soul nature and powers, that is, the ramifications of the charioteer, horses, wings, wheels, and the chariot myth. Chapters 10 and 11 present the Jovian cavalcade (how the gods may be multiplied in four ways) and its cosmological flight (the four worlds, the supercelestial place, the twelve gods). Allen is diligent in providing some precious lines that show in brief the continuity in these sections concerning the drama of the soul in its ascent: “with the individual soul’s ascent through the four divine inspirations [see Ion, or part 4], then with the ascent to immortality, … and finally with the ascent of the Soul (Jupiter) and all the souls, as a cavalcade of gods and men, … beyond the arch of the intellectual heaven to gaze upon the supracelestial place, the portal of the transcendent One” (p. xxxi).
In part 3, Ficino reviews every chapter: briefly for chapters 1-12 (227A-243E) and chapters 34-53 (257A-279C); extensively for chapters 13-33, the palinode or mythical hymn (243E9-256A7), about which he could never feel unambiguously sure of having fully understood the meaning, the imagery, and Plato’s handling of it. “The Phaedrus was about the most august mysteries of inspiration, theogony, incarnation, soteriology, eschatology, and purification, as Jamblichus had long ago insisted by defining its genre as theological, not as logical, physical, or ethical” (p. xi).
Hermias and Theon of Smyrna had also compiled a commentary on Phaedrus, but Ficino, because of its complexity and multiple perspectives, returned often to meditate on it, always unable to express with definitive words the infinitely indefinitive. Several times, Ficino referred to this dialogue, mainly to the palinode (the mythical hymn and its commentary), and in some other writings and letters, approached it as the archaeologist of thought he had been, the philologist of ancient Greek he became, the priest of the Platonic temple of light and love, he wanted to be. He felt himself incapable of reaching the ultimate meaning of the Phaedran palinode, aware of the presence in it of the same idea of the eternal revelation he found in the Hermes Trismegistus.
Though always unsatisfied, uneasy, in regard to the Phaedrus, the Phaedrus “had supplied [Ficino] with some of his most haunting concepts and images, as it had the ancient Neoplatonists before him.” His characterization of the Phaedran charioteer became “one of the Renaissance’s most potent and expressive self-images.” We may affirm, “he was unquestionably the best equipped scholar-philosopher in the Latin West to rise to the challenge of interpreting its riches” (p. xxxv).
In part 4, with his interpretation and introduction to Ion, Ficino returns to the consideration of the positions taken in regard to the frenzy of love and other frenzies in the Phaedrus. The dialogue Ion is short; it is contained between paragraphs 530-542 in the Stephanus pagination. In itself, Ion is another ramification from the Phaedrus, at least the way Ficino reads it. Ficino's introduction to Ion consists of four chapters that he wrote for his commentary in Convivium (speech 7.13-7.14) and five more, in which Ficino’s interpretation “elevates the image of the rhapsode to the level of a universal condition: man as rhapsode is man in search of the divine gift” of inspiration (p. xxxvii). And it is the four kinds of inspiration from God that this introduction-commentary on Ion deals with: the poetic frenzy, or first step from the multiplicity of soul’s dispersions; the priestly frenzy, or expiation and ritualization of the worship from the gods to one god; the prophetic frenzy, or foresight of future events; finally, the frenzy of the love that converts into the One. The Ion returns to use the images of the charioteer and his horses, and this fact must have influenced Ficino to consider Ion the extension of Phaedrus.
Even those with little Latin would enjoy these splendid and uncommon texts of Ficino, thanks to the editor’s formatting and his captivating English narration. The profundity and expertise shown by Prof. Allen in the introduction should not remain unnoticed or disregarded. The only way to value and enjoy these sublime texts on the Platonism of the Renaissance is to read the pages of the introduction alternatively with the pages of the texts to which they refer.
The above revie is by Giorgio A. Pinton. Review of Ficino, Marsilio, Commentaries on Plato, Volume 1, Phaedrus and Ion. from H-Italy, H-Net Reviews. March, 2010
Commentaries on Plato, Volume 1, Phaedrus and Ion (The I Tatti Renaissance Library) by Marsilio Ficino and Michael J. B. Allen (Harvard University Press)
This work is a revision of
Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer by Michael J. B.
Allen (Publications of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance
Studies: University of California Press) and especially
The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of His Phaedrus
Commentary, Its Sources and Genesis by Michael Allen
(Publications of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance
Studies: University of California Press).
Marsilio Ficino and the Phaedran Charioteer by Michael J. B. Allen (Publications of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies: University of California Press) Socrates' mythical hymn in the Phaedrus 243E-257A, with its charioteer struggling to master his stallions in flight with the gods, is, along with the flickering cave of the Republic and the Phaedo's hemlock death, one of Plato's most dazzling and memorable pieces. It is also the most self-consciously poetic in terms of its diction, gorgeous rhythms and figures, dramatic juxtapositions, elaborate allegory, and symphonic structure.' Socrates himself emerges, though through veils of irony, not as the gadfly at the cabbage ears of Athenian youth or the lips of their favorite Sophists, the shop logician with his tradesman's analogies archly analyzing terms, but as the ecstatic seer, the poet-prophet, singing to Corybantian measures of man's agonistic ascent to heaven, of the fall, of true knowledge, of immortality; singing, moreover, in an unfamiliar setting, aureoled by cicadas beside a river at noon, in a grove hallowed by the local deities, and 400 yards upstream from an altar dedicated to the rape of Oreithyia by the North Wind; his companion, the radiant Phaedrus, the initiator of the night's debate in the Symposium and the champion there of Love's divinity.
This mythical hymn—which Socrates so describes at 265BC —is beguilingly distanced and qualified, however, by various literary devices. Inaugurated by the analysis of two syllogisms and ended by a prayer, it offsets two previous speeches, one by
Lysias and another by Socrates, and is itself presented as a palinode to the god of Love. It is also orbited by satellite myths and invocations—themselves calling for sensitive interpretation—which underscore its mythic nature and simultaneously reinforce its concern with the kinds and degrees of divine inspiration, mania, madness. Though formally bracketed in this way, the hymn nevertheless exercizes dominion over the rest of the material and serves, in the opinion of both ancient and modern commentators, as the dialogue's prismatic centerpiece.
Allen has spoken of the hymn rather than of the dialogue as a whole, since it was this that also fascinated Marsilio Ficino, the fifteenth-century Florentine whose work was patronized by three generations of the Medici and who was one of the most interesting and exotic luminaries of the European Renaissance. Translator from the Greek and commentator; Christian apologist, theologian, teacher, exegete, priest; musical theorist and notable performer; mythologist, metaphysician, lapsed astrologer; belletrist, ethician, versifier, dialectician; medical theorist and practitioner and love theorist; psychiatrist, Thomist, demonologist; Hermetist, Orphic, Augustinian, Dantean, dietician; historian of poetry, religion, philosophy, and pleasure; quietist, mystic, mage, humanist, wit; devout son and timid sycophant; above all, Neoplatonist, Ficino was a highly derivative and original, conservative and bizarre, succinctly repetitive scholar-thinker, as difficult for us to assess in detail now as in entirety. Despite the research of several scholars this century, and preeminently that of Paul Oskar Kristeller, much remains to be discovered and understood about him, for his enormous influence, contemporary and posthumous, has been better charted than many of his guiding conceptions and motifs, including that of the Phaedran chariot and its charioteer.
A symbol of the sun's disk for many of the ancient Semitic and Indo-European peoples, in the West the chariot has long been associated with the world of Homer, where it bears Achaian and Trojan princes alike to victory and defeat on the windy plains.' It was, of course, the ultimate war machine of antiquity as well as an image of royalty, the embodiment of superhuman speed, awesome and ineluctable. In his career the charioteer united the strength and beauty of the stallion with the intelligence and courage of man and thereby became a being who transcended the limitations of both the human body and the brute mind. Within but not enslaved to the chariot—like his parodic counterpart, the lust-driven centaur—he was man at the height of terrible triumph, self-determining and free. Sung by Pindar and later carved in the Arch of Titus, he thundered forward in an intensification of life towards a mastery of death; and he was the hero, in both ancient and Renaissance depictions and allegorizations of the triumph theme, who returned, bringing peace into his city with the spoils of conquest. He was active man, that is, in his paradoxical struggle to achieve serenity through violence.
Just as the Bhagavad Gita has Arjuna turn to the charioteer, the god Krishna, on the very threshold of battle, however, to ascend the spiraling contradictions of being and nonbeing, so too many texts in the pre-Christian and the Christian West also recognized the value of the charioteer as a symbol of mystical ascent. Ficino knew the fragmentary Poema of Plato's most distinguished predecessor, Parmenides, the Eleatic monist, where the poet describes a visionary chariot ride up through the gates of Night and Day, accompanied by the daughters of the Sun, to be welcomed by an unnamed goddess whose instruction fails to inspire the rest of the plodding hexameters. He was even more familiar, though, with the fiery chariot in the second book of Kings which caught Elijah (Elias) up to heaven in a whirlwind;' with the apocalyptic four-wheeled "chariot" of the cherubim which Ezekiel witnessed in a vision by the river of Chebar in the land of the Chaldees; and with the four horses, the white one bearing a rider later called Faithful and True, which John sees at the opening of the seven seals in Revelation. In addition, and perhaps with Dante's description of the triumph of Beatrice also in mind, he was drawn to the enigmatic verses in 2 Corinthians where Paul speaks of being caught up to the third heaven, to paradise, for he interpreted it as taking place in the chariot of "upright faith, and steadfast hope, and burning charity." Though none of these classical or biblical chariots or charioteers is winged per se, they all translate the horizontal warrior's onslaught into a vertical flight: endowed with the power of wings, they might well have been endowed with actual wings, the archetypal symbols of transcendence. As precedents here Ficino could recall the god-given horses of Pelops; Pegasus, the symbol, for the Romans, of immortality itself; and Ezekiel's four-faced cherubim with the likeness of the hands of a man under their wings.
While these several associations, along with others undoubtedly derived from contemporary carnivals and trionfi, all had something to contribute, it was nevertheless the Phaedrus's palinode that supplied Ficino, as it had supplied the ancient Neoplatonists commencing with Plotinus and Iamblichus," with the paradigmatic symbol of the soul's struggle to ascend as a unified being to the vision of immutable reality. And not only the human soul: indebted perhaps to Orpheus and the Pythagoreans, Plato had ventured further than Homer or Parmenides and depicted the souls of the gods themselves as charioteers too, gazing upwards at the supracelestial place of the Ideas beyond the bounds of their intellectual heaven. He had transformed the Homeric charioteer into a symbol not only of the human soul in divine ecstasy, but of Jove as the world-soul, the progenitor of motion and of life, leading the cosmic cavalcade of all the souls and gods back to their metaphysical source. The old symbol of war and triumph, even of spiritual triumph, had thus become a theological type prefiguring, for Ficino, the ascension of men and angels under Christ as the first, last, and sovereign charioteer at the head of the hosts of the saved returning to God.
Also associated with the image of the charioteer, though less obviously, were Plato's intriguing references in the`Phaedrus to a mysterious but supremely important entity, the soul's "aethereal vehicle," the spiritual body or envelope that had been the concern of much ancient theosophical and theurgical speculation but was also the object of considerable fascination for Ficino and his Renaissance contemporaries, philosophers, mages, and astrologers alike.
In short, the Phaedrus was fundamentally about the mysteries at the heart of theogony, incarnation, soteriology, eschatology, and purification, as Iamblichus had long ago insisted by defining its genre as theological, not logical, physical, or ethical." Indeed, for the Florentine, as for the Neoplatonists, the Phaedrus seemed to be one of Plato's most explicit works of theology (second only to the Parmenides and, possibly, the Timaeus), and its charioteer, therefore, one of his premier myths for truly liberated man, man as a peer of the angelic orders, of the gods themselves.
With the major exceptions of the Meno and Phaedo, and parts of the Parmenides and Timaeus, Plato's dialogues were completely lost to the West during the Middle Age—the Byzantine East is a different matter—though Platonism continued to flourish under various guises, and particularly Augustinianism. Not until Ficino himself translated it did the entire canon become accessible again after the passing of a millennium and Plato move into his European own. The Phaedrus, however, was one of several dialogues that had already captured the notice of humanists. A year after Aurispa and Traversari had brought over a complete Plato manuscript from Byzantium in 1423, Leonardo Bruni finished a partial Latin translation of the Phaedrus (up to 257C), the only attempt to precede Ficino's. Occasionally, the dialogue figured in Plethora's reconstruction of ancient pagan theology and in the uproar that swirled around him as a consequence even after his death in 1458. By that year it was also at the storm center of bitter debate between other Byzantine Plato enthusiasts (and their Italian admirers) and a Cretan Aristotelian lecturing in Italy, the great polemicist and anti-Plethonian, George of Trebizond, who charged it with advocating the "Socratic vice" of pederasty. In 1459, not long before Ficino embarked on his own Plato translations, Cardinal Bessarion, George's distinguished antagonist, defended the dialogue on the grounds that it portrayed love as a cathartic, not as a sexual, force and should be interpreted in the light of Diotima's ladder in the Symposium. Controversy smouldered during the 1460s until, after a final flare with the publication of Bessarion's magnum opus in 1469, it died away with the deaths of both George and the cardinal in 1472. Thus, unlike most of the other dialogues, the Phaedrus had made an impact before Ficino began to translate and elucidate its secrets. After him it became one of the age's most treasured texts, whether read in the Greek, in Ficino's Latin—which quickly superseded Bruni's —or in Felice Figliucci's sixteenth-century Italian translation of Ficino's Latin.
Apart from the manifest appeal and difficulty of the work and his contemporaries' ambivalent attraction to it, three external reasons must have influenced Ficino's decision to single it out, with a handful of other dialogues, for extended analysis and commentary—the first since antiquity. First would be his understanding of the status of the Phaedrus in the eyes of the ancient Neoplatonists. Attacked on various grounds by critics prior to Plotinus, the Phaedrus was radically upgraded by those who followed him. Plotinus himself was partially responsible for this turnabout, for he frequently lauds the Phaedrus's myth along with sundry of its arguments and at one point argues that the "heaven" of 246E must be deemed, not the celestial heaven, but intelligible reality." According to Bielmeier and, more recently, Dillon and Larsen, however, the real revolution came with Iamblichus. He not only promulgated what came to be, at least for a while, definitive answers to the complicated questions of the dialogue's genre, principal theme (skopos), and structure, but also insisted, apparently for the first time, on interpreting the Phaedran Zeus, not as a cosmic deity, as the celestial world-soul, but as the supramundane, supracelestial demiurgic leader from the intelligible realm." While Plotinus had argued for the intelligibility of the heaven at 246E, he had accepted Zeus as the world-soul; and Ficino thought this the preferable interpretation, as he says in chapter 11. Nevertheless, it was Iamblichus's supramundanist, uncompromisingly the ological interpretation that prevailed in late antiquity, and was, in essence, the one expounded and elaborated by Syrianus and his two pupils, Hermias and the brilliant Proclus—at least insofar as we can ascertain from Hermias's Phaedrus commentary, our primary source of evidence on this matter and the only extant Phaedrus commentary of the several we have references to." Even if he rejected Iamblichus's views on the Phaedrus, Ficino was certainly aware of them, having drafted a Latin translation of Hermias's entire commentary. This mediated knowledge of lamblichus together with long years of working firsthand with Plotinus's extensive but often rather elusive and enigmatic references to the Phaedrus would be quite sufficient to furnish him with a good understanding of the ancient significance of the dialogue. Additionally, from as early as the 1460s he seems to have known Proclus's long masterpiece, the Platonic Theology, for we have his autograph notes and glosses in a manuscript containing the full extant Greek text of this and two other Proclan works, the Elements of Theology and the Elements of Physics. H. D. Saffrey has discovered that these notes seem to have been jotted down at various times during Ficino's career, though most of them probably date from the 1490s. They cover all six books of the Platonic Theology, and therefore books 1 and 4, where Proclus had most to say on the Phaedrus and particularly on its various categories of gods, their ascent, and their gazing upward at "the supracelestial place. Though Ficino disagreed with many points in Proclus's reading, still, the area of Proclus's explicit concentration, his conviction of the work's theological importance, and his emphasis throughout on the inspired nature of Socrates's vision, must have all reinforced Ficino's own sense of the dialogue's structure and meaning and alerted him to the kinds of problems it posed. Indeed, of the three ancient Phaedrus interpreters Ficino had access to, Allen suspects that it was Proclus who most influenced his general approach to the mythical hymn, even though he barely mentioned him and though he rejected his supramundanist interpretation of Zeus, preferring Plotinus as his guide.
The second reason for Ficino's interest in the Phaedrus would be its appearance as the fourth member of the third tetralogy in Thrasyllus's arrangement of the dialogues as reported by Diogenes Laertius (to whom we often give little credence, but whom Ficino constantly used as an authority)." The other members of this tetralogy are the Parmenides, the Philebus, and the Symposium. Each we now assign to Plato's middle or late middle periods, when he was at the height of his powers, but the ancient Neoplatonists also acknowledged these works as the cornerstones of Plato's philosophy, even though they differed among themselves on the correct chronology. For Ficino the members of the tetralogy had as their themes the One, the Good, Love, and Beauty, respectively; that is, Ideas that transcended other Ideas in Plato's general theory and had thus become meta-Ideas, the ultimate abstract realities. Though Ficino subsequently paired off the members, the Symposium and the Phaedrus constituting the subordinate pair," the four taken together formed a very special group—as the numerologically significant position of being the third tetralogy in a series of nine would also seem to testify. Ficino managed to write three long commentaries on the tetralogy's first three members, though one he never finished," and clearly he intended an equivalent for the Phaedrus, in part, I surmise, to do justice to the Thrasyllean arrangement and its putative logic.
The third reason would be the outcome of one of those scholarly errors that very occasionally, as in the case of the Areopagite, give rise to speculation with its own enduring worth and fascination. Now usually placed between the Republic and the Symposium on the one hand and the Theaetetus and the Parmenides on the other," the Phaedrus, so both Bruni and Ficino believed, was composed in Plato's youth along with the Meno and the Phaedo. Indeed, but for the epigrams, elegies, and incinerated tragedies, it was the very first of Plato's writings and the product therefore of poetic inspiration (Plato's inspiration being, by Diogenes's influential account, initially poetic)." The original introduction Ficino wrote for his Latin translation of the Phaedrus, an introduction that afterwards also did duty as the opening three chapters of the Phaedrus commentary, orients us as follows: "Our Plato was pregnant with the madness of the poetic Muse, whom he followed from a tender age or rather from his Apollonian generation. In his radiance, Plato gave birth to his first child, and it was itself almost entirely poetical and radiant." The themes of youth, beauty, love, and poetry are, as they are for the company in the Symposium, intertwined for Ficino, and they seem to be those he initially selected for mention, before the theological aspects came to dominate his attention. Their presence in the dialogue surely reinforced his conviction of its youthfulness.
This conviction was not uniquely his and Bruni's. Both were adhering to ancient doxographical tradition as transmitted by Diogenes Laertius, Olympiodorus, and others," and which in turn they helped to transmit through to the first half of the nineteenth century. The Phaedrus, Diogenes claimed on anonymously reported testimony, had a youthful theme (echein meirakiõdes ti to problèma); but the nature of this theme had always been a matter of debate, and particularly after lamblichus had declared, on the basis of the Phaedrus's own argument at 264C that a speech should be put together organically, that "everything in the dialogue [indeed in any dialogue] must relate to some one end, that the dialogue may be, so to speak, one living being. While Thrasyllus had simply assigned a dominant theme to each dialogue, the Symposium being on the Good, the Phaedrus on Love, and so forth, the post-Iamblichean Neoplatonists insisted that each dialogue had a unique, all-embracing theme, called the skopos, which other subordinate themes had as their end and goal and to which absolutely everything else, however minor or incidental, was tied.' Thus the Par-men ides was on the One, the Philebus on the Highest Good, the Symposium on Love, the Lysis on Friendship. Since this was too rigid a schema for the multifariousness of what Plato had actually written, disagreement continued, even among orthodox Neoplatonists, over the skopoi of many dialogues: Was the Philebus on pleasure, the good for man, the highest good, and so on? Still, to look for the skopos was to look for a dialogue's inner unity and, at the same time, for its special contribution to the edifice of Platonic doctrine, its role in the greater whole of the canon. To rest content with the variegated play of ideas and their dramatic juxtapositions, with the experimental, experiential, paradoxical testing of theories and definitions, would have seemed to them, as to Ficino, rather the overingenious appreciation of a dramatist than the genuine understanding of a philosopher and theologian. The Phaedrus, though, presented peculiar problems.
Hermias spends a number of his opening pages reviewing—twice, in fact—the various skopological possibilities that had already been proposed—love, rhetoric, the soul, the good, prime beauty, each of these but none with absolute primacy. Eventually he justifies Iamblichus's view that the skopos was beauty in all its forms (peri tou pantodapou kalou) on the grounds that it includes the other possibilities: we pass from the physical beauty inspiring love to the beauty of rhetoric, to the beauty of soul, to the beauty of the cosmic gods, to the beauty of intellect, to the Beautiful itself. Subsequently, in a corresponding descent, we pass, via the art of division (diairesis), to the beauty of soul, to the beauty of rhetoric, to the physical beauty inspiring love, and thus arrive at our point of departure." Consideration of the skopos therefore provided an insight into the structure of the Phaedrus and reinforced Iamblichus's view of its genre as theological; for Plato's concern with other kinds of beauty was clearly subordinated here to that of the beauty of the soul, of the gods, and of the Beautiful itself.
While evincing some hesitation and without committing himself to the structural extension of Hermias's argument, Ficino accepted this "beauty in all its forms" as the dialogue's theme. Simultaneously, when penning the introduction if not later, he felt the Phaedrus naturally complemented the Symposium. Not only did Phaedrus figure prominently in both dialogues, but both treated the same inspirational themes, with the possible exception of rhetoric, and in both the ascent motif predominated. We must reverse our sense of the mutual relationship, however: for Ficino, Phaedrus's conversation with Socrates by the murmuring Ilissus preceded his passionate defense of Love's antiquity at Agathon's celebration banquet; that is, Plato's consideration of love grew naturally out of a consideration of beauty. This is logical when we recall that beauty is traditionally both the most accessible of divine attributes and the mark of youth. By being beautiful, youth inspires in others the desire for beauty, which is love. In reciprocating love, youth then takes its first step on the road to wisdom, which is inner beauty (Phaedrus 279B).4°
Phaedrus, to whom Plato had addressed a lovesick epigram," whom Socrates and Lysias had also loved, and whose very name means youthful and radiant and inspiring love," is therefore Plato's archetypal youth at the foot of the Diotiman ladder of ascent to ideal Beauty, waiting to become the godlike charioteer. By the same token he is the archetypal pupil inspiring the teacher to his heuristic task. Hence, Ficino observes, though devoted to beauty in all its forms, the dialogue is especially concerned with beauty as we perceive it via our three cognitive powers: intelligence, sight, and hearing." Appropriately, therefore, the theme of Plato's first dialogue is beauty, since it is the trigger theme for all others. Appropriate, too, is the personal dimension, since Phaedrus had inspired both Socrates and Plato to their subsequent work: from him, his beauty, and his dialogue had come their desire to teach the mysteries. This unexpected angle was dramatically reinforced by Ficino's decision to entrust Phaedrus's Symposium speech to the aristocratic Cavalcanti, his own Platonic friend, the etymology of whose name, I believe, signified for Ficino in this context a mastery of the unruly Phaedran steeds."
Whereas Diogenes Laertius referred in the first instance to the youthfulness of the Phaedrus's theme, others, such as Dicaearchus, had censured its youthful style, characterizing it as "turgid" and "overwrought" (phortikos), or, more positively, with Olympiodorus, as "dithyrambic"' (following Socrates himself at 238D!). According to Hermias, these stylistic strictures were widespread in antiquity, though he himself defended Plato on the grounds that he had utilized a variety of styles in the Phaedrus in order to deal with its variety of subject matter." While Ficino accepted the style as further proof of the dialogue's youthfulness, he was struck by its "radiance" and "loveliness", by its being demon endowed even with a "poetic" vision,' a vision that, as he forcefully points out on a number of occasions, reveals itself in virtually all the dialogues but is absolutely primary here. In the proem accompanying the 1484 edition, Ficino draws Lorenzo's attention to Plato's amphibian style:
Plato's style does not so much resemble human speech as a divine oracle, often thundering from on high, often dripping with the sweetness of nectar, but always comprehending heavenly secrets . . . . The Platonic style, in containing all things, has three principal gifts in abundance: the philosophic usefulness of its opinions, the oratorical order of its arrangement and expression, and the ornament of its poetical flowers.
Again, in a letter of 1476-1477 to the humanist Bartolomeo della Fonte, Ficino writes:
If you hear the celestial Plato you immediately recognize that his style, as Aristotle says, flows midway between prose and poetry. You recognize that Plato's language, as Quintilian says, rises far above the pedestrian and prosaic, so that our Plato seems inspired not by human genius but by a Delphic oracle. Indeed the mixing or tempering of prose and poetry in Plato so delighted Cicero that he declared: "If Jupiter wished to speak in human language, he would speak only in the language of Plato."
If this is true of Plato's style in general, it is eminently so for that of the Phaedrus, where Ficino sees Socrates inspired by a number of deities and subject to an ascending series of divine madnesses, beginning with the poetic. Thus as the first great poem by Plato—whom Ficino believed to be the last and greatest of the prisci theologi, the tradition of ancient poets, prophets, priests, and philosopher—the Phaedrus establishes poetry as the philosophic mode par excellence and the poetical style as the authentically Platonic style.
Whatever the nature of the thematic and stylistic evidence from Diogenes, Olympiodorus, Hermias, and others, the fact of the priority of the Phaedrus was especially meaningful to Ficino, despite his lack of interest otherwise in chronological or developmental questions." Given a syncretistic approach to the canon and a commitment to the notion of its internal consistency and unity, each dialogue will necessarily reflect in varying degrees, if not monadically contain, the whole; but none to a greater degree than the first. It will be the seminal work from which later works take their origin and in which they are potentially contained—the protodialogue. If the tradition had fastened upon apprentice work, juvenilia in the pejorative sense, then Ficino might have decided to ignore it, despite its priority. But since tradition had assigned priority to a piece so consummately conceived and executed, it became inevitable and even logical, given a Neoplatonic perspective and values, that Ficino approach the Phaedrus as a cipher to Plato's subsequent mysteries. Ironically, this line of argument supplied the grounds for Schleiermacher's acceptance of the tradition of the priority of the Phaedrus as late as the nineteenth century," and the manifest quality of the piece merely served to reinforce the tradition. In other words, the priority amounted to a kind of primacy," at least with regard to those matters touched upon in the mythical hymn.
The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of His Phaedrus Commentary, Its Sources and Genesis by Michael Allen (Publications of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies: University of California Press) Michael Allen gave us in 1981 the first critical edition and translation of a commentary by the enormously influential Florentine Neoplatonist, Marsilio Ficino (1439-1499), on the Phaedrus's memorable if complex myth of man's soul as a winged charioteer. Now he uses this commentary as a springboard for an extended study of many aspects of Ficino's philosophy, poetics, and mythology. Though his specific aim has been to deepen our understanding of Ficino's genius as a Platonic commentator, he has also succeeded in enhancing our appreciation of Ficino's ideas in general and of his independent relationship to the ancient Neoplatonic tradition in which as a scholar he was so thoroughly and luminously immersed.
To do justice to both these particular and larger aims, Allen has organized his first eight chapters around certain dominant themes: the demonic inspiration of Socrates; the poetic and the other divine madnesses; the soul's descent, ascent, and immortality; the cavalcade of souls under Jove and its journey across the intellectual heaven; and the ideas of beauty and love. In two final chapters he provides a detailed examination of Ficino's attempts in other works to analyze the charioteer myth and also looks at the nature and extent of Ficino's recondite sources.
In thus focusing on a work where the preoccupations of Ficino's later years as a magus and an exegete of the Platonic mysteries—as well as an apologist and metaphysician—have come to the fore, Allen has written the first sustained and wide-ranging account of Ficino's thought since Paul Kristeller's magisterial study of 1943, a work to which it may serve indeed as a fitting complement.
In 1496 the great Florentine Neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) published, along with some other Plato commentaries, an incomplete commentary on Plato's Phaedrus. The culminating attempt in a series of analyses, and written as late probably as 1493, it focused on one of the most memorable episodes in all of Greek literature, the myth of the charioteer's ascent in the gods' company to gaze upwards at the Ideas in the "supercelestial place." Bar occasional citation, and a few appreciative but wholly passing remarks by Giuseppe Saitta and Raymond Marcel,' the Commentary has been almost completely neglected, however—unhappily if not unaccountably so, given its difficulties, for it contains some of Ficino's latest and most speculative thought on Platonic theogony, mythology, and cosmology, on the metaphysics as well as the psychology and epistemology of beauty, on the soul's flight, descent, and immortality, and on the origins and nature of the four divine madnesses, preeminently the poetic and the amatory.
The Commentary also betrays some fascinating misconceptions of the Phaedrus, already a controversial text among Byzantine scholars in quattrocento Italy. On ancient authority not discounted till the nineteenth century, Ficino assumed it was Plato's first dialogue, oriented towards the themes of youth, beauty, and love, and also his most lyrical work. Like Solomon's Canticle (which is at one point invoked), it was the song of a poet-theologian rather than the measured discourse of a philosopher. Conveying religious mysteries in the dithyrambic language of possession, it portrayed a demon-rapt and visionary Socrates caught up in an enchanted grove by the spirits of noon and the river Ilissus, and by the beauty of Phaedrus, the beloved also of Lysias and Plato. As Plato's first and most poetic work, it also anticipated his subsequent dialogues while bearing witness to his indebtedness to the ancient sages and particularly to his chosen teachers, the Pythagoreans.
In immediately obvious ways, naturally, Ficino's sense of responsibility to this text was different from a modern scholar's, since less attuned to the historical limitations of its language, theses, and underlying attitudes. But he was no less committed to an understanding of Platonic values, and to meeting and transmitting the challenge of one of the ancient world's most evocative and complex works of literary and philosophical art. In the process he exercised considerable originality.
Some, who have narrow criteria for defining a thinker, or who deem all Neoplatonists essentially the same,' dispute Ficino's claim to originality, though prepared perhaps to grant him special skills as a translator and academician. In this they fail, I believe, to appreciate his remarkable accomplishments as a builder of myth and symbol rather than of language or logic—his ability to deploy abstract ideas culled from a variety of sources, many of them arcane, as if they were metaphors, and to deploy them for paraphilosophical ends: apology, conversion, intellectual sublimity, and spiritual ecstasy. His peers, if we consider their impact on the thought and culture of their respective ages, are Petrarch and Erasmus, Rousseau and Johnson, Sartre and Jung, rather than the conventional philosophers. Like theirs, his originality is impossible to define in terms of a single intellectual discipline. It depends not so much on achieving advances internal to that discipline as on articulating a profoundly compelling orientation—what Eugenio Garin has called a forma mentis—towards both the objective and the subjective worlds, an orientation akin to the obviously unacademic, deeply emotional Platonism of a Piero della Francesca, a Michelangelo, or a Spenser, though presented in the philosophical cast and formulations of late Scholasticism.' Specifically it derived from the thoroughgoing syncretism of pagan and Christian elements he effected under the impulse of Plato, Plotinus, Proclus, the Hermetica, the Areopagite, Augustine, and Aquinas, to name only his primary wells of inspiration. But this was allied with scholarly energy, acumen, and subtlety, an unusual breadth and profundity of learning, an abiding interest in magic, music, medicine, poetry, and mythology, as well as in philosophy and theology, and a continual inwardness, contemplativeness, and spirituality of gaze that make much of what he wrote peculiarly his own, imaginatively and aesthetically so if not always philosophically." In the case of the Phaedrus Commentary he succeeded, almost single-handedly and after a series of meditations and analyses, in fashioning the response of an entire European epoch to the agonistic image of the Platonic charioteer.
Allen wrote his book so it will serve in a minor way to complement Paul Oskar Kristeller's major study, The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino (Columbia Studies in Philosophy) by Paul Oskar Kristeller, translated by Virginia Conant (Columbia University Press). While this surveyed Ficino's thought and work in its entirety, it was especially concerned with the more purely philosophical issues of the Platonic Theology and with the theses and argumentation of that huge and systematic masterpiece. By contrast Allen has concentrated on a single very different work where the preoccupations of Ficino's later years as a magus and an exegete of the highest Platonic mysteries (as well as a metaphysician and apologist) have come to the fore, and where a number of peculiar interpretational problems require elucidation.
However, though his specific aim has been to deepen our appreciation of one difficult if suggestive commentary and its attendant motifs and themes, Allen has attempted in the process to enhance our understanding in general of Ficino's Platonism, and of his indebtedness to the ancient Neoplatonic commentary tradition in which as a scholar he was so thoroughly and luminously immersed.
To do justice to these particular and larger aims, Allen has therefore approached Ficino's eight chapters of formal commentary from the viewpoint of certain primary themes. Thus my second chapter deals with Ficino's chapter 4 and the poetic madness; my third chapter with his chapters 5 and 6 and the soul's immortality; my fourth chapter with his chapters 7, 8, and 9 and the soul's ascent; my fifth chapter with his chapter 10 and the jovian cavalcade; and my sixth chapter with his chapter 11 and the cosmology of the Phaedrus. Consideration of Ficino's opening three chapters (which had served, incidentally, as an argumentum for his Latin translation of the dialogue) Allen has postponed until the ninth chapter, since they embodied, he discovered, an earlier and preliminary response to the charioteer myth, one that dated to the 1460s."
Similarly, Allen had certain`topics in mind as when he cut a swath through the fifty-three summae which Ficino appended to his eleven chapters and`which form an integral part of the Phaedrus Commentary in the first and all subsequent editions." Some of the most interesting enabled me to explore in my first chapter the initiatory theme of Socrates' inspiration. Summae 23, 24, and 25, long enough to be commentary chapters in their own right, impelled me to take up in my seventh chapter some of Ficino's ideas on the soul's descent; and summae 26 to 33 led me to examine in my eighth chapter aspects of his philosophy of beauty and of love. Other summae, of course, Allen could treat as if they were additions to his chapters of commentary proper, while the more perfunctory Allen could altogether ignore.
This strategy would surely have appealed to Iamblichus in that it effectively credits Ficino's Commentary with an implicit design. Starting with the setting and the numinous forces at work on Socrates, we move to the theory of the divine madnesses; to the nature of the soul's immortality; to its ascent to and participation in the jovian cavalcade; to its further ascent to the very summit of the intellectual realm; and thence to its subsequent descent, concluding with the overriding theme of beauty. At first glance, this might appear an overly logical arrangement for the seemingly disparate if elaborate material Ficino assembled on the Phaedrus for his 1496 volume. But Allen does not think it is. Not only does it do justice to Ficino's sense of the Phaedrus's drama, the brilliant plotting of its scenes and sequences, the entrances and exits of its arguments and images, a drama to which his work on other dialogues had already made him sensitive; but we also have the evidence of a correspondingly systematic treatment of the dialogue by the ancient Neoplatonists familiar to Ficino from his translation of Hermias and from Proclus's Theologia Platonica." For all its incompleteness, that is, Ficino's Commentary has a structure that reflects the structure of the Phaedrus itself Neoplatonically conceived.
Allen kept two historical surveys until last. Thus Allen treats of Ficino's attempts to allegorize the charioteer myth prior to his Commentary in ninth chapter, and in tenth of the nature of his indebtedness to various ancient commentators and to other authorities. These chapters could have appeared as prologues rather than as epilogues to the main study; but it seemed that an account of Ficino's earlier attempts and likewise of his departures from his predecessors' work could only come properly into focus after we had fully comprehended the scope of his authoritative achievement in the 1490s.
Marsillio Ficino: The Philebus Commentary (Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies) by Michael J. B. Allen (University of California Press) The Philebus commentary has received some notice from modern scholars. Giuseppe Saitta talks of "the extremely beautiful commentary on the Philebus in which the superiority of the good over the beautiful is vigorously affirmed. All beauty is good, but not all good is beautiful: this is the Platonic concept that Ficino is continually attempting to illustrate in his own way. However, a common bond exists between the good and the beautiful, and this is supplied by the appetite . . . etc." Later he talks of the "magnificent commentary on the Philebus" in which Ficino "had explicitly identified the universal act with the good." Paul Kristeller has frequently referred to it and Michele Schiavone has used it as a whipping boy while devoting careful attention to certain theses. It would be interesting to speculate on the influence the commentary has had in subsequent centuries; but, as Saitta says, Ficino was often robbed but rarely acknowledged." Much more work has to be done on specific ideas and theories in Ficino and Renaissance philosophy in general before anything can be said with accuracy about the influence of a particular commentary and this is true even of the Symposium commentary."
What we do know, however, is that the Philebus, more perhaps than any other Platonic dialogue, including the Symposium, seems to have dominated the early days of the Platonic revival, and it is important we take note of its popularity if we want to understand the genesis of Florentine Platonism. It was through the Philebus that the newly revived interest in Plato began to broaden into what was later to become a European movement. The commentary translated here is our chief witness to the crucial point of transition.
Aristotle's Ethics had long been the classical source for ethical studies. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries we find not only the great editions and translations of Grosseteste, William of Moerbeke and Gerard of Cremona but also the extended commentaries of such eminent scholastics as St. Albertus Magnus, Giles of Rome, St. Thomas Aquinas and many others. But in the fifteenth century, after Bruni's new, controversial translation and Argyropoulos' lectures too had again stimulated interest in the Ethics, the commentaries began to shift their emphasis. In Eugenio Garin's words: "They .. . ceased to interpret this work in the narrow terms of social and political problems and of man seen as a political animal. They interpreted the Nicomachean Ethics as a final exaltation of the contemplative and separated intellect." There is much resulting controversy over the nature of the separation and the relationship between the soul's natural and supernatural powers, and the book becomes a touchstone in the battle with Latin
Averroism. Many eminent thinkers were, therefore, involved in restating and reassessing the Ethics' arguments throughout the period, including Bruni, Donato Acciaiuoli, Ermolao Barbaro, Filelfo, Lefèvre D'Etaples, and Philip Melanchthon. But, since the principal Aristotelians were primarily interested in their master's ethical writings,'" their opponents were forced to become familiar with them too. Ficino himself had studied under a dedicated Aristotelian (Nicolò Tignosi, who had taught theoretical medicine and natural philosophy at the Studio in Florence) and he knew his Aristotle well, valuing him in particular for his work in logic and physics." In the May of 1455 he had copied out Bruni's translation of the Ethics and written his own notes in the margin; and, according to Eugenio Garin, his notes are even to be found in a copy of the first edition of Acciaiuoli's commentary on the Ethics (which was based on Argyropoulos' earlier lectures).
When Ficino started to write on the Philebus, he aimed to do three things: first, to counter the naturalist and activist ethics that had stemmed from the Ethics' commentators with new arguments drawn from Plato's counterpart to the Ethics; second, to reconcile and synthesize the two masters like the Neoplatonists before him. The first meant proving Aristotle had been betrayed by his commentators, the Alexandrists and Averroists; the second that he and Plato were not in real conflict, but concerned, rather, with different levels of moral experience (hence the Philebus was to subsume not supersede the Ethics—the appearance of the theory of the mean in both works was merely the most obvious instance of what Ficino saw as the absence of any "real conflict"). Third, apart from the two ethical aims there was a metaphysical aim. Ficino's own city had seen a prolonged controversy, in which the Ethics had played a central role, between the Aristotelians and the Platonists on the subject of Plato's Ideas. The Philebus lectures were Ficino's own initial contribution to the controversy, so he obviously felt the dialogue was specially suited to combat Aristotle's attack on Plato's metaphysics.
It is significant Ficino initially chose the Philebus in his own attempt to defeat the more militant Aristotelians and to make Florence into a Platonic city. He obviously felt it ideally adapted to the general defense of the Ideas and their ultimate reality. To us this is ironic, since the only reference to the Ideas in the Philebus is at 15A-B where Plato seems to be referring directly to problems enumerated in the Parmenides, a dialogue which A.E. Taylor says is "clearly presupposed" by the Philebus." Instead of the Ideas Plato is concerned with the four classes and with conceptual forms and unities alone. Consequently, scholars dealing with the unity of Plato's thought have found it difficult to reconcile the Ideas with the classes," and it is interesting Ficino simply avoids the problem of reconciling the two.
Apart from such external considerations, the Ethics' Platonic predecessor clearly had an intrinsic fascination for Ficino just as it did for the ancient Neoplatonists, Proclus and Damascius, who commented on it.' Modern scholars have been somewhat more hesitant or tentative in assessing the Philebus. Benjamin Jowett adverted to its "degree of confusion and incompleteness in the general design . . . [in which] the multiplication of ideas seems to interfere with the power of expression," while at the same time he admitted it "contains, perhaps, more metaphysical truth more obscurely expressed than any other Platonic dialogue." R.G. Bury thought it indisputable it was "jagged and distorted in composition," though "beneath the difficulties of expression and the peculiarity of form" he found "a sound core of true Platonic thought." J. Gould talks of its "fundamental tension between two opposed concepts, those of purity and mixture" in which Plato was fighting against his "sense of reality," in turn accepting and fleeing from the "inextricable and everpresent mixture of opposites" in human life. The result in Gould's view is eccentricity of form and structure, a concern with the concrete rather than the abstract and an "aggressive allegiance" to a contemplative ideal which Plato knows is impractical." However, others have recently demurred. R. Hackforth says "the formlessness of the work has been often exaggerated," and the more he has studied it "the clearer has its structure become, and the more understandable its transitions, digressions, and postponements. "75 Auguste Dies talks at first simply of "a singularity of construction" and the "scholastic character of the discussion," and he divides the Philebus into three parts: 11A-23B where it is proposed that the good life consists neither in pleasure or wisdom alone but in a mixture of the two (this part is Ficino's first book); 23C-59C where it is proposed that intelligence predominates in the mixture; 59D-end where Plato establishes the hierarchy of goods. Part two, however, contains long sections on the types of pleasure and wisdom, the section on the types of pleasure (31A-55C) constituting more than half the dialogue. Dies calls these two sections a "mass in the interior of the dialogue" and the analysis of pleasure "a block" inside the mass." Close consideration leads Dies eventually to talk of the "perfect logical continuity of development" in the Philebus, of its "abundance," of its "freedom" and "variety."
Ficino was obviously drawn to the dialogue in part because of the extensive pleasure "block"; although, ironically, his commentary stops just before the block begins. He was well into the digression on the divisions of reality (23C-27C) and the chapter summaries he affixed to the first edition indicate he was intending to deal at length with true and false pleasures, with pleasure and pain, with the pleasures in rest and in motion, etc. However, as we have seen, Ficino believed the true theme of the discussion was not pleasure but "man's highest good" and he says all the arguments in the dialogue are introduced for the good's sake (p. 127). Accordingly, the dialogue has a twelve part structure, designed with the express intention of making it particularly clear what man's highest good is. We only need examine chapter nine to discover how Ficino thought of the structure: a simple ascent to the highest good effected by contrast and comparison. Patently, Ficino had a coherent theory about the transitions and digressions in the Philebus and was convinced of the dialogue's essential unity of purpose. The fact he felt it needed such extensive commentary suggests, however, he was well aware of its difficulties for the ordinary reader.
What would have presented itself to Ficino as a thematic question tends to be complicated for us by other considerations. Although he was not completely oblivious to chronological problems (he was convinced for instance that the Phaedrus was Plato's first dialogue), he did not concern himself with the modern concept of an evolving or changing Plato. Consequently, he was not cognizant of the fact the Philebus is a middle or late dialogue in which Plato, if not actually abandoning, is moving away from his earlier concern with the Ideas and ethical intellectualism towards a new interest in logical, taxonomical and even psychological problems." Rather, Ficino, like the ancient Neoplatonists, assumed the unity not only of Plato's thought, but of the whole Platonic tradition; and his life's work was to make the whole unified tradition available in translation and in commentary—hence his work on the Areopagite, on Plotinus, on Iamblichus, on the Pimander, on the Orphic Hymns, on the Symbola of Pythagoras, etc. The Platonic tradition, and again this is a Neoplatonic assumption, not only embraced Plato and his successors but also those enigmatic figures who were thought to precede Plato: Philolaus, Pythagoras, Aglaophemus, Orpheus, Hermes Trismegistus and Zoroaster. These collectively Ficino referred to as the prisci theologi, the ancient theologians,' the interpreters of a perennial wisdom stretching back long before Plato.
Such an approach does away with the need to decide on the authorship of particular concepts or to differentiate the peculiarities of individual dialogues (hence the ease with which apocryphal works were accepted as part of the canon). So, wherever possible, Ficino attempted to syncretize and reconcile the positions adopted in Plato's various works. In examining the Philebus commentary, one is gradually made aware of the other dialogues which were constantly in the forefront of Ficino's mind, dictating the structure of his proofs and providing further authentication for his conclusions. They were drawn in the main from Plato's middle and late periods—they are notably the Sophist, the Timaeus, the Parmenides, the Republic, the Laws and the Phaedrus—and they constituted for Ficino a unified body of metaphysical "doctrine," a word he himself used." Hence the wholly philosophical nature of the Philebus commentary. As Roberto Weiss observes, Ficino was not a philologist or a grammarian; he was untouched by the philological zeal of humanists like Valla and Politian, and was concerned solely with exposition, not with textual problems" —which was as well perhaps considering the notorious difficulties the Philebus presents to the textual scholar.
In elucidating the "secret" Platonism he assumed Socrates imparting mparting to the assembled adolescents, Ficino was quick to perceive the local dramatic ironies, and he took an obvious delight in imagining the personal aspects of the crossfire between Socrates, Protarchus and Philebus. But he was not oriented towards the modern concern with the ambiguities created by the dialogues' dramatic structure. Because he believed in their collective wisdom and the power of allegoresis to "explain" intractable or figurative passages, he refused to acknowledge the exploratory or interrogatory nature of many of the propositions. Hence his anticipation of Plato's conclusions in the Philebus: the idea, for example, that there is a tertium quid is indeed mentioned briefly at the beginning (11D-12A); but it is essentially something Plato arrives at in the course of the argument. Ficino, however, used it throughout his commentary as an established principle. For him the Philebus was obviously a normative work, concerned with Plato's unchanging conception of the unitary good; and he must have felt, therefore, it was an ideal text for educating his peers into the true secrets of philosophy, as well as for combating the Aristotelians.
Initially the commentary confronts us as a medieval work. Kristeller says of Ficino, "the strongly medieval, scholastic character which we notice in his works . . . consists not so much in specific philosophical ideas, but rather in the terminology and in the general method of arguing." But he goes on to say this scholastic element "was not due to an extensive reading of the scholastic authors of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but rather to the training which Ficino must have had in the current Aristotelianism of the schools as a student in the University of Florence.” Kristeller maintains Ficino did not have any extensive firsthand knowledge of the medieval philosophers with the notable exception of Aquinas, but was able "to build his Platonism on the method and terminology of late medieval Aristotelianism. The result is daunting: the reader is confronted with chains of syllogistic reasoning which have the appearance of being tightly organized and utterly logical. But the logic frequently begs the very questions it is attempting to answer; in this it is reminiscent of much medieval philosophy, the texture of which more nearly resembles a row of mental walnuts than it does a series of Euclidean proofs.
The commentary is eclectic in its approach. This is typical not only of the Renaissance but of most medieval philosophy and, indeed, of patristic and Neoplatonic thinking." Ficino was not trying to be original; he was trying to synthesize, as Charles Trinkaus has recently reemphasized." Besides the many quotations and references to other Platonic dialogues in the commentary, there are references to other ancient authors, real and fictive, and to a few medieval ones; but Ficino rarely cites the specific works he is referring to. In addition to the acknowledged references, there are some which are unacknowledged. Most notable are the extensive borrowings from Aquinas in several of the chapters, which are in paraphrasis rather than direct quotation. Marcel suggests in his new edition of the Platonic Theology that Ficino habitually reduced his quotations to the essential meaning and adapted them to his own context. Perhaps Ficino assumed some of his allusions were too familiar to need acknowledgment, but at times it seems as if he were deliberately concealing his authorities. Marcel observes: "It is almost as if he wanted to appropriate their thinking or [wanted] to constrain his readers to admit principles or arguments which they would have refused to examine on principle [a priori] if they had known the source." Ficino often groups his references by school and these group references are frequently taken en masse from later authorities: the list of ancient physicists and moralists, for example, he could have derived from Diogenes Laertius or Aristotle or Cicero or Augustine or Lactantius or Aquinas or from half a dozen medieval or contemporary sources.
Synopsis of the Commentary
(The numbers in parentheses refer to the pagination of the Basle 1576 edition of the Opera Omnia.)
Chapter 1, p. 73 (1207): The need to establish an end for life. Everything acts for some end including the body, the reason, the intelligence; this proves there is a universal end cause.
Chapter 2, p. 81 (1208): Various proofs arguing for the necessity of an ultimate end and the impossibility of an infinite series. The I end for the natural appetite, and the ends of execution and intention.
Chapter 3, p. 87 (1209): Various proofs establishing that the ultimate end has to be the good.
Chapter 4, p. 89 (1209): What the good is. The necessity for cosmic unity. The primacy of the one over multiplicity and over being. Above bodies is the soul; above souls is the intelligence; above intelligences is the one itself. Various proofs for this drawn from motion. The identity of the one and the good.
Chapter 5, p. 103 (1211): The reasons why everything seeks for the one and the good. The primacy of the good over being. The relationship of the good and the beautiful and the analogy with light.
Chapter 6, p. 111 (1213): The need to refer man's good to the absolute good. The other unsatisfactory ethical systems. The good is best apprehended and enjoyed by the intelligence.
Chapter 7, p. 115 (1213): Ficino returns to the text of the Philebus and, in the process of defining different sorts of wisdom and pleasure, he explains why Plato had chosen to compare these two terms.
Chapter 8, p. 121 (1214): The different sorts of good things. The contribution of wisdom to felicity. The two sorts of knowledge: the morning and evening knowledge. The distinctions that must be made between what leads to happiness, happiness itself and God. The relationship of all three to wisdom.
Chapter 9, p. 127 (1215): The real subject of the dialogue is man's highest good; other suggestions are dismissed. The dialogue's twelve part structure.
Chapter 10, p. 131 (1216): Socrates proposes initially that he and Protarchus should each champion wisdom and pleasure respectively, but be prepared to abandon their positions should some third alternative appear. Socrates refuses to accept that Venus can be identified with pleasure.
Chapter 11, p. 135 (1216): The divine names. The iconology of Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter and the two Venuses. The reason why divine names ought to be venerated. The power and origin of divine names.
Chapter 12, p. 143 (1217): The power inherent in the divine name and its various forms.
Chapter 13, p. 145 (1218): The importance of the species as opposed to the genus or the individual. The method for establishing a definition. The genus of pleasure. Socrates refutes Protarchus' argument that all pleasures must be alike because they are pleasurable, and maintains that some of Protarchus' pleasures are actually opposed to each other.`Socrates differentiates between being good and being pleasurable. The good does not embrace opposites.
Chapter 14, p. 157 (1220): Socrates again emphasizes the difference between the genus and the species and warns us against verbal sophistry. The two protagonists agree there are dissimilar pleasures and dissimilar types of knowledge. Ficino warns us against self-deception.
Chapter 15, p. 165 (1221): The nature of the intelligence. The nature`of truth and the theory that knowledge consists of the correspondence between the thing and the intelligence. The correspondence takes place in the human intelligence and in the I divine intelligence. The light of truth that comes from the good. The one and the many and the psychology of perception.
Chapter 16, p. 171 (1222): The nature of the relationship between the one and the many and the paradoxes it originates. Three ways the one can be many. The Platonic Idea really exists and exists prior to and more absolutely than the sensible object.
Chapter 17, p. 177 (1223): Three problems raised by the Ideas: one, whether they are merely mental concepts; two, if they actually exist, whether they are unitary and immutable; three, if they are unitary and immutable, how do they impart themselves to things which are many and mutable. Why the species are called unities or Ideas. The pagan and Christian writers who have testified to their existence.
Chapter 18, p. 181 (1223): The existence of the Ideas in God's intelligence. The testimony of Augustine, Averroes and others. The contingent nature of the world and its dependence on the incorporeal species. Arguments from change, operation, movement, etc., to prove the existence of a higher cause which is self-sufficient, self-activating and contains all the Ideas.
Chapter 19, p. 191 (1225): More arguments to prove the reality of the Ideas and the unreality of bodily objects. To some extent the soul possesses the true species; but above the soul is the first intelligence which contains the first and truest species. These species are identified with the intelligence itself.
Chapter 20, p. 199 (1226): More arguments drawn from reproduction, etc., to prove the reality of the Ideas. The world is contained in the first intelligence.
Chapter 21, p. 205 (1227): The argument from the world's design is taken to prove the existence of the prime intelligence and to prove that it contains the Ideas. The coincidence of the intelligence and its Ideas. The eternal contemplation of the Ideas is independent of the intelligence's need actually to create them.
Chapter 22, p. 209 (1227): More proofs for the existence of the Ideas drawn from the fact of corruption, etc. The shadowy existence of everyday things. The need to believe in the Ideas, even if we do not understand exactly how things participate in them.
Chapter 23, p. 215 (1228): To establish truth, dialectic is necessary because of its concern with the species. Ficino returns to the Philebus and inveighs against obstinacy in debating. The three cautions that must be observed with regard to dialectic: one, adolescents should not be allowed to use it; two, those who do use it must guard against the illusions which derive from the senses and the phantasy, and proceed via the intelligence; three, you must not go from one extreme to another without going through the intermediary points. The distinction between logic and dialectic. Dialectic is the instrument of philosophy par excellence. In the processes of uniting and dividing upwards and downwards, dialectic is constantly concerned with the one and the many. By using the one and the many, dialectic resolves, defines and demonstrates.
Chapter 24, p. 225 (1230): The relationship between definition and demonstration and the process of reasoning syllogistically. On resolving, dividing and compounding.
Chapter 25, p. 231 (1230): Socrates again inveighs against adolescents, sophists and Cyrenaics, and their ethical relativism and scepticism (i.e., the first caution). Ficino returns to the Philebus. Altercation between Protarchus and Socrates. Socrates insists on the crucial importance of dialectic.
Chapter 26, p. 239 (1231): The illumination theory. The three angelic motions. The triple intelligence as personified in Saturn, Jupiter and Prometheus. The triple powers of the soul. The Epimetheus/Prometheus parable. The iconology of Minerva, Vulcan and Mercury and their various gifts. The Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter triad and what they symbolize. Prometheus' gift of fire symbolizes the illumination that comes from God; so dialectic must be practised by the intelligence (i.e., the second caution).
Chapter 27, p. 249 (1233): The three arguments transmitted by the ancient theologians: one, everything subsequent to the one is compounded from the one and the many; two, the species are finite, but individuals are infinite; three, mediation is necessary to pass from one extreme to another. Various supporting proofs. On emanation from the one to the finite many to the infinite many. On the types of division (i.e., the third caution).
Chapter 28, p. 261 (1234): Dialectic and the enemy discipline (which proceeds too quickly or too slowly from the one to the many). Various instances of the enemy discipline furnished from the ancients who ignored the importance of the intermediary stage between the one and the many — a stage involving the species. Ficino introduces the examples of music and dancing to illustrate the importance of the species in effecting the transition from the one to the many.
Chapter 29, p. 271 (1236): Grammar is used as an example of going from the many to the one. The history of letters and their introduction by Hermes Trismegistus. The need to draw things out of the one into the infinite many via the finite many which exist between them; and the reverse. Protarchus urges Socrates to proceed at once to instruct them all in dialectic.
Chapter 30, p. 283 (1238): The need to define the good and the positive and negative ways to do this. The negative way is to say that neither pleasure nor wisdom is the good itself. The good is above being and above the intelligence. It is the absolute act. The god of love is the divinity inspiring Socrates when he talks about the good. The relationship between love, beauty and the good, where the good is prime. Various proofs establishing that the good is sufficient, perfect and desirable.
Chapter 31, p. 299 (1240): The two acts: form and operation. The identity of the good and act. Act consists in unity. The good is compared to the sun. God as the good is all acts and all potentialities. The reflection of the one in everything is what unites everything. The emanation from the one and conversion to the one. The participation of the intelligence, the soul`and matter in unity and goodness. The one is present in everything. The creativeness of the one and the resulting beauty. The good is prior to the beautiful and desired by the natural appetite. The difference between rational and irrational pursuit of the good.
Chapter 32, p. 315 (1242): In order to prove that neither is the good Socrates divides wisdom from pleasure, by dividing all mental activity whatsoever from it. The jelly-fish is a model for the life of pure sensation devoid of mental activity. The reason why such "deprived" organisms exist in nature. The great chain-of-being. Pleasure is insufficient in itself; likewise wisdom. The psychology of perception involves both wisdom and pleasure. In the case of both physical and mental events total act is pleasure. There are two sorts of pleasure: that in knowing and that which is the assent of the appetite. The mixture of the two makes for sufficiency in human and indeed all animate life. The life that does not have this mixture is chosen through ignorance or coercion.
Chapter 33, p. 333 (1245): Socrates differentiates between the prime intelligence (which is unitary and unites pleasure and wisdom in itself) and the human intelligence. The prime intelligence is not the good itself, but next to and inferior to it. After the prime intelligence are the derivative intelligences; and next to them is the soul which becomes its intelligence when purified from all other associations. The soul's happiness consists of wisdom and pleasure. The morning and evening visions of the good. Socrates prepares to define the good positively having already defined it negatively: this consists in finding out whether wisdom or pleasure is nearer to the good (since it has already been established that neither is the good itself). He intends to maintain that wisdom is nearer to the good. The hierarchy of goods with pleasure at the bottom. The company agrees that neither wisdom nor pleasure is the good. Socrates procrastinates in order to make the group docile. He must now define wisdom and pleasure and proceed very cautiously.
Chapter 34, p. 347 (1247): The need for there to be one end. Man's end must be one and compounded from wisdom and pleasure. Wisdom and pleasure are made one by the one which is above. We apprehend the highest good by the unity in ourselves, which is like the charioteer in the Phaedrus who has two horses: the intellect and the will. The unity in ourselves converts these two into the one. So there are three happinesses: the human happiness when the charioteer controls the horses and directs them towards the heavens; the divine happiness when the soul becomes its intelligence; the happiness when we are made one by the one and so become one with God, that is, become gods.
Chapter 35, p. 355 (1248): To obtain the right mixture of wisdom and pleasure you must have truth, proportion and beauty.
Chapter 36, p. 359 (1249): The highest good is the measure that gives truth, the moderator that gives proportion, the suitable that gives beauty. Various ways in which God is the measure, the moderator and the suitable. As the one He is all three. Things which share in Him share in all three. The one and the unity the one bestows are both acts. Therefore the highest good is the one act of the mixed life. This act occurs when the intelligence and the will have been directed to the one through wisdom and pleasure (when these in turn have been joined in accordance with three attributes deriving from the power of the one, namely, truth, proportion and beauty). The one act of the one soul, which is from the one, for the one and in the one, is man's highest good.
Chapter 37, p. 369 (1250): The subordination of the will to the intellect and their respective relationships to things. Various proofs to establish the primacy of the intellect. The`ultimate end concerns the intellect more than the will. The need for something to be the first intelligible object. Pleasure's nature and use. God is our end: our understanding reaches Him first and our will follows the understanding. Ficino admits he has argued that the opposite is true in an epistle on happiness. Perhaps the best solution is to consider the will as part of the intellect rather than a separate faculty, and pleasure as something in the intellect. Ficino concludes man's end is one. Thus he claims to have resolved the doubts raised by his great friend, Michael from S. Miniato, who had wondered why Plato posited a mixed end for man.
Chapter 1, p. 385 (1253): Socrates introduces two concepts, the limit and the infinite, and attributes wisdom and pleasure to them respectively. There are two sorts of infinity: the first excludes the limit, the second is in need of the limit. The first is the infinite limit of everything and is God, the second needs to be limited by something else. The Philebus is concerned with God as things' limit, not as the infinite. In the Philebus, therefore, the infinite means matter. As the infinite, God transcends creation; but as the limit, He embraces it. The hierarchy which proceeds from nothingness to matter to form and is the result of varying degrees of participation in the limit and the infinite. On the nature of potentiality. The passive potentiality characteristic of matter precedes all else. On the nature of matter. All things subsequent to God are compounded from act and potentiality, being and essence. The existence of the being whose essence is being itself. Arguments derived from the fact that nature is subject to possibility and limitation and made from the mixture of essence and being prove that all contingent things are compounded from potentiality and act. On matter as the receptacle of all the forms.
Chapter 2, p. 403 (1255): The hierarchy among the principles of being is headed by the one. The general character of an entity incorporates the idea of being; so, apart from being, there are five other elements: essence, rest, motion, identity and difference. There are also the two principles of the limit and the infinite. Depending on our approach, the full hierarchy can therefore consist of six, seven or nine members.
Chapter 3, p. 409 (1256): Six elements derive from the limit and the infinite. These six are equally divided between the limit and the infinite, since each is universally present in the intelligence, the soul, bodies, quantity and quality. Their presence creates a hierarchy that descends towards the infinite.
Chapter 4, p. 415 (1257): How the limit and the infinite are disposed under God. The distinctions between creating, forming and generating. What is mixed from the limit and the infinite. The fourth principle, namely the cause of the mixture, is above the universe. The possibility that a fifth principle exists, namely the cause that subsumes all mixture, is not denied but put aside by Socrates. On the sublimity of God, i.e., His transcendence, and on His countenance, i.e., His immanent presence. The hierarchy existing among the principles and the right way to deal with it. The need to examine the limit and the infinite first.
p. 425 (1259): In the height of the understanding pleasure and understanding are identical. The usual differences between them.
II, p. 427 (1259): The good is the end. The reasons why pleasure and wisdom are not the end. The uses of pleasure.
III, p. 431 (1259): The relationship between the one, the many, the limit, the infinite, and their compounds, that is, rest, motion, identity and difference.
IV, p. 433 (1260): The art of dialectic, which is concerned with uniting and dividing. The nature of dialectic and its transmission. Its preoccupation with the species. The various steps in the dialectical method.
Nuptial Arithmetic: Marsilio Ficino's Commentary on the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato's Republic by Michael J. B. Allen (University of California Press) a distinguished study of the leading Renaissance Neoplatonist, Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), presents for the first time a difficult and fascinating text. Very late in his career Ficino wrote a commentary on the mathematical passage in Book VIII of Plato's Republic that concerns, the mysterious geometric or "fatal" number. Since antiquity no one had interpreted this famous enigma; in doing so, Ficino addressed a variety of wide-ranging philosophical, psychological, numerological, astrological, and prophetic themes that are central to our understanding of his thought and of the mentalité of his age.
In the first part of Nuptial Arithmetic, Allen introduces the Florentine's commentary and explores its context, sources, and difficulties, especially its debts to Plato's Timaeus and to Theon of Smyrna. He then analyzes
Ficino's Pythagorean approach to figured numbers and 'their progressions and Ficino's determination of the fatal and the nuptial numbers. Allen next turns to Ficino's arresting speculations on eugenics, man's habitus, man's spirit, and the daemons, and to the roles Ficino assigns to astrology and prophecy, to Jupiter and to Saturn, in the instauration of a golden age. The second part of the book provides a critical edition and translation of the commentary, with accompanying notes. Nuptial Arithmetic is a welcome presentation of this rich and interesting text by one of the most influential luminaries of the European Renaissance.
This book is concerned with a treatise written late in the career of Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), the influential philosopher-magus of Medicean Florence and the presiding genius of Renaissance Neoplatonism. The treatise is an arcane and hitherto unexplored commentary focusing on a notoriously intractable mathematical passage in the eighth book of Plato's Republic.
The first part deals in general with the commentary's features, themes, and difficulties, and in particular with its composition, sources, and context; with Ficino's analyses of the role in Plato of figured numbers including fatal numbers; with his treatment of the interwoven motifs of eugenics, the habitus, the spirit, and the daemons; and with the ambivalent roles he assigns to astrology in the instauration of a golden age under a Jupiter reunited with his father, Saturn.
For historians of the transmission and interpretation of classical texts, the evidence marshaled here should be persuasive enough to ensure the recognition for the first time of Ficino's rightful place at the head of the long line of modern exegetes of the Platonic passage. For students of Ficino and of Quattrocento cultural and intellectual history, however, the last two chapters particularly cast fresh light on a number of challenging philosophical and mythological issues, and suggest some elusive linkages between Ficino's reaction to Plato's political dialogue and his premonitory sense of an imminent star-governed change in the destiny of Florence, a city already in the grip of the tumultuous millenarian passions of the 1490s.
The second part presents the first critical edition and translation of the De Numero Fatali and its related texts, with accompanying notes.
Allen embarked on this study in the anticipation that he could sharpen his appreciation of one of the age's seminal thinkers by grinding and polishing the lens of a new and fascinating text. Allen was also convinced that further progress in our understanding of Ficino's manifold contributions to Renaissance thought will depend on scholars embarking on similarly detailed analyses of a number of his other treatises, many of which have been barely skimmed in modern times, and then only by a handful of Ficinians in search of a particular reference or a complementary argument.
Icastes: Marsilio Ficino's Interpretation of Plato's Sophist, Five studies, with a critical edition and translation by Michael J. B. Allen (University of California Press) Allen’s latest studies of the profoundly influential Florentine thinker of the fifteenth century, Marcio Ficino, should be welcomed by philosophers, literary scholars, and historians of the Renaissance, as well as by classicists. Ficino was responsible for inaugurating, shaping, and disseminating the wide-ranging philosophico-cultural movement known as Renaissance Platonism, and his views on the Sophist, which he saw as Plato's preeminent ontological dialogue, are of signal interest. This dialogue also served Ficino as a vehicle exploring a number of other humanist, philosophical, and magical reoccupations, including the theme of the human as artist and creator and of the soul's ascent to the divine by way of magic, music, philosophy, and love.
Along with other Plato commentaries, Ficino’s unfinished Sophist Commentary was first published in Florence in 1496 in a volume entitled Commentaria in Platonem. It is the best guide, as we might predict, to his interpretation of the Sophist, one of Plato's most difficult dialogues but, according to a distinguished modern interpreter, an "unusually constructive" one.' However, it is also a vital source, though hitherto neglected, for a full understanding of Ficino's ontology, demonology, and magic, and of his theories of art, imitation, and the imagination. As such, it offers us an intriguing perspective on the Florentine's profound and enduring impact on Renaissance thought and culture.
This book is an attempt to explore Ficino's views on the Sophist and to assess his Sophist Commentary as an independent treatise. The ancillary second part presents a critical edition and a translation of the text, based on the editio princeps of 1496. The first part, consisting of five studies, explores major topics that the dialogue raised for Ficino and tries to unravel his complicated responses to them.
Allen begins with Ficino's perspective on the dialogue and its position in the Platonic canon, and with the unexpectedly pivotal role it played in an interesting controversy in the 1490s with Pico della Mirandola, the other philosophical star in the Medicean circle who is traditionally regarded as Ficino's complatonicus. This controversy concerned the all-important question of the primacy of the One over Being, the metaphysical issue that lay at the heart of the centuries-old quarrel between the Neoplatonists, the standard-bearers of Platonism, and the radical Aristotelians, a quarrel which Pico entered, to Ficino's regret and surprise, on the Aristotelian side, albeit with the irenic aim of reconciling Plato with Aristotle.
Allen’s second study examines Ficino's encounter with the greatest interpreter of the Sophist in antiquity, the third-century Alexandrian-Roman founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus, whose Enneads he translated and commented on throughout the 1480s, having been urged to do so by the exhortations of Pico himself. Plotinus he regarded as another Plato and on occasions as more profound, if that were possible, than his master, even admiring the density and difficulty of Plotinus's style. For Plotinus the Sophist was Plato's masterpiece of ontology and second only, in its strictly metaphysical insights, to the Parmenides. Ficino was deeply committed to Plotinus's vision of being and embraced it in large part as his own, though his Christian faith compelled him to make some signal modifications, many of which we can see adumbrated in the various chapters of his Commentary. Had he completed this, it would have necessarily been the most developed expression of his ontology; even in its skeletal form, it is a revealing treatise.
Another more elusive and more speculative debt is the subject of third study. This is devoted to the Neoplatonists who succeeded Plotinus, and notably to Iamblichus and Proclus, thinkers who shared his ontological preoccupations with the dialogue but who turned their attention also to other questions in their attempt to define its major theme and to understand its composite structure. My primary concern here is with the scholion that Ficino found accompanying the Greek text of the dialogue in the manuscripts he consulted and that he attributed to Proclus. The scholion provided him, ironically, with a very un-Plotinian perspective, redefining the role and nature of the sophist in terms of the arcane and intricate motif of the sub-lunar demiurge.
The fourth study turns to a theme which literary scholars particularly associate with the Sophist: Plato's involved discussion of icastic and phantastic art and their mutual relationship. Directly or indirectly this discussion made an impact I on a number of Renaissance theorists of art, particularly later in the sixteenth century, and Mazzoni and Sidney are only the most obvious figures that spring to mind. Ficino's understanding of this theme is best revealed in certain key passages from his Platonic Theology, his magnum opus written in 1469-1474 but first published in 1482 in Florence. There we see him also addressing the cognate issues of the hierarchy of the arts and skills, the relationship of the artist to the Creator and to Nature, and the relationship of objects to images, human and divine.
The question of images also preoccupies Allen’s fifth study, which focusses on a long and remarkable analysis at the end of Ficino's Sophist Commentary. There Ficino examines what he sees as the implications of Plato's knotty passage at 266B ff. on eidôla, which, like objects themselves, are the creation of "a wonderful skill" or "divine contrivance," a phrase which Ficino renders more literally as "the skill of the demons." The implications of this interpretation, particularly for an understanding of the Ficinian view of the imagination, take us far from the world of modern Plato scholarship into one reflecting characteristically Renaissance attitudes and themes and predicated on the assumption that Plato was also a theorist of magic and demonology, two areas of inquiry which Ficino predictably regarded as intrinsic to, and legitimately part of, Platonic philosophy. It enables us to glimpse a very different Ficino from the thinker whose primary allegiance was to Plotinus's austere ontological preoccupations.
Treating as they do of ontology, of the figure of the sophist in its manifold senses, of man as icastes and phantastes, of the phantastic art of the demons, and of the demons' rule over the imagination, my five studies cover the principal sources of Ficino's attraction to the Sophist. They also present us with a largely unfamiliar, essentially Neoplatonic interpretation that is at the same time peculiarly Ficinian. Deeply indebted to the ancient commentators, it is nevertheless the product of the Florentine Quattrocento and articulates some of the special features of its Platonism. In this independent relationship to the past, the Ficinian Sophist replicates the situation that obtains, as I have suggested elsewhere, with the Ficinian Philebus, Phaedrus, Parmenides, and Timaeus, and, it is generally acknowledged, with the Ficinian Symposium.' In interpreting all six dialogues Ficino turned at various times to Plotinus and to the later Platonici principally to seek support for, or elaboration of, his own views, which were nicely sensitive to the difficulties the Platonici presented for a Christian apologist. The Renaissance Sophist was not entirely Ficino's, as the dramatic case of Pico will demonstrate, but he put his stamp indelibly upon it. The full-scale, detailed commentary he had first intended was never written; but the substance of his interpretation, together with its unexpected extensions, emerges quite clearly from the materials he mustered for the 1496 volume and from earlier, cognate passages in his Platonic Theology to enhance our understanding of his philosophy and of its extraordinary impact on the intellectual and cultural life of an entire epoch.
Ficino's interpretation thus constitutes a signal moment in the historical fortune of a dialogue that scholars have generally regarded in the past as a rewarding but technical treatise lacking the irony, the drama, and the imaginative inventiveness of such literary masterpieces in the Platonic canon as the Symposium, the Protagoras, and the Apology.' For the Ficinian Sophist emerges from this study as itself a luminous and sublime work in that canon and as one of the repositories of Plato's deepest theological mysteries. As such, Allen believes we should henceforth set it beside other major dialogues that Ficino reinterpreted as a revealing guide to some of the salient characteristics of Renaissance Platonism and to its complex, creative relationship to the Platonism of late antiquity from which it ultimately derived, however alien both Platonisms might seem to our current perceptions of what Plato himself had originally intended and achieved.
When Philosophers Rule: Ficino on Plato's Republic, Laws & Epinomis (Commentaries by Ficino on Plato's Writing) Translation by Arthur Farndell (Shepheard-Walwyn) Marsillio Ficino of Florence (1433-99) was one of the most influential thinkers of the Renaissance. He put before society a new ideal of human nature, emphasising its divine potential. As teacher and guide to a remarkable circle of men, he made a vital contribution to changes that were taking place in European thought. For Ficino, the writings of Plato provided the key to the most important knowledge for mankind, knowledge of God and the soul. It was the absorption of this knowledge that proved so important to Ficino, to his circle, and to later writers and artists.
As a young man, Ficino had been directed by Cosimo de’ Medici towards the study of Plato in the original Greek. Later he formed a close connection with Cosimo’s grandson, Lorenzo de’ Medici, under whom Florence achieved its age of brilliance. Gathered round Ficino and Lorenzo were such men as Landino, Bembo, Poliziano and Pico della Mirandola. The ideas they discussed became central to the work of Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Dürer, and many other writers and artists.
Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, - no, nor the human race, as I believe, - and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.' Republic, Book V, 473D
With these words Plato expressed his ideal form of government. Often dismissed as unrealisable, they have appealed down the ages to men of goodwill. Having translated all of the Dialogues from Greek into Latin, at the request of his Medici patrons, Ficino was asked to prepare summaries by Lorenzo de’ Medici, the de facto ruler of the republic of Florence, who aspired to be the kind of enlightened ruler Plato described.
The title of this book, When Philosophers Rule, is a reference to what is perhaps the best known quotation from Plato on good government, and in the troubled times we now live, perhaps it is wise to turn again to what that great philosopher of the West had to say.
This volume is not a translation of Plato’s Dialogues themselves, but rather commentaries to three of his dialogues by Marsilio Ficino, the philosopher-priest who was head of the Platonic Academy in Florence in the 15th century. As Kathleen Raine wrote in a review of The letters of Marsilio Ficino in The Times,
‘All that we regard as the norm of Western European art – Botticelli’s paintings, Monteverdi’s music, Shakespeare’s philosophical lovers, Browne and Lorenzo, Jacques and Portia – has flowered from Ficino’s Florence.’
An interesting feature of these commentaries is that they were written at the request of Lorenzo de’ Medici who was at the time virtual ruler of the Republic of Florence and who presided over that great flowering which is still a wonder to this day.
Excerpt: Freedom, as the medieval English lawyer Sir John Fortescue once observed, is a thing with which the nature of man has been endowed by God. Therefore, he said, wherever it is oppressed it strives of its own energy always to return.
Living as we do in an age in which freedom seems relatively secure for many people in democratic states, it is easy to lose sight of the foundations upon which lasting freedom is built. Such foundations have long antecedents as this volume demonstrates, it being a translation of commentaries written more than five hundred years ago on works that were written over two thousand five hundred years ago. Yet Plato's Republic and Laws, and these commentaries on them, remain as relevant today as they have ever been, examining as they do the necessary conditions for a successful society which offers civil freedom under the rule of law to all its citizens.
Central to Plato's view of civil society is arete, justice or righteousness. Our own age is full of calls for justice in all social and civil spheres, but what is common to these calls is an apparent view that justice is something that is dispensed by the state, its institutions and courts of law to otherwise deprived citizens. Justice has become a commodity which purports to right wrongs and compensate victims who have nothing to do themselves but register their complaint with the appropriate authorities.
Plato's view, endorsed by Ficino, is very different. For them justice is a state of the soul over which every man and woman has personal command. It is an orderly state of the inner being which is cultivated by good practice of other virtues: wisdom, temperance and courage, which combined in one person produce that state of being that is called just. There is nothing to be gained from looking for this from some external source.
The great value of Plato's works and these commentaries on them is that they require us to look again at the basis of the freedoms we enjoy in modern democratic societies. They warn us that democratic freedoms are not attained, or maintained, without effort and that those efforts involve every citizen coming to an understanding of their own role in securing justice in the state to which they belong. It is clear from this view that the best form of government is self-government, and that such government involves the citizen in taking command of his or her own inner life, developing the personal strength to control, direct and restrain their own appetites while bringing their soul under the rule of wisdom or reason so that it becomes a thing of order and beauty reflecting the goodness of God and showing itself to be such in their conduct towards others and towards the state.
It was this idea of inner, personal government that lay behind the English common lawyers' idea of the reasonable man, the free and lawful man of the English common law. Such a person was presumed to know the law because the law was nothing else but reason, and reasonable conduct was sufficient to keep the individual within the law. This conception, which still informs the many common law jurisdictions that followed the British around the globe, is the key to the successful development of free democratic states. The lessons reflected in the pages of this volume offer a guide for modern statesmen and citizens alike.
For Plato, democracy as described by him is a dangerous and delicate form of government amounting at its worst to little more than mob rule based on the primacy of the pleasure-loving appetites in the souls of the citizens. When this becomes dominant in the majority of citizens, the very foundations of participatory forms of government are destroyed as fewer and fewer people develop in themselves the virtues necessary for the government of themselves or of states. New laws are passed on a whim to demonstrate to electorates that their governors are dealing with the latest crisis, but without any real regard to the effect of such laws on the body politic. There is an inevitable tendency for citizens to become ever more dependent on the state for the regulation of every aspect of life; regulations multiply and the people, far from becoming free citizens, become instead ever more dependent on the ever-increasing bounty of the state to provide for every aspect of life. In the end this cannot be sustained because the state has to appropriate more and more of the wealth of its citizens in order to pay for the services which the citizens demand in exchange for their votes.
Plato sees descent into tyranny as the inevitable outcome of such a state of affairs. However, he also writes: 'Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes amongst men have the spirit and power of philosophy, cities will have no rest from their evils, or so I believe.'
This is the opening that offers hope that the otherwise inevitable descent of democratic societies first into ungovernableness and then into tyranny can be avoided. In a democratic age, the kings and princes amongst men are the people themselves. The turning to philosophy that avoids the descent into tyranny is a revolution in personal values and an acceptance of personal responsibility. The free and lawful person acts reasonably and governs him or her self, not only because it is necessary for the good of the state and their neighbours, but also because such self-command offers greater happiness and fulfilment to the individual. Understanding this and making it a practical reality is necessary to the establishment and continuance of democratic governance based on freedom under law
When the governors of a state understand this, following Plato, they are more likely to direct their lawmaking powers to establishing and maintaining virtue in the souls of the citizens and the citizens will appreciate and applaud their efforts to do so.
This volume is the first translation into English of Ficino's Commentaries on Plato's two greatest works on this topic. The Commentaries are themselves full of additional insights which expand and elucidate Plato's thought. They provide the modern reader with a route into an art and science of government which can offer both personal development and also the peace, freedom and stability to which modern democracies aspire. Perhaps the appearance of this translation at this time is a part of that volition described by Fortescue by which the real freedom of the human condition reasserts itself from age to age.
All Things Natural: Ficino on Plato's Timaeus edited and translations by Arthur Farndell and Peter Blumsom (Commentaries by Ficino on Plato's Writing, 4th volume: Shepheard-Walwyn )
Marsilio Ficino, a leading scholar of the Italian Renaissance who translated all the works of Plato into Latin, examines Plato’s Timaeus, the most widely influential and hotly debated of the Platonic writings. Offering a probable account of the creation and nature of the cosmos, the discussion incorporates such questions as What is the function of arithmetic and geometry in the design of creation? What is the nature of mind, soul, matter, and time? and What is our place in the universe? To his main commentary Ficino adds an appendix, which amplifies and elucidates Plato’s meanings and reveals fascinating details about Ficino himself.
Arthur Farndell's translations of Marsilio Ficino's commentaries on Plato's Dialogues in Renaissance Quarterly, Carol Kaske of Cornell University wrote: 'It fills a need, since these Ficinian works have never been translated into English before. Even those Anglophone scholars who know Latin still need a translation in order to read quickly through a large body of material'.
Ficino's commentary on the Timaeus offers the English reader an opportunity to share the insights of this highly influential Renaissance philosopher into one of Plato's most important and controversial works. Here are discussed the perennial questions which affect us all: What is the nature of the universe? How did it begin? Does it have a cause outside itself? What is our place in it? What is the nature of mind, soul, matter, and time?
The central portion of the work, focusing on number, harmony, and music, has exerted a strong influence on the history of Western musical theory. Ficino adds material which amplifies and elucidates Plato's meanings and reveals fascinating details about Ficino himself.
This volume provides a rich source for all who are interested in philosophy, the history of cosmic theory, and Platonic and Renaissance studies.
Excerpt: SOUL NUMBERS
AS NUMBERS OCCUR frequently in the Commentary, it might be useful to add a short note of guidance on how they work, especially with regard to musical harmony and its attendant ratios. The easiest way to understand Ficino's use of what we might call 'soul numbers' is to see them as representing rates of frequency.
In my note to page 54 I explain that these numbers, though all correct, were wrongly attributed by the Pythagoreans to string tension rather than to the relative speed of vibrations between musical pitches. This latter fact was unknown until Marin Mersenne's discovery a century or so after Ficino's death, and though Ficino followed the Pythagoreans in this, had he known the truth he would have embraced it wholeheartedly, as the sympathetic communication of vibrating strings had always fascinated him.
The numbers that Ficino employs in the Commentary take two forms. First there are the number relationships themselves, for example sesquialteral or 3 to 2, lit. 'half again'; and then there are their musical equivalents, in this case the diapente, an interval 'through 5 notes' which is, in modern terminology, a perfect fifth. So this is the harmony that arises when two sounds vibrate at a ratio of 3 to 2 with each other — the greater the frequency, the higher the pitch of a note. As we are not assigning anything but pitch to the numbers it is immaterial whether we call it 3 to 2, or 2 to 3.
Ficino's great insight was that by linking the numbers so closely to music it was possible to lend them an added significance that we would fail to perceive in the numbers alone. For example, the double, or 2 to 1, becomes charged with meaning when we consider it to express the musical octave, for the octave is not merely the first step from unity, but in a way it is also the last. It is a fact that beyond the octave lies a mere repetition of the notes which have already occurred within the octave interval. Every musician knows this is so, and a glance at any piano keyboard, with its recurring pattern of octaves, will also verify the fact. So when the triple arises, it merely duplicates above the octave that note that is already contained within it. Therefore as numbers increase beyond the octave they are also exploring within the octave itself, which is an extraordinary fact. It was this that prompted Ptolemy, the great Greek astronomer and musician, to remark that the diapason, 'through all', was the idea of all octaves — that there is nothing beyond this first great step from one to two, which holds the inner form of the whole cosmos. The task of the harmonic numbers of the Lambda is to actuate at all levels, i.e. from point to solid, this mighty form.
Finally, it is up to individuals to discover for themselves the beauty and full implication of these numbers of the Soul.
Aliquot part — see Numerical Ratios.
Ancient Dorian Mode
This is the mode that Plato called 'the true Hellenic mode'. There has often been confusion regarding these note-names. As with the modern guitar, the lowest string on the lyre has the highest pitch; so hypate, or 'high', refers to its position on the lyre, not to its pitch. In the same way, nete, or 'low', refers to its position as the bottom string, even though it has the highest pitch. Parahypate is the note `next to hypate', and paramese the note 'next to mese'. Lichanos indicates that this string is plucked by the forefinger, and, trite is the third note from both mese and nete. Although mese is not the middle note of the eight-note scale, it adopts the central position in the full fifteen-note double octave referred to by Ficino in Chapter 30 (note to page 54).
Chromatic — A tetrachord consisting of two semitones and a minor third. (See Diatonic for more information.)
Diapason — see Musical Intervals.
Diapente — see Musical Intervals.
Diatessaron — see Musical Intervals.
Diatonic — Ficino refers to this as one of the three 'harmonies'. The harmonies are the three methods by which the ancient Greeks divided the tetrachord, a four-stepped part scale from which all the larger scales were formed. The steps of the diatonic are semitone, tone, and tone. These three methods were called the 'three genera'.
Different, The — see Five Natures of the Soul.
Disdiapason — see Musical Intervals.
Double |/strong>— see Numerical Ratios.
Enharmonic — A tetrachord consisting of two quarter tones and a major third. (See Diatonic for more information.)
Equivox, equison — see Musical Intervals.
Essence — That which renders a thing distinct from all else. See Five Natures of the Soul.
Five Natures of the Soul — These are the five natures that every individual entity or individual soul possesses. It must have an 'essence', and this essence must be the 'same' as itself and 'different' from all others. It will possess the 'stillness' to remain itself a certain term and it will either have 'motion' in itself, or a 'motion' passed on to it from another. These natures are described in Plato's Sophist. In Timaeus only the first three are mentioned overtly, whereas stillness and motion are implied.
Four Complexions — (correlated to the humours): ruddy, thin, corpulent, sallow.
Four Dispositions — (correlated to the humours): happy and generous; ambitious; sluggish and pallid; introspective (melancholic). Four Humours — blood, phlegm, yellow bile, black bile.
Four Virtues — wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice.
Harmony — The relationship of things, numbers, and musical sounds, when brought together as a whole. It has two main conditions: concord and discord. As Harmony is ruled by Unity, there is a constant tendency to resolve discord to concord and thus bring it closer to the One.
Hypate — see Ancient Greek Dorian Mode.
Lichanos — see Ancient Greek Dorian Mode.
Limit, limitless, and a mixture (or combination) of these two are those three states that are most universal. Only the One Itself precedes them in Being. They permeate the numbers of the Lambda. Plato's Philebus is the main source for Ficino when he discusses these. (See Five Natures of the Soul.)
Limma — See Musical Intervals (Diesis).
Model — In Timaeus the model for the Cosmos was the world offorms. As he fashioned this world, God had in mind the other, finer world as a kind of 'blueprint'.
Mese — the middle note of the scale. (See Ancient Greek Dorian Mode.)
Motion — see Five Natures of the Soul.
Multiple — see Numerical Ratios.
Musical Intervals (Diesis)
Diapason — 'through all the notes' — the Greek term for the
musical interval of an octave.
Diapente — 'through five notes' — the interval of a perfect fifth. Diatessaron — 'through four notes' — the interval of a perfect fourth. Diesis — a small interval that is similar to a semitone, having a musical ratio of 256:243. Plato called it a Limma or 'left-over' because it was what remained when two whole tones were extracted from a perfect fourth.
Disdiapason — a musical interval of two octaves.
Equivox, equison — different voices or sounds sharing in (equated within) a single harmonic ratio.
Unison — a single sound. (See equison and equivox.)
These are numbers seen in the Pythagorean way. The Pythagoreans were most interested in the special characteristics of numbers.
Circular — these are numbers which, no matter how many times they are multiplied by themselves, always reappear in the last digit: e.g., no matter how many times 6 is multiplied by itself, the total will always contain 6 as the last digit of the total: 6 x 6 = 36; 6 x 6 x 6= 216; 6 x 6 x 6 x 6= 1296, etc. 5 is another well known circular number.
Harmonicb> — the number ratios which are related to proportion and are relevant to music.
Linear — these are prime numbers, for they cannot be formed into planes or solids: that is, as they can only be divided by themselves and unity, they contain no breadth.
Plane — any number that has at least two factors can be arranged as a plane.
Plane numbers are of two types:
(a) square, which have equal sides (equilateral)
(b) rectangular, which have two unequal sides, for example (6 = 2 x 3). The more favoured type of rectangular number is a `long', which is equivalent to a superparticular numerical ratio. It has sides of unit difference. 6 is of this type. The lesser kind Ficino called 'oblong', a name which he designated to all superpartient types of ratio — that is, with sides of more than unit difference. 15 is of this type, with sides of 5 and 3. However, they are all rectangular numbers. Some highly factored numbers can be rectangular in more than one way: for example, 12 can be 4 x 3 and 6 x 2.
Solid — whereas plane numbers have both length and breadth, solid
numbers have the added dimension of depth. The most regular of these
are cubes, which are visually 'solid'. The side of a cube is its
cube root, just as the side of a square is its square root. This
visual way of comprehending numbers gives an indication of how
Pythagoreans approached numbers.
Thee Lambda itself is a profound integration of Pythagorean numbers. Cubes are not the only solid numbers, for there are also all cuboid numbers. 12, for example, is also a cuboid, with sides of 2 x 2 x 3.
Aliquot part — an equal part of a whole.
Double — the ratio of two to one (2 :1 or 2/1).
Multiple — a whole number or integer: for example, doubles, triples and quadruples are multiples.
Quadruple — four to one (4:1 or 4/1).
Subduple — the`inversion of the double or one to two (1:2 or 1/2).
Superbipartient — two and multiple parts of any denominator: for example, two and two thirds of one, or two and three fifths of one.
Superparticular — one and a single part of any denominator: for example, one and one half of one, or one and one third of one.
Superpartient — one and multiple parts of any denominator: for example, one and two thirds of one, or one and three fifths of one.
Triplethree to one (3 :1 or 3/1).
Parahypate — see Ancient Greek Dorian Mode.
Paramese — see Ancient Greek Dorian Mode.
Phthongus — a distinct musical note.
Quadruple — see Numerical Ratios.
Same, The — see Five Natures of the Soul.
Sesquialteral, sesquitertial — see Numerical Ratios.
Stillness — see Five Natures of the Soul.
Subduple — see Numerical Ratios.
Superparticular, superpartient, superbipartient — see Numerical Ratios.
Triple — see Numerical Ratios.
Trite — see Ancient Greek Dorian Mode.
Unison — see Musical Intervals.
Gardens of Philosophy: Ficino on Plato (Commentaries by Ficino on
Plato's Writing) Translation by Arthur Farndell
Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) made a vital contribution to the change in European Society that took place in the Renaissance. Men of influence throughout Europe drew intellectual and spiritual inspiration from him and his Academy. He conducted an extensive correspondence and during his life 12 volumes of his letters were published. With the exception of a few individual letters, these have not been translated into English before. The ongoing translations are the work of a group of scholars at the School of Economic Science in London.
With the publication of Arthur Farndell’s Gardens of Philosophy (Shepheard-Walwyn), there remained only four of Ficino’s commentaries on Plato’s dialogues which had not yet been translated into English. With the publication of this volume there remain only three. Farndell’s translation of the commentaries on the Republic and the Laws will comprise the third volume under the title When Philosophers Rule (9780856832574 – due 2009) and the fourth, All Things Natural (9780856832581 – due 2010), will contain the Timaeus.
As Carol Kaske of Cornell University wrote when reviewing Gardens of Philosophy in Renaissance Quarterly, these translations fill ‘a need. Even those Anglophone scholars who know Latin still need a translation in order to read quickly through a large body of material’
The bronze relief on the front depicts Philosophy welcoming us to the gardens of the Platonic Academy. It was inspired by the words of Marsilio Ficino in the preface to his commentaries on Plato's dialogues.
The Gardens of Philosophy begins with this preface, which introduces short commentaries or summaries relating to twenty-five of the Platonic dialogues and to the twelve letters thought to have been written by Plato.
By the middle of the fifteenth century the works of Plato had been carefully gathered together under the watchful eye of Cosimo de' Medici. Cosimo had been attracted to the philosophy of Plato by the words of Gemistos Plethon during the Council of Florence in 1439.
In 1462 Cosimo commissioned Marsilio Ficino to translate Plato's works from Greek into Latin. Ficino's biographer, Giovanni Corsi, tells us that this undertaking was completed within five years.
For each dialogue, Ficino supplied an interpretative work in the form of a commentary or summary. These interpretations are presented here as philosophical and spiritual works in their own right.
Arthur Farndell was born and lives in London. He studied at King's College, Cambridge, where he took his BA degree in French and Italian, with additional papers in linguistics and the history of Ithe Romance languages. He later received his MA degree from Cambridge. He has been a member of the School of Economic Science since 1960, concentrating on Philosophy, Sanskrit, and Renaissance Studies. For more than thirty years he has been a member of the team of translators who have produced, to date, seven volumes of The Letters of Marsilio Ficino. He is also the author of Succeed in Maths and A Mahâbhârata Companion. He is happily married, and he and his wife have five children and six grandchildren.
PLATO HAS EXERTED a major influence on Western civilisation for nearly two and a half millennia. He and his master Socrates were chiefly concerned with what constitutes the real happiness for human beings and with the communication of this to others. For them, the Good did not consist in wealth, power and the gratification of the senses, but in the knowledge of the very principle of goodness of which all those things that seem good are merely transitory reflections. In Plato's view, the path to the Good lies in the contemplation of the Good and the practice of the virtues: wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance.
Marsilio Ficino, a Florentine priest of the fifteenth century, was the last of a long line of philosophers to re-introduce Plato's teaching into society as a living commitment rather than an abstract theory. In addition to writing books to show that the works of Plato were in perfect harmony with the Christian religion, Ficino translated all the works of Plato from Greek into Latin. He also wrote illuminating commentaries on Plato's dialogues.
This volume consists of Ficino's shorter commentaries or summaries. They all have as their focus Plato's primary concern with the Good but the treatment of the theme is refreshingly varied. Neither Plato nor Ficino was an ivory-tower philosopher: they both believed that the virtues found within could be practised in the government of the State. The qualities of the good householder are also the qualities of the good ruler writ large. In these commentaries the reader will find an insight into the text of Plato's dialogues which leads to a much greater understanding of the original master.
No one is better equipped than Arthur Farndell to translate these commentaries. He has a comprehensive knowledge of the Latin language and a thorough knowledge not only of Plato but also of Ficino, since he has worked continuously on the translation of Ficino's letters from Latin into English, of which seven volumes have now been published.
THE GARDENS of Philosophy are ever open to all who would like to enter. Philosophy herself extends a hand in gracious welcome, inviting us to walk in the company of Plato and find peace and inspiration in an atmosphere of reflective inquiry.
Loving hands have tended these grounds throughout millennia. Our present guide is Marsilio Ficino, sometimes known as a second Plato. More than five hundred years ago his work in the philosophical gardens re-invigorated Europe through Latin translations of Plato's dialogues. The translations themselves were freshened by the streams of commentaries flowing from Ficino's heart and mind.
During the last hundred years new blooms have appeared in the gardens, as Ficino's own writings and translations have been rendered into modern European languages. The present floral offering consists of Ficino's shorter commentaries to Plato's dialogues, together with his commentaries to the twelve letters attributed to Plato.
There is no doubt that Ficino regarded Plato as one of the head gardeners, and himself as one who was privileged to work the same soil. Nevertheless, the ground tilled anew by Ficino has produced flowers attractive in their own right. Here is a welcoming posy, plucked here and there from the abundant beds:
`Man is a rational soul, partaking of mind and using a body.'
`Law is eternal, absolutely unchangeable, and among all nations it is the same.'
`The philosopher's function is to know the divine and govern the human.'
`Bodily beauty is not to be loved for its own sake but is to be thought of as an image of divine beauty.'
`Prayer is the ardent disposition of the pure soul, a disposition devoted to God and desirous of what is seen to be good.'
`The function of man is not to perceive, but to consider what he has perceived.'
May your visit be restful and restorative.
PART ONE: Summaries of Twenty-five Dialogues of Plato
Translator's Notes to Part One
Ficino's Preface to his Commentaries on Plato
Hipparchus: the Desire for Gain
Philosophy or The Lover
Theages: Wisdom Meno: Virtue
Alcibiades I: Nature of Man
Alcibiades II: Prayer Minos: Law
Hippias: the Beautiful and Noble
Ion: Poetic Inspiration
Euthydemus: the Views of the Sophists
Lesser Hippias: Truthfulness
Apology: Socrates' defence
Crito: Socrates' way of life
Phaedo: Nature of the soul
Menexenus: Love for one's country,
Critias: Story of Atlantis,
PART TWO: Discussions of the Twelve 'Letters of Plato'
Translator's Notes to Part Two
First Letter: from Dion to Dionysius
Second Letter: from Plato to Dionysius
Third Letter: from Plato to Dionysius
Fourth Letter: from Plato to Dion
Fifth Letter: from Dion to Perdiccas
Sixth Letter: from Plato to Hermias, Erastus, and Coriscus
Seventh Letter: from Plato to Dion's relatives and friends
Eighth Letter: from Plato to Dion's relatives and friends
Ninth Letter: from Plato to Archytas
Tenth Letter: from Plato to Aristodemus
Eleventh Letter: from Plato to Laodoman
Twelfth Letter: from Plato to Archytas
PART THREE: Appendices, Translator's Notes to Part Three, Ficino's Introduction to ten of Plato's dialogues Ficino's Preface to his commentaries on Plato, Index
Evermore Shall Be So: Ficino on Plato’s Parmenides translated by Arthur Farndell (Shepheard-Walwyn) Having translated the works of Plato and the major Neo-Platonists from Greek into Latin, Ficino was in a unique position to provide commentaries on Plato’s dialogues, explaining the substance of the dialogue in the context of the whole corpus of Platonic thought and Renaissance Florence.
To Ficino, however, philosophy was much more than an intellectual exercise. As a canon of Florence Cathedral, he recognised the spiritual significance of Plato’s dialogues, of which Parmenides is perhaps the most profound, dealing as it does with the ultimate reality and how the individual soul may ascend to the presence of the eternal One.
The central message of Parmenides, that everything depends on the One, resonates with the growing awareness around the world of the inter-relatedness of all things, be it in the biosphere, the intellectual or spiritual realms. Philosophers in ancient Greece appreciated this unity and employed reason and dialectic to draw the mind away from its preoccupation with the material world and attract it towards contemplation of the soul, and ultimately of that Oneness which embraces, but is distinct from, the multifarious forms of creation.
Thus Parmenides carefully instructed the young Socrates, and Plato recorded their dialogue in this work which he named after the elderly philosopher. Nearly 2000 years later, Marsilio Ficino made Parmenides available to the West by translating it into Latin, the language of scholars in his time. Ficino added a lengthy commentary to this translation, a commentary which Evermore Shall Be So puts into English for the first time, more than 500 years after its original composition.
Ficino’s crucial influence upon the unfolding of the Renaissance and his presentation of Plato’s understanding of the One and the so-called Platonic Ideas or Forms make Evermore Shall Be So an important work in the history of thought. Though it will be an essential buy for Renaissance scholars and historians, its freshness of thought and wisdom are as relevant today as they ever were to inspire a new generation seeking spiritual and philosophical direction in their lives.
MULTIFARIOUS are the introductions that could be written to the commentary made by Marsilio Ficino to Plato's Parmenides. The translator has chosen to focus on the two themes that particularly struck him as he read and re-read Ficino's text. The first is the care shown by Parmenides in the training he imparts to Socrates. The second is Ficino's presentation of Plato's text as a work of practical spirituality.
The care shown by Parmenides
IN HIS DEDICATION of the commentary to Niccolò Valori, Ficino remarks that Parmenides, though older, does not contradict Socrates'. In Chapter 15 some correction does occur in dealing with the doubts expressed by Socrates: Parmenides does not correct the first doubt, but he does correct the second.' It is the next chapter that clearly depicts the care evinced by the elder philosopher, whom Ficino here presents in the likeness of a midwife:
Just as Socrates, the son of a midwife, performs the office of a midwife in different places towards boys and youths and proclaims this before others, so the aged Parmenides, like a dutiful midwife, exhorts and helps the youthful Socrates to give birth to the wonderful, almost divine, opinions with which he is pregnant and which he is trying to bring forth.
Moreover, he does not reject or destroy the children that are born lacking beauty, but rather he takes them up and cherishes them in a wonderful way. He strengthens the weak, straightens the crooked, gives shape to the shapeless, and perfects the imperfect. No one, therefore, will think that Parmenides the Pythagorean, the friend of Ideas in the manner of his fellows, and the pursuer of Being, which is detached from sensory perception, and of the One Itself, which is above Being, condemns opinions of this kind; but every follower of Plato will remember that Socrates is being very carefully trained by Parmenides in dialectic, in order that he may be much more heedful when considering the divine mysteries, that he may proceed with greater care, and that he may reach the end of his journey in greater safety.
The portrayal of Parmenides as a midwife appears again in Chapter 26, where he is also compared to a teacher:
That Parmenides does not pursue Socrates at every point like a disputant and rebuke him, but in the manner of a midwife encourages, assists, cherishes, guides and corrects him, is plain to observe, because this young man does not gradually wane but gains strength at every step, being led towards better things ... Therefore, being now guided by Parmenides as by a teacher, he puts forward a true and definite view of Ideas.
The third comparison of Parmenides to a midwife occurs in Chapter 34, where Ficino says:
When Parmenides pursues, in relation to Socrates, the dedicated function of midwife which he introduced at the beginning, stimulating the inner powers of the young man to a most precise consideration of Ideas and showing on numerous occasions that very serious errors arise from imprecise answers and responses, and that it is a difficult task, and one that requires an excellent mind, to prove`that Ideas exist, to show how they exist, to truly resolve doubts as they arise, and to teach with clear reason the person who is listening, all of these things make Socrates very careful and precise.
In Chapter 18 Ficino portrays Parmenides as being a particularly careful tutor when Ideas are being considered:
When Parmenides, therefore, is going to instruct Socrates, or rather encourage him, to contemplate that true way of participation by which Ideas are perceived by what is below them, he rejects, one by one, the ways which are not lawful ... Thus Socrates is advised to consider a nonphysical, indeed divine, way of understanding, for we are considering either the power of an Idea or the property of an Idea ... Moreover, in comparing an Idea to the light of day he speaks rightly, but in thinking that light spreads through air like heat and is like a sail spread over the heads of many men, and in thinking that this is how an Idea is present is many objects, he is refuted by Parmenides, who says that, if this were the case, an Idea would not be totally present in anything but would be present in some parts of the objects through some of its own parts; and in this way he compels the young man to answer with greater care.
In the following chapter Ficino indicates that Socrates, for his part, is a ready student:
Step by step Socrates is instructed in these matters so that he may consider a partaking of the Ideas which is higher than any physical principle. To this instruction Socrates readily assents, being inclined towards it by nature.
The measured restraint practised by Parmenides throughout the training imparted to Socrates is clearly in evidence in Chapter 21 of Ficino's commentary:
As a Pythagorean with due regard for Ideas, Parmenides does not cross Socrates when the latter supposes that, on account of assemblages of items coming together within something definite in response to a cause related to form, type, nature, and perfection, there is a single Idea for each and every assemblage within a type.
He does, however, temper Socrates' enthusiasm, in order to avoid the possible inference that any collection of items has to be related to a specific Idea, even if these items seem to come together`by some accidental or passing circumstance, by some deficiency, artificiality, or name; for if this were the case, there would be an unnatural number of causes for many of the occurrences within nature, and the number of Ideas would be`infinite ... This is how Socrates is advised not to imagine a new Idea for every apparent combination.
The restraint continues to be evident in the following chapter, where Ficino, after comparing Socrates to 'a young man without sufficient training', says:
Finally, Parmenides does not in fact reprove Socrates for seeking I refuge in such notions, but he does reprove him for appearing to stay there. He therefore takes pains, through this reference to new notions which relates to the naturally implanted types, to call him back next not only to these types but also to the divine types.
However, from this point onwards the training of the young man's mind does seem to become somewhat stricter:
For this reason Parmenides, intending to lead Socrates on to a fuller explanation of these things, will henceforth insist upon many reasonings. (Chapter 26)
... when Socrates was being tested by Parmenides. (Chapter 27)
Parmenides advises the young man ... to proceed more carefully hence‑forth. (Chapter 27)
Parmenides therefore advises Socrates, in relation to the divine Ideas, to acknowledge both the pre-eminence of their nature and their ability to impart their power. (Chapter 28)
In brief, Socrates had to answer Parmenides by saying that the ideal lordship and the ideal service are not related to us but to each other, I mean through their first indissoluble relationship. (Chapter 30)
For this reason Socrates is now carefully trained, so that he learns to resolve doubts about Ideas, which, if unresolved, would detract from divine providence. (Chapter 32)
Even in the later chapters of the commentary Ficino reminds us of the unremitting dedication shown by Parmenides in his instruction of Socrates. In Chapter 87 he says that Parmenides hones the young man's mind ever more keenly', and in Chapter 90 we find:
Parmenides, when preparing to train the mind of the noble young man along these lines, obliges him repeatedly, by means of the tightest constraints, either to withdraw from the false or else to make use of these abstractions, in which, as the man whom you know also says, there is no falsehood ... Parmenides tacitly reminds us of these things, partly instructing the mind of the young man by means of some logical stratagem and partly sowing some hidden teaching here and there.
Finally, in Chapter 93, Ficino again draws our attention to the same theme:
Notice how Parmenides, at times when philosophic tenets are being torn to shreds, trains the young man to be careful in his replies and judicious in his discrimination.
What effect did this training at the hands of Parmenides have upon Socrates? Ficino gives the answer in Chapter 37 by referring to a response given by Socrates in the Theaetetus:
In the Theaetetus, when Socrates was asked to refute those who posited a single motionless being, he did not undertake to do so himself but gave this answer: Although I honour Melissus and others, who say that there is one self-consistent totality, for it may seem immodest of me to cross them, yet I honour them less than I do Parmenides alone, for Parmenides, to use Homer's words, strikes me as one who is sagacious and worthy of great honour. I once conversed with him when he was advanced in years and I was but a youth, and he struck me as having a wisdom that was profound and noble in all respects. This is why I fear that we do not have the slightest understanding of his sayings and expressions, and what he himself implied by his words is, I fear, even more of a closed book to us.
AN OVERVIEW`of Ficino's Parmenides Commentary
Dedication to Niccolò Valori
`Plato ... has embraced all theology within Parmenides [Plato ... universam in Parmenide complexus`est theologiam].'
`He seems to have drawn this celestial work, in a divine way, from the deep recesses of the divine mind and from the innermost sanctuary of philosophy [videtur et ex divinae mentis adytis intimoque Philosophiae sacrario caeleste hoc opus divinitus deprompsisse]. Anyone approaching his sacred writings [Ad cuius sacram lectionem quisque accedet] should prepare himself with sobriety of soul and freedom of mind before daring to handle the mysteries of the celestial work [prius sobrietate animi mentisque libertate se preparet, quam attrectare mysteria caelestis operis audeat]. For here the divine Plato [Hic enim divinus Plato], speaking of the One Itself, discusses with great subtlety how the One Itself is the principle of all things [de ipso uno subtilissime disputat quemadmodum ipsum unum rerum omnium principium est]: how it is above all [super omnia], and all things come from it [omniaque ab illo]; how it is outside all and within all [Quo pacto ipsum extra omnia sit, et in omnibus]; and how all come out of it [omniaque ex illo], through it, and to it [per illud atque ad illud].'
`Parmenides ... unfolds the whole principle of Ideas [Parmenides integram idearum explicat rationem].'
Parmenides 'introduces nine hypotheses [suppositiones] ..., five on the basis that the One exists and four on the basis that the One does not exist.'
Ficino gives a brief statement on the nature of each hypothesis, and he points out that Parmenides' main intention is to affirm that 'there is a single principle [principium] of all things, end if that is in place everything is in place, but if it be removed everything perishes.'
The first hypothesis 'discusses the one supreme God [de uno supremoque Deo disserit].'
The second 'discusses the individual orders of the divinities [de singulis Deorum ordinibus].'
The third 'discusses divine souls [de divinis animis].'
The fourth 'discusses those which come into being in the region which surrounds matter [de iis, quae circa materiam fiunt].'
The fifth 'discusses primal matter [de materia prima].'
The Preface of Marsilio Ficino to his Commentary on Parmenides
`Under the guise of a dialectical and, as it were, logical game aimed at training the intelligence [sub ludo quodam dialectico et quasi logico exercitaturo videlicet ingenium], Plato points towards divine teachings and many aspects of theology [ad diving dogmata passim theologica multa significat.]'
`The subject matter of this Parmenides is particularly theological [Materia Parmenidis huius potissimum theologica est] and its form particularly logical [forma vero praecipue logica].'
Chapter 1: Setting the scene for the dialogue
A request is made for a previous discussion involving Parmenides, Zeno, and Socrates to be recounted.
Chapter 2: How the whole of being is one, but the One Itself is above being [Quomodo omne ens sit unum, ipsum vero unum super ens]
`The universe, or the all [universum sive omne] is appreciated in these three ways [tribus his modis accipitur]: individually, collectively, as a whole [singulatim, congregatim, summatim].'
`Beyond that unity which partakes perfectly of the intelligible world [praeter unitatem illam intelligibili mundo perfecte participatam] he (Parmenides) postulates a supreme unity [eminentissimam excogitat unitatem] higher than the one universal being [universo ente uno excelsiorem], for the nature of being is different from the nature of unity [alia enim ipsius entis, alia unitatis`ipsius ratio est].'
`Therefore the one being [Unum igitur ens] is not the simple One Itself [non est ipsum simpliciter unum] but is in all respects a composite [sed quoquomodo compositum] mixed with multiplicity [multitudinique permixtum].'
Chapter 3: All multiplicity partakes of Unity [Omnis multitudo est particeps unitatis]
Zeno, Parmenides' disciple, confirms his master's proposition with another, 'whereby he shows that beings are not many [ens non esse multa], that is, not only many [id est, solum multa], but beyond their multiplicity [sed praeter multitudinem] they partake of unity [esse partecipes unitatis].'
Chapter 4: The Existence and Nature of Ideas [Ideas esse, et quales]
`Human nature depends on the Idea of man [ab idea hominis humana natura (dependet)].'
`Now the cause which is unmoving and universal at the same time [Causa vero immobilis simul universalisque] is necessarily the intellect [necessario est intellectus] and the intellectual Idea [et intellectualis idea].'
Again, there are many Ideas [Ideae rursus multae sunt], as least as many as the types of natural phenomena [quod saltem rerum species naturalium], and each one is called a unity [et unaquaeque unitas appellatur], I mean, not simply unity [unitas inquam non simpliciter], but a unity [imo quaedam].'
For this reason [quamobrem] there exists above ideal unities [super ideales unitates extat] the One that is simply itself [ipsum simpliciter unum], governing the full expansion of all species [per quaslibet multitudines latissime regnans].'
Chapter 5: In what respects Ideas differ among themselves and in what respects they agree [Quomodo ideae inter se differant et convenient]
`Since Ideas are eternal and intellectual in their extreme purity [Ideae cum sint aeternae et ad puritatis summum intellectuales], they produce within the same sequence beneath them unmoving and pure effects prior to moving and impure effects [effectus procreant in eadem sub ipsis serie stabiles atque puros, priusquam mobiles et impuros].'
Chapter 6: For what there are Ideas, and for what there are no Ideas: there are as many Ideas as there are rational souls [Quorum sint ideae. Quorum non sint. Quot sunt rationales animae, totidem earum sunt ideae]
`There is a single Idea for the whole of a single type [unius communiter speciei una est idea].'
Chapter 7: There is no Idea for matter [Nulla est idea materiae]
Chapter 8: There are no Ideas for individual items [Singularium non sunt ideae]
Chapter 9: There are no Ideas for parts [Partium non sunt ideae]
`One is prior to multiplicity [unum antecedit multitudinem].'
Chapter 10: How there are Ideas for the Accidental [Quomodo accidentium sint ideae]
Chapter 11: There are no Ideas for Skills [Artificiorum non sunt ideae]
Chapter 12: There are Ideas for only the Speculative Branches of Knowledge [Scientiarum solum speculativarum sunt ideae]
Chapter 13: There are no Ideas for Evils [Non sunt ideae malorum]
`God Himself is every Idea [quaelibet ... idea est ipse Deus].'
Chapter 14: There are no Ideas for vile things [Sordium non sunt ideae]
`There is no Idea for mud [Non est idea luti], but there is an Idea for water and for earth [sed aquae terraeque idea].'
Chapter 15: Even those things which are not expressed through Ideas are related to Providence and to a divine cause [Etiam quae per ideas ipsas non exprimuntur, ad providentiam pertinent causamque divinam]
Chapter 16: Parmenides corrects or modifies the replies of Socrates, but does not destroy them [Parmenides responsiones Socratis corrigit vel dirigit, non disperdit]
Chapter 17: How the things of our world partake of Ideas, being the images of Ideas, without their having any identical or common cause [Quomodo res nostrae participant ideas, tanquam imagines idearum. Neque his atque illis est ulla ratio eadem vel natura communis]
`The ideal causes [Ideales rationes] are in the intellect of the Maker [in conditore sunt intellectu] and also in the world-soul [et in ipsa mundi anima] and in universal nature [et in universali natura].'
Chapter 18: An Idea is not partaken of in a physical way, so that neither the whole nor any part of it is received [Idea non participatur corporeo more: ita ut vel tots vel pars eius aliqua capiatur]
`Nothing in our world [Nulla quidem rerum nostrarum] apprehends the whole power of an Idea [totam capit ideae virtutem]: that eternal, effective, and totally indivisible essence, perfect life, and perfect intelligence [scilicet aeternam illam efficaciam individuam prorsus essentiam, vitam intelligentiamque perfectam].'
Chapter 19: Ideal largeness, ideal equality, and ideal smallness are not partaken of by any nature divisible into parts [Ipsa magnitudo aequalitas, parvitas ideales non participantur conditione quadam in partes divisibili]
`Let us consider ideal equality [consideramus idealem aequalitatem]: an intellectual ratio [scilicet rationem quandam intellectualem] which is both a model and a unifier [tam exemplarem, quam conciliatricem] of universal harmony [universae congruitatis] and of harmonic proportion [et proportionis harmonicae] and of any kind of equality [aequalitatisque cuiuslibet]
Chapter 20: Neither by nature nor by circumstance do Ideas meet with material things [Ideas non convenire cum materialibus neque natura neque conditione]
`It is clearly the case [plane constat] that Ideas are remote from [illas procul ab] all differentiation, all place, all movement, and all time [omni divisione, loco, motu, tempore esse], being indivisible, unmoving, eternal, and present everywhere [impartibiles, immobiles, aeternas, ubique praesentes]: so present [ita praesentes] that each quality of an Idea [ut cuiuslibet ideae proprietas quaedam] extends to the uttermost ends of creation [ad ultimas perveniat mundi formas].'
`However, it is important now to remember [Meminisse vero nunc oportet] that forms in the physical world [formas in materia] are not produced directly from Ideas, but are made through the seed-powers of nature derived from Ideas [non proxime ab ideis, sed per vires seminales naturae illinc infusas effici].'
Chapter 21: We should not suppose that every assemblage of multifarious items suggests that there is a single Idea for those items [Non debemus ex qualibet multorum communion, unam illorum ideam excogitare]
Chapter 22: From types which are created by the soul we must rise to types which are naturally present in the soul, and then rise from those to types which are divine [Oportet a speciebus quae fiunt ab anima ad species ascendere quae naturaliter insunt animae. Ab his insuper ad divinas]
We use reason aright to take physical things back to their non-physical causes [resque corporeas ad incorporeal causas recta ratione reducimus].'
Chapter 23: The first types of creation, which are also the principal subjects of the intellect, are prior to the intelligences [Primae rerum species, quae etiam sunt principalia intellectus obiecta intelligentias antecedunt]
`Just as true sense [quemadmodum verus sensus] focuses on something perceptible [circa sensibile quiddam versatur] which actually exists [quod et revera existit], which is prior to sense [et antecedit sensum], and which is united with sense at the time of perception [ac denique cum sensu iam sentiente coniungitur], so true intelligence [sic intelligentia vera], which he now calls notion [quam nunc nominat notionem], is directed towards something that is intelligible to it [ad intelligibile suum dirigitur], that really exists and is prior to it [revera existens atque praecedens], and is more united with notion [et magis cum notione coniunctum] than the perceptible is with sense [quam cum sensu sensibile].'
Chapter 24: Ideas are intelligible things rather than intelligences, and these intelligible things are prior to intelligences [Ideae non tam intelligentiae quam intelligibilia sunt. Atque haec intelligentias antecedunt]
`This universe has taken its rise not so much from the intellect or the intelligence as from intelligible things, namely, the first essence, which is full of intelligible types and powers [universum hoc non tam ab intellectu vel intelligentia quam ab intelligibilibus, id est, ab essentia prima intelligibilium specierum virtutumque plena].'
Chapter 25: The quality of an Idea somehow remains one throughout an entire sequence, while the power of an Idea varies [Proprietas idealis una quodammodo est in tota serie. Virtus autem varia]
Chapter 26: Ideas are not simple notions but natural types which possess model power and effective power [Ideae non sunt simplices notiones quaedam, sed species naturales, vim exemplarem efficientemque habentes]
`The nature of the Idea is not conveyed to our world [neque ipsa ideae natura ad haec nostra transfertur], nor, conversely, do the things of our world in any way meet Ideas [neque haec igitur in re ulla conveniunt cum ideis], but merely reflect them [sed solum illas referunt], just as the image in a mirror reflects the face [quemadmodum specularis imago vultum].'
Chapter 27: Natural forms are rightly said to be similar to Ideas, but Ideas must not be described as similar to natural forms [Naturales formae dicuntur quidem ideis similes. Ideae vero harum similes appellari non debent]
Chapter 28: Contrary to the opinion of the Stoics and the Aristotelians, Ideas and all things divine are separate from nature and have a power that can be imparted to everything [Contra stoicos atque peripateticos, quod ideae divinaque omnia et natura segregata sunt et virtutem habent cunctis communicabilem]
`The first Good acts and cares with the greatest possible providence [primum denique ipsumque bonum quam maxime Tacit et providet].'
Chapter 29: The ways in which Ideas cannot be known by us, and the ways in which they can be known [Quomodo ideae a nobis cognosci non possint. Item quomodo possint]
`But when we say in this discussion that the first types are within themselves, you should understand [Tu vero inter haec ubi primas species esse dicimus in seipsis, intellige] that they are not within the first intellect [non esse in primo intellectu] like parts within a whole [velut partes in toto], or like qualities within an object [vel qualitates aliquas in subiecto], but like numbers within unity [sed quemadmodum in unitate numeri], like the beginnings of lines within a centre [in centro capita linearum], like the rays and colours within the light of the sun [in solis lute, radii, vel colores].'
Chapter 30: The ways in which Ideas are not related, or may be related, to the things of our world, and vice versa. Also concerning lordship and service and relationships in the realm of Ideas [Quomodo ideae non referantur vel referantur ad nostra, et haec ad illas. Ac de dominatione illic et servitute, et relationibus idearum]
Chapter 31: How pure knowledge relates to pure truth, while human knowledge relates to human truth. How Ideas may be unknown or known [Quomodo ipsa simpliciter scientia ad ipsam simpliciter veritatem refertur. Scientia humana, ad humanam. Quomodo ideae ignotae vel notae]
Chapter 32: Concerning the way of divine consideration and providence [De modo divinae cognitionis atque providentiae]
`By being aware that He Himself is the origin of all [cognoscendo se ipsum principium omnium], He immediately cognises all and makes all [omnia statim et cognoscit et facit] .'
Chapter 33: On divine lordship and consciousness, and on`the six orders of Ideas or forms [De dominatione et cognitione divina, atque de sex ordinibus idearum vel formarum]
Tor it is not by intelligence [Non enim intelligential but by some more mysterious act [sed occultiore quodam actu] that we are able to appreciate the first principle of the universe [frui primo universi principio pos- sumus].'
Chapter 34: If there be no Ideas in the presence of God and no ideal patterns within us, then Dialectic will perish, and so will all Philosophy. There will be no proof, definition, division, or explanation [Nisi sint et ideae penes deum et ideales in nobis formulae, peribit dialectica omnisque philosophia. Non erit demonstratio vel definitio, vel divisio, vel resolutio]
`We have shown conclusively [confirmavimus] that the patterns and models of all things [formulas regulasque rerum] are naturally implanted within our mind [esse menti etiam nostrae naturaliter insitas].'
Chapter 35: On the practice of Dialectic through the intellectual forms and with the intelligible types as the aim [De dialectica exercitatione per formas intellectuales, ad species intelligibiles]
Parmenides 'will begin [exordietur] from the One [ab uno] as the cause of Ideas and of divine matters [tanquam causa idearum atque divinorum], showing throughout the debate [significans in toto disputationis cursu] that this One [ipsum unum] produces all beings step by step [producere entia omnia gradatim].'
In this way Ideas [Illas igitur] are finally attained [attingit tandem] by the simple gaze of steady intelligence [stabilis intelligentiae simplex intuitus], a gaze utterly dissociated from all considerations of material things [ab omnibus materialium cogitationibus penitus segregatus].'
Chapter 36: The rules of Dialectic which pre-suppose being or non-being, and the number of ways in which non-being is described [Regulae dialecticae supponentes esse vel non esse, et quot modis dicitur non ens]
Parmenides maintains that the most powerful form of reasoning is [Potissimam argumentandi formam esse vult] that which proceeds from hypothesis [quae ex suppositione procedit] and examines carefully [perpendens], with many steps [multis gradibus] what follows [quid sequatur] if something is affirmed and what follows if it is denied [affirmato quolibet vel negato], for this form of reasoning [forma enim eiusmodi] does not depend on any human contrivances [non machinis quibusdam confidit humanis], but relies on a rational succession of natural and divine things [sed ipsa rerum naturalium divinarumque consequenti serie nititur] and has the hierarchy of the universe as its teacher of truth [praeceptoremque veritatis habet ipsum ordinem universi].'
Chapter 37: The subsequent discussion is said to be difficult, because it is not only logical but also theological [Futura disputatio dicitur ardua, quia non solum logica est sed etiam theological
Chapter 38: On the hypotheses of Parmenides; and on the Good, which, according to the words of Plato, is higher than being and higher than intellect [De suppositionibus Parmenidis. Et de uno bonoque quod ente et intellectu superius, per verba Platonis]
`It is shown in the Philebus [In Philebo probatur] that from the One [ab ipso uno], which is the beginning of creation [rerum principio], two are immediately produced [statim produci binarium]: the principles of beings [scilicet principia entium], or the two elements known as limit and limitlessness [vel elementa duo, terminum scilicet infinitatemque]
From these two [ex quibus] all beings are directly compounded [omnia prorsus entia componantur], but before the compounding of other beings [sed ante aliorum entium compositionem] the first to be compounded and mixed from these two`[primum ex his confici mixtum] is the first being [scilicet ens primum], which contains universal being within itself`[in se continens ens universum].'
Ficino draws support also from the sixth book of the Republic: 'The Good Itself [ipsum bonum] is not the intellect or the intelligible [neque tamen est intellectus vel intelligibile] or the truth or essence [vel veritas vel essential, but is higher than all these in excellence and power [sed his omnibus dignitate et potentate superius].'
Further support is taken from the Sophist: 'It is clear that in the first being [probatur in primo ente] there are all those things [omnia esse] which are necessarily required for the perfection of being [quae ad perfectionem entis necessario requiruntur].'
`Finally, he shows in the Sophist [probatur denique in Sophiste] ... that the first universal being [ipsum primum et universum ens] is subject to the One [patitur unum], both in its parts [turn in partibus suis] and as a whole [turn in toto].'
Chapter 39: Next, how Plato proceeds to the First. Its name. The Idea of the Good [Item quomodo Plato procedit ad primum. De nomine eius. De idea boni]
`Throughout his writings Plato reduces perceptible multiplicities to intelligible unities, that is, to Ideas [Plato ... ubique sensibiles passim multitudines ad intelligibiles redigit unitates, id est, ideas]: for his intention is to relate each single multiplicity [scilicet unamquamque multitudinem invicem cognaturum] to a single Idea [ad ideam unam], and then to relate the intelligible unities to the simple One Itself [ad ipsum simpliciter unum], which excels the intelligible world by at least as much [quod ita saltem intelligibilia superat] as the intelligible world excels the perceptible world [quemadmodum ab his sensibilia superantur].'
Chapter 40: Next, Plato's two paths to the First; and the two names of the First [Rursus duae Platonis ad primum vise. Duo nomina primi]
`Plato rises to the Supreme by two paths [Plato per duas ad summum vias ascendit]: by the path of analogies in the Republic [per comparationes quidem in Republica] and by the path of negations in Parmenides [per negationes autem in Parmenide]. Both the analogies and the negations [Utraeque pariter tarn comparationes quam negationes] affirm that God is set apart from all beings and from all intelligibles [declarant Deum esse tum ab omnibus entibus et intelligibilibus segregatum], and that He is also the beginning of creation [turn etiam principium universi].'
`He defines God as the sole beginning of everything, totally simple and totally supreme [Deum principium omnium unicum, simplicissimum, eminentissimum esse designat].'
Chapter 41: Some Platonic discussions follow which show that the One is the beginning of all things, and that the One Itself, the Good, is above being. The First Discussion [Secuntur discursus Platonici probantes unum esse principium omnium, et esse ipsum unum bonumque superius ente. Primus discursus]
Chapter 42: The Second Discussion on the same subject [Secundus ad idem discursus]
The One indwells all things both individually and collectively [omnibus et singulatim et summatim inest unum]; and with the very multitude [et in ipsa multitudine] which seems opposed to the One [quae uni videtur opposita], the One Itself makes the multitude [unum ipsum conficit multitudinem], for what is a multitude but one repeated over and over again [quid enim aliud multitude est nisi aliquod saepius repetitum]?'
`This One, therefore [Hoc igitur unum], which is absolutely common to all [omnibus communissimum], derives its existence from the simple One which is the most common of all [ab ipso tandem existit simpliciter uno omnium communissimo].'
Chapter 43: The Third Discussion on the same subject. Also on the simplicity of the first and the last [Tertius ad idem discursus. Ac de simplicitate primi et ultimi]
`In the hierarchy of the universe [In ordine universi] there is the first and there is the last [ad primum pervenitur et ultimum], and each of these is of necessity [utrumque necessario est] one and simple [unum atque simplex], devoid of multiplicity [multitudinis expers].'
`Certainly matter is in the highest degree one in its ability to receive form [Est certe materia maximum unum scilicet formabile], just as the first being [sicut ens primum] is in the highest degree one in its power to impart form [maxime unum est formale]. But neither of these is the simple One Itself [Neutrum vero est ipsum simpliciter unum].'
Chapter 44: The Fourth Discussion on the same subject; and on the contemplation of the Good [Quartus ad idem discursus, et de contemplatione boni]
Tor these reasons [Propterea] we consider the One Itself and the Good to be absolutely identical [ipsum unum bonumque idem prorsus esse coniicimus].'
Chapter 45: The Fifth Discussion on the same subject; and on the naming of the First [Quintus ad idem discursus, et de appellatione primi]
Chapter 46: The Sixth Discussion on the same subject; and what is chosen is not simply being, but well-being and the Good [Sextus ad idem discursus. Et quod non eligitur simpliciter esse, sed bene esse atque bonum]
Chapter 47: The Seventh Discussion on the same subject; and how the cause of being differs from the cause of the Good [Septimus ad idem discursus. Et quae differens ratio entis atque boni]
`The Good is therefore higher than being [bonum igitur ente superius].'
Chapter 48: The first principle of the universe is the simple One Itself, the first in every rank, and most truly One. On the sun, on nature, on intellect [Principium universi est ipsum simpliciter unum principium in quolibet ordine quod ibi est maxime unum. De sole, natura, intellectu]
`Just as division is the worst condition for all things [Sicut pessimum omnibus est divisio], dragging everything to ruin [ad exitium singulal, trahens], so union is the best condition [sic optimum est unio]: union o the parts with each other [et partium invicem] and with the whole [et ad totum], and of the whole with its cause [et totius ad causam suam], which is its origin and nature [et originem atque naturam].'
Chapter 49: The first principle`of creation is unity and goodness, above intellect, life, and essence [Primum rerum principium est unitas bonitasque super intellectum, vitam, essentiam]
Chapter 50: The unity above essence; the unities within essences; the gods; the general aim of Parmenides in his hypotheses [De unitate`super essentiam. De unitatibus in essentiis. De diis. De communi intentione Parmenidis in suppositionibus suis]
`Just as simple unity itself is above universal being [Sicut ipsa simpliciter unitas est super ens universum], so in the hierarchy of creation [ita in ordine rerum] the unity of every being [sua cuiusque entis unitas] is to some extent higher than its essence [quodammodo est essentia sua superior].'
Chapter 51: Plutarch's analysis of the hypotheses of Parmenides [Dispositio propositionum Parmenidis apud Plutarchum]
`That this dialogue was held to be divine among the ancients is attested by Plutarch [Dialogum hunt divinum apud veteres iudicatum, testis est Plutarchus].'
Chapter 52: The meaning of the negations and of the affirmations within the hypotheses. Which ones are dealt with and in which order [Quid significent in suppositionibus negationes. Quid affirmationes. Quae et quo ordine tractentur in eis]
`Since the first hypothesis [Quoniam vero suppositio prima] focuses attention upon the simple One Itself [colit ipsum simpliciter unum], which is higher than being [ente superius], it negates all the conditions of beings with respect to the One [ideo omnes ab eo entium conditiones negat], which is detached from all things [est enim ab omnibus absolutum], being their final principle [tanquam principium finale], a principle which is especially — even predominantly — efficient [praecipue et eminenter efficiens].'
`The first hypothesis [suppositio prima], if we are allowed to believe the ancients [si antiquis licet credere], deals with the way in which the first God creates and orders the respective hierarchies of gods [tractat quomodo primus Deus singulos deorum ordines procreat atque disponit]; the second hypothesis treats of the divine hierarchies [Secunda vero de divinis ordinibus], how they have come forth from the One [quomodo processerunt ab uno], and of each essence [et de qualibet essentia] that is conjoined by God to every unity [unicuique Deo unitati videlicet coniugata]; the third hypothesis [Tertia] deals with those souls [de animabus] which do not possess substantial divinity [Deitatem quidem ipsam substantialem non habentibus] but do have a manifest likeness to the gods [sed similitudinem ad deos expressam]; the fourth hypothesis treats of material forms [Quarta deformis materialibus], how they proceed from the gods [quomodo pro- ficiscuntur a diis], and which ones depend on which respective order of gods [et quae proprie ab unoquoque deorum ordine pendent]; the fifth hypothesis deals with primal matter [Quinta de materia prima], how it is not composed of formal unities [quomodo formalium unitatum non est compos] but depends on the unity that is above essence [sed desuper ab unitate superessentiali dependet], for the action of the first One extends right through to final materialisation [nam usque ad materiam ultimam unius primi actio provenit], which in all manner of ways sets limits to the unlimited nature of the One through particular participation in unity [interminatam illius naturam, per quandam unitatis participationem quoquomodo determinans].'
The First Hypothesis (Chapters 53-79)
Chapter 53: The Aim, the Truth, and the Arrangement of the First Hypothesis [Intentio, veritas, ordo suppositionis primae]
Chapter 54: When the characteristics of beings are negated 1 with respect to the One, this indicates that the One surpasses and creates all these [Ubi entium proprietates de uno negantur, significatur ipsum haec omnia antecellere atque procreare]
Affirmations concerning almighty God [Affirmationes circa summu Deum] are very misleading and dangerous [fallaces admodum peri- culosaeque sunt], for in our everyday affirmations we usually think of a particular type and characteristic to name and define something [solemus enim in quotidianis affirmationibus nostris certam quandam speciem proprietatemque concipere, et appellare aliquid alteri atque definire]. But to do this in relation to the First is unlawful [Hoc autem agere circl primum, nefas].
Chapter 55: On the one being. On the simple One Itself.
On the aim of Parmenides both here and in his verses.The aim and conclusion of his negations [De uno ente. De ipso simpliciter uno. De intentione Parmenidis hic et in poemate. Intentio et Epilogus negationum]
`Perhaps it would now be useful to repeat briefly [Operaepretium forte fuerit repetere breviter in praesentia] what we have said many times before [quod saepe iam diximus]: the principle of unity [rationem unitatis] is different from the principle of being [a ratione entis esse diversam].'
Chapter 56: On the universal being and its properties; and why these are negated with respect to the First. Which multiplicity is negated, and why it is negated [De universo ente et proprietatibus eius. Et quomodo negantur de primo. Et quae multitudo negatur et quare negatur]
Chapter 57: Through the negation of all multiplicity, parts and totality are negated with respect to the One: number is prior to essence, and all multiplicity partakes of unity. The first essence, life, and mind are identical [Per negationem multitudinis negantur de uno partes et totum. Numerus est ante essentiam. Omnis multitudo particeps unitatis. Idem est prima essentia, vita, mens]
Chapter 58: An opinion affirming the abstracts of abstracts with respect to God. Again, negations and relations about God are safer [Opinio affirmans abstractorum abstracta de deo. Item tutiores sunt negationes relationesque circa deum]
Chapter 59: If the One has no parts, it follows that it has no beginning, no end, no middle [Si unum non habet partes consequenter nec habet principium vel finem aut medium]
Chapter 60: In what way the One Itself is called the limitless and the limit of all [Quomodo ipsum unum dicatur infinitum, omniumque finis]
Chapter 61: How shape is negated with respect to the One, as well as straight lines and circular lines [Quomodo negatur de uno figura et rectum atque rotundum]
`Indeed, movement is the beginning of differentiation [Processus quidem discretionis principium est].'
Chapter 62: The One Itself is nowhere, because it is neither within itself nor within something else. How discrete things are said to exist of themselves or to be produced from themselves [Ipsum unum nusquam est. Quia nec est in se ipso nec in alio. Item quomodo separata dicuntur ex se
ipsis existere vel produci]
Chapter 63: How the One is said to neither move nor rest; and how movement and rest are in everything except the First [Quomodo unum neque moveri neque stare dicatur et quomodo sit motus et status in omnibus praeter primum]
`In our Theology [In Theologia nostra] we have shown [probavimus] that in everything after the First [in omni re post primum] there is a differentiation of these four [quatuor haec inter se differre]: essence, being, power, and action [essentiam, et esse, et virtutem, et actionem].'
And so the Good Itself, the One Itself [Ipsum itaque bonum unumque], creates and perfects all things, not through something else, but by its own unity and goodness [non per aliud, sed ipsa unitate bonitateque facit et perficit omnia].'
Chapter 64: The One moves neither in a circle nor in a straight line [Unum neque circulo movetur nec in rectum]
Chapter 65: How stillness is negated with respect to the One [Quomodo negatur de uno status]
Chapter 66: The five kinds of being; the three levels of negations; the ten predicates negated; a few words on the same and the different [Quinque genera entis. Tres negationum gradus. Decem praedicamenta negata. De eodem alteroque nonnihil]
Chapter 67: The One is neither different from itself nor the same as the different, but is completely free of all conditions [Unum nec a seipso alterum est, nec idem alteri, et ab omnibus conditionibus est absolutum]
Chapter 68: The One is not different from other things [Unum non est ab aliis alterum]
Chapter 69: The One is not the same as itself [Unum non est sibi ipsi idem]
Chapter 70: The One is neither similar nor dissimilar to itself or to anything [Unum nec est simile neque dissimile vel sibi vel cuique]
Chapter 71: The One is neither equal nor unequal to itself or to others [Unum nec sibi nec aliis est aequale vel inaequale]
Chapter 72: Confirmation of the above [Confirmatio superiorum]
`The principle of equality is different from the principle of the One [Alia aequalitatis alia unius ratio est], for the One is absolute [unum enim est absolutum], while equality is relative [Aequalitas relativa], since equal is related to equal [aequale enim ad aequale refertur].'
Chapter 73: In relation to itself and to other things, the One cannot be younger or older or of the same age [Unum neque iunius neque senius neque coetaneum vel ad se vel ad alia esse potest]
Chapter 74: The One Itself is above eternity and time and movement. It cannot, on any basis, be said to be within time [Ipsum unum super aeternitatem et tempus et motum est. Nec ulla ratione esse in tempore dici potest]
Chapter 75: A rule for relatives, with some confirmation of what has gone before [Relativorum regula cum confirmatione quadam superiorum]
Chapter 76: Since the One is above time, it transcends the conditions of time and of things temporal [Cum unum sit supra tempus, consequenter conditiones temporis temporaliumque excedit]
Chapter 77: The One Itself does not partake of essence; it is neither essence itself nor being itself, but is far higher [Ipsum unum nec est essentiae particeps, nec ipsa essentia nec ipsum esse. Sed longe superius]
Chapter 78: How essence, or being, is negated with respect to the One; and why the One cannot be known or named [Qua conditione negatur essentia vel esse de uno. Item quare cognosci vel nominari non possit]
Chapter 79: On the unshakeable nature of the first hypothesis. The One is higher than being [De firmitate suppositionis primae. Et quod unum ente superius]
The Second Hypothesis (Chapters 80-95)
Chapter 80: The aim of the second hypothesis [Secundae suppositionis intentio]
Chapter 81: In the same being there is the principle of the One and there is also the principle of being. The whole has parts and infmite multiplicity [Quomodo in uno ente alia sit ratio unius alia entis sit, totum panes habeat et multitudinem infmitam]
Chapter 82: Within the one being all the numbers are held by means of two and three. The numbers are prior to the development of the one being into many beings [In uno ente per binarium et`ternarium omnes numeri continentur. Qui numeri distributionem entis unius in entia multa praecedunt]
Chapter 83: How essence, together with the One, is distributed in the intelligible world, and how multiplicity is either limited or unlimited [Quomodo in mundo intelligibili dividatur
essentia simul et unum, multitudoque finita vel infinita sit]
Chapter 84: Within the intelligible world the multiplicity of parts is subsumed in a double form of the whole; it has limits and a mean, as well as forms [Quomodo in mundo intelligibili partium multitudo sub gemina totius forma concluditur. Quomodo terminos mediumque habet atque figuras]
Chapter 85: The one being is within itself and within something other than itself [Quomodo unum ens in se ipso sit et in alio]
Chapter 86: The one being is always unmoving, and yet it moves [Quomodo unum ens stet semper atque moveatur]
Chapter 87: The one being is the same as itself and different from itself. Again, it`is the same as other things and different from them [Unum ens est sibimet idem atque alterum. Item caeteris idem atque alterum]
Chapter 88: The one being is similar to itself and to others; it is also dissimilar to itself and to others [Unum ens et ad se ipsum et ad alia simile est atque dissimile]
`In the Philebus it is shown [In Philebo probatur] that within all things subsequent to the First [in omnibus post primum] there are simultaneously the One and multiplicity [esse unum simul atque multitudinem]. It follows that within all things [Igitur in omnibus] there are the same and the different [est idem et alterum], the convergent and the divergent [convenientia atque differentia], and therefore similarity together with dissimilarity [igitur similitudo simul et dissimilitudo quaedam].'
Chapter 89: How the one being touches and is touched; but it neither touches nor is touched insofar as it belongs to itself and to other things [Quomodo unum ens tangit et tangitur. Neque tangit, neque tangitur, quantum ad se et ad alia pertinet]
Chapter 90: The one being is both equal to itself and unequal to itself; it is also equal to others and unequal to others [Quomodo unum ens sit aequale, vel inaequale sibi, vel aliis]
`Now anyone who does not know how to make use of such rigorous exercises [Qui autem discretiones eiusmodi uti nescit] is not a Platonist [non est Platonicus] and never uses the intellect [nec unquam utitur intellectu].'
`Moreover, as we have indicated from the outset [Praeterea quemadmodum significavimus ab initio], he (Parmenides) conducts the whole discussion [totam disputationem agit] as an exercise in logic [ut logicam exercitationem quandam]. But in this form of dialectic [ Sub hac vero Dialectica forma] he often commingles mystical teachings too [mistica quoque dogmata frequenter admiscet], not in a continuous unbroken sequence [non ubique prorsus continuata], but sporadically [sed alicubi sparsa], as befits an exercise in logic [quatenus admittit exercitatio logical.'
Chapter 91: The one being, in relation to itself and to all else, is numerically the same. It is also both more and less [Quomodo unum ens sit numero par: et plus et minus ad se ipsum atque caetera]
Chapter 92: How the one being, in relation both to itself and to everything else, may be described as older and younger and of the same age [Quomodo unum ens dicatur senius et iunius atque coetaneum ad se ipsum atque caetera] `Remember, too [Memento rursus], as we have advised you to do from the beginning [quemadmodum admonuimus ab initio], that Parmenides is here taking up the divine soul, in addition to the intellectual nature and the animate nature [Parmenidem hic ultra naturam intellectualem, animalem, iam assumere animamque divinam].'
Chapter 93: How older becoming is distinguished from younger becoming, and also how older being is distinguished from younger being. Concluding words on the one being [Quomodo distinguitur senius iuniusve fieri, rursus senius iuniusve esse. Ac de uno ente conclusio]
Chapter 94: A summary or review of the second hypothesis. On distinguishing the divinities [Summa vel Epilogus suppositionis secundae. De distinctionibus divinorum]
Chapter 95: The distinctions made in the summary or review. On the one being; on multiplicity; on limitless number; and on the orders of the divinities [Summae huius vel Epilogi distinctiones. De uno ente multitudine, numero, infinito, ordinibus deorum]
The Third Hypothesis
Chapter 1: The aim of the hypothesis. How the soul may be called being and also non-being. On movement and time within the soul. On its eternal quality. How it manifests all things through some change in itself [Tertia suppositio. Intentio suppositionis. Quomodo anima ens dicatur atque non ens. De motu et tempore in anima. Item de quodam eius aeterno. Rursus quomodo commutatione quadam sui ipsius omnia repraesentet]
`Just as the soul consists of opposites [quemadmodum anima componitur oppositis], as we have shown in the Timaeus [ut probavimus in Timaeo], so the third hypothesis [ita suppositio tertia], which examines the soul [tractans animam], is a mixture of affirmations and negations [ex affirmationibus negationibusque miscetur].'
The Third Hypothesis
Chapter 2: Why the celestial soul moves and makes an orbit around the steadfast mind. How many movements of the soul there are. The number of movements and the stillness within time. Concerning the mean between movements [Qua ratione caelestis anima circa mentem stabilem moveatur, agatque circuitum. Quot sint motus animae. Quod motus et quies in tempore; et de medio inter motus]
The Third Hypothesis
Chapter 3: A summary of the third hypothesis: or concluding words on the One, multiplicity, being, non-being, movement, stillness, moment, time, and oppositeness. The movement towards movement and towards stillness [Summa suppositionis tertiae vel Epilogus. De uno, multitudine, ente, non ente, motu, statu, momento, tempore, oppositione. Motus ad motum atque statum]
The Fourth Hypothesis
Chapter 1: The aim of the fourth hypothesis. The whole before the parts. The whole after the parts. Divine matters. Natural matters. The relation of the parts to the whole [Suppositio quarta. Quartae suppositionis intentio. Totum ante partes. Totum post partes. Res divinae. Res naturales. Relatio partium ad totum]
`The three previous hypotheses, as we have said elsewhere [Tres, ut alibi diximus, praecedentes suppositiones], contemplate the One Itself rather than all else [unum ipsum potius quam alia contemplare], and they relate the One to itself first of all, and then relate it to all else [illud ad se in primis, deinde ad caetera quoque comparaverunt].'
The Fourth Hypothesis
Chapter 2: On multiplicity and its relation to the One.
On the unlimited and on limit. On the elements of beings. On other things that are mutually opposed [De multitudine, quomodo se habeat ad unum. De infinito et termino entium elementis. De caeteris inter se oppositis]
The Fifth Hypothesis
Chapter 1: The aim of the fifth hypothesis. On the One. On things separate from the One. Whether the One is in accord with them. On omniform being. On formless matter [Suppositio quinta. Quintae suppositionis intentio. De uno. De aliis ab uno. Utrum unum cum his conveniat. De omniformi ente. De informi material
The Fifth Hypothesis
Chapter 2: Confirmation of the above, and how matter has no formal conditions within itself. Also, where it comes from, how it is formed, and how it moves [Confirmatio superiorum, et quomodo materia formales in se conditioner nullas habeat. Item unde sit, vel formetur vel moveatur]
The Sixth Hypothesis
Chapter 1: The aim of the sixth hypothesis. In what way Parmenides is poetical. More on being and non-being [Sexta suppositio. Sextae suppositionis intentio. Et quomodo Parmenides poeticus. Item de ente atque non ente]
Parmenides not only expounded the mysteries of philosophy as a philosopher but also sang them in verse as a divine poet [Parmenides non philosophus tantum, sed etiam poeta divinus, carminibus philosophica mysteria cecinit]. And in this dialogue, too, he plays the part of the poet [Atque in hoc dialogo agit quoque poetam]. For, like a poet, he cultivates the number nine [Novenarium enim quasi poeta colit numerum], which, as it is said, is sacred to the Muses [musis (ut dicitur) consecratum]. By means of nine hypotheses [Per novem sane suppositiones], which are like the nine Muses [quasi per novem musas], the guides to knowledge [scientiae duces], he leads us to truth and to Apollo [ad veritatem Apollinemque nos ducit]; for while he is moving towards the simple One Itself [dum enim ad ipsum provehit simpliciter unum] he seems to be advancing I towards Apollo [ad Apollinem promovere videtur], the name by which the followers of Pythagoras mystically designate the simple One Itself [Quo nomine Pythagorici sui solent ipsum simpliciter unum mystice designate]; for Apollo, as Plato and his followers teach, signifies the simple Absolute devoid of multiplicity [Quippe cum Apollon (ut Platonici quoque cum Platone docent) absolutorem significat simplicem a multitudine segregatum].'
`So far he has gone through five hypotheses that assume the One to be [Hactenus quinque suppositiones si unum sit peregit]. But from this point onwards [Deinceps vero] he adds four hypotheses that assume the One not to be [quattuor si unum non sit adiunget].'
`Finally, in this sixth hypothesis, he imagines the one being, the intellectual , nature, not to be [Fingit denique in hac suppositione sexta unum ens, id est naturam intellectualem ita non esse]; but in such a way that it partly is and partly is not [ut partim quidem sit, partim vero non sit]. But in the seventh hypothesis [In septima vero] he is more at liberty to imagine that it absolutely is not [ licentius fingit omnino non esse], for he is clearly in a position to understand the absurd conclusions that arise from both propositions [quid utrumque sequatur absurdi facile deprensurus].'
The Sixth Hypothesis
Chapter 2: How the One, which is called non-being, may also in some way be understood as being. How this kind of non-being is recognised. Concerning the soul [Quomodo unum dum dicitur non ens, possit etiam quodammodo ut ens intelligi. Et quomodo non ens eiusmodi cognoscatur, et de anima]
The Sixth Hypothesis
Chapter 3: How the One which is called non-being is the nature of the soul; why it is subject to movement; knowledge concerns this non-being; to it belong change, multiplicity, and characteristic features [Quomodo unum quod dicitur non ens sit natura animae, qua ratione mobilis est, de hoc non ente est scientia, huic competunt alteritas et multitudo, et signa significativa]
The Sixth Hypothesis
Chapter 4: Around this non-being One stand dissimilarity, similarity, inequality, equality, largeness, smallness, and, in some measure, essence. Also concerning the soul [Circa hoc unum non ens existunt dissimilitudo, similitudo, inaequalitas, aequalitas, magnitudo, parvitas. Essentia quodammodo et de anima]
The Sixth Hypothesis
Chapter 5: Around this non-being One exist being and not-being, movement, change, and annihilation, together with their opposites. More on the soul [Circa hoc unum non ens existunt esse atque non esse, motus, alteratio, interitus atque horum opposita et de anima]
The Seventh Hypothesis
The aim of the seventh hypothesis. Concerning the levels of the One, of being, and of non-being. How all things are negated with respect to the One and with respect to non-being [Suppositio septima. Septimae suppositionis intentio. De gradibus unius et entis atque non entis. Quomodo negantur omnia, de uno atque de non ente]
`In the seventh hypothesis [in suppositione septima] we consider the one being not only to have fallen of itself into a soul subject to movement [unum ens non solum in animam per se mobilem degeneratum excogitamus], and not only to have been cast into a flux that is dependent on something external`[nec solum in fluxum ab alio dependentem praecipitatum], but also to have been finally released into total non-being [sed in ipsum omnino non ens denique resolutum]; strictly speaking, to have fallen into nothingness [Proprie forsan in nihilum iam prolapsum], but metaphorically to have been restored, as I might say, to the simple One Itself [metaphorice vero in ipsum simpliciter unum (ut ita dixerim) restitutum].'
Tor my part [Ego equidem], I strive as far as I can to harmonise individual items and to deduce possibilities [singula ferme pro viribus accommodare studeo, et probabilia facere], so that, when he makes suppositions, his suppositions do not seem rash [saltem ne ubi fingit, temere fingere videatur]. For your part [Tu vero], learn to understand the reasonings on both sides in any subject [disce in materia qualibet et utrinque arguments captare] and to distinguish the two meanings [et utrobique distinguere sensus], and thus avoid being obliged to admit impossibilities [ne impossibilia cogaris admittere].'
The Eighth Hypothesis
Chapter 1: The aim of the eighth hypothesis. If mind is removed and soul remains, soul will be deceptive and will abide in the realm of shadows [Octava suppositio. Octavae suppositionis intentio. Si mens auferatur supersitque anima, haec erit mendax et versabitur circa umbras]
The Eighth Hypothesis
Chapter 2: If you remove the One, all things will cease; they will be shadowy multitudes; the inconceivably infinite will merge with their opposites about the same; and faltering imagination will be ever deceitful [Si substuleris unum, res ipsae desinent. Umbratiles erunt turbae, innumerabiliter infinitae, contingent apposita circa idem. Imaginatio ambigua semper erit mendax]
The Ninth Hypothesis: The aim of the ninth hypothesis [Suppositio nona. Nonae suppositionis intentio]
After such words [Post haec eiusmodi] the conclusion of the whole book is reached [affertur totius libri conclusio]. If the simple One Itself [Si ipsum simpliciter unum], from which arises the one being and from which comes each particular everywhere [a quo est ens unum. Ex quo tandem est ubique quodlibet unum], be removed from the universe [ex universo tollatur], there will be absolutely nothing anywhere [nihil penitus usquam erit].'
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 1 hShepheard-Walwyn) Problems that trouble people in heart and mind during the Italian Renaissance are much the same as today. In trying to cope with them, many leaders of the period turned to the priest, Marsilio Ficino for spiritual guidance. Through these letters he advised, encouraged, and occasionally reproved them. Fearlessly he expressed the truth of a universal religion and this wisdom influenced manyn He numbered statesmen, popes, artists, scientists, and philosophers amongst his circle. As Paul Oskar Kristeller makes clear below the Letters of Marsilio Ficino represent a essential core of his thought and influence as a chief architect of the Platonic and Hermetic revival, the philosophical and revelatory center of the new learning that was revamping religious vision and humanistic enquiry Italian Renaissance. The translations and commentaries Ficino produced reshaped the contours of Western thought. His work remained central for several centuries until more critical and skeptical styles of enquiry eclipsed his achievement and its unique synthetic voice. The letters are masterpieces of spiritual direction in what we now would call, a “neoplatonic style” of spirituality. Ficino is wise, temperate, mystical, moderate, subtle, ascetic, stylish, practical, contemplative, and devoted to truth and morality. The letters show the human face of the philosopher as he struggles with this emerging spiritual vision. At the same time the letters reveal a life fully embroiled in the manifold machinations and controversies of his times. Anyone who has an interest in the Italian Renaissance, in neoplationism and the hermetic tradition, and especially in the practical application of spiritual truths to everyday life will find these volumes a unique treasure trove insight and guidance as useful today as when penned over five centuries ago.
This edition, many years in slow laborious production, is a work of devotion to translation and careful scrutiny of the text. The anonymous translators provide careful notes to each letter, identifications of the correspondents, essays to the themes of each book and necessary historical background, bibliography for each Ivolume, and beginning in volume 5, reproduction of the Latin text and corrections.
Excerpt from Paul Oskar Kristeller Preface to volume 1: The Letters occupy in fact a very important place in Ficino's work. As historical documents, they give us a vivid picture of his personal relations with his friends and pupils, and of his own literary and scholarly activities. As pieces of literature, edited and collected by himself, the letters take their place among other correspondences of the time and are a monument of humanistic scholarship and literature. Finally, the letters are conscious vehicles of moral and philosophical teaching and often reach the dimensions of a short treatise. This intention is made explicit in the title attached to each letter which is due to the author himself and not to a later editor.
Ficino began to collect his letters in the 1470's, gradually arranged them in twelve books, had them circulated in numerous manuscript copies, and finally had them printed in 1495. The first book contains letters written between 1457 and 1476, and its manuscript tradition is especially rich and complicated. These letters derive great interest from the time of their composition, for they were written at the same time as some of the commentaries on Plato and as the Platonic Theology, Ficino's chief philosophical work. The correspondents include many persons of great significance: Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici, and members of other prominent Florentine families, allied or hostile to the Medici at different times: Albizzi and Pazzi, Soderini and Rucellai, Salviati and Bandini, Del Nero, Benci and Canigiani, Niccolini, Martelli and Minerbetti. There are two cardinals, Francesco Piccolomini, the later Pius III, a famous patron and bibliophile, and Bessarion, the great defender of Platonism. There is Bernardo Bembo, Venetian patrician and ambassador, Giovanni Antonio Campano, bishop and humanist. Francesco Marescalchi in Ferrara, and Giovanni Aurelio Augurelli from Rimini. There are the friends of Ficino's youth, Michele Mercati and Antonio Morali called Serafico, and his favourite friend, Giovanni Cavalcanti. There are philosophers and physicians, and there are numerous scholars, of different generations, who occupy a more or less prominent place in the annals of literature: Matteo Palmieri and Donato Acciaiuoli, Benedetto Accolti, Bartolomeo Scala and Niccolò Michelozzi, all connected with the chancery, Cristoforo Landino, Bartolomeo della Fonte and Angelo Poliziano, Francesco da Castiglione, perhaps Ficino's`teacher of Greek, and Antonio degli Agli, bishop of Fiesole and Volterra, Jacopo Bracciolini the son of Poggio, and Carlo Marsuppini, the son of the humanist chancellor of the same name, Benedetto Colucci and Lorenzo Lippi, Domenico Galletti and Francesco Tedaldi, Antonio Calderini and Andrea Cambini, Cherubino Quarquagli and Baccio Ugolini, known for their vernacular verse, and a number of Latin poets: Peregrino Agli, Alessandro Braccesi, Amerigo Corsini, Naldo Naldi and Antonio Pelotti. The book also includes several pieces that are important compositions in their own right: the dialogue between God and the soul (4), on divine frenzy (7), on humanity (55), on the folly and misery of man (57-59), on the use of time (82), on law and justice (95), on happiness (115), the theological prayer to God (116), and the praise of philosophy (123).
The translators have pursued their task with enthusiasm, and if I may judge from the sections I examined, successfully. In the absence of a critical edition, they have not relied on the 1576 edition of Ficino's works which has been recently reprinted and offers a rather corrupt text, but on the first edition of 1495, and have collated one or two of the better manuscripts, at least for some of the difficult passages. I have encouraged them to follow accuracy as their chief goal, though not at the price of clumsy style.
The translation will not replace the original Latin text for scholarly purposes—no translation ever does and, in view of present attitudes, this simple truth cannot be repeated often enough. Yet the translation will be useful for all scholars working with the text, for it will clarify obscure passages and often correct the readings found in the most accessible editions. Above all, the translation will make available to students and lay readers an important document of Renaissance thought and literature that would otherwise not be accessible to them, and thus enrich their taste, their knowledge and their outlook.
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 2 (Shepheard-Walwyn) Excerpt: Marsilio Ficino of Florence (1433-1499) seems to have been a man of this stature. The influence he had on the Renaissance, and consequently upon the culture in which we live, has been discussed in the Introduction to the translation of Book I of his Letters.' Not only did he translate into Latin all the works of Plato, but he restated the principles upon which the ancient philosopher wrote, in such a way that they took life in the hearts of many of the leading men of his time. His letters show that his words still have the power to give these principles life today.
Ficino makes some demands on the reader of this book—perhaps more than are made upon the readers of Book I of his Letters. Ficino warns us about this in his own preface to Books III and IV of the Letters, which is a dedication to King Matthias of Hungary (letter I). He writes of these books that he seems to have been 'pregnant with a frigid seed, so to speak, and to have produced rather more austere books of letters than is becoming to literary children'. But in the King's presence . . . their 'rather gloomy countenance' may be `instantly transformed so that they may seem thereafter altogether brighter and more joyful to those who behold them. But you, I pray, most fortunate King, may you look upon the sons of Marsilio . . with the joyful and lively rays of your eyes, as you are wont to look on all other things. For thus they will owe their existence only to me, but their beauty wholly to your royal majesty.'
It is always easy to be deceived by the elegance of Ficino's compliments into looking no further into what he is actually saying. King Matthias was no ordinary king. After surmounting great difficulties in securing his throne in Hungary, he became one of the very few Christian leaders ever to defeat the Ottoman Turks decisively during the period of their empire's almost continuous growth from the early 1300s to the death of Suleiman I in 1566. King Matthias was also a devotee of philosophy, keenly interested in the practical study of Plato. Members of Ficino's Academy dwelt at his court and an invitation to visit this court was extended to Ficino himself. Ficino in fact regarded him as a model of the philosopher king referred to in Plato's Republic.
But what does Ficino mean when he writes of the 'countenance' of his 'sons' being 'instantly transformed' in the presence of the King? First of all he hoped that the philosophy contained in the letters would be given life by the actions and example of the King. But in addressing the King, Ficino is also addressing all his other readers. Clearly Ficino meant that his readers should put this philosophy into practice.
In order to understand what Ficino is saying we need to be wary in interpreting some of the idioms he used which have lost their original force. This applies particularly to the letters which Ficino writes on love. To a modern reader his language may sound fulsome. But it is important to remember that, when, for instance, he addresses his `unique friend', Giovanni Cavalcanti, as his only care and his only solace (letter 4), he is in reality addressing the principle of truth which is the real self both of Ficino and his friend.5 Looked at in this way such letters offer us an understanding of friendship totally different from the usual one.6 Such friendship is in no way exclusive; indeed it will be noticed that Ficino apparently addresses a number of friends in similar style. In fact he is addressing precisely the same 'unique' principle in each; a principle which he understood as embracing everybody and everything. He writes in letter 2 i : 'And so by loving the beloved steadfastly in this way, the lover, as far as his arms may reach, embraces the all-embracing and is secure in possessing his own possessor.'
Ficino's Academy was consciously modelled on the philosophic schools of antiquity. It was not merely an institute of learning.' The bond between Ficino and the other members was their mutual love, based on the love of the Self in each. It was by means of this love that the soul was seized by God, drawn towards Him, and finally united with Him. In fact this love itself was also God. It was because such love was the basis of his School that Ficino could write (letter 21): 'the desire of him, who strives for anything other than love, is often totally frustrated by the event. But he alone who loves nothing more than love itself, by desiring immediately attains, and in always attaining continues to desire.'
Because the object of love is God, the manifestation of God is always the object of Ficino's praise. However abundant is his praise, it is always quite specific. He gives unbounded praise to the faithfulness in the faithful (letter 58), to the dutifulness in the dutiful (letter 53), to the piety and learning in those who are pious and learned (letter 7), and this volume abounds with other examples. Equally, when he rebukes it is the fault he censures, not the man. And his rebukes while pointed are yet given with love (see, for instance, letter 46).
Another Marsilian style of writing to which we are not so accustomed today is irony. Too easily may we, for instance, mistake his letter to Jacopo, the Cardinal of Pavia (letter 54) as abject humility when he writes: 'Lofty as you are, yet you have from afar seen Marsilio, so near the ground and insignificant.' He often jokes about his small physical stature, and in this letter he may be having some fun at the expense of his correspondent and possibly offering a measure of reproof to the Cardinal for his 'loftiness' in the only way a parish priest could reprove a cardinal in the 15th Century. Ficino uses a more overt irony against the opponents of Philosophy in letter 34 to Lorenzo de' Medici.
In Book III Ficino makes frequent use of the imagery of astrology. For him the movement of the heavenly bodies was a most clear demonstration of the perfect order by which the universe is governed. Each heavenly body was a representation of a quality of the angelic mind, and their relative movements illustrated the ordered interaction between the qualities. What the minds of men experience on earth is simply the counterpart of these movements in the heavenly world. These movements are wholly in accord with the Good, but most men interpret them as good or bad, basing their judgements on what their physical effects appear to be.
Ficino never carries the imagery of astrology beyond a certain point. Sometimes he appears to dismiss the astrological argument altogether." He never wishes anyone ever to believe that their happiness in any way depends upon the stars. Moreover, while astrology rules fortune, a man who allows divine providence to guide him is independent of fortune, even in physical terms.
Why then does Ficino use the language of astrology so frequently? In a letter to Poliziano of 1494 he writes: 'It is not so much astronomy I teach, but rather by means of astronomy I search out moral allegories and anagogues leading to the divine.' Clearly, he thought that an understanding of the principles of the divine mind through astrology could help to lead men to knowledge of themselves and of God.
What is difficult to convey in any translation of Ficino is the beauty of his language. In letter 3 he explains to Bartolomeo della Fonte that he followed the command of heaven as well as the example of Plato and many others in weaving 'poetic rhythms and numbers' into his prose. The skill with which he combines words of similar sounds, and plays with words of similar sound but different meaning are at times strangely Shakespearian. 'If you break faith with me, the strings of your lyre will sound completely out of tune to you' (letter 8) cannot convey the force of `Si fidem fregeris, fides tibi penitus dissonabunt'.
These letters give the impression that in terms of worldly prosperity the years 1476-1477 were not very easy ones for Ficino. His relationship to his patron, Lorenzo de' Medici, does not seem to be as intimate as in earlier years, if one may judge by the tone of the correspondence in Book III compared to Book I. Several letters, notably 9 and 10, indicate that Ficino was being pressed for money by the papal authorities which he would have been unable to pay. Letter 17 seems to be a request for some kind of support from Antonio degli Agli, the Bishop of Volterra. During these years both Ficino and his Platonic Academy were under attack from various quarters. Perhaps the most violent of these attacks was launched by the author of the satirical poem Morgante, Luigi Pulci, whose surname (which means `fleas' in Italian) Ficino found in letter 5 to be happily appropriate to Pulci's character and talents. In spite of Ficino's counter-attacks the poet who had lampooned Ficino and the Academy remained in favour with Lorenzo de' Medici.
In spite of all these difficulties Ficino's literary output remained prodigious. He was writing a number of theological essays (Opuscula Theologica) mentioned in letter 26. It`appears from letter 37 that he was still revising his major work, the Platonic Theology (divided into eighteen books). About the same time he had also started to revise his translations of the works of Plato, and was preparing his Disputatio Contra Iudicium Astrologorum.
But more extraordinary than the volume of his writings is their range and penetration. Perhaps nowhere is this better illustrated than in his long letter on Duty (letter 53) where he defines duty as 'the action proper to each man, which keeps to what is fitting and honourable as circumstance, person, place and time require'. Taking this as his starting point he proceeds to define the duty of over thirty professions or functions of Man.
What was the principle that enabled him to see so clearly the nature of the different functions of Man and their relationship to each other and to the whole? It is the principle to which he repeatedly returns in this volume; the principle of unity. He returns to it not just as a philosophical concept but as an immediate perception. It was because he was rooted in this unity that he understood the one function of all the activities of Man—to lead the soul back to unity. In letter 3o he writes: 'Our Plato has persuaded me that I would in the end accomplish most if I always did the same thing. . . . Assuredly a man who pursues everything achieves nothing; for many obstruct one, whereas one serves and unites many'. It was because he spoke from this point that his Academy was able to unite men of so many different professions: statesmen, poets, scholars, lawyers, musicians, priests, doctors and many more. It was the same spirit which inspired the Renaissance in all its many different activities. It was thus that the 'Golden Age' could rise from the shadow of the 'Iron Age'. Ficino writes some years later to Paul of Middelburg (`distinguished scientist and astronomer'): 'Some men are endowed by nature with a bronze intellect, some with an iron one, some with a silver, and some with a golden one. If any age can be called a golden one it is undoubtedly the one that produces minds of gold in abundance. And no one who considers the wonderful discoveries of our age will doubt that it is a golden one. For this golden age has restored to the light the liberal arts that were almost extinct: grammar, poetry, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, music and the ancient art of singing to the Orphic lyre.'
The purpose of Ficino in writing these letters is evidently to kindle the love of truth in men and to set their minds upon its search. Whoever he may be addressing individually, each letter is written also for humanity. In fact a number of letters both in Books I and III are specifically addressed to Mankind. Nor is his address limited to the 15th Century. Because he discusses with such insight questions of unceasing interest to men, in a sense his letters are outside time.
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 3 (Shepheard-Walwyn) Excerpt: THIS is the third volume of letters translated by the Language Department of the School of Economic Science. It represents the fourth book of Ficino's Epistolae, covering mainly the period from 1st March to 1st August, 1477. A number of letters, however, fall outside this period, notably the letters in praise of philosophy (letter 13) and of medicine (letter 14), which were written as speeches, presumably to academic audiences, in Ficino's youth. The last two letters in the volume were written in 1478 and 1479 to Platonists in Hungary. They were originally included in the fifth and sixth books respectively, but were transferred when Books III and IV (volumes 2 and 3 of the present translation) were presented to King Matthias of Hungary.
The period covered by this volume of letters is that leading up to the Pazzi conspiracy against the rule of the Medici. In the conspiracy, which was followed by a war against Florence waged by a powerful alliance of states led by Pope Sixtus IV, Lorenzo de' Medici's brother, Giuliano, was murdered in Florence Cathedral and Lorenzo himself was wounded. Two of Ficino's correspondents, Francesco Salviati and Jacopo Bracciolini, were executed for complicity. Although Ficino would not have known of the plan to murder the Medici, a letter in this volume (letter 36) to Bracciolini seems to indicate that he did know of the conspirators' hostile intentions, and a further one to Pace (letter 8), written less than a fortnight before the attempt, shows that he understood that war would be the inevitable consequence of their disaffection. In Ficino's letters to Salviati and Bracciolini it is clear that he is persistently and strongly discouraging them from taking any rash action.
During the period covered by the letters in this volume Ficino was working on a revision of his translations of Plato's dialogues and his commentaries on them. The whole of Book IV (volume 3) concentrates, even more than the first two volumes, on the philosophy of Plato. Some of the letters consist largely of passages taken from the dialogues. The largest single letter, about a quarter of the volume, is a life of Plato, based mainly on Diogenes Laertius. This life also forms the introduction to Ficino's translation of the dialogues of Plato. It furnishes some interesting parallels with Ficino's own life, as described in the biography by Giovanni Corsi, which is included, partly for this reason, at the end of this volume. Both philosophers led celibate and ascetic lives. Both had close relations with heads of state, whom, to some extent, they influenced by their philosophy. Ficino regarded the life and character of Plato as his model. He wrote in the proem to Book 2 of De Vita Libri Tres (Opera p. 509), 'Although the spirit of our Plato lives and will live as long as the world itself shall live, yet my spirit always impels me, after worshipping the divine, to observe the life of Plato above all else.' Ficino consciously based his academy on that of Plato, as it is described by the ancient Platonic writers, and devoted his whole life to making the philosophy of Plato a living philosophy to his contemporaries.
A central theme of this volume is the liberation of Man through philosophy. Both the passages which he quotes in full from the dialogues—the analogy of the cave (letter 26) and the many-headed beast (letter 27)—relate to this. Above all, the letter on the nature and education of a philosopher (letter 18) delineates the precise steps by which a man is freed from desire, so that he may attain know-ledge of Truth.
Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: Plato’s Horoscope According to Ficino
During the period covered by the letters in this volume Marsilio Ficino was working on a revision of his translations of Plato's dialogues and his commentaries on them. The whole of Volume 3 concentrates, even more than the first two volumes, on the philosophy of Plato. Included also in this volume is a biography of Marsilio Ficino by Giovanni Corsi, specifically included in fact because it demonstrates some interesting parallels with the life of Plato. Ficino regarded the life and character of Plato as his model and wrote : "although the spirit of our Plato lives and will live as long as the world itself shall live, yet my spirit always impels me, after worshipping the divine, to observe the life of Plato above all else."
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 4 (Liber V) (Shepheard-Walwyn) Excerpt: Ficino's correspondence is extraordinary because the same letters combine the most sublime teaching for mankind with eminently practical advice for individuals. Nowhere is this more clear than in the present volume, which covers the period September, 1477 to April, 1478, months which gave rise to tragic events for the whole of Florence and in particular for a number of leading citizens who were also Ficino's correspondents. These events were the outcome of the Pazzi Conspiracy (discussed on pp. 73-91) in which Giuliano de' Medici was assassinated in Florence Cathedral, and from which his brother Lorenzo only just escaped. Immediately afterwards a large number of the Pazzi dependants, some quite innocent, were brutally executed or murdered. The real causes of this event were selfishness, greed and materialism in those places from where spiritual leadership should have come. It was symptomatic that those most involved in the conspiracy included a pope, a cardinal, an archbishop and two priests. A further cause was the breakdown of the respect for law and tradition and an absence of restraint: features usually found in times of gross materialism.
It was therefore to reawaken spirituality and, with that, respect for both divine and human law, that was Ficino's work. To a generation which had become largely disillusioned with the leadership of the higher ranks of the church the teaching of Plato, with its emphasis on the divinity of the individual soul, was the ideal means.
The theme of this volume of letters is that the truth is the unity and that only by the acknowledgement of this truth can man be freed from misery. In a letter to Michaeli (i8) Ficino writes: 'He who simply pursues the One itself, in that One soon attains everything.' In fact it is not even necessary to pursue that which is everywhere, as he reminds us in Letter 5: 'Then let us not be moved or distracted by many things, but let us remain in unity as much as we are able, since we find eternal unity and the one eternity, not through movement or multiplicity, but through being still and being one.' He reminds us again and again that when we love any individual good thing it is the One Good itself, namely God, which we really love in that thing. 'Without the love of that One we seem to love something,' he writes in Letter 19, 'but, since we try to love outside love itself, instead of loving we are bound to hate.'
Love seems to spring from these pages of Ficino's letters and it was by this love that he bound his academy and his correspondents to himself. The whole creation is a product of love and it is through love that creation returns to that One, (which, as Ficino has explained, it has never really left). He refers to this in Letter 19 when he writes, 'Just as beauty follows the light of the good as its splendour, so the ardour of love follows the rays of beauty as the reflection (or return) of those rays.' The end of love is therefore union. Friends are thus united to each other through their love of God.' This union between Ficino and his friends is frequently referred to in these letters and such references should certainly not be thought of as a stylistic flourish. The love of one friend for another is 'poured in its entirety' into the other's 'very self'. After that the lover has nothing left to give, because he has long ago given himself, and with himself all that he has.'
Such love expands to love of humanity as a whole. Indeed it is the Latin form of this word (humanitas) which Ficino uses to mean `the love of mankind'? Our use of the word humanities simply to convey studies based on Latin and Greek and a humanist as one who is versed in these studies, shows a descent in the power and meaning of language. Ficino commends Bernardo Bembo more than any of his correspondents for his humanity and speaks of its enormous power. He says that if the Venetians really wanted to conquer distant or rebellious peoples, they would not send a Pompey or a Caesar but Bembo, since he would conquer more people more effectively with his humanity than they would with their arms. The Venetians may even have taken him at his word.' Love is the principal means by which Man may discover his own nature. Another aspect of the word humanity is that it is human beings alone who have this power. In Letter 6 he writes to Cavalcanti words which seem to express the whole spirit of the Renaissance: `Men are the only beings on earth to have rediscovered their infinite nature'.
Because the love of divine beauty could be kindled by beautiful sights and sounds,' Ficino regarded the creation of works of art and music as of great spiritual importance. In particular in Letters 46 and 51 he makes it clear that there is a precise correspondence between beauty in specific parts of the body and specific mental qualities. Such qualities could be inspired by the contemplation of their physical counterpart. The description of Venus in Ficino's letter to the young Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici may have inspired Botticelli's Venus in the Primavera (See Letter 46 and notes). However that may be, the descriptions of beautiful physical beings in both Letters 46 and 51 are clearly given to inspire the appropriate qualities in Ficino's correspondents, who were intended to reflect on such forms. Ficino himself played the lyre to charm his listeners away from the concerns of the physical world. For instance, when members of his Academy were discussing in melancholy mood the Turkish threat to Europe, Ficino took up his lyre and by his playing dispelled their depression.'
The penalty for man is that if he does not set out to realise his `infinite nature', his lot is far worse than that of beasts." 'Why should we be surprised', he writes in Letter 18 to Michaeli, 'if all evils pursue us, when we ourselves, abandoning the first good, namely God, wrongly pursue individual things as good'. The first step is to stop pursuing the objects of sense as though they were good in themselves. In Letter 7 he speaks of 'the worried life of the man who serves the senses as though they were many mad masters.'
Above all, we should practise the virtue of patientia, which has been translated as patience. The word in Latin includes the meaning of sufferance, as well as suffering and is connected with the word passion, as in the passion of Christ. It also includes forbearance in the sense of forbearance to react in response to injury. But Ficino means more than this. The wise man realises that his own will cannot in reason be different from God's, so he makes those things `which fate has decreed to be inevitable . . . agreeable to his own will'. The argument with which Ficino puts this advice forward in Letter 33 is a model of clarity and logic. The letter is addressed to Francesco Sassetti, the General Manager of the Medici bank, which as Lorenzo's rule continued became involved in increasing difficulties.
The first letter in the volume is a very strongly worded letter on the need to trust in divine law. As the main troubles that took place over the period when these letters were written arose from the setting aside of the law for reasons that may have seemed eminently justifiable, this letter is very significant. The edition of the letters printed in Venice in 1495 adds the words 'most reverend' to the word 'friends' to whom the existing manuscripts have the letter addressed. If the letter was originally addressed to his 'most reverend' friends, these were probably Cardinal Raffaele Riario and Archbishop Francesco Salviati, who were involved in the Pazzi Conspiracy and for whom the letter would have been particularly appropriate.
Another quality on which Ficino lays particular emphasis in this volume is that of temperance. Ficino gives the Latin temperantia for the Greek word. Socrates in the Republic" says a state or man is temperate when that part of the soul 'which is better by nature has the worse under its control' and where there is no internal conflict between the ruling element and its subjects. Temperantia is perhaps best expressed in modern English by the word restraint. Ficino ends his letter to Sebastiano Foresi (II) with the application of this virtue to music when he writes: 'May the well-tempered lyre always be our salvation when we apply ourselves to it rightly.' More specifically he writes to the young Cardinal Riario (Letter 27), shortly to come so near to execution for implication in the Pazzi Conspiracy: 'Temper both the desires of the mind and all your actions lest, when all external things are in harmony for you, the mind alone be in discord.'
His warnings to Riario and Salviati are often sharp and specific, as though he could see the nature of the schemes that were fermenting in the minds of the conspirators (it is difficult to believe the accepted view that Riario was entirely innocent. See p. 86). Again, in Letter 27 Ficino urges Riario 'not to make a start on anything' unless he can see that 'the end is both good and well-assured.' His letter (34) to both Riario and Salviati is even more pointed. One must remember that they had both recently had strokes of good fortune. Riario had been appointed Cardinal in December, 1477 and the year before Salviati had been allowed to take up his position as Archbishop of Pisa, having been previously excluded for two years by Lorenzo de' Medici (see p. 76). Ficino writes to them, with numerous examples to prove his case: 'By some foolish, or rather unhappy, fate . . . most mortals make more perverse use of prosperity than adversity'. He then explains the reason: 'Let us remember that the nature of evil is to offer itself to us daily under the guise of good'. It is then 'very easily taken in . . . and given lodging as if it were the good; but soon after, it secretly strikes down" its unwary host with a sword, as he deserves.'
In conclusion, these letters arouse our interest in a number of ways. They shed a new light on what was going on in Florence at this time, including for instance the relationship between the government of Lorenzo de' Medici and the Florentine clergy (see p. 100). They show how a non-political philosopher with no worldly ambitions yet found himself advising the two main factions' struggling for political power in Florence. Finally, they show through Ficino the noble countenance of Plato, expanding men's view of their own nature, raising their ideals and aspirations and setting in the arts, literature, education and society as a whole new standards that were to last for many centuries.
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 5 (Liber VI) (Shepheard-Walwyn) Excerpt: IN this volume Marsilio Ficino enters upon a fascinating correspondence with some of the most powerful leaders in Europe. Following the Pazzi Conspiracy of 1478, Florence was at war with both the Pope (Sixtus IV) and King Ferdinand of Naples (Ferrante). Ficino wrote eloquent letters to all three protagonists in the war: no fewer than three letters to the Pope,' one intended for King Ferrante of Naples,2 and one to Lorenzo de' Medici, the ruler of Florence. These letters were no doubt prompted by the appalling conditions under which Florence suffered as a result of the war. There are several references to these conditions, notably in Letter 31 to Bernardo Bembo. But perhaps more important than even the relief from physical hardship was the need for Ficino's Academy to continue its work of bringing to life once more the teaching of Plato.
What is of great interest is the way in which Ficino guides the warring leaders back to peace. In all three cases he does it by reminding them of their real nature. Yet what he says is specific to each individual. To the Pope, who was the force behind the Pazzi Conspiracy and the main architect of the war, Ficino stated in magnificent terms the true work of the Pope: to fish in the 'deep sea of humanity', as did the Apostles, to whom Jesus gave the three baits of reverence for God, integrity of character and good deeds towards men. Jesus also gave them three nets: the first was ardent love, so that they would love all men as themselves; the second was loving-kindness, so that they might forgive all people as their own children; and the third was service so total that it brought good 'not only to those who do good but also to those who do evil'. This re-statement of the papal function was entirely appropriate for Sixtus, who had approved the Pazzi plot to eliminate the Medici and who, when the assassination attempt on Lorenzo failed, first put Florence under interdict and then made war upon her in the company of the King of Naples)
The fact that the three letters to Sixtus read as a supreme, perhaps intentional, irony shows the depths to which the Papacy had sunk, and illustrate both the background and necessity for a renaissance. Moreover, these letters from Ficino were to the man who later initiated the glories of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican and after whom the Chapel was named!
King Ferdinand of Naples must be amongst the least likeable of tyrants. He spent his life in intrigue not only against other states but also against his own barons, to whom he was utterly ruthless. Yet Ficino addresses him in the words of his father, the admirable King Alfonso, whom Ficino represents as established in the 'super-celestial paradise', whither he invites his son, 'if he is willing'. 'Here, my son,! says Alfonso, 'one lives the truest, clearest, best and most joyful life, where all life is nothing but truth, clarity, goodness and joy in its fullness. Here in that immeasurable light of lights we see all the lights of the ideal forms, and in those lights we behold everything as it really is, just like someone seeing in the sun all the rays emanating from it and in those rays all the individual colours which are created from them.'
Alfonso goes on to speak of his son's destiny on earth. After observing, 'I see that you will quickly carry out my advice', he adds, `In peace alone a splendid victory awaits you, a victory full of triumphs without danger; in victory, tranquillity; in tranquillity, a reverence and worship of Minerva (wisdom). Negotiations for peace were, in fact, begun about five months later.
To Lorenzo de' Medici Ficino writes a letter of great penetration. There were two sides to Lorenzo's nature. First, there was the lover of philosophy and companion of Ficino. This was the Lorenzo through whom came some of the finest Italian poetry ever written. A good example of his philosophical poetry is Altercazione, which is based on a discussion with Ficino. This was the Lorenzo who guided the State of Florence with courage and wisdom through her greatest crises. But there was another side which distracted him into revels, romps and carnivals, while the affairs of the Medici bank, upon which not only the prosperity of the Medici but also to some extent the whole of Florence depended, went into serious decline.
Ficino presents him with 'a picture of the evil mind and the good'. This first is 'a wood dense with tangled thorns, bristling with savage beasts, infested with poisonous snakes. Or it is like a swelling sea, tossed by battling winds, waves and wild storms.'
`On the other hand, a mind endued with fine principles . . . is like a well-tended and fertile field, or a calm and peaceful sea.'
Ficino was presenting the two sides of Lorenzo's nature to him with dramatic clarity. It may have been after this letter was written that Lorenzo saved Florence's freedom from extinction by boldly crossing the enemy's siege lines and presenting himself at the court of King Ferdinand to negotiate peace. He could have perished miserably in a dungeon, a fate not so unusual for visitors to Ferdinand's court, but in fact the negotiations resulting from his visit brought peace to Italy.
Just as the good doctor prescribes remedies which address precisely the illness from which the patient suffers, so the real philosopher insists upon those virtues which overcome the vices he sees in front of him. In the midst of division and war Ficino insists on the reality of unity and peace. He uses a number of analogies. He speaks in at least two letters of all the colours emerging from simple white light, as all the variety of the universe issues from one consciousness. He also writes of the universal harmony, pointing out that the man who takes no pleasure in concordant sounds lacks concord within and that he is no friend of God, 'for God rejoices in harmonies to such an extent that he seems to have created the world especially for this reason, that all its individual parts should sing harmoniously to themselves and to the whole universe; indeed the universe itself should with all its strength praise in concert the intelligence and goodness of its author.
There are powerful letters on the impure and illusory nature of this world and the call to philosophy." Letter 48 compares men on earth to actors on the stage. They 'can enjoy themselves without fear of consequence.' They can exult without being envied and take on the parts of rich men although they may be slaves. In tragedies they can grieve without being unhappy. Ficino continues, 'We would think the actors foolish and pitiful if they were so taken in by the good and bad events on the stage that they were at one moment exulting and rejoicing and at the next weeping, as though these events were real.'
What, then, is the truth? Few philosophers have ever dared to say. But when Ficino's nephew writes 'unvaryingly about the changeability of things', he receives in reply a magnificent statement about the truth." 'I consider that which does not vary to be nothing other than truth . . . Truth is eternally present and neither passes from the past into the present nor flows from the present into the future. It is certainly nothing other than the eternal unmoving itself. The mind therefore, with its natural capacity for truth, partakes of this eternal unmoving . . . Only a life dedicated by choice to the study and cultivation of truth is lived in the fullness of bliss beyond movement and beyond time.'
The last letter in the volume is an extraordinary one about the return of Dante to Florence. Dante had died in 1321 during exile in Ravenna. He had not been allowed to return to Florence in his lifetime and the citizens of Ravenna have been unwilling to give up his remains ever since. What, then, did Ficino mean? Ostensibly he was praising the magnificent commentary on Dante's Divina Comme, dia by Cristoforo Landino which had just been published. But the language of the letter seems to be speaking of something more vast.
Look up for a moment, my people, look up at the heavens. Behold now, behold! While our Dante is being crowned here, the dome of mighty Olympus is opening. The flames of the Empyrean heaven, never seen more fully, blaze before us this day in honour of Dante's coronation.
And what do you think this sound is, so fresh and so sweet, that is filling our ears? Undoubtedly, it is the sound of the nine spheres and their Muses, a sound heard in no other age and in no other place, now openly celebrating the coronation of Dante. Ah! Hear the sweet songs of the Dominions singing from the sphere of Apollo; hear now the wonderful hymns of the Archangels singing from the sphere of Mercury: 'Glory to supreme Apollo in the highest! Everlasting glory to the Muses! Glory to the Graces! To the Florentines, rejoicing in their double sun, peace, joy, and good fortune!'
This letter seems to be a celebration of the revival of all the arts in Florence at this time, and thus it is a hymn of praise to the Renaissance itself.
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 6 (Liber VII) (Shepheard-Walwyn) Excerpt: The letters in the present volume (Book VII in the Latin editions of Ficino's letters) were written in the years 1481-83. This was a period of major warfare in Italy. The resulting disturbance and suffering are reflected in a number of Ficino's letters.
Hardly had Pope Sixtus IV lifted the interdict imposed on Florence as a result of the war following the Pazzi Conspiracy' when his ambitious nephew, Girolamo Riario, began scheming to extend Papal control in the Romagna and the Duchy of Ferrara. In 1481 his forces took the town of Forli, which thereafter remained under papal government. It was thought that the next object of his attack would be Faenza, a town menioned twice in this volume, and one of considerable importance to Florence, as it secured her outlet to the Adriatic Sea. But in the event Riario, having seized control of For11, planned an attack on Ferrara, seat of the d'Este family, with a view to carving out from that duchy further territory for papal control. For this purpose the assistance of Venice was necessary and, as the Serene Republic was tempted by the possibility of acquiring territory in the north of Ferrara, such assistance was forthcoming. Venice, supported by Pope Sixtus IV, declared war on Ferrara in May, 1482.
Milan, Naples and Florence were all alarmed at the prospect of Venetian expansion. They therefore entered the war in support of Ferrara, and Federico, Duke of Urbino, was appointed to lead the allied forces against Venice. From this time until the end of hostilities two years later, Lorenzo de' Medici, the ruler of Florence and Ficino's patron, was actively engaged either in prosecuting war or endeavouring to bring about peace.
The Duke of Calabria, son of the King of Naples, came within a short distance of Rome before being totally defeated by the opposing general, Roberto Malatesta. The Duke of Urbino endeavoured to resist the Venetian attack on Ferrara but had little success since the Venetians acquired considerable tracts of Ferraran territory.
Ficino felt naturally drawn to Federico of Urbino since not only had he been a highly successful condottiere but he had also been much attracted to the teaching of Plato. In Letter 33 Ficino refers to Federico as 'invincible', while in Letter 23, Ficino writes to him that 'dukes and kings, confident of a happy outcome are time and again handing him the spear of Pallas and the club of Hercules, the club which rules the Italian war.' However, as has been remarked, the confidence placed in his military success by the allies and by Ficino was not justified by events. Federico died in September, 1482, on the same day as his adversary, Malatesta.3 His death made it very difficult for Ficino to recover the books that he had sent to be copied at Federico's court, as we learn from Letter 33.
Early in 1483 the Pope, alarmed at the progress of Venetian arms through Ferrara, changed sides and solemnly put under interdict those very allies on whose side he had just been fighting. It became clear that the Venetians could not resist such a powerful alliance, and peace was made at the Congress of Cremona in August, 1484.
Although the Ferraran war was never as critical for Florence as that which had followed the Pazzi Conspiracy of 1478-8o, it inevitably created difficulties for Ficino, as it did for Florentines in general. In spite of the remonstrances of his friends, as noted in Letters 6 and 8, it is clear that he spent almost all his time in the country at his estate in Careggi. Although this gave him more time for the important works he was now engaged upon, it would have meant that his contacts with the leading citizens of Florence, particularly the Medici, were reduced. The meetings of influential friends to discuss and study Plato which constituted the Academy would have been more difficult to arrange.
Even before the war had broken out it is clear that the Feast Day of Cosmas and Damian was not being celebrated as it had been previously. These celebrations had been of especial importance to Cosimo de' Medici and Ficino had promised that they would continue after Cosimo's death. As is shown in Letter 7, one of the very few letters written to Lorenzo in this period, this promise was not being fulfilled. This letter was written before the formal declaration of war, for it was composed on the Feast Day of Cosmas, 27th th September, 1481. This suggests that Lorenzo was already distracted by the grave political situation.
The war must also have cut Ficino off from the members of his Academy who were in Venice. The strong misgivings Ficino had about the war are reflected in Letter 26, written to Pietro Molin of Venice shortly after the declaration of hostilities between Venice and Ferrara. He writes: 'God ever save you, beloved Pietro, and may your saving presence ever continue to keep us safe. As long as you do us this honour, so long shall we think ourselves worthy of honour. We shall be pleased with our city if we know that you are pleased with it. May what we do be more to your liking each day; then each day we, too, shall be more to our own liking.' In the event the Venetians found what the Florentines were doing was very far from their liking. In many ways Lorenzo was the architect of the alliance against Venice, just as he later became the architect of the peace.
From Ficino's letter to the Papal Commissioner at Forli, dated 15th June, 1483 (letter 41), it is clear that the clergy had suffered grave financial hardship as a direct result of war. Ficino writes: 'every day the property of religious men is being carried off to the men of Mars'. He is no doubt writing for all the clergy of Florence when he continues: `would that the heavenly rule were established anew so that, just as Jupiter once yielded to Mars, Mars may in time be compelled to give way to Jupiter! Not until Jupiter reigns supreme can we expect good men to prevail.' Ficino may have been hoping that the burden of tax might soon be lightened for, now that he was fighting on the same side as Florence, the Pope was presumably to receive again the proceeds of the taxes due to him. The next two sentences of the letter may look forward to the removal of Sixtus IV as Pope, or at least to a total change in his attitude. Ficino continues: 'It so happens that within two years ... a great planetary conjunction will bring this about or, to speak more accurately, will show that it is happening.' By August, 1484 Sixtus was dead and had been succeeded by the peace-loving Innocent VIII.
The increasing time that Ficino was spending at his country villa in Careggi may have been partly because the Academy might no longer be able to meet regularly in Florence (because of the war and the plague), but it certainly furnished an opportunity for completing some of his most important books. In Letter 27 he writes to his 'unique friend' Giovanni Cavalcanti in the summer of 1482: 'At dawn today I was totally absorbed in completing the Theology, the sacred work which I have been labouring over for a long time. No one, not even those closest to me, dared to interrupt me then.' Clearly, he was working flat out on this, his greatest work, very close to the time of publication in November, 1482. He was also working on a number of short treatises, one of which, the Star of the Magi, appears as an appendix in this volume. This enormous workload may have had an adverse effect on a constitution that was never very strong. He appears to be writing of himself when he says to Giovanni Cavalcanti in Letter I: 'But how will you acquire wisdom from a man who has never had a sound body or a sound mind within it?' ... Recently, since he was suffering not a little from weakness, firstly of spirit, then of stomach and lastly of all parts of his body, he had a change of air but not of soul.'
Ficino may have been led by this experience to completing the first of his Three Books on Life[see below], a major work dealing with the care of the health of those who study philosophy. As his preface makes clear, he initially intended the first book to appear as the first letter in this volume, but it had grown too large and thus had to be published as a separate work.
In the midst of the troubles that Northern Italy was undergoing it seemed appropriate to Ficino to restate the kernel of Plato's teaching. It is perhaps no coincidence that the title of Letter I is 'Wisdom comes from God alone'. Certainly it was not coming from Sixtus, the spiritual head of Christendom. Ficino writes: 'All the sacred writings of the Jews and Christians proclaim that wisdom cannot be learnt unless God be the teacher.'
Ficino, like Plato, constantly speaks of the unreality of the material world, which is just a shadow or reflection of a divine world. Ficino insists that we should flee from the one to the other, a message that must have been particularly appealing in the harsh times of the early 148os. Perhaps this was particularly so, in relation to Sarzana, a town which had been seized from Florence by petty lordlings, the Fregosi brothers, during the War of the Pazzi Conspiracy and was not returned to Florence until 1486. In Letter 5 Ficino writes with approval to Antonio Ivani of Sarzana: `I observe that you judge the very best way of living to be one that is far removed from this dead life in which the mortal continues to live and the immortal somehow dies. This is so, as long as the heavenly soul is joined to the earthly body, not only once, initially by nature, but in being given over to it every day by desire.'
The fact that the soul is heavenly, that is divine, is fundamental both to Plato and to Ficino. The soul is of course one's very self. He writes about 'a friend' to Bernardo Bembo of Venice in Letter 4. This friend may be Bernardo, Ficino or perhaps Venice herself. Ficino claims to have addressed the friend thus: 'From whom are you fleeing, unhappy Narcissus? Foolish man, you are fleeing from yourself to follow another who is fleeing even faster than you, and whom you will never be able to catch once you have forgotten your own self Alas, foolish Narcissus, what are you losing? Unhappy man, you are totally losing your own self by which you might reach the shadow, albeit a fleeting shadow which you cannot embrace. But since love has a habit of transforming the lover into the beloved, loving a shadow, Narcissus, you will shortly be turned into a shadow!'
The analogy Ficino gives for the substance of this divine soul is that of pure light. This is why in Letter 36 he addresses his 'fellow philosopher,' Lotterio Neroni, as 'a man of pure light.' By 'pure light' he means 'pure consciousness'. However much this substance is given to others, it can never be diminished; rather it grows more intense. This is the message he is sending to Lotterio Neroni in Letter 29.
How, then, does the soul seem to forget its divine nature? Ficino answers this question in Letter 4o to Jacopo Antiquari, Secretary to the Duke of Milan, by reference to the three parts of the soul described by Plato in the Republic: understanding, anger and desire. But Ficino divides 'understanding' into 'contemplation' and 'action'. He then writes that the Platonists 'refer to mind which simply contemplates by the name of Saturn, and they call mind occupied in actions Jupiter. They consider a heart hardened by anger to be Mars, and one softened by pleasure to be Venus.' Everything depends upon which principle the mind is turned towards. Ficino concludes: 'For those who unreservedly subject desire, anger and action to contemplation, events turn out every
day as they would wish.' Ficino makes it abundantly clear that there are two ways (in reality one way) by which the soul may come to realise its own divine nature: religion and philosophy.
The letter written to Antonio Zilioli of Venice (Letter 18) has the title, 'Philosophy and Religion are true sisters'. By emphasising both here and in other letters how the ancient philosophers such as Pythagoras and Plato gave thanks and praise to God, he shows that they were also religious. In Letter 10, written to Lorenzo de' Medici, he seems to explain how this works in astrological or mythological terms: `Jovian Mercury [that is a Mercury well aspected to Jupiter], always there with his quickening movement, urges you to inquire unremittingly into the truth of things. Then the Sun by his light opens the way to every discovery for you who seek. Lastly, Venus with her gracious charm always makes whatever has been revealed beautiful.' Such beauty, of course, inspires love and praise, which are the very essence of religion.
Letter 18, which has already been referred to, throws similar light on the complementary nature of religion and philosophy. Here Ficino writes: 'It is the work of the true philosopher always to search out the particular principles and causes both of the parts and of the whole, and also to teach them; then in finding the real principles and causes of things he should finally ascend to the highest principle and cause of all.' Then he must 'lead everyone else with him to the realms above'. Of religion he simply writes: 'The whole universe in every part cries out that we should acknowledge and love God'. How closely the poet George Herbert echoed this view in the seventeenth century: let all the world in every corner sing, My God and King!'
Ficino ends this book, as he ends Books Three to Six, with a paean of praise and love. It is in the end through Love that one find union with God: 'I, like fire, illumine men's understanding and set their wills on fire. But you can become divine, not because you seek my light for the sole purpose of understanding, but because you seek out my heat with a burning will.'
One aspect of this volume is the relatively large proportion devoted to astrology. The longest letter, Letter 17, is devoted to this subject, and the even longer appendix, The Star of the Magi, covers much of the same ground. Ficino seems at pains in these short treatises to show that the stars cause nothing in the universe. This is especially true in relation to the nativity of Christ and to all events of a religious significance. Such events arise directly from the will of God Himself, and God is above the heavens and totally independent of them. What, however, the configurations of the stars may do for those who have a true understanding of them is to indicate what is happening in the celestial world and therefore what is happening or about to happen on earth. One seems to be arriving at an Hermetic image of the universe where all events are inter-related; every detail has macrocosmic significance. Every minute detail is the will of God and as such takes place in the heavens but is mirrored upon earth. Ficino says many times in previous volumes that the wise man makes his own will conformable to the will of God and that, for him, events which are inevitable become voluntary. In times when Florence was for so long at war with the Pope, Ficino no doubt also desired to show that his views on astrology were not heretical.
It remains to consider an aspect of Ficino's writing which appears particularly in this volume. This is the allegorical style in which he clothes much of his wisdom. Eight letters are entitled Apologus, which has been translated as 'fable', and there are others of an allegorical nature. The six fables which run from Letters i i to 16 have been illustrated specially for this volume. They seem to have a common theme: the dangers of falling into bad company and being consequently corrupted. The first note to letter II explains how the form of the fable was being revived in the fifteenth century and how Ficino thought it was important that fables should be used for a spiritual purpose. But a fable by definition has more than one level. It could certainly bear a political as well as a spiritual interpretation. Letters 11 to 16 were written between October, 1481, and January, 1482. This was while Riario was negotiating to bring Venice into a war for the purpose of partitioning the Ferraran territory between them. Riario was certainly bad company for Venice to keep!
Ficino had important Venetian friends who might have had an influence on the direction that Venetian foreign policy took. The most influential was Bernardo Bembo, a previous ambassador to Florence, and now the Podesta in Ravenna. There was also Ermolao Barbaro, the distinguished scholar and diplomat, who was shortly to become a Venetian senator.
In moments of crisis Ficino did not neglect the interests of his country as his letters to the enemies of Florence clearly show before and after the Pazzi Conspiracy (see note on 'The Pazzi Conspiracy and Ficino' in Letters 4, and Historical Note in Letters 5). Yet if he wrote a letter to Venetians openly pleading the cause of Florence`and the letter fell into the wrong hands, he could injure rather than help the cause and perhaps endanger the position of his correspondents themselves.
Yet would not these dangers be obviated if Ficino could conceal his message within the terms of a fable that only he and his correspondents would fully understand? This would be especially the case if the fables were written without an addressee. The fables composing Letters 1 1 to 16, which seem particularly relevant to the political situation, have no addressees, whereas Letters 22 and 23, which are fables, are addressed to the Duke of Urbino.
However, the letters in this volume do have a strong Venetian element. Apart from the correspondence with Bernardo Bembo, there are letter to Antonio Zilioli and Pietro Molin. Letter 2 to Bernardo Bembo is particularly significant. In it Ficino writes that 'the longer he [Ficino] keeps his own counsel and says nothing,`the more clearly he discerns it is better to be silent than to speak. He also understands that there are very few things that we can give worthy expression to, that we should say in honesty or may say in safety.'
In letter 11,`the first fable, Ficino explains how Apologus wanders away from his guardian, Apollo, into the woods, which in Ficino's writings can symbolise darkness and ignorance 7 and partakes of coarse food given to him by certain 'shepherds'. He would have become coarse himself had not his guardian Apollo led him back to the Pythian Gardens. Significantly, in the fable Ficino mentions that the Pythian Gardens are now called Pinthian' by the people of Florence. These gardens belonged to Bartolomeo Scala, who had a house in the Borgo Pinti, in whose gardens Ficino's Academy sometimes met. The patron of the Academy was, of course, Lorenzo de' Medici. There were other clear allusions to Lorenzo. The emblem of Lorenzo was the laurel, as his name was derived from the word laurus, meaning 'laurel' in Latin. It seems clear that Apollo in this fable stands for Lorenzo. It was Lorenzo who could lead the Venetians back to their erstwhile ally Florence, from the darkness of war to the light of peace. The following five fables could all be given a similar interpretation: they were advice to the Venetians, or in the case of Letter Is, to the citizens of Faenza, to support Lorenzo rather than Riario.
However, it is at the spiritual level now that these fables are most significant. They seem to convey the most important message that human souls should turn from the coarse pleasures of the material world to the serenity of the spirit; that they should remember the true good which they once knew and find their way back to it through the light of the divine sun.
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 7 (Liber VIII) (Shepheard-Walwyn) This seventh volume of Marsilio Ficino's letters sheds new light on the life and intellectual development of one of the Renaissance's leading figures. As head of the Platonic Academy in Florence, Ficino helped set the intellectual and spiritual foundations of the Italian Renaissance, the reverberations of which were felt throughout Western Europe for centuries to come. Ficino's letters offer key insights into this philosophical and artistic movement and into the lives of the extraordinary people who led it. Noted correspondents include Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, uncle of the navigator and explorer Amerigo Vespucci, after whom America is named.
Excerpt: THE letters in this volume were written between 1484 and 1488. These were particularly busy years for Marsilio Ficino. In November 1484 his translation of Plato's Dialogues from Greek into Latin was published, together with his commentaries upon these works. Immediately he turned his attention to the translation of Plotinus, undertaken, he claims, at the instigation of his friend Pico della Mirandola. By January 1486 he had translated the whole of Plotinus' work (see Biographical Note on Plotinus and Letter 24). However, he continued to write commentaries on Plotinus, and the translation with the commentaries was published in 1492.
The speed with which he worked was partly due to his gift of being able to attend to any project he was engaged upon with single-minded attention. One gets some sense of this from the number of letters which apologise for his not having written at greater lengthl and which give as a reason that `Plotinus calls' or 'will be calling soon'. During much of this time he seems to have been utterly absorbed in the thought, perhaps even the vision, of Plotinus. In Letter 29 he is not using purely figurative speech when he writes to Braccio Martelli, 'Recently, when I was staying at the home of Filippo and Niccolo Valori in the countryside at Maiano and investigating the nature of daemons (spirits) in a secluded place, suddenly Plotinus was present.' Ficino writes that Plato himself is faithfully represented in Plotinus alone (Letter 36). Perhaps he felt that he had a similar relationship with Plotinus: that he understood him, as it were, from within; even though in the letter just quoted he uses the words of Porphyry to explain the 'dark, pithy statements' of Plotinus!
What makes Ficino's achievement more remarkable is that many other things also presented themselves in this period requiring his urgent attention. He was most concerned that his interpretation of Plato should be accepted in papal circles. This concern is expressed in a number of letters written to Cardinal Marco Barbo at the Curia asking him, either directly or indirectly, to speak up for Plato to Pope Innocent VIII and to those in a position of influence. The life-work of Ficino, which was to reintroduce Plato as an authority the Church could accept, hung in the balance. Besides writing to Barbo, Ficino also sent a number of letters on the same theme to his old friend Antonio Calderini, who was a secretary to the Cardinal. These printed letters must have been but the tip of the iceberg. Much work must have gone on behind the scenes unrecorded and now forgotten.
It made matters more difficult still that at this time Ficino's financial circumstances, never favourable, became worse. One of Ficino's brothers had died and Ficino was looking after his brother's children in his own house (Letter 24). He felt diffident about writing to Lorenzo de' Medici for help and asked his friend Pier Leone to ask for help on his behalf. It appears that Pier Leone never did this, or was unsuccessful, and finally Ficino himself had to write (Letter 38).
The situation was awkward for Lorenzo, as the Medici bank was not now doing well and he could not meet Ficino's needs on the same generous scale as his grandfather had done. It was significant that Lorenzo did not pay for the printing of Ficino's Plato in 1484. The money, apparently after some indecision, was put up by Filippo Valori (see Preface, dedicating this book of letters to Filippo Valori, and Letter 20). However, Lorenzo had one very valuable asset: his friendship with Pope Innocent VIII. In 1487 Lorenzo's daughter Maddalena was betrothed to Pope Innocent's son, Franceschetto Cibo (see Biographical Notes under Innocent VIII). The same year Lorenzo's son Giovanni was promised a place in the College of Cardinals. Such cementing of the ties between the papacy and Florence gave Lorenzo much more influence in matters of ecclesiastical patronage than he had enjoyed under the previous pope, Sixtus IV. In 1487 Ficino was made a canon of Florence Cathedral. The Medici had to make some sacrifice for this, as it was Giovanni's seat as canon to which Ficino succeeded. Ficino wrote a moving letter expressing his gratitude (Letter 39), and he made a powerful oration on love when he became a canon (Letter 41). While Ficino's new dignity alleviated his financial difficulties and gained him more authority in Florence, it also provided other duties to fulfil which must have added a further necessary diversion from his work on Plotinus.
At about this time he also gave addresses to the Camaldolese order at the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. It is possible that it is these addresses which are summarised as letters 53-56 in this volume. They are strongly devotional in character.
Ficino's international reputation and consequent responsibilities were also growing. Members of his circle were spreading to Poland and Hungary in greater numbers and within the last decade of the century to France, Germany and England as well. A certain Paolo (probably Paolo Attavanti, see Letter 72) wrote that Ficino had 'brought the whole of Europe to a loving subjection' to himself. Ficino writes a typically humorous reply to this obvious exaggeration. However, even this does give significant evidence of the growing respect in which he was held both in Italy and beyond.
His influence over King Matthias of Hungary is particularly remarkable. It reveals both the King's desire for a Platonic renaissance in his country and his great respect for Ficino as the fountain-head of Platonic wisdom. Matthias was one of the most inspired leaders and generals of the fifteenth century. He held the formidable Ottoman Turks at bay throughout his reign (1458-1490), winning several notable victories over them. He also defeated the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (see Biographical Notes under Matthias Corvinus).
Ficino had dedicated his third and fourth books of letters to Matthias, which had been beautifully illuminated by Attavanti dei Attavante. What the King wanted above all was that Ficino himself should come to his court. However, Ficino did not feel he could take this step; but he was perhaps at least partly responsible for the fact that his friend and fellow Platonist, Francesco Bandini, was able to promote Platonic studies in Hungary from soon after his arrival there in 1476, at least until Matthias' death in 1490. Bandini was also useful to the king in other ways (see Biographical Notes and Letter 57). However, the latter continued to press Ficino to come himself and Ficino continued to decline the invitation. Ficino tried repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to persuade his cousin Sebastiano Salvini to go instead (Letter 48). Not surprisingly he felt that he might have lost some influence with the king (Letter 37).
However, the opposite proved to be the case, as the affair of the priest Vincenzo Nicolai shows. It is not known what Ficino's connection with Vincenzo was. He appears to have been arrested when trying to cross the Hungarian border, carrying a large sum of money without appropriate documents. Ficino pleaded with the King for his release, which was obtained. However, at the time of his arrest his money had been confiscated and was not returned to him. Ficino interceded again to ask that his money should be given back (Letter 61). Once again Ficino's request was granted.
In all the books of Ficino's letters there are requests for help to be given to acquaintances of his. Throughout his life he had a deep concern for those who had fallen upon difficulties or misfortune, and tried to help them. In this respect he followed Christ's teaching in deed as well as word. Other letters in this volume which reveal his concern include one to the lawyer Vittorio of Siena (Letter 60), where Ficino pleads for him to help Salvini (who had disappointed Ficino by not taking up Matthias' invitation for him to go to Hungary, see Letter 53). In addition he puts the case of Matteo Cini to Ermolao Barbaro, as Cini had got into some kind of difficulty (Letter 71). We do not know what this difficulty was.
Of all the letters in Ficino's correspondence those between Pico della Mirandola and himself seem to reveal most about Ficino's nature. He admired enormously Pico's spirit, energy, courage and intellectual penetration (Letter 66). Above all, perhaps, he admired his magnificent aim of finding the unity that underlay all the great religions and philosophical systems known to him. Ficino felt his kinship with Pico was affirmed in the heavens (Letter 62). But this friendship was much tested. Pico, who became the Count of Concordia at a young age, received an Aristotelian education (see Biographical Note on Aristotle) at the universities he attended: Ferrara, Padua, Pavia and Paris. For a long time Ficino cherished hopes that Pico would become a Platonist. But Pico never regarded himself as a Platonist. His aim was to find the unity underlying both Plato and Aristotle. In Ficino's first recorded letter to Pico in December, 1482 (Letters, 6, 31), he addresses Pico as `his fellow Platonist', but this reflects the hope of Ficino rather than the position of Pico. Two years later Pico wrote that he wanted to compare Plato with Aristotle and Aristotle with Plato. He would also be grateful if Ficino could send him his book on the Immortality of Souls (Appendix A). At about this time Pico also wrote to the Aristotelian Ermolao Barbaro: 'I am distancing myself from Aristotle to direct myself to the Academy, not as a deserter but as an explorer.' Pico had persuaded himself that Plato and Aristotle were fundamentally in agreement (Historical Note on Pico).
Although Pico came to Florence to study with Ficino in 1484 his earlier viewpoint does not seem to have much changed. It must always have been a disappointment to Ficino that Pico never seemed to appreciate what to him was obvious: that Plato's transcendental mysticism soared beyond the logical reasoning of Aristotle.
In the spring of 1486 Pico visited Florence again on his way to Rome to present his 90o propositions. Shortly after leaving Florence he abducted the young wife of Giuliano Mariotto de' Medici (with her willing consent). Before Pico could cross the border into Siena an armed party collected by the aggrieved husband caught up with Pico. In the ensuing affray there were significant casualties and Pico himself was wounded. He was captured and conducted to prison, from which he was released only when Lorenzo de' Medici himself paid a fine on Pico's behalf.
Pico was disgraced in the opinion of many, apparently including that of the friend of Pico and Ficino, Pier Leone, Lorenzo's physician. Yet Ficino wrote two pieces in his defence (27 and 28). The second of these, and perhaps the first, was sent to Pier Leone and no doubt to others. Only Ficino's love for the man could have led him to make such glorious attempts to defend the indefensible. However, the two pieces were wisely not included in the first printed edition of the letters which appeared in 1495, when the power of the fundamentalist Dominican monk, Savonarola, was at its height in Florence.
While Pico was convalescing from his wounds at Fratta he gave further cause for annoyance to Ficino. Ficino had lent him certain books, including the Koran, which Pico needed for the preparation of his 900 Propositions (see Historical Note on Pico). Ficino now needed the book back, particularly for a work by Avicenna which was included in the book, but Pico continued to keep it. His excuses were not very plausible. It was as though he could not see the problem. What could be more important than his own 90o Propositions to be debated in the presence of the pope at a gathering to which all the clergy of Italy had been invited? Pier Leone and Mithridates, an assistant to Pico, appear to have had similar difficulties with Pico (see Letters 31 and 46), although in the case of Mithridates there were other problems as well (see Biographical Notes under Mithridates). Ficino wrote to Pico telling him that he would not let him have his work on Plotinus until he had received back the Koran (Letter 31). Later Pico replied airily that Ficino could not have asked for his Latin Mahomet back at a more convenient time as he was now hoping to hear Mahomet speaking in his mother tongue as he was studying Arabic, as well as Hebrew and Chaldean (Appendix B).
Although both Pico and Ficino supported a religious and philosophical unity their views differed on a number of issues. These differences came to a head over a commentary Pico wrote in 1486 on a poem of Girolamo Benivieni which summarised what Ficino had written about love in De Amore, his commentary on Plato's Symposium. Pico's Commentary made criticisms of a number of things Ficino had said. The criticisms did not at first mention Ficino by name, but simply attributed such statements to 'a Platonist' or 'a great Platonist' etc. The Commentary was sent to Ficino who returned it with such comments as, 'This is a terrible mistake' and 'This is a serious mistake.'
Pico responded by adopting some of Ficino's criticisms, but beside other comments he would add such remarks as: 'I am surprised that Marsilio holds that according`to Plato souls are created directly by God, a view that is as much opposed by the School of Proclus as that of Plotinus'. He also wrote, 'You can imagine, reader, how many mistakes our Marsilio makes in the first part of the Banquet (De Amore); on this one score (of inadequate definition of terms) he completely confuses and invalidates what he says about love. But in addition to this, he has made mistakes on every subject in every part of his treatise.' 1 Pico then capped it all by threatening to write his own commentary on Plato's Symposium. However, this never happened and not even his Commentary on Benivieni's Canzone was published in his life-time. All this was happening when Pico was an unknown man of 23, having just completed his studies at the Sorbonne; Ficino was a man of 52 and the leading living authority on Plato. For the friendship to have continued is a remarkable tribute to Ficino's power of detachment, and his concern for the good of his friend.
During Pico's difficult sojourn in Rome in 1487 and after his flight from there, Ficino continued to support him both in letters and by speaking up for him to Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence (see Historical Note on Pico). To escape arrest by papal emissaries Pico had fled to France, but probably through Lorenzo's good offices he obtained permission to live within the boundaries of Florence, though not within the city. It was Ficino, in Letter 54, no doubt with Lorenzo's prior approval (or prompting), who wrote on 3oth May, 1488, inviting Pico back to live on Florentine soil. Letters 57 and 58 are witness to the good terms which existed between the two after Pico's return. Although their philosophical differences persisted, their friendship appears to have remained unbroken. After Pico's death in 1494 Ficino wrote: 'In age he was like a son to me, in familiarity like a brother, and in affection like a second self '
Ficino considered himself a follower of the 'divine' Plato and of Plotinus. But these great philosophers were only the culmination of a line of philosophers who had realised the truth of an Ancient Theology and passed it on to their disciples, who in turn passed it on to their successors. As Plato himself explained in his Seventh Epistle, such knowledge cannot be learnt from writing, however sublime. Indeed, it cannot be learnt at all in the ordinary sense; it has to be conveyed by word of mouth, reflected upon, and assimilated into the being. That is why the Academy in both ancient and Renaissance times was so important. It provided an opportunity for this oral communication between the philosopher and his helpers, and with those who came to listen.
Ficino seems to have changed his mind about the original head of the ancient teaching. In his preface to the translation of the newly discovered Poimandres, attributed in Renaissance times to the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus (Thoth in Egyptian), Ficino put Hermes at the head of the tradition. In the 1469 Commentary on the Philebus Ficino replaces Hermes with Zoroaster. However, in his letter to John of Hungary (Letter 19), he states that the same divine revelation came to Zoroaster in Persia and Hermes in Egypt independently. This order he repeats in his preface to Plotinus, published in 1492. Zoroaster and Hermes therefore became joint heads of the tradition.' The remaining line of succession consisted of Orpheus, Aglaophemus, Pythagoras, Philolaus and Plato. Poimandres was the first work Ficino translated when in 1462 he was installed by Cosimo de' Medici in a villa which Cosimo gave him near his own at Careggi. It was this work (now known as the Corpus Hermeticum) that inspired Ficino with a number of concepts that he came to associate with the Ancient Theology: the unreality of the sensory world; the single reality of the One; the capacity of the human soul to consciously merge with that One; the immortal and god-like nature of the human soul; the sleepy, 'drunk' and ignorant condition in which it customarily lives. These ideas Ficino also found in Plato, although not always so explicitly and clearly stated.
Ficino is particularly concerned that Marco Barbo should speak up for his commentaries and translation of Plato and that the pope should accept them, not just because the great Cosimo had given him a task which had now been fulfilled; not because he had spent such time, care and labour on the task, but because he felt that if this teaching were imbibed, in Plato's sense, it could lead to a renaissance of the human soul. He had written in 1477 (Letters, 4, 6): 'It was not for small things but for great that God created men, who, knowing the great, are not satisfied with small things. Indeed, it was for the limitless alone that He created men, who are the only beings on earth to have rediscovered their infinite nature and who are not satisfied by anything limited, however great that thing may be'.
In this volume Ficino asks Barbo and Bandini to be protectors of Plato and he saw himself in this role too. He could not accept Pico's propositions that Aristotle and Plato were saying almost the same thing. Aristotle on many occasions attacks Plato's statements on ideal forms (see Biographical Notes under Plato and Aristotle). Ficino regarded as an essential part of the ancient teaching the notion that reality is beyond the senses and beyond that part of the mind which deals with sensory perception. It was reflections of this real world in the sensory one that reminded the soul of its spiritual homeland and filled it with`the desire to return there. The last letter in this volume, which discusses the quality of the notes of the octave in great detail, reflects the importance Ficino attached to good music as a reminder to the listener of the real homeland. There is a relationship between Ficino's musical scale and the proportions and intervals which Plato says God used in creating both body and soul.
Some of the points about which Ficino and Pico disagreed seem relatively trivial, but their implications are far from trivial. Pico, in a passage already quoted, criticises Ficino for saying that souls are directly made by God. But if there is an intermediary then the soul cannot be divine in an absolute sense. In that respect Pico had 'made a serious mistake' — even if Plotinus did support him!
Plotinus sometimes, however, provides a clearer statement of the principles of the Ancient Theology than Plato does. In Ficino's terms, he explains things that Plato leaves veiled. It was partly for this reason that Ficino felt drawn to translate him. Pico, both in the Benivieni Commentary and in his book De Ente et Uno (On Being and the One), argues that 'Being' and the 'One' are synonymous terms, and he adds that if Plato appears to say the opposite in Parmenides that is because that dialogue is a dialectical exercise and does not represent what Plato thought. In his commentary upon Parmenides Ficino spends significant time expounding the principle that the 'One' is beyond 'Being'. The principle again appears of little importance; but again the opposite is the case. For the 'One', if it is to be absolute, must be absolutely non-dual. It must be beyond all pairs of opposites such as being and non-being. Plotinus leaves the matter in no doubt when he says: 'The One is not all things because then it would no longer be One. It is not the Intelligence, because the Intelligence is all things, and the One would then be all things. It is not Being because Being is all things'.
Plotinus also provides much imagery that appeals strongly to the emotions. Some of this imagery is taken up directly by Ficino. For instance, Plotinus likens the life of man on earth to taking a part in a play. Ficino draws on this in a moving letter to Ugolino Verino on the death of his son, of whom he writes (Letter 49): 'He has gone back, not from life, but from a particular play in life, into the very substance of life'. Ficino also follows Plotinus (and Hermes) in his praise of beauty. Like Plato, Plotinus speaks of levels of beauty, but they all lead back to the beauty of the Good, from which their beauty comes. Plotinus ends a disquisition on beauty by saying: 'What is beyond the Intelligence we affirm to be the nature of the good, radiating beauty before it'.6 Ficino believes that it is a reflection of this beauty in physical bodies that attracts all human beings back to their source.
Finally, Plotinus' description of an experience of unity bears a marked resemblance in tone to some of Ficino's experiences. Plotinus writes: `Many times it has happened: lifted out of the body into myself; becoming external to all other things and self-centred; beholding a marvellous beauty; then, more than ever, assured of community with the loftiest order, enacting the noblest life, acquiring identity with the divine, stationing within it ...' Reading this passage must have confirmed Ficino's own experience and confirmed his view of the unlimited potential of man.
Pico and Ficino lived in very different mental worlds, even though they shared the common aim of finding a unity in different religions and philosophical traditions. Pico was an Aristotelian from education and probably also by nature. He looked for unity through symbolism and attributing special meanings to words which differed from the common understanding of them. Ficino had also had an Aristotelian education and was able to present his original works in a framework of Aristotelian logic and definition of terms. But in Pico's view Ficino was not very good at this. Ficino was in essence a visionary whose inner knowledge came through revelation. He thought that the oneness of Christianity and Platonism was based not on the fact that the Christian scriptures were identical in meaning to the dialogues of Plato, but because what was expressed in both traditions was totally compatible. What underlay both traditions was their common origin, which was, as he thought, the wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus, who, according to St Augustine, was coeval with Moses. Both traditions were therefore heirs to the Ancient Theology.
Ficino sometimes makes disparaging references to 'logicians' in his letters, and his attitude to Callimachus is revealing. Callimachus was an Italian, Filippo Buonaccorsi, who had lived in Poland for some time. He had sent a letter to Ficino asking him how daemons (spirits) could possibly take possession of a body which was already completely filled by the soul, which would therefore leave no room for it (Appendix F). At the time Ficino was most interested in the nature of spirits. His De Vita Libri Tres (Three Books on Life) was published in 1489, the year after the last letters in this volume were written, and the third book was originally intended as a preface to Plotinus. This book makes many references to daemons. The longest letter (29) in this volume is mainly a translation of part of a work of Porphyry (De Abstinentia) which deals entirely with daemons.
However, Ficino replies to Callimachus with a humorous comment. He says 'While you assert that a man cannot be possessed by a spirit, at the same time you are demonstrating that you are completely possessed by a spirit which is indeed divine.' Then he says he is too busy with Plotinus to send a fuller reply (Letter 16). He sends a similarly short reply to Pico (Letter 35) when he receives from him the 900 Propositions. He merely makes one proposition: that so much learning in one so young is 'the mark of some one remembering rather than learning', which is a direct allusion to a Platonic rather than Aristotelian theory of knowledge. While undoubtedly Ficino was preoccupied with Plotinus during this period, one feels that on both occasions there is another unspoken comment, an intimation that one does not arrive at the truth through discursive or analytic thinking.
Many times in his books of letters Ficino tells us that final union with God is reached through love. In his inaugural speech to the College of Canons and the people of Florence he preaches on three aspects of love: God is love; he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God; and God in him. It seems probable we have only a summary of what he said; but the summary is powerful; and again he makes the point that he emphasises many times. 'Because God Himself is love and also because the soul, set on fire with the flames of love, loves the most high God within herself, and indeed loves men in God, the soul is wonderfully moved by God Himself, who is love, and the soul becomes God' (Letter 41).
Ficino delivered other orations in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, which belonged to the Camaldolese order. One oration (Letter 53), or part of an oration, gives this instruction to everyone entering the Church: 'Know thyself'. It continues, 'It is therefore our bounden duty first to acknowledge our own soul, through which as in a mirror we can look in bliss upon the adorable face of our Father.' Here Ficino is speaking of the divine soul within every human being. Later he asks `What does it profit you, theologian, to ascribe eternity to God, unless you ascribe the same to yourself, so that through your own eternity you may enjoy the divine eternity?' (Letter 54).
According to Ficino, on seeing a reflection of your own eternity in another you fall in love with the image of yourself in the other. It was this divine love that in Ficino's words bound the members of the Academy together and also bound Ficino and his correspondents. There are constant references to this throughout the letters. This equal love was purely spiritual; it was not a polite form of words, still less a reference to homosexual love. It was a love that was all-embracing.
In conclusion it might be said that the work of Ficino was an attempt to restore to Christianity a number of features, associated with Christianity in its first two centuries, some of which were afterwards driven out of the church. These features are associated with the Gnostic and Hermetic movements. They include an acceptance of the non-duality of the universe (although this was not accepted by the Syrian Gnostics), and of the immortality and thus divinity of the soul, so that all humans were potentially Christ-like. They include a belief in angels and demons, and the belief that the fall of man was not occasioned by Adam and Eve's disobedience but by the ignorance arising from the pursuit of sensory objects. It was a Christianity that was much closer in spirit to the religions of the East, and far more tolerant and less dogmatic than the Christianity that possessed both the Catholic and Protestant churches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. --Clement Salaman, Editor
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 8 edited and translated by by Clement Salaman (Shepheard-Walwyn) contains letters written in 1488 and 1489, with a preface added in the summer of 1490. There are also four important letters written in 1489 not included in the printed edition of his letters published in 1495, no doubt because they concern Ficino’s Three Books on Life (De vita) and were published with it, together with a note to the reader printed there. These five items are appended to the present volume (Appendices A to E) as they help to complete the record of Ficino’s engagement with other scholars at this period.
In addition, some letters have been provided
from his correspondents: Appendix F is Poliziano’s reply to a
request for help, G is a letter from Valori, and H is the covering
letter Ficino wrote at the time he composed Book I of De vita.
Appendix letters I to K are from Ermolao Barbaro, presenting the
other side of the correspondence between him and Ficino. They date
from 1484, 1488 and 1491 but are given together here. Appendix L
presents another letter from Poliziano to Ficino, and M to Q are
letters of dedication written by Filippo Valori for presentation
copies of Ficino’s work discussed in this volume. Valori personally
paid for these presentation copies and for the publication in print
of De vita.
* Volume 8 in the Shepheard-Walwyn edition, the first English translation of The Letters, corresponds with Book IX of the Latin edition.
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 8 by Marsilio Ficino, edited, translated by Clement Salaman (Shepheard-Walwyn)
This volume casts a new light on Marsilio Ficino, an extraordinary Renaissance man. Sometimes he has been thought of as an ivory-tower philosopher, who retired from the hurly-burly of life to contemplate God in the seclusion of his academy. It is true that he was a man of devotion; but when the need was there he could be a highly effective man of action. We see him using his significant influence in Florence and beyond to defend his philosophy against opposition from the Church. In this he was successful.
The collected letters were first printed in Venice in 1495. This may have been because the fundamentalist priest Savonarola and the party opposed to the Medici, Ficino's patrons, were then powerful in Florence - Lorenzo's son and heir, Piero, had been expelled the previous year. Some material that would have been in this book on chronological grounds may also have been excluded for the same reason. This material has been included here in the Appendix together with some letters to Ficino and prefaces added to his work published at this time.
This volume casts a new light on Marsilio Ficino, an extraordinary Renaissance man. Sometimes he has been thought of as an ivory-tower philosopher, who retired from the hurly-burly of life to contemplate God in the seclusion of his academy. It is true that he was a man of devotion; but when the need was there he could be a highly effective man of action. We see him using his significant influence in Florence and beyond to defend his philosophy against opposition from the Church. In this he was successful.
The collected letters were first printed in Venice in 1495. This may have been because the fundamentalist priest Savonarola and the party opposed to the Medici, Ficino's patrons, were then powerful in Florence - Lorenzo's son and heir, Piero, had been expelled the previous year. Some material that would have been in this book on chronological grounds may also have been excluded for the same reason. This material has been included here in the Appendix together with some letters to Ficino and prefaces added to his work published at this time.
The letters cover topics from friendship to healthy living and from the ancient philosophical tradition to biblical scholarship and medicine; there is discussion of the influence of the stars on human life, recommendations for reading books related to the Platonic tradition and reflections on the art of good writing and speaking.
His correspondents in this book include Lorenzo de' Medici and his sons Piero and Giovanni, Filippo Valori, Pico della Mirandola, Pier Leone of Spoleto, Angelo Poliziano and the Venetian scholar-diplomat, Ermolao Barbaro. There are also letters to Germany and Hungary.
Wherever he found divisions between people, Ficino endeavoured to bring them to unity: he sought to create harmony among his brothers, to show that the way of philosophy was not different from the way of religion, and that the Aristotelians and Platonists were in fundamental agreement. The basis of this unity for him was to recognise the unity of the divine soul in everyone.
The illustration on the front of the jacket shows the right-hand half of a double-page frontispiece illuminating the finely produced copy of Ficino's translation of Synesius,On Dreams, discussed in this volume.
The manuscript (Codex Guelf 2 Aug. 40) was prepared for King Matthias of Hungary by Filippo Valori, as mentioned in this volume, and also contains Books III and IV of the Letters, as replacement for the copy lost earlier. The king's emblem of the raven holding a ring can be seen in the top border, held by cherubs. In the bottom border is his coat of arms. The illumination is attributed to Attavante degli Attavanti. It is reproduced by kind permission of the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbiittel.
THIS eighth volume of letters casts a new light on Marsilio Ficino, an extraordinary Renaissance man. Sometimes he has been thought of as an ivory-tower philosopher, who retired from the hurly-burly of city life to contemplate God in the seclusion of his academy. It is true that he was a man of devotion; but when the need was there he could be a highly effective man of action. According to Ficino, to combine both roles was difficult.Yet in this book we see him boldly preparing to defend his philosophy against opposition in the papal curia. His defence was successful. On another front we find him still practising as a doctor in the late 1480s, caring for the body as well as the spirit and soul of others. Thus he united the function of doctor, musician, and priest. He had also taken on the care of his nephews and nieces, whose father had died and who evidently had less frugal tastes than he did.'
Yet his literary output remained undiminished. Perhaps for that reason this book is the shortest of the twelve books in the collected volume of letters first printed in Venice in 1495. It contains only twenty-five letters. The reason that the collected letters were published in Venice may have been that the fundamentalist priest Savonarola and the party opposed to the Medici, Ficino's patrons, were then powerful in Florence. Lorenzo's son and heir, Piero, had been expelled the previous year. Some material that would have been in this book on chronological grounds was probably excluded for the same reason, or because it had already been published in the De vita libri tres in 1489. This material has been included here in the Appendix together with some letters written by others, either to Ficino, or as prefaces added to Ficino's work published at this time. The Appendix is of no less importance than the twenty-five letters printed in the Venice edition, and in some cases the more interesting for having been excluded from it.
The letters cover topics from friendship to healthy living and from the ancient philosophical tradition to new advances in biblical scholarship and medicine; there is discussion of the influence of the stars on human life, recommendations for reading books related to the Platonic tradition and reflections on the art of good writing and speaking.
His correspondents in this book include Lorenzo de' Medici and his sons Piero and Giovanni: to all of these he dedicates important works. There are several letters to his other patron and great friend, Filippo Valori, and to his fellow philosophers Pico della Mirandola, Pier Leone of Spoleto, Angelo Poliziano and the Venetian scholar-diplomat, Ermolao Barbaro. There is also a new friend and follower in Germany, Martin Prenninger of Constanz, and there are several letters to Hungary, both to Francesco Bandini and to the King, Matthias Corvinus, as well as to the king's librarian, another Italian, Taddeo Ugoleto of Parma.
The great majority of the contents of this volume was written within a period of just over a year, from September 1488 to October 1489. During this period Ficino was exceptionally busy, even by his standards. He had finished his translation of Plato's dialogues (published in 1484) but was still working on the commentaries to some of these. He was also working on De vita (published in December, 1489). This was the book which seemed to some to cross the bounds of Christian dogma. In addition he had embarked on the enormous task of translating Plotinus' Enneads and was now writing commentaries on these. But he had also been engaged on translating a number of the works of other neo-Platonic writers including Porphyry, De occasionibus, Iamblichus, On the Mysteries of the Egyptians and Assyrians, Priscian of Lydia, On Theophrastus, concerning the Soul, Proclus, On Sacrifice and Magic, and Psellus, On Daemons.
What impelled Ficino to undertake this great task? Like many others of his time, he felt that the key to knowledge lay in the tradition of the ancient past. Ficino believed that the common basis of true philosophy and religion lay in a prisca theologia, a venerable teaching that came from God and was passed down through a number of teacher/disciple relationships (the disciple in one generation becoming the teacher in the next). He felt that knowledge of this ancient teaching is the highest happiness for mankind for it leads to the knowledge of the soul, that divine self lying at the heart of every human being, and constituting the unity between man and man. Knowledge of that common root must be the best hope for reconciling the various branches of religion and philosophy. Since the soul was at the mid-point of creation, in coming to know the soul one would come to know all things. Hence the instruction on the temple of Apollo at Delphi, 'Know Thyself'.
For Ficino, the Universe was one living whole, but in this whole were different levels. Surely human life on earth could be greatly assisted if one could use substances belonging to a higher level to assist life at a terrestrial level: for instance, by wearing solar metals or gems or eating solar food one could attract to oneself the qualities of the Sun. Even making images of the planetary gods might similarly be of assistance. These issues are raised in De vita libri tres. Originally the three books constituting De vita had not been intended to form a single volume. The first book, On a healthy life, was going to be a preface to Book VII of the Letters. But it became too long. The head was going to grow bigger than the body! The second, On a long life, was partly inspired by Martin Prenninger, Ficino's illustrious friend from Germany (Letter 18). The text was influenced by Arnald of Villanova, and perhaps by Roger Bacon, but the Arnald text was difficult to read and in a corrupt state. There appears to have been no Church opposition to these first two sections of De vita. But the third was a different matter. The title of this was On obtaining life from the heavens.
For Ficino, to make use of substances and forms carrying celestial influences could in no way abrogate the omnipotence ofAlmighty God. God was simply working through such agencies, as He might work through individual men and women. Ficino would have considered astrological indications or causes in a similar way: God manifests His will through the stars. What God wills is instantly effected.
However, Ficino was well aware that others would not see the matter in the same light. In his letter to 'the three Peters' (Appendix B), he states the kind of questions he anticipates, or indeed has already encountered. 'One person will say, "Is not Ficino a priest? What business have priests with medicine? Or what business with astrology?" Similarly another person will say,"What business has a Christian with magic or talismans?" Yet another, himself unworthy of life, will deny that there is life in the heavens. 'These charges are summarised by the 'severe ecclesiastical prelate' referred to in De vita, III, 25: he condemns 'whatever detracts from our free will, whatever derogates from the worship of the one God.' Ficino answers, 'With you I not only condemn these things but even bitterly curse them?' Strong language!
However, predictive astrology does appear to take away at least partially the free will of humans and, for that matter, of God. Ficino seems to imply prediction. For instance, in Appendix D he predicts a 'sufficiently long life' for King Matthias of Hungary, but the king died within the year. Ficino also predicted a long life for Ermolao Barbaro, who died in 1493 when he was still in his thirties. But Ficino did predict accurately that Lorenzo de' Medici's son, Giovanni, would become Pope, which he did in 1513. One does wonder how seriously Ficino and his addressees took such predictions. Perhaps they were rather given and received in the spirit with which Persian courtiers in ancient times used to greet the Great King, '0 King, live for ever!'
Ficino's philosophical consideration of astrology does seem to be moving towards a more semiological interpretation. In his letter to Ficino in this volume Poliziano, the poet and grammarian, expresses his pleasure that Ficino's views on astrology are now the same as Pico della Mirandola's (Appendix L). Pico was increasingly influenced at the time by the views of the reforming Dominican monk, Girolamo Savonarola, and he therefore would not accept any form of predictive astrology in relation to human affairs.
Another serious accusation made against Ficino was that of worshipping daemons. A Christian was not allowed even to address them, yet Ficino had recently summoned Porphyry, now a spirit himself, to elucidate what he had just heard from the spirit of Plotinus. Could Ficino have passed off these and similar references as mere metaphor? Porphyry had actually written a treatise of fifteen books against Christianity!
Ficino successfully avoided trouble. In a later book of letters (Book X) he acknowledges his gratitude to Rinaldo Orsini, the Archbishop of Florence. Ermolao Barbaro, the expert on Aristotle and soon to become Patriarch of Aquileia, also claims to have helped his cause in Rome and even states that Pope Innocent VIII would like to see him. Perhaps Ficino might have been wary of such a meeting, bearing in mind the persecution inflicted by the Pope on Ficino's friend, the scholar Pico.
Ficino might not have got off so easily if he had not had substantial support from within Florence; and he was very active in mobilising this. The three Peters that Ficino summoned in Appendix B were all distinguished men. Pietro del Nero was a classical scholar and, perhaps more to the point, a lawyer. Piero Soderini in 1502 was given the post of Gonfaloniere for life, and Piero Guicciardini was a member of one of the most influential families in Florence. Guicciardini is asked to 'fetch' Poliziano. Ficino often addresses Poliziano as 'Hercules,' much to Poliziano's annoyance, as he was of small stature, but Ficino really did need a Hercules now! Nero was asked to go to the poet Cristoforo Landino: 'That Amphion of ours with his wonderful charm will swiftly soften the stony hearts of our enemies.'
Ficino also sends a letter to the three 'Cs' (Appendix C): Bernardo Canigiani, Giovanni Canacci, and Amerigo Corsini. These were all leading citizens. A phrase has been added in the printed edition which, if it was actually used, is of some interest. In this addition Ficino addresses 'the three Cs' as 'keen-scented hounds of the Academy'. This seems to indicate that the Academy had some special role to play in supporting Ficino against the Dominican Savonarola; the Dominicans themselves were known as Domini canes, hounds of the Lord. Canigiani was a close friend of Ficino, and Corsini had been his pupil.
Another interesting feature of this letter is that, while he needed a vigorous response to the anticipated charge of heresy, he did not want an over-response. Canacci, in particular, seems to be reminded that 'those who consider their studies and business too precisely and always break them down into the smallest possible particles are at the same time wearing away their own life.' A little earlier in the same letter he writes to all of them, 'I now entrust you the tasks I wish you to undertake, but not the cares attendant upon them.' Ficino then invites them, if they hear any 'wolves howling', to put the matter to Benigno Salviati, the notable Franciscan preacher, for he 'will easily put all the wolves to flight ... and at a stroke, relieve me of anxiety and you of trouble.' In both letters (Appendix B and C) Ficino is not only asking for the support of his friends but he is asking them to obtain help from specific influential individuals. It is a campaign.
In his defense, Ficino made good use of the books he had recently worked on, or was still working on. In fifteen of the twenty-five letters in this book the translations of these works are mentioned, or promised to the recipients. By reading these Platonic works they could be expected to gain a clearer understanding and greater sympathy with Ficino's philosophy.
The most powerful person in Florence was Lorenzo de' Medici. Ficino still regarded him as his patron, although due to a deteriorating financial position he had not for some time paid for Ficino's books to be published.
In Appendix A Ficino writes to Lorenzo largely in allegories relating to rebirth. 'Rebirth' was a term used by the early Christians to mean a spiritual rebirth in the wisdom of God. It is not a term employed much by Ficino. It refers to a very profound experience described in the first book that Ficino ever translated from the Greek. This work, ascribed to the legendary Egyptian Hermes Trismegistus, was entitled The Poimander; now known as the Corpus Hermeticum. In this the disciple is beside himself because Hermes has not bestowed upon him second birth. Hermes tells him:
'O Son, spiritual wisdom lies in the womb of silence and the seed
is truth and the supreme good...'
'What kind of man is born, 0 Father?'
'He who is born from God is of a different kind; he is a son of God, and himself God, in all he is the All, composed of all powers.'
Towards the end of this letter to Lorenzo, Ficino writes these words: 'Accept therefore, most worthy Lorenzo, after those books on the soul, these books on the body also, and graciously breathe life into those earlier ones.' Ficino had already sent Lorenzo the translations of Plato and the work on The Immortality of the Soul. Now Lorenzo is to breathe life into The Book on Life. Given the opening topic of the letter, the implication is that the De vita will have its full power only if Lorenzo breathes upon it and it gains second birth. As well as deliverance from the immediate threat, Ficino is hoping for a rebirth of wisdom among the Florentines led by a re-inspired Lorenzo.
Ficino was an arch-syncretist, both from his nature and from his philosophy. He always worked to bring people to harmony following the words of Psalm 133 quoted in Letters, 4, 42 and the Preface to Letters, 6 , 'How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.' In Letter 6 of this volume he stresses the importance of unity.According to Giovanni Corsi, his contemporary biographer, he practised what he spoke. He had no desires to accumulate possessions and left the whole of his inheritance to his brothers. 'He would take great pains to reconcile friends. He was a model of dutiful conduct towards parents, relatives, friends and the dead, but particularly towards his mother Alessandra, whose life he prolonged by remarkable care and attention, to her eighty-fourth year, even though she was an invalid.' (Letters, 3, 'The life of Marsilio Ficino by Giovanni Corsi,' p.145). In his collected letters there is hardly a request for himself but many commendations for others.
There are frequent references to the work of Theophrastus and that of Priscian of Lydia who strove to discover the essential unity of view held by both Aristotle and Plato. It is also interesting that in this volume he speaks highly of a leading Dominican, Niccolo de Mirabilibus and also of a leading Franciscan, Benigno Salviati (Letters 3 and 19). This was at a time when there was considerable rivalry between the two orders (as there was between the Aristotelians and Platonists).
Ficino also saw a link between Christianity and the teachings of Zoroaster. He points out that the three wise men who came to the infant Christ were in fact the first three Christians! Even more, that they had been led by the very kind of white magic that Ficino advocates (Appendix B). In the preface to Plotinus, Zoroaster is actually honoured as the first founder of the prisca theologia.
Ficino also sought to resolve the differences between those who took the spiritual path through religion, who primarily worked through the heart, and those who worked through the head and took the path of philosophy. Back in the 1470s he had written,lawful philosophy is no different from true religion and lawful religion exactly the same as true philosophy.' (Letters, 1, 123). He asserts in Letters, 7, that philosophy is necessary for 'men with keen and philosophically inclined minds.' He says that reason will lead them to the same place as faith has led those of a religious nature. He points out in this volume in Letter 12 that amongst the early sages there had been exemplars of both the religious and the philosophic life. Plato had gloriously combined them both.
The idea of Platonic Love has passed into common parlance as a love independent of physical attraction, a love central to Ficino's concept of friendship. In this volume we are presented with a clear picture of how such friends lived and what was the basis of their friendship. Angelo Poliziano, a famous poet and grammarian in his day, writes to him (Appendix L):
I hope you will not disdain this little country cottage of ours at Fiesole when your place at Careggi gets too hot in August. For here we have many streams, as in a valley, very little sun and a breeze that never fails us.Then the secluded little house itself, although almost hidden by a small wood, commands a view of the whole of Florence. And although there is a great throng nearby, in my house there is always pure solitude, such as detachment indeed loves.
Then he mentions that Ficino's friend, Pico della Mirandola, often drops in and takes him with him 'for the kind of supper you are familiar with, a supper that is frugal but witty, and always full of cheerful conversation and jokes.'
They thought of themselves as doing the same work. Poliziano writes in the same letter, 'What of the fact that we all devote ourselves to promoting true studies each in our own way? And we always do this encouraged not by any reward, but by love of the work itself; yet the duties are divided among us in such a way that absolutely no part of them is left out. For Pico ... is expounding all the scriptures.., and he arrives bearing the olive branch between Aristotle, who is currently mine, and Plato, who is ever yours.'
Ficino writes not infrequently that he works to express the glory of the age. There is a universality of view about these fifteenth-century humanists. It is not surprising that this volume of Ficino's letters dwells so much upon the One. He was working on the Plotinus Commentaries during the period in which these letters were written, and Plotinus dwells on the One even more consistently than Plato does. It is the unity of God recognised in the human being that constitutes the basis of friendship.
Those who have the same guiding spirit and listen to it have a single mind and single will. 'If mind and will are one there is always but one man' (Letters, 6, 10).When Ficino writes to King Matthias of Hungary, having earlier declined the king's invitation to visit his country, it is not just a rhetorical flourish for him to say that he will be visiting it in the body of Filippo Valori, who is Ficino's new patron and his alter ego (Letter 6). The mind which is common to friends seems to relate to the mind of God, who is always the third friend.'
It is a quality of some of the humanists that Ficino corresponds with in this volume that they seem to move closer to each other in their thought as though they were not bound to their opinions. Poliziano writes to Ficino in 1494 (Appendix L): `So far as concerns astrologers, about whom you have written me a most beautiful letter, I rejoice greatly because you also are now for the first time taking a stand with our Pico, or have already taken this stand in the past ... Changing one's view is not a disgrace for a philosopher.' But Poliziano also seems to be modifying his own views. Having been a staunch Aristotelian, he now writes as a 'neophyte' in Ficino's philosophy. Ermolao Barbaro, another famous Aristotelian, shortly to be appointed Patriarch of Aquileia by the pope, writes (Appendix J), 'We are aligning part of our philosophy to some extent with yours: we are giving ourselves encouragement and turning what is given man as a punishment into praise.'
In surveying the letters in this volume one realises what a master Ficino was of the now almost forgotten art of letter writing. There does not seem to be a word out of place. In Letter 11 Ficino replies to a letter from Andrea Cambini, who has sent Ficino three speeches written by a relative of Cambini's. Ficino praises them highly. He writes: 'The qualities I look for above all others in speeches are these: meanings that are clear and not hidden, fullness without excess, brevity without defect, but whole and measured, and lastly appropriate and fine choice of words.' Ficino might have been describing the qualities of his own letters. These qualities point to the Plotinian mean, the mid-point in creation, the still centre. They reflect the words which formed part of the inscription written on the walls of his Academy: 'Avoid excess, avoid activity. Rejoice in the present'. Such advice leads to the fulfilment of human life.Clement Salaman Editor
THIS volume contains Ficino's ninth book of letters, comprising letters written in 1488 and 1489, with a preface added in the summer of 1490. In addition, four important letters were written in 1489 which were not included in the printed edition of his letters published in 1495. This is no doubt because they concern Ficino's Three Books on Life (De vita) and were in fact published with it, together with a note to the reader printed there. These four letters were included in the one extant manuscript (Mo2), and the reader's note is alluded to there, but not given in full. All five of these items have now been appended to the present volume (Appendices A to E) as they help to complete the record of Ficino's engagement with other scholars at this period.
In addition, some letters have been provided from his various correspondents: Appendix F is Poliziano's reply to a request for help, G is a letter from Valori, and H is the covering letter Ficino wrote at the time he composed Book I of De vita, which had originally been intended as a letter, but outgrew its context (see our previous volume, Letters, 7). Appendix letters I to K are from Ermolao Barbaro, presenting the other side of the correspondence between him and Ficino. They date from 1484, 1488 and 1491 but are given together here for the sake of convenience. Appendix L presents another letter from Poliziano to Ficino, and M to P are letters of dedication written by Filippo Valori for presentation copies of Ficino's work discussed in this volume. Valori personally paid for these presentation copies and for the publication in print of De vita.
One of the more slimmer books of the Letters, the text being only 35 pp, the critical apparatus of the volume remains excellent, including biographies of Ancient, Medieval, and contemporary personages, bibliographies of works, indexes and appendices as described elcewhere.
For Book IX, besides the printed edition of Venice, 1495, there is only one manuscript. It is not known who wrote this manuscript or under what circumstances. It contains all of the letters from this book, and the following books, stopping early in Book XII, and these are followed by some letters of Bartolomeo Scala from an earlier period.
The 1495 printed edition was published in Venice by Matteo Capcasa of Parma. The copy in the library of the University of Durham (SR. 2.C.22), used here, has some corrections in the hand of Ficino Ficini, Ficino's nephew.
The manuscript, siglum Mo2, is Munich, Staatsbibliothek, MS lat. 10781.This manuscript also served as the main textual source for the Appendix letters connected with De vita (A to E, and H), collated with the earliest printed editions of this work:
The Latin texts of the remaining Appendix letters are all found in Paul Oskar Kristeller, Supplementum Ficinianum, 2 vols., Florence, 1937, volume II, for which page numbers are given in each case.THE TRANSLATORS
Marsilio Ficino: The Book of Life (Dunquin Series) by Marsilio Ficino, Charles Boer (Spring Publications) Charles Boer obviously put considerable effort into trying to make sense of a famous but difficult work, which had yet to be properly edited in its Renaissance Latin original. His translation is quite pleasant reading. Unfortunately, the problems begin as soon as the reader tries to understand Ficino, instead of Boer. The "Three Books of Life" contain a mixture of medicine, astrology, neo-Platonic philosophy, and more or less concealed magic, and Boer makes little effort to explain any of these; it is not clear how much of any of them he recognized in the text he was translating.
To anyone familiar with the discussions of the book in, for example, Walker's "Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella," or Yates' "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition," the translation could only be a source of frustration.
Basically, there seem to have been two sets of problems. First, the translation was based on unreliable versions of the Latin. The lack of a proper edition was not Boer's fault; professional scholars of Renaissance Latin writings (Humanist Latin is a subject in itself) had never published one. But it should have made him very cautious about trying to puzzle it out for himself. Second, Boer seems to have paid little, if any, attention to the vast scholarship needed to understand Ficino, which was available, if somewhat scattered through books and journals.
Since Boer was dismissive of the existing Ficino scholarship, hostile reviews from scorned specialists were perhaps to be expected. But I am not one of them, and I can testify from experience that Boer's work was more frustrating than useful.
Fortunately, not too long after the appearance of Boer's version, Carole V. Kaske and John R. Clark's "Three Books on Life" was announced for publication. It has since appeared, and, with several reprintings behind it, is, at this writing, available. It has a full edition of the Latin text facing the translation, an excellent introduction, and elaborate notes and index / glossaries. It is not as fun to read as Boer sometimes is, but, despite the slightly higher price, it is a better bargain. You get useful historical contexts, advice on whether Ficino is making a pun, or is completely serious, even alternative explanations -- all the things I wondered about when trying to read Boer's version.
Three Books on Life by Marsilio Ficino, translated and edited by Carol V. Kaske, John R. Clark (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies) In the second half of the twentieth century, readers of English who were interested in the Renaissance had their attention drawn to Ficino's "Three Books on Life" (known by various titles, such as "Liber de Vita" and "De Vita Triplici") by several influential books. Chief among them were D.P. Walker's "Spiritual and Demonic Magic: From Ficino to Campanella" and Frances A. Yates' "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition." The many readers of Robert Burton's seventeenth-century masterpiece "The Anatomy of Melancholy" had already encountered frequent citations of "Ficinus" on melancholy, its causes and cure. Any attempt to find an English translation, or even a good text of the Latin original, however, came up with nothing.
For a moment it seemed that Charles Boer had provided one with "The Book of Life," originally published in 1980, and currently in print. It was an attractively printed and extremely readable translation. Unfortunately, it was not only based on unreliable versions of the Latin, but it paid little if any attention to the vast scholarship needed to understand Ficino. Since Boer was dismissive of the existing Ficino scholarship, hostile reviews were perhaps to be expected, but I can testify from experience that Boer's work was more frustrating than useful.
Fortunately, a far superior translation, along with a carefully edited Latin text, useful introduction and helpful notes, and glossarial indexes, was already in progress. It appeared about a decade later, and, like Boer's, has been reprinted several times. It is an impressive accomplishment, providing a rich source of information on Ficino's theological, philosophical, medical, astrological, and magical readings and world-view, and how they interact.
Ficino, famous in his day and in histories of philosophy as the pioneering translator of Plato and the Neo-Platonists (a distinction made long after his time), was the son of a physician, which in those days meant an astrologer. He was trained in his father's profession, but also as a priest, and read the Aristotle of the late Scholastics as well as Plato and his followers, and his supposed source, the books attributed to the Egyptian sage, Hermes Trismegistus. Bits and pieces of all of these interests, and others, appear in the "Books on Life," which are in large measure an attempt to avoid the negative implications of Ficino's own horoscope, which was dominated by the influence of Saturn, seeming to doom him to lethargy and sickness.
In the process, he worked a minor revolution in European thought, which is still with us today. He did this by finding good aspects to melancholy, which in the tradition he had inherited was a disease, combining aspects of depression and mania. He argued that it was also a producer of scholarship and wisdom, helping to launch both the modern idea of "genius" and the suspicion that it has some connection with insanity.
Ficino also argued for special diets to control the negative aspects (lots of sugar and cinnamon), and, in a controversial final section, for astrological talismans to concentrate good forces and repel bad ones. This was dangerous ground, obviously shading into magic, and protesting that he was vindicating Free Will against astrological determinism was not much of a cover.
Although a very high`proportion of the thousands of websites mentioning Ficino seem interested mainly in Ficino the Great Astrologer or Ficino the Renaissance Platonist, he was a lot more complicated, as Kaske and Clark make clear. Nothing will make " "Three Books on Life" easy reading, but they have done everything possible to make it intelligible to modern readers.
Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love by Marsilio Ficino, translated by Sears Jayne (Spring Publications) Second Revised edition, with an extraordinarily rich bibliographical appendix covering the literature in many languages pertaining to this work and its influence.
This great treatise is considered the most influential philosophical work coming out of the Italian Rennaissance. Edward S. Casey writes, "Ficino argues for the divinity of love while being equally alert to its daemonic dimentions. Along the way, he offers delightful insights into the actual practice of love. Sears Jayne's lucid translation brings into elegant English the tenor of the amazing opus on the soul and spirit and body of love."
One of the most accurate assessments of Ficino's De amore ever written is a statement by one of Ficino's contemporaries, a professor of Aristotelean philosophy named Agostino Nifo (c. 1473-1546), who says of it: "Amplifying Plato's views on love partly by allegorizing Plato and partly by adding to him, Ficino made a not unskillful compilation of many different ideas about love.") The best way to go about a first reading of the De amore is to think of it exactly as Nifo suggests, not as a commentary on the Symposium, but as a compilation of ideas about love.
The main argument of the De amore as a treatise on love may be paraphrased as follows: the cosmos consists of a hierarchy of being extending from God (unity) to the physical world (multiplicity). In this hierarchy every level evolves from the level above it in a descending emanation from God and desires to rise to the level above it in an ascending return to God. This desire to return to one's source is called love, and the quality in the source which attracts this desire is called beauty. The human soul, as a part of the hierarchy of being, is involved in this same process of descent from God and return to God; in human beings the desire to procreate inferior beings is called earthly love, and the desire to rise to higher levels of being is called heavenly love. Human love is therefore a good thing because in both of its phases, descending and ascending, it is part of a natural cosmic process in which all creatures share.
Ficino decided to use the Symposium of Plato as his vehicle to express the arc of human and divine love. It was an appropriate vehicle because it was on his subject and because it was new; his was the first complete translation of the dialogue ever written. It was because of the convention of the commentary as a substitute for the discursive treatise that Ficino wrote his treatise on love in the form of a commentary, and it was because of the relevance of the Symposium to his own subject, Socratic love, that he chose to attach his commentary to the Symposium. But, as in the case of the banquet fiction, Ficino does not carry out the commentary fiction systematically because both fictions are there only for the sake of the argument which he wanted to advance, his defense of human love.
By cosmic love Ficino means the cycle of emanation and reversion in the cosmos as described by Proclus, the Pseudo-Dionysius, and the author of the Liber de causis. This cosmos is a series of concentric circles, with the highest form of being, the abstract One, at the center, and successively lower forms emanating outward to the physical world which forms the outermost circle. Though Ficino had doubtless read and probably used all three of these authors, I think it very likely that his immediate model was the Convivio (or Symposium) of Dante. Ficino had begun his Platonic studies in 1456 at the behest of a leading Dantist, Cristoforo Landino, and it is likely that Landino suggested the Convivio to him as a model. Dante's Convivio, like Ficino's De amore, is a banquet, a philosophical feast in which Dante celebrates as his key idea the cosmic nature of love. He describes the universe as a hierarchy in which every level of being is united in a desire to ascend to God.
The highest desire of everything, given to it by nature in the beginning, is to return to its own source. Since God is the source of our souls and made them in his image, our souls desire above all to return to God. (4.12.14-19)
The universe is made coherent by the cosmic love for God which pervades all creation:
Love is the heartbeat of the whole universe. Everything participates in it according to its own special love, from simple bodies, to composite bodies, to plants, to animals, to man. (3.3.2-11)
Dante's immediate source for this vision may have been the PseudoDionysius's Divine Names, but the same conception also appears in the Liber de causis, which Dante cites by name:
Every substantial form proceeds from its own first cause, which is God, as the Liber de causis says. Therefore its being derives from God, it is preserved by God, and it naturally desires to be united to God, to strengthen its own being. (3.2.4-7)
Dante's stress on the personality of God as the source of the outpouring of being and the object of every creature's search for being is certainly Christian rather than Proclean. Ficino, too, can sound very Christian (e.g., the chapter heading of VII. 1 7), but in places he sounds neither Christian nor Proclean, but Plotinian, as where he stresses the point that the One is above being (e.g., 1.3). In VI.1 6 we are told that the stages of love are: World Body, World Soul, Angelic Mind, and God; but in VII. 1 3 that the levels are Nature, Opinion, Reason, and Intellect. In still other places (e.g., IV.3-4), Ficino speaks as if man were not a participant in the ebb and flow of cosmic love at all, but only a spectator who stands apart and tries to make up his mind whether to love God or himself. In still other places, we hear that not all creatures are involved in the process of cosmic love after all: the artist, for example, loves not God but the idea of order (III.3); the wolf loves not God but himself; and on that account hates lambs (III.4), which are presumably beneath him in the hierarchy of being and thus constitute an exception to the Proclean rule that higher orders desire to create lower orders, not to destroy them. In short, the concept of cosmic love in the De amore is not based on any single authority and indeed is not any one concept. What Ficino is trying to do in the De amore is to defend the propriety of personal love by showing that it is merely a natural part of a perfectly respectable cosmic process; he is simply trying to persuade the reader, by celebrating the universality of love in the world, that love is a good thing: "So my friends, I urge and beg you to give yourselves to love without reservation, for it is not base but divine" (11.8).
As we have seen, Ficino had at his disposal in writing the De amore three principal groups of authorities, the "Latin" Platonists, the Scholastic theologians, and the "Greek" Platonists whom he had just translated. In writing about the human soul, Ficino skips eclectically from one to another among these three sources.
On the history of the soul, for example, he states both the heretical Platonic view that the soul descends from a previous existence (IV.4) and the orthodox Christian view that the soul is created by God directly on earth and rises toward bliss in heaven (IV.5). In several places he reviews the whole history of the soul in Platonic terms, covering its descent and its ascent (e.g., VII. 1 3-14), but he also gives a Thomistic account of the soul's pursuit of divine virtues (IV.5-6) which is no less vivid than his Plotinian account of the soul's "upward way" through the hypostases (VI. 1 8-1 9). On the question of the soul's faculties, he is usually Aristotelean: thus in VI.6 he discusses the process of perception in terms of the Aristotelean outer and inner senses, and his conception of the imagination10 accords loosely with those of Avicenna and Albert. Elsewhere (e.g., VI.1 5) he says that "Intellect is not a natural and inherent faculty of the soul." Still elsewhere (VII. 1 3) he distinguishes Intellect from Reason as parts of the soul, in the usual Platonic way. At the critical point in the description of the soul's functions, where he must say whether the soul constructs its universals by abstraction, or rather merely compares particulars with universals which are innate, he says, "there immediately appears in the Intellect another species of this image" (VII. 1).
In Ficino's earlier defenses of love (the De divino furore and De voluptate), he had not found it necessary to discuss beauty at all, because his major sources there, Proclus and his heirs, had defined love as a desire to return to the cause, to recover the more perfect being from which all creatures have degenerated in the process of being created. But both of the Greek authors whom Ficino had been reading more recently, Plato and Plotinus, define love as the desire for beauty)! Thus in the De amore, beauty becomes an important subject. Unfortunately, as soon as Ficino tried to define beauty, he found himself once more confronting a disagreement between the Platonists and the Aristoteleans. The Platonists defined beauty as an abstract universal existing separately in the mind of God, whereas the Aristoteleans defined beauty as an abstraction generated by the individual human mind from many particular sense experiences. Moreover, most medieval and renaissance theorists,12 from Bonaventure to`Alberti, believed that beauty was a form which was given to matter, an order or arrangement imposed upon objects of experience, whereas the Platonists held that beauty was an abstract quality in which physical objects participated in various degrees.
Ficino's solution to these differences of opinion is, as usual, to present them all and let the reader take his choice. Thus in the opening section of the De amore (1.3-4), he gives as the basic working definition of beauty simply the commonsense definition which he knew that his artist friends would approve, the pragmatic IAristotelean definition employed by Alberti, that beauty is a way of ordering experience. Elsewhere, however (V.5), he also gives the Platonic definition of beauty as participation in an undefinable Ideal. In still another place (V.6), he tries to combine the two concepts by drawing an analogy with the concept of infused virtue in Aquinas: it is true, he says, that beauty is a quality or grace infused into a thing by God, by an act of grace, but a thing can be prepared to receive this grace by arranging its parts, by imposing arrangement, order, or harmony upon it; though the virtue of beauty is actually an infused virtue, it will be given only to objects which have acquired the natural virtue of order and harmony. Just as the idea of qualities infused by grace is not original with Ficino, so his application of the idea to the particular problem of the nature of beauty is not his own either. It may be found in the same work which we have already cited as one of his sources for the concept of cosmic love, the Convivio of Dante.
In the Platonic theology of the school of Proclus, love is conceived of as a cosmic force in which individual human beings participate willy-nilly, along with all other creatures, falling and rising, emanating from and reverting to the One, just as all the rest of the universe does. The Proclus school sees man as merely one of the participants in the universal two-stage cosmic process, following first the urge to be a cause oneself and then the urge to return to one's own cause. Human love is in effect indistinguishable from its cosmic matrix, and the individual will is not really free. The human soul is merely a spark of light emanating from the divine sun. In some places the De amore appears to endorse this view:
. . . the ray of beauty which is both Plenty and the father of love, has the power to be reflected back to what it came from, and it draws the lover with it. But it descends first from God, and passes through the Angel and the Soul, as if they were made of glass; and from the Soul it easily emanates into the body prepared to receive it. Then from that body of a younger man it shines out, especially through the eyes, the transparent windows of the soul. It flies onward through the air, and penetrating the eyes of an older man, pierces his soul, kindles his appetite, then leads the wounded soul and the kindled appetite to their healing and cooling, respectively, while it carries them with it to the same place from which it had itself descended, step-by-step, indeed, first to the body of the beloved, second to the Soul, third, to the Angel, and finally to God, the first origin of this splendor. (VI.10)
In other places, however, Ficino appears to endorse a view more like that of Plato and Plotinus: the soul`begins in heaven, falls into the body, and then reascends to heaven, but the individual soul is free to eschew the desire for the body which causes it to fall and free also to decide when, or if, it will turn to the desire for ideal beauty, which causes it to rise. That is, once born into the flesh, man is free to choose between earthly love and heavenly love:
He who uses love properly certainly praises the beauty of the body, but through that contemplates the higher beauty of the soul, the Mind, and God, and admires and loves that more strongly. (11.7)
In still other places Ficino appears to be thinking in terms of Aquinas's view of love as a matter of choosing between love of self and love of God:
so that we shall seem to have first worshipped God in things, in order later to worship things in God, and to worship things in God for this reason, in order to recover ourselves in Him above all, and in loving God we shall seem to have loved ourselves. (VI.19)
Thus the section on human love in the De amore follows the same method as the other four sections: it presents different views of human love without trying to argue out their relative merits or to resolve the obvious contradictions among them. Here, as elsewhere, Ficino prefers to say, "We think that both of these opinions are true, but each for a different reason" (VI.1).
Of the three main kinds of love, the last kind, "simple" (i.e., physical) love, is given the most emphatic position, and it is also described in the least ambiguous way, giving a mainly traditional physiological account of the causes and cures of love considered as a disease of the spirits and blood.14 But even here Ficino introduces one new authority, namely Lucretius. Able at last to make some public use of the Lucretian studies of his youth, he cites Lucretius six times in support of the argument that physical love must be a good thing because it is physiologically natural.
Plato's Third Eye: Studies in Marsilio Ficino's Metaphysics and Its Sources (Collected Studies, No CS483) by Michael J. B. Allen (Variorum) A collection of essays by Michael J. B. Allen before 1995.
Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy (Brill's Studies in Intellectual History) by Michael J. B. Allen, Valery Rees, and Martin Davies (Brill Academic) This volume consists of 21 essays on Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), the great Florentine scholar, philosopher and priest who was the architect of Renaissance Platonism and whose long-lasting influence on philosophy, love and music theory, medicine and magic extended across Europe. Grouped into three sections, they cover such topics as priesthood, the influence of Hermetic monism, Plotinus and Augustine, Jewish transmission of the prisca theologia, the 15th c. Plato-Aristotle controversy, the soul and its afterlife, the primacy of the will, theriac and musical therapy, the notions of matter, seeds, mirrors and clocks, and other fascinating philosophical and theological issues. Also considered are Ficino’s critics, his relationship to the Camaldolese Order, his letters to princes, his influence on art, on Copernicus, on Chapman, and the nature of the Platonic Academy. All those interested in intellectual history, the Renaissance, Platonism; history and philosophy of religion (Christian and Jewish), history of art, political theory, literature, early science, medicine and music.
Introduction, Michael J. B. Allen
PART I: 1. Ficino the Priest, Peter Serracino-Inglott 2. The Camaldolese Academy: Ambrogio Traversari, Marsilio Ficino and the Christian Platonic Tradition, Dennis F. Lackner 3. Marsilio Ficino as a Christian Thinker: Theological Aspects of his Platonism, Jörg Lauster 4. Late Antiquity and Florentine Platonism: The ‘Post-Plotinian’ Ficino, Christopher S. Celenza 5. Ficino, Augustine and the Pagans, Anthony Levi 6. Echoes of Egypt in Hermes and Ficino, Clement Salaman 7. Prisca Theologia in Marsilio Ficino and in Some Jewish Treatments, Moshe Idel 8. Life as a Dead Platonist, Michael J. B. Allen
PART II: 9. Marsilio Ficino and the Plato-Aristotle Controversy, John Monfasani 10. Intellect and Will in Marsilio Ficino: Two Correlatives of a Renaissance Concept of the Mind, Tamara Albertini 11. Orpheus redivivus: The Musical Magic of Marsilio Ficino, Angela Voss 12. Ficino, Theriaca and the Stars, Donald Beecher 13. Concepts of Seeds and Nature in the Work of Marsilio Ficino, Hiroshi Hirai 14. Narcissus, Divine Gazes and Bloody Mirrors: the Concept of Matter in Ficino, Sergius Kodera 15. Ficino, Archimedes and the Celestial Arts, Stéphane Toussaint
PART III: 16. Neoplatonism and the Visual Arts at the Time of Marsilio Ficino, Francis Ames-Lewis
17. Ficino’s Advice to Princes, Valery Rees 18. The Platonic Academy of Florence, Arthur Field 19. Ficino in the Firing Line: A Renaissance Neoplatonist and His Critics, Jill Kraye 20. Ficino and Copernicus, Dilwyn Knox; 21. ‘To rauish and refine an earthly soule’: Ficino and the Poetry of George Chapman, Stephen Clucas Illustrations, Bibliography, List of Contributors, Index
Contributors include: Tamara Albertini, Michael J. B. Allen, Francis Ames-Lewis, Donald Beecher, Christopher S. Celenza, Stephen Clucas, Arthur Field, Hiroshi Hirai, Moshe Idel, Dilwyn Knox, Sergius Kodera, Jill Kraye, Dennis F. Lackner, Jörg Lauster, Anthony Levi, John Monfasani, Valery Rees, Clement Salaman, Peter Serracino-Inglott, M. Stéphane Toussaint, and Angela Voss.
Platonic Theology: Books 1-4 (The I Tatti Renaissance Library, 2) by Marsilio Ficino, translated by Michael J. B. Allen and John Warden, edited byJames Hankins, William Bowen (I Tatti Renaissance Library, 2: Harvard University Press)
Platonic Theology Volume 3. Books IX–XI. by Marsilio Ficino, [Theologia Platonica. English & Latin]English translation by Michael J.B. Allen with John Warden; Latin text edited by James Hankins with William Bowen. Includes bibliographical references and index (The I Tatti Renaissance library: Harvard University Press)
Platonic Theology Volume 4. Books XII–XIV. by Marsilio Ficino, [Theologia Platonica. English & Latin]English translation by Michael J.B. Allen with John Warden; Latin text edited by James Hankins with William Bowen. Includes bibliographical references and index (The I Tatti Renaissance library: Harvard University Press)
Platonic Theology Volume 5 Books XV–XVI by Marsilio Ficino, [Theologia Platonica. English & Latin]English translation by Michael J.B. Allen with John Warden; Latin text edited by James Hankins with William Bowen. Includes bibliographical references and index (The I Tatti Renaissance library: Harvard University Press)
Platonic Theology Volume 6. Books XVII-XVIII by Marsilio Ficino, [Theologia Platonica. English & Latin]English translation by Michael J.B. Allen with John Warden; Latin text edited by James Hankins with William Bowen. Includes bibliographical references and index (The I Tatti Renaissance library: Harvard University Press)
The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino: A Study of His Phaedrus Commentary, Its Sources and Genesis by Michael Allen (Publications of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies: University of California Press)
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 9 (Shepheard-Walwyn)
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 10 (Shepheard-Walwyn)
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 11 (Shepheard-Walwyn)
The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Volume 12 (Shepheard-Walwyn)