Monday, January 24, 2011

more Blum + Toussaint

Blum, Philosophers of the Renaissance
p.5 The Neoplatonic interpretation of Plato, which found its most important support in his Parmenides and Timaeus, received considerable impetus from the gradual discover of Plotinus, Proclus... The proposed solutions varied on individual points, but all agreed in assuming the presence in time and in the finite world of the Eternal and the Infinie, to which the knowing human soul must draw near. Even the debate over the immortality of the soul was a debate over the methodological versus the cosmological approach to knowledge. The immortality debate... gained momentum during the Renaissance and led to the early modern contention between rationalism and empiricism. This is why epistemology always tended to be cosmology as well; and indeed, it tended to be ethics, because the process of knowledge, understood in this way, contained a volitional element, an intentional opening up of oneself or a drawing near to the Infinite.

[nice passage on the background of neoplatonism to renaissance philosophy--Pico's texts exhibit this connection between cosmology and epistemology-ethics, the end of felicity etc.]
The cosmological aspect of the problem of creation led to an intensive search to identify the principle (or at any rate, as few principles as possible) by which everything that takes place is governed. For the sake of finitude, this principle may not be directly God himself (the accusation of pantheism was occasionally leveled) This is why... Agrippa and Bruno, under the influence of Ficino, speak of the world-soul, monads, and Pythagoerean numerical structures, while light and spirit or other forms of soul are the candidates in Ficino, Pico... and others.
[Alemanno scholar on the cosmological bent of his sefirot, Idel on characterizing the specific moment of Italian Renaissance Kabbalah and Jewish Philosophy, just as interested in magic as Christians were]

Pico in spring of 1486
Toussaint in Blum Page 72
he read the Cabbalists, newly discovered Hebrew philosophers such as Levi ben Gershom, Maimonides, Nachmanides and others, Plotinus, Hermes Trismegistus, the Chaldaean Oracles, Simplicius, Themistius, Philostratus, Iamblichus, Averroes, Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Henry of Ghent, among others, and the number of Conclusiones grew from seven hundred to nine hundred. In this short space of time, Pico not only composed the Conclusiones, but also the Commento, in which he developed an independent theory of the nature of the beatiful in Plate, and the celebrated Oratio, which is regarded as the manifesto of the new Renaissance thinking.

Toussaint warns against watering or dumbing down Pico's Renaissance Philosophy
Blum 81 Against this background, the various recent attempts to reduce Pico's work to a purely humanistic scholarship and rhetoric, or to a Scholastic, or even "reactionary" interpretation, must be regarded as a throough watering down of the philosophical Renaissance that Pico embodies, and as a gradual philosophical dumbing down of his thinking.

[While I think Toussaint may overemphasize the magical and "radical" Pico, he has a point. In looking at his scholastic interestings and emphasizing the religious and philosophical commitments evidenced in Pico's treatment of angelology, I do not want to seek to reduce Pico to some medieval paradigm. In looking to Pico's magic and theurgy, we must not exaggerrate any detail but we also must not ignore
the hints. What we have is, as Copenhaver points out, much closer to the medieval angel of Dionysius and Aquinas. But we also have a Renaissance angelology and a "re-platonizing" in the light of Pico's contemporary theological ambience as well as his particular original brilliance.]

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