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Marsilio Ficino

Marsilio Ficino (Latin name: Marsilius Ficinus; October 19 1433 - October 1 1499) was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance, an astrologer, a reviver of Neoplatonism who was in touch with every major academic thinker and writer of his day, and the first translator of Plato's complete extant works into Latin. His Florentine Academy, an attempt to revive Plato's school, had enormous influence on the direction and tenor of the Italian Renaissance and the development of European philosophy.

Biography

Ficino was born at Figline Valdarno.

During the sessions at Florence of the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438-1445, during the failed attempts to heal the schism of the Orthodox and Catholic churches, Cosimo de' Medici and his intellectual circle had made acquaintance with the Neoplatonic philosopher George Gemistos Plethon, whose discourses upon Plato and the Alexandrian mystics so fascinated the learned society of Florence that they named him the second Plato. In 1459 John Argyropoulos was lecturing on Greek language and literature at Florence, and Marsilio became his pupil. When Cosimo decided to refound Plato's Academy at Florence, his choice to head it was Marsilio, who made the classic translation of Plato from Greek to Latin (published in 1484), as well as a translation of a collection of Hellenistic Greek documents of the Hermetic Corpus - particularly the "Corpus Hermeticum" of Hermes Trismegistos, and the writings of many of the Neoplatonists, for example Porphyry, Iamblichus, Plotinus, et al. Following suggestions laid out by Gemistos Plethon, Ficino tried to synthesize Christianity and Platonism.

Marsilio Ficino's main original work was his treatise on the immortality of the soul (Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae). In the rush of enthusiasm for every rediscovery from Antiquity, Marsilio exhibited a great interest in the arts of astrology, which landed him in trouble with the Roman Church. In 1489 he was accused of magic before Pope Innocent VIII and needed strong defense to preserve him from the condemnation of heresy.

His father was a physician under the patronage of Cosimo de' Medici, who took the young man into his household and became the lifelong patron of Marsilio, who was made tutor to his grandson, Lorenzo de' Medici. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the Italian humanist philosopher and scholar was another of his students.

Marsilio Ficino, writing in 1492, proclaimed, "This century, like a golden age, has restored to light the liberal arts, which were almost extinct: grammar, poetry, rhetoric, painting, sculpture, architecture, music... this century appears to have perfected astrology."

His letters, extending over the years 1474 – 1494, survive and have been published. He also wrote De amore and the influential De vita libri tres (Three books on life.) De vita, published in 1489, provides a great deal of curious contemporary medical and astrological advice for maintaining health and vigor, as well as espousing the Neoplatonist view of the world's ensoulment and its integration with the human soul. "[...] There will be some men or other, superstitious and blind, who see life plain in even the lowest animals and the meanest plants, but do not see life in the heavens or the world [...] Now if those little men grant life to the smallest particles of the world, what folly! what envy! neither to know that the Whole, in which 'we live and move and have our being,' is itself alive, nor to wish this to be so. One metaphor for this integrated "aliveness" is Ficino's astrology.

In the Book of Life, Marsilio details the interlinks between behavior and consequence. It talks about a list of things that hold sway over a man's destiny.

Ficino died at Careggi. His memory has been honored with a bust in the north side of the nave in the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.

See also

Notes

Books

  • Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animae (Platonic Theology). Harvard University Press, Latin with English translation.
    • vol. I, 2001. ISBN 0-674-00345-4
    • vol. II, 2002. ISBN 0-674-00764-6
    • vol. III, 2003. ISBN 0-674-01065-5
    • vol. IV, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01482-0
    • vol. V, 2005. ISBN 0-674-01719-6
    • vol. VI with index, 2006. ISBN 0-674-01986-5
  • The Letters of Marsilio Ficino Shepherd-Walwyn, English translation with extensive notes.
    • vol. I, 1975. ISBN 0-85683-010-0
    • vol. II, 1978. ISBN 0-85683-036-4
    • vol. III, 1981. ISBN 0-85683-052-6
    • vol. IV, 1988. ISBN 0-85683-070-4
    • vol. V, 1994. ISBN 0-85683-129-8
    • vol. VI, 1999. ISBN 0-85683-167-0
    • vol. VII, 2003 ISBN 0-85683-192-1
  • De vita libri tres (Three Books on Life, 1489) translated by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clarke, Tempe, Arizona: The Renaissance Society of America, 2002. with notes, commentaries and Latin text on facing pages. ISBN 0-86698-041-5
  • De religione Christiana et fidei pietate (1475–6), dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici.
  • In Epistolas Pauli commentaria, Marsilii Ficini Epistolae (Venice, 1491; Florence, 1497).
  • Meditations on the Soul: Selected letters of Marsilio Ficino, tr. by the Language Department of the School of Economic Science, London. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1996. ISBN 0-89281-658-9. Note for instance, letter 31: A man is not rightly formed who does not delight in harmony, pp. 5-60; letter 9: One can have patience without religion, pp. 16-18; Medicine heals the body, music the spirit, theology the soul, pp.63-64; letter 77: The good will rule over the stars, p. 166.
  • Commentary on Plato's Symposium on Love, tr. by Sears Jayne. Spring Publications, 2nd edition, 2000. ISBN 0-88214-601-7
  • Collected works: Opera (Florence,1491, Venice, 1516, Basel, 1561).

Further reading

  • Allen, Michael J. B., Nuptial Arithmetic: Marsilio Ficino's Commentary on the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato's Republic. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. ISBN 0-520-08143-9
  • Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, John Herman Randall, Jr., The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, 1948.) Marsilio Ficino, Five Questions Concerning the Mind, pp. 193-214.
  • Anthony Gottlieb, The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance (Penguin, London, 2001) ISBN 0-14-025274-6
  • Paul Oskar Kristeller, Eight Philosophers of the Italian Renaissance. Stanford University Press (Stanford California, 1964) Chapter 3, "Ficino," pp.37-53.
  • Thomas Moore, The Planets Within: The Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino. Lindisfarne Books 1990: ISBN 0-940262-28-2
  • Raffini, Christine, "Marsilio Ficino, Pietro Bembo, Baldassare Castiglione: Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Political Approaches in Renaissance Platonism", Renaissance and Baroque Studies and Texts, v.21, Peter Lang Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-8204-3023-4
  • Robb, Nesca A., Neoplatonism of the Italian Renaissance, New York: Octagon Books, Inc., 1968.
  • ed.Michael Shepherd, 'Friend to Mankind : Marsilio Ficino 1433-1499' 19 essays, London : Shepheard-Walwyn, 1999: ISBN 0-85683-184-0

External links

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