Biography Relatively little is known for certain about Machiavelli's early life in comparison with many important figures of the Italian Renaissance the following section draws on Capponi and Vivanti He was born 3 May in Florence and at a young age became a pupil of a renowned Latin teacher, Paolo da Ronciglione. It is speculated that he attended the University of Florence, and even a cursory glance at his corpus reveals that he received an excellent humanist education. It is only with his entrance into public view, with his appointment as the Second Chancellor of the Republic of Florence, however, that we begin to acquire a full and accurate picture of his life.
Bring fact-checked results to the top of your browser search. Later Italian humanism The achievements of Alberti, Federico, and the Medici up to Lorenzo may be seen as the effective culmination of Italian humanism—the ultimate realization A biblical perspective on the prince by niccolo machiavelli its motives and principles.
At the same time that these goals were being achieved, however, the movement was beginning to suffer bifurcation and dilution. Even the enthusiastic Platonism of the Florentine academy was, in its idealism and emphasis on contemplation, a significant digression from the crucial humanistic doctrine of active virtue; Pico della Mirandola himself was politely admonished by a friend to forsake the ivory tower and accept his civic responsibilities.
The conflicting extremes to which sincere humanistic inquiry could drive scholars are nowhere more apparent than in the fact that the archidealist Pico and the archrealist Machiavelli lived in the same town and at the same time.
To a large extent, the cause of these and other vicissitudes lay in the nature of the movement itself, for that boundless diversity that nourished its strength was also a well of potential conflict. Rifts between monarchists and republicans, positivists and skeptics, idealists and cynics, and historians and poets came to be more and more characteristic of humanistic discourse.
Some of these tensions had been clear from the start, Petrarch having been ambiguous in his sentiments regarding action versus contemplation and Salutati having been not wholly clear about whether he preferred republics to monarchies.
But the 15th century, bringing with it the irreconcilable heterogeneity of Greek thought, vastly multiplied and deepened these divisions.
Things and words Simply put, the res-verbum controversy was an extended argument between humanists who believed that language constituted the ultimate human reality and those who believed that language, though an important subject for study, was the medium for understanding an even more basic reality that lay beyond it.
Petrarch, who had no direct contact with the works of Plato and little detailed knowledge of his ideas, drew on Cicero and St. It was never effectively challenged by Renaissance Platonists because, for reasons discussed below see below Idealism and the Platonic Academy of FlorenceRenaissance Platonists, though strong in Platonic idealism, were weak in Platonic analytic method.
The enthronement of language as both subject and object of humanistic inquiry is evident in the important work of Lorenzo Valla and Politian. For Valla, the study of language was, in effect, the study of humanity.
Similarly, Politian held that there were in fact two dialectics: Rejecting the dialectic of ideas as being too difficult and abstrusehe espoused the dialectic of words i.
This project would bear fruit in the intensive linguistic-philosophical researches of Mario Nizolio. Though anticipated by Petrarch, the radical emphasis on the primacy of the word constituted a break with the teaching of other early humanists, such as Bruni and Vittorino, who had strongly maintained that the word was of value only through its relationship to perceived reality.
Nor did the old viewpoint lack later adherents. In an epistolary debate with Ermolao Barbaro, Pico asserted the preeminence of things over words and hence of philosophy over rhetoric: But if the rightness of names depends on the nature of things, is it the rhetorician we ought to consult about this rightness, or is it the philosopher who alone contemplates and explores the nature of everything?
Appeals of this sort, however, were not to win the day. Philosophical humanism declined because, though rich in convictionit had failed to establish a systematic relationship between philosophy and rhetoric, between words and things. By the 16th century, Italian humanism was primarily a literary pursuit, and philosophy was left to develop on its own.
Despite significant challenges, the division between philosophical and literary studies would solidify in the development of Western culture. The explanation lies rather in a specific cast of mind and in a dramatically successful forgery. The transcendental goals of these philosophers left little room for the painstaking dialectical method that sifted through the details of perception and language, even though Plato himself had repeatedly alleged that transcendence itself was impossible without this method.
Along with Plato, moreover, Ficino had translated into Latin the Hermetic writings see above The emergence of the individual and the idea of human dignity. They were, in fact, forgeries from a much later period and are in many ways typical of the idealized and diluted versions of Plato that are called Neoplatonic.
But the academy, and for that matter all the other Platonists of the 15th century, bought them wholesale. The result of these factors was a Platonism sans Platonic method, a philosophy that, straining for absolutes, had little interest in establishing its own basis in reality.
|Later Italian humanism||It is speculated that he attended the University of Florence, and even a cursory glance at his corpus reveals that he received an excellent humanist education.|
In supplying a quasi-religious endorsement of reason and nature, it provided an alternative for those who had been unable to reconcile Christian doctrine with life as lived.
In authorizing the unhindered exercise of the human intellect, Hermeticism also fed into the scientific revolutionearning praise from Francis Bacon. Lines of hermetic influence would extend to later developments, including RosicrucianismFreemasonryand the Enlightenment itself.
A throwback to the chancellor-humanists Salutati, Bruni, and Poggio, he served Florence in a similar capacity and with equal fidelityusing his erudition and eloquence in a civic cause. Like Vittorino and other early humanists, he believed in the centrality of historical studies, and he performed a signally humanistic function by creating, in La mandragola ; The Mandrakethe first vernacular imitation of Roman comedy.
His unswerving concentration on human weakness and institutional corruption suggests the influence of Boccaccio; and, like Boccaccio, he used these reminders less as topical satire than as practical gauges of human nature.
In one way at least, Machiavelli is more humanistic i. Like Salutati, though perhaps with greater self-awareness, Machiavelli was ambiguous as to the relative merits of republics and monarchies. In both public and private writings—especially the Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio ; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy —he showed a marked preference for republican government, but in The Prince he developed, with apparent approval, a model of radical autocracy.
For this reason, his goals have remained unclear. Like earlier humanists, Machiavelli saw history as a source of power, but, unlike them, he saw neither history nor power itself within a moral context.
Rather he sought to examine history and power in an amoral and hence to him wholly scientific manner.My Adventures By Wade Frazier. Revised April Introduction. Believing in the Easter Bunny.
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