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Pietro Pomponazzi’s De immortalitate and his clandestine De incantationibus: Aristotelianism, eclecticism or libertinism?

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The importance of Aristotelianism during the Renaissance is one of the points most emphasized in the past twenty years by American historians. In the Faculties of Arts, professors were obliged to illustrate Aristotelian texts and commentaries; but, of course, they did not subscribe to all of the original doctrines of Aristotle: so Van Steenberghen, Kristeller and C. B. Schmitt consider most of them, above all Pietro Pomponazzi (1462-1525), as »eclectics«. Having emerged unscathed from the dispute on his treatise »De immortalitate animae« and on its apologies, Pomponazzi circulated two handwritten treatises which were even more subversive of orthodox beliefs on fate and on the natural causes of prodigies and incantations. From a Stoic point of view and thanks to his readings of Bessarion, Ficino and Giovanni Pico, he analyzed the Neoplatonic theses on chance and determinism, astrology and magic, and the position of man in the universe. His late treatises deal with these questions (free will as attributed to the individual by Christian doctrine and by numerous philosophers, or, instead, the conditioning to which man’s body, or his passions, or — according to a more radical thesis — his entire personality is subjected by the influence of the stars; the great conjunctions of the stars and the cyclical nature of history; the spontaneous generation of man; the capacity of the astrologer and the natural magician to produce incantations and prodigies, etc.).

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/bpjam.6.05zam

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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