PETRARCH VERSUS ARISTOTLE

Posted by: geopol Post date: 10/27/2010 – 17:20 The Venetian method of statecraft isbased on Aristotle – the deepest Aristotelian tradition in theWest. Long before the era of Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) and St.Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Venice had established itself as thechief center for the translation and teaching of Aristotle’s works.

 

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GermanyItalyRenaissance

Webster G. Tarpley
TARPLEY.net

 

The Venetian method of statecraft isbased on Aristotle – the deepest Aristotelian tradition in theWest. Long before the era of Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) and St.Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Venice had established itself as thechief center for the translation and teaching of Aristotle’s works.

 

In the year 1135, the Senate sentGiacomo da Venezia to Byzantium, where he was trained inpost-Justinian Aristotelian orthodoxy, returning to Venice after twoyears to begin lectures on Aristotle and to prepare Latin versions ofthe Greek texts he had brought back with him. A school ofAristotelian doctrine was set up at the Rialto market, the heart ofthe business and commercial activity of the city. When Veniceconquered Padua at the beginning of the fifteenth century,Aristotelian hegemony was imposed on the University of Padua, whichbecame the only one where Venetian nobility were allowedinternational clientele, especially from Germany.

 

The inveterate Aristotelianism ofVenice is the starting point for a major literary attack on that cityby Francesco Petrarch, son of Dante’s personal secretary, who tookup the responsibility of servicing Dante’s humanist networks duringthe disastrous years around the middle of the fourteenth century.Although these were the years of the Black Death, Petrarch (”FrauncesPetrak the laureate poet” as Chaucer knew him) was the soul of atenacious humanist rearguard action, with spirited counterattacks atevery opportunity, that made the later Italian Renaissance possible.

 

Petrarch was a contemporary of theCiompi revolt against oligarchical rule in Florence; he was certainlyinvolved in Cola di Rienzo’s seizure of power in Rome in May, 1347.The real story of Petrarch’s literary and political achievementshas yet to be told. Nonetheless, the fact that he was a determinedfoe of Venice and its ideology is abundantly clear.

 

In 1355 Venice had just passed throughone of its infrequent internal crises, usually explained as theattempt of the Doge Marin Faliero to overthrow the regime andestablish a Signoria, or personal dictatorship, of the type common inItaly at the time. Marin Faliero was publicly decapitated by theCouncil of Ten.

 

Petrarch might have had a hand in thisoperation; during this period he was a frequent guest at the court ofthe Da Carrara rulers of Padua, about thirty kilometers from theVenetian lagoon. Petrarch may have developed plans for injecting adose of Platonism into the intellectual life of the Serenissima.Petrarch proposed that he be allowed to take up residence in Veniceand locate his library there; the books would remain as a bequest tothe city after his death, forming the nucleus of what would have beenthe first public library in Europe. The Venice authorities accepted,and Petrarch, the most celebrated intellectual of his times, took uphis residence on the Riva degli Schiavoni.

 

Soon he began to receive the visits offour Venetian Aristotelians, whom he later referred to as “my fourfamous friends.” These four oligarchs were Tommaso Talenti, Guidoda Bagnolo, Leonardo Dandolo, and Zaccaria Contarini, the latter twoof the most exalted lineage. After several discussions with Petrarch,these four began to circulate the slander that Petrarch was “a goodman, but without any education.”

 

Petrarch shortly abandoned the libraryproject and soon thereafter left Venice permanently. His answer tothe slanderers is contained in his treatise “De Sui Ipsius etMultorum Ignorantia” (1367) (with a swipe at Aristotle in thetitle), his most powerful piece of invective- polemical writing.

 

Petrarch scored Aristotelian scholasticphilosophy as “a prostitute who delights to worry about vainquestions of words.” Real philosophy, with the clear purpose ofadvancing morality, he said, is to be found in St. Augustine. Allthat Aristotle is capable of doing is providing a delphic descriptionof what the external attributes of morality might look like. To theauthority of Aristotle, Petrarch counterposed the Platonism of theNew Testament, saying that Christ, not Aristotle, was for him thedecisive guide. His “four friends,” he asserted, were notChristian, but preferred to follow their favorite philosopher intheir sophistry, blasphemy, and impiety. They mocked Christ, and wereso pretentious that they could not even understand their ownarguments.

 

Petrarch pointed out that Aristotleprovided his followers with all sorts of strange and curious lore,like the number of hairs on a lion’s head or of feathers in ahawk’s tail, how elephants copulate backwards, how the phoenixarises out of his own ashes, how the only animal that can move itsupper jaw is the crocodile. But these facts are not only useless, hesaid, they are false. “How could Aristotle know such facts, sinceneither reason nor experience reveal them? Concerning the ultimateobjects of philosophy, Aristotle is more ignorant than an old peasantwoman.

 

Venetian nominalism went hand in handwith the most vicious avarice. In a play written in Venetian dialectby Carlo Goldoni in the eighteenth century, a Pantalone-type misercomes home to find wife and daughter busily engaged in needlework.The two women look up briefly and say hello. The miser flies into arage screaming “What? You quit working to pay me compliments!”

 

An eminent witness of this typicalVenetian vice was Erasmus of Rotterdam, who was to the years after1500 what Petrarch had been in his own time: Leader of the Platonichumanist faction. Erasmus came to Venice in 1508, on the eve,interestingly enough, of the attempt to annihilate Venice in the Warof the League of Cambrai. Erasmus came to get in touch with AldoManunzio, the Aldus who owned what was at that time the largest andmost famous publishing house in the world.

 

Venice had reacted to the invention ofmoveable-type printing by Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz in a way thatforeshadowed the reaction of the British oligarchy in this century toradio, the movies, and television. They had immediately attempted toseize control of the new medium. Dozens of Gutenberg’s apprenticesfrom the Rhein-Main area were bought up and brought to Venice, wherethe production of books up to 1500 and beyond was frequently amultiple of the number of titles published in the rest of the worldcombined.

 

Aldus was the William Paley and JackWarner of the industry. Martin Luther was one of that industry’slater creations. Aldus brought out the works of Aristotle in Greekshortly after he began operations in 1495. Plato had to wait foralmost twenty years.

 

One of Erasmus’ goals in visitingVenice was to accelerate the publication of Plato. He stayed at thehome of Aldus’ brother-in-law. Erasmus writes about his Venetiansojourn some time later, in the dialogue titled “Opulentia Sordida”of the Colloquia Familiaria. The Urbs Opulenta referred to is ofcourse the wealthiest of all cities, Venice. Aldus appears asAntronius (”the caveman”), described as a multi- millionaire intoday’s terms.

 

Erasmus had been away, and is asked bya friend how he got so skinny. Has he been working as a galley slave?Erasmus replies that he has undergone something far worse: ten monthsof starvation in the home of Antronius. Here people freeze in thewinter because there is no wood to burn. Wine was a strategiccommodity in Erasmus’ opinion, as indeed it was in a time whenwater was often very unsafe to drink. To save money on wine,Antronius took water and faeces annorum decem miscebat (mixed it withten year old shit), stirring it up so it would look like the realthing. His bread was made not with flour, but with clay, and was sohard it would break even a bear’s teeth. A groaning board on theholidays for a houseful of people and servants was centered aroundthree rotten eggs. There was never meat or fish, but the usual farewas sometimes supplemented by shellfish from a colony that Antroniuscultivated in his latrine. When Erasmus consulted a physician, he wastold that he was endangering his life by overeating. Erasmus’friend in the dialogue concludes that at this rate, all Germans,Englishmen, Danes, and Poles are about to die. Finally, Erasmus takeshis leave, to head for the nearest French restaurant.

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by Fred Hayek
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 18:22
#681849

I really wouldn’t know where to start in commenting.  In either Connections or his second series, James Burke presents a very different story of how the teachings of Aristotle influenced and propelled the renaissance. 

Did you have a really bad vacation in Venice once or something?

 

Login or register to post comments by geopol
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 18:26
#681857

I think you need to ask….

James Burk

Login or register to post comments by thermroc
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 21:18
#682216

James Burke!

HA HA HA HA

I remember watching James Burke when I was 10. Even then I thought he was embarrasing.

Login or register to post comments by doolittlegeorge
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 18:27
#681859

i think there’s a famous painting in Venice of Plato and Aristotle walking with each other with Aristotle looking upward towards the stars seemingly speaking and Plato pointing his finger from his one hand into the palm of his hand of the other “trying to make a specific point.”  some thoughts on thinking never change.

Login or register to post comments by doolittlegeorge
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 18:28
#681860

i think there’s a famous painting in Venice of Plato and Aristotle walking with each other with Aristotle looking upward towards the stars seemingly speaking and Plato pointing his finger from his one hand into the palm of his hand of the other “trying to make a specific point.”  some thoughts on thinking never change.

Login or register to post comments by doolittlegeorge
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 18:28
#681863

i think there’s a famous painting in Venice of Plato and Aristotle walking with each other with Aristotle looking upward towards the stars seemingly speaking and Plato pointing his finger from his one hand into the palm of his hand of the other “trying to make a specific point.”  some thoughts on thinking never change.

Login or register to post comments by Optimusprime
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 20:14
#682100

You have Aristotle and Plato reversed.  The painting, usually called, “The School of Athens”, is by Raphael.

Login or register to post comments by FDR
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 18:41
#681899

Geopol, have you read Webster Tarpley’s articles on Venice?  They’re especially good on Venetian influence of Reformation/Counter-Reformation and on British/French philosophical materialism.  Man is perenially shown by the more enlightened that materialism is a myth, but it never quite sinks in.  I’ve been re-reading material on Einstein’s General Relativity and he had been adament that his notions of time, space, energy, etc. (physically proven) were premised on his monotheistic understanding of the universe and human mind.  Modern scientists have responded to Einstein’s breakthroughs in a way my college physics text typified: the first thousand pages is packed with the materialistic conception of physical reality a la Newton, Maxwell, Clausius, etc., with Einstein shoved into ten pages at the end, neutered of its metaphysical content.

Login or register to post comments by geopol
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 18:54
#681915

Geopol, have you read Webster Tarpley’s articles on Venice?

Not personally…After the fact…

 

WGT

 

 

Login or register to post comments by i-dog
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 23:35
#682451

🙂

Login or register to post comments by Irwin Fletcher
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 19:08
#681959

Where you reference Einstein’s monotheistic understanding, you may be referring to a popular viewpoint, which a recently discovered letter seems to dispute:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/may/12/peopleinscience.religion

Login or register to post comments by geopol
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 19:21
#681984

Irwin Fletcher,,,

You be the judge….After your counterpoint analysis, please report…

Best Regards…

 

WGT

Login or register to post comments by Irwin Fletcher
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 19:43
#682038

geopol, I can no more judge Einstein’s thoughts than I can fathom how elephants copulate backwards :).  After a few minutes contemplating the latter, I’ll offer my best guess regarding the former, as you request. I was never quite convinced of his faith by the “science without religion is lame” or the “God does not play dice with the universe” quotes to which he is attributed, even before this letter came out. I would speculate that he was a lifelong skeptic of religion who often kept his mouth shut or played along with others to avoid a religious campaign against his scientific ideas. He may have considered these ideas too important to get buried by an establishment of religion. As time went on, he may have increasingly leaned toward atheistic side of agnosticism, and become increasingly convinced that his ideas would stand the test of time. Indeed, the letter I referenced was written late in his life. Again, this is all wild speculation, and reasonable people are likely to disagree. I do like to think about these things though. Hope that’s what you meant. Cheers.

Login or register to post comments by geopol
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 19:57
#682067

He has become a frequent reference for Christopher Hitchens sense of the celstial dictator who we should love and fear…

I’ll beg off.. Thanks

Login or register to post comments by ebworthen
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 20:44
#682164

A “resurfaced” letter published by The Gaurdian in the U.K. sounds fishy to me.

It could be true, but no doubt there are rabid atheists (Worshippers of Science) who will stop at nothing to debase religion because it competes with their religion.

Next someone will be finding a letter by Pascal that his wager regarding belief in God was just sarcasm.

Login or register to post comments by geopol
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 22:09
#682310

Atheists,vs, Religeon.. is a totally deminished counterpoint..

Login or register to post comments by chindit13
on Thu, 10/28/2010 – 01:36
#682616

The trouble with Pascal’s wager is:  what religion, what god?

Of course I know the correct answer is “yours”, but damn it sure gets cumbersome in a world of multiple faiths, any of which has as much chance of being correct as another…and certainly an equal amount of proof.  So do I cover all bets?  Can I leave off a few faiths?  I’d hate to waste my time and effort, though I realize that in a world where the maximum number of correct faiths can be one, and may be zero, the vast majority of humanity is following the claims of someone who is either a liar or a lunatic.

In a past life I was sitting with a buddy on the steps of the Parthenon late on a nice spring day.  We were waiting for Shirley Maclaine to show up.  Anyway, the sunset was beautiful over the sea near the port.  Just spectacular.  So my buddy says, “Nicos, look at that sky and tell me there’s no Zeus”.

Less facetiously, I see no evidence whatsoever of a just and loving god, and I have no use for any other kind.  And if Ladbrokes was pricing Pascal’s wager, they would figure, well, nobody’s god is anywhere near as good as it is given credit for, so perhaps if the devil exists, it is nowhere near as bad as the opposing party would have us believe.  So live a good life—which any functioning human is capable of doing—and just take one’s chances that if anyone’s god is real, it takes effort into account and possesses a sense of humor.

Login or register to post comments by lilimarlene1
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 20:55
#682181

Darling, you are brilliant, and these points: well, they should be made.

 

Please, take this as the loving remarks of a caring donna.

English is not your native tongue, I don’t think. You need greater clarity in the vernacular.

There are many scholarly points made (but a good scholar puts background, framing, information in parenthesis, making no assumptions that the reader is as schooled in the particular point as the scholar is).

You really do need a thesis statement and conclusion.

Otherwise, brilliant points rarely expounded upon.

Others love Luther, I love Erasmus.

 

Login or register to post comments by geopol
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 21:37
#682226

Thanx,,

There are many scholarly points made (but a good scholar puts background, framing, information in parenthesis, making no assumptions that the reader is as schooled in the particular point as the scholar is).

You underestimate yourself..

 

My sense of things…

Not my center of gravity…But read God is not Great,,How religion Poisons Everything…

 

The question to me was extended..

If I were alone in an unfamiliar city at night, and a group of strangers began to approach me, would I feel safer, or less safe, knowing that these men had just come from a prayer meeting?

Just to stay within the letter ‘B’, I have actually had that experience in Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, Bethlehem and Baghdad. In each case … I would feel immediately threatened if I thought that the group of men approaching me in the dusk were coming from a religious observance.

Did I go to far??

 

 

 

Login or register to post comments by lilimarlene1
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 21:39
#682249

OK, fine. But you did not frame it in “God is not Great” terms. Love Hitchens, disagree.

You framed it in a classical, western civ internal dialogue/debate term, with the overarching thesis of a (platonic/aristotelean – cave, blah blah) prime mover, and/or Judeo Christian God.

As far as the letter, “B”, well, I think you should rather frame it the letter “P” because those men were political, not religious. See Francis of Assisi for actions based on “R” versus, “B” or “P,” and Martin L. King, and Ghandi. (Opposition counterpoints notwithstanding, there are, truly, pacifists).

Anyway, Erasmus? So, underated. A rock star.

 

Thanks!

Login or register to post comments by geopol
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 21:58
#682287

I’ll stick with “B”

 

Your welcome..

lilimarlene1..

Hang around ,,you have recourse I enjoy..

 

WGT

Login or register to post comments by russki standart
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 21:00
#682192

Geopol, have you read Webster Tarpley’s articles on Venice?

I am trying to think of something witty, but all I can say is that Geopol and WGT have a great deal in common, assuming they are taking their meds Gawd, it is great to have you on board, WGT.

Login or register to post comments by RockyRacoon
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 21:39
#682251

Funny isn’t it?  Got a chuckle out of that one.

First 2 lines of the article:

Webster G. Tarpley
TARPLEY.net

Login or register to post comments by Escapeclaws
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 20:18
#682110

Rather pointless, I’d say.

Login or register to post comments by RockyRacoon
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 21:40
#682252

Somewhat along the lines of your comment.

Login or register to post comments by starfish
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 20:28
#682133

Well,  I see pervasive top down societal idealogical fallacies cuminating in the insanity of avarice to the point of self destruction.   Also, I see the hope of a free press and life giving ideas based on the teachings of Christ.  Heh, some similarities to today, eh?

Login or register to post comments by i-dog
on Wed, 10/27/2010 – 23:45
#682470

Wow … that’s some seriously good stuff that you’re smoking!

And you don’t see any correspondence between the 90%+ religiosity of the currently self-destructing society … even when compared against the less than 30% religiosity of those societies that are not currently self-destructing? Curious.

Login or register to post comments by Azannoth
on Thu, 10/28/2010 – 04:09
#682725

I guess every religion(or a society worshiping a religion) arrives at a point where it no longer can live with it self, after it has become apparently obious that the fundaments that the society is based on are completely destroyed by new and better ideas, in comes a period in which the old is replaced by the new this can take a more or less dramatic shape

Login or register to post comments by tony bonn
on Thu, 10/28/2010 – 00:05
#682515

my guess is that i will earn a degree in italian history after finishing this series.

it never occurred to me that the italian renaissance suffered at the hands of knaves rather than natural exhaustion. very interesting thesis.

Login or register to post comments by Eternal Student
on Thu, 10/28/2010 – 03:26
#682675

A recent book points out something which you might find amusing. Namely, that nearly all of the Greek literature which was saved, and made it to the West, was copied from the libraries of Byzantine and shipped to Italy during a relatively short period of time. IIRC, it was due to around 6 people, and the expensive effort was funded by one single person. It was these works which led to the Renaissance, and later the Enlightment (and our own political system).

This is in contrast to the stories that we got everything from the Arabs. The Arabs did a similar thing, but it was this effort which was the base of the Italian works.

I’d also point out that, up to a hundred years ago, the main University texts were still these same Greek books from over 2,000 years ago. It’s only been in the past 50-100 years that we’ve mostly replaced these.

Unfortunately, that same book points out that periods of education like these are the exception throughout human history, and have only lasted about 300 years each, going all the way back to the time of the Greeks. If you count the Enlightenment as the start of one of these periods, we’re coming to the end of the most recent period.

Login or register to post comments by laughing_swordfish
on Thu, 10/28/2010 – 04:04
#682720

+ 1000 to all participants

Great and interesting discussion of considerable historic significance.

As a student of the classics and the specific period of History from the waning of Byzantium until the beginning of the Renaissance, I was familiar of course with the influence of Florence and Padua but had little background on the contributions of Venice.

Thanks again – I’d certainly sometimes rather read this than just more rants about MBS or the price of Gold –

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