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Aristotle in the Italian Vernacular: Rethinking Renaissance and Early-Modern Intellectual History (c. 1400–c. 1650)

Final Report Summary - ARISTOTLE (Aristotle in the Italian Vernacular: Rethinking Renaissance and Early-Modern Intellectual History (c. 1400–c. 1650))

From the twelfth to the seventeenth century, Aristotle’s writings lay at the foundation of Western culture, providing a body of knowledge and a set of analytical tools applicable to all areas of human investigation. Scholars of the Renaissance have emphasized the remarkable longevity and versatility of Aristotelianism, but their attention has remained firmly, and almost exclusively, fixed on the transmission of Aristotle’s Works in Latin. Scarce, if any, attention has gone to works in the vernacular. Nonetheless, several important Renaissance figures wished to make Aristotle’s Works accessible and available outside the narrow circle of professional philosophers and university professors. They believed that their Works could provide essential knowledge to a broad set of readers, and embarked on an intense programme of translation and commentary to see this happen. This project shows that vernacular Aristotelianism made fundamental contributions to the thought of the period, anticipating many of the features of early modern philosophy and contributing to a new encyclopaedia of knowledge. The project is offering the first detailed and comprehensive study of the vernacular diffusion of Aristotle through a series of investigation on the main branches of philosophy: (1) logic/epistemology; (2) physics; (3) psychology; (4) mechanics; (5) astronomy/meteorology; (6) ethics; (7) rhetorics; (8) politics/economics.
The project gives strong attention to the contextualization of the texts focusing on (1) philological approaches; (2) institutional contexts; (3) reading publics; (4) the value of the vernacular; (5) new visions of knowledge.
The project shows that (1) vulgarizations of Aristotle’s Works were aimed at wide range of “readers”, including “ignorants” and “illiterates” as well as artisans, architects, princes, men of letters, women, and children; (2) there is not a necessary correspondence between intended audience and the real public; (3) vulgarization was not just a simple matter of dissemination, thus simplifying and trivializing knowledge, e.g. even complex topics like the immortality of the soul were vulgarized; (4) vernacular works can be very sophisticated texts; (5) vulgarization usually upheld the notion of widespread knowledge; (6) vernacular Aristotelianism was a very eclectic movement mixing Platonic, Scholastic and Hermetic ideas.
The project has investigated more than 300 printed works and 200 manuscripts, publishing more than 50 publications on authors like Sperone Speroni, Alessandro Piccolomini, Bernardo Segni, Giovan Battista Gelli, Nicolò Vito di Gozze, Gasparo Contarini, Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, Ludovico Castelvetro, Antonio Brucioli, Felice Figliucci, Ludovico Dolce, Benedetto Varchi, Francesco Verino the Younger, Torquato Tasso and on the reception of Dante in the Renaissance.