Postscript on Renaissance Philosophy

Over Christmas break I read most of The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy to see if my inferences from Cassirer’s book held up to subsequent scholarship. In fact, the claim that Renaissance humanism and the resurgence of Platonism were primarily reactions against Averroism’s supposed threat to the Faith seems to be so well supported that it would probably not even be considered remarkable to Renaissance historians. I’ll next want to see what support (or disconfirmation) I can find for my guess about the role of revived Platonism in the scientific revolution. One interesting thing I learned in my book was that the resurgence of skepticism, which we have seen being the Catholic apologetic weapon of choice in counter-reformation France, also seems to have had its origins in these same worries about the danger to belief in personal immortality from an unreliable unaided reason (a position ironically similar to that of their Averroist opponents). Nevertheless, the argument that we should prefer revelation to fallible private reasoning works better against Averroists than against Calvinists, i.e. when the content of revelation is not itself in dispute.

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