During the Renaissance period, the Venetian cultural region is characterized, in contrast to other contexts, by the presence of the Aristotelian tradition.
Venetian Aristotelianism was a vast and powerful movement: if it were cancelled from the overview of the philosophy and thought of the Renaissance, this framework would remain incomplete and false. Therefore Venetian Aristotelianism is a historical heritage, whose influences radiate from Padua, as the seat of the University of Venice, to the whole European culture.
The culture of the Padua University was characterized by an intense speculative activity not only in the field of logic, of the scientific method, of physics and of metaphysics: in the humanities a broadening and renewal of knowledge was brought about and tackled anthropological, ethical and political issues, derived from classical models.
Interest in the “divine Plato”, however, never wavered, as the examples of Vergerio and Patrizi can testify. Pier Paolo Vergerio read Plato’s Republic in the very recent translation by Chrysolora and by Uberto Decembrio, while in Capodistria, his hometown, he translated and commented on the Gorgia, awakening in Venetian culture an interest for the Athenian philosopher, whose authority was opposed to the logical and naturalistic conception of Aristotelians. Francesco Patrizi, studying in Padua with Bernardino Tomitano, Francesco Robortello and Lazzaro Buonamici, translated Proclus and Philoponus, published pseudo-Aristotelian treatises in Latin, and strived to integrate naturalism with Platonism. If his polemic against Aristotelians is already well known, his works published in Venice, like the juvenile La città felice and the more mature dialogues Della Historia and Della retorica, deserve a more in-depth analysis, as they pair of an ethical-political issues alongside with interesting specimens of philosophy of language.
This unique humanistic Renaissance culture found also expression in the forms of description and collection, with the creation of collections, catalogues, museums etc. Studying Aristotelianism and Venetian Renaissance means highlighting the genetic and still hidden traces, that can be revealed by the examination of documents and of original works, manuscripts and published, kept in libraries and archives, partly still unexplored.
The Aristotelian classification of sciences into theoretical, practical and poietic, based on the aim for which sciences know, corresponds to three epistemological behaviour that man can undertake in relation to reality: theoria, praxis, poiesis.
During Renaissance, the epistemological status of each of these three types of sciences is put under discussion. In the case of theoretical sciences (physics, mathematics and metaphysics), prevails the tendency to conceive them as rigorously demonstrative sciences, on the model theorized by Aristotle in the Posterior Analytics (see Zabarella, especially), while in the case of practical and poietic sciences the question remains open. Interesting stances can be found in Pomponazzi, whose conception of practical science has been compared to that of Savonarola in Italy and Melanchthon in Europe, but requires further investigation. The research aims at establishing which is the conception of practical and poietic sciences in Venetian Aristotelianism and verifying if, and in which measure, it has influenced the European tradition of “practical philosophy” (which has existed until C. Wolff) and the modern conception of poietic sciences as techniques (starting from F. Bacon).
The relationship between physics and metaphysics in the venetian Aristotelianism and his influence in the European thought.
In the tradition of the Aristotelianism from Boethius (and perhaps from Porphyry) the relationship between physics and metaphysics has always been based on the theory of the three degrees of abstraction, originally born from a misunderstanding of Aristotle’s text of Metaph. E 1. Compared with the Aristotelian Renaissance tradition – therefore the Avicennian one and the Scotistic awarded the primacy of metaphysics, conceived as a science based on the highest level of abstraction (A. Trombetta), while the Averroistic one neglected metaphysics, focusing mainly on physics (Nifo, Zimara) -, and with the Zabarella’s position, the research aims to determine to what extent the conception of metaphysics as the more abstract science has influenced the European “Second Scholasticism” (Suarez) and the German Schulphilosophie (Lorhard, Goeckel, Clauberg, Wolff), exposing it to the Kant’s criticism.
Venetian Renaissance and European Modernity.
Given the attention with which the Paduan Aristotelianism has been and continues to be studied, it should also be worth investigating in which ways, during the Renaissance in the Venetian area Aristotelianism was joined in a lively and open dialogue, by a current of neo-Platonism which, by means of the foundation of the Academia della Fama in Venice (1558-1561), faced issues dealing with theology, philosophy, metaphysics, poetry, mathematics, cosmography, natural sciences and law. The survey aiming to highlight the influence in the European framework of representative authors of the Renaissance Venetian will then concentrate on the analysis of references to Francesco Patrizi emerging in the work of Francis Bacon. In Baconian De augmentis scientiarum, Patrizi is evoked as «Venetus Platonis discipulus» (DAS III) whose works, in reviving the Platonic doctrine of abstract ideas, would be an example of the degeneration of philosophical discourse from which Bacon intended at once to take distances and warn the reader. But it would be rash to stop at judgement expressed by Bacon in his main work. More precise and detailed evaluations are to be found in the so-called Baconian minor works. In De fluxu et refluxu maris the explanation of the cause of the tides is investigated questioning the theory expounded by Patrizi in his work Pancosmia. Patrizi’s thesis are then again questioned by Francis Bacon, in his work Descriptio globis intellectualis, when he focuses on the issue of the shape of the flame.
Venetian Renaissance and moral sciences.
Some of the most interesting developments of Venetian Renaissance belong to the field of ethics, where, in comparison with Platonism, the appeal of the concrete system of civil and political virtues drawn from the practical philosophy of Aristotle prevailed. Considering the history of moral philosophy, Renaissance Aristotelianism is still one of the most neglected periods: a survey in this field is bound to run into a critical issue. Aristotelian moral philosophy not only ignores a metaphysical foundation, but is also an ethic, so to speak, without freedom and without will. Libertas and voluntas, especially in the sense that these terms have acquired in the modern times, can not find a correspondent meaning in the Greek language and a conceptual equivalent in Aristotle’s texts. On the contrary, freedom and will are the key concepts for every moral discourse from the modern to the contemporary world. Renaissance time can be identified as a period of linguistic-conceptual renewal, giving shape to a speculative vocabulary for modern times. It is therefore of great interest to start an analysis of the translations as much into Latin as into the vernacular and of the Renaissance comments to the ethical and political Aristotelian works in order to see whether and to what extent the philological and hermeneutic work exerted by humanists has contributed to a renewed formulation of the moral problem.