85019 - History of Humanist Philosophy (1)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Through texts and authors judged emblematic, the course aims at the acquisition of basic knowledge regarding the philosophy from the second half of the fourteenth century to the end of the sixteenth century. Students will be led to recognize the main topics of Italian humanism and grasp relationships and intersections between speculative thought, philology and theory of the arts. Among the goals of the course is to enable students to master the lexicon (Latin and Italian) of humanistic philosophy.

Course contents

The "confutation of superstitions" undertaken by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and continued by his nephew Giovan Francesco.

The course will focus on the last great work by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the Adversus astrologiam divinatricem, written in the last two years of his short life and posthoumously printed in 1496. Giovanni Pico refutes astrology through his strong knowledge of the natural philosophy of Antiquity, showing how there is no trace of astrological beliefs in the entire platonic and aristotelian tradition and pointing out how for 1800 years men have perversely become used to considering incredibly far bodies as "causes" while completely neglecting closer causes, even social ones, of terrestrial events. The work also contains a first attempt to a sociological explanation of the birth of primitive religions, as well as a socio-historical consideration of his time's "superstitious needs". The course will then focus on the continuation of this battle in the two works of Giovanni Pico's nephwe: the De rerum praenotione (1509) and the Examen vanitatis doctrinae gentium (1520). This latter work gave way to the return of skeptical philosophy in the XVIth century.


STEFANO CAROTI, L'astrologia in Italia, Roma, Newton Compton, 1983.

EUGENIO GARIN, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Vita e dottrina, Roma-Firenze, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura-Istituto nazionale di studi sul Rinascimento, 2011.

Teaching methods

lectures. During class the teacher reads, translates and comments on relevant textual passages and thematic nodes.

Assessment methods

Oral examination: Students are recommended to bring the texts when examining.
Students who have attended lectures may agree on exams (whether written or oral) devoted to specific topics.

Assessment criteria and thresholds of evaluation:

30 cum laude - Excellent as to knowledge, philosophical lexicon and critical expression.

30 – Excellent: knowledge is complete, well argued and correctly expressed, with some slight faults.

27-29 – Good: thorough and satisfactory knowledge; essentially correct expression.

24-26 - Fairly good: knowledge broadly acquired, and not always correctely expressed.

21-23 – Sufficient: superficial and partial knowledge; exposure and articulation are incomplete and often not sufficiently appropriate

18-21 - Almost sufficient: superficial and decontextualized knowledge. The exposure of the contents shows important gaps.

Exam failed - Students are requested to show up at a subsequent exam session if basic skills and knowledge are not sufficiently acquired and not placed in the historical-philosophical context.

Teaching tools

texts; during the course the teacher will provide handouts and translations students.

Students who have not attended the course will find educational materials available at the secretariat of the students, via Zamboni 38, second floor.

Office hours

See the website of Franco Bacchelli