90064 - History of Philosophy from Renaissance to Enlightenment (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide depth knowledge on modern philosophical culture of the period that goes from fifteenth to the eighteenth century, with particular interest for Renaissance philosophical texts, seventeenth century philosophy and and Enlightenment philosophy. In this perspective, which focuses on modernity and its origins, specific themes will be examined and classical texts questioned, contextualizing their analysis in the framework of long-term traditions, but also underlining moments of crisis and rupture with the past. The aim of the course is to allow students to autonomously face the reading of philosophical texts in a historical perspective; to perceive the relevance of historiographical and methodological questions related to periodization and polarity between continuity and disruption; to know the main lines of modern and contemporary historiography, acquiring, at the same time, the awareness of the problematic nature and complexity of philosophical research.

Course contents

Course Title: Dreams, visions and prophecies in early modern philosophy: cognitive paths between nature and the supernatural

In Renaissance and early modern philosophy the issue of the status and language of prophecy is a relevant and still-ongoing theme which intersects with different types of knowledge and invests them with some crucial elements of gnoseology and religious thought (the nature and powers of the human mind; the bounds of consciousness; the relationship between natural divination and divine revelation), depending on the context, the reference authors and the lexical and semantic code.

The course will retrace some significant moments of this issue and also focus on the correlation between the type of prophecy and the type of somnium - the latter being an object of philosophical and scientific investigation going back to the time of Aristotle and the ancient medical tradition. In the centuries of modernity, then,  somnia and dreams are charged both with psychophysiological meanings and with suggestive metaphysical and theological resonances.


Module 1: Powers of the soul and ‘divine things’: Savonarola, Ficino, Bruno

Prophecy, an essential aspect of the Middle Ages with its theoretical density and various forms, maintained a commanding importance even through the various phases of the profound religious crisis of the 15th and 16th centuries and was often associated with apocalyptic perspectives and expectations.

Through study and discussion of excerpts from the three authors, this first module will look at various positions on man’s potential to access the Divine through privileged or supernatural cognitive states. Attention will be given to key concepts such as raptus, contractio, furor and to the dangers of diabolical illusion. In addition the course will focus on the ways in which the theory and practice of prophecy are intertwined in Girolamo Savonarola, a charismatic figure in whom the link between vision of the future and ethical-civic duty of the present appears with an extraordinary awareness and intensity.

N.B.: For students who choose the 12 cfu course (6 cfu + 6 cfu) the lessons will continue with the second module.


1. During the classes will be read the following texts (or any part):

G. Savonarola, Compendio di rivelazioni e Dialogus de veritate prophetica, a cura di A. Crucitti, Roma, A. Belardetti, 1974, pp. 3-71, 122-125;

G. Savonarola, Contro gli astrologi, a cura di C. Gigante, Roma, Salerno, 2000, pp. 33-124;

M. Ficino, Anima mundi. Scritti filosofici, a cura di R. Ebgi, Torino, Einaudi, 2021, pp. 17-25, 388-400, 434-448;

M. Ficino, Teologia platonica, saggio introduttivo, traduzione, note e apparati di E. Vitale, Milano, Bompiani, 2011: libro XIII, pp. 1165-1273;

G. Bruno, Eroici furori, in Id., Dialoghi filosofici italiani, a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di M. Ciliberto, Milano, Mondadori, 2000, pp. 805-839;

G. Bruno, Sigillus sigillorum, in Id., Opere mnemotecniche, edizione diretta da M. Ciliberto, a cura di M. Matteoli, R. Sturlese, N. Tirinnanzi, t. II, Milano, Adelphi, 2009, pp. 187-301.

Reading M. Ficino, De raptu Pauli, in Prosatori latini del Quattrocento, a cura di E. Garin, Torino, Ricciardi-Einaudi, 1977, VII, pp. 931-969 is optional.

2. In addition to in-depth knowledge of the texts referred to in paragraph 1, all studens must read one of the following essays:

L. Catana, The Concept of Contraction in Giordano Bruno’s Philosophy, London, Routledge, 2017;

M. Ciliberto, L’occhio di Atteone. Nuovi studi su Giordano Bruno, Roma, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2002;

M. Ciliberto, Il sapiente furore. Vita di Giordano Bruno, Milano, Adelphi, 2020;

P.O. Kristeller, Il pensiero filosofico di Marsilio Ficino, Firenze, Le Lettere, 1988;

G. Garfagnini, Questa è la terra tua. Savonarola a Firenze, Firenze, Sismel-Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2000;

Giordano Bruno. Filosofia, magia, scienza, a cura di S. Carannante, G. Licata, P. Terracciano, Pisa, Edizioni della Normale, 2019 (sezioni Anima e corpo, Caccia divina, Forme del sapere, Scrittoio);

R. Klibansky-E. Panofsky-F.Saxl, Saturno e la melanconia. Studi di storia della filosofia naturale, religione e arte, Torino, Einaudi, 2002;

C. Leonardi, Medioevo profetico, a cura di A. Bartolomei Romagnoli ed E. Menestò, Spoleto, Fondazione CISAM, 2019;

Marsilio Ficino. Fonti, testi, fortuna, a cura di S. Gentile e S. Toussaint, Roma, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2006;

Phantasia-Imaginatio, V Colloquio Internazionale del Lessico Intellettuale Europeo, (Roma, 9-11 gennaio 1986), Atti a cura di M. Fattori e M. Bianchi, Roma, Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 1988;

Profezia, filosofia e prassi politica, a cura di G. C. Garfagnini, A. Rodolfi, Pisa, ETS, 2013;

Savonarola. Democrazia, tirannide, profezia, a cura di G. C. Garfagnini, Firenze, Sismel-Edizioni del Galluzzo, 1998;

C. Vasoli, Ficino, Savonarola, Machiavelli. Studi di storia della cultura, Torino, Aragno, 2007;

C. Vasoli, Quasi sit Deus. Studi su Marsilio Ficino, Lecce, Conte, 1999;

D. Weinstein, Savonarola. Ascesa e caduta di un profeta del Rinascimento, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2013.

N.B.: The course program is the same, as for attending and not attending students. Anyway, students who cannot attend classes or who don't know Italian may contact the teacher (in office hours, and not by e-mail) to decide upon any additional or alternative readings.

Teaching methods

The course consists of 15 lessons.

Since it is a course/seminar, attending students will be encouraged to conduct brief individual works of critical analysis on topics or authors relating to the course contents.

These works will have value to the examination.

The course will be held in the second semester and will start on January 31, 2022.


- Monday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Room B, Via Centotrecento;

- Thursday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Room E, Via Zamboni 34;

- Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Room E, Via Zamboni 34.

Office hours: Prof. Scapparone will receive students on Thursday, h. 16-18 p.m.

Assessment methods

Final oral examination.

Students who have attended the course will be able, if they wish, to integrate the examination with short essays or presentations on topics agreed with the teacher.

In accordance with the class, a written text on a specific part of the program could be organized. Detailed procedures about this text shall be laid down at the beginning of the course.

Assessment criteria

The goal of the exam is to measure the achievement of the following learning objectives:

- Analysis and interpretation of  Savonarola, Ficino and Bruno's philosophical texts;

- Knowledge of secondary literature works listed in the bibliography, combined with the ability to learn how to reference them in autonomous and critical forms;

- Knowledge of the history of Renaissance and early modern philosophy.

The student's ability to learn how to operate with confidence and autonomy within the sources and the secondary literature and the possession of a language and forms of expression appropriate to the discipline will be assessed in a particular manner.

Assessment thresholds

30 with distinction: Excellent results for the solidity of skills, wealth of critical articulation, expressive properties and maturity.

30: Excellent result: complete and well-articulated knowledge of themes addressed in lessons, with critical ideas, and illustrated with adequate expressive features.

29-27: Good result: complete knowledge and adequately contestualized, fundamentally correct presentation.

26-24: Moderate result: knowledge is present in the essential areas, though not thorough and not always articulated correctly.

23-21: Sufficient result: superficial or purely mnemonic understanding of the subject, confused articulation of the presentation, with often inappropriate expression.

20-18: Barely sufficient result: knowledge of the subject, articulation during discussions and methods of expression demonstrate considerable gaps in understanding.

< 18: Insufficient result, exam failed. The student is invited to attend a subsequent exam session where the essential skills have not been acquired, lacking the ability to orient themselves within the subjects of the course and of the same discipline and where the methods of expression demonstrate considerable gaps in understanding.

Teaching tools

Slides and photocopies (limited to hard to find texts);

Advanced seminars;

Any individualized works.

Office hours

See the website of Elisabetta Scapparone