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Annarita Angelini

Full Professor

Department of the Arts

Academic discipline: M-FIL/06 History of Philosophy

Curriculum vitae

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Full Professor of History of Philosophy

My research has focused on a particular area of Renaissance studies that has not been much explored, since it borders with those areas traditionally considered as early modernity, and hence as the place to turn to in studying the culture of early modernity. This is not “another” Renaissance—different from the philological, philosophical, literary, artistic, and political one (and much more examined by Renaissance historiography)—but is rather an area where the same humanism takes on a theoretical, epistemological, and methodological dimension that has remained unexplored for a long time. This lack could be due to the more prominent outcomes of the artistic and literary Renaissance or to the confusion with the primeval stage of a scientific, technical, and experiential mentality that would be part of the culture of the two centuries that followed.

In this line of research I have put together three previous research interests, together with the tools acquired at the different places of my formation: a) University of Bologna, where I studied the encyclopaedic tradition in the modern age and the way different disciplines were organized at scientific institutions [L'Istituto delle scienze (1993); “L'‘Idea' dell'Istituto delle scienze” (1995); “Le accademie letterarie di provincia tra XVII e XVIII” (1995); “La nascita dell'Istituto delle Scienze” (1998); “L'Institut des sciences de Bologne” (1999)]. This research has been conducted in collaboration with the Science Museum of Palazzo Poggi of the University of Bologna; b) University of Florence (Ph.D.) and National Institute for Renaissance Studies: Study of Renaissance Philology and Philosophy: “Cosmologia e teatro del mondo: Il caso di Giulio Camillo” (1997); “La metà è più della totalità: Enciclopedia e ‘medietas' del sapere…” (1999); “La moltitudine di mezzi: Immagini e ossimori in Giordano Bruno” (2004). This activity I am now carrying out by participating in the National Committees for the celebrations of Bernardino Telesio and Luigi Tansillo, instituted by MiBAC); c) Warburg Institute, London: Here I studied the interrelations between the visual arts and scientific-philosophical culture [“‘Pictura gravium ostenduntur pondera rerum'” (1999); “The Image of the Tree of Knowledge in the 16th Century” (1999); “‘L'Arte imita la Natura, anzi la supera': Immagine e realtà nella cultura rinascimentale” (2004); “La casa di Ulisse” (2007). This research I am now devoting to the study of the iconology of Ulisse Aldrovandi.

In bringing out the theoretical, epistemological, and methodological themes in the Renaissance I have come to reconsider on a philosophical level the Neoplatonic mathematical theory [“‘Un autre ordre du monde': science et mathématiques” (2004), “La transmission du Commentaire d'Euclide…” (2009)] and to revaluate the recovery of hermetic, Hebrew, and Neo-Pythagorean traditions, within the frame of a spiritual reform of 16th-century thought (“Frontiera o capitale? Per una geografia della cultura bolognese nel Cinquecento” (2002); “‘Ipsum unum ut fingens…” (2004); “Archemastria e architettura del sapere nel '500” (2005)]; I then further studied the philosophical and logical-methodological values within 16th-century anatomical Renaissance [“Zorzi, Vesalio e Leonardo: la medietas del corpo” (2008); “La medietas du corps à la Renaissance (2009)].

The outcome is a Renaissance thought that does not remain confined to philosophy but can create intersections with different fields of knowledge: from art theory to classical science, from politics to ethics and religion. These are new or revived fields on which the Renaissance confers philosophical value, and which we accordingly have to investigate if we are to account for the way the Renaissance has enriched the conceptual heritage of humanity. The “explosion” of philosophy in other fields different from the traditional ones has emerged as a characteristic aspect of humanist thought. My research and teaching activity within the Ph.D. programmes has focused in particular on the presence of philosophy “outside philosophy.” I devoted my study first to the “polymathès” aspect and then to the “encyclopaedic” aspect belonging to Renaissance philosophy, that is, to the reformulation of the relations among disciplines that characterizes this period (rhetoric, mathematics, and architecture in particular) and to the criteria of interpretation and control of reality developed by humanists, scientists, philosophers, and reformers in  the 15th and 16th centuries.

The volume Sapienza, prudenza eroica virtù (1999) is mainly devoted to the philosophical interpretation of 16th-century architecture and to the revival of the Vitruvian tradition. Vitruvius's construction technique is assumed as an organon alternative to Aristotelian analytical philosophy, and as single and general logic that can be extended to the different domains of theoretical and applied knowledge. An encyclopaedic science closely linked to mathematics (and, in particular, to Neoplatonic mathematics), which can conjugate within itself speculative science and the téchnai excluded by late Scholastic episteme and can identify a scientific horizon that sets up a particular (planning and constructive-composite) relation with the traditions representing the extreme projections of the “civil” and “reformer” attitude of Renaissance philosophy. The concept of ut architectura philosophia and the concept of mediomondo (identifying Renaissance “encyclopaedism,” that is, the function developed by knowledge in its generality and in its interweaving of different disciplines) understood as a mediation between the intelligible and the sensible world has aroused particular interest–especially in France–for the 1999 monograph (a French edition by Vrin is forthcoming). Some research groups have been formed to study these issues, and this has given way to a close collaboration with the Universities of Paris X and Paris IV and CNRS (CHPM and then UPR 76); I would highlight the équipes THETA (Théories et Histoire de l´Esthétique, du Technique et des Arts) and the international research group GDRI Traité d'art de la Renaissance aux Lumières led by the Centre Pépin of the CNRS and comprising Paris I Sorbonne, University of Bologna, Paris VIII SILBA, Ecole Nationale des Chartes, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Department of Romance Languages of the University of Chicago. Also devoted to the concept of ut architectura philosophia are the contributions “Architetti del sapere: Il caso di Daniele Barbaro” (1998-1999); “The “Architecture” of Encyclopedias…” (2003); “Ordre et mouvement dans l'architectonique de Daniele Barbaro…” (paper presented in Metz, 2002); the essays on Leon Battista Alberti and Giordano Bruno [“L'architettura come ‘umbra d'un sogno'" (2007); “Bruno, l'architettura e 'il terzo nome del gatto'” (2005); etc.); and the series of lectures held in Paris (Paris X and Académie de Beaux Arts). The resonance of this research has led to the foundation of the series Pansophia with the publishing house Olschki (the series now in its tenth volume). The series was inaugurated by an international conference I have personally organized entitled “Le origini della modernità: I linguaggi del sapere” (1998). Starting from this research, encyclopaedic tradition - and more precisely, the analysis of the logical, philosophical, and epistemological conceptions within Renaissance encyclopaedism - has been characterized by its considering “encyclopaedic models” as tools for elaborating and re-utilizing re-discovered traditions and as forms and places for constructing a precise concept of tradition, as well as for laying a modern scientific culture and mentality. From here comes my choice to compare encyclopaedic formulas drawn from different genres (books, libraries, curricula of university colleges, programmes of publishing enterprises, and symbolic and allegorical images related to the organization of knowledge). A part of this line of research I have taken up the study of the reform of classical rhetoric and the ars memoriae within the framework of as a reform of the new 15th-century philosophy (“Ad Antonio Bernardi Illustrissimo Filosofo”, 2008; “Memoria e ramismo”, 2009, etc.), and I have also undertaken a ten-year study on the sources and cultural and political values of the so-called “Ramist reform” of logic. This study has led to the monograph Metodo ed enciclopedia nel Cinquecento francese: Il pensiero di Pietro Ramo all'origine dell'enciclopedismo moderno (2008) and to critical edition of the encyclopaedia of Christophe de Savigny (2009), considered as the first example of modern encyclopaedism (for this work, too, a French edition is fothcoming).

And so continues my research devoted to the techniques, operators, and symbolic languages – elaborated in original forms by Renaissance philologists, philosophers, mathematicians, and artists following a particular revision of ancient culture – and interpreted by them as vehicles of knowledge polimathès. The monograph Simboli e Questioni (2003) is about this question, as are several contributions on the symbolicae quaestiones of the humanist Achille Bocchi: in these works I study the mutual influence of mathematics, painting, and Greek and Hebrew grammar in the elaboration of a universal language. This research on the concept of the symbolic has led to the international conference “Institution et pensée symbolique à la Renaissance” (Paris and Bologna, 2003) and to the book La filosofia simbolica nella prima età moderna (2007). From this research, too, the recovery of the Euclidean, Archimedean, Neoplatonic, and Neo-Pythagorean traditions in the Renaissance foundation of languages and gnoseological instruments has emerged. The link between ancient mathematics and (modern) logic have attracted to these works the attention of mathematicians and historians of mathematics (University of Pisa; Project Maurolico; Paris Centre Koyré; London Birkbek College, Cambridge University) engaged in the study of the relations between Renaissance mathematics and linear perspective. The discovery of imaginary numbers, within the frame of a thought interested in understanding and reforming the world (this is one of the topics investigated in the 2003 monograph within the context of “symbolic philology”), has drawn the attention of mathematicians and physicists from the universities of Oxford and Singapore interested in the origins of complex numbers, essential elements of Quantum Computation. The award of ISA Topic 2009 and the funding for organizing a series of lectures and an international conference testify to the originality of this research programme. The scientific research has involved the Ph.D. programme in philosophy at the University of Bologna and has played a very important role in activating the Ph.D. programme titled “History of Ideas: Philosophy and Science” with SUM (Italian Institute for the Humanities).