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Reviewed by:
  • Agostino Nifo ed. by Leen Spruit
  • John Sellars
Leen Spruit, editor. Agostino Nifo. De Intellectu. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, 201. Brill’s Texts and Sources in Medieval Intellectual History, 10. Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2011. Pp. viii + 691. Cloth, $177.00.

Leen Spruit offers us the first edition of Agostino Nifo’s De Intellectu since 1554. Nifo is an interesting yet neglected figure in the history of Renaissance Aristotelianism, perhaps best known for his contribution to the immortality controversy that followed the publication of Pietro Pomponazzi’s De Immortalitate Animae in 1516. Often associated with “Averroism,” he moved away from Averroes’s interpretation of Aristotle’s psychology during the course of his career. His De Intellectu and his first commentary on the De Anima were both composed in the 1490s and both published in 1503. However, while his De Anima commentary defended an Averroistic interpretation of Aristotle’s notoriously obscure remarks on the nature of the intellect, his apparently contemporaneous De Intellectu rejected it. This has led to debate about the course of Nifo’s intellectual development, and it has been suggested that his change in view was a consequence of learning Greek, giving him unmediated access to Aristotle’s text. With this in hand he then revised his De Intellectu before publication to reflect his new view, but the De Anima commentary was published unrevised (against his wishes, so he says in his later second commentary on the same). In short, the De Intellectu—his first anti-Averroistic work—is a key text for understanding his philosophical development.

The first edition of De Intellectu was published in 1503; it was reprinted with a revised structure in 1527, 1553, and 1554. This new edition follows that of 1554. Spruit prefaces the text with a helpful introduction that offers (1) a brief overview of Greek and Arabic interpretations of Aristotle’s account of the intellect; (2) a discussion of Nifo’s sources (with a focus on Aquinas and Ficino); (3) a contribution to the debate about whether Nifo cites otherwise lost works by Siger of Brabant (Spruit is prudently cautious); (4) a description of the contents of De Intellectu; and (5) a brief note on its afterlife.

The text itself has been thoroughly updated to make it more accessible to modern readers: pagination, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling have all been brought into line with current conventions. Notes have been added, generally restricted to identifying the passages from authors that Nifo quotes or mentions. There is no translation accompanying this new edition of the Latin text, and some readers may wonder why the opportunity to translate it as well was not taken. The short answer is no doubt that it would have simply made the book too big, adding well over 500 pages to a volume already almost 700 pages long. But readers with little or no Latin eager to access Nifo’s work ought not to despair, for Spruit offers an incredibly useful chapter-by-chapter analytical summary of the whole text, filling over 70 pages. This, combined with the introduction, gives the reader over 100 pages of introductory material that opens up the text to a much wider audience. The volume also contains a brief chronology of Nifo’s life.

There are a few oddities in the notes. In the notes to the introduction, the De Intellectu itself is cited according to the foliation of the 1554 edition rather than the page and line [End Page 680] numbers of the edition in the book. In the notes to the text, the Greek commentators Alexander of Aphrodisias, Themistius, and Simplicius are all cited according to the foliation of sixteenth-century editions (of the Latin translations that Nifo used), but without cross-references to the Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca editions, even though they are listed in the bibliography. While some works in the notes are cited by their standard Latin titles, others are cited by name and date of a modern edition (for example, “Thomas Aquinas 1984”). These are minor issues, but they do slow down a reader pursuing a reference. They do not, however, detract from the overall achievement.

Renaissance philosophy remains one of the more neglected periods...


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