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A Legacy of Learned Ignorance

Peter J. Casarella

Publication Year: 2012

This volume offers a detailed historical background to Cusanus's thinking while also assaying his significance for the present. It brings together major contributions from the English-speaking world as well as voices from Europe.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

As the outcome of an academic conference, the publication of this volume owes not a little to the organizations that sponsored that event. These include the American Cusanus Society, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Long Island University, C. W. Post Campus, and the Lumen Christi Institute. ...

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pp. ix-x

It is my privilege as president of the American Cusanus Society to write a brief preface to this excellent collection of studies on Nicholas of Cusa (1401–64) and his philosophical, theological, political, ecclesiological, mathematical, and cosmological ideas. ...

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pp. xi-xxx

As Morimichi Watanabe has already indicated, the contributors to this volume all participated in a conference in October 2001 at the Catholic University of America to mark the sixth centenary of the birth of Nicholas of Cusa. The previous May some of the participants had also attended a gathering in Nicholas’s birthplace. ...


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pp. xxxi-xxxii

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1. Nicholas of Cusa's Sermon on the Pater Noster

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pp. 1-25

The text of the sermon on the Pater noster (the “Our Father”) is based on a homily given by Nicholas of Cusa on January 1, 1441, in Augsburg. The transcription and dissemination of the sermon was done at the request of the bishop of Augsburg, Cardinal Peter von Schaumberg. ...

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2. Seeing and Not Seeing: Nicholas of Cusa’s De visione Dei in the History of Western Mysticism

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pp. 26-53

In Exodus 33:20 God tells Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one will see my face and live.” But in Genesis 32:30 Jacob names the place where he wrestled with a divine adversary “Phanuel,” claiming “I have seen God face-to-face and my soul has been saved.”1 ...

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3. Nicholas of Cusa's Intellectual Relationship to Anselm of Canterbury

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pp. 54-73

During this sexcentenary of the birth of Nicholas of Cusa, there is an almost ineluctable temptation to super-accentuate Cusa’s modernity—to recall approvingly, for example, that the Neokantian Ernst Cassirer not only designated Cusa “the first Modern thinker”1 but also went on to interpret his epistemology as anticipating Kant’s.2 ...

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4. The Question of Pantheism From Eckhart to Cusanus

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pp. 74-88

The term “pantheism” did not exist before the eighteenth century. Giordano Bruno and Baruch de Spinoza, now often associated with the pantheist position, were called atheists. The term was coined by the Irish philosopher John Toland and received the meaning that came to define it from Gotthold E. Lessing’s confession that, to him, God was hen kai pan, one and all. ...

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5. The Image of the Living God: Some Remarks on the Meaning of Perfection and World Formation

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pp. 89-104

In considering the metaphor of man as a living image of God, I am taking up a theme central to the thought of Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464). One of the reasons for focusing on Cusanus is the six-hundredth birthday that we commemorated in 2001. But more important than this external reason is the relevance of his ideas to the contemporary understanding of reality ...

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6. On The Power and Poverty of Perspective: Cusanus and Alberti

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pp. 105-126

Were it possible, I would have begun this essay by showing an episode from Roberto Rosselini’s The Age of Cosimo de’ Medici, a film dating from 1972. Its third part focuses on Leon Battista Alberti. Included is a meeting between Alberti and Cusanus, supposed to have taken place in Florence at the time of the council that fleetingly reunited the Eastern and the Western Church. ...

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7. An Italian Painting From the Late Fifteenth Century and the Cribratio alkorani Of Nicholas Of Cusa

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pp. 127-142

The original working title of this paper was “The Christology of the Cribratio alkorani.” While working on my presentation, however, I came upon a short article among my papers about a painting in Sassoferrato, Italy, from the late fifteenth century, whose proximity to the ideas of Cusanus’s Cribratio alkorani is fascinating. ...

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8. A Brief Report on the Painting of Three Haloed Figures

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pp. 143-149

The act of painting provides a concrete image of a highly creative intellectual process that cannot, however, be depicted in images. Painting an image is a concrete expression of the foundational creativity within the pictorially barren but still fruitful chamber of the intellect. ...

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9. The Concept of Infallibility in Nicholas of Cusa

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pp. 150-177

In his Dialogus concludens Amedistarum errorem (“Dialogue Resolving the Error of the Amedists”), a polemical work that Nicholas of Cusa writes to justify his ecclesiological and political turnaround, the Disciple reminds the Master that he has still to explain the argument of infallibility. ...

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10. Empire Meets Nation: Imperial Authority and National Government in Renaissance Political Thought

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pp. 178-195

The study of Renaissance political thought by both historians and political philosophers in recent decades has concentrated disproportionately upon civic republicanism—to the point, indeed, that one might well be surprised to discover that thinkers of the quattrocento knew of, let alone embraced, any other political doctrine.2 ...

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11. Medieval and Modern Constitutionalism: Nicholas of Cusa and John Locke

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pp. 196-209

The study of political theory involves the analysis of the origin and historical development of central concepts of government. One such concept is that of constitutionalism, which has a long history in Western political thought. This paper will examine the development of the idea of constitutionalism and evaluate a current debate about the relation of the medieval and modern forms of that concept. ...

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12. How Can the Infinite Be the Measure of the Finite? Three Mathematical Metaphors from De docta ignorantia

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pp. 210-225

Early on in De docta ignorantia, Nicholas of Cusa clearly states a fundamental principle of his speculative metaphysics: “[I]t is evident that there is no proportion between the infinite and the finite.”1 When two things stand in a proportional or comparative relationship, Cusanus holds, they agree in some respect, by virtue of which agreement they can be compared. ...

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13. “The Earth Is A Noble Star” : The Arguments for the Relativity of Motion in the Cosmology of Nicolaus Cusanus and Their Transformation in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

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pp. 226-250

In Book II of his treatise De docta ignorantia, Cusanus initiated a decisive transformation in the idea of the universe. For the first time in occidental cosmology, the universe loses every center. Neither the earth nor the sun, as even Nicholas Copernicus continued to maintain, is the center of the cosmos. ...

Suggested Reading

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pp. 251-254

List of Contributors

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pp. 255-260

Index of Names

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pp. 261-268

Index of Subjects

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pp. 269-280

E-ISBN-13: 9780813220352
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813214269

Page Count: 309
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1