- Sub specie hominis: Études sur le savior humain au XVIe siècle
Marie-Dominique Couzinet's Sub specie hominis is a challenging book on ways of human knowing through God, nature, occult arts, and history, with discussions [End Page 1341] of various works of leading sixteenth-century "humanist philosophers." The book is composed of fourteen chapters, plus an introduction and a conclusion. All the chapters have been published in various journals that Couzinet cites in her introduction.
This book is divided into two parts, "Nature et arts" and "L'Histoire entre théorie et pratique." Each of these parts is divided into two sections: "Art naturel, art humain" and "Art humain, art divin," for part 1, and "Histoire pratique: L'Imitation " and "Histoire et théorie: La mémoire, " for part 2.
Part 1, section 1, chapter 1 (henceforth such divisions will be indicated as 1.1.1, 1.1.2, etc.) deals with occult dialectic and causality in the art of secrets of Girolamo Cardano. 1.1.2's topic is Bernardino Telesio "materialism." 1.1.3 has to do with the occult causality in the Medicinalia of Tommaso Campanella. 1.2.4 turns to divine logic in Jean Bodin's Republic, while 1.2.5 continues with Bodin's moral philosophy in his Paradox of 1576. 1.2.6 turns our attention to human action, natural action, and divine action in Michel de Montaigne's Essays.
Part 2 reflects the general topic of history as theory and basis for action in the sixteenth century. Thus, 2.1.7 discusses history and the use of historical examples in Niccolò Machiavelli, Francesco Guicciardini, and Bodin. 2.1.8 reflects the problem of original place (Roman origin) in Machiavelli. 2.1.9 brings us back to France and nature and the function of history in Montaigne. 2.1.10 continues with Montaigne by discussing his writing on the self and miscellanies. This is pertinent in the sense that his Essays were a kind of history composed without structure or organized plan, in other words, a miscellany. 2.2.11 returns us to Italy and to historical fureur in Patrizzi. 2.2.12 focuses the reader on Bodin and the art of reading: the bibliography of history. 2.2.13 turns to the "forgotten" in history, that is, Machiavelli and religion. While this chapter's topic seems unusual, given the normal understanding of Machiavelli, the last chapter (2.2.14) advances us to the modern world, to Leo Strauss's Thoughts on Machiavelli. It is a brief study of how the art of reading Leo Strauss and his hermeneutic on Machiavelli can inform our own reading of The Prince and The Discourses. This reader found it strange that this chapter was presented at the end of the book. It might have been more sensibly presented at the points we first encountered Machiavelli, in 2.1.7 or .8. The reason Strauss is put off to the end may be because the thesis of this book is driven by a reading of Eugenio Garin. Therefore, the Strauss chapter becomes an add-on, an article that has no other abode but the end since it is outside the Garin-centered interpretation.
How do all these miscellanies of chapter topics fit together (minus Strauss)? This reviewer felt it necessary to indicate each chapter's topic rather mechanically in order to show the book's explication-de-texte organization. Couzinet is maître de conférences at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and is a onetime student of Garin. She uses his philosophy of Renaissance history to guide her interpretation in this book. The topics, as outlined above, are designed to show that natural and historical philosophy, as reflections of a theory of action and as ways of knowing, enjoy privileged roles in the production of thought in the Italian and French [End Page 1342] Renaissances. The conclusion of her...