- Thomism in the Renaissance: Fifty Years after Kristeller. Divus Thomas 120 ed. by Alison Frazier
In his long scholarly career, Paul Oskar Kristeller (1905–1999) produced an extraordinary number of seminal books and articles, one of which was the 1967 monograph Le Thomisme et la pensée italienne de la Renaissance, which presented the evidence for the intellectual vitality of Thomism in the Italian Renaissance. In 2017, on the fiftieth anniversary of Kristeller's book, the collection of articles under review was presented originally as papers at the Chicago meeting of the Renaissance Society of America and brought together for publication in record time by Alison Frazier. The articles pay tribute to Kristeller by offering fresh contributions on Renaissance Thomism. Paul Richard Blum, at the start, and Kent Emery Jr., at the end, put in context Kristeller's work and treat the significance of the five core articles.
Matthew T. Gaetano starts things off by examining two sixteenth-century Dominicans teaching in via Sancti Thomae at the University of Padua: Sisto Medici and Girolamo Vielmi. Both Medici and Vielmi were thoughtfully open to the best intellectual developments of the day, using humanist literary elegance while stressing, with Cicero, that style without substance is vacuous, and also acknowledging the need of competence in Greek and Hebrew. Contra the humanists, however, they called attention to the universal aspect of Catholic theology reaching all peoples at all levels as opposed to only those comfortable with classicizing Latin. As Emery notes, Vuelmi argued that, contrary to the charge of retrogression, medieval scholasticism represented progress in theology as it brought coherence to the disparate inheritance of the Church Fathers.
Jozef Matula offers a penetrating analysis of the Thomism of one of the most intriguing scholastics of the Renaissance, Agostino Nifo (1469/70–1538). Fixing dynamic evolution as his most characteristic feature, Matula traces Nifo's development from an ardent Averroist to a critic of Averroes making use of the Greek commentators, Thomas, Albert the Great, and even the Platonist Marsilio Ficino. Nifo would eventually call Thomas vir doctissimus et omnium meo iudicio Peripateticorum princeps ("the most learned and the prince of all Peripatetics in my judgment"). But, as Matula shows, Nifo's Thomism was selective. In the works where Thomas's ideas did not suit him, Nifo ignored him.
The article of Brian Garcia and Andrea A. Robiglio is really two articles in one. Robiglio reveals a startling discovery. One of the finer texts of the Quattrocento is the dialogue Eremita of the humanist Antonio de Ferraris, "il Galateo" (1444–1517). Not surprisingly, the celebrated historian Eugenio Garin included it in perhaps the most widely read collection of humanist texts, his Prosatori Latini del Quattrocento (1952). So intent was Garin on presenting Quattrocento humanism as anti-medieval that he bowdlerized the text, omitting the ending where Thomas Aquinas appears to provide the dénouement of the whole dialogue. Robiglio's discovery thus confirms Kristeller's assertion that Thomism was far more influential in the Renaissance than generally believed. [End Page 753]
Brian Garcia's contribution gives another salutary lesson. He proves that the Expositio super libros de anima of Dominic of Flanders (Baudoin Lottin, †1479) was deliberately altered by Renaissance editors to bring it more in line with Thomist orthodoxy. Garcia thus confirms that one must return to the manuscripts, if available, if one wishes to make a study of any Renaissance text.
Eva del Soldato studies two very different authors, the Platonist and Greek émigré Cardinal Bessarion (†1472), whose In Calumniatorem Platonis of 1469 was a seminal document in Renaissance Platonism, and the university professor Fortunio Liceti (1577–1657), whose De Pietate Aristotelis erga Deum et Homines (1645) was the last great attempt to defend Aristotle as a virtual Christian. What del Soldato discovered and ably proves is that both Bessarion and Liceti used Thomas extensively, but selectively, in making their argument, one in defense of Plato, and the other in defense of Aristotle.
The final article is Robert Trent Pomplun's brilliant "Thomism and the Study...