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Marsilio Ficino-Between Platonism and Stoicism

Palazzo venturi ginori, medallion with a Marsilio Ficino bust.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a quote from the foreword of Marsilio Ficino’s new-edition-in-the-making of his ‘Collected Letters’. Translated and annotated by Julie Raynaud and Sebastien Galland. Edition Vrin, 2019.


…/…‘This correspondence also testifies of the existence of a true practice of philosophy as care of the soul, a therapy in the antic mode. Such a moral orientation, singular in Ficino’s work, as it contains no moral treatises as such, may authorize us to take the letters of the Florentine as the practical counterpart of his philosophy, another way to report about the fundamental intuition of his wisdom: Man can make himself ‘quasi deus’. In this aspect, Ficino is well part of this Quattrocento tradition that stipulates with Collucio Salutati or Leonardo Bruni, the primacy of will, the value of human labor, of individual action. The Platonistic asceticism and the saturnian taste for contemplative isolation don’t hinder Ficino to meditate on the themes of education, of civilian life, the daily efforts that humanity makes to be worth of its Creator, spiritual exercises- those Pierre Hadot considers them characteristic of the antic way of philosophizing. This epistolary work where it is undeniable that the moral is stoic and operates as an introduction (propaedeutic) to a renovated Platonism, confirms what Raymond Marcel noted at the very beginning of his biography of Marsilio Ficino:

‘There was no Renaissance without stoicism imposing itself as the complement of Platonism.’ Therefore the reading of the ‘Correspondence’ suggests that there is beyond Ficino the translator and the platonic Ficino, another one, the stoic Ficino heralding, in a way, the rebirth of the philosophy of the Porch (Stoa Poecile) in the following century. It is a rather platonizing stoicism, that of Cicero, of a Seneca, that Ficino reintroduce in his letters which function is as much the actualization, the practical realization of wisdom, than an introduction (propaedeutic) to Platonism, only philosophy that is in full agreement with Christianity. Because this correspondence doesn’t disrupt the great project of a concord of all wisdoms, but opens it to the pagan philosophies of action, the very ones where letters (correspondences) are of importance.

Like with Seneca, the ficinian correspondence testify of a great attention to any tiny details in the progress of his correspondents engaged on the path that leads the soul towards self-knowledge, towards its divine source, towards the One. The reading of the letters therefore leads to identify the practical aim of the ficinian wisdom, but also to better understand how to read the prolific work of the protégé of the Medicis.’ …/…

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Marsilio Ficino-Between Platonism and Stoicism

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