Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance by Ada Palmer

By Ada Palmer

After its rediscovery in 1417, Lucretius’s Epicurean didactic poem De Rerum Natura threatened to provide radicals and atheists with the single weapon unbelief had lacked within the center a long time: stable solutions. students may now problem Christian styles of idea via making use of the speculation of atomistic physics, a worldly process that defined common phenomena with no attract divine participation, and argued powerfully opposed to the immortality of the soul, the afterlife, and a author God.

Ada Palmer explores how Renaissance readers, equivalent to Machiavelli, Pomponio Leto, and Montaigne, truly ingested and disseminated Lucretius, and the ways that this means of interpreting remodeled smooth proposal. She uncovers humanist equipment for reconciling Christian and pagan philosophy, and indicates how principles of emergent order and normal choice, so severe to our present pondering, grew to become embedded in Europe’s highbrow panorama ahead of the 17th century. This heterodoxy circulated within the premodern international, now not at the conspicuous level of heresy trials and public debates, yet within the school rooms, libraries, reviews, and bookshops the place quiet students met the guidelines that will quickly rework the area. Renaissance readers―poets and philologists instead of scientists―were moved by means of their love of classical literature to rescue Lucretius and his atomism, thereby injecting his theories again into medical discourse.

Palmer employs a brand new quantitative technique for studying marginalia in manuscripts and published books, exposing how adjustments in scholarly interpreting practices over the process the 16th century steadily extended Europe’s receptivity to radical technological know-how, surroundings the level for the medical revolution.

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Thus, the process of rehabilitating Epicurus, and the hostility that project faced, is not merely a moment in the history of humanism, but a critical intersection between humanism and the history of unbelief. Religion Trampled Underfoot 21 Atheism in the Renaissance The history of atheism intersects with that of atomism in the Renaissance in three ways. First, the label “atheism,” and the stigma it carried, powerfully affected the ability of the De rerum natura, and other philosophical classics that received such labels, to circulate in the premodern world.

Ideas of nonexistent things, like unicorns, are generated when two shells clash in midair, horse with horn, and so on. The Epicureans’ closest rivals were the Stoics, who, though also materialists, took an opposite approach to solving Zeno’s paradoxes of motion: the Epicureans employed pluralism, the Stoics monism. Whereas the Epicureans saw matter as an infinity of divided atoms, Stoics argued that the whole universe is a single contiguous being, varying only in quality. In such a system there is no such thing as number, mixture, or division, and the difference between fire and water or iron and human is no greater than the difference between blue and white stripes in a single 14 Religion Trampled Underfoot piece of cloth.

The Epicureans’ closest rivals were the Stoics, who, though also materialists, took an opposite approach to solving Zeno’s paradoxes of motion: the Epicureans employed pluralism, the Stoics monism. Whereas the Epicureans saw matter as an infinity of divided atoms, Stoics argued that the whole universe is a single contiguous being, varying only in quality. In such a system there is no such thing as number, mixture, or division, and the difference between fire and water or iron and human is no greater than the difference between blue and white stripes in a single 14 Religion Trampled Underfoot piece of cloth.

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