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Giannozzo Manetti (1396–1459) was a celebrated diplomat, historian, philosopher, and humanist scholar of the early Renaissance who mastered ancient Greek and Hebrew as well as classical Latin. In this treatise, dedicated to Alfonso of Aragon, King of Naples, Manetti addresses a question central to the anthropology of the Renaissance: what are the moral, intellectual, and spiritual capabilities of the unique amalgam of body and soul that constitutes human nature? The treatise takes issue with a popular work of medieval asceticism, On the Misery of the Human Condition, written by none other than Innocent III, one of the greatest of medieval popes. The pope’s diatribe expresses a revulsion against human nature and argues for the futility of ambition, the emptiness of pleasures, and the ultimate worthlessness of human achievements. Manetti’s treatise presents a comprehensive refutation of the pope’s pessimism, sometimes citing the achievements of the Renaissance as evidence for the potential divinity of human nature and its extraordinary capabilities. This edition contains the first complete translation into English.
About the Author
Brian P. Copenhaver is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and History at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he directed the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, editor of History of Philosophy Quarterly, past president of the Journal of the History of Philosophy, and on the boards of Harvard’s I Tatti Renaissance Library and the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Getty foundations and has authored many books, including Hermetica, The Book of Magic, and Magic in Western Culture.