After its rediscovery in 1417, Lucretius’s Epicurean didactic poem De Rerum Natura threatened to supply radicals and atheists with the one weapon unbelief had lacked in the Middle Ages: good answers. Scholars could now challenge Christian patterns of thought by employing the theory of atomistic physics, a sophisticated system that explained natural phenomena without appeal to divine participation, and argued powerfully against the immortality of the soul, the afterlife, and a creator God.
Ada Palmer explores how Renaissance readers, such as Machiavelli, Pomponio Leto, and Montaigne, actually ingested and disseminated Lucretius, and the ways in which this process of reading transformed modern thought. She uncovers humanist methods for reconciling Christian and pagan philosophy, and shows how ideas of emergent order and natural selection, so critical to our current thinking, became embedded in Europe’s intellectual landscape before the seventeenth century. This heterodoxy circulated in the premodern world, not on the conspicuous stage of heresy trials and public debates, but in the classrooms, libraries, studies, and bookshops where quiet scholars met the ideas that would soon transform the world. Renaissance readerspoets and philologists rather than scientistswere moved by their love of classical literature to rescue Lucretius and his atomism, thereby injecting his theories back into scientific discourse.
Palmer employs a new quantitative method for analyzing marginalia in manuscripts and printed books, exposing how changes in scholarly reading practices over the course of the sixteenth century gradually expanded Europe’s receptivity to radical science, setting the stage for the scientific revolution.
|Series:||I Tatti Studies in Italian Renaissance History Series , #16|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Ada Palmer is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago.
Table of Contents
List of Tables and Figures|vii
1 Religion Trampled Underfoot: Epicurus, Atomism, and Skepticism in the Renaissance 1
2 Unchristian Opinion: Lucretius's First Renaissance Readers 43
3 Between Fits of Madness: Ancient References and Proto-Biographies 97
4 The Lofty Madness of Wise Lucretius: The Renaissance Biographies 140
5 The Poverty of the Language: The Lucretian Print Tradition 192
Conclusion: Deceived but Not Betrayed 233
Appendix A Lucretius Manuscripts 243
Appendix B Capitula 250
Appendix C Lucretius Editions 258
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fascinating ideas about the recursive relationships between texts and their readers and perpetuators