Luca Bianchi

Summary. The «Italian Specificity»: Notes on Philosophy in Italy From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance

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Keywords: Italian Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, Renaissance Philosophy, Giovanni Gentile, Eugenio Garin.

It is frequently assumed that one can speak of «Italian philosophy» only from the Renaissance onwards. This paper first shows that this well-received view was established by Giovanni Gentile and Eugenio Garin. The latter refused not only the Eighteenth-century myth of «ancient Italian wisdom», but also the claim of a few early Twentieth-century scholars that the beginnings of «Italian philosophy » should be traced back to the Middle Ages. Though acknowledging the weaknesses of such arguments, this paper shows that a «specific» Italian philosophical culture did exist during the later Middle Ages. Because of the peculiar institutional structure of Italian universities, philosophy was not conceived as the «handmaid» of theology but as a «sister» of medicine; Italian Arts masters had a higher social status than their European colleagues; they enjoyed greater intellectual freedom, and focused on disciplines such as logic, psychology, natural philosophy and astronomy. Moreover, this paper argues that the commonly accepted idea that «Italian philosophy » began with the Renaissance should be better qualified by emphasizing that only from the 1540s a few Italian intellectuals, who believed that the volgare was worthy to be used as a language of scholars, started to systematically publish philosophical works which were written in Italian, and were explicitly destined to an Italian readership.

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