Philosophy in Neo-Platonic Mode


Marsilio Ficino

Pico della Mirandola

Pico’s Hebrew tutor: Johanan ben Isaac Alemanno


Influential Books of Ficino

Commentary on Plato’s Symposiusm (Latin then popular in Italian, French, etc.)

Works of Plato, 1484 (Full Latin translation from original Greek texts)

Platonic Theology (Reconciles Christianity with Platonic philosophy), 1474

Translation of Hermetic writings

Letters (ex. to Lorenzo on Law and Justice)


Ancient Authors

Plato (4th c. B.C.E.)-records conversations of Socrates

Plotinus (2nd c. C.E.)


Florentine Circle in Neo-Platonic Mode

Ruling family: Cosimo de’ Medici, Piero de’ Medici, and Lorenzo de’ Medici

Poet Poliziano, as well as Lorenzo

Artists Botticelli, Michelangelo


Other Italian Neo-Platonists

Cardinal Pietro Bembo (also portrayed in Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier)

Vittoria Colonna, Poet, friend of Michelangelo


Neo-Platonic Idea of Beauty

Divine beauty is higher than physical beauty.

Soul seeks to ascend by contemplating physical beauty


Neo-Platonic Idea of Love

Love of Earthly Venus-physical love leading to procreation

Love of Heavenly Venus-spiritual love leading to creativity

One may love physical beauty and rise through that love to love of spiritual beauty

Highest love contemplates the Intellectual and Moral Virtues, that is WISDOM


Neo-Platonic Idea of Free Will

In Pico’s Oration, Adam was created with free will.

Adam has no fixed abode and no fixed nature

Adam can descend to the animal level or ascend to the angelic level (ascending up Jacob’s ladder)

Free choice is the main human characteristic