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Hermetic Roots of Marsilio Ficino’s Anthropocentric Thought

Author(s): Lauri Ockenström

Journal: J@rgonia
ISSN 1459-305X

Volume: 11;
Issue: 22;
Start page: 37;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Marsilio Ficino | Hermes Trismegistos | Hermetism | anthropocentrism | Neoplatonism | dignitas hominis genre

Marsilio Ficino’s relationship to the Hermetic literary tradition has long been a controversial issue in academic discussion. Although Ficino is commonly known as a translator and keen reader of the philosophical Hermetica, his allegiances to the Hermetic ideas have been recognized only in his theory of magic (only to be denied later), while in other cases, in general, scholars tend to deny the impact of Hermetic writings instead of accepting it. This paper explores a topic in which the denial has been particularly harsh, namely Ficino’s Promethean philosophy of man, highlighted as the most influential achievement of his thought by previous generations (e.g. by Trinkaus). Despite the neglect, there seems to be some evident convergence worth researching between Ficino’s anthropocentric passages and the philosophical Hermetic sources. The comparative analyses may illustrate how Ficino applied Hermetic concepts and vocabulary to construct his anthropocentricism and utilized the name of Trismegistus to support his man-oriented ideals, which were to have a considerable impact on European thought during the following centuries. Furthermore, there are reasons to suggest that the inspiration and reinforcement offered by the philosophical Hermetica encouraged Ficino to exceed the boundaries of scholastic thought and the preceding dignitas hominis tradition.
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