Marsilio Ficino

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Marsilio Ficino - Detail from a fresco by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the Cappella Tornabuoni in Santa Maria Novella
Bust of Ficino by Andrea Ferrucci in the Florence Cathedral , 1521

Marsilio Ficino ( Latinized Marsilius Ficinus ; born October 19, 1433 in Figline Valdarno ; † October 1, 1499 in Careggi , now a district of Florence ) was an Italian humanist , philosopher and doctor. He is one of the most famous personalities of Renaissance humanism in Florence. With his translations and commentaries he made a significant contribution to the knowledge of Plato and Platonism in his epoch and made writings by ancient Greek-speaking authors accessible to the Latin-speaking audience. His understanding of Plato, which was shaped by the Neo-Platonism of Plotinus , was groundbreaking for the early modern period . However, he did not play the role of head of a “Platonic Academy” in Florence, which posterity ascribed to him. At that time there was no institution with this name, but only an informal group of his students, close to the Medici family , whom he called “academics”, without an institutional framework.

Life and works

Youth and education

Portrait of Cosimo de 'Medici by Jacopo da Pontormo , around 1518

Marsilio Ficino was born on October 19, 1433 in Figline (about 25 km southeast of Florence). He grew up in Florence. His father Diotifeci d'Agnolo di Giusto was the personal physician of the famous Florentine statesman Cosimo de 'Medici . The name Ficino is derived from Fecino, a diminutive of Diotifeci. At the age of almost sixty, Ficino reported from his childhood that Cosimo had met the Byzantine scholar Georgios Gemistos Plethon at the Council of Florence , who had won him over to Platonism. Cosimo was so impressed by the appearance of the Byzantine Platonist that he decided to found an academy in Florence based on the model of Plato's school in Athens, the Platonic Academy . Even then, Cosimo chose the six-year-old Ficino for a role in this project and prepared him for it through an appropriate education. Even if this representation may be exaggerated, it can be assumed that the young Florentine came into contact with the Platonism propagated by Plethon in Italy at an early stage. He writes that he “followed the divine Plato” from childhood.

Ficino studied artes liberales and medicine in Florence . His teachers included the humanist Cristoforo Landino and the scholastic -minded Aristotle commentator Niccolò Tignosi, who taught theoretical medicine and Aristotelian philosophy. During this time Ficino acquired a good mastery of the scholastic method and terminology that later showed up in his works, and acquired a profound knowledge of Aristotle. He also occupied himself with Lucretius , whom he valued at times; in 1457 he penned a Lucretian commentary which he later burned. In the letter De divino furore in December 1457 he quoted the medieval thinker David von Dinant, a pantheist , from whose doctrine he later distanced himself. Thus, at the time, he showed an openness to concepts that were incompatible with the church's doctrine of faith. His main interest, however, was already in Plato's teaching during his student days, which he briefly summarized in a compendium with the title Institutiones ad Platonicam disciplinam in 1456 . At that time, however, he could not read Plato in the original and was therefore dependent on the modest knowledge that could be found in Latin sources. Cosimo and Landino advised him to learn Greek first. In 1457 he wrote a treatise on pleasure , in which he described the views of the various philosophical schools on pleasure. Then, according to his biographer Corsi, he went to Bologna to continue his medical studies there. The stay in Bologna is doubted in the research. In any case, he did not graduate, but later practiced as a doctor.

Development of ancient sources

The Villa Medici in Careggi

After completing his studies, Ficino spent the rest of his life at home, where Cosimo generously supported him and provided him with the material basis for a life entirely dedicated to philosophy and theology. In his own words, the Medici was a second father to him. Cosimo gave him a house in Florence in 1462 and, on April 18, 1463, a modest country house in Careggi , a place near Florence that today belongs to this city. Cosimo owned a magnificent villa there. Ficino was largely needless and always led a very modest life. He focused on his goal of tapping into the main sources of ancient Platonism that had become available in Western Europe when numerous Greek manuscripts of ancient texts came to Italy during and after the fall of the Byzantine Empire . After Cosimo's death (1464), Ficino continued to enjoy the favor of leading members of the Medici family . First Cosimo's son Piero il Gottoso took over the promotion of Ficino's work as the new head of the family; from 1469, Piero's son and successor Lorenzo il Magnifico was the new patron of the humanist. Ficino had a close, trusting relationship with all three benefactors.

Ficino's translation of the pseudoplatonic Horoi ( autograph ). Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Suppl. Gr. 212, fol. 194r

Initially, Ficino's main task was the creation of the first complete Latin translation of Plato's dialogues requested by Cosimo . He was able to present ten dialogues while the client was still alive; a few days before Cosimo's death he read it to him. He dedicated nine more dialogues to Cosimo's son Piero. In 1484 the entire Plato translation appeared in print. He commented on some dialogues in his own commentary. Since love and its effects on the soul particularly interested him, he dealt in detail with Plato's Dialog Symposium dedicated to this topic . His symposium commentary (Commentarium in convivium Platonis de amore) , which became one of his most famous works, he designed as a dialogue with seven participants who explain the speeches in Plato's symposium . The occasion is said to have been provided by a banquet that took place on Plato's birthday in the Medici Villa. He also translated this work, in which Ficino is a core part of his worldview, into Italian. He also commented on Plato's dialogues Parmenides , Sophistes , Philebos , Timaeus and Phaedrus . In 1496 he published an edition of his collected Plato Commentaries (with the exception of the Symposium Commentary , which had already appeared in 1484).

In the young scholar Giovanni Pico della Mirandola , Ficino found a kindred spirit who shared some of his basic convictions, but also violently contradicted him. In 1484, Pico encouraged him to translate the Enneades of the ancient Neoplatonist Plotinus . After two years this work was finished; then Ficino devoted himself to the commentary on plotin. The entire result of these efforts was printed in 1492. This made the teaching of this philosopher, which had previously only had an indirect effect in the Latin-speaking world, for the first time accessible to a wider audience. Ficino also translated and commented on other ancient literature, most of which came from the tradition of Platonism, Neo-Platonism and Pythagoreanism . The works that he made available to Latin-speaking scholars also included the writings traditionally attributed to the mythical Hermes Trismegistos , which form the Corpus Hermeticum . These treatises, the translation of which into Latin he completed in 1463 on behalf of Cosimo, he regarded as an Egyptian variant of the Platonic doctrine of wisdom. In addition to Plotinus, he also made known later Neoplatonists; he translated some of their works (including a treatise by Iamblichus , known under the title On the Mysteries of the Egyptians ) or published excerpts in Latin translation (this is how he proceeded with the writings of Porphyrios , Synesios and Proclus ). He also translated two writings by the extremely influential late antique Christian Neoplatonist Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita , On Mystical Theology and On Divine Names , into Latin and Dante's political theory work De monarchia into Italian.

Renewal and spread of Platonism

Plato. Roman copy of the Greek portrait of Silanion , Glyptothek Munich

Unlike many Renaissance humanists, Ficino was not primarily a literary writer, philologist and cultural historian, because his interest was less on the linguistic form of ancient works than on their philosophical content. His main concern was a contemporary renewal of ancient philosophy. For him, its core formed the teaching of Plato, which he interpreted in the sense of the Neoplatonic tradition founded by Plotinus. Like many medieval thinkers, but on a much broader and more solid source base than them, he endeavored to gain an understanding of ancient Platonism that would combine it harmoniously with the basic beliefs of Christianity. With his striving for a consistent metaphysical view of the world in which theological and philosophical statements should merge into an indissoluble unit, he joined the more Christian current of humanism. In addition to his work as a translator and commentator, he also wrote treatises that were intended to systematically present and justify his (new) Platonic Christian teaching structure. This included above all his main philosophical-theological work, the Theologia Platonica ("Platonic Theology"), completed in 1474 and printed in 1482 . With this title, which he took over from a work by the late antique Neo-Platonist Proklos , he indicated his program, which aimed at a synthesis of philosophy and theology, at a coherent, equally Christian and Platonic interpretation of the world that was plausible for humanists.

In order to implement this project, Ficino tried relentlessly to spread his ideas. This was the purpose of his lectures on Christian Platonism in Florence, which he gave in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and later in the cathedral church. At the European level he pursued his goal through his extensive correspondence with a large number of important personalities of intellectual life. These Latin letters were not only intended for their recipients, but also for the public; Ficino collected them, and in 1495 they were printed.

However, the claim that has been widespread for centuries that a Platonic Academy led by Ficino was founded in Careggi at the instigation of Cosimo is incorrect . This assumption, which can still be found in many reference books today, has been proven incorrect by recent research. In reality, the term “Platonic Academy” for Ficino's circle of friends is an invention of the 17th century, and he used the term “academician” to denote his numerous students, without associating it with the idea of ​​an institutional framework. Of the personalities whom he classified among his "academics", only relatively few shared his enthusiasm for Plato and his hostility to contemporary Aristotelianism .

Medical writings

Ficino's preface to De vita in the manuscript Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana , Plut, written in 1489 . 73.39, fol. 4r

In addition, Ficino also dealt with health issues. He wrote a guide against the plague in Italian with the title Consiglio contro la pestilenza (“Council against the epidemic”, Latin translation: Epidemiarum antidotus ) and the treatise De vita libri tres (“Three books on life”; the one often mentioned Title De vita triplici is not authentic). De vita is a treatise specifically on the scholar's health, the first health guide intended for a single social group. Ficino pays special attention to the melancholy (black gall) temperament; An excess of black bile is, in his opinion, an occupational disease of the mentally working, which he attributes to their strong brain activity. He also counts himself among the melancholics. The advice for a healthy lifestyle includes precise dietary requirements. In the second of the three books, he discusses the question of how a scholar can reach old age in good health. Since this treatise also deals with magical practices and astrology or astromedicine, Ficino suspected heresy with its publication (1489) . This work, which was extremely popular during the Renaissance, was printed around thirty times by 1647; there were also prints of the translations into German, French and Italian.

New accent in the later years of life

In 1473 Ficino was ordained a priest. He received several benefices , sometimes even before he was ordained . In 1487 he became a canon at Florence Cathedral. At that time, his patron Lorenzo de 'Medici even tried in vain to have him elevated to the position of Bishop of Cortona . With the assumption of ecclesiastical tasks, which included preaching, Ficino was increasingly interested in specifically theological topics, although he remained true to his basic platonic orientation. In 1474 he wrote De Christiana religione ("About the Christian Religion"), a justification of Christianity against Islam and Judaism. In it he wants to show Christianity as a natural, reasonable religion that can be accepted from philosophical insight. He himself translated this treatise into Italian (Della religione cristiana) . He also wrote smaller writings in which he formulated his Platonic worldview in Christian theological language, including De raptu Pauli ("On the Rapture of Paul "). In the last years of his life he began to comment on Romans ; this work remained unfinished. It was part of an unrealized project to interpret the New Testament, especially the letters of the Apostle Paul, in a Platonic sense.

Portrait of Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo , around 1498

With the death of the statesman Lorenzo il Magnifico in 1492, the epoch in which Florence was the most important center of humanistic intellectual life in Italy ended, and with it the long time that had provided optimal conditions for Ficino's work. In the period that followed, severe political and religious turmoil set in with violent clashes. The Medici were expelled from the city, in 1494 the invading army of the French King Charles VIII occupied Florence, and finally, with the Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola, a strongly anti-humanist tendency came to power. Under these circumstances, Ficino's concept of a humanistic Christianity in the Neoplatonic spirit no longer found a favorable breeding ground. Therefore, he largely withdrew from public life. Like other Florentine humanists and members of the upper class, he followed the appearance of the penitential preacher Savonarola, who campaigned for a moral reform, at first benevolently (Pico della Mirandola even became a supporter of the culturally hostile Dominican). However, Ficino's initial understanding turned into violent opposition when the contradiction of attitudes and goals became apparent. After the execution of Savonarola in May 1498, Ficino wrote a defense against him, in which he noted with satisfaction that divine mercy had fortunately recently "freed the city from this plague". On October 1st, 1499 he died in his villa in Careggi. His epitaph is in the Florence Cathedral.

Marsilio Ficino in the Florence manuscript, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana , Plut. 82.15, fol. 1r (15th century)
One page of a manuscript from Plotinus Enneades with notes in the margin by Ficino. This copy of the Greek text, made in 1460 by the scribe Johannes Skutariotes, was Ficino's personal copy. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France , Gr. 1816


Relationship to tradition

Ficino's life's work, which was untypical for a Renaissance humanist, consisted mainly in the establishment of a philosophical-theological system in which Platonic (especially Neoplatonic) teachings were intended to underpin Christian beliefs. He shared the conviction with many neo-Platonists from late antiquity and also with Giovanni Pico della Mirandola that there are universal truths in metaphysics , cosmology and anthropology , which in principle are accessible to all seekers of wisdom. According to this view, the eternal truths in different cultures and traditions were recognized by the leading philosophers of the time, or revealed to them by divine side, or they were imparted to the wisdom teachers of later cultures by those of the earlier. According to this, some philosophical and religious teachings from different epochs and regions of the world agree in certain objectively correct core statements ( natural theology ). These doctrines are referred to with terms such as “ancient wisdom”, their non-Christian preachers as “ancient theologians” (prisci theologi) . According to this interpretation of the history of philosophy, there is a human legacy of secured metaphysical knowledge. Later, in the 16th century, the term Philosophia perennis was coined for it.

Ficino considered a certain group of religious and philosophical currents (Platonism, Pythagoreanism , Orphicism , Hermetics , Christian Neoplatonism, Zoroastrianism ) to be divinely inspired. The striking similarities between the Christian theologian Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita and non-Christian Neoplatonists such as Plotinus and Proclus , which reinforced his view, he attributed to the fact that Dionysius was a student of the Apostle Paul and influenced the non-Christian Neoplatonists of the late Roman Empire have. Although there were already doubts about the authenticity of the writings of the alleged Dionysius in the 15th century, Ficino did not know that these works were in fact only created in late antiquity and that the influence took place in the opposite direction. In Plotinus he saw not only a legitimate heir to Plato, who reproduced his doctrine as authentically as if Plato himself spoke through his mouth, but also a thinker who occasionally even surpassed Plato in depth of philosophical insight. Platonism received its most venerable form in the work of the apostle student Dionysius. Ficino often referred to the church father Augustine , who was strongly influenced by the Platonic world of thought, and occasionally also to Nikolaus von Kues .

Soul teaching

Ficino's thinking revolved around the soul , with the human rational soul in mind. He tried to philosophically fathom their essence, their position in the cosmos and their determination within the framework of the world order. A central concern for him was the proof of their individual immortality, because this assumption stands or falls both the Platonic anthropology and the ecclesiastical teaching of the soul at that time. In addition, it was in keeping with the concept of mankind of his epoch to assign a high priority to individuality and to emphasize the uniqueness of the individual human existence. The doctrine of immortality was supported by a broad consensus of theologians during Ficino's lifetime, but was not yet a binding church dogma; it was only raised to this rank in 1513 at the Lateran Council . In his defense of individual immortality, Ficino turned against the notions of Aristotelians like Alexander of Aphrodisias , who declared an existence of the soul independent of the body to be impossible, and especially against Averroism , a variant of Aristotelianism still widespread in Italy in the 15th century. This criticism was not directed against Aristotle himself. The Averroists were of the opinion that the human spiritual souls are not individual individual substances, but rather only a single, universally active intellect manifests itself everywhere in individuals. Accordingly, the already apparent individuality disappears with death and personal immortality is excluded. Ficino's argument is based in particular on the train of thought that the soul can grasp the immaterial and the eternal (like Platonic ideas ) thinking; Their access to such knowledge presupposes that it is itself of the same quality as these possible objects of knowledge and thus immortal. For Ficino the soul is neither extended nor compound nor localized; Spatial and temporal determinations are not properties of things, but mental categories.

With regard to the position of the soul in the hierarchically ordered cosmos, Ficino emphasizes its mediating position in the middle between the spiritual (metaphysical) and the sensual world. He expresses this middle position through a symmetry in that he assumes two levels above the soul, God and the pure spirit beings (angels), and below it also two levels, quality and (at the bottom) matter. In this way he deviates from Plotin's system, in which a quality level is not provided. He understands “quality” as an active force in physical objects that causes their physical interaction. He considers such a force necessary, since he does not find the mere mass as the cause sufficient. With this he turns against the atomism of Democritus and the Epicureans . For him, the mediating role of the soul results from the fact that the soul on the one hand carries the images (imagines) of divine things and on the other hand also the concepts and archetypes (rationes et exemplaria) of the sense objects, whereby it even creates the latter itself. It is dependent on the superior, downwards it is regulating and creatively active; from the highest to the lowest, everything is accessible to her. Things not only belong to it, but are also constituted by it. So it is the center of the universe and the bond of all things. With the tasks that fall to her through this position and function, she gains a dynamic quality.

The beginning of Ficino's preface to his Latin translation of Plotin's Enneades in the dedication copy for Lorenzo il Magnifico. Florence manuscript, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 82.10, fol. 3r. Illumination by Attavante degli Attavanti

According to Ficino's conviction, which he shares with Plotinus, the goal of the soul is to ascend into the spiritual, divine realm and ultimately to “become God”. He regards the intellect and the will as the two wings with which the soul soars. He thinks that this striving is as natural to humans as it is to birds to fly. However, humans cannot achieve the goal with their own means, but need divine help for it. One difference to Plotinus is that Ficino trusts the human intellect more than the ancient Greeks. While for Plotinus the comprehension of the one that the Christian Neoplatonists identify with the biblical God takes place beyond thinking, since the one is inaccessible to thought, Ficino believes that philosophical thinking can reach God, if not in a perfect way. He does not distinguish the knowledge of God in principle from other acts of knowledge.

A prerequisite for the ascent of the soul and its deification is a purification process in which it gradually frees itself from the sensual-material influences. The highest level of this purification process is only achieved through divine grace; external works and merits are irrelevant.

Will and platonic love

Ficino assigns a far more essential role than thought to love and will. He regards love as an affect of the will. He argues that thinking grasps its object in the imaginary way of thinking, whereas the will puts itself in the object, so grasps it in the way of the object itself and thus reaches it better. However, Ficino only worked out this voluntaristic position, which assumes a priority of the will over the intellect, in the course of his philosophical development, starting from an original intellectualism . In a later phase he changed his view again and tried to understand the will as a form of alienation and a mode of action of the intellect.

In love he sees - also following the Platonic tradition - the decisive driving force for the soul's ascent to God. This function of love is what is meant when he writes about “Socratic” or (less often) “Platonic” love. The modern, trivialized expression “ platonic love ” goes back to this term, popularized by Ficino , which, however, has only a slight resemblance to what was meant by Plato and Ficino. Ficino is of the opinion that human love is always directed towards the divine and therefore love for a person is also aimed at the divine in this person and thus ultimately at God. He fundamentally deviates from the ancient Neoplatonic view in that for him love is not exclusively a striving from the lower to the higher, but there is also a love of the higher to the lower, God to the world. In this sense, Ficino interprets creation as an act of divine will in which the love of God emerges from itself and communicates itself, as it corresponds to the essence of love in general. This self-emptying of God, which creates the creatures, leads to a circular motion sequence, at the end of which the creatures are led back to their divine ground, with which the divine love then returns to itself. Following a traditional Pythagorean-Neoplatonic view, Ficino gives love a cosmic dimension by declaring it to be the ruling power in the whole universe. He claims that no part of creation can be hostile to another, and even when living beings destroy others (for example for the purpose of their own nourishment), the motive is not hostility but self-love. He regards the bad as only seemingly existing; he regards it as a mere lack, as a limitation of a certain good as a result of insufficient participation of something that seems "bad" in it. Accordingly, everything that exists is in itself and originally good, and nothing that is present is superfluous or void. The human will is always directed towards the good; however, he does not always aim for the best, for he sometimes mistakenly gives preference to subordinate goods.

Heavenly and earthly love. Painting by Titian , around 1515, Borghese Gallery , Rome

Ficino also expressly includes Eros in his concept of love, which focuses on earthly, physical beauty. As a humanist, he thus ties in with the ancient striving for beauty. Although he sees dangers in eroticism, the basic medieval mistrust of beauty in the sensory world as a distraction from God is alien to him. Rather, he also considers the appreciation of such beauty to be a way to God, because one can progress from physical beauty to spiritual, which consists in virtue and wisdom, and from there again to reach higher levels. His understanding of erotic relationships is influenced by Provencal and Tuscan love poetry, especially by Guido Cavalcanti ( dolce stil nuovo ), whose descendant Giovanni Cavalcanti, who was also a poet, was one of Ficino's closest friends. Guido Cavalcanti's pessimistic, naturalistic theory of love complements Ficino by adding to the earthly love, which the poet describes and analyzes, a heavenly love in the Platonic sense. He agrees with Cavalcanti's interpretation of an eroticism limited to earthly goals as illness and clouding of the mind. In his opinion, however, analogous to sensual desire, a spiritual striving for love arises in the will, which is "completely alien to the business of the body". Both begin with the gaze (“All love has its origin in sight”), but then lead in different directions.

Theory of Beauty and Art

According to Ficino's theory, divine beauty in the area of ​​the sensually perceptible is mostly and most impressively shown as harmony (concinnitas) of individual parts of the composite, i.e. as well-proportioned human shape, as a harmonious combination of colors and contours or as musical echo through the harmony of several voices.

One objection to this consideration already raised by Plotinus is that beauty defined as harmony of parts cannot exist in the simple. It cannot therefore be of divine origin, since the divine is primarily characterized by simplicity and parts can only exist in multiplicity. Therefore, Plotinus does not define beauty as the harmony of the parts, but also and even primarily ascribes beauty to the unassembled. Ficino, who sees beauty in the realm of the sensually perceptible primarily as harmony, is looking for another way out of this dilemma. He basically considers beauty to be something that is not taken from the senses, but rather what the human mind itself generates by being stimulated by sensory perception to turn to its own incorporeal beauty. Through the interaction of imagination and memory, the soul is able to emancipate itself from an imitation of the sense objects and to create more perfect beauty than that which it finds in the outside world. For Ficino, the beauty of the cosmos is the “splendor of the good ” (God), which triggers the striving for union with the good in the viewer. He is convinced that since the good shows itself in the beauty, one can only gain access to the knowledge of the good through the beautiful. In the beginning the imagination plays an important role, but because of its confusion and its connection to received sensory impressions it is unsuitable for higher knowledge and the vision of God.

Ficino sees the task of the beautiful, to lead the soul to God, especially fulfilled in art. He requires the artist to orient himself towards the Platonic idea on which the respective work of art is based. The artist does not need to limit himself to a representation of visible nature, but can imitate the creator, improve and complete the works of nature with his products and thus surpass what is given by nature. This is done by recourse to the idea, which also underlies natural things, but is expressed in a less perfect way by these works of "lower nature" than by a work of art whose author has direct intellectual access to the idea.


Ficino in Jean-Jacques Boissard's Bibliotheca chalcographica , 1669

Ficino was highly regarded among his humanist contemporaries. His admirers included Johannes Reuchlin , who visited him in Florence, and Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples . He was considered the leading Platonist of his time, and his lasting influence ensured that the image of Plato remained Neo-Platonic in the following generations. Among his students, Francesco Cattani da Diacceto († 1522) made a particular contribution to the survival of his ideas. Giovanni Corsi (1472–1547), a pupil of Diacceto (not Ficino), wrote a Latin biography of Ficino in 1506. A vicious opponent of Ficino, however, was the poet Luigi Pulci , who made him the target of his ridicule in sonnets . Paracelsus praised Ficino's achievements as a medical writer by giving him first place among the doctors in Italy. Giordano Bruno took numerous suggestions from Ficino's works.

The Sibyl of Delphi in Michelangelo's ceiling painting in the Sistine Chapel

In the image program of the ceiling painting of the Sistine Chapel , various scholars identify influences from Ficino. Michelangelo probably got to know him personally in his youth in Florence; his theological advisor was the Prior General of the Augustinian order Aegidius de Viterbo , a follower of Christian Neoplatonism, as Ficino taught him. With the depiction of pagan sibyls , on an equal footing with the Old Testament prophets , Michelangelo wanted to express in the sense of the philosophia perennis that Christianity had fulfilled both the ancient Israeli and the Greek prophecies. The individual tableaus would then stand for the ascent of the human soul, trapped in corporeality and vice, back to its divine origin, from the drunkenness of Noah , the Flood and the Fall, through the creation of Adam, which emphasizes the image of God, to the separation of light from darkness on the first day .

In France, Ficino was valued around Queen Margaret of Navarre , and his philosophy was also well received by Jean Bodin and the group of poets La Pléiade . Complete editions of his works were published in Basel in 1561 and 1576, and another was printed in Paris in 1641; all three are flawed and incomplete.

For the “ Cambridge Platonists ” of the 17th century, including Henry More , Ficino's ideas were one of the foundations of their worldview. Leibniz, on the other hand, criticized the Neoplatonic tradition, namely Plotinus and Ficino; he said that this direction was concerned with unreal theological speculation.

When scientific research began to distinguish sharply between the original doctrine of Plato and the later development of Platonism at the beginning of modernity , Ficino was no longer perceived as a faithful interpreter of Plato. This increasingly brought his importance as an independent thinker into focus. In the 20th century, Paul Oskar Kristeller was the leading Ficino researcher; With numerous publications he created the basis for the modern understanding of Ficino's life, work and aftermath. James Hankins , whose research sheds light on Ficino's relationship to his many conversation and correspondence partners, friends and students , also made a significant contribution .

Text editions and translations


  • Marsilio Ficino: Opera omnia . 2 volumes (volume 1 in two parts), Bottega d'Erasmo, Torino 1959–1962 (reprint of the complete edition Basel 1576)
  • Paul Oskar Kristeller (Ed.): Supplementum Ficinianum. Marsilii Ficini Florentini philosophi Platonici opuscula inedita et dispersa . 2 volumes, Olschki, Firenze 1973 (reprint of the Firenze 1937 edition; critical edition of source texts as well as works by Ficino not included in the older complete editions)
  • Eugenio Garin (ed.): Prosatori latini del quattrocento . Ricciardi, Milano 1952 (contains pp. 927–1009 Marsilio Ficino: De raptu Pauli and De sole , Latin text and Italian translation)
  • Elisabeth Blum, Paul Richard Blum , Thomas Leinkauf (eds.): Marsilio Ficino: Treatises on the Platonic philosophy . Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-05-002362-7 (Latin text and German translation of: Argumentum in Platonicam theologiam , Compendium Platonicae theologiae , Quaestiones quinque de mente , Quid est felicitas, quod habet gradus, quod est eterna )

Comments from Plato

  • Arthur Farndell: Gardens of Philosophy. Ficino on Plato . Shepheard-Walwyn, London 2006, ISBN 978-0-85683-240-6 (English translation of Ficino's summary introductions to Plato's dialogues and brief commentaries on letters ascribed to Plato)
  • Pierre Laurens (ed.): Marsile Ficin: Commentaire sur le Banquet de Platon, De l'amour. Commentarium in convivium Platonis, De amore . Les Belles Lettres, Paris 2002, ISBN 2-251-34459-4 (critical edition of the symposium commentary based on the autograph, with French translation)
  • Paul Richard Blum (ed.): Marsilio Ficino: About love or Plato's banquet . Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-7873-1670-1 (uncritical edition of the Latin text with the German translation made by Karl Paul Hasse in 1914)
  • Sandra Niccoli (Ed.): Marsilio Ficino: El Libro dell 'Amore . Olschki, Firenze 1987, ISBN 88-222-3518-5 (critical edition of Ficino's Italian version of his symposium commentary)
  • Michael JB Allen (Ed.): Marsilio Ficino: Commentaries on Plato , Volume 1: Phaedrus and Ion . Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2008, ISBN 978-0-674-03119-7 (critical edition with English translation)
  • Maude Vanhaelen (Ed.): Marsilio Ficino: Commentaries on Plato , Volume 2: Parmenides. 2 parts. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2012, ISBN 978-0-674-03119-7 for Part 1, ISBN 978-0-674-06472-0 for Part 2 (Latin text and English translation)
  • Michael JB Allen (Ed.): Marsilio Ficino: The Philebus Commentary . University of California Press, Berkeley 1975, ISBN 0-520-02503-2 (critical edition of Ficino's commentary on Plato's Philebos with English translation)
  • Michael JB Allen: Icastes: Marsilio Ficino's Interpretation of Plato's Sophist . University of California Press, Berkeley 1989, ISBN 0-520-06419-4 (contains pp. 211-287 a critical edition of Ficino's commentary on Plato's Sophistes with English translation)
  • Michael JB Allen (Ed.): Nuptial Arithmetic. Marsilio Ficino's Commentary on the Fatal Number in Book VIII of Plato's Republic . University of California Press, Berkeley 1994, ISBN 0-520-08143-9 (contains pp. 147-254 a critical edition of Ficino's Latin translation of a section of Book 8 of Plato's Politeia and his commentary on it, with English translation)

Theologia Platonica

  • Michael JB Allen, James Hankins (Eds.): Marsilio Ficino: Platonic Theology . 6 volumes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 2001–2006 (critical edition with English translation)
  • Raymond Marcel (ed.): Marsile Ficin: Théologie Platonicienne de l'immortalité des âmes . 3 volumes, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1964–1970 (critical edition with French translation)

Plotinous comment

  • Stephen Gersh (Ed.): Marsilio Ficino: Commentary on Plotinus. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 2017 ff. (Critical edition with English translation and investigation; previously published: Volume 4, 2017 and Volume 5, 2018)


  • Sebastiano Gentile (ed.): Marsilio Ficino: Lettere . Olschki, Firenze (critical edition)
    • Volume 1: Epistolarum familiarium liber I , 1990
    • Volume 2: Epistolarum familiarium liber II , 2010
  • The Letters of Marsilio Ficino. Translated from the Latin by members of the Language Department of the School of Economic Science, London . Shepheard-Walwyn, London 1975 ff. (8 volumes published so far)
  • Karl von Montoriola: Letters of the Medical Circle from Marsilio Ficino's Epistolarium . Axel Juncker Verlag, Berlin 1926 (letters from and to Ficino in German translation)

De vita

  • Carol V. Kaske, John R. Clark (Eds.): Marsilio Ficino: Three Books on Life . State University of New York at Binghamton, Binghamton (NY) 1989 (critical edition with English translation)
  • Dieter Benesch (Ed.): Marsilio Ficino's 'De triplici vita' (Florence 1489) in German arrangements and translations. Edition of the Codex palatinus germanicus 730 and 452 . Peter Lang, Frankfurt a. M. 1977, ISBN 3-261-02219-1
  • Thierry Gontier (Ed.): Marsile Ficin: Les trois livres de la vie . Fayard, Paris 2000, ISBN 2-213-60692-7 (new edition of the French translation by Guy Le Fèvre de la Boderie, Paris 1582)
  • Martin Plessner , Felix Klein-Franke (eds.): Marsilius Ficinus: De vita libri tres. Olms, Hildesheim / New York 1978, ISBN 3-487-06354-9 (reprint of the Venice 1498 edition with critical apparatus and explanatory notes)

Consiglio contro la pestilenza

  • Enrico Musacchio (ed.): Marsilio Ficino: Consilio contro la pestilenzia . Cappelli, Bologna 1983

De voluptate

  • Piero Cigada: Marsilio Ficino: Il libro del piacere. Apologhi sulla voluttà . 2 volumes, Philobyblon, Milano 1991 (Italian translation of Ficino's writing De voluptate , "About lust")

Translations of and commentaries on the writings of (pseudo-) Dionysius Areopagita

  • Michael JB Allen (Ed.): Marsilio Ficino: On Dionysius the Areopagite. 2 volumes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2015, ISBN 978-0-674-05835-4 for Volume 1, ISBN 978-0-674-74379-3 for Volume 2 (Latin text and English translation)


  • Rosario Pintaudi (ed.): Marsilio Ficino: Lessico greco-latino. Laur. Ashb. 1439 . Edizioni dell'Ateneo & Bizzarri, Rome 1977 (critical edition of a Greek-Latin dictionary created by Ficino)


Overall presentation


  • Tamara Albertini: Marsilio Ficino. The problem of mediating thought and the world in a metaphysics of simplicity . Fink, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7705-3225-2 .
  • Bettina Dietrich: Representation of Simplicity. The idea of ​​the beautiful in Marsilio Ficino's foundation of a metaphysics of the mind . Fink, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-7705-3480-8 .
  • Maria-Christine Leitgeb: Concordia mundi. Plato's Symposium and Marsilio Ficino's Philosophy of Love . Holzhausen, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-85493-171-3 .
  • Wolfgang Scheuermann-Peilicke: Light and Love. Light metaphor and metaphysics with Marsilio Ficino . Olms, Hildesheim 2000, ISBN 3-487-11232-9 .

Collections of articles

  • Michael JB Allen, Valery Rees (Eds.): Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, his Philosophy, his Legacy . Brill, Leiden 2002, ISBN 90-04-11855-1 .
  • Matthias Bloch, Burkhard Mojsisch (Hrsg.): Potentials of the human mind: freedom and creativity. Practical Aspects of Philosophy Marsilio Ficinos (1433–1499). Steiner, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-515-08096-1
  • Stephen Clucas et al. a. (Ed.): Laus Platonici Philosophi. Marsilio Ficino and his Influence. Brill, Leiden / Boston 2011, ISBN 978-90-04-18897-6
  • Jutta Eming, Michael Dallapiazza (Ed.): Marsilio Ficino in Germany and Italy. Renaissance magic between science and literature. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2017, ISBN 978-3-447-10828-7
  • Sebastiano Gentile, Stéphane Toussaint (eds.): Marsilio Ficino: fonti, testi, fortuna. Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Roma 2006, ISBN 978-88-8498-364-0 .
  • James Hankins: Humanism and Platonism in the Italian Renaissance. Volume 2: Platonism . Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Rome 2004, ISBN 88-8498-167-0 , pp. 187–395, 417–469 (contains several essays on Ficino and his environment, some of which are fundamental for recent research)


  • Accademia: Revue de la Société Marsile Ficin. Vol. 1 ff., 1999 ff., ISSN  1296-7645 (annually with a regular bibliography on Ficino).

Web links

Commons : Marsilio Ficino  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Marsilio Ficino: Opera omnia , Volume 2, Torino 1962 (reprint of the Basel 1576 edition), p. 1537.
  2. James Hankins expresses skepticism: The Myth of the Platonic Academy . In: James Hankins: Humanism and Platonism in the Italian Renaissance , Volume 2, Rome 2004, pp. 185–395, here: 194–210. He thinks that the term “academy” does not mean an institution to be founded in Florence, but only the project of a Plato translation planned by Cosimo.
  3. Marsilio Ficino: Opera omnia , Volume 1, Torino 1959 (reprint of the Basel 1576 edition), p. 618.
  4. ^ Tamara Albertini: Marsilio Ficino. The problem of conveying thought and the world in a metaphysics of simplicity , Munich 1997, p. 64 f .; For a detailed account of Tignosi's role, see Arthur Field: The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence , Princeton 1988, pp. 138–158.
  5. James Hankins: Plato in the Italian Renaissance , 3rd edition, Leiden 1994, pp. 457-459; Arthur Field: The Origins of the Platonic Academy of Florence , Princeton 1988, pp. 183-185.
  6. ^ Paul Oskar Kristeller: Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters , Rome 1969, pp. 195 f.
  7. On the date (the date 1462 often given in the literature for the gift in Careggi is incorrect) see James Hankins: The Myth of the Platonic Academy . In: James Hankins: Humanism and Platonism in the Italian Renaissance , Volume 2, Rome 2004, pp. 185–395, here: 196.
  8. See Arne Malmsheimer: Plato's 'Parmenides' and Marsilio Ficino's 'Parmenides' commentary. A critical comparison , Amsterdam 2001, pp. 195–305.
  9. James Hankins: Humanism and Platonism in the Italian Renaissance , Volume 2, Rome 2004, pp. 185–395. Hankins points out on p. 364 that the prominent Ficino researcher Paul Oskar Kristeller accepted this research result by letter.
  10. Peter Thomas: The astromedicine of the philosopher and doctor Marsilio Ficino. A Contribution to Medical Thought in the Age of the Renaissance. Medical dissertation, Münster 1970.
  11. ^ Tamara Albertini: Marsilio Ficino. The problem of mediating thought and the world in a metaphysics of simplicity , Munich 1997, pp. 50–53.
  12. On this project see Raymond Marcel: Marsile Ficin (1433–1499) , Paris 1958, p. 541 f .; on the commentary on Paul Josef Nolte: Pauli Mysteria. On the theological epistemology of Marsilio Ficino based on his Proöm of a commentary on Paul . In: Helmut Feld, Josef Nolte (ed.): Word of God in Time. Festschrift Karl Hermann Schelkle for his 65th birthday presented by colleagues, friends and students , Düsseldorf 1973, pp. 274–287.
  13. ^ Marsilio Ficino: Apologia contra Savonarolam . In: Paul Oskar Kristeller (ed.): Supplementum Ficinianum , Vol. 2, Firenze 1937 (reprint 1973), pp. 76–79, here: 78: qua quidem peste nuper nos divina clementia […] feliciter liberavit .
  14. On the concept of the “old theologians” see Cesare Vasoli: Quasi sit deus. Studi su Marsilio Ficino , Lecce 1999, pp. 11-50; Michael JB Allen: Synoptic Art. Marsilio Ficino on the History of Platonic Interpretation , Firenze 1998, pp. 1-49.
  15. Michael JB Allen: Synoptic Art. Marsilio Ficino on the History of Platonic Interpretation , Firenze 1998, pp. 67-73.
  16. Marsilio Ficino: Opera omnia , Volume 2, Torino 1962 (reprint of the Basel 1576 edition), p. 1548: nonnunquam ferme profundiorem .
  17. Marsilio Ficino: Opera omnia , Volume 1, Torino 1959 (reprint of the Basel 1576 edition), p. 925.
  18. For his isolated remarks on the irrational functions of the soul and their relationship to the rational, see Ardis B. Collins: The Secular is Sacred. Platonism and Thomism in Marsilio Ficino's Platonic Theology , Den Haag 1974, p. 12, note 11.
  19. Denzinger-Hünermann 1440.
  20. ^ Marsilio Ficino: Theologia Platonica 11.1 (edition Allen / Hankins vol. 3 p. 202).
  21. ^ Marsilio Ficino: Theologia Platonica 1,2 (edition Allen / Hankins vol. 1 p. 22).
  22. ^ Marsilio Ficino: Theologia Platonica 3.2 (Allen / Hankins edition, vol. 1, p. 242).
  23. Marsilio Ficino: Theologia Platonica 14,1 (edition Allen / Hankins vol. 4 p. 220): Totus igitur animae nostrae conatus est, ut deus efficiatur. On the divinity of man in Ficino's anthropology see Jörg Lauster: The theory of redemption Marsilio Ficino. Theological-historical aspects of Renaissance Platonism , Berlin 1998, pp. 47–54.
  24. See also Clemens Zintzen: Ut deus efficiatur. The rise of the soul in Plotinus and Ficino . In: Clemens Zintzen: Athens - Rome - Florence. Selected small writings , Hildesheim 2000, pp. 441–447.
  25. ^ Marsilio Ficino: De felicitate (edition Blum / Leinkauf pp. 246–248).
  26. Achim Wurm: Platonicus amor. Readings of love in Plato, Plotinus and Ficino , Berlin 2008, pp. 154–156.
  27. ^ Paul Oskar Kristeller: The Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino , Frankfurt am Main 1972, pp. 265-271; Achim Wurm: Platonicus amor. Readings of love in Plato, Plotin and Ficino , Berlin 2008, p. 166 ff., 193–203.
  28. ^ Marsilio Ficino: Commentarium in convivium Platonis de amore 1,4 (Laurens edition, pp. 15-17).
  29. Bettina Dietrich: Presentation of Simplicity , Munich 2000, pp. 137–180.
  30. ^ Marsilio Ficino: Theologia Platonica 12.3 (Edition Allen / Hankins Vol. 4 pp. 38-40).
  31. Wolfgang Scheuermann-Peilicke: Light and Love , Hildesheim 2000, pp. 179, 205-209.
  32. On Ficino's Philosophy of Art, see André Chastel: Marsile Ficin et l'art , 3rd edition, Genève 1996, pp. 65 ff.
  33. On this polemic see Raymond Marcel: Marsile Ficin (1433–1499) , Paris 1958, pp. 420–433.
  34. Dieter Benesch (ed.): Marsilio Ficino's 'De triplici vita' (Florence 1489) in German arrangements and translations. Edition of the Codex palatinus germanicus 730 and 452 , Frankfurt a. M. 1977, p. 8; Ingo Schütze: To the Ficino reception at Paracelsus. In: Joachim Telle (Ed.): Parerga Paracelsica. Paracelsus in the past and present. Stuttgart 1992, pp. 39-44.
  35. On Bruno's Ficino reception see Tamara Albertini: Marsilio Ficino. The problem of conveying thought and the world in a metaphysics of simplicity , Munich 1997, p. 33 and the literature mentioned there, note 48.
  36. Jörg Lauster : The enchantment of the world. A cultural history of Christianity. Munich 2014, p. 284 ff.
  37. See André-Jean Festugière : La philosophie de l'amour de Marsile Ficin et son influence sur la littérature française au XVIe siècle , Paris 1941, p. 63 ff. On the beginnings of Ficino reception in France see Cesare Vasoli: Ficino , Savonarola, Machiavelli. Studi di storia della cultura , Torino 2006, pp. 151-169.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 23, 2009 .