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Why Translate Plato? The Answer of the Renaissance Platonist Ficino

Song Euree 1

1경희대학교

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ABSTRACT

Marsilio Ficino is considered to be a central figure of the Florentine Academy, who contributed to the revival of Platonism in the Renaissance by translating Plato’s complete works and other major Platonists’ writings into Latin. But why did he translate Plato and his followers? The aim of this paper is to elucidate what kind of Platonism Ficino tried to revive and why. For this purpose, I draw attention in particular to the ‘prefaces’ of his translations, commentaries or treatises. Ficino’s prefaces show the objectives and intentions of his publications and the meaning and the role which he attributed to Platonism. We begin with a brief look at the main features of Renaissance humanism which forms a background to Ficino’s Platonism. In this connection, we consider what he understood by ‘humanitas’, a key concept of Renaissance humanism. We then turn to Ficino’s prefaces and some other writings, which lead to the conclusion that the Platonism sought by Ficino is a ‘pious philosophy’ or theology, even a philosophical religion. In order to elaborate this interpretation, we first clarify the conceptions of ‘prisca theologia’ and ‘common religion’, which Ficino used to situate Platonism in the tradition of pagan religion. Next, we investigate how Ficino, as both a Platonist and a Christian, conceived of the relationship between Platonism and Christianity. It is shown that Ficino found in Platonism a philosophical means for preparing ‘intelligent’ people for Christianity. Yet, in his attempt to appropriate Platonism in a Christian way, he seemed eventually to Platonize his own vision of Christianity.

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