Twenty-third Annual Margaret Mann Phillips Lecture: Pagan Philosophy and Patristics in Erasmus and His Contemporaries
As admirers of the classical past, Renaissance humanists were frequently faced with the problem of how to deal with those aspects of ancient culture, such as pagan philosophy, which presented serious challenges to their sincerely held Christian beliefs. In seeking to resolve this longstanding dilemma, many humanists looked to the Church Fathers, who offered them a variety of different approaches to the issue. These ranged from highlighting the compatibility of certain philosophical schools with Christian theology to rejecting the ancient philosophical heritage in part or in its entirety. This article explores the interaction between pagan philosophy and patristics in Renaissance thought, focusing in particular on the role which each played in the intellectual activity of Erasmus and those of his contemporaries who remained within the Catholic fold, and attempting to determine the extent to which the project to restore these two bodies of writing occupied common ground in the humanist program for the recovery of antiquity.