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Monstrous Melancholy: Ficino And The Physiological Causes Of Atheism

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Chapter Summary

Ficino was a Platonist who took Plotinus as his most important guide to the dialogues, and it is one of the hallmarks of Plotinian metaphysics that higher, immaterial things cannot be in potency to material things; causal relationships between body and soul are a one-way street. Ficino's treatment of the theme of religious melancholia leading to atheism indeed casts De vita in a rather different light and may provide a key to Ficino's motivation in writing it. Ficino's defense of religion turns Lucretius's aetiology and pathology of religion on its head. The specific excellence of the human species, the faculty that perfects it and sets it apart from the beasts, is not its ability to make objects, to govern itself, to communicate in words or to reason.

Keywords: atheism; De vita; Ficino; Lucretius; Plotinus



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