Ficino | Philosophy and Philosophers

When translating this commentary three or four years ago, the first sentence of this passage filled me with such wonder that it was not possible to proceed with the work until two hours had passed.

This sentence is a quintessential definition of philosophy and philosophers.

Arthur Farndell

 

Argumentum Marsilii Ficini in septimum librum de iusto

 Sapientes divino ingenio praediti omne mentis studium a terrenis ad coelestia, a mobilibus ad immobilia, ab his quae sentiuntur ad illa quae superant sensum, pro viribus converterunt. Considerantesque mundi machinam et unam esse, et mirabiliter ordinatam, neque tamen ex seipsa posse consistere, cum ex diversis componatur, atque mutetur, merito cognoverunt ab illo dependere, ab alio, inquam, uno, atque sapientissimo, qui et unum conficiat opus ex multis, et id unum ubique ordinet sapienter, regat praeterea et potenter, opus videlicet ingens atque multiplex, motu quidem perpetuo, atque rapidissimo, non tamen aberrante revolutum: ducat quoque benignissime singula ad bonum mirifica tum commoditate, tum facilitate currentia. Quamobrem communi quadam conceptione Deum esse pariter consenserunt, unum universi regem potentem, et sapientem, atque clementem, quem et terreni reges, rerumque publicarum gubernatores pro viribus debeant imitari. Post communem hanc de Deo conceptionem gemina rursus via ad Deum coeperunt planius atque propius proficisci: per alteram quidem negando, per alteram referendo. Nam illa quid ipsum bonum, id est, quid Deus non sit argumentantes, probaverunt neque esse quicquam ex his, quae capiuntur sensibus, neque ex his, quae mente comprehenduntur. In hac autem et creaturas ad creatorem, et vicissim creatorem referentes ad creaturas, excogitaverunt, qua ratione et creator singula faciat, atque perficiat, et creaturae ad ipsum sese vel habeant, vel imitari, vel consequi possint. Hactenus procedere philosophantis ingenium Plato noster et in Parmenide monstrat, et in libro superiore confirmat. Quod Dionysius quoque Areopagita maxime comprobat. Procedere, inquam, hucusque tum radio quodam  ab initio menti semel infuso, tum accedente lumine divinitus mentes assidue collustrante. At vero quid ipsum in se bonum sit: id est, divina substantia, quemadmodum et in Parmenide, et hic ostendit, nemo per eiusmodi vias assequi potest, solum vero per has illuc denique pervenire, ubi divinum bonum ob solam benignitatem suam amatorem suum propius accedentem, et propria luce format, et calore fovet, et potestate transformat mentem, tum demum cognoscentem Deum, cum ipsa iam facta sit Deus.

 

 

The Theme of the Seventh Book of the Republic

 The wise, being endowed with divine qualities, make every effort to turn the whole focus of their mind from the earthly to the celestial, from the moving to the still, and from what is perceived through the senses to that which transcends the senses. Holding that the organisation of the cosmos is one, that it is marvellously ordered, but that it cannot be made from itself, since it is composed from diverse elements and is subject to change, they are right to recognise that it depends on that, I mean on another One, which abounds in wisdom and which composes a single work from many elements, puts it into wise order universally and rules it with might: this vast complex work, which revolves with a movement that is perpetual and very fast but not erratic. This One also shows the greatest benevolence in guiding all things towards the Good with wonderful appropriateness and smooth ease.

   This is why they all agreed, through a common conception, that God is the one King of creation – powerful, wise, and merciful – whom earthly kings and rulers of State should strive to imitate. After this common conception of God they began to set out, quite openly and quite close together, along twin pathways to God: the pathway of negating and the pathway of relating. For by the first pathway they discussed what the Good Itself, by which they meant God, is not, and thus they showed that it is nothing that is perceived through the senses and nothing that is understood by the mind. By the second pathway, however, they related creatures to a Creator and, conversely, a Creator to creatures; and they pondered on how a Creator might make and perfect all things and how creatures might be related to the Creator or be able to imitate and attain the Creator.

   In Parmenides Plato shows what he confirms in Book Six, namely, that the mind of the student of philosophy proceeds thus far, and Dionysius the Areopagite, too, gives this his fullest approval: proceeds thus far, I say, by a ray of light imparted just once to the mind at the beginning and by the approaching light which constantly illumines minds with divine blessings. But, as Plato shows both in Parmenides and here, no one can understand through such pathways what the Good in itself actually is: the divine substance. Along these pathways one can merely reach the point at which the divine Good, through its kindly grace alone, shapes with its own radiance its ever-approaching lover, cherishes him with its warmth, and through its power transforms his mind, which finally knows God once it has become God.

 

Chosen and translated by Arthur Farndell.

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