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On Human Worth and Excellence

On Human Worth and Excellence

Giannozzo Manetti

Edited and translated by Brian P. Copenhaver

ISBN 9780674984585

Publication date: 03/04/2019

Giannozzo Manetti (1396–1459) was a celebrated diplomat, historian, philosopher, and humanist scholar of the early Renaissance who mastered ancient Greek and Hebrew as well as classical Latin. In this treatise, dedicated to Alfonso of Aragon, King of Naples, Manetti addresses a question central to the anthropology of the Renaissance: what are the moral, intellectual, and spiritual capabilities of the unique amalgam of body and soul that constitutes human nature? The treatise takes issue with a popular work of medieval asceticism, On the Misery of the Human Condition, written by none other than Innocent III, one of the greatest of medieval popes. The pope’s diatribe expresses a revulsion against human nature and argues for the futility of ambition, the emptiness of pleasures, and the ultimate worthlessness of human achievements. Manetti’s treatise presents a comprehensive refutation of the pope’s pessimism, sometimes citing the achievements of the Renaissance as evidence for the potential divinity of human nature and its extraordinary capabilities. This edition contains the first complete translation into English.

Praise

  • Readers can now find a concise yet clear and informative assessment of the Giannozzo–Lotario controversy in Copenhaver’s introductory essay and in the many notes to his English translation. The latter is an excellent example of stylistic ability founded on solid scholarship. These two qualities make it possible for Copenhaver to render Manetti’s Ciceronian (and often quite involuted) Latin syntax into both refined and precise English prose…Copenhaver’s outstanding scholarship and the spirit of intellectual generosity pervad[e] this entire book.

    —Stefano U. Baldassarri, Renaissance Quarterly

Author

  • Brian P. Copenhaver is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and History at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he directed the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, editor of History of Philosophy Quarterly, past president of the Journal of the History of Philosophy, and on the boards of Harvard’s I Tatti Renaissance Library and the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Getty foundations and has authored many books, including Hermetica, The Book of Magic, and Magic in Western Culture.

Book Details

  • 416 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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