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A sixteenth-century Neoplatonic synthesis: Francesco Piccolomini's theory of mathematics and imagination in the Academicae contemplationes


The metamathematical framework of the early modern period is primarily determined by two presuppositions stemming from the Aristotelian tradition: (1) mathematical objects are abstracted from sensible matter; (2) imagination is a reproductive faculty exclusively connected with the sensible realm. The recovery of the works of the Greek commentators confronted the early modern readers with rivalling philosophical–mathematical views that explicitly called into question some of their previously undisputed assumptions. In this article I will argue that Francesco Piccolomini (1523–1607) in his Academicae contemplationes brings about an original fusion of these colliding horizons, by transposing the synthesis established by (?)Simplicius between Aristotelian abstractionism and Neoplatonic innatism into the sixteenth century.

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Guy Claessens , ‘Imagination as self-knowledge: Kepler on Proclus’ Commentary on the First Book of Euclid's Elements’, Early Science and Medicine (2011) 16, pp. 179199, 181–183

Dmitri Nikulin , ‘Imagination and mathematics in Proclus’, Ancient Philosophy (2008) 28, pp. 153172

Christopher Celenza , ‘Pythagoras in the Renaissance: the case of Marsilio Ficino’, Renaissance Quarterly (1999) 52, pp. 667711, 692–693

Guy Claessens , ‘Clavius, Proclus, and the limits of interpretation: snapshot-idealization versus projectionism’, History of Science (2009) 47, pp. 317336, 322–326

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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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