Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund


  • Andreas Kamp
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_389


Petrarch vitally contributed to several fields that are intrinsically interconnected. The intellectual center of gravity that unified these topics was his consistent orientation on Roman antiquity.

Petrarch thoroughly and categorically excoriated the reigning Aristotelian scholastic philosophy and theology. He accused them of verbal wretchedness, scientific irrelevance, practical inefficiency, and a metaphysical and religious misorientation. He countered by developing a radically innovative philosophical program. This was thematically focused on topics concerning man, while formulating as principal goals the restitution of a sophisticated Latin, the establishment of a practically effective moral philosophy, and a return to simple faith. His examples were the great authors of Roman antiquity, including both pagan writers and Church Fathers, first and foremost among them, St Augustine, followed by Cicero, Seneca, and St Ambrose.

Petrarch was distinctly dissatisfied with his own times, both with the political state of affairs and with the intellectual status quo. His broad knowledge of classical Roman literature led to an innovative structuring of history. Petrarch divided history into antiquity, the long-running “middle”, and a future age which he hoped was soon to unfold. In its core, he thus anticipated the well-known distinction applied even today by all disciplines working in the field of history into Antiquity, Middle Ages, and Modern Times. Petrarch also organized the single eras hierarchically. Roman Antiquity figured as the shining paradigm; the Middle Ages were nothing but “dark”; and, if his philosophical and political program was put into action, the future era would shine more brightly than his “middle” age, approaching the level of antiquity.

Finally, Petrarch also developed an innovative project concerning the political state of Italy, one that was to form its future while being equally inspired by antique Rome. Petrarch’s two complimentary goals consisted of freeing Italy from foreign rule and establishing a “nationwide” unity.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Kamp
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Politische WissenschaftUniversität zu KölnCologneGermany