Annalisa Ceron:
Philosophy as a Way of Life: Remarks on Leon Battista Alberti’s Theogenius

Part of the Lecture Series Alberti Revisited: Art – Ethics – Politics
Organized by Hana Gründler, Katharine Stahlbuhk, and Giulia Baldelli

Leon Battista Alberti’s Theogenius revived and revised the ancient view developed in the Hellenistic age according to which philosophy aims to form rather than inform people, showing them how to cultivate a specific attitude towards existence through a rational comprehension of the nature of humanity and its place in the cosmos. This view of philosophy as a way of life was challenged by the development of scholastic philosophy, seen as a body of speculative doctrines and professional skills (ancillary to the superior wisdom of theology). Nevertheless, it survived thanks to Renaissance humanists like Petrarch, Alberti, Erasmus, and Montaigne. In the Theogenius, Alberti deals critically not only with the Stoic idea that philosophy is a way of life as it is a medicine of the mind, but also with the version of it put forward by Petrarch in his De remediis utriusque fortunae. If the Theogenius is analysed together with the Profugiorum ab erumna libri III and some related Intercenales, it is possible to show that the novelty of Alberti’s reflections lies not in his pessimistic diagnosis of the human condition, which intertwines the disquiet caused by the inconstancy of fortune with the natural instability of the mind, but rather on his ironic conception of the therapy: unlike the Stoics, Alberti does not believe in the possibility of finding a definitive cure for human suffering.

Annalisa Ceron (PhD in History of Philosophy, University of Macerata), is Assistant Professor in History of Political Doctrines at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Milan. Her main research focuses on ancient, modern, and contemporary conceptions of (political) friendship, but her field of investigation includes the roles and functions of counsellors in early modern and period (with particular attention to the specula principum written before and after Machiavelli’s Prince), the so called querelle des femmes, and the history of women's political thought. A long chapter of her first monograph on friendship – L'amicizia civile e gli amici del principe. Lo spazio politico dell'amicizia nel pensiero del Quattrocento (Eum, Macerata 2011) – was dedicated to Alberti's Libri della famiglia. Her further studies on Alberti’s Italian dialogues resulted in an article on Alberti’s Theogenius published in The Journal of Early Modern Studies. She published articles on different topics in Rinascimento, Storica, Storia del pensiero politico as well as in History of European Ideas and History of Political Thought. Her most recent publications are the monograph Le amicizie degli Antichi e dei Moderni (ETS, Pisa 2020) and the chapter on Moderata Fonte in the volume Women, Philosophy and Science edited by Gianni Paganini and Sabrina Ebbersmayer (Springer, Cham 2020).


This talk is part of the lecture series »Alberti Revisited: Art – Ethics – Politics« organized by Hana Gründler, Katharine Stahlbuhk, and Giulia Baldelli

Against the backdrop of the 550th anniversary of Leon Battista Alberti's death and the publication of the first German edition of and commentary on his dialogue Della tranquillità dell'animo in April 2022 the lecture series Alberti Revisited will focus on the artistic, ethico-aesthetic, linguistic and socio-political implications of his oeuvre. Thus, the intertextual and interdisciplinary complexity of Alberti's thought as well as his relationship with the cultural dynamics of his time will be examined from a variety of perspectives and, not least, Alberti's topicality will be critically analysed. The invited speakers come from the fields of art and architectural history, history, philology, and philosophy.

21. Juni 2022, 18:30 Uhr

This event will take place online.

To participate online please register in advance via Zoom: 

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