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The limits of knowledge: scholasticism and scepticism in The Book of the Courtier.

Castiglione's Courtier (1528) sets out to demonstrate that a group of predominantly aristocratic courtiers have the capacity to initiate discussions that indicate the depth and range of life at court. Through the dialogue-form, based on the literary traditions of classical antiquity and their renewal by Renaissance humanism, Castiglione embeds the court and its courtiers in a prestigious genre which confers on them an aura of eternity and the glow of authority. The text proposes itself as a modern example of literary dialogue that looks to Cicero for its validation. The court supersedes the villa as the locus for amiable but intellectualizing talk.

This essay attempts to suggest that Castiglione's particular adaptation of the dialogue-form leads to a sense of indeterminacy and uncertainty about so many of the issues raised by the courtiers. His dialogue destabilizes meaning and renders it subject to intense interpretation. (1) After all, a dialogue can most certainly arrive at conclusions through a synthesis of the diverse voices. It is not a necessary condition for the dialogue to simply record opposing or conflicting points of view without reaching a conclusion. The question is: what is the effect and purpose of Castiglione's stance in regard to the acquisition of certain knowledge? Why is it so difficult for the reader to determine which arguments carry more conviction or truth? Why are there so few indicators as to which lines of argument have the endorsement of the author or are approved by the more 'authoritative' elements of the court society represented in the text? Indeed, what are the epistemological parameters of the Courtier? As a manual for aspiring courtiers who wish to learn acceptable court behaviour, the dialogue can be said to be wanting. It does not facilitate an easy definition and practice of the rules nor does it provide a step-by-step guide to success at court. Some of the rules are hard to follow and require all the interpretative skills of the reader. Matters are made worse because the dialogue is characterized by disagreements, a lack of consensus, and the absence of a final summation or even partial judgements on individual topics of discussion.

It is the premise of this essay that Castiglione is subtly recasting forms of knowledge that are most useful and philosophically in tune with the exigencies of the courtier's situation. Surprisingly, the Courtier does not totally ignore the most basic instrument of university instruction, the scholastic debate. In fact, such a disputatio is staged in Book III in order to illustrate its limitations and to deconstruct its pretensions to absolute knowledge about the world. It will also be argued that Castiglione has adapted his understanding of scepticism to the court. Cicero was obviously a favoured author amongst humanists, but one text was not often explored nor its implications charted--the Academica, with its outline of ancient scepticism. The sceptical turn of the Courtier is considered alongside Castiglione's take on scholasticism to account for the lack of clarity and decisiveness about the rules and behaviours that characterize the dialogue.

When Federico Fregoso proposes the game of creating the perfect courtier he also recommends how it should be pursued. He suggests that one person be charged with the task of enumerating all the necessary qualities of the perfect courtier. This is a suggestion that will not be taken up by the group but Fregoso then adds some procedural advice: 'And, just as in philosophical disputations, if anything is said which does not seem appropriate, each of us may be allowed to contradict'. (2)

Fregoso is referring to the scholastic disputation practised throughout the early modern period in the universities. This comparison explicates and clarifies the rule of contradiction in the game the courtiers will play. (3) That was the essence of the disputatio, where all knowledge acquired at university was subject to systematic questioning as a compulsory component of the curriculum. (4) Fregoso indicates with precision the origins of the injunction to offer opposing arguments to every proposition, yet he misses or purposely omits one crucial aspect of the disputatio. After the arguments for and against, the response, and replies to objections, the Master pronounced on the question, providing the correct solution (determinatio). The medieval form of dialectic, as enunciated by Abelard, is important to consider since it is negated by the intellectual processes of the Courtier itself by implying that there are no pre-established answers, only the potential to construct possible, contingent responses to situations. Thus in Sic et Non, Abelard asserts 'argument is the procedure which brings a doubtful matter to a satisfactory conclusion'. That satisfactory conclusion is the Truth. (5)

Fregoso ignores the question of resolving the contradictions in order to emphasize the freedom of the courtiers to argue a point from multiple perspectives. Indeed, one of the most striking characteristics of the Courtier is its openendedness. In fact, there is no conclusion in sight: after what appears to have been the climax of the book, the participants are eager to continue their disputations on a topic (women) which had seemingly been concluded. (6)

When Fregoso alluded to the 'scole de' filosofi' (schools of philosophy) in the opening quote of this article, he conjured up a university forum and at the same time the possibility of conflicting views amongst philosophers. It is clear that Fregoso was principally alluding to professional philosophers who were inevitably Aristotelian in their methodologies and thought processes. This is a significant element in the comparison since if one remembers the Courtier for its philosophy, most readers would think of Book IV, whose subject is in part Neoplatonic love. Thus, the court is parading Neoplatonism rather than Aristotelianism as the emblem of the court's intellectual aspirations. Thus, the Courtier challenges the dominance of Aristotle and signals its distance from older, more traditional styles of thought. Indeed, none of the interlocutors is a professional philosopher. In fact, they are all amateurs who are going through their paces to demonstrate the range and depth of their knowledge in a challenge that claims superiority for the 'court style' over 'arid' university debate. There had been limited support for the scholastic disputatio from some humanists in the Quattrocento, but increasingly the tendency was to focus in on its defects. (7)

Castiglione certainly lingers over the defects of scholastic reasoning and self-consciously plays with its style of argument, particularly in Book III, to comment subtly on the querelle des femmes. The introduction of a sample of the debating procedure employed by the universities provides Castiglione with the opportunity to undermine its authority and at the same time to demonstrate the shortcomings of such a methodology. Its presence in the court ambience jars with the underlying 'philosophy' of sprezzatura. Castiglione sets up the text in such a way that it questions and destabilizes the accepted model of university debate.

Most obvious here is the fact that the disputatio takes place outside the university environment and its language is the vernacular, the lingua cortigiana. (8) The latter point is not insignificant since it underlines a rejection of Latin to discuss philosophical and major issues pertinent to the court, elevating the courtly vernacular so that is it is capable of becoming the vehicle for any subject. Castiglione is indicating that the university is not the sole depository of knowledge and erudite debate. The court can construct a debate, in a language generally understood by courtiers and women, in a way not possible for the traditional university.

The discussion on language in the first book of the Courtier proposed a number of basic principles that undermine the technical nature of scholastic debate. Firstly, the words employed by courtiers should be those in general currency. (9) Therefore esoteric usage of language is disapproved. Giuliano de' Medici outlines a classically inspired rhetoric that has for its aim universal comprehension. (10) Secondly, the words used to express courtly concepts should be 'belle, ingeniose, acute, eleganti e gravi, secondo 'l bisogno'. (11) These precepts need to be borne in mind when analysing the discussions on women in the early part of Book III (XI-XVIII; pp. 350-61). This section of the disputation seems particularly pertinent because for the only time in the dialogues do the interlocutors consistently employ scholastic terminology. Technical language in general had been studiously eschewed up to this point. But now Gaspare Pallavicino gradually introduces Aristotelian concepts and issues as a means to denote his authority in dismissing women as the equals of men. His use of Aristotle's 'scientific' parlance to describe women as 'animali imperfetti' (III, XI; p. 351) brings the world of scholastic discourse to the court. (12) In contrast to the formulation of rhetoric in Book I, such philosophical analysis can be regarded as jargon-ridden, exclusive to an elite male club, and rigid in its expression.

Pallavicino asserts that women are 'imperfect animals'--this is his thesis or conclusio which he supports with reference to Aristotelian natural philosophy. Giuliano de' Medici reacts by disagreeing, as his role, this time as respondens, would dictate. He scornfully calls Pallavicino's proposition 'a very feeble argument' in the thrust and parry of a university-style debate. (13) Therefore his words 'I reply in accordance with the opinion of he that knows' contains a reference to Aristotle, (14) and the verb 'rispondo', which may appear as 'neutral', describing the ebb and flow of conversation, underscores the scholastic design of the discourse. It is a reply in a formal sense, one that would be expected in a disputatio. (15)

Giuliano's hesitation about the appropriateness of the terms of this portion of the debate does not prevent him from launching into a fully fledged philosophical 'demolition' of the arguments put forward by his adversary. He may have dubbed scholastic argumentation as 'these subtleties' ('queste suttilita'), a criticism favoured by humanists, yet, he uses it as an authoritative means to undo the scholastics at their own game. This is Giuliano's strategem and his reference to 'filosofia' (III, XIII; p. 353) emphasizes this particular use of syllogistic reasoning. Such technical issues had become an essential part of most treatises on women and provided an opportunity for less conservative thinkers to undermine anti-feminist ideas from within the scholastic mind-set. (16)

Giuliano de' Medici systematically answers all the points that Pallavicino raised without interruption from the opponens. However, the other interlocutor is always present in Giuliano's discourse: the use of the 'voi' allows him to negate Pallavicino point by point, following the techniques of the disputation. (17)

However, that presumed, unassailable status of natural philosophy is undercut by the structure of the dialogue in the Courtier. Giuliano de' Medici first of all queries the aptness of introducing this language into the discussions. For if it is authoritative in university circles, the linguistic rules of court society are quite different. The interlocutors in fact break one of the basic rules of courtly intercourse: intelligibility. Ironically, the discourse about women is incomprehensible to women because they have always been excluded from a university education. Scholasticism is a foreign language to them. However, it allows men to communicate in a common language that has the purpose of defining the object 'woman' in quasi-scientific terms without their being able to contribute.

It is helpful to examine the reactions of the women in the company to the rarefied and atrophied debate. In fact, only one woman--Emilia Pia--responds, though she does so on behalf of the female company. Castiglione introduced her in Book I: 'Madam Emilia Pia was endowed with such quick intelligence and judgement, as you know, that she seemed to be the schoolmistress/guide of all present and that everyone acquired wisdom and value from her'. (18) Her intelligence was not and could not have been schooled in the scholastic world of the universities, but Castiglione indicates that her mind has those intellectual qualities that are particularly valued at court. They are not the potentially mechanical ones of scholastic philosophy but are rather those that make Emilia Pia an intellectual leader whose judgement and taste can be relied upon. That she can take a leadership role underlines the distance between court and university. Her knowledge is not a set of predictable, syllogistic models of argumentation but the ability to inspire courtly values in the assembled brigata. These values are intended to distinguish the courts from other institutions, particularly the way in which they position women. She stands as a living exemplum of female potential to exert intellectual influence--a wise and virtuous guide.

Her wisdom, judgement, and intelligence stand in stark contrast to the representations of women in scholastic discourse. The university did not permit women to study there; it was the bastion of male privilege, training doctors, lawyers, and clerics, using Latin as a symbolic barrier to female advancement. Its message was that women were incapable of taking on such roles because scholars were proponents of Aristotelian philosophy. If we take the term maestra literally, then the matter becomes even clearer. Castiglione is subtly undermining the notion of innate male superiority by showing the wisdom of Emilia Pia which one can consider in contraposition to the prevailing image of women in scholasticism. Moreover, Emilia Pia's independence from traditional expectations is underscored by the breaking of the Pauline injunction that women cannot be teachers or guides to men. Her credentials are all intellectual; no allusion is made to her physical features, her beauty, or directly to her chastity. She has all the qualities of an intellectual leader, especially the respect of all those present.

The scene is set for conflict when Pallavicino underlines the connection between scholasticism and misogyny. He claims to hesitate about employing scholastic language and concepts but his claim is an opportunity to attack women: 'I do not wish us to go into such subtleties because these ladies would not understand them'. (19) Suttilita were the life-blood of scholastic reasoning and the object of humanist derision. Self-serving and inward-looking logical constructs are the subject of the text's irony at this point. Yet this is the truth, as will be borne out by Emilia Pia's well-directed outburst: 'In heaven's name, leave all this business of matter and form and male and female, and speak in a way that you can be understood'. (20) Her complaint is about the technical language employed by the male defender of women. She implies that scholastic learning excludes women and questions its validity as the vehicle for key issues about the equality of women. The subject matter also appears irrelevant to women's needs and so a basic criticism is that by employing the same Aristotelian style to refute antifeminist assertion, the defenders of women are lending even more authority to the traditionalist position.

There is tension at this point because il Magnifico overrules Emilia Pia. His argument is that to convince men he has to use their language, the authoritative discourse of knowledge. (21) This inserts an ambiguity into the dialogues. Emilia Pia's dissent certainly carries weight but the discussion needs to be concluded in spite of her objections. The Magnifico's insistence on continuing what is plainly out of place in courtly conversation bears examination. The scholastic discussion of women appears as a necessary evil since other contemporary texts included it and the weight of Aristotelian discourse makes itself felt in the secular, amateur proceedings of courtly entertainment. However, the main reason provided by the interlocutor is that if the text of these debates were to be written down they would not stand the scrutiny of those versed in the woman question (III, XVII; p. 359). The necessity to respond, in spite of a sense of ambiguity concerning the role of such scientific reasoning, overrides courtly decorum. It suggests that the principal audience for such discourse is men and that for the arguments in favour of women to have any chance of success they must be able to challenge the status quo by using the old, but still authoritative, forms of discourse. In a clear reference to the universities, Giuliano suggests that it is essential to make an exhaustive, scholastic argument otherwise the pro-women camp leaves itself vulnerable to counterattack.

Emilia Pia's interruption has a dual purpose: to counter trends in the defence-of-women genre and to ensure that women are not left out of the discourses that attempt to re-define them. The effect is purposely ambiguous: Giuliano continues on, completing his side of the argument but doubt has been sown with regard to its efficacy.

What was the reader meant to take away from these disputatious courtiers? No agreement is reached; each side is as firmly entrenched as ever in their position. Emilia Pia's interjection serves to emphasize the bewilderment at such a debate finding its way into the Courtier. There is no summation by a Master who decisively indicates the winning argument. Castiglione turns the disputatio on its head and transforms it into a vehicle that generates doubt rather than certainty. (22) Although that is the experience of many readers, the means by which such an effect is achieved has remained obscure. Of Cicero's attributes of the perfect orator, his injunction in De oratore that he should be conversant with the practices of ancient scepticism has received remarkably little attention in the context of Cortegiano studies. (23) The implications of claiming that Castiglione employed a methodology akin to that of the classical sceptics have not been explored. It will be argued that some of the unease generated by a text famed for its complexity, indirection, inconclusiveness, and polyvalency is in no small part due to the embedding of the sceptical method in the dialogues.

We will do well to cite the passage on the orator and sceptical methodology in its entirety, otherwise the significance of the references to Aristotelian dialectic and ancient scepticism can be all too easily missed:
   If there should ever be anyone who could argue pro and contra on
   all subjects, in the Aristotelian manner, and with knowledge of
   Aristotle's rules deliver two opposing speeches in every case, or
   should argue, in the manner of Arcesilaus and Carneades, against
   every thesis, anyone who combined that methodology and training
   with this rhetorical experience and practice of speaking [which I
   mentioned before] would be the only true and perfect orator. (24)


This passage is particularly germane to the Courtier. It helps to explain and justify its methodology. For Castiglione, it is not simply a question of either/or. The courtiers seem to be able to combine the capacity to do both things. They engage in Aristotelian dialectic which is then overwhelmed or overlaid by a sceptical awareness of the fragility of certitude, definitiveness, and truth.

Academic scepticism is a complex field of study, made even more so by the fact that none of the original philosophical works survives and so we are always dependent on secondary sources of varying reliability. The most important of these, Sextus Empiricus's Outlines of Scepticism was only printed for the first time in 1562 in both Greek and Latin. Before that date it was known only to a few philosophers. It does not appear likely that Castiglione had firsthand knowledge of this text. His most important sources of information would have been Cicero's Academica (25) and Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. Given this state of affairs what interests us is Academic scepticism, founded by Arcesilaus (c. 316-241BC), who became head of the Platonic Academy and himself produced a sceptical interpretation of Plato. (26) The key feature of Arcesilaus' scepticism is suspension of judgement. As Cicero explains:
   His [Arcesilaus's] practice was consistent with his theory--he led
   most of his hearers to accept it by arguing against the opinions of
   all men, so that when equally weighty reasons were found on
   opposite sides on the same subject, it was easier to withhold
   assent from either side. (27)


Although Castiglione never takes an extreme position with regard to acquiring knowledge about particular subjects, one can see that he undermines and displaces judgements about essential elements of the courtier, transforming them into 'opinions' that no longer have the standing of absolute truths. (28) He seems to lean more towards to the other philosopher mentioned by Cicero in the passage quoted from the De oratore, Carneades, who engineered the concept of probabilism. This helps us to understand the lack of clear-cut answers in the Courtier and also the sense that one side may have a reasonable chance of being right in spite of the fact that the discussions pull both ways without being decisively resolved. (29) However, Cicero might provide us with a fuller answer about why scepticism underpins the methodology and literary structure of the Courtier. The question is: why is such a philosophy so apt to the intellectual representation of the court? Cicero's Academica outlines the 'advantages' of sceptical thought:
   We hold many doctrines as probable, which we can easily act upon
   but can scarcely advance as certain; yet we are more free and
   untrammelled in that we possess our power of judgement uncurtailed,
   and are bound by no compulsion to support all the dogmas laid down
   for us almost as edicts by certain masters. (30)


By not being bound dogmatically to any particular school of thought, the courtier can more easily navigate the treacherous waters of the court. Even if Bembo's speech on Platonic love is regarded as the culminating point of the book, it is viewed as an extraordinary moment of religious ecstasy that separates him from the body of the courtiers. And Emila Pia asks him to rejoin the group: pulling on his garment emphasizes the materiality of the court. Her tugging action underlines the necessity to engage dialectically with other philosophies so that one is not literally 'carried away' by a totalizing system that rigidifies relations and alienates the courtiers from the complex social ties based on the uncertainties and flux of alliances built around the person of the prince. Clarity of judgement (giudicio) combined with opacity of motivations (sprezzatura) are essential armaments in the courtier's arsenal. Freedom of movement (the ability to be able to abandon the employment of his prince) is matched by undogmatic attitudes to action within the court space itself.

The courtier cannot depend on absolutes in the theatre of the court where change and mutability are key factors in determining behaviour. Cicero provides a philosophical rationale for the 'doubleness' of the Renaissance text--its desire to offer conflicting responses to issues and problems. The Ciceronian orator is a model for the courtier but here it is in terms of the dialectical processes to knowledge. This is the basis of the perfection of both the orator and courtier. The latter shares in this perfection if he can be flexible in his ideas and adapt to circumstances--not tied down to a single belief system but willing to call into question received ideas and understand that knowledge is subject to sceptical challenges.

The dialogues generate uncertainties about meaning and truth; they work against clarity by embedding enunciations and their opposites without neatly signalling the authoritative speaker. 'Playfulness' is signalled as a corrosive element that renders meaning unstable. The deployment of a sceptical frame allows Castiglione to cast doubt on any specific philosophical position, particularly one that is dogmatic and does not permit variation or disagreement. In Cicero's Academica, Lucullus, who derides the sceptical system of arguing both sides of a question, asks: '"Why do you conceal your own opinions as though they were something dishonourable?" "In order", he says, [the sceptical Academic] that our listeners may be guided by reason rather than authority."' (31) That answer would appear to be part of Castiglione's methodology.

Before he undertakes his task of defining the courtier, Ludovico notes that a number of obstacles prevent him from arriving at a definitive view. In other words, he describes himself as a homo scepticus. He subjects the concept of 'true perfection' to sceptical enquiry. (32) The courtier relies on a crucial sceptical concept: 'the variety of opinions' which means there is no absolute truth nor a single way of doing things. (33) Relativity deconstructs perfection. This is one of the main points of Ludovico's speech. When he states that the truth is hidden, he seems to be echoing Cicero's interpretation of Arcesilas: 'so hidden in obscurity did he believe that everything lies'. (34) However, Ludovico does not remain silent; rather, he follows Cicero's probabilism as explained in the Academica. Ludovico will not withhold his assent but will make a judgement by relying on what 'appears to me to be close to the truth'. (35) Cicero states:
   For they hold ... that something is 'probable' or as it were
   resembling the truth (et quasi veri simile), and that this provides
   them with a canon of judgement both in the conduct of life and in
   philosophical investigation and discussion. (36)


What remains is 'his opinion' ['il parer suo'] which can be opposed by another, thus bringing about undifferentiated opinions where none is possibly no more correct than the other. (37) Opinions can change over space and time in a fashion not dissimilar to Castiglione's conception of language. Ludovico is going in for what can be called sceptic self-qualification. In the Academica much of the discussion revolves around the wise man ('sapiens') who is immune to opinion because he always withholds assent to anything. The character Cicero calls himself 'opinator' (holder of opinions) and that characterization could easily refer to Ludovico. (38) If this hypothesis is correct, then it has important consequences for our reading of the Courtier because Cicero is redefining sapiens.

Viewed in this light, it is impossible for the disputatio to achieve the aims it sets itself--the definitive solution as truth and contribution to knowledge. The Courtier includes a scholastic debate in order to demonstrate its inappropriateness for the court environment. Its language, its exclusion of women, and Aristotelian complexities are the subject of comment. The lack of a Master to adjudicate underlines the point that even knowledge that appears to 'secure', proven by the use of syllogistic logic, is vulnerable to deconstruction. At court, nothing can be taken for granted simply because conditions there are changeable and unpredictable. There are no simple right and wrong answers to a question. For this reason, Academic scepticism provides a suitable vehicle to express the courtier's need to adjust to circumstances and to be aware of the lack of a single solution to any issue. For Castiglione, knowledge has become problematic, subjective, and unstable. It is not an absolute--unvarying and true, but is constructed through human communication. This is the far-reaching message of the Courtier.

School of Languages and Linguistics

The University of Melbourne

(1) See Annick Paternoster, 'Il teatro della retorica non-apparente. La struttura del dialogo nel Cortegiano', Lingua e stile, 26 (1991), 35-55.

(2) Baldesaar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, trans. George Bull (Harmondswoth: Penguin, repr. 1976), p. 51 (my emphasis). The Italian reads: 'ed in quelle cose che non pareranno convenienti sia licito a ciascun contradire, come nelle scole de' filosofi a chi tien conclusioni'. This and all subsequent references in Italian are to Baldesar Castiglione, Il libro del cortegiano con una scelta delle Opere minori, ed. Bruno Maier (Turin: UTET, 1964), here I, XII (p. 100; my emphases). In the quotation, Fregoso specifically refers to the process of academic debate, even employing a technical term, conclusioni, or in full tenere conclusioni, where the general meaning of holding a public debate on philosophical issues is clear. Such an explicitly technical reference to the form of the discussions is rare, if not unique, in the Courtier as they are generally referred to as ragionamenti, a term that does not have such connotations and indeed is suggestive of courtly pastimes, conversation rather than learned disputation, reminiscent to some degree of the Decameron. The 'schools of philosophy' (the English translation elides this critical point) also recall the ancient world of learning see, for example, Quintilian, Institutio oratoria: 'qui si fuisset aliquando perfectus, non a philosophorum scholis virtutis praecepta peterentur' (And if ever he [the ideal orator] had reached perfection, there would be no need to go to the schools of philosophy for the precepts of virtue' (trans. H. E. Butler (London & New York: Heinemann & G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1921), Book I, Proemium, 17. For if Quintilian's inference is transferred to Castiglione's Book of the Courtier, it would mean that the court would substitute for the university as the place to learn virtue.

(3) See Michel Arnaud, 'Baldesar Castiglione. L'ironie surmontee', Filigrana, 1 (1993), 97-115. Arnaud claims that 'l'opposition des choses contraires produit une richesse de notions bien superieure a l'accord des choses qui se ressemblent' (p. 97). The consequence is that 'contredire n'apparait plus alors comme une operation de negation et de destruction, mais dans la richesse infinie des jeux de langage, contredire se revele comme etant a la fois apprentissage, experience et revelation du dialogue' (p. 100).

(4) Paul F. Grendler The Universities of the Italian Renaissance (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), pp. 152-66.

(5) Cited in Brian Lawn, The Rise and Decline of the Scholastic 'Quaestio Disputata': With Special Emphasis on its Use in the Teaching of Medicine and Science (Leiden: Brill, 1993), p. 10. The original statement appears in the antepenultimate paragraph of the Prologue to Sic et Non. Lawn explains that in theology dialectic was employed as a 'method of exegesis' (p. 6).

(6) IV, lxxiii. It is the future Duke of Urbino who speaks of continuing the discussion on women, bringing it to a conclusion. Completion can only take place outside the text. See also Virginia Cox, The Renaissance Dialogue: Literary Dialogue in its Social and Political Contexts, Castiglione to Galileo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 47-60. Cox emphasizes that 'nothing is resolved' (p. 59) by the end of the dialogue and makes passing reference to academic scepticism (p. 158, n. 15). She notes the way in which arguments are constructed and deconstructed: 'Fregoso's implicit critique of Canossa casts a veil of doubt over his predecessor's arguments, without definitively invalidating or superseding them. The two perspectives on behaviour embodied by Canossa and Fregoso are juxtaposed, unreconciled: in dialogue. It is only outside the text, in the mind of the reader, that a possible synthesis can be found' (p. 58).

(7) See James Hankins, 'Humanism, Scholasticism, and Renaissance Philosophy', in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, ed. James Hankins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 30-48 (pp. 39-45); Erika Rummel, The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance & Reformation (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995), pp. 1-40; Neal W. Gilbert, 'The Early Humanists and Disputation', in Renaissance Studies in Honor of Hans Baron, eds Antony Molho and John A. Tedeschi (Florence: Sansoni, 1971), pp. 203-26.

(8) See Uberto Motta, 'La "questione della lingua" nel primo libro del Cortegiano: dalla seconda alla terza redazione', Aevum, 72 (1998), 693-732.

(9) 'si assicurasse ancor d'usare, e scrivendo e parlando, quelle che oggidi sono in consuetudine in Toscana e negli altri lochi della Italia, e che hanno qualche grazia nella pronuncia' (I, XXIX; p. 132). Scholastic language, it will be implied in Book III, is barbarous, cacophonous, and unrefined; the opposite of grazia.

(10) 'le parole ... ma sopra tutto usate ancor dal populo' (I, XXXIII; p. 139). This is an essential principle since it is inclusive of women and all the social classes.

(11) I, XXXIII; p. 140.

(12) The term had been used earlier by Ottaviano Fregoso in the section on burle where the opening salvoes are fired in the debate on women: 'women are most imperfect creatures' (The Book of the Courtier, p. 201; 'essendo le donne animali imperfettissimi', II, XcI; p. 322). In the main discussion, the superlative gives way to a seemingly more balanced 'imperfetti'.

(13) The Book of the Courtier, p. 218; 'una fredissima ragione' (III, XII; p. 352).

(14) Giuliano's words recall Dante's Inferno, Iv, 131: 'vidi 'l maestro di color che sanno'.

(15) 'Rispondo secondo il parere di chi sa' (III, XII; p. 352). Giuliano's syntax underlines the structure of the debate as well. In the same chapter, he recalls Pallavicino's main point in the form 'You may then say ...' (The Book of the Courtier, p. 218; 'se mi direte adunque ...' so that he is in a position to challenge him, repeating the verb 'rispondo' (III, XII; pp. 352-53; and elsewhere on this topic: III, XIV; p. 355).

(16) See, for example, Stephen Kolsky, The Ghost of Boccaccio: Writings on Famous Women in Renaissance Italy (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), pp. 151-56.

(17) 'Now you said that ... But I can only say that I deny this completely' (The Book of the Courtier, p. 219; 'voi diceste che ... rispondo che questo totalmente si nega' (III, XIv; p. 355). Giuliano de' Medici continues to use similar syntactical structures: 'I don't know how you can say ... I do not see for which cause'; 'ne so come possiate dire ...', 'non vedo per qual causa' (III, XIv; p. 355). The process of negation of the other argument is essential to the debate-structure; through logical and dialectical processes, the aim is to show the superiority of one's argument and one's rhetorical-philosophical skills.

(18) 'La signora Emilia Pia, la qual per esser dotata di cosi vivo ingegno e giudicio, come sapete, pareva la maestra di tutti, e che ognuno da lei pigliasse senno e valore' (I, IV; p. 85). Parergon 25.2 (2008)

(19) The Book of the Courtier, p. 220; 'Io non vorrei,--disse,--che noi entrassimo in tali suttilita, perche queste donne non c'intenderanno' (III, XV; p. 356).

(20) The Book of the Courtier, p. 221; 'Allora la signora Emilia rivolta al signor Magnifico,--Per amor di Dio,--disse,--uscite una volta di queste vostre "materie" e "forme" e maschi e femine e parlate di modo che siate inteso' (III, XVII; p. 358).

(21) 'e se per alcuna sorte qui fusse alcuno che scrivesse i nostri ragionamenti, non vorrei che poi in loco dove fossero intese queste "materie" e "forme", si vedesserso senza risposta gli argomenti e le ragioni che 'l signor Gaspar contra di voi adduce" (III, XVII; p. 359).

(22) See also Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes, II, 9: 'So I have always favoured the practice of the Peripatetics and the Academy of debating all topics from opposite standpoints, not only because it was the only way of discovering in each case what was the more probable, but also because it was the most effective training in expression' ('Itaque mihi Peripateticorum Academiaeque consuetudo de omnibus rebus in contrarias partes disserendi non ob eam casusam solum placuit, quod aliter non posset quid in quaque re veri simile esset inveniri, sed etiam quod esset ea maxima dicendi exercitatio', Tusculan Disputations II & V, ed. A. E. Douglas (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1990), pp. 20, 21). Cicero maintains that probability is the goal of the disputation, not truth. Such a limited aim appears to be shared by Castiglione in the Courtier.

(23) See Cox, The Renaissance Dialogue, pp. 9-21, and Jennifer Richards, 'Assumed Simplicity and the Critique of Nobility: Or, How Castiglione Read Cicero', Renaissance Quarterly, 54 (2001), 460-86. Richards notes the crucial role played by argument in utramque partem in Cicero's De oratore (pp. 466-69) and how this is imitated in the Courtier (pp. 472-77).

(24) Cicero, De oratore/On Oratory 3.80 cited in The Hellenistic Philosophers, I, Translations of the Principal Sources with Philosophical Commentary, trans. A. A. Long and D. N. Sedley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 441-42. The Latin reads: 'sin aliquis extiterit aliquando qui Aristotelio more de omnibus rebus in utramque sententiam possit dicere et in omni causa duas contrarias orationes praeceptis illius cognitis explicare, aut hoc Arcesilae modo et Carneadi contra omne quod propositum sit disserat quique ad eam rationem exercitationenemque adiungat hunc rhetoricum usum moremque [exercitationenemque] dicendi, is sit verus, is perfectus, is solus orator', in The Hellenistic Philosophers, II, Greek and Latin Texts with Notes and Bibliography, p. 438. In the same text, Cicero further elucidates the philosophical position of Arcesilaus: 'Arcesilaus, to begin with, selected for adoption from the various writings of Plato and the Socratic dialogues the dogma that nothing can be apprehended with certainty either by the senses or by the mind' ('Arcesilas ... ex variis Platonis libris, sermonibusque Socraticis hoc maxime arripuit Platonem, nihil esse certi quod aut sensibus aut animo percipi possit'; De Oratore, III, XvIII. 67, in Cicero, De oratore Book III, trans. H. Rackham (London: Heinemann, 1968), pp. 54, 55).

(25) See Jill Kraye, 'The Revival of Hellenistic Philosophies', in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, pp. 97-112 (pp. 107-10); Charles B. Schmitt, Cicero Scepticus. A Study of the Influence of the 'Academica' in the Renaissance (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1972), pp. 18-77.

(26) Arcesilaus of Pitane considered Plato the founder of scepticism and Socrates as the originator of this practice (Cicero, Academica, I, XII, 44-45). In the De finibus, Cicero describes a practice that is not far from that used in the Courtier: '[Arcesilaus] prescribed that those who wanted to listen to him should not ask him questions but state their own opinions. When they had done so, he argued against them. But his listeners, so far as they could, would defend their own opinion' (On Ends, 2.2 in The Hellenistic Philosophers, I, p. 441). The Latin reads: 'Arcesilas eum revocavit instituitque ut ii qui se audire vellent non de se quaererent, sed ipsi dicerent quid sentirent. quod cum dixissent, ille contra. sed eum qui audiebant, quoad poterant, defendebant sententiam suam' (The Hellenistic Philosophers, II, p. 438). Castiglione does not use a Socratic figure in his work nor someone whose authority is so overwhelming that the truth is located in that person.

Diogenes Laertius describes Arcesilaus' methodology thus: 'Arcesilaus was the originator of the Middle Academy, being the first to suspend his assertions owing to the contrarieties of arguments. He was also the first to argue pro and contra, and the first to change traditional Platonic discourse and, by question and answer, to make it more of a debating contest' (4.28 in The Hellenistic Philosophers, I, p. 439). See John Dillon, The Heirs of Plato. A Study of the Old Academy (347-274 BC) (Oxford: Clarendon. 2003), pp. 234-38, and Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes, The Modes of Scepticism. Ancient Texts and Modern Interpretations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 13-14.

It has been noted that there are elements in the Platonic corpus that would have lent themselves to a sceptical interpretation, for example, the use of 'perhaps' in the late dialogues to create an anti-dogmatic texture to pronouncements, something that Castiglione follows in the Courtier. In the Meno, there is an inconclusive discussion on whether virtue is innate or can be taught. Castiglione will reprise the argument in his dialogue. See Stephen Gersh, Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism. The Latin Tradition, I (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), pp. 57-58 and Rosalind C. Hays, 'Castiglione's Courtier and Neo-Platonic Thought: The Influence of Plato's Theaetetus, Sophist, and Statesman' in Italiana 1988: Selected Papers from the Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Conference of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, ed. Albert N. Mancini and others (River Forest, IL.: Rosary College, 1990), pp. 121-29.

(27) 'Huic rationi quod erat consentaneum faciebat, ut contra omnium sententias disserens in eam plerosque deduceret, ut cum in eadem re paria contrariis in partibus momenta rationum invenirentur, facilius ab utraque parte adsensio sustineretur' (Academica, I, XII, 45, in Cicero, De natura deorum, Academica, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005 repr.) pp. 452-55).

(28) Diogenes Laertius explains the fundamentals of later sceptical thought in terms that recall the structure of the Courtier: 'To arrive at the oppositions inherent in inquiries they would first demonstrate the modes in which things convince us, and then use the same modes to destroy our convictions about them' (IX, 78-79; The Modes of Scepticism, p. 20). This is not precisely descriptive of the arguments pro and contra amongst the Urbinate courtiers as Ciceronian probability tends to guide the readers. Yet generally they have to fill in the gaps without their being much certainty about the 'correct' position to take. The modes are 'arguments' or tropoi.

(29) See The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy, ed. Keimpe Algra and others (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 345-51. John Glucker notes 'Cicero is our only source for this goal of the Academic procedure of arguing for and against as aiming at probabile or veri simile in matters philosophical' ('Probabile, Veri Simile, and Related Terms', in Cicero the Philosopher: Twelve Papers, ed. J. G. F. Powell (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995), pp. 115-43 (p. 133)). A. A. Long notes that Cicero 'can consistently use this method as a refutative and heuristic device' ('Cicero's Plato and Aristotle', in Cicero the Philosopher. Twelve Papers, pp. 37-61 (p. 41)).

(30) 'nos probabilia multa habemus, quae sequi facile, adfirmare vix possumus; hoc autem liberiores et solutiores sumus quod integra nobis est iudicandi potestas nec ut omnia quae praescripta a quibusdam et quasi imperata sint defendamus necessitate ulla cogimur' (Academica, II, III, 8).

(31) cited in The Hellenistic Philosophers, I, p. 443. The Latin reads: 'cur celatis quasi turpe aliquid sententiam vestram? "ut qui audient" inquit "ratione potius quam auctoritate ducantur"' (Academica, II, XVIII, 60).

(32) 'la vera perfezion' (I, XIII; p. 102).

(33) 'la varieta de' giudici' (I, XIII; p. 102).

(34) 'sic omnia latere censebat in occulto' (Academica, I, XII.45).

(35) 'mi par piu simile al vero' (I, XIII; p. 103).

(36) 'Volunt enim ... probabile aliquid esse et quasi veri simile, eaque se uti regula et in agenda vita et in quaerendo ac disserendo' (Academica, II, X, 32) p. 508. The use of regula is significant in the context of the Courtier since it is based on approximation of best behaviour and not an absolute.

(37) Canossa makes an important declaration about the relativity of knowledge that implicates doubt and point-of-view as essential elements in an anti-dogmatic view of truth: 'Nor shall I argue that mine [judgement] is better than yours, for not only can you think one thing and I another but I myself can think one thing at one time and something else another time' (The Book of the Courtier, pp. 53-54; 'Ne io gia contrastero che 'l mio sia migliore del vostro; che non solamente a voi po parer una cosa ed a me un'altra, ma a me stesso poria parer or una cosa ed ora un'altra'; I, XIII; p. 103). Instability of meaning is a fundamental facet of the Courtier.
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Author:Kolsky, Stephen
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Date:Jul 1, 2008
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