More evidence of “poesis” in Renaissance notions of human nature and “self-fashioning.” The first quotation is from Pico, and is drawn from Lewis’s English Literature in the Sixteenth Century : God’s words to Adam at creation were: “To thee, O Adam, we have given no certain habitation nor countenance of thine owne neither anie peculiar office, so that what habitation and countenance or office soever thou dost chooses for thyself, the same thou shalt enjoy and posses at thine own proper will and election ‘We have made thee neither a thing celestial nor a thing terrestrial, neither mortal nor immortal, so that being thine own fashioner and artificer of thyself, thou maist make thyself after what likeness thou dost affect.”

Second, Ernst Cassirer’s summary of the Renaissance view of human nature, quoted in Dollimore’s Radical Tragedy : “It is not being that prescribes once and for all the lasting direction which the mode of action will take; rather, the original direction of action determines and places being.”

These offer some support to the notion that the Renaissance anticipated some themes of existentialist and post-structuralist movements, but that these themes were elided by the counter-Renaissance movements of the seventheenth century.

More on: Hermeneutics

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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