Life and Works Valla did not have an easy life. Equipped with a sharp and polemical mind, an even sharper pen and a sense of self-importance verging on the pathological, he made many enemies throughout his life. Born in Rome in most likely to a family with ties to the papal curia, Valla as a young man was already in close contact with some major humanists working as papal secretaries such as Leonardo Bruni — and Poggio Bracciolini — Valla would later revise the dialogue and change the names of the interlocutors, but his Epicurean-Christian position remained the same. Meanwhile he had moved to Pavia in , stimulated by his friend Panormita Antonio Beccadelli, — —with whom he was soon to quarrel—and had begun to teach rhetoric. He had to flee Pavia, however, in after having aroused the anger of the jurists.
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Life and Works Valla did not have an easy life. Equipped with a sharp and polemical mind, an even sharper pen and a sense of self-importance verging on the pathological, he made many enemies throughout his life. Born in Rome in most likely to a family with ties to the papal curia, Valla as a young man was already in close contact with some major humanists working as papal secretaries such as Leonardo Bruni — and Poggio Bracciolini — Valla would later revise the dialogue and change the names of the interlocutors, but his Epicurean-Christian position remained the same.
Meanwhile he had moved to Pavia in , stimulated by his friend Panormita Antonio Beccadelli, — —with whom he was soon to quarrel—and had begun to teach rhetoric. He had to flee Pavia, however, in after having aroused the anger of the jurists. After some travelling, in Valla found employment at the court of Alfonso of Aragon — , who was trying to capture Naples. Though complaining about the lack of time, books and fellow humanists, Valla was immensely productive in this phase of his career.
In he finished the first version of his critique of scholastic philosophy. Two years later he finished his Elegantiae linguae Latinae, a manual for the correct use of Latin syntax and vocabulary, which became a bestseller throughout Europe. As a humanist in the court of a king who was fighting against the pope, Valla demonstrated that the Donation of Constantine, which had served the papacy to claim worldly power, was a forgery.
In the same years he composed a dialogue on free will and began working on his annotations to the standard Latin translation of the Bible, comparing it with the Greek text of the New Testament. He also wrote a dialogue On the Profession of the Religious De professione religiosorum , in which he attacked the vow of obedience and asceticism taken by members of religious orders. His enemies took advantage of the situation. In he made peace with the pope and became an apostolic scriptor scribe , and later, in , a papal secretary.
In these years he revised some of his earlier works such as the Repastinatio and his notes on the New Testament, and translated Thucydides and Herodotus into Latin; his work on Thucydides, in particular, was to have an important impact on the study of this difficult Greek author. Always an irascible man, he continued to engage in quarrels and exchanged a series of invectives with his arch-enemy Poggio.
He died in , still working on a second revision of his Repastinatio that is, the third version. He was buried in the Lateran. His philological approach was developed by subsequent generations of humanists, and found, arguably, its first systematic expression in the work of Angelo Poliziano — His Elegantiae was printed many times, either in the original or in one of its many adaptations and abridgments made by later scholars.
A copy of his annotations on the New Testament was found near Louvain by Erasmus ? His use of repastinatio indicates that he is setting out a program of reform rather than of destruction, in spite of his often aggressive and polemical tone. Book I is devoted mainly to metaphysics, but also contains chapters on natural philosophy and moral philosophy, as well a controversial chapter on the Trinity.
His main concern in the first book is to simplify the Aristotelian-scholastic apparatus. For Valla, the world consists of things, simply called res. Hence, there are three basic categories: substance, quality, and action. These three categories are the only ones Valla admits; the other Aristotelian categories of accidents such as place, time, relation and quantity can all be reduced to quality or action. From a grammatical point of view, qualities such as being a father, being in the classroom, or being six-feet tall all tell us something about how a particular man is qualified; and there is, consequently, no need to preserve the other Aristotelian categories.
Instead, his aim is to show that many terms traditionally placed in other categories, in fact, point to qualities or actions: linguistic usage loquendi consuetudo teaches us, for example, that quality is the overarching category. Take, for instance, the question: what sort of horse should I buy? It may be answered: erect, tall, with a broad chest, and so on. Of course, Valla does not deny that we can speak of quantity or time or place.
But the rich array of Latin terms signify, in the final analysis, the qualities or actions of things, and nothing exists apart from concrete things. It is tempting to connect this lean ontology to that of William of Ockham c. The interests, approach and arguments of the two thinkers, however, differ considerably. Unlike Valla, Ockham does not want to get rid of the system of categories. As long as one realizes, Ockham says, that categories do not describe things in the world but categorize terms by which we signify real substances or real inhering qualities in different ways, the categories can be maintained and the specific features of, for example, relational or quantitative terms can be explored.
Valla, on the other hand, sees the categories as summing up the real aspects of things: hence, there are only substances, qualities, and actions, and his reductive program consists in showing that we have a vast and rich vocabulary in Latin that we can use for referring to these things.
His questions about words and classes of words are not unlike those of Priscian fl. Priscian, for instance, had stated that a noun signifies substance plus quality, and pronouns substance without quality.
A good thing, for example, is a thing, and so, too, is a true thing. While he is not against the introduction of new words for things unknown in antiquity e. These terms refer to the concrete thing itself, that is, to the substance, its quality or action or a combination of these three components into which a thing can be resolved.
In describing and analyzing this world of things Valla is not only guided by grammatical considerations. He thus thinks that it is ridiculous to imagine prime matter without any form or form without any matter, or to define a line as that which has no width and a point as an indivisible quantity that occupies no space. For him, there is only the world of bodies with actual shapes and dimensions; lines and points are parts of these things, but only, as he seems to suggest, in a derivative sense, in other words, as places or spaces that are filled by the body or parts of that body.
If we want to measure or sketch a part of a body, we can select two spots on it and measure the length between them by drawing points and lines on paper or in our mind, a process through which these points and lines become visible and divisible parts of our world Repastinatio, —; — But it would be wrong to abstract from this diagramming function and infer a world of points and lines with their own particular quantity. They are merely aids for measuring or outlining bodies. In modern parlance, Valla seems to be saying that ontological questions about these entities—do they exist?
The appeal to common sense or what Valla considers as such informs his critique of Aristotelian natural philosophy. He insists on commonplace observations and experiences as criteria for testing ideas and hypotheses.
He rejects or qualifies a number of fundamental tenets of Aristotelian physics, for instance that movement is the cause of heat, that a movement is always caused by another movement, that elements can be transformed into one another, that each has its own proper qualities heat and dryness for fire, heat and humidity for air, etc.
Valla rejects this claim by appealing to ordinary experience: we never see balls—whether leaden, iron, or stone, shot out of a sling or a cannon—heat up in the air; nor do the feathers of arrows catch fire. If movement is sufficient to produce heat, the spheres would set the air beneath in motion; but no one has ever observed this. While he does not develop his critique in the direction of an alternative natural philosophy as later Renaissance philosophers such as Bernardino Telesio — and Francesco Patrizi of Cherso — would do, Valla contributed to undermining faith in the exclusive validity of the Aristotelian paradigm.
Valla wants to reinstate God as the sole creator of heaven and earth. To think of the cosmos in terms of a living animal or the heavens in terms of celestial orbs moved by intelligences is anathema to Valla as it was to many medieval scholastics as well.
The notion of God as First Mover is also rejected, since movement and rest are terms which should not be applied except perhaps metaphorically to spiritual beings such as God, angels, and souls. Religious considerations also led Valla to find fault with another fundamental tenet of Aristotelian scholastic thought: the Tree of Porphyry Repastinatio, 46—50; — Valla has several problems with the Tree.
First of all, it puts substance, rather than thing, on top. For Valla, however, pure substance does not exist, since a thing is always already a qualified substance. He also thinks that there is no place for a human being in the Tree of Porphyry. Since the Tree divides substance into the corporeal and the spiritual, it is difficult to find a place for a human being, consisting of both soul and body.
One might argue that what Valla gains over Porphyry by disentangling the supernatural from the natural order, he loses by having to admit that he cannot place Christ in any of his three trees, since he is not only human but also God. The soul as an incorporeal substance is treated by Valla in a separate chapter Repastinatio, 59—73; —; — Rejecting the Aristotelian hylomorphic account, he returns to an Augustinian picture of the soul as a wholly spiritual and immaterial substance made in the image of God, and consisting of memory, intellect, and will.
He rejects without much discussion the various functions of the soul vegetative, sensitive, imaginative, intellectual , which would entail, he thinks, a plurality of souls. He briefly treats the five exterior senses but is not inclined to deal with the physiological aspects of sensation. The Aristotelian sensus communis—which the medieval commentary tradition on De anima had viewed as one of the internal senses, alongside imagination sometimes distinguished from phantasia , memory, and the vis aestimativa foresight and prudence —is mentioned only to be rejected without further argument Repastinatio, In his view, the soul is far more noble than the hylomorphic account of Aristotle implies, at least as Valla understands that account.
For Valla, argumentation should be approached from an oratorical rather than a logical point of view. The form of the argument is less important.
Dialectic is a species of confirmation and refutation; and, as such, it is merely a component of invention, one of the five parts of rhetoric Repastinatio, ; The rhetorician, on the other hand, uses not only the syllogism, but also the enthymeme incomplete syllogism , epicheireme a kind of extended reasoning and example.
The orator has to clothe everything in persuasive arguments, since his task is not only to teach but also to please and to move. This leads Valla to downplay the importance of the Aristotelian syllogism and to consider forms of argumentation that are not easily forced into its straightjacket.
Among these are captious forms of reasoning such as the dilemma, paradox, and heap argument sorites , and Valla offers a highly interesting analysis of these forms in the last book of the Repastinatio. Without rejecting the syllogism tout court, Valla is scathing about its usefulness. He regards it as an artificial type of reasoning, unfit to be employed by orators since it is does not reflect the natural way of speaking and arguing. What is the use, for example, of concluding that Socrates is an animal if one has already stated that every man is an animal and that Socrates is a man?
It is a simple, puerile, and pedantic affair, hardly amounting to a real ars art. Following Quintilian, he stresses that the nature of syllogistic reasoning is to establish proof. It is not always necessary, therefore, to have a fixed order major, minor, conclusion. If it suits the occasion better, we can just as well begin with the minor, or even with the conclusion.
The order is merely a matter of convention and custom Repastinatio, —; — Aristotle had proven the validity of the moods of Figure 2 and 3 by converting them to four moods of Figure 1; and this was taught, for example, by Peter of Spain thirteenth century in his widely read handbook on logic, the Summulae logicales, certainly consulted by Valla here.
Valla regards this whole business of converting terms and transposing propositions in order to reduce a particular syllogism to one of these four moods of Figure 1 as useless and absurd.
While he does not question the validity of these four moods, he believes that there are many deviant syllogisms that are also valid, for instance: God is in every place; Tartarus is a place; therefore, God is in Tartarus. He says, moreover, that an entirely singular syllogism can be valid: Homer is the greatest of poets; this man is the greatest of poets; therefore, this man is Homer. And he gives many other examples of such deviant schemes. Valla thus deliberately ignores the criteria employed by Aristotle and his commentators—that at least one premise must be universal, and at least one premise must be affirmative, and that if the conclusion is to be negative, one premise must be negative—or, at any rate, he thinks that they unnecessarily restrict the number of possible valid figures.
McCord Adams, William of Ockham, 2 vols. I, This principle led Aristotle to conclude that only four moods of the first figure were immediately valid. That Valla does not make use of this fundamental condition is understandable from his oratorical point of view, since it would be an uninteresting or even irrelevant criterion of validity. In a similar vein, he rejects the use of letters in the study of syllogisms Repastinatio, —; —
Rom, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. Auseinandersetzungen mit den dortigen Juristen um seine ersten Publikationen Quaestiones dialecticae; De libero arbitrio; De elegantiis Latini sermonis zwangen Valla, Pavia zu verlassen. Er verlangte von den Gelehrten, ihre Prosa am Vorbild des klassischen Latein auszurichten, wie es etwa Cicero geschrieben hatte. Auf kirchenrechtlichem Gebiet ist das seine bekannteste Leistung. Rehabilitiert wurde Valla aber auch nicht. In seinen letzten Lebensjahren lehrte er erneut als Professor der Rhetorik und hielt u. Valla starb am 1.
Life[ edit ] Valla was born in Rome , with a family background of Piacenza ; his father, Luciave della Valla, was a lawyer who worked in the Papal Curia. He was educated in Rome, attending the classes of teachers including Leonardo Bruni and Giovanni Aurispa , from whom he learned Latin and Greek. But Valla had caused offence, to Antonio Loschi, and by championing the rhetorician Quintilian in an early work. His tenure at Pavia was made uncomfortable by his attack on the Latin style of the jurist Bartolus de Saxoferrato. He became itinerant, moving from one university to another, accepting short engagements and lecturing in many cities. Extreme language was employed. He appears as quarrelsome, combining humanistic elegance with critical wit and venom, and an opponent of the temporal power of the Catholic Church.
Lo guidava lo zio materno Melchiorre Scribani, un giurista funzionario in Curia. Nel , durante il pontificato di Eugenio IV , scrisse un breve testo, pubblicato solo nel e intitolato La falsa Donazione di Costantino De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione. Quippe privilegium concessum est triduo, quam Constantinus esset effectus christianus, cum Byzantium adhuc erat, non Constantinopolis. Infatti il privilegio fu concesso tre giorni dopo che Costantino si fece cristiano, quando Bisanzio esisteva ancora e non Costantinopoli.