In the half-century since Professor Kristeller stated that polemics between humanists and scholastics were “an understandable expression of departmental rivalry, and a phase in the everlasting battle of the arts,” scholars have had their say whether this was in fact the case.2 Were those exchanges mere squabbles about parochial matters? Or were they serious contests on fundamental issues? Kristeller favored the former view as he weighed the arguments on both sides and sought common ground between them. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of critical editions, translations, commentaries and studies have created a mounting body of evidence that might be adduced to support either alternative. In recent years most scholars have gotten beyond Burkhardt’s vision of “individualism,” Baron’s ideal of “civic humanism” and humanist anti-scholastic propaganda that long dominated research on the period. One measure of progress is the sense of déjà vu in a recent recitation of Valla’s rants against scholastic dialectic and his tired clichés about its “sterility,” “technicality” and “formality.”3 Scholastic dialectic is no more sterile, technical or formal than humanist grammar, and most scholars have set aside this academic psittacism. Valla’s cavils no longer
1 Notes Butterfield 1957: 13. 2 Kristeller 1961: 43. “If we keep in mind the cultural and professional divisions of
the period, and the flourishing state of Aristotelian philosophy in Renaissance Italy, we are inclined to view this polemic in its proper perspective, that is, as an understandable expression of departmental rivalry, and as a phase in the everlasting battle of the arts of which many other examples may be cited from ancient, medieval, or modern times.” In addition to Professor Kristeller’s accounts of renaissance humanism, see Giustiniani 1993: 29-57;
trigger the delicious mockery that once fueled renaissance scholarship. The research of many scholars such as James Hankins, Brian Copenhaver, Jill Kraye, John Monfasani, Charles G. Nauert, Jr, Lodi Nauta, James Overfield, Erika Rummel, Charles Trinkaus, Brian Vickers, Ronald G. Witt and others has contributed to a balanced perspective on renaissance intellectual life.4 Their careful analyses of humanist and scholastic positions on particular topics have encouraged a sense of equanimity and shown that differences between the two traditions are intelligible if not reconcilable.