His treatise, De voluptate (), voiced Epicurean and Christian hedonist ideas that Lorenzo Valla was born in Rome, Italy, around Loading data.. Open Bottom Panel. Go to previous Content Download this Content Share this Content Add This Content to Favorites Go to next Content. ← →. circulated in under the name De voluptate (On Pleasure), later restyled as 6 John Monfasani, ‘The Theology of Lorenzo Valla’, in Humanism and Early.

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The Renaissance in Europe: An Anthologyed. When Valla first wrote this treatise in he called it On Pleasure and it was only in a later version that it became known as Of the True and the False Good.

It seeks to debate the question of how humanity can achieve the good: The matter is debated by a number of eminent orators, poets and clerics and, at the end, it is agreed that Christianity provides the best way of achieving the good life. In choosing to prefer the arguments of the Epicureans over those of the Stoics, he was being deliberately provocative. The ideas of the latter, who advocated virtue for its own sake, were clearly more compatible with conventional Christian teachings than those of the former, who argue in favour of pleasure as the guiding principle of moral behaviour The imaginary discussion takes place in the porch of a church in Milan and the garden of one of the speakers.

Text 4 gives details of Valla’s life. Lorenzo Valla, On Pleasure: Kent Hiett and M. When I undertook the discussion of the cause of the true and the false oorenzo, which is dealt with in the three following books, it seemed best to follow a most compelling division of the subject according to which we are to believe that only two goods exist, one in this life, one in the next.

However, it is not my purpose to speak of religion, since others, especially Lactantius and Augustine, have vlouptate with it sufficiently and fully: I have been seized instead with the desire of dealing as far as is humanly possible with those true virtues through which we reach the true good.

There are quite a avlla people and even more shamefully learned men with whom I have often talked, who ask and inquire: Why is it that many of the ancients and of our contemporaries as well, who either did not know or did not venerate God as we do, are said not only to be excluded from the celestial city but also to be cast out into hellish night? Are such great honesty, justice, faith, piety, and the chorus of their other virtues in no way able to aid them so that they should not be consigned to the company of the impious, dd impure, and the evil, and thrust down into eternal torture – these men we call saintly and blessed?

It is difficult to count all whom those questioners rank boluptate the latter. They ring forth philosophers and many others about whom philosophers and writers talk, to whose irreproachable lives, say these people, almost nothing could be added. These questioners imitate those whom they praise, and at the same time most unbearable of allthey most actively induce others to accept their opinion, not to say their madness.

What can this be, I ask, but the claim that Christ came into the world in vain? Or indeed that he did not come at all? Fe my part, not being able to vxlla this abuse and the offense committed against the name of Christ, I have taken it upon myself to restrain or to cure these men. And since the arguments of very powerful, are not completely accepted, my predecessors, although certainly very volptate, are not completely accepted, I have instituted a new method of reasoning.

Lorenzk those I mention attribute so much to antiquity – I mean, to pagans – asserting that these pagans are llrenzo with every virtue, I on the contrary shall make plain, with the arguments not of our side but of these same philosophers, that paganism has done nothing virtuously, nothing rightly.

This is truly a great and difficult task, and I am not sure whether it is not more audacious than that of any of my predecessors. Since the Stoics assert more bitterly than all others the value of virtue, it seems to me sufficient to single out the Stoics as our adversaries and to assume the defense of the Epicureans.

In this third book, it will not be irrelevant to compose a kind of eulogy of Paradise in vakla most splendid possible manner, in order to recall the souls of the listeners to the hope of the true good, as far as it is within my power.

I must add that this vslla book derives a kind of dignity from the subject matter itself.

In Books I and II, and especially in Book I, I have interspersed gayer and almost I would say licentious material, for which no one will blame me if he considers the character of the matter, and if he listens to the reason for my enterprise. In fact, as for the character, what would be further from defending the cause of pleasure than sad, severe style and the behavior of a Stoic when I am taking the part of the Epicureans?

Instead, it was necessary to exchange the rude, strong, and excited style that I often use in favor of this other more relaxed and agreeable way of speaking.

Lorenzo Valla – Wikipedia

Certainly, an orator’s greatest strength is in pleasing, and this expedient has been followed here expressly to speak of my intentions in order to reproach more strongly those ancients who professed any religion whatever that differed from ours. For not only do I prefer the Valla, despised and rejected men, to the custodians of what is virtuous [ honestum ], but I also prove that the aforementioned followers of voluptwte have followed not virtue but the shadow of virtue, not honor but vanity, not duty but vice, not wisdom but folly; vaalla they would have done better had they worked for the val,a of pleasure, if they did not indeed do so.


I introduce as interlocutors on the subject very eloquent men who are also my good friends, assigning to each a discourse according to his character and position and consistent with the conversations they recently held among themselves. Fixing voluptare gaze upon the ground for a while and then lifting it to his audience, Catone began in the following way: I often ask myself with astonishment about the wickedness of mind or weakness common to almost all men, qualities that are evident in many things, but most clearly in this: And what are these goods?

They are, indeed, those pertaining to right behavior [ honestas ], such as justice, fortitude, temperance. For, if the countenance of virtue could be seen with the corporeal eye, as Voluptaate says in the Phaedrus, it would incite an incredible love for wisdom.

Truly, that countenance is too noble and divine to become visible and subject to our voluptwte. Instead, we must contemplate it with the mind and with the soul, and each of us will see the countenance of virtue as the face of the sun, the more perfectly the more he is gifted with a penetrating mind.

Here is what comes to my mind after having thought at length and deeply on this problem. Here is my opinion. As far as I can judge, I find only two causes for this human perversity, and both derive from Nature herself.

One is that the army of the vices is volptate numerous than that of virtue, so that, even if we wanted to, we could not win the fight against such forces. The other cause and it seems monstrous is that we do not want to conquer these most troublesome and dangerous enemies, not even if we could.

Nature has engendered in us a certain calamitous love of delighting in our own sickness, and the lordnzo that are the plagues of our minds are a source of our pleasure. On the other hand, Virtue [honestas], who teaches and participates in the divine blessings, seems to most to be harsh, sour, and bitter.

Lorenzo Valla

But more of this later. Now, pray, let us consider what we pointed out before, that is, let us talk about the disproportionate number of enemies. Fortitude has its antitheses, cowardice and temerity.

Prudence has guile and folly. Civility has scurrility and rusticity. And so on, successively, with all the other qualities with which Aristotle has dealt, as usual with the greatest care, in those books entitled Ethicsalthough he does not mention prudence among the moral virtues but relegates it to the intellectual virtues.

I pass over philosophers who have assigned to each virtue as its contraries not merely two vices but many. I beg you to observe and to consider how unjust it is that this multitude of vices has been created. For there is no color contrary to white but black, no sound contrary to a sharp one but a dull one, no taste contrary to sweet but bitter.

Lorenzo Valla (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

All other colors, sounds, or tastes are said to be not contrary but various, not opposite but diverse. However, a virtue like diligence is placed between two contraries, curiosity and negligence; and it is so placed that when you withdraw your foot from one, you are in danger of falling into the other, as the proverb says, ‘When I flee from Scylla I am dragged into Charybdis.

Nor am I indignant because a great many kinds of vices have been found I am willing to ignore the fact, I endure it, I bear it ; korenzo am I angered because too few kinds of virtues have been discovered, and – most shamefully – because the vices, although dissenting among themselves, still make common cause against us as though by treaty, assemble against us and, as it were, encircle us, who, not having enough to do to avoid one sin, are also in danger of yielding voluphate another, not of a dissimilar variety such as falling lorennzo avarice into cowardicebut of the very same sort like falling from the avarice that I have mentioned into prodigality, both of which vices are the contrary of liberality.

And how great a task will that be? How much prudence, vigilance, and diligence must we employ against this enemy that falls upon us on both vallla, and actually in front of us xe to our rear as well? Let us now move to the second cause of human perversity.

Should we not avlla what has been deplored by many, namely that we have absorbed with our mother’s milk the love of vices?

That we have done so should be blamed in no way on us but on Nature, if we wish to admit the truth. To be sure, we can see children from infancy turning toward the vices of gluttony, games, and luxury, more than toward virtue and honor; they hate punishment and love caresses; they flee instruction and seek out lasciviousness.

I pass over in silence with what pain good habits are inculcated. Not only children but some adults, and indeed most people in general, take punishment badly, although they should be happy to be corrected and to be informed of the cause of their sins.

Moreover, and worst of all, they are enraged at the very persons from whom they have received the benefit of correction. So that no one may be led astray by an empty argument, I affirm that what lorehzo good by nature is desired spontaneously, and, contrariwise, that what is bad is naturally avoided. Hence brute animals, to which nothing better than a body has been given, flee from hunger, thirst, cold, heat, fatigue, and death.


For us, however, who possess the power of reason and are thus allied with the immortal gods, virtue is the sole good, and vice the only evil. Things being thus, why do we evade what is virtuous and desire and love vices? It is one thing to fall into error, to succumb, to be urged on by some expectation although this partakes of evil ; it is another thing to delight in sin itself. As Quintilian with his usual brilliance says, ‘There is a certain wretched love of committing outrage, and the most intense pleasure of shameful action is in defiling virtue.

Must I go on with this subject, or is the truth not more than sufficiently self-evident? Why should we delight so in defiling women who are chaste, virginal, pure, and respectable; and why are we more quickly inflamed by the desire to dishonor them than to possess prostituted, depraved, lascivious, and base women, even when these are more beautiful? Certainly Sexus Tarquinius was induced to ravish Lucretia not so olrenzo by her beauty for he had seen her several times before as by her austere way of life, of which he had previously been ignorant.

If indeed you are a wise man as you persuade yourself, and as I grant, considering your labors and your vigilswhy don’t the others follow wisdom, especially when they have you for an example and teacher? Being wise is denied no one. You have been deceived and led into this censure by the Stoic heresies, which, not in words but in deeds since the two things always differ from each otheraccord no honor to gods or men.

The Stoics do indeed cast many a stone at Valpa, as if she could be reformed. And they do attempt to reform her, for example, in the case of perturbations of the human mind, which are the passions, and which they believe could be rooted out of us completely; or when they contend that there can be no man not demented, or mad, or possessed of whatever other qualities of the most offensive nature that can be uttered. And being of such an opinion, they nevertheless claim to be not accusers volu;tate witnesses.

For what concerns myself, therefore, although I agree with you in other matters, I am taking up the defense of Nature together with that of the human race, which cannot be separated from its first cause, as I shall show. To begin with, what you have said about Nature can be answered piously, religiously, and without offending the ears of man: Why need I falla the seas, the earth, the air, the mountains, the fields, the rivers, the lakes, the springs, even the clouds and the rain?

Why domestic animals, wild beasts, the birds, the fish, the foluptate, the crops? You will not be able to find anything that is not perfected, furnished, and adorned to the highest degree with rationality, or beauty, or usefulness. Even the structure of our own llrenzo can be shown to prove this fact, as Lactantius, a man of keen and eloquent genius, most clearly shows in the book that he entitled De opificio [ On the Handiwork of God ], although many more points could be mentioned that would not be less important than what he says.

And you should not be surprised if I, who seem to defend Epicurus because, like him, I identify the highest good with pleasuredo not deny that all things have been created in accordance with the providential care of Nature – a point that he lorejzo. Now, to go back to your argument, Catone, the primary reason that it dissatisfies is that you Stoics, unhappy and inflexible as you are, desire that nothing should exist that is not wicked and vile; you measure everything by a hollow wisdom that is in all respects fixed and complete.

Thus, while you take joy in flying prodigiously and in striving toward the higher regions, your wings melt not being natural to you but artificial and made of waxand lorsnzo the foolish Icarus [who flew too close to the sun] you fall into the sea. Truly, what kind of farfetched subtlety is it to describe the wise man in such a way that, by your own admission, no example can be found among us men, and to declare that he alone is happy, that he alone is friendly, good, and free?

I would gladly endure this if your law did not deem that anyone who is not a wise man is by necessity a fool, a reprobate, lorenso exile, an enemy, and a deserter, ‘anyone’ meaning all of us, since no one has yet possessed this wisdom.

And lest by chance someone could become wise, you barbarians have made vices more numerous than virtues, and have invented an infinity of the most minute kinds of sins so that there are not more diseases of the body, which you say are hardly known adequately by the doctors themselves. If only one va,la these maladies were to affect the body, its health would not be completely lost; but if even a minimal spiritual evil exists in a man as is necessarily the caseyou pretend not only that this man in completely lacks the honor belonging to wisdom but that he is also deformed by every shame and infamy.

By Hercules, it is amazing that, when the doctors say there is one state of health and many illnesses, you do not also affirm that virtue is also single, although this is the same as declaring that whoever has one virtue possesses them all. What shall I say?