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In the Footsteps of a “Singular Treatise” (‘De Fato’ III,3). Two Items to be Added to the Catalogue of Coluccio Salutati’s Library


  • 2020
Published in:
  • Die Bibliothek – The Library – La Bibliothèque. - De Gruyter. - 2020, p. 431-456
English In the late 14th century one of the largest personal libraries of ancient texts in Europe was that of Coluccio Salutati: it was the object of a landmark study published in 1963 by Berthold Louis Ullmann, who listed more than a thousand manuscripts owned by the humanist thinker. However, missing from Ullmann’s list of the codices collected by Salutati was one book that had held a certain influence on his thinking and, more generally, on the debates on human agency, determinism and divine government in modern times: the Liber de bona fortuna, a Latin compilation of two chapters on good fortune taken from the Magna Moralia (1206b30-1207b19) and the Eudemian Ethics (1246b37-1248b11), made around 1265 and then included for many years in the Aristotelian corpus. In Salutati’s treatise On Fate and On Fortune (1396-1399), the opuscule, called a “singular tract”, is the object of an accurate discussion (DFF III,3) that attracted the attention of Ronald G. Witt in 1977 for the fact that it marks the first appearance of the term impetus in Salutati’s work. However, nor Witt nor any other scholar who studied the passage realized the presence of another scolastic source behind it: the commentary on the opuscule intitled Sententia de bona fortuna written by Giles of Rome around 1275-1278. The presence of the Aristotelian opuscule and of Giles’ commentary behind DFF III,3 is worth mentionning not only to add to our knowledge of the Humanist libraries as such, but also to have a better assessment of the content and originality of Salutati’s doctrine of fortune and fate. To this purpose, I propose a guided tour in this chapter of Salutati’s DFF III,3, in the form of a close reading of it. After a presentation of Salutati’s treatise DFF, I analyze the way in which the author summarizes the doctrine found in the LdBF (I); then, I explain the problematic point very soon identified by him in the treatise (II) and I come to the doctrine claimed by the author to rectify the Aristotelian view of fortune (III-IV); finally, I analyse the way in which the author, at the end of this though discussion, responds to two main objections that might be formulated against his own views, the one being taken from the exempla from the the Classical Antiquity and the other coming from some kind of astrological readings of the LdBF (V).
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de Philosophie
  • English
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