In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Scholasticism and Aristotelianism: Fourteenth to Seventeenth Centuries

  • Introduction
  • Overviews and Historiographical Studies
  • Bibliographies and Other Reference Works
  • Economics
  • Language and Logic
  • Metaphysics
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Natural Philosophy and Science
  • Philosophical Theology
  • Political and Legal Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Scholastics and Humanists

Renaissance and Reformation Scholasticism and Aristotelianism: Fourteenth to Seventeenth Centuries
Sydney Penner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0419


The dominance of Aristotelianism, albeit interwoven with strands from Christianity, Platonism, and other sources, in medieval universities is familiar. The continuing dominance of Aristotelianism, including of the scholastic variety, is also reasonably well known by this point, though one still encounters claims with surprising regularity that seem to have been made in ignorance of the fact. But even to those familiar with the fact that Aristotelian philosophy held sway in many universities throughout the Renaissance and the Reformation and past the introduction of the new philosophies of the 17th century, it can be overwhelming to discover the sheer number and variety of Aristotelians in the centuries more often associated with Ficino, Erasmus, Luther, and Montaigne. Aristotelians contributed to theology, logic, metaphysics, psychology, ethics, political thought, and many other areas. They participated in the main controversies of the day, from the Protestant-Catholic divide, to questions about how to reconcile human free will and divine providence and foreknowledge, to the question of the political legitimacy of monarchs. They contributed to new developments in the natural sciences. They helped give rise to new disciplines such as economics. Aristotelians were also active across the globe. When thinking of Aristotelians, philosophers and theologians in western European centers such as Oxford, Paris, and Salamanca tend to come to mind. But Aristotelians were present all over the globe, from eastern Europe to Asia to Latin America. Jesuit missionaries trained in Jesuit schools played an especially prominent role in disseminating Aristotelian thought globally. Rather than focusing exclusively on the handful of figures who are well known today, this bibliography attempts to represent something of the range of Aristotelian thought, both in topics addressed and geographically. This requires the division of the bibliography into sections to be complex, with some rather non-obvious placements of titles. After a couple of introductory sections covering overviews and reference works, there is a group of sections divided by region, with the Western European section further divided by tradition or school. Works on individual Aristotelians are included here. This is followed by a series of topical sections. It should be noted that this organizational scheme requires many judgment calls about where to place a work (whether, for example, a work on Jesuit political philosophy should be included in the section on Jesuits or in the section on Political and Legal Philosophy). Some cross-references are provided, but not exhaustively.

Overviews and Historiographical Studies

There is no comprehensive history that covers all the variety of Renaissance Aristotelians in all their geographical spread. In particular, it is nearly impossible to find works that cover both European and non-European Aristotelians. Copenhaver and Schmitt 1992 and the classic Schmitt 1983 rightly highlight the diversity of European Aristotelians, but many otherwise valuable studies end up predominantly focusing on one group of Aristotelians or another to make their object of study manageable. Blum 2012, for example, focuses on Jesuits, despite what its title might suggest. Schmutz 2012 is a rather brief overview, but it is useful for quickly getting a sense of the importance of scholastic Aristotelians in the early modern period. Martin 2014 makes provocative, revisionary claims about the relationships between Aristotelianism, Christianity, and the Scientific Revolution. See also the two widely cited historiographical discussions about how best to conceive of and label the scholastics in the early modern period: Novotný 2013, cited under Metaphysics, and Forlivesi 2006, under Franciscans.

  • Blum, Paul Richard. Studies on Early Modern Aristotelianism. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004232198

    Erudite studies with a keen sense for the wider intellectual landscape of the time. The focus is mostly on Jesuit scholastics.

  • Copenhaver, Brian P., and Charles B. Schmitt. Renaissance Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

    The lengthy chapter on Aristotelianism is one of the more useful surveys of the subject, highlighting the diversity of the different Aristotelianisms of the time. It ends with profiles of eight Renaissance Aristotelians: Bruni, Trapezuntius, Lefèvre, Mair, Pomponazzi, Vitoria, Zabarella, and Case.

  • Martin, Craig. Subverting Aristotle: Religion, History, and Philosophy in Early Modern Science. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

    An erudite, refreshingly contrarian argument that Aristotelianism met its demise not because of increasing secularization and the Scientific Revolution, but because leading early modern thinkers were devout Christians and increasingly recognized that the pagan Aristotle’s philosophy fundamentally conflicted with Christianity. Some will think this the wrong explanation, and some will wonder whether there is an Aristotelian demise to be explained, but the book will no doubt provoke some rethinking.

  • Schmitt, Charles B. Aristotle and the Renaissance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.

    DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674432819

    The classic book-length introduction to Renaissance Aristotelianism, or rather, as Schmitt argues, Aristotelianisms. Schmitt did as much as anyone to overturn the old view that Aristotelianism was largely swept aside by the advent of the new philosophy and science, but he also emphasized that the label does not pick out any one coherent school of thought.

  • Schmutz, Jacob. “Medieval Philosophy after the Middle Ages.” In The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Philosophy. Edited by John Marenbon, 245–266. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    A spirited defense of the vitality and continuing relevance of the scholastic tradition that continued much longer than most people know.

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