Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Man

From Rushdoony’s The One and the Many.
Chapter XI, Utopia, the New City of Man

(footnotes deleted)

Basic to the Renaissance perspective was the concept of a finite God, limited and non-determinative in nature. The corollary of this premise was a belief in an infinite universe. As Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) wrote, “I hold the universe to be infinite, as being the effect of infinite divine power and goodness, of which any finite world would have been unworthy.” The reference to “infinite divine power” met the requirement of logic and science: the infinite universe was the product of an infinite divine power, a source or cause commensurate with its effect. But beyond this formal presence, the divine power had no role. With some, it was absorbed into its effect; with others, as with later Deism, it remained as a now obsolete cause.

[As I have learned, infinitude is a Divine attribute, and not part of the universe. As the universe is not infinite, neither are we – although we are everlasting, whenever we want to be or not.- AP]

An infinite universe means that man, the crown of the universe, is infinite also. Renaissance man saw himself as a new god in process of becoming. Chapman’s Bussy D’Ambois felt shock at the realization that he could die and was dying:

Is my body, then,
But penetrable flesh? And must my mind
Follow my blood? Can my divine part add
No aid to th’ earthly in extremity?

In any other era, for a man to express amazement at his mortality would be ridiculous; in this Renaissance play, it is thoroughly credible and in keeping with the temper of the day.

The Bussy D’Ambois type man of the Renaissance has been accorded the veneration his philosophy called for. His “genius” has been the subject of adulation, and his egoism has been taken at face value. A telling example of this is the pathetic and impotent figure of Leonardo da Vinci. A chronic dabbler and procrastinator, Leonardo found it difficult to finish anything. His notes occasionally record good observations, his jottings of the comments of wiser men, but he was unable to bring these gleamings to focus. His one area of real ability was painting, or, more accurately, drawing, but here his total production was limited and haunted by the specter of his weakness and impotence. But, because of his singular avoidance of any personal religious expression, this man has been especially highly esteemed, although, amusingly, the experts find it difficult to establish what was great about him!

[So it isn’t just about one painting and some rough sketches! It’s all about Getting God to Go Away…

…so the Voice of Powerful Men could be heard, loud and clear- AP]

But, Renaissance man being by self-definition a species of divinity, it was impossible to regard his actions as folly; what had been folly was now tragedy. The dramatic concern for tragedy, most notable in England, is a telling illustration of this fact. Chapman’s Bussy D’Ambois is one of many examples, more explicit than most. For a man’s “divine part” to follow his blood into death or disgrace was tragedy now, not sin or folly.

[Shock and dismay! – AP]


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