Review Of "Sacralizing The Secular: The Renaissance Origins Of Modernity" By S. A. McKnight

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Modernity, a break with the dark ages and a new confidence in human self-determination, has long been associated with the Renaissance. Contrary to the prevailing view that modernity is the product of secularization, McKnight (history, University of Florida) argues that a complementary process, sacralization, is equally important. The Renaissance appropriation of the prisca theologica, or the Ancient Wisdom, tradition, is based largely upon the Corpus Hermeticum but also draws upon alchemy and magic, sacralized man, seeing the human being as a magus or terrestrial god who possessed the knowledge and power to control nature and to perfect society. McKnight extends his examination beyond Renaissance figures like Boccaccio, Galileo, Machiavelli, Ficino, Pico, and Agrippa to modern thinkers like Bacon, Comte, and Marx. The author convincingly treats the Renaissance thinkers. He is less convincing in his assessment of those of the 19th century. In spite of this weakness, this book provides a highly useful introduction to an aspect of the Renaissance as well to the current debate among historians over the origins of modernity. Suitable for upper-level undergraduates, faculty, and graduate students. Extensive bibliography.


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