Laurentius Valla

Laurentius Valla a distinguished humanist, was born at Rome in 1415. He was still young when the reaction against scholasticism set in, and took an active part in the conflict. He attacked the authenticity of Constantine the Great's deed of donation in his De ilso credita et et eentita Constantini donatione

Declamatio, as also all the other unproved assertions of the theologians. Thus he questioned the origin of the so-called Apostles' Creed, pointed out the faults contained in the old Latin versions of the Bible, and applied philological exegesis to the New Testament. It is no wonder that by such a course he gained many enemies, especially among the clergy, who denounced him as an infidel. He was compelled to leave Rome, and retired to the court of Alphonse, king of Naples, who, though fifty years of age, now commenced to study Latin under Valla's tuition. Here, however, he commenced anew his arguments on the Trinity, free will, the vows of continence, and other delicate questions, and was therefore accused of heresy by the ecclesiastical authorities. King Alphonse succeeded in saving his life, but could not prevent his being whipped publicly around the convent of St. Jacob. Valla then returned to Rome, where he found a protector in pope Nicholas V, who gave him permission to teach, and granted him a salary. Here again he entered into a most violent controversy with Poggi. He died at Rome in 1457. His works, in which he attacks scholastic theology more with the weapons of common sense than of philosophy, are especially directed against Aristotle and Boetius, whom he considers as the founders of the scholastic dialect. He looked upon the evidences of Christianity as a result of sane human reason, which, in its development, has become participant in the divine revelation. But he was far from attempting to inquire further into these revelations by analyzing their mysteries. He says that there are many things we cannot know, and that we must respect the mystery with which it has pleased God to surround them. His tendency is eminently practical; according to him there is no virtue without faith, and all without it is but sinfulness. Where hope no longer points to higher and eternal happiness, nothing can remain but the false honesty of the stoic, or the material sense of the epicure. Without hope of a future life there can be no virtue, only misery; the peace and inner satisfaction of which philosophers boast are but falsehoods. True virtue is undeniably above worldly desires-it is the chief requisite of happiness; but it must be Christian virtue, not that of the philosophers. Among his works are to be noticed Elegantiae Latini sermonis (Venice, 1471, 6 volumes, fol.; Par. 1575, 4to): — De libero arbitrio: — De voluptate ac de vero bono libri iii: — Fabulae et facetic; and especially the above De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione declamatio. His collected works were published at Basle in 1540, folio, and at Venice in 1592. See H. Ritter, Geschichte d. Christl. Philosophie, 5:243-261; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 8:232, 233; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 6:366.

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