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Agrippa von Nettesheim, Henricus Cornelius (1486–1535)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-C002-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Famous in the sixteenth century for writings in which he steps forward variously as magician, occultist, evangelical humanist and philosopher, Agrippa shared with other humanist writers a thoroughgoing contempt for the philosophy of the scholastics. In his more evangelical moods Agrippa could be taken for a radical exponent of the philosophia Christi of his older contemporary Erasmus, or mistaken for a follower of Luther, whose early writings he actively disseminated in humanist circles. However, his deepest affinities are with magically inflected philosophies: the Neoplatonism and Hermetism of Marsilio Ficino, and the syncretic Christian Kabbalah of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Johannes Reuchlin and Johannes Trithemius.

As well as expounding an influential magical view of language, Agrippa contributed to the sixteenth-century revival of scepticism, denounced the ‘tyranny’ of those who obstructed a free search for truth, criticized the subjection of women and (with a courage unusual in his time) resisted and mocked the instigators of the witch-craze. Finding in Hermetic–Kabbalistic doctrines the inner truth both of religion and of philosophy, Agrippa was also aware of parallels between these magical doctrines and the Gnostic heresies. His heterodoxy made him a target for pious slanders: within several decades of his death he became the protagonist of demonological fictions which were soon absorbed into the legend of Dr Faustus.

Citing this article:
Keefer, Michael H.. Agrippa von Nettesheim, Henricus Cornelius (1486–1535), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-C002-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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