Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1384-6663
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9684
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This article wants to recall a hitherto unnoticed edition of Cicero’s , which the classical philologist Matthäus Dresser (1536–1615) published with an extensive commentary. This edition, however, represents a remarkable peculiarity within the reception history of Cicero’s text, since Dresser neither claims to be a philologist, interested in textual criticism, nor a neutral historian of the philosophy of religion. Rather, as an apologetically oriented Protestant in times of confessional conflict, he is concerned with the argumentative validity of the different answers to the questions discussed in Cicero’s text: Do gods exist? What qualities do they have? What activities do they display? And which relevance do these answers have for Christian monotheism? Hence, we may speak of a selective commentary, first and foremost interested in the truth or falsehood of the various answers to these main questions, in order to set contemporary readers (especially scholars and students) on the right track and to save them from severe religious errors. Dresser aims to achieve his goal by adding to the text not only extensive , but also an introductory to each of the three Ciceronian books of . He also gives two (in the form of theses) at the end of each book, which provide a résumé and further guidance on interpretation. Thus he firmly rejects the atomism of Epicureanism and its denial of Providence, as explained in the first book. Dresser has to take a differentiated view of the views of Stoicism as presented in the second book: Besides many beneficial doctrines, this school of philosophers also holds fatalistic and pantheistic views which have to be rejected as dangerous to the Christian faith. As the sceptic Cotta radically rebukes the religious views of Epicureanism in the third book, but also attacks in large part Stoic theism and its idea of providence, which is also dear to Dresser’s heart, he is forced to oppose academic scepticism. This gives rise to a “theodicy” avant la lettre by Dresser, since Cottas denial of providence had also argued with the existence of evil in God’s creation. The Epicurean conceptions of God are thus not an option. Those of Stoicism are acceptable if purged of dangerous elements. Scepticism in its radical academic form must be eliminated by argument. In this article, these features of Dresser’s and are described and analysed in detail. Important parts of his commentaries are quoted in the author’s translation. Completely translated are the 1 and 2 to Book III, dealing with the sceptical ’epoché’ or retention of judgement. Thus, the contribution not only represents a unique example of the reception of Cicero’s in the age of confessionalism, but also gives an insight into the reception of the three Hellenistic schools of philosophy in the early modern period in general, especially that of scepticism.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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