Ada Palmer (History) will present a paper entitled, "Humanist Lives of Classical Philosophers and the Idea of Renaissance Secularization: Virtue, Rhetoric, and the Orthodox Sources of Unbelief."
Humanists seeking to defend the classics in Christian-dominated Europe often reframed ancient philosophers as virtuous proto-Christians. This is particularly visible in the biographical paratexts written for printed editions of ancient philosophers such as Pythagoras, Epictetus, and Democritus, whose humanist editors' Christianizing claims grew stronger over time. Pious humanists intended and expected the classics to strengthen and reaffirm Christian orthodoxy, but humanists' own claims that pre-Christian sages, by the Light of Reason alone, had deduced the central truths of theology and surpassed Christians in the exercise of virtue inadvertently undermined the necessity of Scripture and paved the way for later Deism.
Ada Palmer is a cultural and intellectual historian focusing on the history of radical thought, and the recovery of classical thought, especially in the Italian Renaissance. She works on the history of science, religion, heresy, freethought, atheism, censorship, books, printing, and publishing, and on patronage and the networks of power and money that surrounded the creation of literary and cultural works in early modern Europe. Much of her research has been conducted in rare books libraries, especially in Rome and Florence, where she worked with Renaissance copies of classical texts, both manuscripts and printed books. She also writes science fiction, and her first novel Too Like the Lightning was nominated for the Chicago Literary Review Award for Best First Novel.