The Pleasures of Piety. The History of a Neglected Religious Tradition
Enrico Piergiacomi received his PhD from the University of Trento in 2016 and published his dissertation “Storia delle antiche teologie atomiste” (Sapienza Università Editrice, 2017). He specializes in ancient and modern theological thought and its moral implications. He was the recipient of the International Grant “The Reception of Lucretius and Roman Epicureanism from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth century,” financed by Italia Fenice of Sutri and the Société Internationale des Amis de Cicéron of Paris, an opportunity which allowed him to write the volume Amicus Lucretius. Gassendi, il De rerum natura e l’edonismo cristiano, under evaluation by the series “Cicero. Studies on Roman Thought and Its Reception” of De Gruyter.
The project seeks to investigate the history and the notion of “religious hedonism,” that is to say, the theological-ethical perspective according to which: a) religion can be a way to achieve true pleasure and well-being; b) genuine religious experiences (worship, knowledge of God, etc.) are pleasurable in themselves. This view has been defended especially by some early modern philosophers, such as Lorenzo Valla (1407-1457), Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), and Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), who may have searched for a syncretism between Paganism and Christianity. Indeed, these thinkers recovered the hedonism of ancient philosophers, especially Plato and Epicurus, while at the same time making it compatible with the truths of the Holy Scriptures. The main point is that the Christian God created humankind in order for it to experience the kind of pleasure that ancient philosophers have identified in their ethics. Therefore, it is a project in the history both of philosophy and of religion. Its aims are to search for the rational arguments in defense of hedonism elaborated by these religious thinkers, as well as to study their often peculiar yet intriguing interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, which in their opinion contain many references to the good pleasure that humankind should experience in this life and in Paradise.