Before the detailed examination of Dee's writings and activities which illustrate, though often only fragmentarily, this sixteenth century neo-platonism, it may be desirable to construct a more synthesized representation both of it and older doctrines which it graduatlly superseded, which while emphasizing those features chiefly relevant to the present purposes will locate them in their general intellectual context. Such pictures are inevitably artificial and over-simplified, and in exhibiting the main lines of thought of a period must inevitably diverge widely from, or surpass in completeness, diagrammatic clarity, or development of implications, the explicit position admitted by any particular thinker. Their justification is the provision of an initial approximate perspective framework, which can be later modified and corrected in accordance with the demands of any set of concrete details which may be arranged within it. Here they may assist also in the realisation of how it was that so many of the principles and conclusions drawn from these, and so many of the experiments, of the "new philosophy," which today may seem obvious to the point of being self-evident, could then appear revolutionary, far fetched, or absurd - almost the whole of Galileo's work might be taken to illustrate this theme. They may also help to explain the apparent paradox that though it can well be claimed that for classical thought it was Aristotelianism that provided a practical instrument for the organisation of man's experience of the external world, and encouraged, by its scale of values, assisted by its methods, the study of the natural sciences, in which Platonism seemed to have little interest, yet in the Renaissance the roles played by types of philosophy, still validly distinguishable as Aristotelian or Platonic, had, as regards their influence and effects in this field, been exactly reversed.

One important oversimplification necessarily made here must however be initially noticed, to obviate serious distoritions in the impression such an analysis might otherwise appear to be aiming at as regards the actual intellectual situation in the Renaissance. This is the omission in the interests of clarity, of any assessment here of the wide-spread effects of what was rather an outlook, or tendency of thought than a uniform body of doctrine, sometimes termed "naturalism," which penetrated, and sometimes wholly informed the work of thinkers who professed adherence to any oneof the rival schools - as Gremonini or Pomponazzi among Aristotelians, or Bruno and Campanella - while its permeation of certain departments of Dee's thought will be very obvious in later chapters. Building on what was often presented as an extreme empiricism which dispensed with the fictionalized abstractions through which various philosophies viewed the world ordering and evaluating its contents in advance, it was marked by a prodigious credulity and lack of critical spirit towards its data that effectively prevented, since its extreme tolerance inhibited the development of any useful standards of discrimination, any detailed satisfactory system being formed to account for the mass of facts it initially accepted. Rejecting as false the a priori simplification, the reduction of their concrete experiential richness in the interests of intelligibility and of representing them in a manageable form, of particular occurrences, rejecting also the theoretical standards of the typical or the truly causal advanced by the various schools, naturalism was essentially irrational in a fashion which Aristotelianism, Platonism or mathematicism could not be accused of being. By accepting all marvels which seemed to be wekk attestedm as natural products they ended by destroying any clear ideas of natural laws, and also, an important religious consequence, of the miraculous. It was in some respects a protest against that dualism on which both the schoolmen's Aristotelianism and a later mechanical philosophy insisted, and by which alone such systems attained and preserved their "rationality," but a dualism which had also involved the separation or even opposition of the moral consciousness and Nature. But the Nature to which all things on the position rejecting this distinction, were to be ascribed, proved incapable of definition, because its limits could not be laid down. Pantheism and panpsychism were the inevitable consequences. Overall unity was attained by referring all things to the operation of such entities as the World Soul; only in so far as it adopted astrological doctrines into its system did naturalism in any way preserve ideas of law and regularity in nature that were accessible to verification or observation by man, these indeed often provided the common ground where it made contact and fused with the new scientific thought (59). At a lower level practically all explanation was perforcedly in terms of "occult causes"; natural operations could only be conceived of as "magical" in character and, significantly, magnetic phenomena are conceived by thinkers like Cardan and Pomponazzi adopting such a standpoint as the typical exemplar of all causal action in nature, as a symbol providing a general pattern by analogical extension. Such thinkers claimed to be thoroughly experimental in their manner of investigation but even so, as is the case with Porta in his Natural Magick, they were inevitably preoccupied solely with the examination and discovery of isolated, for them unrelatable individual mirabilia.

The immense range of such supposed facts they collected and their open-mindedness to these (60) is illustrated by the vast number of prodigies that are this starting point, the data the work sets out to explain, of Pomponazzi's de Incantationibus, originally written as an answer to a Paduan physician who had submitted a number of puzzling cases - of patients cured of burns or erysipelis "solis verbis et carminibus" etc. - and to show the naturalness of all such happenings. This feature indeed provides a sharp contrast with the extreme selectivity as regards typical data, of the new science in regard to certain fields where it was successfully able to insist on quantitative observations and mathematical investigation solely - the minute number of cases for instance upon which Stevin and Galileo were able to found the whole structure of a mechanics - indeed a chief contributary to the power and later influence of the science of the Renaissance, in the development of which Dee assisted, was the restricted number of phenomena thoroughly analysed which formed its fcore and from which ground it gradually, thereafter, irresistably conquered increasingly extensive surrounding areas of experience (61).