A History of Western Philosophy: 3

Renaissance Philosophy



Oxford New York





1 The Historical Context of Renaissance Philosophy



The philosophical heritage of antiquity and
the Middle. Ages



Philosophy in a Renaissance context






Church and state



The Renaissance transformation of philosophy



2 Aristotelianism



Renaissance Aristotelianisms



Unity and diversity in the Aristotelian tradition



Eight Renaissance Aristotelians



3 Platonism



From Aristotle to Plato



Marsilio Ficino



Giovanni Pico and Nicholas of Cusa



Pious, perennial, and Platonic philosophies:
Francesco Patrizi



4 Stoics, Sceptics, Epicureans, and Other Innovators



Humanism, authority, and uncertainty



Lorenzo Valla: language against logic



The simple method of Peter Ramus and
its forerunners



The crisis of doubt



Justus Lipsius on a new moral code



Politics and moral disorder: Erasmus, More, and





5 Nature against Authority: Breaking Away
from the Classics



Books of learning and nature



Giordano Bruno's philosophical passions



New philosophies of nature



6 Renaissance Philosophy and Modern Memory












Nature against Authority: Breaking Away from the Classics Books of learning and nature

Gabriel Naudé was a librarian, bibliophile, pamphleteer, and a
contemporary of Descartes who moved in a circle of sceptical
French intellectuals called 'learned libertines'. One target of
Naudé's scepticism was superstitious magic. In 1625 he pub-
lished his best-known book to show that famous people accused
of magic were seldom guilty since there was really nothing
unnatural to blame them for. 1 Naudé was no philosopher, but
he was aware that beliefs about magic and other disputed
phenomena were tied to the prevailing Peripatetic system, and
he knew how the generations before him had weakened Aris-
totelianism by certifying such rival claims to philosophical
sovereignty as Ficino's resurrected Platonism or the new access
to ancient evidence on pre-Socratics, Stoics, and Epicureans.
His crusade against magic interested him mainly in natural
philosophy, so he noted how 'all those truths known to Aris-
totle are today rendered greatly suspect and dubious by a
swarm of innovators . . . who truly have no other design than
to shove aside the great edifice that Aristotle and his inter-
preters strove to build'. Naudé doubted everything, especially
the prudence of originality, so he never let go of Aristotle. Yet
he admired the novatores who dethroned the Stagirite -- Patrizi,
Telesio, Bruno, Bacon, Campanella -- and he also sensed how
the Peripatetics had poisoned their own system by pushing its
naturalist implications past the bounds of Christian tolerance.
As he witnessed the great intellectual changes of the day,
when Descartes cut the cord that tied philosophy to humanism,



Naudé ( 1625); Rice ( 1939); Pintard ( 1943); Spink ( 1960); Kristeller ( 1968a;
1979a); Popkin ( 1979: 87-109).


Naudé stayed loyal to his eclectic erudition. 2 He lived and died
a humanist -- and a sceptic.

Naudé was heir to a fully developed humanism and a reclas-
sicized philosophy based on doctrines constructed in antiquity,
decayed in the Middle Ages, revived in the Renaissance, and
now familiar once again to all educated people. One cost of
the triumphant humanism that shaped Naudé's education was
the damage done to canons of judgement and action as a
better-informed Europe witnessed the spectacle of authorities
in conflict. A countervailing gain was that ancient ideas re-
covered and reworked by the humanists proved the case for
cultural stability by cementing continuities between ancient
and modern Stoicism, Platonism, Epicureanism, and Aristo-
telianism; in fact, in all cases except Scepticism, lines of tradi-
tion ran unbroken from the ancient era through the Middle
Ages and into early modern times, even though sometimes
they ran thin. In 1600, when Bruno died a martyr to free
thought, Naudé was born into a century for which Ficino and
Patrizi had already secured the teachings of Plotinus and Pro-
clus, while ancient and medieval Peripatetic doctrine still sur-
vived in the writings of Case and Zabarella. None of these
renovations, from a newly Platonized theology to a Neo-Stoic
morality, could have thrived in early modern Europe without
fundamental departures from their Graeco-Roman base -- above
all because pagan sages had new Christian masters to serve.
True to its name, the Renaissance was an age of rebirth, but
also a time for reconsideration of beliefs taken for granted in
the ancient and medieval periods. Yet from the perspective of
our own culture -- one that finds meaning in the expression
'post-contemporary' long tides of continuity seem to have
run more strongly through the Renaissance than swift surges
of change, all the more reason to admire the mavericks who
moved more briskly than the sceptical Naudé to break with
revered systems that could no longer contain them.

The Middle Ages, of course, had its own loners, dissidents,
and solitary geniuses, many of whom, like Peter Abelard,



Naudé ( 1625: 331); Gouhier ( 1958).


could not be good models for dissent in our period. At the
same time, John Scotus Eriugena, Avicebron, David of Dinant,
Roger Bacon, Ramon Lull, John Wyclif, and others found a
hearing in the Renaissance for their quarrels with tradition. In
at least one case -- the nominalist critique of ontology that still
ruled Parisian philosophy in the time of Vives and Lefèvre -- a
powerful medieval menace to authority cannot be separated at
all from its early modern expression. The Mallorquin reformer
Lull, a contemporary of Aquinas and Scotus, breached the
usual intellectual categories but still interested Leibniz and
later figures. Lull's mysticism, along with that of the German
Meister Eckhart, had an impact on early modern thinkers that
lies largely outside the scope of the classical traditions treated
in this volume, but his views none the less mingled with the
syncretisms of Ficino, Pico, and Steuco to re-emerge in Bruno's
wanton speculations. Lull did not write the alchemical works
attributed to him, but others provided an alternative, alchem-
ical view of nature entailing sharp departures from the Peri-
patetic tetrads of elements, qualities, and causes. Alchemy
began in late antiquity, developed in the Moslem world, and
arrived in Latin Europe to spread alongside Aristotelian natu-
ral philosophy from the thirteenth century onward. Alchem-
ical texts circulated abundantly, often attached to such familiar
and authoritative names as Aristotle, Aquinas, Albert, or Lull,
making it hard even today to tell the genuine from the counter-
feit. Early modern thinkers were not as quick as later critics to
assume that alchemy and other varieties of 'occultism' (like
'humanism', a nineteenth-century conception) could never be
taken seriously by serious philosophers; so they used these
alternative views along with traditional materials to construct
some of the more venturesome conceptions that the Renais-
sance produced.

One Renaissance writer discussed above whose ideas over-
load the usual pigeonholes was Nicholas of Cusa, though he
was not so radical as Bruno or Campanella. Cusanus was an
unusual Christian, but still a more loyal one than these defec-
tors from Dominican Thomism, who put more faith in a divin-
ized nature than in any conventional God. A volatile blend of


animist naturalism with religious temerity made the sometimes
fatal difference for a number of thinkers of the late Renais-
sance, usually called 'philosophers of nature', though they
were no more devoted to natural philosophy than Pomponazzi
or Zabarella. 3 Unlike these Peripatetics, however, the new
philosophers of nature felt that Aristotle's system could no
longer regulate honest inquiry into nature. Therefore, they
stopped trying to adjust the Aristotelian system and turned
their backs on it altogether. Fracastoro, Paracelsus, Cardano,
Telesio, Bruno, and the others (in some ways Patrizi belongs
with them) get less credit as philosophical revolutionaries than
Mersenne, Gassendi, and Descartes, but it is hard to imagine
how these later French innovators could have cleared the
ground for the scientific revolution without the subversive
work of their Italian predecessors. Drastic differences in onto-
logy, epistemology, ethics, and theology distinguish the new
philosophy of nature from Peripatetic dogmas still taught in
the schools of Naudé's time, while in other respects the philo-
sophers of nature drew on Ficino's fifteenth-century Neopla-
tonism. Their strong and, in some cases, controlling fascination
with occultism connected them with the Ficinian tradition,
while their broader aversion to book learning prepared them
for conceptions of nature relatively free of the usual Aristo-
telian strictures.

The universe of most of the philosophers of nature, like that
of the Neoplatonists, was an enchanted world of ensouled
objects linked together and joined to a higher realm of spirit
and absolute being. A universal world-soul pervades all crea-
tion and makes all creatures, even rocks and stones, alive and
sentient in some degree. Stars and planets are mighty living
divinities, so astrological bonds and forces of sympathy unify
all things in the lower world under the rule of the higher;
microcosm reflects macrocosm as man's lesser world mirrors
the greater world of universal nature. Hidden symmetries and
illegible signatures of correspondence energize and symbolize



Cassirer ( 1963: 140-52; 1974: i. 208-313); Kristeller ( 1964a: 91-144);
Garin ( 1965a: 186-220); Ingegno ( 1988).


a world charged with organic sympathies and antipathies. The
natural philosopher's job is to break these codes and uncover
their secrets; his tools are experiential as well as magical. He
watches nature closely to learn her arcana, and then he mani-
pulates them for practical use. As he reads the book of nature,
he foreshadows the Baconian scientist or engineer, but because
his book is also a magician's manual he also recalls the magus
of Ficino Three Books on Life. Bruno wrote that '"magus"
means a wise man who has the power to act'. Theory and
praxis in these new natural philosophies seem progressive
enough, but the next generations, who replaced natural philo-
with a newer science, so thoroughly discredited the idea
of a philosophically based occultism that it may be tempting to
write off Bruno, Campanella, and the others as woolly-brained
enthusiasts. 4

That it would be wrong to dismiss them so curtly becomes
clearer, however, as one explores the physical and metaphy-
sical arguments behind their occultism and their rejection of
Peripatetic school philosophy. At times, all tradition and every-
thing classical became the enemy, as they repudiated the
humanist culture of erudition that often preferred learned cita-
tions to original ideas and seldom stooped to look at a natural
object. Instead of learning from books, the philosophers of
nature said that they went to school with experience; but the
content and utility of their observations varied from the most
exotic magical fantasies to more orderly empiricist programmes
resembling the experimental science of the seventeenth cen-
tury. The words 'experiment' and 'experience' were favourites
of the philosophers of nature, who used these terms in con-
texts so wildly different that one scarcely knows where science
begins and the seance ends. 5 No matter how misguided their
observations, Paracelsus, Telesio, and others saw the book of



Bruno ( 1962a: iii. 400); Walker ( 1958a); Védrine ( 1967: 354); Müller- Jahncke
( 1985); Copenhaver ( 1988c); above, n. 2.


Zilsel ( 1945); Keller ( 1950); Cassirer ( 1963: 145-52); Garin ( 1965a: 187-
93); Santillana and Zilsel ( 1970); Schmitt ( 1981: ch. 8); Ashworth ( 1990);
Cook ( 1990: 409-17); Copenhaver ( 1990: 275-80); Eamon ( 1990); McMullin
( 1990: 54-6).


nature as displacing the artificial textual authority of Aristotle
in philosophy and Galen in medicine. Having taunted these
ancient giants, they armed themselves with a titanic ar-
rogance that exaggerated their own detachment from tradition.
They produced more bombast than results. Perhaps their most
glaring failure was a view of mathematics that varied from
merely ingenious curiosity to misunderstanding to loathing.
True, most of the nature philosophers were more curious about
mathematics than the typical Peripatetic, yet few of them --
Cardano being the great exception got -- much further than
numerological speculation. Cardano stands with Cusanus and
Patrizi as having at least recognized the fundamental value of
mathematics. Perhaps their most important beneficiary in the
early seventeenth century was Johann Kepler, who also appre-
ciated the mystical aspects of numbers and shapes.

Giordano Bruno's philosophical passions

In 1584 the Cambridge Puritan and Ramist, William Perkins,
published a tirade titled Antidicsonus against a book On the
Shadow of Reason
issued in the previous year by Alexander
Dicson, a Scots disciple of Giordano Bruno, whose own trea-
tise on The Shadows of Ideas had appeared in Paris in 1582.
More Ramist battles were to come at Cambridge and conflicts
much worse would face Bruno, but this particular scuffle started
after Bruno had launched a small fad in England, a minor
craze for his odd style of mnemonics. Because memory had
long been one of the parts of rhetoric, ancient rhetoricians
devised arts of memory, of which the most popular were those
that used places and images to help the orator recall the parts
of a speech. Consider an oration with an introduction in three
sections, a main body of seven sections, and a two-part con-
clusion: such a speech might come more quickly to mind if
pictured mentally as a temple with three steps for the introduc-
tion, seven pillars for the body, and two rooms inside for the
conclusion. If seven pillars are too plain to jog the memory,
one can imagine them not as bare locations but as places
decorated with images, preferably images so bizarre as to be


unforgettable. Artificial memory schemes of this type were
common in medieval and Renaissance rhetoric, but Ramus
discarded the art of memory because he had no need of it. His
binary taxonomies displayed on the printed page worked better
as mnemonic than as logical devices. Whether the schematic
Ramist technique attracted Puritan ascetics as a kind of 'inner
iconoclasm' is hard to say, but there is no doubt that Perkins
preferred it as more natural and more efficient than the system
that Dicson learned from Bruno, which Perkins denounced as
evil and idolatrous. 6

Why did Perkins react so harshly to an aid for memory?
While he and Dicson exchanged their polemics, Bruno was
making a small sensation in London and Oxford, two of many
stops on the adventurous journeys that began with his flight
from a Dominican convent in Naples in 1576, while not yet
thirty years old. 7 Born in Nola near Naples in 1548, he became
a friar while in his teens and a doctor of theology in 1575.
What conflict of belief drove him from Catholic Italy is un-
clear, but he had no better luck with the Reformed ministers
of Geneva, who jailed him in 1579, after which he spent nearly
two years in Toulouse teaching astronomy and natural philo-
sophy. His next stop was Paris in 1581, where the subjects of
his public lectures included theology and memory. Bruno's
memory system intrigued the French courtiers as a practical
yet exotic tool; years earlier, in 1571, the papacy had brought



Yates ( 1966: 2-18, 231-42, 266-86, esp. 235).


The Latin works are in Bruno ( 1962a; 1957; 1964d; 1980); the Italian in
Guzzo and Amerio ( 1956) and Bruno ( 1954; 1955; 1958; 1964c; 1973); see also
the original documents in Spampanato ( 1933) and Mercati ( 1942). For trans-
lations of the Italian works by Singer, Greenberg, Michel, Lindsay, Hale,
Imerti, Memmo, Jaki and Gosselin, and Lerner, see Greenberg ( 1950); Singer
( 1950); and Bruno ( 1954; 1962b; 1964a; 1964b; 1964e; 1975; 1977). The
standard biography is Spampanato ( 1921), but in English see esp. Singer
( 1950) and Yates ( 1964). From the large secondary literature see, besides the
introductory material in edns. and translations listed above, Tocco ( 1889;
1892); Gentile ( 1925); Corsano ( 1940); Firpo ( 1949); Badaloni ( 1955; 1988);
Nelson ( 1958); Salvestrini ( 1958); Vasoli ( 1958a); Guzzo ( 1960); Kristeller
( 1964a: 127-44); Yates ( 1966; 1982-4: i); Védrine ( 1967); Ingegno ( 1968;
1978; 1985); Koyré ( 1968); Papi ( 1968); Aquilecchia ( 1971); Atanasijevic
( 1972); Michel ( 1973); Ciliberto ( 1979); Blum ( 1980); Rossi ( 1983); Gosselin
( 1987; 1988); Gatti ( 1989).


the young friar to Rome to develop powers of memory for
which he was famous even then. The appeal of artificial mem-
ory to patrons mighty enough to protect him helps explain
Bruno's continuing interest in the topic. The art of memory
was his passport through a picaresque life that bounced him
from one disappointed host to the next who might welcome
him on reputation. But memory was more than a meal-ticket
for Bruno, as one can see from his first surviving work, De
umbris idearum, dedicated to Henri III of France.

The overriding and ineffable impulse in all of Bruno's think-
ing was an unrequited passion for infinite unity -- metaphysical,
moral, and epistemological. By treating substance as the divine
rather than the particular, he did away with Aristotle's concep-
tion of the concrete individual substance which persists while
its accidental features come and go, turning instead (like
Spinoza) to a divine substantial unity as the enduring ground
in which perishable particulars sustain their momentary being.
Through physics and metaphysics he aimed at an elusive union
with the infinite One. Through a cosmic moral reform he
wished to overcome the discord and disunity that make man-
kind vicious. On the level of epistemology, he reached for an
unreachable knowledge of the One that transcends pheno-
menal information about multiple physical objects; the paths
toward unity through epistemic diversity are imagination and
memory. 'In willing one observes [speculor] images [phantas-
mata], and thinking is either to become an image [phantasia]
or to imagine [phantasiare] something', he claimed in his last
work on memory, On the Composition of Images. 'Hence', he
continued, 'we realize that we can complete no action of any
kind befitting our nature without certain shapes and figures
conceived from sensible objects through the external senses,
then gathered and ordered internally.' 8 To understand why
memory images seemed so important to Bruno, one must start
with his use of the art of Ramon Lull, a medieval departure
from the classical technique of places and images and a system



Bruno ( 1962a: ii. 3. 103); Aristotle, On the Soul431a1-19; Kristeller
( 1964a: 132-3); Yates (104: 335; 1966: 298).


powerful enough to have stimulated many printed versions in
the sixteenth century before attracting the interest of Descartes
and Leibniz in the seventeenth.

Lull, who died in 1316, aimed at much more than memory. 9
He designed his ars combinatoria or art of combinations to
represent reality directly and to give its user universal and
simplified access to all the arts and sciences. By manipulating
the letters and figures of the art, one could master nature,
convert the heathen, and know God himself. In one sense, the
Lullian art is a cosmic notation, a cipher for the structure of
the universe and a set of rules for reading it. In the concise
form most widespread in Bruno's day, the Ars brevis, the art
starts with nine letters -- BCDEFGHIK -- and the missing A
stands for the essence, unity, and perfection of the trinity. The
nine letters are interpreted in six ways, as virtues, vices, ques-
tions, relations, levels of reality, and, in the absolute sense, as
'dignities' or divine names, causes, and attributes. Thus, God's
bonitas or 'goodness' is the absolute meaning of B; magnitudo
or 'greatness' of C; duratio or 'duration' of D; and so on. Lull
arranged these letters in spatial and geometrical patterns, of
which the most important were a table displaying groups of
letters in columns and a set of concentric circles divided into
nine segments, each containing one of the letters. By turning
the circles, the artist could contemplate various combinations
of letters, which could also be shown in tabular form. If B
represents divine 'goodness' absolutely but 'difference' rela-
tively and E refers to mankind in the scale of being, then the
circular or tabular combination BBE points to the distinction
between human goodness and divine. In a modest way, the art
works as a kind of algorithm for defining questions and setting
problems, roughly like the places of Agricola's dialectic; but
greater ambitions emerge in other applications, as in the New
Treatise on Astronomy
that Lull wrote in 1297. Here, the
letters ABCD stand for various zodiacal, planetary, elemen-



Yates ( 1964: 173-98, 217-29, 237-41, 248-51, 306-7, 368-89; 1982-4:
i. 3-125); Lohr ( 1988: 538-48). On Lull see also Carreras y Artau ( 1939-43: i.
231-640); Copleston ( 1960-6: ii. 456-9); Colomer ( 1961); Pring-Mill ( 1961);
Platzeck ( 1962-4); Hillgarth ( 1971); Rossi ( 1983).


tary, and qualitative patterns, as follows, with variable Mercury
combining all four letters and their attributes:



Gemini, Libra, Aquarius


Wet and Hot



Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Mars, Sun

Hot and Dry



Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn


Dry and Cold



Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Venus, Moon

Cold and Wet

If stellar and planetary powers above govern elementary terres-
trial objects below, the permutations of ABCD signify important
cosmological facts, which become even more meaningful when
manipulated jointly with the nine letters and the figures of the
general art. The relation between these two sets of signs has a
basis in reality, because B to K are divine causes of which A to
D are natural effects. Such patterns arise not only in astronomy
but also in theology, medicine, law, and all the arts and
sciences. Lull's art was a simple, abstract, compendious route
to all learning and a pathway to the mystical contemplation
that lay beyond. Since Lull claimed powers so stupendous for
his method, one can see why Lullian memory need amount to
no more than recalling the Lullian art. 10

Lull was well known throughout Europe long before Bruno
came to England; but even if Bruno had done no more than
advocate the ars combinatoria, critics like Perkins might well
have objected to its theological pretensions and unscriptural
origins in the medieval mysticism of John Scotus Eriugena. As
usual, however, Bruno went much further. Although Lull's art
did not use the places and images of classical memory, Bruno
combined images with Lull's letters and figures in a most
provocative way in his De umbris idearum. As in several of his
works, Bruno organized this book around the number thirty.
After a short introductory dialogue, De umbris
continues with
thirty obscure paragraphs on 'intentions of shadows' and then
thirty more on 'concepts of ideas'. The point seems to be to
direct will and mind toward supercelestial ideas that cast sha-
dows in the lower reaches of the cosmos, which is darkest of
all here on earth. The person who lifts his mind higher in the



Yates ( 1966: 173-98; 1982-4: i. 4-32, 46-59, 66-7, 78-83, 87, 98, 104,


order of things can dispel the gloom and enlighten his under-
standing. Access to brighter and loftier realms comes through
thirty sets of five images representing various patterns of stellar
and planetary powers. Bruno made these one hundred and
fifty images deliberately weird, sure to stick in the imagination
like those of classical memory; but at the same time he used
them as talismans, signs of planets and stars like those that
Ficino described in his Three Books on Life as capable of
drawing down demonic forces from the skies. Moreover, Bruno
directed that the images be arranged on a memory-wheel
divided, unlike Lull's, into thirty segments marked with
Roman, Greek, and Hebrew letters. This wheel of star signs
or seals (sigilla) rests within other concentric circles whose
thirty letters signify groups of objects, qualities, and inventors.
Like Lull's system, Bruno's art of memory was supposed to
unlock the whole universe of knowledge to the artist, thus
disclosing the unity that embraces all diversity, but Bruno also
saw his memory as a source of magical power, a way of
tapping into the hidden circuits revealed by the art.11 No
wonder that Perkins feared it and favoured the wispy abstrac-
tions of Ramist dialectic.

In 1583 Bruno published his most important work on mem-
ory, the Ars reminiscendi, whose first part briefly describes
thirty images or sigilla named 'field', 'sky', 'chain', 'tree',
'woods', and so forth. The eleventh seal is vexillum or 'banner',
so called because its users rally to it to 'understand that many
or few, more or fewer have the same reference, replacing
things needing a word or object. Neither Plato, Aristotle and
Diogenes alone will help you, nor the Pyrrhonian, Cynic and
Epicurean alone, but many who are related, alike and propor-
tional.' In place of all the most honoured philosophies Bruno
recommended his own heroic struggle for unity, expressed in
the next section of the Art of Remembering as a search for
links among all types of animate and inanimate object mar-
shalled under a single banner. 'All things of nature and in
nature recognize commanders in all things assigned them as



Bruno ( 1962a: ii. 1. 20, 41); ` Yates ( 1964: 192-203; 1966: 199-230).


soldiers,' he reasoned; 'Anaxagoras grasped this best, but
Aristotle, father of the sophistic kind, could not manage it;
from impossible, logical and fictive distinctions not befitting
the truth of things, no wonder he could derive countless others
unfit as well.' 12 Although Bruno was a supremely idiosyncratic
thinker, this passage reveals his strongest likes and dislikes
among ancient philosophers. He found much to admire in
Anaxagoras and other pre-Socratics, much to despise in Aris-
totle, whom he held chiefly liable for the logic-chopping analy-
sis that impedes a properly synthetic view of nature. In the
dialogue On Cause, Principle and One, the pedant. Poliinio is
as silly a Peripatetic buffoon as any of Rabelais's characters,
but in the same work Bruno also attacked Aristotle's critics,
Patrizi and Ramus, because they only exchanged one vacuous
verbalism for another. A contemporary whom Bruno praised
in De la causa was Bernardino Telesio, author of a treatise On
the Nature of Things According to Their Own Principles
, and
in the second dialogue of that work he showed why he ap-
proved of Telesio's naturalism:

It's easy enough to prepare a doctrine of proof, but proof itself is
hard. . . . Our methodists and analysts do a poor job of implementing
their organons, principles of methods and arts of arts. . . . But I say
that a natural philosopher need not find all causes and principles, but
only the physical. . . . Therefore, although [physical causes] can be
said to have the first principle and cause as their own . . ., the
relation is not always so necessary that knowledge of the one entails
knowledge of the other, so one need not treat both in the same single
discipline. . . . From knowledge of all dependent things we cannot
infer other information about the first principle and cause except by
the less effective means of the vestige. 13

These lines are as good a summary as any of Bruno's dilemma.
Like Telesio, he wanted an autonomous philosophy of nature,
but he knew that such an inquiry must ultimately seek first
principles beyond finite understanding. In the end, he opted



Bruno ( 1962a: ii. 2. 79-82, 84, 132-3); Yates ( 1964: 205-9, 271-3;
1966: 243-65).


Guzzo and Amerio ( 1956: 327-8, 354); Bruno ( 1962b: 77-8, 98-9);
below, pp. 309-14.


for a monism that comprehends the finite and the infinite in a
coincidence of opposites derived from Nicholas of Cusa. The
writings in which he worked out his ontology and cosmology,
never freed of ambiguities and contradictions, are naturally of
greater scope than the memory treatises, which none the less
form an important part of his ramshackle system. Bruno's arts
of memory aimed to illuminate the vestiges of unity in diver-
sity, to light up for the imagination traces of infinity darkly
visible in the finite world of human apprehension.

Besides De la causa, Bruno wrote five other Italian dialogues
in 1584-5; in two of them images are prominent. Fifty poetic
emblems whose ancestry runs back to Petrarch Trionfi give
the Heroic Frenzies
their literary structure, and forty-eight
images of constellations provide the framework for the Expul-
sion of the Triumphant Beast
. These works, along with the
Cabala of the Horse Pegasus, are usually called Bruno's 'moral'
dialogues. All were written and published in England in the
same burst of creativity that produced De la causa and the two
other 'metaphysical' dialogues, On the Infinite Universe and
Worlds and the Ash-Wednesday Supper
, both of 1584. Like
most of Bruno's surviving works, all of them finished between
1582 and 1591, the six vernacular dialogues appeared in less
than serene conditions, and some show the marks of haste
more than others. None the less, schoolchildren and literary
critics in Italy still read them as monuments of prose and
poetry; they were the first major works of philosophy originally
written in Italian. Bruno's use of comedy and satire to annihil-
ate the hated pedants, and of myth and allegory to cover his
ideological tracks, produced a richer and more unruly language
than most philosophers have written. After Plato and Nietzsche,
few philosophers in any age can have matched him in comic,
poetic, or dramatic talent, which doubtless he would have
expressed with less bluster and more elegance had his life
been calmer. Besides the Italian dialogues, the memory trea-
tises, and a play, The Torchbearer, his works fall into two
other groups, both of philosophical interest. Most important
are the three long Latin poems with prose accompaniment --
actually a single composition -- published in Frankfurt in 1591:


On the Triple Minimum; On the Monad, Number and Figure;
and On the Innumerables, the Immense and the Infigurable.
This 'Frankfurt trilogy' forms a coherent sequence, but Bruno's
remaining Latin works are a miscellany, though several either
attack Peripatetic philosophy or attempt a theory of magic.

Before Dicson's bout with Perkins, Bruno had already caused
controversy in England, where he lived in London between
1583 and 1585 as a guest of the French ambassador and a
member of the Italian émigré community. He also knew the
friends of the Earl of Leicester and Sir Philip Sidney. It may
have been one of that group -- perhaps John Florio, an Italian
born in England and Montaigne translator -- who brought
Bruno to Oxford in the summer of 1583, where he seems to
have astounded the dons by defending Copernicus in Italianate
Latin and by leaning too heavily on Ficino's theory of astral
magic. Referring in the Cena de le ceneri to one of his Oxford
hosts, Bruno contrasted 'the incivility . . . [of] this swine . . .
[to the] patience and humanity of the other, who showed
indeed that he was a Neapolitan born, raised under a kinder
sky. Let them tell you how they cancelled his public lectures
. . . on the immortality of the soul and . . . the fivefold sphere.'
Despite the fuss in Oxford, Bruno stayed in England and
enjoyed a period of great productivity. After the Art of Re-
, the first fruit of these years was the Cena, in which
Bruno proved less gracious to Fulke Greville and other Eng-
lishmen who befriended him than savage to the Oxford doc-
tors, whom he found stupid and uncouth. The main burden of
the Cena is Bruno's defence of the Copernican system and his
account of an infinite universe populated by infinitely many
worlds moving in an uncentred, relative space. He did far
more than vulgarize the difficult astronomy of the De revolu-
; he was the first to locate a heliocentric system in
infinite space, though an infinite universe was by no means his
invention. Besides Copernicus, his main inspirations in this
regard were Lucretius and Nicholas of Cusa. He took a more
refined approach to the same topics in the dialogue On the
Infinite Universe, which blends Lucretian with Neoplatonic
themes. Beginning with the assertion that limited and decep-


tive senses cannot report reliably on infinite space or countless
worlds, he turned to the intellect to test the pros and cons,
especially the principles of plenitude and sufficient reason that
compel an infinite and omnipotent cause to produce effects of
which it is capable. An infinity of particles moves through the
universe in all directions to form innumerable suns and planets
like our own, habitable by living beings like ourselves. 14

Having adopted and transformed the astronomy of Coperni-
cus, Bruno pictured the great Polish thinker not only as a
revolutionary scientist but also as an intellectual liberator in
the broader sense, to whom

we owe our emancipation from various false prejudices -- not to say
blindness -- of the common and vulgar philosophy. Yet he himself did
not see far beyond it because, as a student of mathematics rather than
nature, he could not penetrate deeply enough to get at the roots of
empty and improper principles or completely resolve all the difficul-
ties in his path and so free himself and others from so much empty

Trapped in the maze of mathematics and still caged in a false
philosophy, Copernicus had started mankind on the true way,
but he could make no more progress himself. Who better than
Bruno to take the next steps?

Of the Nolan what shall I say? My place is not to praise him, perhaps,
being as close to him as to myself. . . . If Columbus has been glorified
in our day as one . . . long ago foretold, what to make of this one
who has rediscovered how to scale the sky. . . . He has loosed man's
mind and knowledge. . . . He has forded the air, pierced the sky,
coursed among the stars, passed the borders of the world and caused
the great imaginary wall of spheres to vanish -- the first, eighth, ninth,
tenth and others added by the tales of useless mathematics or the
blind sight of vulgar philosophy. In full view of every sense and
reason, he has used the key of careful research to open the cloisters
of truth which we have the power to open, and he has stripped nature
of her veils and vestures. 15



Guzzo and Amerio ( 1956: 262-3); Bruno ( 1977: 186-7); Singer ( 1950:
26-71, 86-96, 102-15); Yates ( 1964: 205-11, 235-56); Koyré ( 1968: 28-57); Michel ( 1973: 154-268); Dick ( 1982: 61-9); cf. Westman and McGuire ( 1977).


Guzzo and Amerio ( 1956: 196-200); Bruno ( 1977: 86-90).



From this lurid paean to himself, one can sense how high was
Bruno's opinion of Bruno in comparison to such lesser lights
as Copernicus and Columbus. No wonder he made so many
enemies as he roamed from country to country, changing his
outward religion as fast as his coat every time he slipped across
another border.

Lucretius and Cusanus had talked about infinity in terms
similar to Bruno's, but one was an Epicurean pagan who
counted for little in Christian Europe, and the other covered
his cosmology with the incense of mysticism. Bruno took
method and matter from Cusanus, but not his pious motiva-
tions. His search for the undetectable One led not to mystical
abnegation but to grandeur of moral effort. Having learned
from Cusanus the cruel disproportion between man's finite
perceptions and their infinite object, and recalling the Platonic
puns on erôs and hêrôs that led Ficino, Leone Ebreo, and
others to their notions of frenzied heroic love as divine malady,
Bruno pictured his love-crazed hero in the Heroic Frenzies as
driven toward a divine quarry that he can never capture. The
madman's heroism consists in his persistence, even after real-
izing that the divine beloved remains cruelly distant from the
human lover, who can never see God's light directly, only its
dim reflections in nature and soul. It belongs not to theology
but to natural philosophy to undertake the furious chase or
discursus through sense, reason, and mind that will bring
humanity as close to the One as it can come. Metaphors for
the human condition are Icarus plunging down from the sun, a
moth flying up into the flame, and, best of all, the hunter
Actaeon: when Actaeon saw Artemis bathing naked, the god-
dess turned him into a deer, the hunter's prey, to be eaten by
his own hounds.

Actaeon signifies the intellect bent on hunting divine wisdom. . . .
Made the prey of his own dogs, chased by his own thoughts, he runs
and takes a new path, renewed to go on . . . with greater ease . . . and
a stronger wind into denser thickets, into the deserts, into the region
of things beyond comprehension. Having been a common, ordinary
man, he becomes rare and heroic. . . . Then his dogs kill him: for the
mad, sensual, blind, and fantastic world his life ends, and he begins to
live intellectually, to live the life of gods.


The philosophical hunter's learned ignorance is to stick to a
quest that never succeeds; Bruno took this theme from Cusa-
nus, who had written a tract On Hunting for Wisdom in 1463.
Surveying the soul within and the material cosmos without,
mankind sees God's shadows, but never the splendour itself.
Even this partial light never comes to the idle, however; the
blind must work and wander slowly and deliberately through
the wilderness toward the sun. For those of strong mind and
will, the hunt culminates when love for God annihilates bodily
perception and discursive reason, opening the hunter's inner
eyes to a beatific vision that effaces his torments in the peace-
ful glory of infinity. But, at least for mortals who can only see
God's shadows in nature and the soul, beatitude itself is merely a
vestige of infinity: vision of the divine is never direct or com-
plete. Like Plotinus, whom he respected, Bruno protected the
transcendence of the One, while pushing his naturalist monism
past the limits of contradiction. 16

The Heroic Frenzies give a morality to the individual search-
er, derived in part from Ficino's views on will and intellect and
fed by the larger tradition of Renaissance love treatises. The
Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast turns to social ethics and
religious reform, but in a cosmic setting. Jupiter, king of the
gods, is the protagonist of the work, but he is a god grown old
and weak with the decay of macrocosm and microcosm, re-
flected in Bruno's day by the political and religious disorder of
Europe. In order to drive the beast of vice from the world,
Jupiter begins in the skies with a plan for astrological reform.
Heaven and the gods themselves must be purged if mortal
lives are to be purified. Jupiter tells the Olympians that 'if we
cleanse our dwelling, if we renew our heaven, there will be
new constellations and influences, new impressions, new for-
tunes because the whole depends on this higher world'. From
the skies Jupiter ejects forty-eight constellations representing
vices -- 'the Twins of vile familiarity, the Bull that cares for
base things, the Ram of thoughtlessness' -- in order to replace
them with contrary virtues and thus rout the vicious beast.



Bruno ( 1954: 62-73, 204-9, with Michel's introd.); (1964e: 123-6);
Guzzo and Amerio ( 1956: 605-7); Singer ( 1950: 125-32); Védrine ( 1967: 43-
59, 111-15); Michel ( 1973: 57-73); Watts ( 1982: 207-9).


Precedents for cosmic renewal and celestial conflict between
virtues and vices were available to Bruno in the Hermetic
Corpus, and the. Spaccio leaves no doubt of his high regard for
the Hermetica, which he took to be the testament of an ancient
Egyptian cult more to his liking than the anthropomorphic
worship of Christians, Jews, or Greeks. From the Hermetic
Asclepius he lifted a long passage that laments the abolition of
Egypt's ancient gods and, by implication, the arrival of the
new Christian deity who displaced them. Bruno did not ap-
prove every aspect of Egyptian idolatry, and he knew their
custom of honouring 'live images of beasts', yet he had Jupiter
defend this practice because 'animals and plants are living
effects of Nature, . . . [which] is none other than God in
things. . . . Diverse living things represent diverse divinities.
. . . Whence all of God is in all things. . . . Those wise [Egyp-
tians] . . . knew . . . Divinity to be latent in Nature.' Under-
standing how God lies hidden in things, the Egyptian sages
also learned how to manipulate them magically in order to
apply heavenly powers, including demonic powers, to earthly
purposes. 17

Magic, pantheism, idolatry, demonolatry, apostasy -- just
these few outrages from the long list in the Spaccio would have
been enough to anger the authorities, but there were more
besides: Bruno doubted immortality, taught metempsychosis,
recommended free-thinking, deserted positive for natural re-
ligion, criticized the Bible, defamed the Jews, slandered the
Protestants, betrayed the Catholics, and condemned civil gov-
ernments besides. The strangest and most intense of Bruno's
moral homilies is the Cabala of the Horse Pegasus, whose full
punning title ( Cabala/ Cavallo) also mentions an Asino, an ass
who sometimes doubles for the noble Pegasus, a winged horse
like the soul-steeds in Plato Phaedrus. Once again, themes of



Guzzo and Amerio ( 1956: 499); Bruno, ( 1964b: 115-16, 235-6 [ Imerti
trans.]); Anaxagoras fragment B12 (Diels-Kranz); Singer ( 1950: 116-20);
Guthrie ( 1962-81: ii. 271-88); Yates ( 1964: 211-34); Védrine ( 1967: 30-42).
Yates's views on the Hermetic element in Bruno have been controversial, esp.
among historians of science; see Westman and McGuire ( 1977); Vickers
( 1979); Copenhaver ( 1988a; 1990).


learned ignorance and coincident opposites point back to
Cusanus in a dialogue that extends some of the motifs of the
Spaccio. The real fools and asses are ministers who preach
conventional religion and pedants who corrupt education, those
too blind to see that asses, horses, and philosophers are all
vitalized by the same force of divine mind. Souls migrate from
one embodied form to another, expressing in one degree or
another the spiritual power that enlivens all matter. When he
flies up to Parnassus, the ass becomes Pegasus, but one of his
earthly incarnations was Aristotle, who was too much an ass to
understand the workings of nature. 18 Bruno's crusade against
Aristotle was a lifelong affair, and one of its liveliest moments
came with the dialogue On Cause, Principle, and One, where a
critical issue is the central Aristotelian doctrine of matter and
form -- the hylemorphic theory of substance. Bruno's response
to Aristotle on this and other points becomes more intelligible
in the context of contemporary efforts to demolish or to aban-
don the intricate metaphysical architecture sustained over two
millennia in the Peripatetic tradition. Before we examine
Bruno's assault on. Aristotelian physics and metaphysics, some-
thing more must be said of the ancient philosophy that he
rejected and about other Renaissance philosophers who pre-
pared the way for him.

New philosophies of nature

In Peripatetic natural philosophy, a physical substance is some
particular composite of matter and form. Generation or coming-
to-be occurs when matter (hulê) gains form (morphê), passing-
away or corruption when form is lost. If a substance passes
from one state to another, as from hot to cold, one term of the
change may be seen as a form, the other as its negation or
privation; what persists is the material substrate. Hence, matter,
form, and privation account for the generation and corruption
of substances. Matter without form is entirely indeterminate; it



Guzzo and Amerio ( 1956: 539); Singer ( 1950: 120-5); Yates ( 1964: 257-


lacks quality and form but has the potency to acquire them. In
order to have an identity as some one thing among others, a
substance must actually possess distinguishing forms and quali-
ties, said to be educed from the potency of its matter. Some
features of a substance -- a given colour or weight or shape in
an apple, for instance -- may not be essential; when they change
or disappear, the apple remains the same substance, so they
are called accidental forms or qualities. But suppose a human.
substance loses the feature of rationality. In Aristotelian terms,
the person will no longer be human. The individual in question
requires rationality in order to count as human; so the human
has a substantial form as well as various accidental forms, and
that substantial form is rational. Rationality is essential to
humanity. But if the form of rationality gives the human sub-
stance its being as human, this will be true of all humans, who
are members of the same species because they are rational
animals. Evidently, the substantial or specific form cannot dis-
tinguish one human or one apple from others of their species.
What makes this apple differ from that one is some definite
batch of matter, but matter as a principle of individuation
needs forms and qualities; unformed matter, prime matter, is
utterly indistinct, so it has no real existence by itself. Only the
composite substance, the real apple, actually exists on its own.

Aristotle himself complicated the problem of form when he
gave it a leading role in sensation and intellection; these pro-
cesses occur because disembodied sensible and intelligible
forms of the object actually unite with the subject's faculties of
mind and sense. How does the form of a substance as known
differ from the form that constitutes the substance? Christian
Peripatetics had less trouble with such questions when asked
of natural objects -- apples and other such things -- than when
they themselves were involved; the human substance gave
more trouble because it had to be immortal. Having defined
man's immortal soul as a substantial form and the mortal body
as the matter informed by it, they faced such puzzles as the
status of the soul after death, before rejoining the resurrected
body. A temporarily bodiless form of the body or forms flitting
from known to knower were by no means the only chinks in


the armour of hylemorphism, but they gave Pomponazzi and.
others much to worry about. Pomponazzi's approach to the
problem caused so much trouble because he took Aristotle's
more materialist view of the soul so seriously. More expedient
solutions tended to liberate a dematerialized substantial form
from the body and to treat it as an autonomous entity. Indeed,
by Bruno's time the doctrine of substantial or specific form
had become a crux of debate and a focus of explanation in
many areas of physics and metaphysics. Physicians, philoso-
phers, theologians, and others depended on hylemorphism as
much as we rely on evolution in biology or quantum mechanics
in physics, but many of them sensed that the hylemorphic
paradigm was crumbling.

Since the high Middle Ages, philosophers had often tried to
adapt Peripatetic metaphysics to Christian purposes or to ad-
just it for various theoretical reasons, but Bruno did more than
tinker. In De la causa and other works, he dismantled hylemor-
phism to replace it with a materialist naturalism that preserved
certain elements of Aristotle's terminology -- the words 'form'
and 'matter', for example -- but demolished his metaphysics.19
by Bruno's assault on Aristotle was fiercer and showier than other
such attacks, but it was part of a larger wave of discontent with
a system straining under its own excesses and elaborations
after centuries of growth and inbreeding. In the sixteenth
century and after, even professed Aristotelians from Pom-
ponazzi to Cremonini undermined Peripatetic defenses by read-
ing the Philosopher in rigorously naturalist terms. Others,
armed with new information about Stoics, Epicureans, and
pre-Socratics, proposed alternatives to part or all of Peripatetic
natural philosophy. Many of these challengers were physicians,
like Girolamo Fracastoro, who lived until 1553. Best remem-
bered for the poem that gave syphilis its name, Fracastoro was
also dedicated to an empirically based medicine. He studied
the problem of contagion, often regarded in his time as an
occult force, and treated it as one of a larger class of sym-
pathies and antipathies, which he tried to extract from the



Below, n. 28.


realm of magic. Referring to the atomism of Lucretius, he explained sympathy as a mechanical attraction resulting from a flow of particles between objects; the seminaria or seedparticles that carry contagion are especially fine and hence able to cover great distances and penetrate the bodies they strike. When he made 'spirit' a part of this same mechanism, Fracastoro had in mind a subtle material substance like the Stoic pneuma, not a magical ectoplasm. 20

Less a philosopher in the modern sense than Fracastoro was Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus. His name itself was a defiance. Born in Switzerland in 1493, he wandered all over Europe until his death in 1541, first apprenticed to his physician father, then studying medicine at Ferrara, and perhaps also learning magic from the monk Trithemius. He bloodied his hands as a military surgeon and earned respect for medical practice in Strasbourg and Basle, where two of his more eminent patients were Erasmus and his humanist publisher Johann Froben. Everywhere he went, Paracelsus shattered conventions and exasperated expectations. Early on, he declared his medical independence by burning the books of Galen and Avicenna. His own writings -- a jumble of theology, chemistry, medicine, mysticism, folklore, and plain nonsense -- resist brief description. Many of their sources are still hidden in the obscurities of Cabala, German folklore, and local traditions long since lost. He wrote mostly in a German dialect, and his Latin was idiosyncratic, to say the least. Some of the most influential and popular works published under his name are spurious. Later Paracelsian thought, which peaked in the seventeenth century, derived almost entirely from Latin texts and mixed the founder's doctrines with accretions and digests from his followers. The original works abhor all except biblical authority, though like other innovators Paracelsus owed more to tradition than he cared to admit.

He was primarily a medical reformer, but he derived his medical theory from a much more ambitious world-view that



G. Rossi ( 1893); Pellegrini ( 1948); Di Leo ( 1953); P. Rossi ( 1954); Peruzzi ( 1980).


encompassed all philosophy. Like other philosophers of nature, he rejected the traditional quaternaries of elements, qualities, and humours, and he replaced them with a triad of first principles called mercury, salt, and sulphur. He described mercury as an active and spiritual force, converted chemically to smoke through combustion; physiologically it fixes the body's fluid content. Salt is passive and corporeal, left as ash after combustion and lending form and solidity to physiological change. Sulphur is an intermediate principle; its chemistry makes things combustible, and its role in physiology is to promote growth. When a piece of wood burns, combustion produces mercurial vapours, sulphurous flames, and salty ash. Like Aristotle's elements in relation to the fire, air, water, and earth of daily experience, the Paracelsian tria prima were not the same as ordinary mercury, salt, and sulphur. Their properties were much broader and more powerful. Paracelsian matter-theory was certainly novel in the context of normal natural philosophy, but it can be traced to Moslem alchemical theories of the eighth century. Chemistry was central to the Paracelsian world picture, and Paracelsian medicine was really 'iatrochemistry' or chemical medicine. Paracelsus did not invent iatrochemistry but he promoted it, popularized it, and started it on a vigorous career in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Since health was supposed to depend on a balance of the three principles, Paracelsian medications were chemical combinations of mercury, sulphur, and salt. Besides the three material elements, Paracelsus posited a spiritual 'archeus' which acted as a unifying principle, roughly like the Peripatetic substantial form. Matter, spirit, and soul were fluid rather than discrete properties of reality in a universe where everything was more or less alive. Paracelsus believed in magic, astrology, and personal spiritual beings, but he derived these beliefs as much from personal observation as from the traditions that he wished to abandon. 21



Sudhoff ( 1894-9; 1936); Darmstaedter ( 1931); Sherlock ( 1948); Goldammer ( 1953; 1954); Pagel ( 1958; 1962; 1985; 1986); Debus ( 1965; 1977; 1978: 133, 101-5, 116-41); Dilg-Frank ( 1981); Webster ( 1982). The original texts are edited in Paracelsus ( 1922-33; 1923-73); ( 1951) groups English translations from the Sudhoff-Matthiessen edn. under various headings.


Another celebrated and rambunctious physician was Girolamo Cardano, who studied medicine at Pavia and Padua to prepare for his doctorate in 1526, after which he practised in Milan before winning his first fame for books on arithmetic and algebra, especially the Ars Magna of 1545. Five years later he published his most famous work, On Subtlety, a rambling miscellany of natural philosophy which eventually grew to twenty-one books and appeared in many reprints and revisions before and after Cardano's death in 1576. His book On Variety of 1557 was a sequel to the successful De subtilitate, and his treatises of 1560 On the One and On Nature extended the antiAristotelian implications of that work. About a fifth of Cardano's nearly fifty books deal with philosophical issues, though he is best known today for original work in algebra and probability. Seldom read now but widely cited in its own time and the century following was the Fifteenth Book of Exoteric Exercises on Subtlety by Julius Caesar Scaliger, a blast from an admirer of Aristotle bothered by Cardano's prose as well as his originality and sloppiness; Scaliger's title implied that there was enough wrong with De subtilitate to have filled fourteen other volumes. At one point, Scaliger thought that his attack had literally killed its victim, but it only helped enlarge his reputation, for better or for worse. De natura contains Cardano's strongest critiques of Aristotle, whom he continued to honour, but the first books of De subtilitate, which deal with physical principles, present the less pointed material that helped turn his contemporaries against Peripatetic natural philosophy. 22

De natura confronts Aristotle straightforwardly on a number of topics: privation as an explanation of change, the nature of generation and corruption, the relation of corporeal to incorporeal substance, the existence of prime matter, the number of the elements, and so forth. These challenges are blunted in the



Morley ( 1854); Margolin ( 1960; 1976a); Corsano ( 1961b); Ore ( 1965); Ongaro ( 1969); Ochman ( 1974; 1975); Trevisani ( 1975); Zanier ( 1975a); Céard ( 1977); Ingegno ( 1980); Fierz ( 1983); Maclean ( 1984); Bianchi (forthcoming); Kessler(forthcoming).


more expansive and maddeningly disorganized De subtilitate. 23 Although he spends the first paragraphs of the book defining subtlety', exactly what Cardano had in mind is hard to say. He seems to have meant that problems are subtle if they are extremely obscure and require the finest sense of discrimination to resolve. He certainly succeeded in demonstrating the first point. After an incredibly involved summary of the whole work, he begins with an orthodox account of matter as what persists when form expires, but then, with no bows to a divine creator, he goes on to describe matter as ungenerated and imperishable. Like Aristotle, he makes form a requirement for the actualization of matter, but he also claims that soul is everywhere because all bodies have a source of motion within them. But what he means by soul or anima turns out 'to be quite mechanical. He names three kinds of universal natural motion. One type of motion begins when nature acts to avoid a vacuum in a change which might otherwise leave too little matter for a given form; another starts in order to prevent interpenetration of bodies when change might yield too much matter for a particular form; the third occurs when heavy things fall and light things rise, but, having experienced the enormous power of the first two causes of motion in the explosive force of artillery, Cardano is ready almost to ignore the third, which was Aristotle's paradigm of all natural sublunar motion. He counts five natural principles -- matter, form, soul, place, and motion -- and he makes all of them eternal. No apologies to Aristotle. No worries about the creator. Except to suppose that it was largely unconscious, it is hard to account for Cardano's bravado. He was once detained by the Inquisition, but the charges are unknown.

Bernardino Telesio was just as daring but more deliberate and less prolific. Bacon, who criticized his empiricism as incomplete, honoured him as 'the first of the moderns'. 24 Telesio was born in 1509 in the far south of Italy, in the Calabrian



Bk. I of De subtilitate is translated in Cardano ( 1934); Cardano ( 1962) is a translation of the autobiography. Otherwise, see Cardano ( 1967) for the collected Latin works.


Bacon ( 1857-74:iii. 114).


town of Cosenza, to a family powerful in the region. At the age of nine he left for Milan, Rome, and finally Padua, where he began to study Aristotelian philosophy and Galenic medicine around 1530, when debate ran heavy on faults in the scholastic system explored by secular Aristotelians and empiricist physicians. The greatest of the former was Pomponazzi, of the latter Vesalius, who was anatomizing in Padua while Telesio studied there in the 1530s, when important humanist professors were also teaching in the university. Besides Paracelsus and Fracastoro, who published his De sympathia in 1546, others who anticipated Telesio in seeking a new basis for natural philosophy included the poet Marcello Palingenio Stellato, whose Zodiac of Life of 1535 combined Epicurean with Neoplatonic'elements, and Simone Porzio, whose book On Principles of 1553 examined physical questions with notable independence of mind. After finishing his degree in 1535, Telesio may have contemplated these developments during a period of withdrawal in a monastery; he sought no university job, but by 1547 his ideas seem to have been in public circulation, and within a few years he was at work on the first version of his treatise On the Nature of Things According to Their Own Principles, one of the more incisive titles in Renaissance philosophy and a clear allusion to Lucretius. In 1553 he was back in Cosenza, where he gave much time to the Accademia Cosentina, while travelling frequently to Rome and Naples. Pressed by his followers, he published the original two book version of De return natura in 1563, having previously tested the soundness of his arguments in conversations with Vincenzo Maggi, a noted Paduan Peripatetic. Another edition followed in 1570; in 1575 Antonio Persio gave public lectures on the Telesian system in Venice, Padua, Bologna, and the south; and in 1586 appeared the definitive expansion to nine books. The author died two years later in Cosenza. 25



For reprints of the original Latin works see Telesio ( 1971a; 1971b), with introds. by Vasoli; Telesio ( 1910-23; 1965-77) are modern edns. and translations of De rerum natura. For brief biographies see Vasoli in Telesio ( 1971a: pp. v-xxi); and Gentile (1968a: 193-207); see also Fiorentino (1872-4); Gentile ( 1911); Troilo ( 1914); Van Deusen ( 1932); Abbagnano ( 1941: 47-79,


The proem to De rerum natura carries a subtitle for the work announcing it as a manifesto for natural philosophy emancipated from Peripatetic rationalism: 'the structure of the world and the nature and magnitude of bodies contained in it are not to be sought from reason, as the ancients did; they must be perceived from sensation and treated as being things themselves.' 26 True to this principle, Telesio laid out the ground-plan of his naturalism in the first two books of his treatise before taking on Aristotle in the third and devoting the rest of the volume to physical, biological, epistemological, and moral implications of his empirical premisses. If Aristotle studies being as such in his metaphysics, his physics deals with being in motion, but physical change (metabolê) or motion (kinêsis) includes transformations not only of quality, quantity, and place but also of substance; hence metaphysical issues became prominent in Peripatetic physics, as indeed they had been in the first two books of the Philosopher's Physics. After Galileo and Descartes, motion became a uniquely physical category, and a leading aim of post-Newtonian science has been to account for all change, even its own changes of mind, in terms of matter in motion. Telesio's pre-Galilean perspective was reversed. To make physics autonomous, he had to extricate it from a natural philosophy in which rational principles of form, matter, privation, and passage from potency to act covered change and motion of all kinds. He began with the crude evidence of -- his senses, all ultimately reducible to touch, and he asserted but never proved that sensation is nature's truest witness. Taken as a whole, the book is a frontal assault on the foundations of Peripatetic philosophy accompanied by a proposal for replacing Aristotelianism with a system more faithful to nature and experience.

First he noted that the sun is a light and bright body that emits heat, while cold comes from the dark, dense earth. Since heat and cold penetrate bodies, and body is impenetrable, these two active principles must be incorporeal, but to exist



175-290); Soleri ( 1945); Garin ( 1961a: 432-50; 1965a: 192-6); Kristeller ( 1964a: 91-109); Delcorno ( 1967); Franco ( 1969); Di Napoli ( 1973: 311-66).


Telesio ( 1971: 1).


they need to act upon bodily mass or passive matter, the third basic principle. In Aristotelian terms, they act like material and efficient causes; Telesio distrusted Aristotle's analysis of causation, and he shied away especially from unseen final and formal causes. Invisible, lifeless, and powerless in itself, matter dilates or contracts as heat or cold affect it; otherwise, it can do nothing but fall, which is not really action but absence of action. The heavens and the sun are the region of heat; cold belongs to earthy matter below. Earth and sun are changeless as such, but other bodies pass in and out of being as heat and cold struggle for possession of material mass. From this Heraclitian conflict arises the world's diversity, which Aristotle tried to explain with privation, matter, and form, but Aristotle's account fails at various key points. One failure was to make nature wasteful, a slumbering storehouse of idle forms waiting to be put to work. If all possible forms are really there waiting in matter's potency, what does it mean to say that any form is generated or corrupted? Rejecting metaphysical principles prior to the natural object because he considered them redundant, Telesio insisted that all the object's features are precisely coextensive and simultaneous with its organic development. One of these features is soul or anima, in the case of animals a material spiritus that grows from the seed and suffuses the whole body except for the bones. Unlike the Peripatetic soul, this anima is not the substantial form of the body. If it were, the body would vanish as soon as the soul leaves in death. The ensouled body is an organic or structural rather than a formal unity, like a ship made of many parts all sailing to the same port. One such part is the soul, which the body needs for movement and perception, but not for simple physical integrity.

Human animals like all others require a spiritual soul, but this material faculty cannot explain man's immortality or all his moral and religious instincts, so to account for these data of faith Telesio posited another, immaterial soul, infused by God and left outside the bounds of nature. This implanted soul needs its spiritual counterpart not only to perceive but also to reason. Spirit perceives objects by contact that alters it


physically; in effect, perception occurs when spirit feels itself expanded or contracted by heat or cold. Aristotle had claimed that the soul becomes the forms that it perceives, but to avoid the absurdity of formal fire lit in the mind when one sees a flame, Telesio made perception a process of physical contact rather than ontological change; heat simply warms and enlarges the spirit. Yet this transaction is something more than a mechanical impression. The antipathy between cold and heat shows that even these simplest elements sense the hostility between them. When cold reacts against heat's movement toward some bit of matter, response to the aggressive motion requires a perceptive act which is not motion itself. Moreover, the physical apparatus of sensation includes not just discrete perceptions but also their comparison and organization into concepts and patterns of judgement and recollection, all within the ambit of the spiritual soul. Likewise, there is an appetite whose drives are entirely material, directed toward conserving the physical organism and maintaining the spirit in a pleasurably expansive state of warmth and motion. Parallel to sensation and appetite, an immaterial will seeks a divine end, and a rational soul contemplates its immortal destiny. Choices between the objects of these twin faculties give rise to free will. At the same time, however, Telesio proposes to naturalize even the moral basis of human action. Conservation of the spirit in a pleasant and secure state is itself a moral end, whose highest form consists in distinguishing ephemeral from durable pains and pleasures. The philosopher of nature provides a materially grounded ethics suited to the spiritual soul, leaving it to the theologian to deal with the higher immaterial purposes of the rational Soul. 27 Telesio left an orderly, coherent system that fails on the crude side of simplicity; its epistemology is untested and its empiricism limited to gross and undisciplined observation. Despite his protestations, Telesio was actually less of an empiricist than the Aristotle of the zoological works, and he seems to have come no closer than such Peri-



Abbagnano ( 1941: 47-79); Kristeller ( 1964a: 98-105); Gentile ( 1968a: 214-31); Vasoli in Telesio ( 1971a: pp. xiv-xx).


patetic contemporaries as Zabarella to a systematic experimental programme. Neither he nor Zabarella had any conception of the scientific power of mathematics. From a modern point of view, however, it stands to Telesio's credit that he was never, charmed by occultism, unlike other philosophers of nature. His sense of empirical science, which included progressive ideas on space, vacuum, and other physical topics, grew out of a disenchanted world-view remarkable for its hardheaded clarity.

Bruno's natural philosophy had different virtues and defects: its extraordinary subtlety often destroys itself in the wildest inconsistency, in swings from monism to pluralism, from unitary substance to atomic discontinuity, from disdain for finite bodies to exaltation of material infinity. Bruno was in his early forties when prison closed his career in 1591. Even during the previous productive decade, his escapades in northern Europe ending in return to Venice and betrayal to the Inquisition can scarcely have enabled him to take a long view of his work, to eliminate contradictions and settle on a cleaner presentation of his thought. Recklessness was so much in Bruno's character that one hesitates to suggest that a 'mature' system was ever in the cards for him; if his achievement was immature, it was also precocious and rich, like that of Shelley or Nietzsche. If one can speak of a 'romantic temperament', Bruno surely had it. Had he mellowed his conduct and softened his tongue, he might not have gone to the stake in 1600, though before he died he attempted to conciliate his inquisitors, who would have been satisfied only with submission, while he kept debating. He recanted and then withdrew his recantation -- of what we do not know because the most important records were destroyed. The clerics who jailed him for nine years and then murdered him were surely right to think Bruno a heretic; their worst fears seem to have focused on religious beliefs, 'to which he was indifferent (when indifference was not an option), rather than the liberty of philosophizing that was his grand and fatal passion. In fact, the final change of heart that led to his grisly execution may have occurred when philosophical issues came to the fore. One cannot say. What horrific credo had he


transgressed to make his judges dispense with the usual grotesque mercy of garrotting before they lit the tinder? Bruno burned for philosophy; he was killed for moral, physical, and metaphysical views that terrified and angered the authorities. While pondering our irritations with his changes on such questions, it will be well to recall the price he paid to the hobgoblin of little minds and the demon of clear convictions.

Bruno was a great soul, though it may not have seemed so in 1584 when he first protested at length against Aristotelian physics and metaphysics in De la causa. In general, the position of this dialogue is monist, like that of other works that deal with the topic of being, while those on memory and knowledge often preserve the pluralist segregation of things from ideas. The words 'form' and 'matter' survive Bruno's savaging of hylemorphism, but not as independent principles of being. Unlike Aristotle, whose theory of substance was about concrete individuals, Bruno did not care about individual objects. He saw the particular forms that distinguish one thing from another as ripples in the calm sea of being, mere modes or accidents of universal matter. Nature thrives and breeds transitory forms out of living matter through her own internal force of soul. The single universal form is the world-soul that drives things from within as their principle. Causes that act externally are superficial; a deeper dynamism belongs to principles that move inside. Matter and form unite in the infinite substance that comprehends all. Infinite unitary substance is the opposite of diversity for Bruno and therefore an inversion of Peripatetic substantial form, whose job is to make the object the kind of thing it is. Individual souls in Bruno's system cannot be discrete specific forms because soul is really one; what enlivens a human and a fly are fragments of the same world-soul, which is like a light reflected in a shattered mirror whose splinters are the souls of particular beings. Ultimately, Bruno had little work for form to do, but he gave matter a more dignified role than Christian Peripatetics usually allowed it. Forms come and go as matter endures, ensouled, alive, and divine. Matter is both corporeal and incorporeal, but its bodily manifestations are no more than contractions of


a primal matter unlimited by corporeal division. What harm to call such matter divine? God is in things; divinity and the infinite living cosmos are the same, except to timorous theologians who think that abasing nature glorifies God. Albertus, Aquinas, and other eminent scholastics called Avicebron (Ibn Gabirol) and David of Dinant pantheists and materialists because their matter theory infringed the divine prerogative of incorporeality; but Bruno found these thinkers good company. 28

Like Plotinus, Bruno made matter absolutely indeterminate, but he took this non-feature of matter as proof of its richness. The One is infinite, and so is its material substrate, which is also stable, unitary, eternal, and uncreated; God and the world are the same, so they must be coeval. The unity and stability of being are guaranteed at both extremes of quantity by the coincidence of maximum and minimum. The atomic minimum is a real concrete thing, not a mathematical abstraction. In fact, one of Bruno's flaws was his attitude toward mathematics, which ranged from apathy to animosity with occasional pauses in which he devised a dilettante numerology. Despite his wish to destroy Aristotle's authority in natural philosophy, Bruno kept to a physics at least as qualitative as the Stagirite's. None the less, the minimum yields no experience of quality, so its features must be inferred rationally, by reasons opposed to Peripatetic dogma. In his closed world Aristotle allowed matter to be potentially divisible without limit, but the atoms in Bruno's infinite universe are well-defined minima because they have a least size; they are tiny spheres, indivisible, impenetrable, and homogeneous. Only their arrangement in various structures produces material variety. Some minima -- the smallest possible cat, for example -- may be organic or structural rather than atomic wholes, and hence corruptible. But an atom is immutable because it is a simple unity, while larger objects made of atoms are transitory aggregates. The atomism of Bruno's earlier works calls on an ordering mind to regulate the shifting swarms of particles, but in the later Latin poem



Singer ( 1950: 96-101); Guzzo ( 1960: 69-93); Védrine ( 1967: 139-46, 269-97); Michel ( 1973: 126-32); Blum ( 1980: 57-75).


On the Triple Minimum, the atom itself becomes a soul, defined either 'privatively' as the smallest part of the continuum (like a letter of the alphabet in an infinite library) or 'negatively' as escaping all limit and definition. The continuum of ordinary matter disaggregates into privative atoms, but infinite soul has no breaks or boundaries; minimal and maximal souls must coincide. Without the world-soul to vitalize it, matter and its atoms would be nothing. Even the negative minimum or monad differs from the Leibnizian entity of the same name, which is created, perceptive, and radically alone -- 'windowless', in fact -- while Bruno's uncreated and insentient monads. need the splendour of soul to activate them. Soul's light shines from within, however; no external cause forms the atoms into the shapes that make up the visible world. 'In everything is a share of everything', said Anaxagoras, and Bruno added that everything is God. 29

Bruno's statue stands in Rome in the Field of Flowers, on the spot where he was burned. Eventually, he became a hero to those who saw him as a martyr for free science and philosophy in their fight against ideological repression; but another view of Bruno hails him chiefly as a progressive in morals and religion, a magical reformer who wanted to save Europe from a decadent Christianity by reviving the Hermetic cult of ancient Egypt. Fortunately, there was enough in Bruno's great soul to please all his friends and annoy all his enemies: the pantheist, the materialist, the libertine free-thinker, and philosophical rogue; the magus, the Lullist, the memory wizard; the atomist, the Copernican, the proponent of infinite worlds, and the advocate of spacious liberty in philosophy. Tommaso Campanella was his immediate heir, another renegade Dominican whom the church imprisoned two years before Bruno died and kept confined for twenty-six more. Born in 1568 in Calabria, Telesio's region, Campanella considered himself a good Catholic, but he was probably a worse danger to the establishment than Bruno, for he had messianic fantasies that incited



Singer ( 1950: 71-9, 86-92); Guzzo ( 1960: 95-109); Védrine ( 1967: 617, 127-57, 261-5, 288-97, 323-44); Michel ( 1973: 132-49, 242-5); above, n. 17.


zany insurrectionist plots which might have done material damage. 30 Having recouped some of its losses after the Reformation, the post-Tridentine church was not amused when the author of the Monarchy of the Messiah planned to make the papacy the centre of secular as well as spiritual world government. Today, Campanella's best-remembered book is the City of the Sun, a saner utopian design for social reform that gained an immense readership in frequent translations into many languages.

Campanella's first surviving work, Philosophy Demonstrated by the Senses, is an immense anti-Peripatetic polemic in defence of Telesio, published in 1591 against a Peripatetic who had attacked the great Calabrian's treatise On the Nature of Things. Campanella tried unsuccessfully to meet Telesio before he died, and he chose to build a new philosophy on his countryman's naïve empiricism rather than devise yet another variation on the airy constructs of the Aristotelians. For his independent thinking he was accused of heresy and confined to his convent, the first of many long spells of detention. From the tone and content of his book, one can see why the Thomist Dominicans feared that they had hatched a monster:

The top Peripatetics, what empty-headed nitwits . . .! Prime matter is supposed to be nothing really and privation nothing, and yet form gets drawn from the potency of prime matter, which is nothing and does not exist. . . . How great is the ignorance of these people: they want to act like gods, not baulking at producing beings from nonbeings, making things out of illusions to trick people.

Campanella denied hylemorphism and replaced it with his own



There is no comprehensive edn. of Campanella's works, and few have been translated into English; see Campanella ( 1638; 1854; 1925; 1927; 1939; 1949-; 1957; 1960; 1962; 1974; 1975). The standard biography is Amabile ( 1882; 1887); from the large secondary literature see esp. Blanchet ( 1920); Firpo ( 1940; 1947); Di Napoli ( 1947; 1973: 427-968); Walker ( 1958a: 20336); Corsano ( 1961a); Badaloni ( 1965); Femiano ( 1965; 1968; 1969; 1973); Franco ( 1969); Tommsao Campanella nel IV centenario ( 1969); Tommaso Campanella . . . Miscellanea ( 1969); Amerio ( 1972); Bock ( 1974); Gadol ( 1976), Headley ( 1988; 1990a; 1990b). Part of what follows is a modified version of the section on Campanella in my chapter on occultism in the forthcoming Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy.


doctrine, sometimes obscured by the old terminology in which he expressed it. The ideas that he rejected were the core of Peripatetic philosophy: that substantial form is a principle of being superior to matter; that form is educed from the potency of matter; that soul is the form of the body; and that the mind knows by abstracting forms from objects. Above all, Campanella insisted that form was known directly through the senses. The. Peripatetics had pried form away from sensation, so Campanella anchored it to body. Matter is simply bodily mass, the body or matter of common experience needing no abstract forms to make it real. 'It would be wrong', he argued, 'to say that matter is bodily because of form. . . . Body is body in its own right and . . . the same . . . as matter, quantity, substrate and bodily mass.' We draw our first distinctions among objects from their shape, which we also call 'form', and this leads us by analogy to the concept of internal form. But internal form is a mode or quality of the object, not a being in its own right. Having dispensed with substantial form, Campanella replaced it with Telesio's heat and cold, which cause the particles in a body to take on different arrangements or 'temperaments'. He equated form with temperament and described temperament as the structure of matter heated or cooled. This novel approach first appears in book two of Philosophia sensibus demonstrata, where Campanella writes that

each thing has by nature a consimilar constitutive heat . . . consimilar, I mean, to the heat of a particular star [so that] each thing in the universe can have its own star . . . corresponding to its constitutive heat and leading to procreation and growth, as Hermes, Enoch and Mercurius said . . ., [who] saw such effects and, not knowing how to investigate their causes, attributed them to occult influences and the souls of the stars.

In other words, although the young Campanella believed in astrological causation, he did not believe that celestial causes were occult. In effect, he proposed a physical theory of manifest forces, heat and cold, to replace the traditional doctrine of


occult powers which had long been tied to the hylemorphic metaphysics that he also rejected. 31

Unlike Telesio, however, who did his best to liberate physics from metaphysics, Campanella was not unfriendly to metaphysics as such. He wanted to change metaphysics, not destroy it. Although his Eighteen Books of Metaphysics appeared only in 1638, the year before he died, Campanella had shown interest in writing a metaphysics by 1590 and had produced a version of it by 1602-3. In the published work, he criticized Telesio for attributing too much to the purely natural agency of heat and cold in forming natural bodies, suggesting that these physical powers could act only as instruments of a diviner cause whose various levels he identified as God, the 'primalities', their 'influences', and the world-soul. The distinctive ingredients of Campanella's new metaphysics began to get broad public exposure in the brief Compendium of Nature of 1617 and in the 1620 edition of his book On the Sense in Things and on Magic. The subtitle of this ebullient volume proclaims its subject as 'occult philosophy, showing the cosmos to be a living, conscious statue of god' and describes the world's 'parts and particles [as] having sensation . . . enough for their conservation'. Most of Campanella's arguments for pansensism remain within the limits of Telesio's physical programme. Since all natural action results from the contrariety of heat and cold, a hot object must somehow be aware that cold is its enemy, otherwise the natural impulse of each active force to inform matter would go uncontested; hostilities would cease, and generation and corruption would end. When Campanella claims that the spirits diffused through nature laugh and weep, however, one may read him simply as expressing a physical antinomy -- the common fact of dilation and constriction -poetically. He crossed the line between physics and metaphysics only when he began to describe his complex scheme for God as creator and sustainer of nature:

God is more within things than the forms themselves, . . . impressing



Campanella ( 1638: 134-9; 1925: 94; 1939: 232; 1974: 63-8, 227-8, 234, 311, 447).


in them the power not only to reach an end but to know how to reach it. . . . All sense is participant in the first wisdom, . . . [and] every form is participant in God. And because god is most powerful, wise, and loving, . . . all beings are composed of Power, Wisdom, and Love, and every being exists because it can be, knows how to be, and loves to be, and when it lacks the power or knowledge or love of being, it dies or changes.

By placing the trinitarian God of power, wisdom, and love -the 'divine Monotriad' of the three primalities -- within all things as the ground of their being, Campanella added a metaphysical dimension, an immaterial, god-begotten wisdom, to the physical sense that Telesio had found in nature. Thus, although he admitted in De sensu that magic is an 'occult wisdom' and called certain forces and phenomena in nature 'occult', Campanella had not reverted to the hylemorphic occultism rejected in his earlier work, though by this time he had worked out an alternative metaphysics of magic. 32

The doctrine of primalities and influences runs throughout Campanella's mature work but appears most clearly in the Metaphysics, which also describes the role of these Neoplatonic triads in occult causation. Having decided that Telesio's heat and cold needed divine assistance, Campanella described God as directing natural events not by external impulse, as an archer shoots an arrow, but by an internal sense; otherwise things would be impelled towards their ends when God intends that they should seek them.

In all things God sowed great influences -- Necessity, Fate, and Harmony -- as participants in the primalities -- Power, Sense, and Love. . . . God uses their actions regulated by the assistance of angels in forming [things] so that they correspond to the divine ideas, no differently than a blacksmith, using fire, iron, anvil, hammer . . . and assistants to hammer and carry, adjusts [the material] to his idea and then forms it into swords, mattocks, stoves, and clocks.

Necessity, Fate and Harmony act metaphysically in physical nature. Taken abstractly, these three great 'influences' seem to correspond to the distinct properties of objects; to the concur-



Campanella ( 1638: 141; 1925: pp. xxxi, 9, 19-20, 131-3, 221, 254).


rent relations of those properties; and to their functional consequences. They proceed from the primalities, which reflect the triune God, whose ideas they transmit to objects with the aid of angels. God, primalities, influences, ideas, and angels are all metaphysical agents in a process that terminates in a natural object whose form -- the product of heat and cold acting as physical instruments of those metaphysical agents -- is no less a material structure in Campanella Metaphysics than it was in his youthful Telesian manifesto. However, Campanella's analysis of causation in the Metaphysics seems, at first glance, to admit occult activity excluded in the Philosophia sensibus demonstrata, where an occult quality is merely a mistake made by astrologers who misunderstand the physical power of heat. 33

Writing in 1607 to a correspondent who compared his philosophical accomplishments to Giovanni Pico's, Campanella replied that Pico was 'too lofty' a rival for him. 'His philosophy went more above the words of others than into nature', he wrote, 'from which he learned almost nothing, and he condemned the astrologers because he did not look at their experiences. When I was nineteen I condemned them too, but later I saw that within great foolishness they harboured a very lofty wisdom.' In fact, even Campanella's youthful critique of astrology in Philosophia sensibus demonstrata concedes much to the stars and planets within the limits of physical action, and his later work makes astral causation compatible with the metaphysics of the primalities. At least two motives lay behind Campanella's growing passion for astrology: first, he found evidence in solar astrology for his messianic and prophetic politics; second, as he once told Galileo, his methodological commitment to an observational natural philosophy constantly convinced him of the truth of astrology. If it seems that even a little empiricism ought to have led Campanella away from astrology and magic, then one should recall his early association with Giambattista Della Porta, around the time when the latter's Natural Magic was republished in 1589. Cassirer once described Della Porta's catalogue of unkempt observations



Campanella ( 1638: 138-41, 176-7).


leading 'not to the refutation but to codification of magic'. Because three decades in prison gave him little chance to see the world at first hand, Campanella was in Della Porta's debt for vicarious experience. But he criticized Della Porta's empiricism because it worked 'only to collect facts without finding their causes'. Actually, it was Della Porta's failure to find a 'reason for the sympathy and antipathy in things' that decided Campanella to write De sensu. In this work and elsewhere, he felt he had achieved both empirical proof and theoretical understanding of magic and astrology, devoting to the latter not only a separate treatise, Seven Books on Astrology, but also considerable attention in his other major works. His confidence in astrological power was so firm that, after many years in prison, he risked reputation and safety by helping Pope Urban VIII to work astrological spells against the doom forecast for. him in 1626, and later he tried to forestall his own death in the same way. 34

Campanella's philosophy is not easy to digest. His work is forbidding in its size alone, not to mention its complexity and its uneven development in a career that kept his books out of circulation for long periods. During part of his imprisonment he enjoyed some freedoms, including access to books, visitors, even students, but at other times his jailers were brutally repressive. The Philosophia sensibus demonstrata was never reprinted in his lifetime after the first edition of 1591. The Metaphysics appeared only a year before his death. The Theology and the Great Epilogue were first published in this century. The Astrology saw several editions, pirated and authorized, after 1629, and the best-known of his works on magic, the De sensu, came out in Frankfurt in 1620, then appeared later in Paris in 1636 and again in 1637. In effect, Campanella became an active citizen of the republic of letters during two periods of frequent publication. Between 1617 and 1623 his books appeared in Frankfurt, where followers saw him as a prophet of religious reform. But from 1629 to 1638 it



Campanella ( 1925: 221-2; 1927: 134, 177); Blanchet ( 1920: 201-6); Walker ( 1958a: 205-12); Cassirer ( 1963: 152).


was French 'Campanellists' who championed his cause. Who were his backers among French intellectuals in the age of Descartes, Gassendi, and Mersenne; what did they really think of him; why did they think about him at all? For one thing, Campanella had shown good taste and good fortune in his choice of enemies: he disliked the right ancients, and the right moderns disliked him. Gabriel Naudé put him among 'the swarm of innovators' who besieged the Peripatetic fortress. 35 Campanella's assault on Peripatetic dogma won him the enmity of the same ecclesiastical establishment that harassed Galileo, thereby gaining him the sympathy that the bolder French savants lavished on the great scientist. If some of them saw the flames that consumed Bruno casting a morbid light on Campanella, for others it was the healing shadow of Galileo's tragedy that saved his reputation, especially when his audacious Apology for Galileo became known after 1622. The victim and the critic -- each was an effective persona for Campanella.

Campanella De sensu was a fashionable book, enough on the lips of the learned to have interested the young Descartes around 1623, but to some of the Christian faithful it was also dangerous. When Father Marin Mersenne sent his first major work to press in 1623 -- the Questions on Genesis -- the priest felt such horror at the pansensist De sensu that he wanted it burned, more than an academic discourtesy after Giulio Cesare Vanini's execution in Toulouse only four years earlier. But before publication was complete, Mersenne learned of the Apology for Galileo, which gave him cause to make kinder if still cautious mention of Campanella's ideas on the plurality of worlds in later additions to his Genesis commentary. He also opened a correspondence with Campanella and offered in 1624 to arrange for publication of the Metaphysics. Even so, the kindly Mersenne's attitude toward the irreverent Dominican remained on the whole quite hostile in his early works, where Mersenne linked Campanella with Bruno, Vanini, and other heretics. Mersenne had not yet worked out a philosophical position to replace the Aristotelianism that he saw collapsing



Above, n. 2.


around him. He distrusted Campanella and other anti-Peripatetics not only because their ideas -- especially the world soul so prominent in De sensu -- threatened his faith but also because he found them credulous. They broke Montaigne's rule that one must establish the fact of an alleged wonder before worrying about its cause. Perhaps Mersenne feared that someone like Campanella would stabilize occultism just when he and his friends were ending its long career as a serious subject of learned discourse. 36

Jacques Gaffarel, a peripheral member of the circle of learned libertines who corresponded with Mersenne and investigated the elder Pico's Cabala, began to see Campanella in 1628, around the time when he was working astrological magic with the Pope. His visits helped make Campanella (like Galileo) an obligatory stop on the Italian tours of ambitious young Frenchmen. Gaffarel quizzed him about the magical powers that foiled the tortures of his inquisitors. He also let him know about Father Mersenne's unkind suggestion that his book deserved burning. Before Gaffarel's visit, Campanella had probably not seen the Genesis commentary, but from then on he was edgy about Mersenne, who in the mean time had tempered his opposition to Campanella and often asked about him. By 1632, Gassendi and other French intellectuals Were in touch with Campanella, and he received visits from Naudé, whom he sent on important publishing errands. These people who became Campanella's cheering section in France were instigators of the scientific revolution and sceptical critics of superstition and dogmatism. It was probably Naudé, scourge of the Rosicrucians and author of the Apology for All the Great Persons Who Have Been Falsely Suspected of Magic, whose liking for Campanella gave him this new access to Mersenne's prestigious circle. Jailed again in 1633, released, then cornered again by the Spanish in 1634, Campanella found asylum with the French ambassador in Rome and, on the pope's advice, fled to France in the autumn of that year. In December he arrived in Paris



Mersenne ( 1623: 130, 937-46, 1164); Montaigne ( 1965: 785); on Mersenne see Lenoble ( 1971); Dear ( 1988).


disguised in the habit of Mersenne's own order. Mersenne learned that Campanella was still angry with him, but he hoped for reconciliation and looked forward to a meeting. All went well until some time in the new year, when Campanella was overheard. making negative comments on Gassendi's Epicureanism. Finally, he and Mersenne met several times, but their encounters ended Campanella's moment in the sun of the French mind. Mersenne blanched at Campanella's arrogant dismissal of French intellectual achievement, noting that he 'treated him for what he was worth' when Campanella recommended the astrology that Mersenne despised. Granting Campanella 'a good memory and a fertile imagination', he concluded that 'he will teach us nothing in the sciences' even if he was one of Italy's 'two great men'. 37

Although Louis XIII had received Campanella at court in February, 1635, within little more than a year he was complaining to his new friends about their slowness to comment on the 1636 edition of De sensu. Fervent Campanellists of two years before were not answering Campanella's letters. None the less, the 1637 edition of De sensu, augmented by a Defence, bore a dedication to Cardinal Richelieu, who arranged for Campanella to cast the horoscope of the Dauphin born on 5 September 1638. As prelude to the reign of the Sun King, the Horoscopus serenissimi Delphini made an odd coda to the career of the author of The City of the Sun. Campanella's warm reception by king and cardinal did nothing to thaw the hearts of the savants who had written him off. His death in 1639 (fated, so he thought, by an eclipse that came a few days later) passed unnoticed in Mersenne's correspondence, but on. the last day of that year Mersenne issued another verdict: 'he made no observations, contenting himself with speculation and often fooling himself for want of experience.' A true if incomplete judgement, and certainly less categorical than what Descartes had said to Mersenne in the previous year, breaking his silence on Campanella for the second time. Descartes had admitted to Huygens in 1638 that he remembered reading Desensu



Mersenne ( 1933-88: v. 201, 209, 214).


sensu and other works by Campanella fifteen years earlier, adding that he saw 'so little solidity' in them that he could not recall them and (curiously for such a pioneer) that he found intellectual loners like Campanella more culpable in their mistakes 'than those who fail only in company by following the tracks of many others'. Eight months later, when Mersenne mentioned the newly published Metaphysics to Descartes, the great philosopher's reply was even chillier: 'What I'have seen previously of Campanella allows me to hope for nothing good from his book. . . . I have no wish to see it.' 38

Thus was Campanella banished from the history of mode philosophy by its greatest founder. For his own purposes, Descartes may have been right to ignore Campanella, as he dropped almost all the baggage of Renaissance erudition. But the historian can take a longer view. In the larger sense, Campanella's challenge to Aristotle and his promotion of an empiricist naturalism were part of a movement in Renaissance natural philosophy that began with Achillini, Nifo, and Pomponazzi, continued with Cardano, Telesio, and Bruno and bore its richest fruits in the work of Galileo, Mersenne, Gassendi, and Descartes himself. In a narrower sense, Campanella was especially effective in removing the traditional philosophical underpinnings from the branch of pre-Cartesian natural philosophy that interested him most of all -- natural magic. More than any of the other novatores, including even Bruno, Campanella offered a systematic critique of hylemorphic metaphysics in the special case of natural magic; but, although he tried to substitute a new metaphysics of magic for the old one that he destroyed, the anti-Peripatetic innovators who listened attentively to his polemic against occult qualities and substantial forms would not pay equal respect to the metaphysics of the primalities. Campanella failed where Mersenne had most cause to fear him -- in his attempt to tie natural magic to a complete and systematic philosophy. But, despite himself, he succeeded where Mersenne also succeeded. He brought natural



Ibid. viii. 722 ; Descartes ( 1964-76: i. 31; ii. 436, 659-60; iii. 522; iv. 718; v. 547).


magic very near its end as a serious department of natural philosophy. Campanella's pansensism or animism, grounded in an elaborate metaphysics, finally and strongly distinguishes his organic world-view from the victorious mechanical philosophy created by Mersenne, Gassendi, and others who made Campanella an intellectual fashion in the early 1630s. Campanella's place in the history of philosophy stands as much on his metaphysical differences with these libertins érudits as on the materialist habits of mind that he shared with them. Although he lived through the fourth decade of the seventeenth century, the Renaissance shaped his philosophical programme, and his remarkable career, in and out of jail, shows how thinkers of the new Cartesian age discarded the heritage of the generations before them.



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