Saturday, December 11, 2010

Connection #1 - Giordano Bruno to Baruch Spinoza

Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600), born Filippo Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, who is best known as a proponent of the infinity of the universe. His cosmological theories went beyond the Copernican model in identifying the Sun as just one of an infinite number of independently moving heavenly bodies: he is the first European man to have conceptualized the universe as a continuum where the stars we see at night are identical in nature to the Sun. He was burned at the stake by civil authorities in 1600 after the Roman Inquisition found him guilty of heresy and turned him over to the state, which at that time considered heresy illegal. After his death he gained considerable fame; in the 19th and early 20th centuries, commentators focusing on his astronomical beliefs regarded him as a martyr for free thought and modern scientific ideas.


Thus, his system of thought is an incoherent materialistic pantheism. God and the world are one; matter and spirit, body and soul, are two phases of the same substance; the universe is infinite; beyond the visible world there is an infinity of other worlds, each of which is inhabited; this terrestrial globe has a soul; in fact, each and every part of it, mineral as well as plant and animal, is animated; all matter is made up of the same elements (no distinction between terrestrial and celestial matter); all souls are akin (transmigration is, therefore, not impossible). This unitary point of view is Bruno's justification of "natural magic." No doubt, the attempt to establish a scientific continuity among all the phenomena of nature is an important manifestation of the modern spirit, and interesting, especially on account of its appearance at the moment when the medieval point of view was being abandoned. And one can readily understand how Bruno's effort to establish a unitary concept of nature commanded the admiration of such men as Spinoza, Jacobi, and Hegel. On the other hand, the exaggerations, the limitations, and the positive errors of his scientific system; his intolerance of even those who were working for the reforms to which he was devoted; the false analogies, fantastic allegories, and sophistical reasonings into which his emotional fervour often betrayed him have justified, in the eyes of many, Bayle's characterization of him as "the knight-errant of philosophy." His attitude of mind towards religious truth was that of a rationalist. Personally, he failed to feel any of the vital significance of Christianity as a religious system. It was not a Roman Inquisitor, but a Protestant divine, who said of him that he was "a man of great capacity, with infinite knowledge, but not a trace of religion."

The Catholic Encyclopedia
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