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Bruno, Giordano (1548–1600)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-C007-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher of nature and proponent of artificial memory systems who abandoned the Dominican Order and, after a turbulent career in many parts of Europe, was burned to death as a heretic in 1600. Because of his unhappy end, his support for the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis, and his pronounced anti-Aristotelianism, Bruno has often been hailed as the proponent of a scientific worldview against supposed medieval obscurantism. In fact, he is better interpreted in terms of Neoplatonism and, to a lesser extent, Hermeticism (also called Hermetism). Several of Bruno’s later works were devoted to magic; and magic may play some role in his many books on the art of memory. His best-known works are the Italian dialogues he wrote while in England. In these Bruno describes the universe as an animate and infinitely extended unity containing innumerable worlds, each like a great animal with a life of its own. His support of Copernicus in La Cena de le ceneri (The Ash Wednesday Supper) was related to his belief that a living earth must move, and he specifically rejected any appeal to mere mathematics to prove cosmological hypotheses. His view that the physical world was a union of two substances, Matter and Form, had the consequence that apparent individuals were merely collections of accidents. He identified Form with the World-Soul, but although he saw the universe as permeated by divinity, he also believed in a transcendent God, inaccessible to the human mind. Despite some obvious parallels with both Spinoza and Leibniz, Bruno seems not to have had much direct influence on seventeenth-century thinkers.

Citing this article:
Ashworth, E.J.. Bruno, Giordano (1548–1600), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-C007-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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