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Campanella, Tommaso (1568–1639)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-C009-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 16, 2021, from

Article Summary

Tommaso Campanella was a Counter-Reformation theologian, a Renaissance magus, a prophet, a poet and an astrologer, as well as a philosopher whose speculations assumed encyclopedic proportions. As a late Renaissance philosopher of nature, Campanella is notable for his early, and continuous, opposition to Aristotle. He rejected the fundamental Aristotelian principle of hylomorphism, namely the understanding of all physical substance in terms of form and matter. In its place he appropriated Telesio’s understanding of reality in terms of the dialectical principles of heat and cold; and he adopted a form of empiricism found in Telesio’s work that included pansensism, the doctrine that all things in nature are endowed with sense. Especially after 1602, Campanella’s exposure to Renaissance Platonism also involved him in panpsychism, the view that all reality has a mental aspect. Thus his empiricism came to show a distinctly metaphysical and spiritualistic dimension that transformed his philosophy. At the same time his epistemology embraced a universal doubt and an emphasis on individual self-consciousness that are suggestive of Descartes’ views.

Campanella’s career as a religious dissident, radical reformer and leader of an apocalyptic movement presents a political radicalism that was oddly associated with more traditional notions of universal monarchy and the need for theocracy. The only one of his numerous writings that receives attention today, La Città del Sole (The City of the Sun) (composed 1602, but not published until 1623), has come to occupy a prominent place in the literature of utopias though Campanella himself seems to have expected some form of astronomical/apocalyptic realization.

Campanella’s naturalism, especially its pansensism and panpsychism, enjoyed some currency in Germany and France during the 1620s, but in the last five years of his life it was emphatically rejected by the intellectual communities headed by Mersenne and Descartes, as well as by Galileo.

Citing this article:
Headley, John M.. Campanella, Tommaso (1568–1639), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-C009-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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