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Pomponazzi, Pietro (1462–1525)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-C033-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Pietro Pomponazzi was the leading Aristotelian philosopher in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. His treatise De immortalitate animae (On the Immortality of the Soul) (1516) argues that although faith teaches immortality, natural reason and Aristotelian principles cannot prove it. In De incantationibus (On Incantations) (first published in 1556), Pomponazzi attempts to demonstrate on rational grounds that all reported miraculous suspensions or reversals of natural laws can be explained by forces within nature itself. Separating faith and reason once again, Pomponazzi proclaims his belief in all canonical miracles of the Church. These arguments cast doubt on morality, for without an afterlife, humanity is deprived of rewards for virtue and punishment for evil; and nature itself appears to be governed by impersonal forces unconcerned with human affairs. However, morality is restored to the universe by the human powers of rational reflection which lead to the pursuit of virtue. Yet in De fato (On Fate) (first published in 1567), Pomponazzi challenges the very basis of his own ethical doctrine by arguing that all activity of insentient and sentient beings is directed to preordained ends by environmental factors. Unable to justify human freedom on rational grounds, he then seeks to re-establish it using arguments derived from Christian natural theology, thus reversing his usual separation of faith and reason.

Citing this article:
Pine, Martin L.. Pomponazzi, Pietro (1462–1525), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-C033-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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