Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic
Giordano Bruno was a philosopher before his time.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, Europe underwent an information revolution unprecedented in the history of mankind.Skip to next paragraph
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The invention of the compass, the printing press, and the telescope, the translation of the Bible into the vernacular, the rediscovery of classical Greek philosophy, and the discoveries of the New World, gunpowder, and that the Earth was not the center of the universe – all instigated radical shifts in the thinking that had dominated the mental landscape for centuries.
Occasionally the shifts were seen as good things. More frequently, they were fiercely resisted by church and state authorities. Moreover, the great thinkers, writers, pioneers, and scientists of the age – Leonardo da Vinci, Erasmus, Galileo, Luther, and Tycho Brahe to name a few – were often persisting in their work in the face of unparalleled persecution.
Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic is Ingrid Rowland’s portrait of a lesser known, though no less daring, Italian, whose religious, philosophical, and scientific quests helped to usher in the modern age of science and mathematics.
Shaped by the priesthood
Filippo Bruno was born in Nola, in southern Italy, in 1548. He was the precocious only child of a mercenary soldier. At 17 he was sent to the convent of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples to train for the priesthood. There, in the rigorous academic atmosphere that was Renaissance Naples, he studied and learned to emulate or argue with the writings of Aristotle and Plato, as well as those of Thomas Aquinas, Marsilio Ficino, and Giles of Viterbo.
He took his vows as a friar of the order in 1566, and assumed the name Giordano. Although he would spend the next 10 years of his life pursuing his studies, including developing his own method of memorization, eventually the reactionary crackdowns of the Inquisition would force him into the life of a peripatetic scholar and teacher.
His travels took him from Switzerland to Paris to England to Germany to Prague and back to Italy. But wherever he went, an irascible nature and fiery intellectual pride drove him into conflict with local academics, whom he bitterly reviled and caricatured.