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Venetischer Aristotelismus im Ende der aristotelischen Welt: Aspekte der Welt und des Denkens des Cesare Cremonini (1550-1631).

Heinrich C. Kuhn. (European University Studies, Series 20, Philosophy, Vol. 490.) Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1996. 864 pp. $127.95 ISBN: 3-631-49354-1.

Cesare Cremonini (1550-1631) enjoys today the dubious distinction of having declined to look through Galileo's telescope because he already knew from Aristotle everything that could be known about the heavens. Galileo clearly had him in mind when drawing his portrait of Simplicio, the Aristotelian stalking horse in his two great dialogues. Yet at the time, Cremonini was considered one the greatest philosophers of the age, commanding a salary at the University of Padua double that offered to Galileo after his spectacular telescopic discoveries. In this book - originally a dissertation - Heinrich Kuhn attempts to reconcile Cremonini's two reputations and to give him a place not merely in the history of ideas as the opponent of Galileo and of the new philosophy, but more importantly in the history of philosophy itself. Unfortunately, as Kuhn notes, Cremonini never articulated a comprehensive rebuttal of the new philosophy, or even a systematic account of his own Aristotelianism. Instead, both in his independent works and in the commentaries on Aristotle required for his teaching - beyond the exposition of the text - he confined himself to particular topics of controversy within natural philosophy.

After a thorough account of his life and circumstances of his career teaching natural philosophy at the University of Padua, Kuhn describes Cremonini's contributions to a number of these controversies, documenting them with working editions of extracts from his unpublished works. The occasion of many of these controversies turns out to have been Cremonini's opposition not to the new philosophy of Galileo and others, but to Galenic medicine when it disagreed with Aristotelian natural philosophy. The points of conflict included the perennial controversy over the human intellect and the roles of the agent and possible intellects, Galen's ascription of materialist causes to the soul and its dispositions, the origin of body heat, and whether the nerves originate in the brain (as Galen taught) or in the heart (as Aristotle taught). Galileo would later use Cremonini's stand on this last as an example of slavish adherence to Aristotle in the teeth of the dearest evidence of the senses. As documentation, Kuhn has edited extracts from the commentary on Aristotle's De generatione animalium 2. 3, parts of the commentary on Aristotle's De anima 3, and the entire Question on Whether the Soul} Character Follows the Temperament of the Body (Quaestio utrum animi mores sequantur corporis temperamentum).

In astronomy, Cremonini repudiated not only Copernicus, but all mathematical innovations since Aristotle, rejecting even the epicycles and deferents of Ptolemy in favor of Aristotle's simple cosmology of homocentric spheres. For him, Aristotle's cosmology and his natural philosophy in general were not necessarily true (since other explanations were possible), but they were true nonetheless since they best explained the phenomena. For Cremonini, then, their truth rests not so much on Aristotle's authority as on reason itself.

Ironically, it was this intransigent Aristotelianism that brought Cremonini to the attention of the Inquisition. Called up to answer for his teachings on the eternity of the world, the souls of the celestial spheres, the essential unity of the human mind and body, and on the merely possible immortality of the human soul, Cremonini refused to bring Aristotle into conformity with orthodoxy. He successfully defended himself as simply interpreting Aristotle correctly, which was exactly what the University paid him to do. Nevertheless, he claimed that his own religious views were entirely orthodox. According to Kuhn, Cremonini was neither merely a paper philosopher nor a closet atheist, but a philosopher who recognized the limits of both natural philosophy and theology.

The Inquisition was likely more sympathetic to Cremonini's debunking of astrology. In arguing against astrological influences, Cremonini credited the heavenly bodies with only two forms of influence here below - light and movement - and relegated all the rest to superstition. Shrewdly, he suggested that astrology arose as a form of political control by the few of the credulous many. Kuhn edits excerpts from his commentary on Aristotle's Meteora 1 to document these views.

Finally, Kuhn has also edited here the inventory of Cremonini's books and the Paduan arts rotulus for 1628-1629, and compiled a complete catalogue of Cremonini's works.

This is a book of considerable scholarship: thoroughly researched, exhaustively presented, and fully documented, it contains the definitive materials for all future work on Cremonini. That said, there is much here that I could do without, including the ruminations on scientific revolutions, paradigm shifts, and overlapping domains of knowledge - all illustrated with puzzling diagrams - and the discussion of Hegel's history of philosophy and whether Cremonini fits into it. In general, the book is rebarbative: it bristles with intrusive and digressive footnotes, it constantly harangues with bold-face, italics, underlining, and quotation marks, and its tone throughout is excitable and disputatious. If this dissertation had been thoroughly and ruthlessly edited, we would now have the definitive book on Cremonini.

W. R. LAIRD Carleton University
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Laird, W.R.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1999
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