Giordano Bruno: Philosopher of the Renaissance.
Aldershot and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2002. xxi + 424 pp. index. illus. bibl. $89.95. ISBN: 0-7546-0562-0.
The year 2000, the 400th anniversary of the death of Giordano Bruno, has provided the occasion for much notable research: critical editions, new documents, fresh interpretations, and scholarly conferences. Among the last-named for its prominence is the conference organized by Hilary Gatti, a recognized scholar for her publications on Bruno's philosophy, held in London in June 2000, and sponsored by the British Society for the History of Philosophy.
The proceedings of this conference have now been published under the title Giordano Bruno: Philosopher of the Renaissance. All the papers share a common point of departure: the emphasis on Bruno as a philosopher by vocation. Because of this orientation the volume takes its place with a certain distance from the hermetic tradition of the classic works on Bruno by Frances Yates. The international influence of Bruno's philosophy is clearly evidenced by the range of contributions: essays by Italians, Swedes, Germans, English, Canadians, and Americans, working in the diverse disciplines of literary history, the history of philosophy, art history, and political history.
The volume is divided into five sections. In the introduction, an essay by Aquilecchia appears in which Bruno is presented as a philosopher of the Renaissance. The second, "Bruno and Italy," gathers together essays by Berggren, Finocchiaro, Rowland, and Bolzoni. The third, "Bruno in England," contains essays by Gatti, Provvidera, Wyatt, and Tarantino. In the fourth section, "Philosophical Themes," appear the papers of Spruit, Clucas, Mendoza, Schettino, and Catana. In the fifth section, "Influence and Tradition," one can read the papers of Colilli, Gregory, Brown, and Blum.
Obviously it is not possible to review all the essays, but it is worthwhile to call particular attention to several of them. "The Image of Giordano Bruno," by Lars Berggren, gives us a useful review of the portraits of Bruno, arranged chronologically into the various meanings attributed to the Nolan. The three iconographic images are those of "philosopher," "anticlerical," and "prophet." Berggren's interweaving of the present and future demonstrates convincingly that the various images of Bruno (among which we do not have an authentic portrait) are "cultural constructions," useful to help us understand the various ways in which Bruno has been interpreted through the ages, illuminated themselves by special insights offered by Bruno's character.
Ingrid Rowland's "Giordano Bruno and Neapolitan Neoplatonism" contains fresh points of departure from which she explores the youthful Bruno's background, studying logic at the school of Teofilo da Vairano, who (and this point Rowland takes into serious consideration) came from the Neapolitan Neoplatonic environment which revolved around the Augustinian Egidio da Viterbo, in addition to other notable protagonists of humanism such as Pontano, Cariteo, and Sannazaro. The years of Bruno's Neapolitan studies represent a very interesting direction for new research, one which remains to be treated in greater depth. The Erasmian teaching to which the young Bruno was exposed in Naples would have an effect on his works, from their very beginning to his trial, during which they would emerge with even greater force.
It is with regard to a consideration of this very trial that Maurice Finocchiaro dedicates his essay, "Philosophy versus Religion and Science versus Religion: the Trials of Bruno and Galileo." He emphasizes the fact that Bruno was condemned for his philosophical positions, not for his ideas on religion or magic. One can concur with this analysis on the condition that one accepts the interweaving of philosophical and religious questions that are present in Bruno's philosophical work, whose strategic framework seeks to demonstrate the non-opposition between his "nova filosofia" and Christianity. The problematic rapport between Bruno and Christianity represents a critical point with regard to his influence, which commenced immediately after his death at the stake.
To this event Hilary Gatti devotes her essay, "Bruno and the Protestant Ethic," which takes as its point of departure Weberian theory, seeking to prove by way of interesting (if not, in my judgment, entirely persuasive, reasoning) that the relationship between Bruno and Protestantism cannot be made in the paradigm of radical contraposition.
In addition to these essays of a more traditional nature, this volume, useful in its entirety, also contains contributions of papers representing more innovative approaches, such as Bolzoni's "Bruno and Ariosto" and Mendoza's "Metempsychosis and Monism in Bruno's 'Nova Filosofia.'"
Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, Firenze, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2004|
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