Giordano Bruno: Universo infinito, union con Dios, perfeccion del hombre.
Barcelona: Empresa Editorial Herder, 2002. 382 pp. + 17 b/w pls. index. illus. [euro]20.77. ISBN: 84-254-2224-8.
Miguel A. Granada, professor of philosophy at the University of Barcelona, is certainly one of the outstanding scholars of recent Bruno studies, not only having translated several of Bruno's Italian works into Spanish and contributed the introduction and the notes to the critical edition of his De gli eroici furori (1999), but also having published five books on Renaissance philosophy. The year 2000 that marked the four hundredth anniversary of Bruno's death kept Granada busy attending commemorative conferences. The papers presented on these occasions are gathered in this book and make up a unified study on the internal connection between the theory of the infinite universe and the perfection of man as a philosopher, including an extensive report on some of Bruno's sources and inspirations.
Certainly the theme most extensively studied in this book is what Granada calls Bruno's "Averroist anthropology." In his preface to Aristotle's Physics Averroes had speculated on the perfectibility of man through philosophy, evidently drawing upon the last book of the Nicomachean Ethics. Bruno moves from the conclusion that being a philosopher is a perfection of being human to the claim that eventually only philosophers, who in some way attain unity with God, are real humans. The implications of this theory are developed in this book in the introduction and in the last two chapters: "Bruno appropriates the Averroist doctrine of philosophy as perfection of man, of contemplative happiness or beatitude, of copulatio with the divine in this earthly life." (51). It seems that Bruno actually quotes the text of Averroes almost literally (61); however, it should be added that Averroes is repeating a commonplace of ancient wisdom that required the sage to disregard the affections and everyday affairs. The least one can say is that Bruno "fuses Platonism and Averroist Aristotelianism" in depicting knowledge as union with the divine (320). Bruno's specific version of this thought is to be connected with his idea of the philosopher and with his understanding of religion, because such union is not to be understood as merging with the transcendent "separate intellect" but rather remains within this world (316). Consequently, Bruno clearly differentiates the philosopher from the common man. This entails that only philosophy and the philosopher are concerned with theological matters, whereas religion in the ordinary sense is justified only as a guide for the ordinary population. In chapter 4 Granada shows convincingly how Bruno pursues the concept of religion as an instrument of politics, as can be found in Niccolo Machiavelli, to develop a justification of religious cults in whatever form they might appear. This leads Bruno to engage in the debate about the indigenous peoples of America. Given his criticism of the three major confessions of his time, he has no sympathy for missions, and he justifies his position by opposing monogenesis (the theory that all humans descended from Adam) and by extending the experience of the discovery of new peoples and continents to the possibility of human populations dwelling on infinitely numerous stars. In Bruno's "immanentist transposition of the Paradise" every star is a world and an Island of the Blessed, where the philosopher/hero may attain ultimate wisdom (291). Infinity and homogeneity are, according to Bruno, the essential properties of the universe. This has to be worked out in all fields of reality. The only exception is the philosopher, Bruno.
Among the strong points of Granada's research are his knowledge of sources, contemporaries, and sequels to Bruno's thought and his acute understanding of Bruno's mind. From a technical point of view the book is well done and includes indexes of subjects and names. However, occasionally the author repeats himself, as happens with papers presented on different occasions, and he often quotes his sources from Spanish translations that are not available to every reader, instead of referring to standard editions. But his Spanish is easy to read, and the book is an important contribution to Renaissance philosophy.
PAUL RICHARD BLUM
Loyola College in Maryland, Baltimore, MD
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|Author:||Blum, Paul Richard|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2004|
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