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Tommaso Campanella

Tommaso CampanellaAKA Giovanni Domenico Campanella

Born: 5-Sep-1568
Birthplace: Stilo, Calabria, Italy
Died: 21-May-1639
Location of death: St. Honoré, Paris, France
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Philosopher

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: La cittą del Sole

Italian philosopher, theologian, astrologer, and political activist, became a Dominican monk in 1582. Tommaso's ideas and in particular the atheistic De Tribus Impostoribus caused him to be sentenced to life imprisonment on November 13, 1602, of which he spent 27 years Naples until release, re-imprisonment, and release again. Best known for La Cittą del Sole, a utopian vision. Books placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum where they remained banned until 1900.

Detailed biography

Italian Renaissance philosopher, was born at Stilo in Calabria. Before he was thirteen years of age he had mastered nearly all the Latin authors presented to him. In his fifteenth year he entered the order of the Dominicans, attracted partly by reading the lives of Albertus Magnus and Aquinas, partly by his love of learning. He took a course in philosophy in the convent at Morgentia in Abruzzo, and in theology at Cosenza. Discontented with this narrow course of study, he happened to read the De Rerum Natura of Bernardino Telesio, and was delighted with its freedom of speech and its appeal to nature rather than to authority. His first work in philosophy (he was already the author of numerous poems) was a defence of Telesio, Philosophia sensibus demonstrata (1591). His attacks upon established authority having brought him into disfavour with the clergy, he left Naples, where he had been residing, and proceeded to Rome. For seven years he led an unsettled life, attracting attention everywhere by his talents and the boldness of his teaching. Yet he was strictly orthodox, and was an uncompromising advocate of the pope's temporal power. He returned to Stilo in 1598. In the following year he was committed to prison because he had joined those who desired to free Naples from Spanish tyranny. His friend Naudee, however, declares that the expressions used by Campanella were wrongly interpreted as revolutionary. He remained for twenty-seven years in prison. Yet his spirit was unbroken; he composed sonnets, and prepared a series of works, forming a complete system of philosophy. During the latter years of his confinement he was kept in the castle of Sant' Elmo, and allowed considerable liberty. Though, even then, his guilt seems to have been regarded as doubtful, he was looked upon as dangerous, and it was thought better to restrain him. At last, in 1626, he was nominally set at liberty; for some three years he was detained in the chambers of the Inquisition, but in 1629 he was free. He was well treated at Rome by the pope, but on the outbreak of a new conspiracy ieaded by his pupil, Tommaso Pignatelli, he was persuaded to go to Paris (1634), where he was received with marked favor by Cardinal Richelieu. The last few years of his life he spent in preparing a complete edition of his works; but only the first volume appears to have been published. He died on the 21st of May 1639.

In philosophy, Campanella was, like Giordano Bruno, a follower of Nicolas of Cusa and Telesio. He stands, therefore, in the uncertain half-light which preceded the dawn of modern philosophy. The sterility of scholastic Aristotelianism, as he understood it, drove him to the study of man and nature, though he was never entirely free from the medieval spirit. Devoutly accepting the authority of Faith in the region of theology, he considered philosophy as based on perception. The prime fact in philosophy was to him, as to Augustine and Descartes, the certainty of individual consciousness. To this consciousness he assigned a threefold content, power, will and knowledge. It is of the present only, of things not as they are, but merely as they seem. The fact that it contains the idea of God is the one, and a sufficient, proof of the divine existence, since the idea of the Infinite must be derived from the Infinite. God is therefore a unity, possessing, in the perfect degree, those attributes of power, will and knowledge which humanity possesses only in part. Furthermore, since community of action presupposes homogeneity, it follows that the world and all its parts have a spiritual nature. The emotions of love and hate are in everything. The more remote from God, the greater thr degree of imperfection (i.e. Not-being) in things. Of imperfect things, the highest are angels and human beings, who by virtue of the possession of reason are akin to the Divine and superior to the lower creation. Next comes the mathematical world of space, then the corporeal world, and finally the empirical world with its limitations of space and time. The impulse of self preservation. in nature is the lowest form of religion; above this comes animal religion; and finally rational religion, the perfection of which consists in perfect knowledge, pure volition and love, and is union with God. Religion is, therefore, not political in origin; it is an inherent part of existence. The church is superior to the state, and, therefore, all temporal government should be in subjection to the pope as the representative of God.

In natural philosophy Campanella, closely following Telesio, advocates the experimental method and lays down heat and cold as the fundamental principles by the strife of which all life is explained. In political philosophy (the Civitas Solis) he sketches an ideal communism, obviously derived from the Platonic, based on community of wives and property with state control of population and universal military training. In every detail of life the citizen is to be under authority, and the authority of the administrators is to be based on the degree of knowledge possessed by each. The state is, therefore, an artificial organism for the promotion of individual and collective good. In contrast to More's Utopia, the work is cold and abstract, and lacking in practical detail. On the view taken as to his alleged complicity in the conspiracy of 1599 depends the vexed question as to whether this system was a philosophic dream, or a serious attempt to sketch a constitution for Naples in the event of her becoming a free city. The De Monarchia Hispanica contains an able account of contemporary politics especially Spanish.

Thus Campanella, though neither an original nor a systematic thinker, is among the precursors, on the one hand, of modern empirical science, and on the other of Descartes and Spinoza. Yet his fondness for the antithesis of Being and Not-being (Ens and Non-ens) shows that he had not shaken off the spirit of scholastic thought.

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