Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science

Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science

Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science

Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science

Synopsis

The Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno was a notable supporter of the new science that arose during his lifetime; his role in its development has been debated ever since the early seventeenth century. Hilary Gatti here reevaluates Bruno's contribution to the scientific revolution, in the process challenging the view that now dominates Bruno criticism among English-language scholars. Gatti reinstates Bruno as a scientific thinker and occasional investigator of considerable significance and power whose work participates in the excitement aroused by the new science and its methods. Her original research emphasizes the importance of Bruno's links to the magnetic philosophers, from Ficino to Gilbert; Bruno's reading and extension of Copernicus's work on the motions of the earth; the importance of Bruno's mathematics; and his work on the art of memory seen as a picture logic, which she examines in the light of the crises of visualization in present-day science. She concludes by emphasizing Bruno's ethics of scientific discovery.

Excerpt

This book reconsiders a dimension of Giordano Bruno's philosophy that has been ignored in recent years in favor of his Hermeticism and magic. From the beginning of my Bruno studies, however, it appeared to me that his attention was more often directed elsewhere, to subjects such as the new cosmology and the revival of ancient atomism, to number theory and the possibility of investigating, measuring, and mapping out anew the shape of the natural world. To stress these aspects of his thought could well seem a simple return to earlier readings of Bruno, which tended to treat with distaste his references to magic, astrology, and the art of memory, his cabalism, and his reading of the work of Raymond Lull. But was it really necessary to denigrate those aspects of Bruno's thought? I became convinced that Bruno's concern with such subjects, which has been so forcefully presented in the work of the late Dame Frances Yates, could be seen as surrounding and complementing his concern with the new science, particularly now that so many scientists of the early modern period, up to and including Newton, are known to have read extensively in such subjects and to have considered them integral parts of their culture.

Furthermore, was it necessary to see Bruno's sixteenth-century science as in all respects a prelude to the classical mechanical science that would dominate European culture from the early seventeenth century up to the end of the nineteenth? Might not some aspects of his thought seem closer to an age of post-Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, with their theoretical justifications of scientific approximations rather than logical certainties and indisputable truths? Not until I had finished . . .

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