Monday, January 11, 2016
Tommaso Campanella was not so much a "late Renaissance" man as rather a late "Renaissance man." Though living in the 17th century, he still belonged to the 16th century for the great freedom and boldness of his thought, his world-wide curiosity, his paradoxes. His essays De Homine (On Man) were written in the early 1620s during his long imprisonment as a heretic. Yeah, you know, he did things like: defending Galileo, describing Aristotle as an ass, making the Church suspect that he himself was a wizard. . .
The most striking feature in De Homine is Campanella's absolutely multidisciplinary approach. Most freely and most naturally, he can quote Aristotle, then immediately Origen, then the Bible, then the folklore of American natives, then Virgil, then a curious natural event he happened to witness, then a passage from Ariosto, then a foray into science fiction, then the stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi, etc. etc., without any preset hierarchy of importance, and without leaving subjects like sex and excrement out of philosophy. To deal with the mystery of Man, that includes and is included in the mystery of the whole universe, means to listen to all kind of information that comes from the world around us. At the same time, Campanella can unify his insights thanks to his concept of "spirit" that, in brief, implies a holistic and cybernetic cosmos.