Harald Høffding.

A history of modern philosophy; a sketch of the history of philosophy from the close of the renaissance to our own day online

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says, e.g. that faith is for rude men who need to be governed, while
thought is for contemplative natures who know how to rule
themselves as well as others. We cannot be astonished that
this antithesis should have suggested itself to him on all sides,
especially when we consider the violent struggle which he had
to carry on with prejudices based on religious notions. Where
he incidentally attacks or aims at Christianity, it is Protestant-
ism rather than Catholicism which he takes as his butt. And
this was because he feared that the useful practical consequences
of religion might be lost through Protestantism (especially
Calvinism), which produces seditious views, quarrels between
near relations, civil war, and ceaseless dogmatic polemics ; every
pedant is ready to produce a catechism of his own (if he has
not already done so), and to demand that all other men should
regulate their conduct by it. Not least objectionable is it to
Bruno that Protestantism commends faith in opposition to
works. This, he thought, opens the way to barbarism. It
tends to make men appropriate and use the work of their fore-
fathers without doing anything more themselves. Hospitals
and poorhouses, schools and universities, are owing not to the
modern but to the ancient Church, and it would be iniquitous
if these accusers of works were to appropriate the same to
themselves. Instead of reforming they, on the contrary, remove
what is good from religion. These passages {Spaccio, p. 446
ff.) are evidently suggested by Bruno's experiences in Geneva,
France, and England. The germ of new life contained within
the Protestant spirit escaped him ; and in the midst of all
the fermentation and mutual recriminations of the time it must
indeed have been difficult to discover it. His sympathy is
evidently on the side of the ancient Church, and we understand
that he felt himself homeless. The thought which moved so
freely in the large spaces of the universe made it difficult for
him to find his right place in this complicated human world.
He did not understand that Protestantism was a Copernicanism
in the spiritual sphere, that it would make every individual a
central point of the world. The fanaticism and the pedantry of
the Protestant theologians blinded him to the process of liberation
which it ushered in. It is true it did no more than usher it in.


In his symbolical writings (the Spaccio and the Cabala)
Bruno satirises several dogmas, e.g. the Incarnation and
Transubstantiation. And this it was which, in spite of all
his protestations that, in his philosophy, the standpoints of
true religion were especially prominent, brought about his
condemnation. It is interesting to observe the decided dis-
tinction he draws between the Christs of history and of dogma.
In the Spaccio, where the stars are to be reformed, Chiron the
Centaur also comes under discussion. Momos the mocker
cuts several jokes over Chiron's double nature which is never-
theless supposed to form one single person, but is ordered to
keep his reason within bounds. Zeus reflects that during his
life on earth this Chiron was the most righteous among men,
that he taught them the arts of healing and of melody, and
showed them the way to the stars. Accordingly, instead of
being driven out of heaven, he is assigned a place at its altar,
as its only priest. This trait throws light on Bruno's relation
to Christianity. We are not surprised that it had no signifi-
cance in the eyes of Cardinal Bellarmin.

(e) Ethical Ideas

Bruno has left no coherent system of ethics although, in the
preface to the Spaccio, he tells us that it is his intention to write
a moral philosophy " based on the inner light." We here again
encounter " the natural light," which, in the sixteenth century, was
to acquire an independent prominence. Bruno never arrived at
carrying this plan into execution. On the other hand, he gave
what he called " Preludes " in two symbolical works, the Spaccio
della Bestia Trionfante (The Expulsion of the Beast Triumphant)
and the De gV Heroici Fiirori (On the Heroic Affects).

These two works, although there was only a short interval
between them, stand in a certain opposition to one another.
The Spaccio is optimistic ; its subject is human life in its totality,
more especially social life. In the work on the heroic affects,
on the other hand, Bruno introduces us to the inner struggle
and opposition within each striving individual ; he em-
phasises the pain of unceasing striving, even though it witness
to the fact that men acknowledge ideal claims upon them. It
is the striving of the individual, not the striving of society as a
whole, or of the race, which is here depicted. The latter work


is an ethic for tiie select few, who experience the heights and
the depths in their own inner hves ; the former is for all.

The Spaccio is cast in the form of a story to the effect that
Zeus, by whom we are to understand, not the highest divinity,
but each one of ourselves, in so far as there are divine powers
within us, resolves to reform Heaven. He addresses the gods :
our scandalous stories are recorded in the stars. Let us only
return to righteousness, i.e. to ourselves. Let us reform the
inner world, and then the outer will also be reformed. And
this reformation is depicted under the guise of a re-naming of
the stars, the different virtues taking the place of the more or
less ambiguous figures of the gods and beasts. In his inquiry
as to which virtues are to be represented in Heaven, Bruno finds
occasion to institute a " transvaluation," to use a modern phrase,
" of all values." The exposition is very spun-out, but contains
several interesting episodes. There is no occasion here to dwell
on more than a few of its most characteristic features.

The first and highest place in the new order is assigned to.
Truth, who rules over all and assigns to everything its place ; all
things are dependent on her. If we were to think of something
which should transcend Truth and determine her validity, then
this something would itself be the real Truth ! Nothing, then,
can come before Truth. Sought by many, she is descried by
few. She is often disputed, yet she needs no defence ; on the
contrary, she grows the more, the more she is disputed. This
estimation of worth evidently stands in connection with Bruno's
struggle for the new world-conception, and with his conception
that the new ideas extend the view and ennoble the mind.

In Bruno's world-conception the necessary interconnection
of objects and their passing into one another has great import-
ance. He finds the same law at work within the life of the
soul, especially in feeling. If there were no change, there
would be no pleasure. And pleasure presupposes pain. Every
feeling of pleasure consists in a transition, in a movement.
Hence there is no pleasure without an intermixture of sorrow.
This relation of opposites makes repentance possible, and pro-
duces the desire after a higher stage of life than that hitherto
attained. This is the moving cause which induces Zeus to
reform himself and the whole world of the gods. While all else
changes, Truth alone remains, and it is in the light of Truth that
the reform must be undertaken. To these two thoughts Bruno



(like Heraclitus of old) always remained constant ; — the passage
of all things through opposites, and the persistence of the world-
law throughout all change. Hence it is only natural that
Truth as well as Repentance should find a place in his ethic.
Repentance, in the new order, is to take the place of the swan.
Like the swan, she appears on rivers and pools, and seeks,
through purification, to attain to shining purity. Repentance
is grieved at her present condition, and, sorrowful at the thought
that she ever found satisfaction in it, she endeavours to raise
herself above the lower regions and to soar aloft towards the
sun. Although error is her father, and wrongdoing her mother,
yet she herself is of the divine nature ; she is like the rose
which can only be plucked amongst thorns, or like the spark of
fire struck out of the dull flint stone.

Among those who seek a place in Heaven under the new
order is Leisure [odd). She praises the happy childhood of
the human race, when there was no need to work, and all care
and the unquiet that comes from striving were absent, and
when not only unhappiness, but also vice and sin, did not exist.
To this eulogy of the golden age Zeus replies that Man has
hands and thoughts in order to use them, and it is his task not
only to follow the suggestions of Nature but also to produce,
through the power of his spirit, a second nature, a higher order ;
without which he cannot retain his dignity as the god of the
earth. In the golden age, with its leisure, men were no more
virtuous than are the brutes now ; indeed they may have been
still more apathetic. Necessity and struggle have called industry
to life, have sharpened thought, and have led to the discovery
of art, hence from day to day, under the pressure of wants,
new and wonderful discoveries are ever evolving themselves out
of the depths of the human spirit. By this means Man quits the
beast, and approaches the divine. It is true that unrighteous-
ness and malice increase. But in the brute condition there is
neither virtue nor vice, for we must not confuse the absence of
vice with virtue. Self-mastery is only to be found where there
is something to be overcome, otherwise the apathy of the brutes
would be virtue. Chastity is no virtue in a cold and lethargic
nature ; thus it is no virtue in Northern Europe, though it is so
in France, still more in Italy, and most of all in Africa. His
conclusion is that leisure is only to be acknowledged as the
necessary counterpart to labour (ocio — negocid). Labour and rest


must form a natural rhythm. To a nobly born spirit leisure
becomes the greatest torment, when it does not alternate with
the most arduous activity.

In his work on the heroic affects, too, he lays great
emphasis on the point that the life of feeling, since its existence
is composed of the greatest opposites, must, in those who have
advanced beyond the limitations of the brute, be of a complex
nature ; hence complexity is taken as a criterion for the develop-
ment of feeling. The stupid man never gets beyond his present
condition, and thinks neither of what went before nor of what is
to come, of the opposite which lies so near, nor of the absent
which is yet always a possibility. His joy can therefore be
without sorrow, without fear, and without remorse. Ignorance
is the mother of sensuous happiness and of animal enjoyment.
He who increases his knowledge increases his pain. With
growing knowledge we perceive a greater number of possibilities,
and place a higher aim before ourselves, which is accordingly
all the harder to reach. The " heroic affect " arises when a man
does not let himself be detained from striving after a high aim
because pain and effort are bound up with the attempt. The
butterfly attracted by the flame does not know it is its death ;
the heroic man knows this, and yet he seeks out the light, for
he knows that pain and danger are only evil according to the
limited view of the senses and not from the point of view
of eternity [ne Vocchio de I' eternitade). It is, indeed, a necessity
that all higher aspirations should be accompanied by pain,
since our goal mounts ever higher the further we progress.
We embark on our voyage carelessly enough, but we soon find
ourselves without, on the infinite ocean, overpowered by sense
and thought. The more we attain, the more clearly we see
that absolute satisfaction is impossible. We discover that the
object of our aspiration is infinite, and this gives rise to conflict
and endeavour in finite nature. Nevertheless we feel satis-
faction at the kindling of this noble fire, even though it involve
pain. It is a higher form of self-preservation which induces us,
in spite of jangled harmony, to continue our striving after the
ideal. That which binds the will {vinculum voluntatis) is at
all stages a love, but this love may be directed towards some-
thing which lies far beyond the finite existence of the individual.

This whole train of thought is of interest not only because
it contains answers to objections which have been made, even


in quite recent times, against any system of ethics which takes
happiness or welfare as the criterion, but also on account of the
opposition in which Bruno here stands to the classical as well
as to the mediaeval conception. To throw oneself into the
strife of opposites, and to take ship on the sea of infinite
endeavour is, for Bruno, the highest. This produces a richness
and a fulness of the inner life which, in his opinion, no condition
of rest could possibly effect. However much his work may
remind us of Plato and Plotinus, whom Bruno himself mentions,
yet it characterises him as a modern thinker. In it he is the
precursor of Lessing's and Kant's idea of eternal striving as
the highest ; as, too, his attitude towards the idea of the golden
age reminds us of the modern conception of the history of
civilisation. As in his world-conception, so here, too, in his
ethical ideas, he works with a distant horizon before him, and
with the belief that this will ever admit of still further extension.



Like Bruno, Campanella, too, was a monk who came in
contact with the new thoughts of the age and went to meet
them with a receptive mind. But he already belongs to the
reaction. He agrees with the philosophers of the Renaissance
that there must come a new science and a new philosophy,
since the book of Nature has now been opened as it has never
been before. Yet he has one other reason for making this
demand, and this is that the old philosophy was heathenish.
It was impossible, he thought, to unite the Aristotelian philosophy
with the faith of the Church, although this had been considered
possible throughout the Middle Ages. A new doctrine of
Nature, a new doctrine of the State, and an entirely new
Philosophy must now be established if the Church is to con-
tinue in existence, and if she is not to have cause to feel ashamed
before new nations in other parts of the world, when they
display a culture not to be found within the Church her-
self. In Campanella the bold hopes of the Renaissance are
united with the faithful Catholic's humility before the Church.
He denies that Bruno had been burnt on account of his
scientific opinions ; in his defence of Galilei he exhorts the
Church to grant free course to investigations based on experi-
ence, for, if thoroughly studied, the book of Nature will be
found to harmonise with the sacred writings. But when the
Church had condemned the new astronomy contained in Galilei's
teaching, Campanella submitted. It was, indeed, somewhat of a
satisfaction to him to feel that it was now not necessary for
him to give up the conception of Nature which he had accepted
from Telesius, and had promulgated in his earlier writings.
Through his attempt to base a new philosophy on Scholasticism,
however, he made bitter enemies, to which fact his long


imprisonment was probably partly due. There is something
tragic about his figure, for his struggle with Scholasticism
was regarded with displeasure by the ecclesiastical authorities,
who had learnt to look with fear on any modification of
their traditionary doctrines. All his enthusiasm for the
cause of the Church did not avail him. Neither was he
in a position mentally to conquer the powers of the past.
Thoughts full of significance arose within him, but they were
clothed in scholastic and mystical form, and when he succeeded
in making them public they had already been expressed by
Descartes in another manner, in a clearer form, and in closer
conformity with the science of the day.

Campanella was born in 1568 at Stilo in Calabria. He
changed his first name Giovanno for Tomasso when he entered
the Dominican order at the age of fourteen. According to his
own confession, he was induced to take this step not only by
religious impulse but, perhaps still more, by the hope that in
the cloister he would find it easier to carry on his studies.
His zeal and acuteness soon excited the attention and fear of
the monks. He brought such cogent arguments to bear on
the Aristotelian philosophy that it was thought he came by
them by unnatural means, and this opinion may have been
strengthened by his leaning towards the " occult sciences."
Telesio's natural philosophy excited his enthusiasm, and it was
no small grief to him that he was not allowed to visit the aged
thinker ; he only succeeded in seeing him when he was on his
bier. He follows the Telesian philosophy in essential points,
and appeared as its zealous apologist. In order to escape
from the enmity he had drawn upon himself he travelled to
Rome, and from thence to Florence and Padua. He never
succeeded in securing a professorial chair from which he could
expound his new ideas.

Men were full of suspicions towards the new doctrine.
Campanula's manuscripts were actually stolen from him, and
he only found them again when he appeared before the
Roman Inquisition on his return from North Italy. He seems
to have got through the examination to which he was sub-
jected fairly easily here. At home a more severe one was
awaiting him. Owing to the discontent with the Spanish
government, and the general fermentation of men's minds,
disturbances broke out in Calabria. Campanella, who had



already attracted attention by his attitude of philosophic
opposition, was now to become the object of mistrust on
account of the socialistic ideas which he had embraced early
in life, and also because he believed himself able, from the signs
of the times and of Nature, to predict that great revolutions
would take place in the year 1 600. Accused of heresy and of
plans inimical to the State, he was several times subjected to
the most terrible persecutions, and was detained in prison for
twenty-seven years. The best years of his life were spent in
this way. The enthusiasm of this powerful spirit was not
damped, however. While in prison he wrote poems and
meditated, and when the subterranean hole in which he had
been confined was exchanged for somewhat better accommoda-
tion, he eagerly resumed his studies. The friends who visited
him saw his manuscripts through the press. Finally he was
liberated and was sent to Rome. The Pope protected him,
and allowed him to take refuge in France, where, supported by
the French Government, he spent his last years in peace. He
died in 1639, two years after the appearance of Descartes'
first and epoch-making work.

Campanella desired a philosophy based upon experience.
Hence Telesio's programme inspired him with such en-
thusiasm that he overlooked the imperfect manner in which
this programme had been carried out. This, too, was the
reason why he took such a lively interest in Tycho Brahe's
and Galilei's observations, and, as we have already hinted, hesi-
tated for some time as to his conception of the universe. If
Galilei's conclusions are right, he says, we shall have to
philosophise in a new way. And since Galilei always relies
on observations, he can only be refuted by other observations.
It lay very near to the heart of Catholic Campanella that the
Church should not expose herself to scorn by the condemna-
tion of the new teaching. It was this which caused him to
write from his prison his Apologia pro Galileo, which was pub-
lished at Frankfurt in 1622 at the expense of a friend. The
Church, however (as we shall explain further below), would not
adopt the policy so urgently pressed upon her by Campanella,
i.e. that she should declare that the book of Nature and the
book of Revelation are each to be explained according to their
own laws, in the conviction that they will ultimately be found
to harmonise, especially if it is never forgotten that the Bible,


as is only natural, is content to adopt the popular conception
of the world, based on the senses. But when sentence was
passed on Galilei, Campanella was sufficiently zealous a
Catholic and Telesianite as to agree to the verdict.^* But he
rejected, appealing to the investigations of Tycho Brahe and
Galilei, the fixed spheres. Like Telesio, he believed that there
are two mutually opposing powers in the world, the expansive
(warmth) and the contractive (cold), of which the former has its
seat in the sun (as the centrum amoris) and the latter in the
earth (as centrwn odii). The sun, together with its com-
panions, the other stars, moves round the earth.

Campanella's natural philosophy, like that of Telesio, is
animistic in character, for he thinks that the reciprocal action
of things, and especially the mutual attraction of opposing
forces, would be inconceivable unless they were animated. In
order to be able to work on one another they must feel one
another. He repeats Telesio's argument in more detail. Of
chief interest is his observation that sensation could not arise
through the reciprocal action of the elements, since the arising
of such an entirely new faculty or quality would be a crea-
tion out of nothing. In old times it had been asserted (by
Lucretius) against this, that nevertheless Nature offers many
examples in which that which is produced has other qualities
than those possessed by the producing elements. Campanella
answers, however, that all such cases are for us a production
out of nothing, since we do not understand which among the
elements contains the possibility of the new quality. That
sensation arises out of the material elements, then, is just as
much a production out of nothing as that the corporeal arises
out of the incorporeal. That in the elements, which contains
the possibility of the new quality must, in its essence, be
akin to the latter {ejusdem rationis), although it need not
necessarily have pre-existed in the form in which it appears in
the result {eodem modo quo nunc). So conceived, the notion that
all things have souls has a significance altogether independent
of animism, and the importance of which was first recognised
just as it was yielding to the mechanical explanation of
Nature. It is the sensuous or corporeal soul only which
Campanella thus means to unite with the rest of Nature. Like
Telesio, he believes the higher spiritual part of the soul to be
created out of nothing.


Campanella's natural philosophy developed, like Bruno's,
into a complete metaphysic, which, again, was united with
religious ideas. Everything which is exists either as force
{potestas), knowledge {sapientia), or impulse {amor). To be is,
before all things, to be able, to have the power of making one-
self felt. Force finds its highest infinite degree and form in
the Deity ; in every finite creature is it limited, in a greater or
less degree, by the non-ens : there is nothing which is not God ;
in His essence — not in any external influence {essentiando, nan
exterius agendo) — He moves in all things ; but there is much
that a finite being is not. The manifoldness of finite creatures
exhibits this relative non-ens ; they limit and, in so far, negate
one another. What is true of force is also true of knowledge
and of instinct. Without knowledge, force cannot work. But
this knowledge is immanent in force, is one with force. The
capacity of perceiving that which is to be worked against
cannot be separated from the capacity to work. The brute's
instinct of self-preservation shows us this plainly ; but it is
especially true of Nature. Hence knowledge must be original,
and cannot first arise as an effect of outer influences. The
presupposition of all other knowledge is the knowledge of
oneself Such an original self-knowledge is to be found in
everything ; " hidden " (as intellectio abdita), however, since no
opposition and no change make themselves felt. Campanella
tries to show how self-knowledge is possible in opposition to
Telesio's dictum that all knowledge presupposes change. This
is true, Campanella thinks, only of the knowledge gained through
external experience. In order to recognise other things we
must be influenced and hence changed by them. But in order
to know oneself it is not necessary to be influenced and
changed, for what we here have to recognise, that we are and

Online LibraryHarald HøffdingA history of modern philosophy; a sketch of the history of philosophy from the close of the renaissance to our own day → online text (page 15 of 52)