Page:A Brief History of Modern Philosophy.djvu/32

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29
BRUNO

as impossible, and even cherished the hope of returning to Italy and, without re-entering the cloister, continuing his literary activities. He felt that his career north of the Alps was a failure and Protestantism, with its many little popes, was more reprehensible to him than the ancient church with its single Pope. He finally returned therefore, but was arrested by the Inquisition at Venice (1592) and, after a long imprisonment, burnt as a heretic at Rome in 1600. He died like a hero.

Bruno held Copernicus in high esteem because of his lofty mind. It was he who had lifted him above the illusory testimony of the senses to which the vast majority remained enchained. But notwithstanding his unstinted admiration for the man, he nevertheless regarded the Copernican theory as inadequate because of its conception of the universe as bounded by the sphere of the fixed stars. The basis of Bruno’s opposition to this theory was two-fold, its failure to accord with his theory of knowledge together with his religio-philosophical views.

a. The sensory evidence of an absolute world-center and an absolute world-boundary is merely apparent. The moment we change our viewpoint we attain a new center and a new boundary. Every point in the universe can therefore be regarded at once as both central and peripheral. Abstract thought and sentiency agree in this; namely, that we may add number to number, idea to idea, ad infinitum, without ever approaching an absolute boundary. The possibilities of progress in knowledge are therefore unlimited, and it is from this characteristic of knowledge (la conditione del modo nostro de intendere) that Bruno conceives the character of the universe: absolute boundaries are as inconceivable of the universe as of knowledge.