The Philosophy and Psychology of Pietro Pomponazzi/Chapter III

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It would not be difficult to trace the historical connection between Pomponazzi at the beginning of the sixteenth century and the great schoolmen of the thirteenth and Arabians of the twelfth centuries. The enduring influence of St Thomas, not only through his supreme authority in the great Dominican schools, but indirectly over all European thought during several generations, needs no illustration. Meanwhile, and in Northern Italy especially, the doctrines of Averroes were much in vogue during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; and in particular the points at issue between him and St Thomas were perpetually under discussion.

The school of Padua "prolonged the Middle Ages." And the name of Padua, at this period, stands for the whole of north-eastern Italy. Padua, Bologna, Ferrara, Venice, were at this time in the closest academic literary relationship to one another; they had for two hundred years a common intellectual life, and one bearing a very distinctive stamp 1 .

Cousin long ago called for a history of the school of Padua; but it has not yet been written. On the philosophical side, it would be a history of the discussion of the problems raised by Averroism.

1 "Les universites de Padoue et de Bologne n en font reellement qu une, au moins pour l'enseignement philosophique et medical. C etaient les memes professeurs qui, presque tous les ans, emigraient de l'une a l'autre pour obtenir une augmentation de salaire. Padoue, d un autre cote, n est que le quartier latin de Venise; tout ce qui s enseignait a Padoue's imprimait a Venise. II est done bien entendu que sous le nom d e cole de Padoue on comprend ici tout le developpement philosophique du nord- est de PItalie." Kenan, Averrots, p. 325.


Averroes entered Italy, as he entered Europe generally, through his medical writings; and it was through the Italian physicians that his name came to be identified with infidelity and materialism. But his philosophical works also were early known in Italy, and were quoted (1303) by Pietro d Abano 1 . Philosophy, indeed, was closely connected in the Italian universities with medical and physical studies; teachers of philosophy used to graduate in medicine-; and Pomponazzi all his life taught both "natural" and "moral" philosophy .

From the first half of the fourteenth century onwards, we find a number of professed Averroists in Northern Italy, many of whom, however, toned down the distinctive features of the Averroist doctrine. It is a Frenchman, John of Jandun (Gan- davensis: fior. 1330), who has perhaps the best claim to be called the father of Italian "orthodox" Averroism. Although himself engaged as a teacher in Paris, he was in close com munication with the Italian Averroists, and corresponded with Marsilius of Padua 4; and certainly his writings exercised a great influence on the subsequent development of the school 5 . While calling himself an Averroist, he declined to believe in the unity of human intelligence, denying the distinction of the intellectual from the sensitive soul, and thus, in direct contradiction of Averroes, making an intellectual soul the form of human nature 6 . John, however, openly confessed that in this respect he departed from the teaching of the master, whereas later clerical writers tried to make out that Averroes himself was orthodox upon the point 7 .

Some of the Italian Averroists of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were ecclesiastically; orthodox, following in the foot steps of John of Jandun; others were not. Of the former, the most influential was Gaetano of Tiene (1387 1465), whose

1 Renan, op. cit. pp. 326, 327.

2 Florentine, Pomponazzi, p. 10.

3 Florentine, op. cit. p. 27.

4 Renan, op. cit. p. 339.

5 Pomponazzi often refers to him in his Commentary on Aristotle's De Anima.

6 Werner, Scholastik des spateren Mittelalters, IV. Pt i, p. 141; Renan, op. cit. P- 341-

7 Werner, op. cit. iv. Pt i, p. 143.


library is at St Mark s. He also rejected the heretical con sequences of Peripateticism; but he was a professed Averroist, claiming to represent the true Averroes and to defend him against heretical misinterpretation. Thus in order to establish intellectus agens as of the true nature of the human being, he denied the doctrine of sensus agens by which popular Averroism sought to make good the distinction of the sensitive from the intellectual soul. This he declared, and probably with truth, to be no part of the original scheme of Averroes; he rejected, as Pomponazzi also did, a compromise 1 suggested by John of Jandun, and came to the same conclusion which Pomponazzi afterwards adopted. Apart, however, from the particular question of sensus agens, there can be no doubt that Gaetano fatally com promised Averroes doctrine of soul and intelligence 2 .

Paul of Venice (pb. 1429), though an ecclesiastic, had boldly accepted the whole doctrine of Averroes. Werner 3 lays it down as a general rule that the clerical Averroists remained orthodox, while it was otherwise among the laity. To this rule, however, there were evidently exceptions. Paul describes the "intellectual soul" as the lowest of the spheral Intelligences, appropriated to the human race; whereas the natural soul of man, which he denominates by an unusual and highly suggestive term, anima spiritiva (Trvevfiari/ctj), is the same as in any other animal, of natural origin and subject to corruption 4 . We perceive that Pomponazzi did not need to go very far back to find in his own country Averroism in its purest form 5; and the comparison of his notion of anima intellectiva with the doctrine of Paul will shew the difference in fundamental principle between his denial of the immortality of the soul and that of the ordinary Averroist.

The so-called Averroists of Pomponazzi's own time in Italy were much less consistent than Paul of Venice. They either ultimately withdrew their Averroist opinions, or altered Averroism

1 Co >n i. de An. f. 86 r.

2 Werner, op. cit. iv. Pt i, p. 143; Kenan, op. fit. p. 349.

3 Werner, op. cit. iv. Pt i, p. 142.

4 Renan, op. cit. p. 345.

5 Pomponazzi cites Paulus Venetus more than once in his Commentary on the De Anima.


beyond recognition. Vernias and, after him, his pupil, Niphus, took the former course. Vernias (flor. 1480), who was the immediate predecessor of Pomponazzi in Padua, had at first expounded the doctrine of Averroes in all its extent, but after wards yielded to ecclesiastical influence, and wrote in defence of the plurality and immortality of souls 1 . -Niphus (1473 1546), Pomponazzi's chief antagonist, appears to have been a discreet time-server. In his first published work he maintained with Averroes that, besides the heavenly Intelligences and a single human Intelligence, there exist no spiritual beings 2 . But his strictures upon the anti-Averroist arguments of Albert and St Thomas brought him into trouble 3; and he subsequently fell back upon a modified and orthodox Averroism. He denied that Averroes had taught, as his enemies made out, and as John of Jandun had admitted, that intelligence was only forma assistens in man. At the same time, he knew his Averroes well; he prepared a standard edition of his works, and owed his own reputation chiefly to his commentaries on the Arabian; and he could not credit Averroes with the opinion ascribed to him by Gaetano of Tiene, Achillini, and the orthodox Averroists generally, but really adopted by John in correction of Averroes namely, that intellectus was in man as forma substantialis. He took refuge from this perplexity in the possibly disingenuous suggestion that Averroes did not declare himself clearly on the point, and attributed the confusion to his possessing only imperfect translations of Aristotle 4 . Niphus was employed by the Pope to answer Pomponazzi; and his attack, which followed no consistent line of reasoning, but utilised indiscriminately Averroist, Platonic, or Thomist arguments, drew from Pomponazzi his Defensorium*, Niphus was a frivolous and probably insincere writer.

Achillini in Pomponazzi's day, and Zimara (flor. 1530) immediately after, maintained the effort to use the language of Averroes while explaining away his meaning, and put an

1 See references in Nourrisson, Alexandre d Aphrod. p. 142, n. 3; p. 143, n. i. Cf. Werner, op. cit. iv. Pt i, p. 143; Kenan, op. at. p. 352.

2 Werner, op. cit. iv. Pt i, p. 146. 3 Renan, op. fit. p. 367. 4 Werner, op. cit. iv. Pt i, pp. 147, 148.

Fiorentino, Pomponazzi, cap. vi.


interpretation upon his doctrine of intelligence consistent with the presence of a spiritual element in human nature. These were the "Averroists" who defended the immortality of the soul. Zimara aimed not at refuting Averroes, but at relieving him of the charge of heresy 1 .

With the advance of the Classical Renaissance, and the study of the Greek text of Aristotle, Averroism was gradually discredited. An echo of the doctrine may be heard here or there 2 . But the school of interpreters of whom Zabarella is the chief representative^. 1589), while students of Averroes as a commentator, returned in essentials to the original doctrine of Aristotle.

Meanwhile Pomponazzi had broken fresh ground. He had gone back to Aristotle; and the master's profound and simple doctrine of man began once more to exercise its native force upon philosophy. Aristotle's conception of soul and body may be said to have been a perennial fountain of vivifying influence in human thought. Every time that men have caught sight of his meaning, even in partial glimpses, it has been the occasion of a new departure; it has acted as an impulse and a corrective, stimulating and clarifying speculation.

Partly as reflecting Aristotle, partly from their own freshness and simplicity, the ideas of Pomponazzi had a great effect in their day. Averroism had greatly decayed; it had lost its character and become a medley of inconsistent opinions, combined by a shallow verbal logic over whose ambiguous and undefined terms the professional disputers held futile argument. Pomponazzi went behind most of their controversies in returning to the text of Aristotle. His startling, but plain and consecutive, statements cleared the situation; while the human interest of his conclusion, and the constant references to life, history, and conduct, by which he illustrated and defended it, came like a refreshing breath of air into the stifling class-rooms of the professors.

A reaction against Averroism was, in any case, at that time,

1 An account of this eviscerated Averroism will be found in Werner, op. cit. iv. Pt i, p. 150, and Renan, op. cit. p. 37?-

2 e.g. Magister Calaber. See Renan, op. fit. pp. 405, 406.


a thing to be expected. Its formulae had doubtless grown wearisome. The Thomists had never ceased to keep alive a vigorous opposition. And finally it became impossible, with a better knowledge of Aristotle and some acquaintance with the views of his earlier interpreters, to accept Averroism as the natural sense of Aristotle's language 1 .

The appearance of Pomponazzi meant a reaction against Averroism, and a reaction at the same time against the orthodox doctrine of spiritual substances. History has associated Pomponazzi's new departure with the name of Alexander of Aphrodisias; and the controversies in which he was the leading figure have been represented as a conflict between Averroism and Alexandrism. But it would be easy to exaggerate the influence of Alexander upon Pomponazzi. Indeed, it is difficult to deter mine how far he was familiar with the writings of Alexander at all. He was no doubt fully acquainted with that writer's general position, and with the outline of his arguments; a few leading names and characteristic reasonings were the common stock of the scholastic debates; and the disputants borrowed their materials of this sort from one another for purposes of comment and criticism. But just as Pomponazzi seems to depend for his knowledge of Plato upon Aristotle's criticisms 2 , so, in some at least of his references to Alexander, he is evidently quoting at second-hand 3 . Still there can be no question that, to a large extent, he either borrowed from Alexander (whether directly or through his various sources of information) or welcomed his interpretations as coinciding with his own; and it is certain that he made large use of his name. There were, no doubt, in a certain sense and at a certain point, an Averroist and an Alexandrist faction in the school of Padua. Genuine Averroism still had its advocates. And if the new interpretation

1 It is true that Pomponazzi was no Greek scholar himself; but in his own day and university, Leonicus Thomaeus was expounding Aristotle and the Greek com mentators from the original texts.

- E.g. Comm. tie An. f. 24 r: "Plato, ut bene recitat Aristoteles decimo libro Metaphysicorum . "

3 E.g. De Imm. p. 68: "Alexandri responsionem quam ibi refert Commentator ex relatione Themistii "; p. t28, "Alexander Aphrodiseus, ut refert D. Thomas... dixit."


of Aristotle must have, according to the scholastic fashion, its representative authority, no fitter name could be found than Alexander s. "Pour couvrir cette tendance nouvelle, un nouveau nom etait necessaire: on trouva celui d Alexandre d Aphrodisias 1 ." But we must not allow this theoretically clear issue to blind us to the divisions of opinion which actually took place; and we need not forget, in relating Pomponazzi either to Averroes or Alexander, the close metaphysical affinity between those two which has already been noticed. In point of fact Pomponazzi was no more an "Alexandrist," in regard to an " assisting Intelligence," than he was an "Averroist." Still less were Niphus and Achillini consistent "Averroists," since they abandoned the doctrines of the unity of souls and of collective immortality.

Instead of two parties, then, there were four at least; while various intermediate positions were also occupied with more or less defmiteness and more or less consistency. There were the Averroists proper. Then there were various attempts to reconcile the "separateness" of intelligence with an individual anima intellectiva, some of which were barely distinguishable from Averroism. There was the orthodox doctrine of spiritual substances, supported by the large and influential school of Thomists. There were "Alexandrists " those who accepted in a thoroughgoing way Aristotle's doctrine of forma corporis but took little heed, be it observed, of Alexander's theological conception of ______; and of these Pomponazzi is the best known representative, unsparing in his rejection of " separable forms " (spiritual substances), while yet, in his notion of intelligence, retaining a dash of Averroism. There were others who were certainly not "Alexandrists," who indeed claimed either in some or all of their views to interpret the true mind of Averroes, and who yet opposed as decidedly as the "Alexandrists " the popular tenets of Averroism. They denied the common Intelligence with its so-called "collective" immortality. Unlike the "Alexandrists" however for these were the "orthodox "Averroists they maintained the immortality of the individual, while some of them made an altogether inadmissible use of Averroes's own doctrine in support of this belief.

1 Renan, op. cit. p. 354.


Another way in which it has been sought to define Pomponazzi's position has been to say that, as a follower of the Greek commentators, he was an opponent on the one side of Averroes and on the other of St Thomas 1; and it is true that in developing his own doctrine, he criticises both of those authorities, each on one particular point. He attacks in Aver roes the theory of the oneness of anima intellectiva: and in St Thomas the notion of the soul as a "separable form," and as immortal. But Pomponazzi could not fail to inherit the Averroist tradition; and we trace it in his conception of intelligence inhering in itself, timeless and incorporeal, as its subjectum; while in one place we shall find him labouring to prove that his own doctrine of anima intellectiva as forma corporis was not foreign to the true intention of Averroes 2 . On the other hand, so far from being simply an " opponent of St Thomas," there is no writer by whom he is more largely influenced, or from whom he borrows so much; he takes over St Thomas's criticisms of Averroes wholesale; from St Thomas he learns his conceptualism, his doctrine of knowledge, his idea of truth"; and it is not un likely that he learned more in the interpretation of Aristotle from St Thomas than from Alexander.

The truth is that in Pomponazzi three streams met the Dominican scholastic Peripateticism, the Arabian Peripateticism, and the stream from the Aristotelian fountain-head, a little troubled, and coming partly by way of Alexander. In his understanding of Aristotle he took the help of all the commentators, and was influenced by them all. He is perhaps more profoundly affected by Averroes's doctrine of intelligence than by St Thomas's doctrine of the soul; for he has nothing whatever to say of " spiritual substances." Yet even his use of Averroist language proves to be rather conventional than indicative of real agreement. The philosophical phraseology of the time had become completely coloured by the Averroist notion of " separate intelligence." Pomponazzi not only uses this language to ex press his own meaning, but makes a vigorous attempt to impose that meaning on Averroes 4 .

1 Florentine, Pomponazzi, cap. 4.

Comm. de An. ff. 140, 141.

Comm. de An. ff. 174, 175.

Comm. de An. ff. 140, 141.


What was important in Pomponazzi was his return to Aristotle, and to the simplicity of the early interpretations of him. No doubt there was something in the Greek commentaries that suited the spirit of the time and met its need. Whatever the influence of Alexander over Pomponazzi may have amounted to, his doctrine on its psychological side fell in with the movement and direction of Pomponazzi's mind.

It may be true that Alexander had given a dualistic, theological interpretation to Aristotle; and that Averroes, while differing from Alexander on one point, merely developed and perpetuated his doctrine in its essential character 1 . On the other hand, apart from his doctrine of ____, Alexander had faith fully represented Aristotle's teaching on the soul; and it was this which commended him to the awakening modern mind of the Renaissance.

It is not historically correct to say absolutely 2 that Averroes was the heir of the dualistic and supra-naturalistic element in Aristotle, and Alexander of his empirical spirit and method. Alexander had his deios vovs; Averroes found a place for the doctrine of anima forma corporis. Still, speaking broadly, the general distinction of spirit and emphasis, in the two systems, may be made. The centre of gravity in Alexander's Aristotelianism was his psychology, Jjjs^natural history of man; the centre of gravity in Averroism was the separateness of intelligence. Fiorentino aptly points out that, if the latter had a natural affinity for the mediaeval mind, the former was equally congenial to the Renaissance 3 . The fact that Pomponazzi and the Renaissance Aristotelians generally ignored or overlooked the theological aspect of Alexander's doctrine precisely illustrates their attitude towards him, and the point at which his writings appealed to them.

It will not be doubted that, in adopting the psychological teaching of Alexander, Pomponazzi did return to the true

1 Nourrisson, Alex. cT Aphrod. p. no: "Ce fut Averroes qui, en contredisant nommement Alexandre d Aphrodisias, contribua le plus a fonder ou a propager son autoriteV

2 As Fiorentino does (Pomponazzi, pp. 108, 123).

3 Op, cit. pp. 123, 124.


Aristotle 1 . With Pomponazzi, accordingly, we reach the last chapter in the chequered history of Aristotle in the Middle Ages 2 . The work of Pomponazzi was an episode in the final phase.

With regard to the place of reason in the soul, Pomponazzi clearly recognises that there are two possible interpretations of Aristotle one which separates, the other which unites, reason and the soul; and he admits an appearance in Aristotle of self-contradiction. He claims for his own doctrine, which allows the absolute (______) and timeless character of reason and yet attributes the possession of it to the natural soul of man, that it reconciles the seeming inconsistency and accords with the true teaching of Aristotle 3 .

The part of Pomponazzi's doctrine which made most stir in his life-time, and has attracted most attention since, is of course his inference, from the denial of a separate spiritual substance in the soul, that the soul is not immortal. Supposing the soul to have no separate existence apart from the body, there is no reason, Pomponazzi argued, to hold that it survives the

1 "Aristotile, e vero, conteneva entrambi cotesti avviamenti, lo spirito come sviluppo della natura, e lo spirito come fuori della natura; ma tra cotesti niuna dubita che la vera e feconda novita di Aristotile era nel primo; e chi il secundo era una reliquia della filosofia passata, un retaggio del misticismo platonico." Fiorentino, Pomponazzi, p. 108.

2 "Celui qui le concile de Paris avait proscrit en 1209, et Gregoire IX en 1231, que plus tard on avait voulu mettre au nombre des saints du calendrier, allait tomber enfin sous la fausse reputation qu on lui avait faite, tandis que ses ecrits aidaient a la reaction qui approchait, en conduisant a la pratique de la vraie methode." (Rousselot, Etudes, i, p. 23, cf. in, pp. 8 n; Jourdain, Recherches, pp. 20 24; Haureau, De la Phil. Seal. pp. i 12; Schultze, Philos. der Renaiss. pp. 12 16.)

3 " Ex quibus omnibus patere potest, quod multa quae dicuntur ab Aristotele de intellectu videntur se invicem oppugnare cum minime oppugnent: dicit enim quando- que quod est materialis et mixtus seu non separabilis, quandoque vero quod est immaterialis et separabilis. In definitione namque dicitur quod est actus corporis organici, quandoque vero dicitur quod nullius corporis est actus, haec vero pugnantia videntur: quare in diversos tramites diversi declinaverunt, et aliqui existimant Aris- totelem seipsum non intellexisse: verum omnia jam aperta sunt ex praedictis, neque ulla est contrarietas; intellectus enim absolute et qua intellectus est omnino immixtus et separatus est, at humanus utrumque retinet, nam separatur a corpore ut subjecto, non separatur vero ut objecto; intellectus etiam qua intellectus nullo modo est actus corporis organici, quoniam intelligentiae non indigent organo ad intelligendum, sed tantum ad movendum: at intellectus humanus, qua humanus, est actus corporis organici ut objecti et sic non separatur; non autem ut subjecti, et sic separatur, quare nullum repugnans." De 1mm. IX. p. 66.


body. The only evidence, he urged, which could justify a belief in its continued incorporeal existence would be evidence of its having now some mode of existence independent of its connection with the body. But there is no such evidence. On the contrary, the soul has only one mode of existence; and this is, that while possessed of intelligence (which in itself is incorporeal) it possesses it in a manner implying dependence on the body. The human soul exercises reason always and only in dependence on sense and imagination. The evidence, then, is wanting. An incorporeal existence is impossible for such a soul as this. If it could exist incorporeally it would be something different from what it is. In the absence of evidence of the sort required, it is arbitrary and gratuitous to assert that in the future the soul will be capable of, and will enjoy, an entirely different mode of being.

Such was the substance of Pomponazzi's argument. Curiously enough, three years before his book De Immortalitate was published, that is in 1 5 13, the Pope sent out a bull against Averroism as denying the immortality of the soul 1 . Pomponazzi and the unbelieving Averroists, however, had reached the same conclusion upon different grounds. The Averroists denied immortality to the individual soul because it did not possess the attribute of intelligence. Pomponazzi only denied the possibility of the soul's exercising intelligence independently of corporeal embodiment and sense-experience. The philosophical difference had one odd result. Within six years of the decree of the Lateran Council condemning Averroism the strange anomaly was witnessed of the appearance of Niphus and Achillini to defend the immortality of the soul in the name of Averroism. We have seen that there were "Averroists " ready to employ Averroes's doctrine of the eternal common Intelligence in sup port of the immortality of individual souls. But Niphus and Achillini did not hesitate to combine with an abundant use of Averroist phraseology about "eternal intelligence" the ecclesiastical formula of separate intellectual substances or souls.

Pomponazzi did not much concern himself with the orthodox

1 See Conciliorum omnium collectio regia, Paris, 1644, Vol. xxxiv. p. 557.


Averroists. In writing the De Immortalitate he did not think it worth while to notice their theories. He knew what Averroism was, and devoted some attention to it 1 . But the corrupt Averroism of the ecclesiastical schools, which was, as Renan says, the official philosophy of Italy in the sixteenth century, he seldom noticed even in his lectures: and he does not name it in the De Immortalitate. Eventually the attacks of Niphus stung him into a somewhat contemptuous answer (the Defensorimri); or prudence required him to defend himself. He treated Thomist orthodoxy with much more respect, devoting to it the bulk of his original volume and addressing an early and respectful reply to the sincere and earnest Thomist criticisms of his friend and pupil Contarini 2 .

Pomponazzi's book was received with a storm of indignant criticism. Attempts were made to move the Pope against him; and Leo commissioned Niphus to prepare a reply. In the same year in which this appeared (1518) a papal brief also was issued against Pomponazzi 3 . Cardinal Bembo, who is said to have agreed with Pomponazzi, protected him; and the Pope, it may be believed, was in no way disposed to go to extremes 4 .

It is not necessary to enter into the details of Pomponazzi's personal history. The best account of these will be found in the work of Florentine 5 . The only complete list of his works

1 Paul of Venice has already been mentioned. The fact is also worth noticing in this connection besides being an interesting historic link with the people and the schools that had first introduced Averroes to Christendom that there lived in Padua, when Pomponazzi was a young man, a learned Jew named Elias del Medigo, who taught in the university the doctrines of Averroism, doubtless in their purest form. See Renan, Averroes, p. 197.

2 In the Apologia.

3 " Petrus de Mantua asseruit quod anima rationalis, secundum propria philosophiae et mentem Aristotelis, sit seu videtur mortalis, contra determinationem concilii Lateranensis: papa mandat ut dictus Petrus revocet; alias contra ipsum procedatur." See Ranke, History of the Popes, Engl. transl., I. p. 55.

4 " Ce n est pas que, pour sauver les apparences, on ne se montrat severe par moments. On condamnait Pomponat, et sous main on l'appuyait. On payait Niphus pour le refuter, et on encourageait Pomponat a repondre a Niphus. Que pouvait- on attendre de serieux d une bulle contre-signee Bembo, et ordonnant de croire a l immortalite?...(Leon) prenait trop d interet au debat pour songer a briiler les combatants." Renan, Averroes, pp. 363, 366.

5 Pietro Pomponazzi: Studi Storici su la Scuola Bolognese e Padovana. Firenze, 1868.


is that given by Prof. Ferri 1 in his Introduction to the Commentary on Aristotle's De Anima. Pomponazzi wrote a number of treatises on physical subjects, there enumerated. His works upon the soul were long supposed to be three in number the De hnmortalitate Animae (Bologna, 1516) and the two books in defence of the same, first against Contarini {Apologia, 1518), secondly against Niphus and others (Defensorium, 1519). His most elaborate philosophical and psychological work remained undiscovered until 1876, and is still practically unknown. It is his Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle.

A seventeenth century writer professed to have seen a work by Pomponazzi on the De Anima in a private library in Padua. Only in 1876, however, Prof. Ferri of Rome presented to the Accademia dei Lincei an account of two different manuscripts of this work an incomplete copy in a Florentine, and a complete one in a Roman library. Prof. Ferri caused a large part of the work to be transcribed, and printed it with a valuable introduction in the Atti della Reale Accademia dei Lincei for 1876 (Vol. III. Series ii.). It was subsequently published in a separate form.

The Commentary is expressly described as having been given in the course of public teaching, and, in the form in which we have it, was probably compiled by a pupil. Allowances being made for possible inaccuracies in detail, the authenticity of the text is unquestionable, being established both by circumstantial evidence, and still more certainly by its absolute agreement with the well-known opinions and language of Pomponazzi. It consists of three parts, representing evidently three separate courses of lectures, and embracing to some extent the same subjects. The topics include all the questions about knowledge, and about the nature and faculties of the soul, then discussed in the schools. One of the sections (the second) bears the date 1520, five years before his death. It thus appears that here we possess at once the fullest, and the latest and most mature, expression of Pomponazzi's views on the subjects which had always occupied him.

This work of Pomponazzi undoubtedly deserves somewhat

1 La Psicologia di P. Pomponazzi, Introd. p. 6.


fuller examination than it has yet received. It does not appear to have been considered in any of even the more recent accounts of Renaissance Aristotelianism, or of Pomponazzi himself. Prof. Ferri published his extracts from the Commentary in 1876. Noack's Dictionary of 1878 in a full article on Pomponatius did not mention it. J. A. Symonds in 1881, and Weber and Hoffding in their recent Histories of Philosophy, selected Pomponazzi as the representative Aristotelian and psychologist of the Renaissance, and gave detailed accounts of him and his writings; yet none of them appears to have been aware of the publication or existence of this, his principal work. Weber's American translator has heard of Prof. Ferri's publication and gives its title La Psicologia di Pietro Pomponazzi as an addendum to a bibliographical note; but manifestly without any suspicion of its real contents 1 . Speaking generally this Commentary may be said to take up, usually in a more systematic manner, and in the most general terms, all the questions raised by the De Immortalitate and many others as well 2 .

The works De Fato, Libero Arbitrio, Praedestinatione et Providentia Dei and De Naturalium Effectmim Causis, sive de Incantationibus, are dated by Ferri 1520 the year in which they were written. The latter seems to have been published for the first time at Basel in 1556; the former at the same place in 1567. They are not included in the standard edition of Pomponazzi's collected works, published at Venice in the year of his death 1525.

A treatise Dubitationes in quartum Meteorologiconun Aristotelis librum was also printed for the first time subsequently to the issue of that edition at Venice in 1563.

The collected edition of 1525 contains three physical treatises, the three companion pieces on the soul, and the last work written by Pomponazzi De Nutritione et Augmentatione.

1 Weber, Hist, of Phil., Engl. transl., p. 269.

2 For example, the question of an embodied intelligence ("anima intellectiva de corpore dependens") is treated in the most general form on ff. 126 to 130; and the argument with respect to immortality is set out on both sides in order, resuming the discussions of the De Immortalitate on ff. 130 150, 250, 251, 253, 254.


There has been no later collection of his works; and consequently no complete edition is in existence. The De Immortalitate, which was by far the most popular of his writings, and has been called "il piu bel libro fra i filosofi del Risorgimento 1 ," was frequently reprinted during the sixteenth century, and was also edited at Tubingen in 1791 by Bardili.

The accounts given of Pomponazzi in the Histories of Philosophy have all a strong family likeness; from Briacker downwards, through Tennemann, Ritter, to more modern writers, the same material is employed and the same general view taken. The only works giving evidence of a fresh and thorough study are those of Florentine and Ferri already referred to, of which the second is much the better.

But Pomponazzi had a reputation in his own day, and has exercised an influence quite out of proportion to this negligent estimate of his significance.

He was a persistent and vigorous thinker. His whole circle of ideas was governed by one or two leading principles. The denial of immortality would not of itself have been sufficient to bring so much attention upon his book; there were many then in Italy who denied immortality; but the position of Pomponazzi seemed so strong, and was so eagerly assailed, because of what lay behind it. The impossibility of a soul without a body was by him stringently connected, first, with a clear consistent view of the nature of the soul; secondly, with a theory of knowledge which was steadily making way as the true doctrine of Aristotle and had been accepted by St Thomas himself the theory, namely, that all human know ledge is acquired through the bodily faculties of sense and imagination; and, thirdly, with a plausible theory of morals. Materialism had usually been associated with moral laxity. But Pomponazzi faced boldly the ethical consequences of his position and laid down a moral doctrine compatible, as he held, with his philosophical conclusion, which was not only lofty and consistent with the dignity of human nature, but had the great further advantage of being simple and intelligible. He claimed that mortality rather than immortality harmonised with the

1 P. Ragnisco, Tommaso d l'Aquino nella Universita di Padova, p. 14.


proper view of human destiny; that the belief in the soul's mortality, rather than the notion of future recompense, opened the way and gave the opportunity to the highest and purest goodness and virtue.

It was not, then, altogether without reason that he had in his day so great a name. His influence was the less enduring as the Reformation carried the stream of independent thought away from Italy. That he continued, however, to be read and regarded as an authority upon the subject of the soul may be inferred from a reference to him by Kenelm Digby in his Treatise of Mans Soul (1644), which shews not only a know ledge, such as might be gathered from hearsay, of his main conclusion, but a precise acquaintance with the grounds on which he had reasoned: "But unawares I have engulphed myselfe into a sea of contradiction, from no mean adversaries: for Alexander Aphrodiseus, Pomponatius, and the learnedest of the Peripatetike schoole, will all of them rise up in maine opposition against this doctrine of mine: shewing how in the body all our soul's knowledge is made by the working of our fansie; and that there is no act of our souls without speculation of fantasmes residing in our memory: therefore, seeing that when our body is gone, all those litle bodies of fantasmes are gone with it; what signe is there, that any operation can remaine? And hence they inferre, that seeing every substance hath its Being for its operations sake, and by consequence were vaine and superfluous in the world, if it could not enjoy and exercise its operation; there is no necessity or end, why the soule of a man should survive his body: and consequently, there is no reason to imagine other, than that it perisheth when the man dyeth. This is the substance of their argument 1 ."

The terms will also be remembered in which Descartes, in the Epistle prefatory to his Meditations, refers to the denials of the immortality of the soul. His particular mention of the Decree of the Lateran Council (1513) suggests that he had the Paduan school in his mind; and the suggestion is corroborated by an allusion to the opposition of reason and faith, of which Pomponazzi in particular had made so much in this connection; 1 Op. cit. pp. 428, 429.


"Pour ce qui regarde l'Ame, quoy que plusieurs ayent creu qu il n'est pas ayse d en connoistre la nature, et que quelques-uns ayent meme ose dire que les raisons humaines nous persuadoient qu elle mouroit avec le corps, et qu il n y avoit que la seule Foy qui nous enseignast le contraire," etc.

To us however Pomponazzi will remain chiefly interesting for an early criticism of the Averroist and Thomist systems and as an illustration of the force and vitality of the philosophy of Aristotle.