- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226730247
- ISBN-13: 978-0226730240
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Giordano Bruno: Philosopher / Heretic 1st Edition
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“Whatever else Bruno was, he was wild-minded and extreme, and Rowland communicates this, together with a sense of the excitement that his ideas gave him. . . . It’s that feeling for the explosiveness of the period, and [Rowland’s] admiration of Bruno for participating in it—indeed, dying for it—that is the central and most cherishable quality of the biography.”
About the Author
Ingrid D. Rowland lives in Rome, where she teaches at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, and is a regular essayist for the New York Review of Books and the New Republic. She is the author of many books, including The Scarith of Scornello: A Tale of Renaissance Forgery, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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On a purely informational level, there is a lot here. Rowland shared a number of anecdotes about Bruno's life which have stuck in my mind: his getting caught with a forbidden book in the latrine, the mockery of his high-flown rhetorical style by the English, his own fondness for mockery and cursing even in the prisons of the Inquisition.
But more telling than the individual anecdotes are the larger ideas that span Bruno's life story. I was particularly fascinated by his expertise in memorization techniques. In a time when books and writing ability were rare, the ability to memorize vast amounts of information was an important skill. Bruno, apparently, was highly prized as a teacher of his own memorization technique which allowed him to make a living during his years as a wanderer across Europe.
And, of course, there was the development of his philosophical ideas. He is probably best known for developing the idea of an infinite universe where the stars could be individual solar systems with their own planets. This alone had implication with his ultimate conflict with the Church. But he also asserted theological ideas that were clearly heretical in the eyes of Christianity, such as that Christ committed a mortal sin in the Garden of Gethsemane. Granted, the Inquisition was a horrible thing, but it becomes clear from reading this that Bruno did himself no favors when facing the Cardinals. It is perhaps during this last section that the dichotomy of Bruno's character most comes to the fore: philosophical egoism vs. true son of the Church. It is the tragedy of Bruno's experience that he could not find a way out of a situation that should have been manageable for him.
It is clear in this book that Bruno had a lot more impact on his better-known peers than he is given credit for. Kepler and Galileo both credit him as an influence. (In fact, shortly before his arrest, Bruno applied for the mathematics professorship at Pisa that went to Galileo.) Professor Rowland should be commended for bringing this important person back before us. If she goes a bit overboard with unenlightening epigraphs and quotations, that is a small price to pay for the wealth of knowledge gained.