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Bruno, Giordano

Bruno, Giordano (born about 1458 at Nola), an Italian free-thinking eclectic philosopher of the Renaissance. Partly adopting principles culled here and there from ancient philosophies, and partly working out a theory of his own, he was a determined opponent of the scholastic philosophy of the day. Very early in life he entered the Dominican order, but his advanced views soon caused his expulsion from the order and his flight from Italy. He tried to find refuge in Geneva, but found no favour in the eyes of the Calvinists, and wandered on, finally reaching Paris in 1579, where he was offered a chair of philosophy upon conditions that he did not see fit to accept, although he certainly delivered lectures there upon logic. In 1583 he went to England under the protection of Michel de Castelnau, the French ambassador, where he remained for about two years, and made the acquaintance of Sir Philip Sidney and other worthies. He was naturally little pleased with what he considered the pedantic devotion to Aristotle which prevailed at Oxford, and he held a disputation there as to the comparative merits of the Aristotelian and Copernican systems of the universe. In 1586 he returned with De Castelnau to Paris, but very soon wandered, or was driven, on to Marburg, Wittenberg, Prague, and Zurich, from which place he accepted an invitation to Venice. Here he fell into the hands of the Inquisition, and was brought to Rome in 1593. After seven years of imprisonment he was excommunicated, and is said, but the point is doubtful, to have been burnt at the stake in 1600. His system of logic, though it professed to be based upon rationalistic principles, shows traces of the Platonic theory of ideas, and is tinged with the colours derived from other systems. He was the forerunner of what has been called Spinozism, and his fundamental idea was to find the unity that lies at the bottom of all phenomena. Like most others who have thought and written upon philosophy, his ideas changed and developed. He appears to have changed from a kind of pantheism, in which matter and the informing intelligence are hardly distinguishable, to a theory by which the phenomena of matter are the manifestation and realisation of a Divine intelligence. Among his chief works were Ash-Wednesday Table Talk, an exposition of the Copernican theory; Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast; On the One Sole Cause of Things; On the Infinity of the Universe and of Worlds; etc.