Philosophy of Giordano Bruno

02.05.2015 |

Born Filippo Bruno, the 16th-century Dominican monk known as Giordano Bruno was a martyr burned at the stake. Declared a heretic and condemned by the Italian Inquisition, Bruno’s writings and philosophies certainly contributed to his death, though no one can be sure which of them was truly responsible. He is famous for defending the heliocentric view put forth by Copernicus, although he had several points of the theory incorrect and was obviously not as skilled in astronomy as he was in other subjects.

Bruno wrote extensively on Christian morals and ethics, particularly disliking the principle that people could be saved through faith alone. He believed that the church, like an individual, did not prove itself to be holy by faith and authority, and he was highly interested in new and fringe ideas. He denied the divinity of Christ and called into question established doctrines such as the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. An oppositional figure, some described him as fanciful or insane, and certainly a great many of his ideas were radical. Going further with his cosmological theory than most, he proposed that there was no fixed “center” of the universe, because the universe is infinite, and that there were an unlimited number of stars, planets, and intelligent beings.

Bruno outraged nearly all of his patrons across Europe and spent his life traveling throughout Italy, England, France, and Germany to escape his persecutions, leaving a trail of influential theology in his wake. He gave up his monastic life after eleven years and was excommunicated as he fled from country to country. After arrest and imprisonment in Italy for eight years, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake. For centuries his radical theories continued to influence science, physics, mathematics, and hermeneutical examinations of Christian scriptures.

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