Campanella, Tommaso


Campanella, Tommaso
(1568-1639)
   Italian philosopher, poet, and utopian political theorist. He entered the Dominican order in 1582. He was a brilliant student but soon turned against the dominant position of Aristotle in philosophy. His discovery of the anti-Aristotelian "nature-philosophy" of Bernardino Telesio led him to write several works defending Telesio from his critics. This got him in trouble not only with his order but also with the Inquisition. In 1594 at Rome, he was compelled to recant his errors. Sent back to his friary in Calabria, Campanella became involved in a popular uprising against Spanish rule and was arrested in 1599 and condemned to death on charges of both heresy and treason. Since the church's law forbade execution of mentally ill people, he successfully pretended to be insane, but he was held in jail for nearly 30 years. During this period he wrote most of his important books and poems. In 1626, having attracted the sympathy of Pope Urban VIII, Campanella was freed and permitted to go to Rome. In 1634, fearing that the pope had turned against him, he fled to France. He was cordially received by Cardinal Richelieu, the king's chief minister, and given a small pension. He lived in Paris for the remaining years of his life.
   The philosophical principles expressed in works like Philosophia sensibus demonstrata /Philosophy Proved from the Senses (1591) derived in part from Telesio's efforts to found a new philosophy based on sensory knowledge rather than abstract reason. But Campanella's philosophical system was complex. It attempted to construct a picture of the real world that corresponded with the trinitarian nature of God. Ultimate reunion of the soul with God was the supreme goal of life. Some aspects of his thought suggest animism, the belief that all things in the universe have souls; at other times, he seems inclined to pantheism, the belief that all things are part of the divine essence. An affirmation of occult forces (magical and astrological) is implicit in his view of reality.
   Yet none of the theoretical parts of his philosophy was so radical as his social and political philosophy, expressed in his most famous book, La Città del sole / The City of the Sun (written in 1602, published in 1623). Even though the Catholic church and the Spanish monarchy were responsible for persecuting him, Campanella's ideal human society was an absolute and autocratic world-monarchy ruled by a just and philosophical pope. This ruler would rigidly discipline every aspect of life, imposing communism of property, obligation to labor, and strict regulation of sexual practices. His ideal society would be based solely on merit. Even women would be eligible for every office not requiring physical strength beyond their ability. The stability and prosperity of this society would be based on education, natural science, and technology. Campanella also wrote many poems, and a number of these were published.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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