A Philosophy for our time? : The Nolan Philosophy of Giordano Bruno.

Dominique will present this topic at PhiloSophia on 26 June 2012. Following is a fuller description of the topic:

Could our society’s problems with both religion and the modern world, find coherence in the thinking and culture of those who experienced and defined its very transition to modernity? This discussion will put forward the question, via an examination of the life and thought of the late sixteenth century philosopher Giordano Bruno.

Giordano Bruno’s popular fame rests more on how he died at the hands of the Inquisition rather than on how he lived and what he thought.

Central to Bruno’s philosophy was his cosmology of the universe. A cosmos in which the sun was just one star among an infinite number, all encircled by planets and inhabited with intelligent life. Bruno’s “infinite worldsheresy – as it was known – was actually very common on the lists of Inquisitorial misdemeanours of the time.

What made Bruno’s Nolan philosophy – named from his home town near Naples – so diabolical, was that Bruno further concluded that an infinite universe could have no centre, top or bottom, beginning or end. There could therefore be no God at its height overseeing it. In fact in an infinite universe, God was as accessible to anyone and at any place, part or time.

Bruno also had an incredible faith in the human mind to acquire knowledge. He gained this confidence as a result of his own experiments with memory associations, in what is called mnemonics. That is the employment of memory techniques that trained the mind to retain very large amounts of knowledge by associating abstract thoughts with more easily remembered spatial, personal or even humorous and sexual information.

Such skills of memory earned Bruno the fame of both Popes and kings and in this way Bruno united a theory in an infinite human capacity for knowledge with a belief in an infinite universe – completely capable of being known.

Finally we will look at what makes Bruno’s theories so “modern.” The mid 90s saw the first definitive discovery of ‘extra solar’ planets (now numbering 695 – as of June 2013) compelling us to pose the question: how do we frame our beliefs, religion or philosophy within this new universe of innumerable planets that are very possibly inhabited by life?

After a general introduction, I look forward to opening the discussion up to your own answers and further responses.

How might we unify our conception of the universe, in faith, science, philosophy and belief?

Could we return to a view of life that is as unified as pre-modern Europe?

Or are such claims and/or desires for collective conceptual unity, now impossible?


wikipedia entry on Giordano Bruno

Here is a fun introduction to the life and ideas of Giordano Bruno:

Giordano Bruno: Heretic of the Infinite (13 mins)


Here is some background reading that participants might like to look into:

excerpts from Giordano Bruno: Philosopher / Heretic by Ingrid D. Rowland –
primary reading (8-10 pages) and optional extra (20 pages)

excerpts from Galileo’s Muse: Renaissance Mathematics and the Arts by Mark Austin Peterson – primary (25 pages)