368. Boundless Enthusiasm: Giordano Bruno

Posted on 14 March 2021

Giordano Bruno’s stunning vision of an infinite universe with infinite worlds, and his own untimely end.

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Further Reading

• R.J. Blackwell and R. de Lucca (trans.), Giordano Bruno: Cause, Principle and Unity and Essays on Magic (Cambridge: 2004).

• H. Gatti (trans.), Giordano Bruno: The Ash Wednesday Supper (Toronto: 2018).

• I.D. Rowland (trans.) and E. Canone (ed.), Giordano Bruno: On the Heroic Frenzies (Toronto: 2013).

• D. Waley Singer (trans.), Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought with an Annotated Translation of His Work On the Infinite Universe and Worlds (New York: 1950).

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• P.R. Blum, Giordano Bruno: an Introduction, trans. P. Henneveld (Amsterdam: 2012).

• L. Firpo, Il processo di Giordano Bruno (Rome: 1993), French trans. by A.–P. Segonds, Le procès de Giordano Bruno (Paris: 2000).

• H. Gatti (ed.), Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science (Ithaca: 2002).

• H. Gatti, Essays on Giordano Bruno (Princeton: 2011).

• H. Gatti, Giordano Bruno (Florence: 2017).

• H. Hufnagel and A. Eusterschulte (eds), Turning Traditions Upside Down: Rethinking Giordano Bruno's Enlightenment (Budapest: 2013).

• M. Mertens, Magic and Memory in Giordano Bruno: the Art of a Heroic Spirit (Leiden: 2018).

• I.D. Rowland, Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic (Chicago: 2008).

• L. Spruit, Il problema della conoscenza in Giordano Bruno (Naples: 1988).

• F.A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (London: 1964).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Giordano Bruno

Comments

Y.P. Lee 21 March 2021

Dear Prof. Adamson,

I am a big fan of your podcast on the history of philosophy. Indeed, I had not listened to many a podcast until encountering yours. My big thanks! 

However, at the current rate, it will likely take the entire remaining life of the planet earth for the podcast to reach the current time, without resorting to Zeno's paradox. Even though I (just over 50) do my exercises and eat healthy foods, I would not imagine I could be there to enjoy them. -- Is there anyway to speed it up without scrapping the "without any gaps" banner?

Here are some suggestions, if you don't mind. I noticed that there is a lot more history in your Africana series, which to me is more of Africana study than Africana philosophy. Is it possible to shorten it? After its conclusion, is it reasonable to resume the weekly podcast on the Western philosophy? Lastly, the ambition "without any gaps" is great, but can we be slightly more selective and speed it up? Of course, the podcast is yours, and you should (and would) do whatever you see fit. It's just a suggestion from a listener, who would be gratefully listening to the future podcasts regardless.

By the way, this lecture on Giodano Bruno is excellent.

Thanks again,

Y.P.

Yes, I can sympathize with that desire. I have also reflected that I may literally be an old man by the time I finish the 19th century at this rate! But I think a more selective history of philosophy and one that skimps on non-European traditions would be a lot less interesting for me, and also a lot less distinctive. I mean, if we just jogged through 20th c Africana without delving into context and less famous figures, and I did the same thing on early modern Europe, then I'd just be presenting a more or less typical history of philosophy but in podcast form with giraffe jokes. Believe it or not, I do often consider the need to keep the material within manageable limits, and resist the urge to cover some things or devote more than one episode to something that might deserve it. But basically I want to remain true to the "without any gaps" ambition. Ultimately, more important to me than covering any particular topic is what the whole project conveys about the history of philosophy itself: that it is continuous, culturally diverse, and incredibly complex and dense, so that one can only do justice to it in this patient, fine-grained way.

(And by the way, though I occasionally get comments like this one, I more frequently get comments suggesting things I should make sure not to skip! For instance almost simultaneously a message came in with several good ideas to add to the projected Africana series. So not everyone wants us to go faster, I guess!)

Thanks for responding. I knew that it probably wouldn't change anything, but thought that I would send in my request anyway. (After all, you and collaborators must have thought hard on this, as your message has confirmed.) Thanks for giving us wonderful podcasts to enjoy! I will surely continue to do my weekly cycling (while listening to your podcasts) and eat my spinach, in the hope of living to enjoy them. 

By the way, do you know that Taiwanese spinach has very long stems (usually 50-60cm) and is very flavorful (to me)? I imagine people would be happier to eat their spinach if they are eating Taiwanese spinach.:)

Peter Adamson 22 March 2021

In reply to by Y.P.

Ha! No I did not know that. Maybe I should work that into an episode.

By the way after writing my first response it occurred to me that I should make one other point about going slowly and doing "everything," which might not be obvious to listeners: my professional expertise really concerns ancient (especially late ancient) and medieval philosophy (especially in the Islamic world but also Latin, up to about 1300). So ever since we got to late medieval, and often before that too, I have been covering stuff that I don't really know that well. So, as far as the European tradition goes, where I don't have a co-author, I am learning as I go along just like you are while you listen. One reason this is feasible is precisely that I am inching my way through the tradition, and I am able to understand and contextualize each author and topic because I have been looking closely at immediately prior and contemporary material. Which doesn't mean I never make mistakes or leave things out, of course, but if I were doing a more selective series I think I would just have to give you a pretty banal and cliched version of the things I select, whereas by doing it this way I can really put the "highlights" in their full context and feel myself that I understand what is going on.

Y.P. 22 March 2021

Good point! I understand that learning something to teach could be a significant time investment. Since the podcasts are recorded for posterity and especially for your philosopher peers, you wouldn't want them "banal and cliched". -- For this listener at least, it is anything but.

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