Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, born at Nola, near Naples, about the middle of the 16th century, burnt at the stake in Rome, Feb. 17, 1600. He entered the Dominican order at an early age, but, becoming skeptical, was forced to leave it, and fled to Geneva in 1580. His ideas were no more acceptable to the Cal-vinists than to the Catholics, and after two years he went to Paris, where he gained some celebrity by writing a satirical comedy, II candelajo, and delivering lectures on the Ars Magna of Raymond Lully. His attacks on the philosophy of Aristotle aroused much hostility among the scholars and clergy of Paris, and in 1583 he went to England, where he enjoyed the friendship of Sir Philip Sidney, and wrote some of his most important philosophical works. In 1585 he returned to Paris, and the next year went to Germany. After a brief stay at Marburg, he settled at the university of Wittenberg as a lecturer on philosophy and mathematics. He remained there only two years, after which he went from one German university to another, lecturing now at Prague, then at Helmstedt, then again at Frankfort, until, in 1592, he ventured to return to Italy. There he remained for six years, living in Padua, unmolested by the ecclesiastical authorities, and devoting his time to philosophical and literary pursuits.
At last, in 1598, when on a visit to Venice, he was arrested by the inquisition, sent to Rome, and refusing to recant, after two years' imprisonment was put to death. He was a man of great mental activity and boldness of thought. Montaigne excepted, there is no philosopher of the 16th century who has been so frequently a subject of research and comment by modern scholars as Giordano Bruno. Descartes borrowed largely from him, and Spinoza's system would appear almost like Bruno's, refined in the logical crucible of Descartes. Even with some philosophers of the present century Bruno has been a favorite. One of the profoundest works of Schelling bears the name of Bruno on its title (" Bruno, or the Divine and the Natural Principle of Things"), and.this once more directed the general attention of scholars to Bruno's works, which had become extremely rare. They have been republished since then, those in Italian by Wagner (Opere di Giordano 'Bruno, 2 vols., Leipsic, 1830), those in Latin (Jor-dani Bruni Nolani Scripta quce latine redegit omnia), by Gfrorer, in his Corpus Philosopho-rum (Stuttgart, 1834). Of his satires the best are the Spaccio della bestia trionfante ("Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast"), and the Cabala del cavallo Pegaseo coll' aggiunta del asino Cillenico, a satirical eulogy on ignorance.
The Cena delle Ceneri ("Table Talk on Ash Wednesday ") is a spirited dialogue in defence of the Oopernican theory. Those works in which he developed his philosophical views are the essays Della causa, principio ed uno, Dell' inftnito universo e mondi, and Be Mo-nade, Numero et Figura. - In his system there is but one fundamental principle, one substance, whose existence is real and original. This eternal and infinite being produces by contraction or expansion innumerable apparitions, whose existence is but secondary, merely a shadow of that of the original being. God and the universe are identical; the universe is infinite. Every being or thing (ens) has, besides the innermost principle of its existence, a cause of existence. While the former is the immanent condition, the latter is the immediate source of existence. The original cause is the universal intellect which shapes and moulds matter into individual forms. In the harmonious perfection of the universe all possible forms would obtain real existence in all portions of matter. Every form being the result of an intellectual action, and matter being conceivable only under some form or other, it follows that everything is living or has its soul, which is its form.
The substance of all existing beings is one and the same; it is only the forms brought forth by the intellectual activity of the original substance which show differences of appearance. The universe, considered as a whole, is a unit, infinite, immovable, the absolute identity of possibility, reality, and action. This grand unit of all substances, of which all beings and things are only secondary manifestations, is God; God is the monad of the monads. Man, as an intermediate being between time and eternity, belongs to both spheres at the same time, the spiritual and the sensual; but his principal aim is the mind and intellect. The human mind is an integral portion of the divine substance; the perception of the supreme truth, the volition of the supreme good, are its goal. From the narrow sphere of common life, man ought to .rise to a conception of his relation to the universe, and of the affinity of his spiritual being to the universal intellect.