Reader title


Nicholas Copernicus
 De Revolutionibus

John Dee
 The Mathematicall Praeface

Robert Recorde
 The Castle of Knowledge

Marcellus Palingenius Stellatus
 The Zodiake of Life

Thomas Digges
 A Perfect Description of the Celestial Orbs

Giordano Bruno
 The Ash Wednesday Supper

Galileo Galilei
 Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems


Giordano Bruno



Translated with an Introduction and Notes






To the unique refuge of the Muses, the Most
Illustrious Michel de Castelnau, Seigneur de
Mauvissi&e, Concressault and joinville,
Chevalier of the Most Christian King's Order,
and Councillor in his Privy Council, Captain
of fifty men at arms, Governor and Captain
of Saint Dizier, and Ambassador to the Most
Serene Queen of England.

The general intent is declared
in the preface.



  Should my cynical teeth have pierced you through,
Blame only yourself, you vicious canine;
In vain you show me your stick and swagger,
If you guard not against despising me.
  Since you have confronted me with injustice,
I shall stretch and pull your skin all over;
And should my body too fall to the ground,
Your shame will be recorded in hard diamond.
  Go not naked to the beehive for honey, Bite not,
if you know not the bread from stone,
Walk not barefoot while disseminating thorns.
  Flies should not take lightly the cobwebs;
If you are a mouse do not follow the toads,
Flee the foxes, you, who arc full of chicken's blood.
  And believe in the Gospel,
Which proclaims with great conviction:
From our fields will gather revenge all you
Who cast around there the seeds of error.



Chevalier of the King's Order, and Councillor in his Privy
Council, Captain of fifty men at arms, Governor General
of Saint Dizier, and Ambassador of France in England.

Here I offer you, my Lord, not a nectarean repast of the Thunder-god [1. Jupiter.] for a majesty. Not a protoparental [2. Refers to Adam and Eve, the first parents.] one for human desolation. Not that of Ahasuerus [3. Ahasuerus, one of the two Persian or Medean kings, who took Esther for wife.] for a mystery. Not that of Lucullus [4. Lucullus (c. 110 BC-c. 56 BC), Roman general, who earned fame with his luxurious meals.] for the rich. Not that of Lycaon [5. Lycaon, mythological king of Arcadia, who in order to test the divinity of the disguised Zeus served him human flesh for a meal and was turned into a wolf by the irate god.] for a sacrilege. Not that of Thiestes [6. A reference to a mythological banquet at which Thiestcs unwittingly ate the flesh of his own children killed by his brother, Atreus.] for a tragedy. Not that of Tantalus [7. Tantalus, son of Zeus, was condemned to eternal hunger and thirst in the nether world.] for begging. Not that of Plato for philosophizing. Not that of Diogenes for misery. Not that of a leech for a pittance. Not that of an archpriest of Pogliano [8. Bruno refers to the poem, 'Capitolo del prete da Povigliano', by Francesco Berni (1497-1535).] for a farce. Not that of Bonifacio Candelaio [9. Bonifacio plays the leading role in Bruno's play, Candelaio. For further details, see the Introduction.] for a comedy. But a repast so grand and small, so magisterial and schoolish, so sacrilegeous and religious, so cheerful and angry, so bitter and happy, so Florentine-lean and Bolognese-fat, so cynical and luxurious, so trifling and serious, so grave and clownish, so tragic and comical. Thus, I am convinced that you will have not a few opportunities to be heroic and dejected, teacher and student, believer and unbeliever, happy and sad, saturnine and jovial, facile and ponderous, cringing and liberal, apish and dignified, a sophist with Aristotle, a philosopher with Pythagoras, smiling with Democ- ritus, crying with Heraclitus. I dare say that after you have sniffed with the Peripatetics, eaten with the Pythagoreans, drunk with the Stoics, you still may suck with the one who, in showing his teeth, displayed such a friendly smile as to reach both his ears with his mouth. Therefore, as your bones are shaken and your marrow sapped, you will come on things that would distract a Saint [Giovanni] Colombini, founder of the Gesuati, [10. The reference is to the vow of chastity made by Colombini and his wife. He founded the lay order of Gesuati a few months before his death, in 1367.] would dazzle any merchant, would make the apes burst with laughter, and would break the silence of any graveyard. You would ask, what symposium, what repast is this? It is a supper. What supper? The supper of ashes. What does it say, this supper of ashes? Was perhaps such a meal served you before? Or might one perhaps utter here [the words] CINEREM TAMQUAM PANEM MANDUCARAM [11. A quotation from Psalm 101.] [I ate ashes like bread]? No. But it is a repast, taken after sunset, on the first day of Lent, called by our priests Ash Wednesday, and sometimes the day of MEMENTO. [12. The first word in the prayer, Memento bomo... (Remember man ... ), acconipanying the imposition of ashes on the first day of Lent.] What is that repast, that meal about? It is not for the purpose of recalling the spirit and deeds of the most noble and distin- guished Sir Fulke Greville, [13. Sir Fulke Greville (1554-1628), a friend of Philip Sidney and of Francis Bacon, pursued a literary and political career, gaining ultimately a membership in the House of Lords.] in whose esteemed mansion the gathering took place. It is not about the distinguished costumes in which refined citizens were present as spectators and audience. It is rather about one's intent to see to what extent nature can produce two fantastic goblins, [14. The two Oxonian doctors, Nundinio and Torquato. Nundinio was perhaps a pun on John Underhill (see note 32 to the Fourth Dialogue), while Torquato might have represented George Turner (1569-1610), associated from 1584 on with the Royal College of Physicians.] two dreams, two shadows and two four-day fevers; and while the historical sense is being sifted, tasted and masticated, there will be submitted propositions, some topographical, others geographical, some rational, others moral. Also speculations, some of which arc metaphysical, others mathematical, others physical.


Thus, you shall see in the first dialogue two persons presented in plain view with the explanation of their names, if you can grasp it. Second, the scale of binary number will be celebrated in their honor. Third, the praiseworthy conditions of a rediscovered and repaired philosophy will be set forth. Fourth, it will be shown what great praises Copernicus deserves. Fifth, the fruits of the Nolan [Brunian] philosophy will be presented, with the difference between this and the other modes of philosophizing.


You will first see in the second dialogue the original reason for the meal. Second, a description of the steps and moves that shall be judged by all as being mote poetical and perhaps symbolic than historical. Third, as if one were to lapse confusedly into a moral topography where one is looking with lynx's eyes (without closing them too much) hither and thither, at thing after thing while making one's way; in addition to watching the big objects, the small ones, even a pebble or a bit of gravel, should not be taken lightly, so it seems to me, lest one should stumble. And in this one does exactly as a painter [15. The analogy is worth noting in view of Bruno's great aptitude for painting with words broad and detailed scenes.] for whom it is not enough to make a simple drawing of the story; he must fill the canvas and conform to nature with artistry; he depicts for you stones, mountains, trees, springs, rivers, hills; and makes you see here a royal palace, there a forest, farther a stretch of the sky, in that corner a part of the rising sun, and now and again a bird, a pig, a stag, a donkey, a horse; while it is enough to show only the head of this, the horn of that, the hind quarters of another, the ears of this, the entire description of that, this with merely a gesture and mien, which that and another do not possess; so that one would with greater satisfaction wonder, guess, and spin a story (as they would say) about the picture. It is with such a mind that you should read and consider what I want to say. Finally, one concludes that happy dialogue with the arrival at the house, with being graciously received, and ceremoniously seated at table.


You will see the third dialogue divided (according to the number of the propositions of Doctor Nundinio [16. See note 14 ahove.]) into five parts. Of these the first is about the necessity of one and the other language. The second explains the intention of Copernicus, and gives the solution of a most important problem about the celestial phenomena. It shows the futil- ity of studies in perspective and optics to determine the size of luminous bodies, and offers about this a new, well-defined, and most certain doctrine. The third shows the kind of composition of celestial bodies, and declares the mass of the universe to be infinite, and that one looks in vain for the center or circumference of the universe, as if it were one of the particular bodies. The fourth affirms that our world, called the terrestrial globe, is identical as far as material composition goes with the other worlds, the bodies of other stars; and that it is childish to have believed or to believe otherwise. Also that they [those celestial bodies] are so many intelligent animals, and that there live and strive on them many and innumerable simple and composite individuals to no less extent than we see these living and growing on the back of this [our globe]. The fifth, apropos of an argument submitted by Nundinio in the end, shows the great futility of the two great convictions with which, and with similar ones, Aristotle and others are blinded so as not to perceive the motion of the earth to be true and necessary. They are, indeed, so inhibited that they cannot believe this [the motion of the earth] to be possible. But once this is admitted, many secrets of nature, hitherto hidden, do unfold.


You have at the outset of the fourth dialogue the means to reply to all reasonings and to all theological importunings; and [the means] to show that this philosophy conforms with all true theology and deserves to be favored by true religion. For the rest, there comes to the fore one who knew neither how to dispute nor how to speak to the point, who by being the more impudent and arrogant, appeared more learned to the more ignorant than did Doctor Nundinio. But you see that all the presses of the world would not be enough to extract'one drop of juice from his dicta to carry the matter with a question to Smith, or with an answer to Theophil. But here one is subject to the boastings of Prudenzio, and to the nonsense of Frulla. It certainly pains me that you happen to be in that section.


The fifth dialogue is attached (I swear) for no other reason than to prevent our supper from being concluded in so sterile a manner. First, there is presented the most convenient arrangement of bodies in the ethereal region, showing that what is called the eighth sphere, the firmament of the fixed stars, is not in fact a firmament, so that those bodies that are seen there through their brightness should be equidistant from the center; but rather, that many [stars] may appear close to one another, though they arc, both in depth and width, farther away from one another than they are from the sun and the earth. Second, that there are not only seven wandering bodies [planets], just because we have recognized only seven as such; rather, there are for the very same reason innumerable others, that the true philosophers of old called, not without good reason, aethera, [17. See note 13 to the Fifth Dialogue.] which means runners, because they are bodies which truly move, and not imaginary spheres. Third, that such motion proceeds necessarily from an internal principle as if from its own nature and soul; with such truth many dreams are dissipated both about the active influence of the moon on waters and other kinds of fluids, and about other natural things that seem to have their principle of motion from an outside cause. Fourth, a stance is taken against those doubts that proceed by most stupid reasoning from the gravity and levity of bodies; and it is proved that all natural motion approaches a circular one, either about its own or about some other center. Fifth, it is shown how necessary it is that this earth and other similar bodies should move not with one but with several different motions. And that those bodies should consist of neither more nor less than the four simple [elements], these being United in one compound. And it is stated what these motions of the earth are. Finally, it is promised to supplement with other dialogues that which seems to be lacking in the completeness of this philosophy. And one concludes with an oath of Prudcnzio.

Remain astonished over the fact that things so great are expedited with such brevity and sufficiency. But have no doubt even if on occasion you see less grave propositions which may seem to come justly under the strict censure of Cato: [18. Marcus Porcius Cato, or Cato of Utica (95 BC - 45 BC), Roman statesman, proverbial embodiment of honesty and incorruptibility, but also a self-righteous censor of everything improper.] for these Catos arc very blind and idiotic, if they cannot discover that which is hidden inside these Silenc statues. [19. Silcnus was the oldest of satyrs. In his Symporium (215b) Plato speaks of Silcne statues, or statuettes of satyrs that could be opened down the middle. Inside, they contained figurines of the gods. In Renaissance times the adjective Silcne was used of small, apothccarian containers with figures of satyrs painted on them.] And if you meet so many and diverse propositions tied together so that they cannot appear as one science, but rather now a dialogue, now a tragedy, now poetry, now oratory, where one now praises, now vituperates, where one demonstrates and instructs' where one is given now physics, now mathematics, now ethics, now logic, or in conclusion, that there is no branch of science of which a shred would not be there, then, keep in mind, gentlemen, that the dialogue is historical, in which not a thing is proposed without some reason, as along come the occasions, the moves, the steps, the encounters, the gestures, the emotions, the statements, the arguments, the rebuttals, the propositions and counterproposals, submitting all to the rigorous judgement of the four [interlocutors]. Consider also that no unnecessary word is there: for things of no small importance in each part are to be harvested and unearthed, and perhaps more there where less appear. Concerning that which appears on the surface, those who prompted us to make this dialogue, and perhaps a satire and comedy, should be more circumspect when they evaluate people with the rod [used] for measuring wool, and when they weigh souls on the metal scales of a balance. Those who will be spectators or readers, and see how others fare, will quickly reflect and learn from the discomfiture of others. Those who are hit and wounded will perhaps open their eyes, and seeing their poverty, nudity [and] indignity, will, if not out of love, at least out of shame, correct and cover themselves, if they do not wish to confess.

If it appears to you that our Theophil and Frulla hit some too heavily and severely on their backs, consider, gentlemen, that these animals do not have such tender skin; if the blows were twice a hundred times heavier, they still would not consider it an offense, and would rather think that they were caressingly slapped by a damsel. Hopefully, you will not judge me worthy of reprehension, because we wanted to establish such grave and valuable propositions on the inept facts and valueless grounds offered by these doctors. For I am sure, you know the difference between taking a thing for foundation and just for occasion. The foundations should, in truth, be proportional to the grandeur, condition and nobility of the edifice. But the occasions can be of all sorts [and] through all kinds of effects: for small and sordid things can be the seeds of great and excellent things. jesting and stupidities can provoke great counsels, judgments and inventions; it is easily evident that errors and misdeeds have often led to the finest rules of justice and of goodness.

If in a picture the colors do not seem to correspond perfectly to life, and the contours do not seem wholly proper, you should know that the defect &me from the fact that the painter could not examine the picture from distances and positions which masters of art are wont to take, because the stand or the canvas was too close to his face or to his eyes, so that he could not make even a small step backward or move away from one or the other corner without fear of making the plunge the son of Troy's defender [20. The allusion is to Astianatos, tossed from the walls of Troy by the victorious Greeks.] made. So whatever it is, take this picture where you find those two, those hundred, those thousand, those all [details], and recall that it is not meant to inform you about something you already know, nor to pour water into the rapid stream of your judgment and ingenuity, but because I know that though we learn things much better in life, we do not, as a rule, disdain their portrayals and representations. Also, I am sure that your generous soul will fix its mental gaze at the grateful emotions by which the gift is given, rather than at the gift offered by the hand. This work is offered to you who are closer to our Nolan and show yourselves more benevolent and gracious toward him. Therefore, you are all the more worthy of our respect in this land where merchants, with no conscience and faith, easily become like Croesus, [21. Fabulously rich Lydian king of the sixth century BC.] and where the virtuous with no penny become without difficulty like a Diogenes. This work is dedicated to you who have received the Nolan with so much munificence and generosity under your roof and at the more eminent part of your house; so that if this land would produce, instead of a thousand grim giants, as many Alexander the Greats, you would see more than five hundred [of these] come to pay homage to this Diogenes, who through the favor of stars has only you to deprive him of sunlight, when (to make him no poorer than that cynical rascal [Diogencs]) you send some direct or reflected ray into that cave with which you are familiar. This work is dedicated to you who represent in this Britannia the Highness of the so magnanimous, so great, and so powerful King [22. Henri 111. For further details, see the Introduction.] who from the most generous heart of Europe makes the farthest corners of the world resound with the voice of his fame. He, when trembling with anger as a lion in a deep cave, casts fright and deadly fear on the other powerful predators of these forests; and when he retires and takes rest, he sends out such a blaze from a liberal and kindly soul, which cnkindles the neighboring tropics, warms the icy Great Bear, and dissipates the rigor of the arctic desert which revolves under the eternal custody of the fiery Bo8tcs. VALE.


Interlocutors		Smith
	          	Theophil, philosopher
	          	Prudenzio, pedant
[Smi.] Speak they [1. Nundinio and Torquato.] Latin well?

THE. Yes.

Smi. Honest men?

THE. Yes.

Smi. Of good reputation?

THE. Yes.

Smi. Learned?

THE. Competently enough.

Smi. Well bred, courteous, polite?

THE. In a rather mediocre degree.

Smi. Doctors?

THE. Yes, my master; yes, my father; yes, my lady; yes, by all means; I believe, from Oxford.

Smi. Qualified?

THE. Why not? Men of distinction, of long [academic] robes, dressed in velvet, one of them with two golden chains shining round his neck, and the other, with that precious hand (which contained twelve rings on two fingers), seemed (by God) to be a very rich jeweller, who almost carved out your eyes and heart as he gesticulated.

Smi. Did they show a knowledge of Greek?

THE. And of beer too, eziamdio [by God].

PRU. Drop that eziamdio, as it is an obsolete and antiquated expression.

FRU. Quiet, master, he is not talking to you.

Smi. What did they look like?

THE. One looked like the stableman of the giantess and [of] the ogre, the other like the deputy of the goddess of [good] reputation.

Smi. Were there two of them?

THE. If this is not a mysterious numberl

PRU. Ut essent duo testes [That there should be two witnesses].

FRu. What do you mean by that testes?

PRU. Examiner witnesses of the Nolan sufficiency, at me bercle [but by Hercules] why did you tell Theophil that the binary number is mysterious?

THE. Because two are the first coordinations [categories] as Pythagoras says, finite and infinite, curved and straight, right and left, and so forth. Two are the kinds of numbers, even and odd, of which one is male, the other female. Two are the Cupids, superior and divine, inferior and vulgar. Two are the acts of life, cognition and affection. Two arc the objects of these, the true and the good. Two are the kinds of motion, straight, by which bodies tend toward [their] conservation, and circular, by which they are conserved. Two are the essential principles of things, the matter and the form. Two [are] the specific differences of substances, rare and dense, simple and mixed. Two [are the] primary opposite and active principles, the hot and the cold. Two [are the] first parents of natural things, the sun and the earth.

FRU. In conformity with the set of those aforesaid twos, I will make another scale of binaries. The beasts entered the arc by twos. They left it in twos. Two are the leaders of the choir of celestial signs, Aries and Tatirns. [2. These two constellations occupy the first two houses of the zodiac at the vernal equinox.] Two are the kinds of Nolite fieri [3. See Psalm 31: 9: 'Do not be without understanding like the horse and the mule'] [do not be], the horse and the mule. Two are the animals [created] to the image and similitude of man, the ape on earth and the owl in the sky. Two are the false and [still] revered Florentine relics in this country, the teeth of Sassetto, [4. Tommaso di Vincenzio Sassetto, a famed Tuscan mercenary, who after serving as Captain in France, volunteered his services to the Queen of England.] and the beard of Petruccio. [5. Ubaldini Petruccio, anotherTuscan soldier of fortune, who went to England in 1545 and later turned into a writer of sorts. The irony in Bruno's remark had to be felt all the more strongly as both Sassetto and Pctruccio were still alive when Bruno published the Cena.] Two are the animals of which the prophet said that they have more intelligence than the people of Israel, the ox because it knows its owner, and the ass because it knows how to find the manger of its master. [6. See Is. 1:3.] Two were the mysterious riding animals of out Redeemer, the donkey and the asscolt, [7. See Zach. 9:9.] which signify his old Hebrew and his new Gentile believer. Two are the names derived from these, Asino and Pullione, [8. From asina and pullut, Latin equivalents of donkey and ass-colt. See Mat. 21:6-7.] which were the formal addresses of Augustus' secretary. [9. A garbled reference to Caius Asinius Pollio (c. 76 BC-AD c. 5), Roman historian, but not a secretary to Augustus.] Two are the kinds of donkeys, domestic and wild. Two are the pyramids in which there should be inscribed and dedicated to eternity the names of those two and of other similar doctors: the right ear of the horse of Sileno, and the left car of the antagonist of the gods of vegetable gardens. [10. The horse of Silenus, the oldest of satyrs, was a donkey and so was the antagonist of the goddess in question.]

PRU. Optime indolis ingenium, enumeralio minime contemnenda [A marvel of the finest origin, the list is hardly to be frowned upon].

FRU. I tdke pride, my master Prudenzio, because you approve of my discourse, as you are more prudent than prudence itself, for you arc prudence masculini generis [of male gender].

PRU. Neque id sine lepore et gratia [Not even that without a rabbit and thanks]. But now istbaec mittamus encomia. Sedeamus quia, ut ait Peripateticorum princeps, sedendo et quiescendo sapimus [let us offer these encomiums. Let us sit down because, as the prince of Peripatetics says, by sitting and resting we grow learned]: and so we shall carry on until sunset with out tetralogue over the success of the conversation of the Nolan with Doctor Torquato and with Doctor Nundinio.

FRU. I would like to know what you mean by this tetralogue.

PRU. I said tetralogue, id est quatuorum sermo [that is the talk of four], just as dialogue means duorum sermo [the talk. of two] and so forth, such as pentalogue, heptalogue and others which arc abusively called dia logues as some say diversorum logi [the talk of various people], but it is not likely that the Greek inventors of this name had that first syllable 'di', pro capile i1hus latinae dictionis 'diversum' [at the head of that Latin word 'diversum'].

Smi. I beg you, my Lord Master, let us leave these rigors of grammar and come to our subject matter.

PRU. 0 seclum [0 heavens], you hardly seem to take into account good literature. How could we make a good tetralogue if we did not know what that expression, tetralogue, signifies, and, quod pehis est [what is worse], should we think that it is a dialogue? [And] non ne a difinitione et a nominis explicationc exordiendum [should we not begin with the definition and explication of the name], as our Arpinate [11. A reference to a dictum in the De offidis of Cicero, who hailed from Arpinum.] teaches it?

THE. You, Mister Prudenzio, are too prudent; let us leave, I beg you, these discourses in grammar, and take count [of the fact] that this reasoning of ours is a dialogue: for four persons as we may be, we shall be two in functioning, namely, to propose and to reply, to reason and to listen. Or to make a start and to report the business from its beginning, come 0 Muses, and inspire me. I am not talking to you who speak in puffcd up and haughty verse in Helicon, [12. A mountain In southern Greece, regarded as the home of the Muses.] for I doubt that you might not pity me in the end, when after having made such a long and tiresome pilgrimage, traversed such perilous seas, tasted such tough customs, there comes the need to go barefoot and one soon returns home naked, because there is no fish for the Lom- bards. [13. A play on the word Lombardi which also could mean crayfish. The meaning of the phrase is that nothing is to be gained.] I allow that you are not only strangers, but are also of that race of which a poet said:

There was never a Greek clean of malice.
[14. The quote is a Brunian fusion or confusion of two lines in the Morgante of the Rcnaissance poet, Luigi Puld (1432-84).]

Moreover, I cannot fall in love with something which I do not see. Others, others are those who have captivated my soul. To you others do I address myself, you gracious, gentle, soft, tender, young, beautiful, delicate beings, blond tresses, white cheeks, rosy faces, delicious lips, divine eyes, breasts of enamel, hearts of diamond; with your help so many thoughts I put together in my mind, so many affections I collect in my soul, so many passions I generate in my life, so many tears I shed from my eyes, so many sighs I emit from my chest, and so many flames I spark from my heart; to you O Muses of England I address myself, inspire me, help me, scold me, enkindle me, prompt me, make me flow, and turn me into sweet juiccs, and make me resemble not a small, delicate, formal, short, succinct epigram, but an ample and copious vein of long prose, flowing grand and bubbling; and let my currents go forth not as from a narrow pen, but as from a wide canal. And you, my Mnemosine [goddess of memory], hidden under thirty seals, and closeted inside the gloomy prisons of the shadows of ideas, sing a little in my cars.

A few days past two [emissaries] [15. John Florio and Mathew Gwinne. For further details see the Introduction.] came to the Nolan on behalf of a royal equerry [16. Sir Fulke CircAlle, Sip; also noti; 13 to the Prefatory Epistle.] letting him know how much he longed to converse with him so that he could understand his Copernicus and other paradoxes of the new philosophy. To which the Nolan replied that he does not see either with the eyes of Copernicus, nor with those of Ptolemy, but with his own as far as judgment and conclusions are concerned. True, [he acknowledged that] in regard to observations he owed much to these and other industrious mathematicians who, from time to time, successively adding light to light, have established sufficient principles that enable us to make [our own] judgment, which can form itself only after long periods of study. He added that those arc in fact like the interpreters who translate words from one language to another, but then there are others who fathom the meanings and not the words themselves. The former are like those peasants who report the trends and patterns of a skirmish to a distant captain; they themselves do not understand the steps, the reasons and the art by which they became victorious; but this is understood by the one who has the experience and better judgement in military matters. Thus, to the Theban Manto who saw but did not understand, Tiresias, the blind but divine interpreter said:

Much of the truth escapes the one deprived of vision,
But whither my country, whither Phoebus calls me, I shall follow;
While guiding, my child, your blind parent,
Reveal the portents of the sacrifice for divining the future. [17. The quote is from Seneca's Oedipus, lines 295-96 and 301-02. Manto was the daughter of the blind seer, Tircsias. See also Seneca's Tragedies with an English translation by Frank Justus Miller, vol. 1. (Loch Classical Library, London, William Hcinemann, 1927), pp. 451-53.]
Similarly with us; for how could we make a judgement if the many and diverse verifications of the appearances [motions] of the higher and lower celestial bodies had not been clarified and placed before the eyes of reason? [This would] certainly not [be possible]. Nevertheless, after having rendered our debts to those distributors of gifts which came from the first, infinitely omnipotent light, and having praised the studies of those generous spirits, we shall amply fecognize that we should open our eyes at what they observed and saw, and should not give our consent to what they conceived, meant, and set forth.

Smi. Please, let me know, what is your opinion of Copernicus?

THE. He was possessed of a grave, elaborate, careful, and mature mind; a man who was not inferior, except by succession of place and time, to any astronomer who had been before him; a man who in regard to natural judgment was far superior to Ptolemy, [18. Claudius Ptolemaeus (fl. 140), the foremost astronomer of classical antiquity, and also a renowned mathematician, geographer and astrologer. In his Almagest he offered a vast synthesis of geometrical methods for the prediction of planetary motions within a geocentric framework. The Almogest remained the authoritative textbook on astronomy for some time after Copernicus.] Hipparchus, [19. Hipparchus (fl. 2nd century BC), an astronomer from the island of Rhodes, is credited with the discovery of the precession of equinoxes, the eccentricity of the sun's (apparent) orbit, and some of the inequalities in the moon's motion. These achievements of Hipparchus, together with his catalogue of 850 stars and with his systematic application of trigonometrical methods in astronomical computations, were an invaluable help to Ptolemy.] Eudoxus, [20. Eudoxus of Cnidus (408?-355? BC), Greek astronomer, who started his studies with Plato, and spent the concluding part of his life in Cnidus, by the observatory which he constructed there. He is credited with the first computation of the length of the solar year. It suggested a calendar reform, enacted centuries later by Julius Caesar, who ordered the observance of leap-years. Most importantly, Eudoxus seems to have been the first major proponent of the explanation of planetary motions in terms of concentric circles. This method later yielded to modifications with the introduction of such auxiliary devices as eccentrics, extants, deferents and cpicycles, to increase the exactness of predictions. But by the same token there resulted an extreme complication of circles, which Copernicus tried to overcome, though in vain, with his heliocentric ordering of the very same devices. Needless to say, the Copernican system had extremely impottant advantages of its own.] and all the others who walked in the footsteps of these; a man who had to liberate himself from some false presuppositions of the common and commonly accepted philosophy, or perhaps I should say, blindness. But for all that he did not move too much beyond them; being more intent on the study of mathematics than of naturc, [21. This criticism of Copernicus strikes the keynote of Bruno's scientific posture. Disdainful of mathematics to a very high degree, he claims supreme expertise in 'physical astronomy', about which he rightly notes that it is of overriding importance for a real explanation of the physical universe. But his version of physical astronomy or his explanation of the motion of the earth and of other celestial bodies bogs down in gross animism (to say nothing of his Hermetism), which vitiates much of the forcefulness of his 'assertion of the infinity of the universe.] he was not able to go deep enough and penetrate beyond the point of removing from the way the stumps of inconvenient and vain principles, so as to resolve completely the difficult objections, and to free both himself and others from so many vain investigations, and to set attention firmly on things constant and certain. For all that, who can fully praise the great mind of that German, [22. This is not the only identification of Copernicus as a German in the early literature, a point which gave rise to much chauvinistic controversy, and which shall be kept alive by alI those unable to see long past situations in proper historical context.] who with little concern for the foolish multitude, stood solidly against the torrent of the opposite persuasion? And though deprived of effective reasons, he seized those rejected and rusty fragments which he could have from the hands of antiquity, and repolished, matched and cemented them to such an extent with his more mathematical than physical discourse, that there arose the argument once ridiculed, rejected and vilificd, [23. The reference might be also to Ptolemy's ridiculing Aristarchus for his advocacy of the earth's motion, in addition to the derision which greeted from several corners the publication of Copernicus' work.] but now respected, appreciated and possessed of greater likelihood than its contrary, and certainly more convenient and useful for theory and for computational purposes. Thus this German, though he did not have sufficient means to become able not only to thwart, but also to fight, to vanquish, and to suppress sufficiently the false hood, [24. The falsehood is the closed, spherical world, with the earth testing immobile at its center. While Bruno reproaches Copernicus for having retained the sphere of the fixed stars, he fails to realize that he is even more Aristotelian than Copernicus in explaining the physics of the motion of the earth. It is also to be noted that Bruno's high praises of Copernicus serve as a convenient backdrop to bring out more forcefully his own supercminent greatness.] had nevertheless firmly made his stand to decide it in his soul and to confess it most openly, so that in the end one had of necessity to conclude that this globe moved with respect to the universe; rather than that it should be possible that the universality of so many innumcrable bodies, of which many are known to be more magnificent and grand, should acknowledge this [globe of ours] as their center and the base of their gyrations and influences, in an insult to nature and to reason which with most evident motions loudly declare the contrary. Who will, therefore, be so nasty and discourteous toward the work of that man as to forget both what he has done and his very being, destined by the gods to be that dawn which was to precede the rising of the sun of the ancient and true philosophy, buried for so many centuries in the dark caverns of blind, malicious, arrogant and envious ignorance, and to remember him by what he could not do, and to put him among the number of the herdlike crowd which moves, follows and rushes on by lending ear to a brutish and ignoble pefsuasion, rather than to count him among those who with a happy genius could rise and elevate themselves under the most reliable guidance of the eye of divine intelligence?

Now, what shall I say of the Nolan? Would it perhaps be improper that I should praise him, just because he is as close to me as I am to myself? But he who would reproach me for that would certainly not be a reasonable man, since speaking well of oneself is at times not only fitting, but also necessary, as the terse and learned Tansillo put it:

Though a man who aspires to fame and honor
Should not speak much about himself,
Because the tongue, where the heart fears or loves,
Is not in a position to speak trustworthily:
Yet, to become the herald of one's own fame
Is fitting on a few occasions; namely,
When one speaks for any of two reasons:
To escape unjust blame, or to help someone else.
[25. The quotation is from the Vendemmialore (strophe XXIX), an epic poem by Luigi Tansillo (1510-1568), one of the favorite poets of Bruno, who cites with preference authors of the cinquecento.]

Still if one is so supercilious as not to wish for any reason to be subject to his own praise, not even to the appearance of it, lie should realize that the praise of one's self cannot at times be kept apart from one's actual and reported achievements. Who would reproach ApelIes [26. Apellcs (fl. 330 BQ, the most celebrated painter of classical antiquity.] because in presenting his work he tells whoever wants to know that it is his product? Who would blame Phidias [27. Phidias (c. 500-c. 432 BC, one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece.] if he replied to someone asking about the author of that magnificent sculpture that he is the one? Now that you may understand the present business and its importance, I will submit a conclusion which will prove the point to you very rapidly, easily, and very clearly: if the ancient Typhon was to be praised for having found the first boat and for having crossed the sea with the Argonauts:

Too daring the man who in a frail vessel
First ventured through the treacherous seas;
Viewing from behind the familiar shoreline,
Entrusted his soul to the fickle winds;
[28. The quotation is from the Medea (lines 201-04) of Seneca. See also note 17 above. In Greek mythology Typhon was Gaea's fierce and monstrous son, and the father of such monsters as Cerberus, Hydra, the Sphinx and the Chimera.]

if in our times Columbus is to be celebrated for being the one about whom it had been foretold long ago:

   there will come an age
In the far-off years, when the Ocean
Shall unloose the bonds of things,
And a big land shall emerge, while Tiphys [Tethys]
Will disclose new realms, and Thule
Shall no longer be the limit of dryland,
[29. Again the Medea (lines 375-79) is quoted. Tethys, instead of Tiphys, was the daughter of Gaea and the wife of the sea-god, Oceanus. Thule was the name given in classical times to the northernmost parts of Europe.]

then what is to be done about the one who found again the way to scale the skies, to make a tour of the spheres, of the planets, and leave behind the convex surface of the firmament? The Typhons [30. Typhons, that is, the monstrous descendants of Typhon. The subsequent lines have a prophetic ring about the actual and potential misuse of technical inventions.] have found the way of disturbing the peace of others, of violating the patron spirits of homesteads, of confusing that which provident nature keeps separate, by doubling the defects of man through commerce, by adding vice to vice from one generation to another, by propagating with violence new follies, and by planting unheard -- of stupidities where none was, concluding in the end that the stronger is the wiser, by showing new studies, instruments, and skills to let people tyrannize and assassinate one another; because of such feats the time will come when those who have learned at their own expense, through the force of the vicissitude of things, will have the know-how and will be able to produce similar and even worse fruits of such pernicious inventions.

Unsullied the ages our fathers saw,
With every fraud banished afar.
Then every man kept quietly to his own shores,
And lived to old age on ancestral fields.
Rich but with little: knowing no wealth
Save what his home soil yielded.
The world's realms safely separated before
Were joined by ships of Thessalian timber.
The deep sea itself was afflicted by wrecks,
And, though formerly safely isolated,
Now become a sharer of the fears of man.
[31. From the Medea (lines 329-34).]

The Nolan, to achieve wholly opposite results, [has] set free the human spirit and cognition which was retained in the narrow prison of the turbulent [earthly] air, from where as if through some holes it could contemplate the most distant stars; its wings were cut lest it should fly and open the veil of these clouds, to see what is really there, and liberate itself of the chimeras of those who, though originating from the mud and caves of the earth, filled, as if they were Mercuries and Appollinos coming ftom heaven, the whole earth through many a swindle with endless folly, beastliness, and vice, as if with as much virtue, piety, and discipline, crushing that light which turned the souls of our ancestors divine and heroic, by approving and confirming the cloudy darkness of the sophists and jackasses. Thus the human mind, oppressed for a long time, and lamenting in her lucid intervals her abject condition, turns to the divine and benevolent mind which always whispers into its inner ears on such notes:

Mistresse, who shall for me to heav'n fly,
To bring again from thence my wandering wit. . .
[32. From Atiosto's Orlando Furioso, XXXV: I, 1-2.]

Now here is he who has pierced the air, penetrated the sky, toured the realm of stars, traversed the boundaries of the world, dissipated the fictitious walls of the first, eighth, ninth, tenth spheres, and whatever else might have been attached to these by the devices of vain mathematicians and by the blind vision of popular philosophers. Thus aided by the fullness of sense and reason, lie opened with the key of most industrious inquiry those enclosures of truth that can be opened to us at all, by presenting naked the shrouded and veiled nature; he gave eyes to moles, illumined the blind who cannot fix their eyes and admire their own images in so many mirrors which surround them from every side. He untied the tongue of the mute who do not know [how to] and did not dare to express their intricate sentiments. He restored strength to the lame who were unable to make that progress in spirit which the ignoble and dissolvable compound [body] cannot make. He provided them with no less a presence [vantage point] than if they were the very inhabitants of the sun, of the moon, and of other nomadic [wandering] stars [planets]. He showed how similar or dissimilar, greater or worse [smaller] are those bodies [stars, planets) which we see afar, compared with that [earth] which is right here and to which we are united. And he opened their eyes to see this deity, this mother of ours, which on her back feeds them and nourishes them after she has produced them from her bosom into which she always gathers them again -- who is not to be considered a body without soul and life, [33. This animistic world view precedes a slightly veiled affirmation of pantheism.] let alone the trash of all bodily substances. In this way we know that, if we were on the moon or on other stars [planets], we would not be in a place much unlike this, and perhaps on an even worse [place], just as there may be other bodies as good and even better for their own sakes and for the happiness of their own animals [inhabitants]. Thus we know as many planets, as many stars, as many deities, which are those hundreds of thousands that assist in the service and contemplation of the first, universal and eternal efficient [cause]. Our mind is no longer imprisoned in the fetters of the imaginary movables and movers, eight, nine and ten. [34. The eight 'movers or movables' are the spheres carrying in the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic world picture the moon, the five planets, the sun and the fixed stars. The ninth is the qu as i-spi ritual empyrean sphere beyond the sphere of the fixed stars, and the tenth is the purely spiritual sphere acting for, or identical with, the Prime Mover, enclosing all.] We know that there is but one heaven, an eternal, immense region, where these magnificent lights keep their proper distances for a commodious sharing in a perpetual life. These blazing bodies are those ambassadors that announce the excellence of God's glory and majesty. Thus we shall advance to the discovery of the infinite effect of the infinite cause, the true and living evidence of the infinite vigor. [35. A clear statement of Bruno's pantheism. As the immediately preceding and following lines show, it leads him to the assertion of an animistic uniformity, throughout infinity. This uniformity would imply the rejection of privileged parts (heavens) in the universe, as in a pantheistic entity all parts should be on equal footing, but Bruno gives a privileged status to all stars and planets.] And thus we possess the instruction to look not for the divinity away from us: if we have her nearby, we have her inside us, in fact more so than we are within ourselves. No less so than is the case with the inhabitants of the other worlds who do not seek her in our vicinity, since they have her nearby and within themselves. Assuredly, the moon is no more a heaven for us than we are [a heaven] for the moon. Thus, what Tansillo said undoubtedly as a joke can be stated a certainly sound proposition:

If you do not take the good which is near,
How will you get that which is far away?
To deprecate your own, seems to me glaring folly,
And so is to praise what is in the hand of another.
You are like the one who gave up on himself
While searching in vain for his own likeness;
You are that hound that gave to the river from his mouth
The piece which was longed for by his own shadow.

Leave alone the shadow and embrace the truth,
Do not exchange the present for the future.
Though I do not despair of better days to come,
To live more happily and more securely
I enjoy the present and hope about the future,
Procuring thereby twice as much sweetness.
[36. Again the Vendemmialore (strophes XVIII and XIX) is quoted, with some slight departures from the original.]

With this, one, though alone, is and will be able to win, and will be victorious in the end, and will triumph against the general ignorance; and there can be no doubt about this, provided the process of deciding [the truth] shall not lie with the multitude of blind and deaf witnesses, of acrimonious and vain words, but with the strength of controlled sentiment, which needs to have the last word: since, in fact, all the [celestial] orbs count not with the one who sees, and [on the other hand] no idiots can be served by a learned man.


Concerning goods and style, if former opulence is gone,
See that you learn to live with what the present allows.
Do not be a lonely detractor of people's judgment
Lest you please nobody while despising the multitude.
[37. These four lines are from Dioicba Calopir (III. 11 and II. 29), a collection of verse proverbs, made sometime during the first century AD.]

THE. This is most prudently said in regard to communal life and regimen and in regard to the practice of courteous conversation, but not when it comes to knowing the truth and the rule of reflection, in connection with which the same sage states:

Learn but from the learned, you yourself teach the ignorant. [38. Divicha Catomir, IV: 23.]

Moreover, what you say holds true for the doctrine useful for the multitude,.and is, therefore, like a counsel regarding the crowd, because this burden [of the new cosmology] cannot be placed on the shoulders of anyone except of those who can carry it, like the Nolan; or [of such] who can at least move it toward its target, as Copernicus was able to do, without incurring too great a difficulty.

Furthermore, those who are in the possession of this truth should not share it with all kinds of people, if they do not wish to wash (as the saying goes) the head of a jackass, or if they do not wish to see what pigs are doing with pearls, and [if they do not wish] to collect such fruits of their study and labor, which is usually produced by brazen and silly ignorance, together with presumptuous impoliteness which is its perennial and faithful companion. We can be teachers only of such ignorant men, and we can be the light only of such blind persons, that are called handicapped not because of the inability of natural impotence, or by the absence of ability and self mastery, but solely because of inadvertence and inconsideration; which [tatter case] occurs through mere acts, and not through [innate] disposition. Of these some are so malicious and wicked that out of some lazy jealousy they become angry and resentful of him who seems to want to teach them, the learned and the doctors, as they are thought of and (what is worse) they think of themselves, and who dares to show that he knows something they do not know. Hence you see them boiling with rage and fury.

FRU. And so it happened with these two barbarian doctors in puest ion, one of whom not knowing more in the way of reply and argument, jumped to his feet in his wish to finish the dispute with a recourse to some dicta of Erasmus, or rather with his fists, shouting: What? Areyou, indeed, not sailing toward Antigra? [39. The quote is one of the 3000 classical proverbs in the Adagiorunl (chil. I, cent. VIII, n. 52) of Erasmus. its publication in 1508, established Erasmus as the foremost scholar of his times. The original appearance of the saying is in florace who spoke of an insane Stoic seeking a cure through a heart-stimulating herb, hellebore, which grew in great abundance around Anticyra on the Gulf of Corinth, a place also mentioned in such connection by Pausanius.] -- You, That finest of philosopbers, wbo would notyield an incli eilber to Ptolemy or to the majeso I authority] of so many, so great pbilosophers and astronomers? Areyou not seeking a knot in a bulrusb? -- and similar phrases, worthy to be broken on his back with those double rods (call them rather canes) with which stable boys tailor jackets for jackasses.

THE. Let us forget these remarks for the time being. There are others who because of some credulous foolishness, fearful that seeing will undermine them, want to persevere obstinately in the darkness of what they once mistakenly learned. Then there are some others, the fortunate and well-born talents, on whom no honorable study is lost, who do not judge with temerity, keep their minds free and open l'or seeing, and are produced by the heavens if not as inventors at least as worthy examiners, investigators, judges, and witnesses of truth. It is from these that the Nolan gained, gains, and shall gain assent and love. These are those most noble minds that are able to hear him and to dispute with him. Still, in truth, nobody is qualified to contest him on these matters. Therefore, if due to lack of ability one cannot bring himself to actually agree with him, one should nevertheless subscribe at least to his many major and principal points, and one should admit that what he could not recognize as true is certainly most likely.

PRU. Be it as it may, I do not wish to part with the view of the ancients, for as the sage says, wisdom is with antiquity. [40. The sage in question is job. See the Book of Job, 12:12.]

THE. And the sage adds that prudence is to be found in [a past of] many years. If you attend well to what you say, you will see that from your position there follows the very opposite of what you think. I want to say that we are older, and have greater age than our predecessors, and by this I mean that [information] which enters in certain judgments as in this topic of ours. The judgment of Eudoxus, [41. See note 20 above. Here Bruno quotes frecly Copernicus' historical survey of astronomical observations (De revolutionibus orbium, lib. III. cap. 2).] who lived only shortly after the rebirth of astronomy, if indeed it was not reborn in him, could not be so mature as the judgment of Calippus [42. Calippus of Cyzicus (fl. 340 BC), the leading astronomer of his times, to whom Aristotle (Melapbyrics, 1073b) gives the sole credit of making improvements on Eudoxus' system of homocentric spheres by assigning several auxiliary spheres to each planet.] living [flourishing] thirty years after the death of Alexander the Great, who adding years to years could add observations to observations. For the same reason, Hipparchus[43. See note 19 above.] had to know more than Calippus, for he saw [had a record of] the changes [in the motion of the planets] for at least 190 years after the death of Alexander. Menelaus, the Roman geometer, [44. Menelaus (fl. 90 AD) made observations in Rome in 98 AD, hence his identification as a Roman geometer, although he was from Alexandria. His chief work is Spbaerica, with important sections on spherical trigonometry.] by seeing [having a record of] the changes in [celestial] motions 460 years after Alexander's death, had reason [to think] that he understood more than Hipparchus. Of those changes more could be seen [reviewed] by the Moslem Saracen [45. al-Battani (c. 858-c.929), the greatest astronomer of Islam. His astronomical treatise with tables (De sciewia slellarum) was very influential until Copernicus' times.] 1202 years after that. Almost in outr times, Copernicus saw [knew] even more of those changes, being separated from Alexander's death by 1849 years. But some of those who have been closer to us did not become more judicious than those who had preceded them, and the multitude of our contemporaries has no more insight either; this happens because the former did not live and the latter do not [re-]live the years of others and (what is even worse) both the former and the latter lived as if dead through their own years.

PRU. Say what you please, proceed anywhere to your high pleasure, I am a friend of antiquity, and concerning your opinions and paradoxes [46. The earth's motion was often referred to as a paradox in late Renaissance literature that contains numerous essays and books on 'paradoxes' or 'paradoxical philosophy'. See note 2 to the Introduction, p. 8.] I do not believe that so many and so wise remained ignorant, as you think and do other friends of novelties.

THE. All right, Master Prudenzio, if this common opinion which is also yours is true inasmuch as it is antique, then it was certainly false when new. Before this philosophy which suits your brain existed, there had been the philosophy of the Chaldeans, of the Egyptians, of the followers of the Magi, of Orpheus, of Pythagoras, [47. The list is distinctly Hermetic.] and of others of most ancient memory, all [those philosophies] conforming to our brain; against these [philosophies] first rebelled these heedless and vain logicians and mathematicians, as much the enemies of antiquity as they are strangers to truth. Let us therefore put aside this argument of the old and of the new, because clearly there is nothing new that cannot become old, and nothing old that has not been new, as was well noted by your Aristotle. [48. See Aristotle's Physics: 253a.]

FRU. If I do not speak out, I will certainly burst apart and crack up. You have said, 'your Aristotle' in talking to Master Prudenzio. Do you know how I mean that Aristotle is his own, id est [that is], he is a Peripatetic? (As a favor let us make this little digression in a way of parentheses) like of the two blind beggars at the door of the archbishopric of Naples one said that he was a Guelph, [49. Guelphs and Ghibellines were opposing political factions in Germany and in Italy during the late Middle Ages.] the other said he was a Ghibelline; and with that they began to hit one another so rudely with the sticks they carried that I do not know how the affair would have ended had they not been separated. But a gentleman came along and said to them: Come here, you and you idiot rascals; what is a Guelph, what is a Ghibelline? What does it mean to be a Guelph and what does it mean to be Ghibelline? In truth, one could not so much reply as to say a word. The other solved [the problem] by saying that Signor Pietro Costanzo, who is my master and to whom I wish well, is a Ghibelline. In the same way there are many Peripatetics who grow angry, excited and inflamed on behalf of Aristotle, want to defend the doctrine of Aristotle, wish to live and die for Aristotle, who do not even understand what is meant by the titles of the books of Aristotle. If you wish that I should show you one [of these]: there he is, the one to whom you have said 'your Aristotle', and who at each turn pulls out for you [phrases like] Arisloteles narter, Peripateticorum princeps, [our Aristotle, the Prince of Peripatetics], or Plato noster [our Plato] and ultra [so forth].

PRU. I do not really care to take into account what counts with you, and I have no use for your opinion.

THE. Please, do not interrupt our discourse any more.

Smi. Go on, Signor Theophil.

THE. Remember, your Aristotle said that what holds true of the vicissitude of things is no less true of opinions and various happenings; [50. See note 48 above.] thus to appraise the various philosophies by their antiquity is to try to decide whether the day or the night came first. Therefore, what should be considered above all is whether we are in the daylight, and whether the sun of truth is over our horizon, or over the horizon of our antipodal opponents [counterparts], whether we are in darkness or they, and finally, whether we, who give start to the revival of ancient philosophy, are in the morning to end the night, or in the evening to end the day? And this certainly should not be difficult to decide even if we evaluate but roughly the amount of fruit coming from one and the other kind of reflection.

Now let us see the difference between those and these. The former are moderate in their way of life, expert in medicine, judicious in thinking, outstanding in divinations, marvelous in magic, [51. Hermetism was to succeed, in part at least, by its recondite magic, which Bruno claimed to possess and tried to intimate in his various works. This list of extraordinary qualities is also a glimpse at a golden age to be ushered in by the triumph of Hermetism.] cautious with superstitions, observant of laws, irreproachable in morality, divine in theology, heroic in all things. As is also shown by their prolonged life, less infirm bodies, lofty inventions, verified prognostications, by the substances transformed through their efforts, by these people's peaceful way of life, unbroken oaths, most honest procedures, familiarity with the good and protective spirits, and the traces (if they still last) of their marvelous prowess. These others, their opponents, I leave them to be examined by the judgment of one who has some.

Smi. But what do you say if the larger part of our generation thinks the very opposite, and especially in regard to that doctrine?

THE. I am not surprised, because (as usual) those who understand less, believe that they know more; and those who are all fools, think they know everything.

Smi. Tell me, in what way might they be corrected?

FRU. By removing that very head [of theirs], and planting another in its place.

THE. By removing through some argument that confiderce of knowing; and by depriving them as much as possible, with incisive persuasions, of that foolish opinion, so that they would be willing to listen. The teacher must, of course, be first reassured that he deals with capable and qualified minds. (According to the custom of the Pythagoreans and of our school [52. The secretiveness of Pythagoreans was also a feature of the implementation of the Hermetic dispensation. Clearly, science (always a Hermetic science) is in Bruno's thought not a message to be shared freely and indiscriminately.]) I do not want these to have the opportunity to exercise the role of interrogators and disputants before having listened to the whole course of philosophy. For, if the doctrine is perfect in itself and is understood by them perfectly, it will clear away all doubts, and will remove all contradictions. But it may happen that there should come along a more polished mind, who can see for himself to what extent something can be added, taken away, corrected and changed. Then he can compare these principles and conclusions, and thus agree or disagree, ask and reply, in a reasonable manner' because otherwise, that is unless one first had listened, it is not possible to know how to raise doubts and questions to the point and in a proper order about an art [philosophy] or science. No one can ever be a good examiner and judge of a case if one has not first informed himself about the whole issue. Therefore, while the [presentation of the] doctrine goes through its steps starting with well posited and proven principles and foundations to [becoming] the edifice and the perfection of things wl-dch can be discovered thereby, the student must be silent, and first must have heard and understood everything, and he also must believe that as the presentation progresses all difficulties will vanish. A different custom prevails with the Eclectics [53. The Eclectics, also known as Pyrrhonians, were followers of Pyrrho (c. 360-270 BC) of Elis, the father of skepticism.] and Pyrrhonians who, while asserting that nothing can be known, keep on asking and searching without ever wanting to find anything. No less unfortunate minds are those who want to dispute even the clearest points, causing the greatest loss of time that can be imagined. Those, in order to appear learned and for other mean motivations, do not want to teach or to learn but only to contest and oppose the truth.

SMI. I have a small doubt about what you said. [54. The following analysis of mental conditioning as a barrier to truth stands in strange contrast to Bruno's posturing as the one wholly above such shortcomings.] Now there is an innumerable multitude of those who presume to know and think they deserve to be constantly listened to, as you can see that everywhere the universities and academies are full of these Aristarchuses [55. The allusion is most likely to Aristarchus of Samothrace (c. 217-c.145 BC), librarian at Alexandria. He was famed for his careful edition of Homer, and for the publication of some 800 works of exegesis and commentary. Bruno seems to have seen in him a symbol of pedantic scholarship.] who would not yield a whit to the thundering Zeus; those who study under them will not gain anything except to be promoted from not knowing (which is the absence of truth) to thinking and believing that they do know, which is foolishness and ingrained falsehood. See now what has been gained by such students: removed from the ignorance of simple negation, they are transposed into the ignorance of bad disposition as the saying goes. Now, who will reassure me that using up so much time and effort and opportunities of better studies and pursuits, it should not happen to me what most likely happens, namely, that instead of learning the doctrine, my mind would be infected with pernicious stupidities? How can I, who know nothing, learn to know the difference between dignity and indignity, poverty and richness, between those who think they are wise, and those who are esteemed as such? I see well that we all are born ignorant; I believe readily that we are ignorant; [but] as we grow, we are imbued with the discipline and customs of our home, and to no less a degree do we hear against the laws, the rites, the faith, the style of our adversaries and of those opposed to us, than is the case with these [things] concerning us and our affairs. To no less extent are planted in us, perforce, the roots of a zeal for our own things, than is the case with those many other and diverse people about their own affairs. Thus, it has easily become a tradition that our own people think to offer a sacrifice pleasing the gods when they have oppressed, killed, vanquished and assassinated the enemies of our faith; no less is this true of all those others, when they have done the Same to us. And these will thank God with no less fervor and persuasion of certainty for having the light for which eternal life is promised, than we do offer thanks for not being in that blindness and darkness in which they are. To these convictions in [matters of] religion and faith are added the convictions about sciences. If, myself, either through the choice of those ruling me, parents or teachers, or through my own caprice and fantasy, or through the fame of a professor, shall think with no less satisfaction of mind to have gained under [the gaidance of] the arrogant and blissful ignorance of a horse [dumbbell], than anyone else [studying] under a less ignorant or under a simply [patently] learned man. Don't you know how great is the impact [force] of the habit of believing and of being nourished from childhood with certain persuasions, on blocking the understanding of most evident things, in no other way than it happenswith those who are used to eating something poisonous, whose constitution not only does not, in the end, feel revulsion, but absorbs it as natural food to the extent that the antidote itself becomes to him the deadly substance? Or tell me by what means can the ears of a listener be attuned to you rather than to someone else when his mind is perhaps less inclined to attending to your propositions than to those of thousands of others?

THE. This is the gift of gods, if the fates guide you and dispose of you in such a way as to let you come across a man, who not only has the reputation of a true guide, but he is such in truth, and if the fates enlighten the interior of your soul to choose the one who is the better.

Smi. Still, as a rule, one sticks to the common opinion, so that if one makes an error, one will not be without broad approval and consent.

THE. A thought most unworthy of man. This is why the learned and divine men are rather small in number, and this is so by the will of the gods, for nothing is, indeed, esteemed or valued unless it is [not] common and general.

Smi. I readily believe that the truth is known by a few and that precious things are possessed by a very few. Still, it puzzles me that many things are rare, and can only be found in the possession of a few, or perhaps of a single person, though they should not be valued and have no value, and may in fact be real madness and vice.

THE. Very well; but in the end it is safer and more convenient to look for the truth away from the crowd, because the latter never offered precious and worthy things. It is always among the few that one can find things of perfection which, if they are only rare and in the possession of a few, [56. Another clear indication of the exclusiveness of (Hermetic) science as understood by Bruno.] could at least be recognized by anyone, though he could not get hold of them. And thus, their value would be due not so much to knowledge but solely to [the manner of] possession.

Smi. Let us, therefore, leave these topics, and let us stop for a while to hear and consider the thoughts of the Nolan. It is no small matter that by now he has earned so much trust as to be considered worthy of being heard.

THE. That is more than enough for him. Now watch how vigorous is his philosophy to maintain and defend itself, to unmask vanity and to lay open the fallacies of the Sophists, [57. The Sophists were a group of teachers of politics, rhetorics and philosophy in Socratic Athens, intent on clever, though hardly conclusive, arguments.] the blindness of the crowd, and the vulgar [accepted] philosophy.

Smi. To that end (since it is already night) we shall return here at the same hour, and will reflect on the experience and teaching of the Nolan.

PRU. Sat Prata biberunt; nam iam nox bumida caelo praecipitat [58. A phrase compiled by Bruno from Vergil's Dwelic; (III: 111) and from his Aemid (II: 8-9).] [The meadows are soaked well enough, since already a humid night precipitates from the sky].

End of the First Dialogme


THE. Now, Doctor Nundinio, after he has settled down, slightly limbered his back, placed his hands on the table, looked briefly circum circa [all around], gently turned his tongue in his mouth, raised his eyes to heaven, dropped a delicate laugh from his mouth, and spat once, began in such a way:

PRU. In baec verba, in bosceprorupit rensus [Into these words, and into these sentiments he sallies forth].


THE. Intelligis domine que diximms [Do you understand, sir, what we Said]? And he asked [the Nolan] whether he understood the English language. The Nolan replied, no, and said the truth.

FRU. Better for him, because he would have understood more unpleasant and derogatory things than their opposite. It helps a great deal to be dirty by necessity, where the person would not like to be dirty by choice. I would, however, easily convince myself that he understands English, but in order that he should not be involved in all cases that present themselves through the numerous and impolite encounters, and so that he might reflect on the attitudes of those who come across him, he pretended not to understand English.

PRU. Surdorum, ahi natura, afii pbysice accidente, alii rationali voluntate [Some are deaf by nature, some by physical accident, some by deliberate intention].

THE. Do not suppose this of him, because although he has been around in this country almost a year, he does not understand more than two or three very ordinary words; those that are words of greet ing, but not those that say something particular. And of these latter even if he wanted to utter one, he could not.

Smi. What does it mean that he had given so little thought to understanding our tongue?

THE. It is not something specific that forced and prompted him to this. For those who are distinguished and the gentlemen with whom he used to converse, all speak Latin, or French, or Spanish, or Italian: they, aware of the fact that English is used only within this island, deemed it disadvantageous not to know any other language except their own native tongue.

Smi. This is true of all; it is unworthy not only of a well-born Englishman but also of any other nationality not to know to speak more than one language; though in England (as I am sure also in Italy and France) there are many noblemen in this predicament, with whom anyone who does not have a command of the language of the country cannot converse without that anxiety which is felt by one who depends on an interpreter.

THE. It is true that there are still many who are noblemen by kirth only, and happily to their and to our greater benefit are neither understood, nor seen.


Smi. What does Doctor Nundinio wish to submit?

THE. I dumque [therefore] (he said in Latin) wish to explain to vou what we said, namely, that Copernicus presumably was not of 'he opinion that the earth moved, for this is inconvenient and impossible; but that he attributed such motion to the earth rather than to the eighth sphere for the sake of easier calculations. [1. Beneath this remark lies the chief issue which divided astronomers prior o the seventeenth century into the camps of realists and formalists. To the fortier, all explanatory devices (spheres, deferents, epicycles, etc.) were somehow ooted in reality; to the latter, these were merely convenient mathematical and ,eometrical tools to help predict celestial motions, that is, 'to save the phenomena'. I'lie classic account of this is Pierre Duhem's To Save The Phenomena: An Essay on the Idea of Physical Theoryfrom Plato to Galileo (1908), translated from the French by E. Doland and C. Maschler, with an Introduction by S.L. Jaki (Chicago, Univerity of Chicago Press, 1969). The Nolan said that if Copernicus had said the earth moved for this sole reason and not for some other, then he understood little and hardly enough of Copernicus. But it is certain that Copernicus meant it as he said it, and proved it with all his efforts.

Smi. Would this mean that those vainly pass this judgment on Copernicus' opinion unless they can gather it from some propositions of his?

THE. Note that such a statement comes from Doctor Torquato who from the whole Copernicus (though I may believe that he turned all its pages) retained only the name of the author, of the book, of the printer, of the place where it was printed, the year, the number of signatures and pages, and since he was not unfamiliar with the [Latin] grammar, he understood a certain epistle attached to it by I do not know what ignorant and presumptuous jackass [2. Andreas Osiander (1498-1552), a noted Lutheran theologian, took over from Georg Joachim Rheticus (1514-1576), professor at the University of Wittenberg, the responsibility of having Copernicus' book printed. In order to forestall theological objections, he had on the back of the title page an 'advisory epistle' printed, which had the appearance of one written by Copernicus himself. In that epistle addressed 'To the Reader concerning the Hypotheses of this Work' the book was presented as the setting forth of an ingenious mathematical method 'to save the phenomena'. Bruno's failure to identify the 'jackass' as Osiander is one more evidence of the fact that he was not in touch with the astronomers of his times. There are numerous indications that long before Kepler called Osiander by name in his Astronomia nova... de molibus rlellae Martis (1609), the information was sufficiently widespread that Osiander was the author of the 'advisory epistle'. No sooner had the copies of Copernicus' freshly printed book reached Tiedemann Giese (1480-1550), bishop of Kulm and a close friend and supporter of Copernicus, than he requested in a letter to the Senate of Nuremberg that the printer, Johannes Petreius, be forced to reissue properly the introductory section of the book by leaving out the 'advisory epistle'. At the urging of Giese, Rhcticus obtained from Osiander a written admission of his authorship. This detail was well known to Hieronimus Schreiber, successor of Rheticus in Wittenberg. Other contemporary astronomers who knew about Osiander's authorship were Petrus Apianus and Michael Maestlin, Kepler's teacher in TÜbingen. Who (as if trying to support the author by exculpating him, or perhaps to enable other jackasses to find in this book their herbs and fruits, and not to let them part with it starving) adverted them in this way before they started reading the book and mulled over its phrases:

'I have no doubt that some savants' [3. Here Bruno's rather free translation of the original is followed closely. For a more exact rendering in English of Copernicus' words, see the translation by Charles Glenn Wallis, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres in Great Books of f1m lVestern World, vol. XVI (Chicago, Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1952) pp. 505-06. (he said well 'some' of which he might be one) 'feel greatly offended, because of the widespread publicity of the new suppositions of this work which wants the earth to be mobile and the sun to stand firmly set in the center of the universe, thinking that this is a cause to throw into confusion the liberal arts which had been well settled and for so long a time. But if they wish to consider the matter more carefully, they will find that this author [Copernicus] is not deserving of blame, because it is the business of astronomers to gather diligently and artfully the history [details] of celestial motions: [and if they are] unable to find for some reasons the true causes of those motions, it is allowed to them to feign and formulate in their places reasons with the principles of geometry, by means of which they [those motions] might be calculated both for the past and for the future[:] therefore, not only is it not necessary that the suppositions should be true, but not even [that they should be] likely. Such should [indeed] be esteemed the hypotheses of that man [Copernicus], except if someone were to be so ignorant of optics and geometry as to believe that the forty degrees or more acquired by Venus in receding from the sun on one side and the other is caused by its motion on its epicycle. [4. In the geocentric system, the explanation of the foregoing angular separation of Venus from the Sun is possible only if the radius of the epicyclc of Venus is supposed to be as great as three-fourths of the radius of its deferent. This had to appear a glaring incongruity and also implied a variation from one to four in the Venus-Earth distance. But Osiander (and Bruno, too) failed to note that in the heliocentric system the variation of the same distance would be at least of similar range. Both Osiander and Bruno (see note 21 below) overlooked the fact that the problem of the variation of the brightness of Venus bad a very important, special feature of its own in the heliocentric system, a point of which Copernicus was very much aware.] Were this the case, who would be so blind as not to see that which would follow from this against all experience: that the diameter of the planet would appearfour times larger, and the body of the planet more than sixteen times larger, when it is closest to the opposite of its auge. [5. Here Bruno's departure from the original is particularly pronounced. Copernicus uses the expressions apogee and perigee, whereas Bruno uses the medieval Latin (Arabic) term ange. [perigee], than when it is farthest away, where it is said to be in its auge [apogee]. There are still other no less inconvenient suppositions than this, which need not necessarily be referred to.'

(Et conclude al fine) [And be concludes in the end].

'Let us, therefore, take the treasure of these suppositions, solely for the marvelous and artificial facility of computations: for, if someone would take as true these feigned things, he would exit more stupid from this science than when he entered.'

Now, look, what a fine doorman I See how well he opens the door for you to let you enter into the sharing of that most excellent knowledge [the motion of the earth], without which the art of doing computations, measurements, geometry and perspective is nothing else than the pastime of ingenious fools! See how faithfully he serves the owner of the house! [6. The owner of the house is, of course, Copernicus.]

To Copernicus it was not enough to say merely that the earth moves, but he also emphasizes and confirms it by writing to the Pope, [7. Copernicus prefaced his book with a dedicatory letter addressed to Pope Paul III. There he spoke about his hesitation to 'bring to light my commentaries written to demonstrate the Earth's movement', or to communicate his findings only to a select number of confidants, as was the practice of the Pythagoreans. Copernicus also spoke of his fear of the scorn which 'the newness and absurdity' of his opinion might provoke, an attitude hardly reasonable if his book did not convey a firm belief in the motion of the earth. See transl. cit., p. 506.] and by saying that the opinions of the philosophers are very far from those of ordinary folks, [8. Actually, Copernicus remarks that his notions of the movement of the earth are not only 'in opposition to common sense'. but also 'in opposition to the general opinion of mathematicians'. See transl. cit., p. 507.] which are unworthy of being followed and worthy of being avoided as the very opposite to what is true and right. And many other explicit indications emerge from his [Copernicus'] statement, in spite of the fact that somehow in the end [9. The remark in question is more toward the middle than toward the end of the dedicatory epistle; at any rate, it hardly justified the efforts of some antiCopernicans to use it as evidence that Copernicus proposed the earth's motion merely as a working hypotheses. The remark reads as follows: 'And although the opinion [of the earth's motion] seemed absurd, nevertheless because I knew that others before me had been granted the liberty of constructing whatever circles they pleased in order to demonstrate astral phenomena, I thought that I too would be readily permitted to test whether or not, by the laying down that the Earth had some movement, demonstrations less shaky than those of my predecessors could be found for the celestial spheres'. See transl. cit., p. 508.] he seems to suggest, according to the opinion of both those who profess that philosophy [the motion of the earth], and of those who are pure mathematicians, that should such a supposition be declined because of the apparent inconveniences, then it is fitting that he too should be given the liberty of positing the motion of the earth in order to produce demonstrations that are more solid than those made by the ancients, who were free to feign so many kinds and models of circles to demonstrate the phenomena of the stars [planets]. From those words one cannot gather that he doubted what he so steadily professed and was to prove sufficiently in the first book [of the Revolutions] by replying to some arguments of those who held the opposite; there he resorts not only to the position of the mathematician who makes suppositions, but also to that of the physicist [10. Copernicus tried to answer several objections to the earth's motion, but the physics which underlies his answers reflects the organismic physics of Aristotle rather thin the rudimentary notion of inertial motion as elaborated at the University of Paris during the fourteenth century, a circumstance of which Bruno was conspicuously unaware.] who proves the motion of the earth.

But certainly it counts little with the Nolan that Copernicus, Nicetas the Pythagorean from Syracuse, [11. Nicetas, or Hicetas, as Cicero has it, is known only through a short reference of the latter to a now lost work of Theophrastus. The list given by Bruno is a replica of that of Copernicus, with the exception of Bruno's reference to Plato.] Philolaus, [12. Philolaus of Croton lived in the middle of the fifth century BC.] Heraclitus of Pontus, [13. Heraclides of Heraclea in Pontus (c. 388 BC-312 BC), a student of Plato, was the proponent of the rotation of the earth around its axis and of the orbiting of Venus and Mercury around the Sun, which in turn orbited around the Earth.] Ecphantus the Pythagorean, [14. Ecphantus, a figure as elusive as almost all the other members of the Pythagorean confraternity.] Plato in Timaeus [15. See Timaemr: 40b-c.] (though timidly and inconstantly, for he held it more on faith than on the basis of science), and the divine Cusanus [16. In chapter XII 'Conditions of the Earth' of Book II of his Of Learned Ignorance (De docia ignoranfia, 1440) Nicholas of Cusa (1401?-1464) declares at the outset both the motion of the earth and the relativity of motion: 'It is now evident that this earth really moves though to us it seems stationary. In fact, it is only by reference to something fixed that we detect the movement of anything. How would a person know that a ship was in movement, if, from the ship in the middle of the river, the banks were invisible to him and he was ignorant of the fact that water flows? Therein we have the reason why every man, whether he be on earth, in the sun or on another planet, always has the impression that all other things are in movement whilst he himself is in a sort of immovable centre; he will certainly always choose poles which will vary accordingly as his place of existence is the sun, the earth, the moon, Mars, etc. In consequence, there will be a maebina mundi whose centre, so to speak, is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere, for God is its circumference and centre and He is everywhere and nowhere' (translated by Fr. German Heron, with an Introduction by D.J.B. Hawkins, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954, p. 111).] in the second book of his De docta ignorantia [Of Larned Ignorance], and other certainly very rare individuals, [17. The one Bruno (and Copernicus) should have mentioned before anyone else was Aristarchus of Samus (fl. 280 BC), aptly named by Sir Thomas Heath the 'ancient Copernicus', whom Ptolemy put to ridicule in the opening section of his Almagest for his advocacy of the earth's motion both around its axis and around the sun.] have said, taught and confirmed it beforehand; because he [the Nolan] holds it for other specific and more solid principles [18. Bruno's reference to his own principles which are supposedly better even than those given by Copernicus, and which are founded on reason and experience, clearly shows his megalomania and his misconceptions about science. The principles he had in mind were tooted in gross animism, rank pantheism and, last but not least, in Hermetic mysticism.] by which, not through authority but through real evidence and reason, he has this for as certain as anything else that can be had for certain.

Smi. Very well; but, please, what is that argument which is offered by that doorman [19. The doorman is Osiander.] of [the book of] Copernicus; for it appears to him that there is more than mere likelihood (if it indeed is not simply true) that the planet Venus should display as great differences in size as in distance.

THE. That fool [20. Again, Osiander.] who passionately fears, lest some be duped by the doctrine of Copernicus, -- I wonder if a more inept point could have been offered for a particular need than the one which he set forth with so much solemnity, -- deems it sufficient to prove that to assume this [the variation in Venus' size] [21. In the whole discussion about Venus, Bruno keeps silent about a detail on which Copernicus was very explicit, namely, that Venus should show phases as does the moon. Consequently, the variations of the brightness of Venus are not merely a function of its varying distance from the earth, but also of its phases. These two factors affect the situation in the opposite sense. At its perigee, or closest approach to the earth, less than a quarter of Venus can be seen illumined by the sun, whereas at its apogee, its whole hemisphere facing the earth is bathed in sunlight.] would be the act of one very ignorant about optics and geometry. I would like to know what kind of optics and geometry is meant by that beast, [22. Once more, Osiander.] who shows all too well how ignorant he was about true optics and geometry, and were all those from whom he learned. [23. Here, by inference, Bruno indicts all past masters of optics, another evidence of his odd sense of superiority.] I would like to know how from the size of luminous bodies one can infer the due of their remoteness and closeness; and inversely, how from the remoteness and closeness of similar bodies one may infer to some proportional variety of size? I would like to know with what principle of optics and geometry we can definitely derive, through the variation of diameter, the right distance or the major and minor differences [in it]? I wish to understand whether we make a mistake by positing this conclusion. From the appearance of the size of the luminous body we cannot infer its true size nor its distance, for just as the case is not the same with an opaque as with a luminous body, so the case is not the same for a luminous, a less luminous, and a very luminous body as to let us estimate the distance or size. The bulk of a man's head does not show at two miles, but a much smaller lamp, or some similar flame, would be seen without much difference (though with some difference) sixty miles from the shore, as from Otranto in Puglia the candles Pamps] of Avellona can often be seen, though between those two places there are the vast tracts of the Ionian Sea. [24. Avellona is the Albanian town Vlone, or Valone, about seventy miles northeast of Otranto.] Every one with sense and reason knows that if the lamps were to contain twice as perspicuous a flame - take lamps that now can be seen from a distance of seventy miles - they would be seen at a distance of one hundred and forty miles with no variation in size. If tripled, at 210 miles, if quadrupled, at 280 miles. One should think in the same way of other increases of proportion and degree. For it is much rather through the quality and intensity of light than through the size of the burning body that the same diameter and size of the body would be maintained. [25. This, apparently rigorous, quantitative reasoning is merely an exercise in fantasy, the only realm where lanterns from 280 miles can be seen, a circumstance that bad to be clear to any judicious reader of the passage.] Would you, wise opticians and wizards of perspective, claim, therefore, that if I were to see at one hundred stadia a light of four inches in diameter, it would necessarily appear eight inches in diameter at a distance of fifty stadia, sixteen at a distance of twenty-five, thirtytwo at twelve and a half, and so on, [26. 100, 50, 25, 121/2 stadia approximately equal 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,500 yards, or about 12, 6, 3, 11/2, miles respectively. At such distances no change in the size of the light (lantern) would be noticeable to the naked eye.] until, of course, by coming much closer it would become indeed as great as you suppose?

Smi. But then, according to what you say, one cannot disprove by geometrical reasons the opinion, false as it may be, of Heraclitus of Ephesus, [27. Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 BC-c. 475 BC), the famed proponent of the view that there was no permanence whatever in nature, held the celestial bodies te be hollow cups in which the basic element, fire, collected. According to Diogenes Laertius (see note 29 below) Heraclitus estimated the cup of the sun to be one foot in diameter.] who says that the sun should be exactly as great as it appears to the eyes, an opinion to which Epicurus subscribes, as it seems from his Letter to Sophocles, [28. Another careless remark of Bruno. It is in his letter to Pythoclcs (instead of Sophocles) that Epicurus (341 BC-270 BC, a noted proponent of atomism, states: 'The size of sun (and moon) and the other stars is for us what it appears to be.' This is followed by a statement which is clearly at the basis of Bruno's rebuttal of Osiander's exploitation of Venus' changing brightness: 'And in reality it (the sun) is either slightly greater than what we see or slightly less or the same size: for so too fires on earth when looked at from a distance seem to the senses' (see Epicurus. The Extant Remains, with short critical Apparatus, Translation and Notes by Cyril Bailey, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1926, p. 61).] and he states in the eleventh book of On Nature (as reported by Diogenes Laertius [29. Diogcnes Laertius (fl. 220 AD), author of a work in ten books on the lives and opinions of philosophers from Thalcs to Epicurus.]) that (as far as he can judge) the size of the sun, of the moon, and of other stars [planets] is as great as appears to our senses, because (he says) if they would lose their true size through distance, they would even more so lose their color; and it is certain (he says) that we should not judge otherwise about those [celestial] lights than about those that are near us.

PRU. The Epicurean Lucretius [30. Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99 BC-c. 55 BC, Roman poet, author of the De rerum nalura (On the Nature of Things), a famed exposition of the atomistic philosophy of nature advocated by Epicurus, Leucippus and Democritus. Lucretius' book, which first became known to scholars in Europe in 1414, exerted an incrcasingly decisive influence during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially by its emphatic and detailed assertion of an infinite universe of stars in perpetual transformation.] also testifies the same in the fifth book of his De [rerum] natura:

The wheel of the sun cannot be much larger
Nor its glow less than is perceived by our senses.
For from whatever distances fires can project light
And breathe warm heat upon our bodies
They diminish nothing by these intervals from their mass of flame
And the fire is made no narrower to the eye.
And the moon, whether with bastard light she moves illumining the world,
Or whether she casts her own light from her own body,
However that may be, her shape as she moves does not increase.
Lastly, with all the fires of ether which you see from this earth,
So long as their flickering is clear, so long as their glow is perceived,
You may be sure that they can, indeed, be only a very little,
Smaller or larger by a small and but trifling difference,
Just as in all the fires which we see on the earth,
The size seems often to change very little, indeed,
One way or to the other, according to their distance.
[31. This quotation of sixteen lines is composed from lines 564-95 of Book V. Translation is based on Lurrolims, Do rorum nature, with an English translation by W.H.D. Rouse (Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1937), pp. 381-83.]

THE. Certainly, you say it well that with ordinary and customary reasons the masters of geometry and perspective would in vain dispute with the Epicufeans, I do not say with the fools like that doorman [32. Osiander.] of the book of Copernicus, but even with the more learned among them; and now let us see how they could conclude that given a distance equal to the diameter of the epicycle of Venus one may establish the size of the diameter of the planet and similar things.

Also I would like to call your attention to another thing. Do you see how great is the body of the earth? Do you know that we can see of it but [what falls within] the artificial horizon?

Smi. Exactly.

THE. Or do you believe that if it were possible to recede from the total globe of the earth to some point (wherever you wish) of the ethereal region, it should ever happen that the earth would appear bigger?

Smi. I think not, because there is no reason whatever that the line of sight of my eye should become stronger, and that it should increase the earth's radius, which determines the diameter of the horizon. [33. This muddled wording is characteristic of most of Bruno's utterances concerning scientific, and specifically quantitative, geometrical details. ]

THE. You judged well. Therefore, one must believe that, if we recede farther away, the horizon always diminishes. But note that with such a diminution of the horizon there comes also a more confused [less distinct] glimpse of some of that realm which lies outside of the already encompassed horizon, as can be shown in the present figure [34. The figure lacks the numbers 4-4 and the letters D-D, and contains a fifth pair of lines which subtend, bafflingly enough, the same base, A-A, as do the lines 1-1. This latter circumstance runs counter to whatever soundness there is in Bruno's effort to convey the idea that whereas the visual angle permitted by the structure of the eye remains the same, it spans more of thq horizon from increasing distance though in decreasing detail.] [1], where the artificial horizon is 1-1, to which corresponds the arc A-A of the globe. The horizon of the first decrease is 2-2, to which corresponds the arc B-B of the globe. The horizon of the third decrease is 3-3, to which corresponds the arc C-C. The horizon of the fourth decrease is 4-4, to which corresponds the arc D-D. And so with the further decrease of the horizon the stretch of the arc will always increase up to the hemispherical line and beyond. Once placed at that distance or about, we would see the earth with the same detail as we see the moon with its shining and obscure parts depending on whether the surface is water or dry land. In the measure in which the visual angle is narrowed will increase the part which the baseline occupies of the hemispherical arc, and the smaller will appear the horizon which we want to be called always such, although according to the accepted usage it has only one proper meaning. As we move farther away, an always bigger part of the hemisphere is seen, and, in the measure in which the visual diameter decreases, the light becomes more and more a compact point, so that if we moved farther from the moon, its spots would always become smaller, until it would look like a small and entirely luminous body. [35. The real point Bruno seems to want to make is that there is no basic differcticc between celestial bodies, the eternally permanent entities in his pantheistic universe. This is the first of several instances in the Cena of Bruno's abolishing the difference between stars and planets as intrinsically lucid and opaque bodies.]

Smi. It seems to me that I grasped a point not at all ordinary and of no small importance; but, please let us come to the opinion of fleraclitus and Epicurus, which, as you say, may maintain itself in spite of arguments from the science of perspective because of the defects of principles hitherto posited in that science. In order to perceive those defects [36. Bruno's criticism of the optical science of his day will shortly give itself away as truly pathetic boasting.] and to see the fruits of your discovery, I would like to understand the explanation of the argument through which one proves very convincingly that the sun not only is great, but also greater than the earth. The principle of that argument is that [when] the bigger luminous body spreads its light over an opaque body, the light makes the latter the base of the conical shadow which extends beyond the opaque body in the other direction, as illustrated in the following figure [37. The figure's lettering differs from that in the text. To match the figure, the text should have A for M, I for N, and B for A. The argument was already proposed by some pre-Socratics as an explanation of the Milky Way.] [2], where M [A], the lucid body, sends to the point N [I] the cone from the base of C which is terminated by HI. The smaller luminous body [B], after having formed the cone with the larger opaque body, will not know [find] a determinate place where its baseline could logically be drawn, and thus it will form an infinitely extended conoid, as can be seen in the same figure, where the lucid body A forms a cone of shadow through the opaque body C, by sending out the two lines CD, CE, which by increasingly widening the conoidal shadow, run much more to infinity than that they might find a base to terminate them. The conclusion of this reasoning is that the sun is a much larger body than the earth in that it sends the cone of the shadow of the latter almost to the sphere [orbit] of Mercury, and [the shadow] does not go beyond. [38. Already Aristotle noted (Meteorologica, 345b) that the shadow of the earth could not reach too far, let alone as far as the fixed stars.] Were the sun the smaller lucid body, it would be necessary to judge the matter differently; then it would follow that when this luminous body was in the lower hemisphere, our sky would be obscured in a larger part rather than illumined, assuming or granting that all stars have their light, from the sun. [39. The atomists and several pre-Socratics held that the stars were intrinsically luminous and fiery bodies. According to Aristotle the stars, composed of the ether, were not intrinsically luminous bodies. Their light was due to the friction which their motion caused remotely and indirectly in the upper air.]

THE. Now see how a smaller luminous body can illumine more than half of a larger opaque body. [40. Here follows one of the most astonishing 'scientific' arguments of Bruno.] Please recall what we see by experience. Given [Let there be] two bodies of which one is opaque and big like A, the other small and luminous like N, if the lucid body is placed at the smallest and first distance as noted in the following figurc [41. The figure should have capital letters, together with indices 1, 2, 3, 4 for the row of the bs. Also the angle ending at the bs should have been drawn of the same magnitude, since the angular width of the eyesight remains the same. By decreasing the angular width of vision from the carth outward, Bruno was led into a patently absurd conclusion.] [3], it will illuminate to the extent of the small arc CD [cd] reaching the line B1 [b1]. If placed at the second and greater distance, it will illuminate to the extent of the larger arc EF [ef], reaching the line B2 [b2]. If placed at the third and greater distance, it will terminate through the greater arc GH [gb] set by the line B3 [b3]. From this one may conclude that it may thus happen that the lucid body B -- by maintaining the strength of such brilliance, as demanded by the desired effect, namely, to penetrate that much space -- might, by being sufficiently removed, cover in the end an arc bigger than the semicircle; provided that nothing should oppose that the distance which placed the luminous body so as to span the semicircle [with its lightJ, might not be increased to such an extent that more [than a semicircle] be spanned [by its light]. Moreover, [42. Here Bruno plays an arbitrary game with the respective decrease of sizes (apparent and real) so as to prove a point, which in its final formulation (point objects do not obstruct the light going from point sources toward point targets) is physically meaningless.] I say that if the luminous body does not lose its diameter except very slowly and with great difficulty, and if the opaque body (big as it may be), should do it most easily and disproportionately, one would, thereby, come progressively from the length of the smaller cord CD [cd] to span the larger cord EF [ef], and finally the largest GH [gh] which is the diameter, thus, by increasing the distance more and more, [the light from] the luminous body would terminate at the other cords smaller than the diameter, so that finally the opaque body standing in between will not prevent other diametrically opposite bodies from being seen; and the cause of this is that the barrier set by the diameter will diminish with the diameter itself in the measure in which the angle B [b] becomes so acute (it takes a fool to believe that in a physical division of a finite body one may go on to infinity, [43. Bruno's support of atomism seems to have been dictated by his determination to oppose Aristotle on every essential point of the lattcr's philosophy. Bruno's advocacy of stars (and planets) as the indestructible cosmic units was hardly compatible with rigorous atomism. Indeed, according to Lucretius, stars composed of atoms were in continual formation and dissolution.] or one may intend it either in act or in potency) that there will be no longer an angle but merely a line, by which two visible opposite bodies can be seen from one another, with an in-between point presenting no barrier, given that it has lost all its proportionality and difference in diameter which maintains itself in the luminous bodies. It is merely required that the opaque body, which stands in between, should retain so much distance from one and the other, by which its mass loses the said proportion and difference in diameter, as this is seen and observed on the earth: its diameter does not prevent that two diametrically opposite stars [44. The application to the sighting of two diametrically opposite stars is another example of Bruno's hapless use of geometry.] should be seen mutually in the same way as the eye can see without any difference one and the other [star] from the hemispherical center N, and from the points of the circumference ANO (having imagined in that case that the earth be divided through its center into two equal parts in order that all lines of perspectives may have their proper place). This is easily made evident in the present figure [45. In the figure the letters N should have been denoted with running indices 1,2,3... from right to left. K seems to indicate a very large, if not infinite distance.] [4].

There, by the fact that the line AN is a diameter, it makes a right angle with the circumference. But from the next point it makes an acute angle, from the third [point] an even more acute [angle]; therefore, in the end it must become exceedingly acute, and finally at some limit it should not appear an angle but a line; consequently, the relation [role] and difference of the semidiameter is destroyed, and by the same reason also the relation [role] of the entire diameter AO will be destroyed. Therefore, it becomes finally necessary that two more lumitious bodies, which do not quickly lose their diameter, will not be prevented from being seen reciprocally since their diameter does not vanish, [46. Bruno's reasoning implies an unjustified mixture of some characteristics of visual perception with an imprecise analysis of a given geometrical configuration.] as is the case with a non-lucid, of less luminous intervening body.

It is, therefore, to be concluded that a larger body which is more apt to lose its diameter, will not, in spite of its being placed at the midpoint of the [connecting] very straight line, block the [mutual] sight of two bodies, however small, provided they retain a diameter of visibility which is already lost in the bigger body. But in order to help a not too cultivated mind that it may bring itself to comprehend the foregoing argument, and to soften as much as possible the rigor of understanding, [47. In what follows, Bruno, instead of giving a legitimate, easily comprehensible and not too rigorous illustration of his conclusion, throws to the wind rigorous reasoning. He fails to perceive that the eye is anything but a mere point.] let him see by experiment that by placing a rod by his eye, his sight will be wholly blocked from seeing the light of a candle placed at a certain distance; but the more the same light is brought closer to the rod, by moving the latter away from the eye, the less will his sight be blocked; and if the rod comes finally so close to the light as to touch it, as it touched beforehand the eye, the rod will not perhaps impede [the sight of the candle] as much as it should because of its thickness.

Now add further to this, that the rod stays there and the light wi be removed even farther; then the rod will block [the light] much less. Thus, increasing more and more the equidistance of the eye and of the light from the rod, one will finally see the light alone without any perceptible evidence of the rod. With this in mind any intellect, however crude, can be easily introduced to the understanding of the little that has been said here shortly before.

Smi. It seems to me that in regard to this proposition I must feel very satisfied, but there still remains a confusion in my mind about what you first said; rising from the earth and losing the sight of the horizon whose diameter will decrease more and more, we shall take that body for a star. [48. See note 35 above. Bruno echoes in part Nicolas of Cusa, who assigned to each celestial body the same structure consisting of a solid core surrounded by a watery layer, enveloped in turn by a layer of fire, which, however, sent its light only in the outward direction. To account for the pale light of the moon, Nicolas of Cusa placed the earth inside the moon's fiery layer. See Of Learned 1.9norance, pp. 112-13.] I would like to have something added to what you have said in this connection, since you are of the opinion that there are many, nay, innumerable earths similar to this one, and I also remember having read Cusanus, whose judgment I know you will not reprove, who claims that even the sun should have dissimilar parts as do the moon and the earth; by this he says that if we fix our eye attentively at the body of the sun, we would see in the midst of that splendor which is more so towards its circumference than elsewhere, a most noteworthy opacity. [49. This follows from his theory of three layers for each celestial body, at whose edges there was, therefore, a greater depth of fire with respect to an outside observer than in the central regions.]

THE. He said it divinely, and I think you have applied it in a praiseworthy manner. If memory serves me right, I have also said a little earlier that (insofar as the opaque body easily loses its diameter and the luminous one with difficulty [50. Visually, that is, and below a certain angular width. ]) it happens that due to distance the appearance of the obscure body annuls itself and vanishes, but the appearance of a transparent illuminated body, or of a body luminous in some other manner, becomes more and more compact, and from the disconnected, lucid parts there forms a visible, continuous light, thus, if the moon were farther away, it would not eclipse the sun, [51. The meaning is that the small, lucid spot corresponding to the moon would not be distinguished from the sun's brilliant surface.] and every man who is able to reflect on these things would easily [realize] that a more distant light would become even brighter, land] were we located on that more distant body [the moon], it would not appear more luminous to our eyes; in the same way as being on this earth we do not see that light of her which presents itself to those who are on the moon, which light is perhaps greater [52. A far-fetched speculation, which reveals Bruno's readiness to rush on with favorite theories.] than that which is provided to her [the moon] by the rays of the sun diffused in her crystalline liquid. I do not know whether at the present one should judge in the same or in some other manner about the sun's own light. [53. See note 35 above.] But look how far we moved from our topic. It is time to return to the other parts of our proposition.

Smi. It will indeed be good to understand other claims which he might have submitted.


THE. Now Nundinio said that it cannot be really probable that the earth should move, since it is the very center and middle of the universe which must have a fixed and steady foundation of all motion. Replied the Nolan: the same also can be said by someone who holds that the sun is in the middle of the universe, and that it is as immobile and fixed as intended by Copernicus and many others who set a spherical limit to the universe. So that this reasoning of Nundinio (if it is reasoning at all) is of no value against these, and it also begs its own principles [proofs]. And it is of no value against the Nolan who wants the world to be infinite, so that there could, therefore, be no body in it to which it would simply be proper to be in the middle or in the extremes, or between these two endpoints. Rather", this [should be possible only] through certain relations to other bodies and to endpoints chosen intentionally. [54. The statement of the relativity of motion, for which Bruno has often been given undue credit, had been voiced by Nicolas of Cusa. See note 16 above.]

Smi. What do you think of that?

THE. Magnificently said. For just as no one of the natural bodies is found to be simply [perfectly] round and consequently with a simple [exact] center, so among the sensible and physical motions which we see in natural bodies, there is none which would not differ [deviate] by far from the simply [perfectly] circular and regular [movement] around some center, [55. Bruno's eagerness to tie the infinity of the world and the relativity of motion to the absence of perfectly circular orbits derives from his animistic, stellar pantheism, in which there can be no strict laws of motion because these would set a constraint on the freedom of stars and planets permeated by divine attributes. For this reason, Bruno would also have rejected the idea of an elliptic orbit for planets as worked out painstakingly by Kepler. Nor could Bruno have been pleased with the closed space-time continuum of relativistic cosmology with its emphasis on a finite number of stars or galaxies. While science moved with Kepler and Galileo toward exactness and precision, Bruno advocated a trend in the opposite direction.] try as may those who imagine those stuffings and fillings of unequal orbits of diverse diameters and other plasters and receptacles, to doctor up nature to the point of making it a servant of Master Aristotle, or of someone else, and to conclude that all motion is continuous and regular around the center. But we who set our sight not on fantastic shadows but at the very things, we who envision an aereal, ethereal, spiritual, [56. The mixing of 'spiritual' with physical characteristics is a typical feature of Bruno's counter-science.] liquid body capable of motion and of rest, though infinite and immense (this we must affirm at least because we do not perceive any limit either sensibly or rationally), and we know for certain that being the effect and product of an infinite cause and infinite principle, it must be infinitely infinite according to its bodily capacity and according to its mode of being. [57. This is the reasoning on which Bruno's pantheism rests from the logical viewpoint. It is this argument which he elaborates in many cumbersome, obscurantist and repetitious details in the De l'infinito and the De la causa, immediate sequels to the Cena.] And I am certain that not only to Nundinio, but also to all those who are professors of the [art of] understanding, it is never possible to find [even] half-probable reasons for which the corporeal universe should have a boundary, and consequently, the stars contained in its space should be finite in number, [58. Contradicting every fact of the Aristotelian world view was not a method which could invariably lead to an ultimately true proposition. See note 55 on the finite number of stars, or rather on the finiteness of the mass in the universe.] and in addition there be a naturally determined center and middle of it.

Smi. Now does Nundinio add something to that? Does he afford some argument, or likelihood, to infer that, first, the universe be finite, second, that it have the earth as its center, third, that this very middle be altogether immobile [devoid] of [any] local motion?

THE. Nundinio, or anyone who says this, says it on faith and by habit; and he who denies it [the opposite], does so because of its unusualness and novelty, as is customary with those who reflect but little and are not masters of their own actions, either rational or natural [physical]; [and thus] he remains foolish and astonished like the one who suddenly sees a new phantasm; he is like the one who, after being slightly more discrete and less proud than his companion, becomes silent, and adds no words where he could not attach meaning.

FRU. Such is not the case with Doctor Torquato, who either wrongly or rightly, or by God, or by the devil, always wants to combat, even after he has lost the shield for defense and the sword for offense. I say when he has no more ripost, nor argument, he jumps in the shoes of madness, sharpens the nails of detraction, gnashes the teeth of injuries, opens the throat of outcries so that the contrary reason may not be uttered and may not reach the ears of those around, as I heard it said.

Smi. Therefore, he [Nundinio] said nothing else.

THE. He said nothing else about this proposition, but entered into another proposition.


Since the Nolan says in passing that there are innumerable earths similar to this; but Doctor Nundinio, as a good discussant, not having anything to add to this proposition, begins to raise questions apart from this proposition and apart from what had been said on the mobility and immobility of this globe: he asks about the quality of other globes, and wants to know of what material are those bodies that were thought to be of the fifth essence, [59. According to Aristotle, in addition to the four terrestrial elements (fire, air, water, earth) there is a fifth, the ether, composing all bodies from the moon to the stars and also filling all the celestial or interplanetary places. See On The Heavens: 270b.] that is, of an unalterable, incorruptible material, of which the thicker parts are the stars. [60. A consequence of the Aristotelian view of the ethereal composition of the celestial regions.]

FRU. This question seems to me to be outside the topic, though I do not understand logic.

THE. The Nolan, out of courtesy, did not want to press that point: but after he said that it would please him if Nundinio followed the principal topic or asked about that, he answered that other globes that are earths are not on any point different in specie [in kind] from that, merely in being bigger and small er, as in other animal [61. Reference to animal species as an explanatory analogy is one piece with Aristotle's use of the concept of organism as the chief paradigm in scientific explanation. The same approach permits for Bruno, as will be seen immediately, the denial of a major difference between planets and stars.] species inequality occurs through individual differences. But those spheres which are foci [of light] as the sun (for the time being), he believes them to differ in kind as do hot and cold, luminous in itself and luminous through other [cause].

Smi. Why does he say that he believes this for the time being and does not affirm it absolutely?

THE. He was afraid that Nundinio would drop the question raised lastly and would address and attach himself to this. I do not want to discuss in detail that the earth, being an animal and consequently a dissimilar body, should be considered a cold body in some of its very external parts cooled by air; but rather, because of other parts of it that are more numerous and great it should be believed to be hot and indeed very hot. I do not want to discuss either that [I am] doing this dispute by accepting in part the principles of the opponent, who in this case wants to be known and professes to be a Peripatetic; and in another part [by accepting] the proper principles that are not only admitted but proved, [one may show that] the earth is as hot as the sun in some respect.

Smi. How can this be so?

THE. Because (by that which we have said) through the vanishing of the dark and opaque parts of the globe and through the union of the lucid and crystalline parts, one always comes to more and more distant regions, where light is more and more diffused. Now, if light is the cause of heat (as with Aristotle [62. In what follows, Bruno says exactly the opposite of what was most emphatically claimed by Aristotle, according to whom the whole celestial region composed of the ether was free of such terrestrial attributes as hot and cold. In particular, Aristotle rejected the general opinion, according to which the sun's rays were the cause of heat on earth. See On The Heavenr: 289a.] many others affirm, who also claim that the moon and other stars [planets] are more or less hot because of the greater and smaller participation in light; therefore, when some planets are called cold, they want this to be understood by certain comparison and respect), it turns out that the earth, with the rays which it sends to the distant parts of the ethereal region, goes to communicate to others, according to the strength of light, just as strong a heat. [63. In Bruno's infinite world there should, therefore, arise a paradox of infinitely high temperature and brightness, but his mind, defiant of the rigor of mathematical reasoning, failed to perceive such a logical consequence. See on this my The Paradox of Olbers' Paradox (New York, Herder and Herder, 1969), pp. 22-24, and The Milky Way: An Elusive Road for Science (New York, Science History Publications, 1972), pp 72-73.] But we do not necessarily experience that a body which is lucid should also be warm, because we see around us many lucid things that are not warm. Or, to turn to Nundinio, it is here that he begins to show his teeth, broaden his jaw, blink his eyes, frown his eyebrows, widen his nostrils and send the croaking of a capon through the pipe of his lungs, so that due to this laughter [of his] others may think that he understood it well, that he was right, and that this other said ridiculous things.

FRU. And how true. Don't you see how he himself laughed?

THE. This happens to the one who gives sweet-meat to pigs. You ask, why did he laugh? He answers that to say and imagine that there should be other earths, which have the same properties and accidents, is [something] taken from the True Story of Luciam. [64. Lucian of Samosata (c. 125 AD-c.180 AD), Greek author, whose strength lay in satirical characterizations written in exemplary style. Book I of his A True Story is a lampooning of dreams about traveling to the moon. See Lucian (with an English translation, by A.M. Harmon, Loeb Classical Library, London, W. Heinemann, 1913), vol. 1, pp. 248-303.] The Nolan answers that when Lucian said that the moon is another earth, inhabited and cultivated like this, he said it to poke fun at philosophers, who a ffirm that there arc many earths (and particularly the moon, whose similarity with this globe of ours is all the more evident as it is closer to us); but [that Lucian] showed himself to be in common ignorance and blindness; for, if we carefully consider [the matter], we shall find the earth and many other bodies that are called stars to be the principal members of the universe; since they give life and nourishment to the things and whatever material they take from them they return it all: therefore, they have in themselves life more abundantly, by which, as if by a directed and natural will [stemming] from an intrinsic principle, they tend toward other things and through spaces which are convenient to them. [65. This animistic account of celestial motions was worlds removed from the spirit of a purely mechanistic explanation of motion which increasingly marked the progress of science from the mid-fourteenth century on.] And there are no other extrinsic movers, which by moving fantastic [imaginary] spheres transport those bodies as if embedded in them, for if this were correct, the motion would be violent and outside the nature of the movable thing, the mover would be more imperfect, and the moved and the mover would be solicitous and laborious, and many similar inconveniences would follow. Consider also how the male moves towards the female, and the female towards the male, how each herb and animal moves more or less expressly to the sun and the stars as to its vital principle. The magnet moves to the iron, the straw to the amber, and finally everything finds its like, and flees its contrary; everything proceeds from the sufficient interior principle [66. It is this and similar details which are usually overlooked or minimized by all who see in Bruno a figure of intellectual and scientific progress.] through which it becomes naturally activated, and not from an external principle as we see happen with those things that are moved either against or outside [in a manner alien to] their own nature. The earth moves and so do the other stars, according to their proper local differences, in virtue of an intrinsic principle which is their proper soul. Do you think (said Nundinio) that this soul is sensitive? Not only sensitive (replies the Nolan) but also intelligentl; [67. The alleged intelligence of stars fits the Hermetic world view but hardly reflects scientific mentality. True, Tycho Brahe and Kepler, older and younger contemporaries of Bruno, have also been deeply steeped in organismic analogies, but they were also dedicated geometers, bent on utmost precision in measurements, and, last but not least, they believed in laws of nature embodying the exactness of mathematics. It was these traits which were completely lacking in Bruno, and which, on the other hand, turned Tycho Brahe and Kepler into crucially important contributors to the progress of science.] not only intelligent as ours, but perhaps even more so. Here Nundinio fell silent and did not laugh.

PRU. It seems to me that, by being animated, the earth does not enjoy it when holes and caves are made in its back, just as it pains and displeases us when we are bitten there and our flesh is perforated.

THE. Not so simple-minded as Prudenzio, Nundinio did not think thisargument worth developing, though it occurred to him, because he is not so ignorant a philosopher as not to know that if the earth has scnses, it has them not similar to ours; if it has members, it has them not similar to ours; if it has flesh, blood, nerves, bones, veins, thcy are not similar to ours; if it has a heart, it is not like ours; and so on, about all the other parts which have [some] proportion to the [various] members of all those others that we call animals, and are generally thought to be but animals. fie [Nundinio] is not so good a Prudenzio, and not so poor a physician, as not to know that in regard to the great mass of the earth, these [caves] are but exceedingly insensible accidents which are so sensible only to our imbecility. And I believe that he [the Nolan] means this in no otherwis [68. For all that disclaimer, Bruno retains so much of animism as to banish from science the exactness of mathematics.] than that the animals which we know to be such, have their parts in continual alteration and motion, and have a certain flux and reflux, always gathering something inside from the outside, and sending outside something from the inside; as a result, the fingernails become longer, the fleece, the fur, and the hair get nourished, the skin heals and the hide hardens; in the same way the earth receives the outflow and the inflow of the parts by which many animals (manifest to us as such) expressly evidence their lives: as it is more than likely that (since all things share in life) many, nay, innumerable individuals live not only within us but in all composite things, and when we see a certain thing which is said to be dying, we need not so much think that it dies but that there changes and ceases that accidental composition and concord [harmony], while the things which constituted it remain always immortal; [69. Bruno's emphasis on the eternity of matter is an integral part of his pantheism in which there is no room for the basic Christian belief in a personal Creator and in a creation out of nothing.] more so with those things that are called spiritual than with those that are called corporeal and material, as we shall show this at another time.[70. In part, Bruno did this in his Cabala del cavallo Pegaseo (1585) where he advocated explicitly the transmigration of souls.] Or to come back to the Nolan; as he saw Nundinio fall silent, he resented for a while the sneer of Nundinio who compared the positions of the Nolan to the True Story of Lucian, [and] indicated a slight anger, and said to him that if one is to have an honest disputation, one should not laugh and make fun of him whom one cannot understand; and just as I (said the Nolan) do not laugh at your phantasies, you should not laugh either at my statements; if I dispute with you with courtesy and respect, you should do at least the same to me' who knows you to be only of so much talent that even if I should want to defend as true the foregoing histories of Lucian, you would not be able to destroy [refute] them. And in such a way he replied with some anger to the laughter, after he had handled the question with more reasoning.


Importuned by the Nolan as well as the others, that he should leave aside questions of why, how, and what, Nundinio submitted some argument -

PRU. Per quomodo, et quare; quilibet asinus novit disputare [With how's and why's, each ass knows how to vie].

THE. - at the end of which he made the point that fills all pamphlets, namely, that if the earth were carried in the direction called east; it would be necessary that the clouds in the air should always appear moving toward west, because of the extremely rapid and fast motion of that globe, which in the span of twenty-four hours must complete such a great revolution [71. This objection is considered by Copernicus, to say nothing of earlier sources. Nothing is added by Bruno's dicta to Copernicus' solution except the organismic phraseology. ] To that the Nolan replied that this air through which the clouds and winds move are parts of the earth, because he wants (as the proposition demands) to mean under the name of earth the whole machinery and the entire animated part, which consists of dissimilar [variegated] parts; so that the rivers, the rocks, the seas, the whole vaporous and turbulent air, which is enclosed within the highest moutains, should belong to the earth as its members, just as the air [does] in the lungs and in other cavities of animals by which they breathe, widen their arteries, and other similar effects necessary for life are performed. The clouds, too, move through accidents [happenings] in the body of the earth and are [based] in its bowels as are the waters. This is so stated by Aristotle in the first book of the Meteors[72. Typically enough, Bruno's organismic analogy is from Aristotle's Meleorologica, the only book of Aristotle which Bruno quotes at length and with approval, Undoubtedly because of its virulent animism and because of its sections on cyclic processes. That Bruno failed to see the Meleorologica in its true unscientific light is one more indication of the peculiar character of Bruno's science. By 1585 several sections of the Meleorologica had been the target of sharp denounciations. ] where he says that this air which is around the earth and is humid and hot [cold] because of the earth's exhalations, is surrounded by another air, dry and hot, and no clouds can be found there: and that this air is outside the circumference of the earth and of the surface which defines it, so as to let the earth become perfectly round, and that the production of winds occurs only in the bowels or holes of the earth; so that above the highest mountains neither clouds nor winds appear, and that there the air moves regularly in a circle as a universal body. Perhaps this is what Plato [73. The reference is to Pbaedo: 109b-c.] meant when he said that we inhabit the concavities and obscure parts of the earth, and that we have the same relation with respect to animals that live above the earth, as do in respect to us the fish that live in thicker humidity. This means that in a way the vaporous air is water, and that the pure air which contains the happier animals is above the earth, where, just as this Amphitrit [74. Amphitrite was in Greek mythology the daughter of Nereus and the wife of Poseidon and, therefore, the goddess of the sea.] [ocean] is water for us, this air of ours is water for them. This is how one may respond to the argument referred to by Nundinio; just as the sea is not on the surface, but in the bowels of the earth, and just as the liver, this source of fluids, is within us, that turbulent air is not outside, but is as if it were in the lungs of animals.

Smi. Now how is it that we see the entire [celestial] hemisphere though we inhabit the bowels of the earth?

THE. Because of the mass of the sperical earth, it happens not only on the outermost points of the surface, but also on interior [lower] points, that from place to place a convexity is given to [permit] the sight of the [whole] horizon; in that case there does not arise that impediment which we see when between our eyes and a part of the sky a mountain interposes itself, which, by being close, can destroy the perfect vision of the circle of the horizon. The distance of those mountains which follow the convexity of the earth, which is not plain but spherical, causes them to be invisible from the bowels of the earth; as one may to some extent see this in the present figure [75. Another frustrating effort by Bruno to use geometry.] [5] where the true surface of the earth is ABC, within which surface are the many particulars of the sea and of other continents, such for instance M, from which point we see no less the entire hemisphere than from the point A and from other points of the outermost surface. The reason for this is twofold: the greatness of the earth and its convex circumference; therefore, the point M is not blocked so that [from there) one may not see the entire hemisphere, because the very high mountains do not interpose with respect to M, as does the line MB, (which would, I believe, happen, were the earth's surface flat), but rather as with the line MC, MD does not suffer such impediment, as this is seen in virtue of the circumferential arc. And note furthermore that as M relates to C and M to D, so does K to M. Therefore, one need not consider a fable what Plato said of very great concavities and laps of the earth. [76. The conclusion should speak for itself.]

Smi. I would like to know if those who are near the highest mountains are inconvenienced by that impediment?

THE. No; but rather those who are near the smaller mountains, because the mountains are not very high unless they are so high as to cause their magnitude to appear insensible to our vision [77. A reasoning as self-defeating as Bruno's subsequent rambling about mountains.] Sothat in such a way one may understand [the situation about] many other artificial horizons, in which the accidents of some cannot produce alteration of some others; however, by 'very high mountains' we do not mean the Alps, and the Pyrenees, and the like, but like the entire France which is between two seas, the northern Ocean and the southern Mediterranean; from these seas one always ascends [in going] toward Auvergne, as also from the Alps and the Pyrenees, which once were the peaks of a gigantic mountain range broken into fragments as time went on [78. One should be on guard against reading a very advanced geological theme into these statements. In the next breath Bruno is back into a theme more Hermet. ic than scientific, the perpetual cyclic process of everything.] while elsewhere other mountains formed through the vicissitude Of the renovation of parts of the earth), and now form so many particular mountains which we call peaks. Therefore, concerning the example offered by Nundinio about the Scottish mountaing, [79. One wonders if Nunclinio's dicta on Scottish mountains had more sense than had Bruno's subsequent declaration about that exceedingly high mountain in the middle of England.] where he once perhaps stayed, it is clear that he is unable to grasp what is meant by very high mountains. For, in truth, the whole island of Britannia is a mountain which raises its head above the waves of the Ocean sea; the top of that mountain must be at the more eminent point of the island; that top joins the tranquil part of the air, and thus proves that this should be one of those highest mountains, where is perhaps the region of the happier animals. Alexander of Aphrodisias [80. Alexander of Aphrodisias (fl. 200 AD), a philosopher famed for his ardent defense of Aristotle. Two commentaries of his on Aristotle's work are extant, of which one is on the Meteorologica, but it does not contain the detail in question about Mount Olympus.] reasons so about Mount Olympus, where the evidence of the ashes of sacrifices shows the condition of the highest mountain and of the air above the confines and parts of the earth.

Smi. You have satisfied me most sufficiently, and you have excellently opened many sccrets of nature which lay hidden under that key. Thus, you have replied to the argument taken from winds and clouds; there remains yet the reply to the other [argument] which Aristotle submitted in the second book of On the Heavens,[81. See section 296b.] where he states that it would be impossible that a stone thrown high up could come down along the same perpendicular straight line, but that it would be necessary that the exceedingly fast motion of the earth should leave it far behind toward the west. Therefore, given this projection [back] into the earth, it is necessary that with its motion there should come a change in all relations of straightness and obliquity; just as there is a difference between the motion of the ship and the motion of those things that arc on the ship which if not true it would follow that when the ship moves across the sea one could never draw something along a straight line from one of its corners to the other, and that it would not be possible for one to make a jump and return with his feet to the point from where he took Off.[82. Hcre Smith provides some, of the answer to his own question.]

[THE]. With the earth move, therefore, all things that are on the carth. [83. Theophil's answer simply states something that was already a well-known notion, namely, that objects on the surface of the earth share in the earth's motion (rotation), if indeed such is the case.] If, therefore, from a point outside the earth something were thrown upon the earth, it would lose, because of the latter's motion, its straightness as would be scen [84. The figure wholly lacks the lettering referred to in the text. ] [Fig. 6] on the ship AB moving along a river, if someone on point C of the riverbank were to throw a stone along a straight line, [and] would see the stone miss its course [target] by the amount of the velocity of the [ship's] motiom. [85. The case of a stone thrown horizontally toward the ship was hardly a felicitous one, as the rotation of the earth presented an additional problem in the context of such motion.] But if someone were placed high on the mast of that ship, move as it may however fast, he would not miss his target at all, so that the stone or some other heavy thing thrown downward would not come along a straight line from the point E which is at the top of the mast, or cage, to the point D which is at the bottom of the mast, or at some point in the boweis and body of the ship. Thus, if from the point D to the point E someone who is inside the ship would throw a stone straight [up], it would return to the bottom along the same line however far the ship moved, provided it was not subject to any pitch and roll.

Smi. From the consideration of this difference there opens the door to so many and highly important secrets of nature and of profound philosophy; indeed, it is a frequent and little noticed case how great is the difference between he who cures himself and he who is cured by another: it is often noticed that we derive greater pleasure and satisfaction from taking the food with our own hands than from the hand of someone else. As soon as children can use their own utensils to take food, they do not rely willingly on others; as if nature would in some way make them understand that what provides for little pleasure, secures but small profit. See the children who are nursed, how they cling with their hands to the breast. And I am never so shocked by theft as when done by a domestic servant, because, I do not know why, someone familiar brings along more of a shadowy portent than does a stranger, by conjuring up the form of evil genius and of fearful omen. [86. Rather obscure remarks.]

THF. Now to turn to the subject. If there are two, of which one is inside the ship that moves and the other outside it, of which both one and the other have their hands at the same point of the air, and if at the same place and time one and the other let a stone fall without giving it any push, the stone of the former would, without a moment's loss and without deviating from its path, go to the prefixed place, and that of the second would find itself carried backward. This is due to nothing else except to the fact that the stone which leaves the hand of the one supported by the ship, and consequently moves with its motion, has such an impressed virtue [impetus] [87. The notion of impressed virtue (impetus) was an all-important link in the development toward the formulation of inertial motion by Galileo, Descartes and Newton, and it had a long history antedating Bruno, as has been amply documented in the studies of P. Duhem, A. Meier and others. ], which is not had by the other who is outside the ship, because the stones have the same gravity, the same intervening air, if they depart (if this is possible) from the same point, and arc given the same thrust.

From that difference we cannot draw any other explanation except that the things which are affixed to the ship, and belong to it in some such way, move with it: and one of the stones carries with itself the virtue [impetus] of the mover which moves with the ship. The other does not have the said participation. From this it can evidently be seen that the ability to go straight comes not from the point of motion where one starts, nor from the point where one ends, nor from the medium through which one moves, but from the efficiency of the originally impressed virtue [impetus], on which depends the whole difference. And it seems to me that enough consideration was given to the propositions of Nundinio.

Smi. So tomorrow we shall see each other again to hear the propositions which Torquato submits.

PRU. Fiat [So be it].

End of the Third Dialogue


Smith Do you want me to tell you the [real] issue?

THE. just say it.

Smi. [It arises] Because the divine scripture (whose meaning should be very much commended as something which proceeds from higher minds that do not err) in many places hints, and supposes the contrary [of the doctrine of the motion of the earth]. [1. Clearly, the atmosphere had considerably changed from the times of Copernicus who still could confidently brand as 'foolhardy' the objections based on the parlance of the Bible. (See his 'Dedicatory Epistle', transl. cit., p. 509). In the same context Copernicus also referred to the blunder of Lactantius, a Church Father of the fourth century, who rejected the sphericity of the earth in the name of the Bible. Copernicus could have considerably strengthened his point by recalling the De Genesi ad litteram, a thematic discussion by Saint Augustine of the guidelines in interpreting various passages of the Bible in the face of natural evidence, and by referring to similar utterances of other Church Fathers, such as Saint Basil and Tertullian. These were well known as can be seen ftorn their brilliant utilization by Galileo in his famed 'Letter to Grand Duchess Christina' (1615). Yet, the cffort did not really help Galileo because of a trend toward biblical fundamentalism and Scholastic rigidity in the Catholic Church, a defensive trend motivated to a large extent by the emphasis placed on the Bible by the reformers. In considering the possibility of the earth's motion, Tycho Brahe, a Protestant in a Protestant land, stated his fear of theological censure as one of his big stumbling blocks. (See his Astronomiae instattratae progvmnasmala, 1582, in Tycbonis Brabe Danis opera omnia. edited by J.L.E. Dreyer, Copenhagen, Libraria Gyldendaliana, 1916 vol. III, p. 175). About that time renewed attention was paid in the Catholic Church to the process of placing books on the Index and to doctrinal investigations by the Holy Office. Long gone were the days when around 1377, Nicholas Oresme, the learned Bishop of Lisieux, could discuss the pros and cons of the rotation of the earth both in the context of science and of the Bible and conclude: 'However, everyone maintains and I think myself, that the heavens do move and not the earth: For God hath established the world which shall not be moved, in spite of contrary reasons because they are clearly not conclusive persuasions. However, after considering all that has been said, one could then believe that the earth moves and not the heavens, for the opposite is not clearly evident. Never theless, at first sight, this seems as much against natural reason as, or more against natural reason than, all or many of the articles of our faith. What I have said by way of diversion or intellectual exercise can in this manner serve as a valuable means of refuting and checking those who would like to impugn our faith by argument.' (See Nicole Orerme, Le Livre du ciel el du monde, edited by A. D. Menut and A.J. Denomy, translated with an Introduction by A. D. Menut, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1968, pp. 537-39).]

THE. Or insofar as you believe me on this point, if the gods [2. This and similar expressions often occurring in Bruno's books seem to be more than a matter of style in vogue during the Renaissance. They give a glimpse of Bruno's overt support of non-Christian, if not simply pagan, theological preferences.] deigned to teach us the theory of the things of nature, as they did us the favor of presenting us with the practice [rules] of moral things, I would much rather have approached that revelation with faith than have asserted ever so slightly the certainty of my reasons and feelings. But (as anyone can see very clearly) the demonstrations and spcculations about natural things arc not treated in the divine books for the benefit of our intellect in the style of philosophy: but for the benefit of our minds and affections, the practice concerning moral actions is set by laws. In having this aim before his eyes, the divine lawgiver [3. Meaning perhaps Moses.] does not care to speak on that level of truth by which the common folk would not profit, so as to avoid the evil and follow the good; but he leaves to contemplative men the speculation about that [higher level of truth], and speaks to the uneducated [man] in a fashion so that according to his manner of understanding and speaking he might grasp what is essential. [4. This is, indeed, the gist of Saint Augustine's discussion in his work quoted in note I above.] Smi. It is certainly an appropriate way, when someone intends to present history and to give laws, to speak according to the general understanding and not to be solicitous about points that are irrelevant. He would be a stupid historian who, in treating his material, wanted to introduce words that are considered new and to reform the old ones, so that the reader would be forced to consider and interpret him more as a grammarian than to understand him as a historian. [5. The crucial importance of considering the literary class of a particular book of the Bible was also much emphasized by Saint Augustine in the same contex.]

Even more so, if one who wanted to give to the general folk the law and form of life were to use terms which he alone would understand and a very few others, and were to treat about material irrelevant to the aim to which the laws are directed: [then] it would certainly appear that he does not direct his doctrine at the general multitude for which the laws are enacted, but at the learned and generous minds and at those who are truly [ideally] men, who do what is proper without laws; for this reason Algazel, [6. Algazel, or al-Ghazali Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Fusi (1058-1111) of Baghdad, perhaps the most influential Muslim philosopher, who in order to defend revealed truth called into doubt the objective and lasting validity of truths obtained through the light of natural reason. Bruno's wholehearted reference to Algazel who generated a deep mistrust among Muslim scholars about the meaning of search for universal scientific truths is another indication of Bruno's own distrust of exact science. ] the Muslim philosopher, high priest, and theologian, says that the aim of laws is not so much a search about the truth of things and speculations, as it is the goodness of customs, the benefit of society, the harmonious living of people, and its implementation through the commodity of humane conversation, the maintenance of peace, and the growth of commonwealths. Many times, therefore, and in many respects, it is stupid and ignorant to refer to things according to [intrinsic] truth rather than according to occasion and convenience. just as if the wise man [author of Ecclesiastes, who] said 'The sun rises and sets, orbits through half a day and moves towards Aquila'[7. Eccl. 1: 5-6.] would have [instead] said: the earth revolves [rotates] towards the east and leaves behind the setting sun, moves along the two tropics, from that of Cancer toward south and from that of Capricorn toward Aquila [north]; would [not] the listeners have been startled and asked, in what sense does he state the earth to move? what novelties are these) they would in the end have held him for a fool, and he would indeed have been a fool.

But in order to satisfy the importuning of some impatient and rigorous rabbi,[8. The original Italian, rabbino, if read with revtrendi, two lines later, might suggest a sarcastic remark about some legalistic Catholic theologians.] I would like to know if what we say can be most readily confirmed with the approval of the very same scripture.

THE. Perhaps these reverends would have it that when Moses says [9. Gen. 1: 16.] that God made two big ones, which are the sun and the moon, among the rest of the [celestial] luminaries, this should be understood absolutely, because all the others are smaller than the moon; or, in truth, [should not this rather be understood] in the everyday sense and in the ordinary manner of understanding and speaking? Are not so many stars larger than the moon? Cannot they be larger than the sun? What is lacking to the earth that it should not be a luminary more beautiful and larger than the moon, and that by receiving in the same manner in the body of the Ocean and other mediterranean seas the great splendor of the sun, might it not match as a most shining body the other worlds, called stars, no less than these appear to us as so many lamp-like torches? [10. Another instance of Bruno's attempt to gloss over the differences between planetq and stars.] Certainly, he [Moses] did not call the earth a big or small luminary, and be called only the sun and the moon such - [and] this was stated well and said truly on its proper level, because be wanted himself to be understood according to the commonly used words and statements, and not to do as one who out of foolishness and stupidity resorts to knowledge and wisdom. To speak with the terms of truth where there is no need for it, and to wish that the ordinary and silly multitude, of which this approach is requested, should have the proper understanding, would be pretty much to wish that the eyes be possessed by the hand, which was not made by nature for seeing, but for working, and for giving its consent to the sight. Thus, however well he [Moses] might have understood the nature of spiritual substances, [11. Angels.] was he to speak of them in any other way than to show that some of these have spoken to men and served them, when acting as ambassadors [of God]? However well he might have known that all, or at least something similar, what befits this world of ours [earth], befits also the moon and other world bodies that are seen and also [those] that cannot be seen, does it seem to you that it would have been the office of a legislator to gather and give these poultices to the crowds? What does the practice of our laws and the exercise of our virtues have to do with these other [questions]? Therefore, wherever the divine men [inspired authors] speak by presupposing in natural things the generally accepted sense, they should not be taken for authorities; however, wherever they speak indifferently [unphilosophically], and where the crowd has no insight whatever, there I want one to pay attention to the words of divine men [inspired authors], as well as to the soarings of poets who spoke with superior light, [12. The hasty juxtaposition by Bruno of biblical authors speaking with divine inspiration and of poets speaking with superior light is a clear indication of his sustained effort not to present biblical revelation as something unique. As a Hermetic prophet he vindicated to himself that exclusive status.] and not to take as a metaphor what was not stated as a metaphor, and to take, on the contrary, as [literally] true what has been stated as analogy. But this distinction between the metaphorical and the [literally] true need not be grasped by all, because the ability was not given to everyone to understand it.

Or if we want to turn the eye of consideration to a contemplative, natural [philosophical], moral and divine [inspired] book, we find this philosophy very much favored and preferable. I speak in connection with the Book of Job, which is one of the finest books that can be read, full of all good theology, natural [philosophical] lore, and moral doctrine, overflowing with most learned discourses which Moses [13. Needless to say, Moses was not the author of the Book of Job, composed in the post-exilic times, perhaps during the early part of the fifth century BC, but because of the style of its prose parts it was sometimes classed with the books narrating the patriarchal times authored for the most part by Moses.] attached as a sacrament to the books of his laws. In that book one of the personalities,[14. The personality in question is Bildad of Shuah and the passage is Job 25: 1-2.] in wishing to describe the provident power of God, says that he keeps the peace among his eminent ones, that is, sublime sons, that are the stars,[15. Bruno had in mind the phrasing of the Vulgate, but even its notorious inaccuracies could not justify Bruno's paraphrases which are an arbitrary projection of his world view into the Bible. The tactics shows not only the strongly Aristotelian strains in Bruno's notion of the material composition of the world but also reveals his inconsistency. Contrary to his previous claim thatthe Bible was not meant to contain the scientific truth about the world, Bruno now claims that the Bible contains his own message about the infinite realm of stars as a realm of inexhaustible exchange of life and force among the celestial bodies.] the Gods, of which some are fire, some are water (as we say some are suns, some are earths), and that these are in harmony; for however contrary t hey may be, nevertheless one lives, feeds and grows through the other; meanwhile, they do not mix confusedly together, but one moves around the other at certain distances. Thus, the universe becomes differentiated into fire and water, which are subject to two primary, formal and active principles, the cold and the hot. The bodies that breathe hot are the suns, because they are luminous and warm in themselves; the bodies that breathe cold are the earths, which being likewise heterogeneous bodies are rather called waters, in view of the fact that such are the bodies [materials] by which they are visible, and therefore, we rightly designate them on account of that factor through which they are sensible [perceptible]; I say sensible [perceptible] not in themselves, but by the light of the sun scattered from their faces [surfaces]. In conformity with this doctrine is Moses, who calls the firmament air, in which all these bodies have persistence and placement, and through whose spaces the lower waters, which are on our globe, become distinct and divided from the higher waters, which belong to the other globes. So that it is said that the waters are separated from the waters. And if you consider well many passages of the divine scripture, the Gods and ministers of the most high are called waters, abysses, earths and burning flames. Who prevented it that he should not call them neutral, unalterable, immutable bodies, fifth essences, denser parts of the sphere, beryls, carbuncles and other phantasies, [16. These were some of the names used among Peripatctics to specify further the nature of the ether. The sense of the question is, of course, that some superior force, or God, providentially prevented Moses from speaking the language of Aristotelian philosophy. ] in which, indifferent [irrelevant] names, that is, the ordinarv crowd could find nothing amiss for its pasture?

Smi. I am, for sure, very much moved by the authority of the Book of Job and of Moses, and I can readily acquiesce in these real[istic] sentiments [views] much rather than in metaphorical or abstract ones, were it not for some parrots of Aristotle, of Plato, and of Averroes, - from whose philosophy they were promoted to the rank of theologians, - who say that these meanings are metaphorical, and thus, with the aid of their metaphors, they let these meanings signify anything they want, through their zeal for that philosophy in which they were brought up.

THE. And as to how constant these metaphors are, you can judge this from the fact that the same Scripture is in the hands of Jews, Christians and Mohammedans, such different and contrary sects, which are, in turn, breeding innumerable other most contrary aud different sects, all of which know how to find in the Scripture that proposition which pleases them and suits them better; [17. Bruno was notably indifferent to doctrinal controversies between Protestants and Catholics.] and not only the very diverse and different proposition but also the wholly contrary proposition, by making a no from a yes and a yes from a no. Thus, when verbigratia [for example] in certain passages where they say that God speaks out of irony.

Smi. Let us not bother to judge these, I am certain that it does not matter with them that this should be a metaphor or not a metaphor: therefore, in that respect, they can easily be at peace with our philosophy.

THE. One is not to fear the censure of honorable minds, of truly religious and also naturally well-meaning men, who are friends of courteous conversation and of good doctrine. For upon having these things well considered they find that this philosophy not only contains the truth, but also favors the [true] religion to a greater degree than does any other kind of philosophy: like those philosophies [18. From the subsequent list of doctrinal tenets it is clear that Bruno had in n-tind the various shades of Averroists, the most rigid followers of Aristotle. It should also seem significant that Bruno emphatically opposes the finiteness of the world, since according to his pantheism the infinite deity would of necessity generate an infinitely large effect.], which posit the world as finite, the effect and efficiency of divine power as finite, the intelligences and intelligent natures as being merely eight or ten; the substance of things as corruptible, the soul as mortal, as if it rather consisted of an accidental disposition, of an effect of complexion and of dissolvable temperament and harmony, the execution of divine justice over human actions as per consequence nothing, the knowledge of particular things as being removed from the primary and universal cause. And other rather inconvenient propositions which, by being false, not only blind the light of intellect, but also, by being negligent and empty, dissipate the fervor of good intentions.

Smi. I am very satisfied to have this information about the philosophy of the Nolan. Now let us turn for a while to the discourses made with Doctor Torquato, who, I am certain, cannot be so much more ignorant than Nundinio than he is more presumptuous, brazen and impudent.

FRU. Ignorance and arrogance are two individual sisters in one body and in one soul.

THE. This [Torquato], with an emphatic look, with which the divum Pater is described in the Metamorpboses [19. The reference is to Book 1, lines 171-81 of Ovid's work. ] as sitting in the middle of the counsel of the Gods and fulminating that most severe sentence

against the profane Lycaon, [20. See note 5 to the Prefatory Epistle. ] after having viewed his golden necklace, -

PRU. Torquem altream, aureum monile [Collar of gold, golden necklace].

THE. - and after having looked closely at the chest of the Nolan, where some buttons were possibly missing, staightened himself, pulled his hands from the table, shook his back a little, rasped his voice, adjusted the velvet biretta on his head, twisted his mustache, straightened his perfumed face, curved his eyebrows, widened his nostrils, placed himself in readiness with a backward glance, put his left hand on his right flank, joined the three first fingers of his right hand so as to start his skirmish, and while tracing with his right hand [through the air] began speaking in this way: Tune ille pbilosophorum protoplaste? [Are you that protoplast of all philosophers?] Suspecting that he came for other reasons than for taking part in a disputation, the Nolan immediately interrupted his words by telling him: Quid vadis domine, quo vadis? Quid si ego pbilosopborum protoplastes? Puid si nec Arisloteli nec cuiquam, magis concedam, quam mibi ipsi concesserint? Ideo ne terra est centrum mundi immobile? [Where are you heading, Sir? Where are you, heading? So what, if I am the protoplast of philosophers? So what, if I do not yield either to Aristotle of to anyone else anymore than they themselves would not have yielded to me? Is, therefore, the earth the immobile center of the world?] With these and similar other arguments, with that greater patience which he possessed, he exhorted him to submit propositions by which one could infer convincingly or with probability in favor of other protoplasts against this new protoplast. And turning towards those around, [and] laughing in a subdued tone, the Nolan said: He [Torquato] did not so much come armed with reason as with words and slogans which tremble of cold and hunger. [Torquato was] urged by everybody to begin with the arguments. He uttered these words: Unde igitur stella Martis nunemrajor, nunc vero minor apparel; si terra movelur? [Why should the planet Mars appear now larger, now smaller, if the earth moved?]

Smi. 0 Arcadia, [21. Arcadia, a mountainous region in the center of Peloponnesus, proverbial for the pastoral innocence ind primitive simplicity, if not nalvet6, of its natives.] [What a naivet6j, should it be possible anywhere in rerilm natura [in the nature of things] that with the title of philosopher and physician -

FRU. And of doctor and of torquato [twisted].

Smi. - such a consequence could be drawn? What did the Nolan reply ?

THE. He was not bothered by that: but he replied that one of the principal reasons why the planet Mars appears larger and smaller from time to time is the motion of the earth and of Mars also, in their proper orbits, so that it happens that now they should be closer [to one another], now more distant [from one another].

Smi. What did Torquato add to this?

THE. He immediately requested [details] about the proportion [magnitude] of the motion of the planets and of the earth.

Smi. And the Nolan had so much patience that, on seeing such a presumptuous and awkward fellow, he did not turn his shoulders, and did not go home telling the one who invited him that -

THE. So he replied that he came neither to lecture nor to instruct, but to reply, and that the symmetry, order and measure of the celestial motions is presupposed such as is, and has been known by ancients and moderns: and that he does not argue about that,21 and that the issue is not to litigate against the mathematicians to undo their calculations and theories to which he subscribes and believes in. Rather, his aim is about the nature and verification of the subjects of these motions. [23. Bruno's performance as a physicist was not any better. ] In addition, the Nolan said: if I were to take out time to answer this request, we would be. here through the whole night without [having any] disputation and without ever laying the foundations of our claims against the generally accepted philosophy. For both these [our opponents] and those [we] admit the same suppositions so that a conclusion might be made about the true reason [amount] of the quantity and quality of [heavenly] motions; and concerning these motions we are in accord. So why rack our brains apart from the topic? See it for yourselves, if from the observations that have been made and from the verifications that have been agreed to, you should be able to infer something that would lead to a conclusion against us; and then you have the liberty to come forth with your condemnation [of us].

Smi.- enough to say that he was very much to the point.

22. Bruno's handling of geometry and of some subsequent points of astronomy should suggest that he would not have been able to discuss technicalities of Ptolcmaic astronomy.

THE. Now none of those around was so ignorant as not to show with took and gesture that he realized that he [Torquato] was a big sheep aurati ordinis [of the golden order].

FRU. Id est [That is] of the [golden] fleece. [24. The reference is to the Order of the Golden Fleece. ]

THE. At any rate, to confuse the business, they implored the Nolan to explain that which he wanted to defend, because [then] the aforesaid doctor Torquato would engage in argumentation. Replied the Nolan that he had given more than enough explanation; and if the arguments of the opponent were scarce that was not due to the deficiency of the subject as should be evident to every blind man. Still, he again stated to them that the universe is infinite, and that it consists of an immense ethereal region. There is in truth only one heaven which is called space and bay flap], in which the so many stars are fixed, not otherwise than is the earth. And thus the moon, the sun, and other innumerable bodies are in that ethereal region in the same way as we see the earth to be. And that one should not believe in another firmament, in another base, in another foundation or kind of support for these grand animals which concur for the constitution of the world. [This infinite world] is the true subject and infinite material of the infinite divine actual potency [power], as this was made well understood both by regulated reason and discourse and by the divine revelations which state that there is no count of the ministers of the Most High, to whom thousands of thousands assist and ten hundreds of thousands administer. [25. An allusion to Dan. 7:10. Bruno once more contradicts himself by using the Scripture as a proof of a cosmological tenet, in this case of the alleged infinity of the world. ] These are the great animals of which many, with the clear light which emanates from their bodies, are from all sides visible [to us]. Of which some are effectively hot as the sun and other innumerable fires [stars]; others are cold as the earth, the moon, Venus, and other innumerable earths. [26. Unfortunately, not all statements of Bruno concerning the difference between planets and stars are as clear as this.] These, in order to communicate with one another and to participate in one another's vital principle, complete their gyrations, at certain spaces, at given distances, some around others, as is evident about these seven that turn around the sun, of which the earth is one that moves around in the space fpcriod] of 24 hours from the side called west toward east: causing the appearance of that motion of the universe around it, which is called the universal and diurnal motion. This imagination is most false, is against nature and is impossible, since it is possible, convenient, true and necessary that the earth should move around its proper center to participate in the light and darkness, [27. Bruno even seems to retain the Aristotelian notion of darkness as something as positive as brightness.] day and night, hot and cold. [And that it should move] around the sun for participation in spring, summer, fall and winter. [And that it should move] toward the [points] called poles and opposite hemispherical points for the renewal of the ages, [28. This remark of Bruno evokes the,doctrine of the Great Year, or the eternal recurrence of all at great intervals. It will be broached more in detail in the next Dialogue.] and for a change of its [own] face, so that where the sea was, there be dry land, where the torrid [zone] was, be the cold [zone], where the tropical [zone) was, be the equinoctial; and finally [29. These four motions of the earth will be discussed by Bruno in the next Dialogue.], that vicissitude [continual transformation] be in all things, as in this [earth]; likewise in the others stars which were called worlds, not without reason, by the true ancient philosophers.

Now as the Nolan said this, Doctor Torquato shouted: Ad rem, ad rem, ad rem [To the point, to the point, to the point]. Finally, the Nolan began to laugh and said to him that he did not argue, nor was he replying to him, but that he submitted propositions to him; and, therefore, ista sunt res, res, res [these are the points, points, points]. And he pressed Torquato hard to offer something ad rem [to the point].

Smi. Thinking that he was in the midst of blockheads and idiots, that jackass [Torquato] thought that they would let this ad rem of this pass for an argument, and for a proof, and that he would satisfy the whole gathering with a mere tinkle of his golden chain.

THE. Listen further. While all stayed there waiting for that coveted argument, Doctor Torquato, now turning to his dining companions, draws from the depth of his self-sufficiency and throws in their faces the Erastriian adage [:] ANTICIRAM NAVIGAT [30. See note 39 to the First Dialogue. ] [He is sailing toward Anticyra].

Smi. A jackass could not have spoken better, and one cannot [indeed] hear other words when busy with jackasses.

THE. I believe he prophesied (though he himself did not mean his prophesy) that the Nolan went to make a provision of hellebore [medicinal herb] to resolder [heal] the brain of these barbarian fools.

Smi. If those present, courteous as they were, had been most courteous, [then] they would have put, instead of a necklace, a rope around his [the Nolan's] neck and would have made him count forty bastinados in commemoration of the first day of Lent.

THE. The Nolan said to them that Doctor Torquato and not he was mad, because he [Torquatol wears the necklace, [and] had Doctor Torquato not been wearing it, he certainly would not be worth more than his vestments, which in turn would be of little value unless thoroughly dusted with bastinados. And saying this he rose from the table, lamenting that Sir Fulke did not provide for better partners.

FRU. These were the products of England; and search as much as you wish, you find all of them to be doctors in grammar in these days in which there rules in that happy realm a constellation of pedantic, most obstinate ignorance and presumption, mixed with a boorish impoliteness that would vitiate the patience of job, and if you do not believe this, go to Oxford and let them tell you the things that happened to the Nolan. When he engaged in public disputation with those doctors in theology in the presence of the Polish prince, Alasco [Laski], [31. See the Introduction.] and of others of the English nobility. Let them tell you bow they meant to reply to the arguments [of his], how for fifteen times through fifteen syllogisms that chick stayed in the tow [of] that poor doCtor [32. The doctor or scholar in question can be identified with some probability as John Underhill (c. 1545-1592), a prot6gi of Lord Walsingham, chaplain to the Queen, and from 1589 bishop of Oxford. ] and like the coryphaeus of the Academy [33. Leader of a dance and music group, or simply a leader. The Academy means the Aristotelian Oxford.] feared to come forward in that grave situation? Let them tell you with what rudeness and discourtesy that pig [doctor] did proceed and with what patience and humanness did that other, who in fact showed himself to be a native of Naples [34. Stich remarks speak for themselves.] and as one raised under a more benign sky? Let them inform you how they forced him to finish his public lectures, those de immortalitate animae [35. Since Bruno's views on the human soul were hardly in conformity with Christian tenets, his lectures had to be discontinued.] [on the immortality of soul] and those de quinluplici sphera [36. Thc Oxonians expccted to hear about astronomy and not about I lermctism.] [on the fivefold sphere]?

Smi. He who gives to pigs pearls [37. Biblical allusion; see Afat. 7: 6.] should not lament if they are trampled. Now continue with the proposition of Torquato.

THE. As all rose from table, there were some who in their own language accused the Nolan of being impatient, instead of having before their eyes the barbarous and boorish discourtesy of Torquato and of their own. Nevertheless, the Nolan, who believes in outdoing in courtesy those who can easily outdo him in [some] other [matter], controlled himself, and as if he had forgotten about everything, he said amicably to Torquato:

Do not think, dear brother, that because of your views I want to or may become your enemy; nay, I am as much a friend of yours as of myself. So that I want you to know that before taking this position as a most certain one, I held it several years ago as simply true; when I was younger and less knowledgeable, I held it as something very likely. When I was more of a beginner in speculative things, I held it so factually false that I wondered at Aristotle that not only did he not disdain to consider it, but spent more than half of the second book, [of] On the Hearens, in an effort to demonstrate that the earth does not move. When I was a kid, and acted without speculative thinking, I held that to believe this [the motion of the earth] was sheer madness and thought that it was advanced by some for the sake of sophistry and captious material [topic], and for the exercise of those carefree minds, who wish to dispute for game's sake, and who make a sport of proving and defending that white is black. Therefore, I can hate you for this reason only as much as myself, insofar as I was younger, more childish, less wise, and less discreet [discerning]. Thus, instead of being obligated to be angry with you, I have compassion for you, and I pray God that just as He gave me this knowledge, so (if it does not please him to make you capable of seeing it), He may at least make you capable of admitting that you are blind. And this will be of no small help, to make you more polite, and courteous, less ignorant and brazen. And you should still love me if not as one who is at present more prudent and older, at least as one who was more ignorant and more juvenile when I was partly in my more tender years, than you arc in your old age. I want to say that although I have never conversed and disputed in such a boorish, rude and discourteous manner, never- theless for a while I was as ignorant as you. Thus, I have consideration for your present state, [which is] similar to my past state, and you for my past state, similar to your present state, [and so] I will love you and you do [should] not hate me. [38. This profuse protestation of intellectual humility and fraternal compassion stands in strange contrast with the hardly polite epithets heaped by Bruno on his opponents.]

Smi. And they, (after having engaged in another kind of dispute), what did they say to this?

THE. To make a long story short, that they were companions of Aristotle, of Ptolemy, and of many other most learned philosophers; and the Nolan remarked that there are innumerable imbecile, senseless, stupid and ignorant persons, who are in this regard not only the companions of Aristotle and of Ptolemy, but even more of themselves, [and] who are unable to grasp what the Nolan means, with whom not many do and can agree except those divine and wisest men like Pythagoras, Plato and others; as to the multitude which boasts of having philosophers on its side, I would that you consider that insofar as these philosophers are in agreement with the populace, they have merely produced a popular philosophy. And in regard to what pertains to [all of] you, who gather under the banner of Aristotle, I advise you that you should not boast as if you understood what Aristotle meant, and as if you penetrated what Aristotle penetrated: for there is an immense difference between not knowing what he did not know, and knowing what he did know; because [on the points] where this philosopher was ignorant, he has for companions not only you but all your kind, including the bargemen and stevedores of London. [On the points] where that gentleman [Aristotle] was learned and judicious, I believe and am most certain that you all are far removed from him.[39. Galileo, too, was to claim to himself a 'better-informcd Aristotle', a c1car indication of the latter's enormous reputation.] About one thing I marvel very much, [namely], that after you have been invited and come to dispute, you have never laid such foundations and submitted such reasons by which you could in any manner reach a conclusion against me, or against Copernicus, though there are many [such] powerful arguments and feasonings.[40. With this remark Bruno reveals that his real aim was not a systematic defense of Copernicus, or else these 'many powerful arguments and reasonings' against the motion of the earth would have been discussed by him. Clearly, for Bruno, Copernicus' doctrine was but a vehicle for promoting his own I lermetic message.] Torquato, as if to wish now to unveil a most worthy proof, asked with [the air of] august majesty: UBI EST AUX [41. See note 5 to the Third Dialogue.] SOLIS? [Where is the auge of the sun?] The Nolan replied that he might imagine it to be wherever it pleases him for any conclusion he might reach from it. For the auge changes and does not always stay in the same point of the ecliptic, and he is unable to see for what reason he asked this. In turn, Torquato asks the same question, as if the Nolan had not been able to answer it. Replied the Nolan[:] Quot sunt sacramenta ecclesiae. Est circa vigesimum Cancri, et oppositum circa decimum vel centesimum Capricorni [How many are the sacraments of the Church? Is (the auge) around the twentieth of Cancer: and opposite around the tenth or hundredth of Capricorn] or above the belfry of Saint Paul.[?]

Smi. Would you know for what reason did he ask this?

THE. To show to those, who knew nothing, that he was indeed disputing, and that he made a point, and, in addition, to go on trying so many quomodo, quae, ubi [how's, why's, where's], until he found one about which the Nolan would say that he did not know [the answer]; until that [question] which was about how many are the stafs of the fourth magnitude. But the Nolan said that he did not know anything except what belonged to the topic. This inquiry about the auge of the sun proves all in all that he [Torquato] was all too ignorant [to qualify] for disputation. To ask ftom one, who says that the earth moves around the sun, [and] that the sun stays fixed in the midst of these wandering lights [planets], the question of where is the auge of the sun, is to the point as if one asked from an adherent of the ordinary appearances [immobility of the earth] where is the auge of the earth; at any rate, the first lesson which is given to one who wants to learn to argue is that one is not to search and ask according to one's own principles, but according to the ones admitted by the opponent; but to this blockhead everything was the same; because in this manner he could derive arguments from those assumptions that were to the point as well as from those that were beside the point.

Having concluded this discourse they began to consult among themselves in English, and after they spent some time together, there appeared on the table a sheet of paper and an inkwell. Doctor Torquato spread it out until it made a wide and long page, took the pen in his hand, drew a straight line across the middle of the page from one side to the other [Fig. 7]; in the middle he drew a circle, to which the aforesaid line passing through the center formed a diameter) and inside of one of its semicircles he wrote Terra [42. This word and some others are missing in Figure 7, in conformity with Bruno's carelessness with his diagrams.] [earth], and inside the other semicircle he wrote Sol [sun]. On the side of the [semicircle of the] earth he drew eight semicircles, where the symbols of the seven planets were [placed] in order, and around the last [semicircle] there was written OCTAVA SPHAERA MOBILIS [eighth movable sphere] and on the margin PTOLONIEUS. Meanwhile the Nolan said to him what he wanted to do with that which even children know? Torquato replied[:] Vide, tace, et disce; ego docebo te Ptololveum et Copernicum [Look, listen, and learn: I will teach you Ptolemy and Copernicus].

Smi. Sus quandoque Minervam [43. Another example from Erasmus' collection of dicta from classical antiquity. See note 39 to the First Dialogue. Minerva was the goddess of learning.] [Sometimes the pig (teaches) Minerva].

THE. The Nolan replied that when one writes [practices] the alphabet, it is a poor method to wish to teach grammar to one who knows more of it than does the former. Torquato went on making his diagram, and around the sun, which was in the middle, he drew seven semicircles with similar symbols, writing around the last one SPHAERA INMOBILIS FIXARUM [Immobile sphere of the fixed stars], and on the margin: COPERNICUs. Then, he turned to the third circle, and on a point of its circumference he marked the center of an epicycle; having drawn its circumference, he painted in its center the .globe of the earth and that no one should delude himself into thinking that it was not the earth, he wrote there in large characters, TERRA [earth]. [44. Here the text contradicts the diagram, where the little dot on the epicycle stands for the earth.] And on a point of the circumference of the epicycle, which was most distant from the center, [45. Here 'center' means the sun, in the center of the Copernican half of the diagram.] he marked the symbol of the moon. When the Nolan saw this, (he said) look, here he wants to teach me from Copernicus what Copernicus himself did not mean, and would rather have had his head cut off than to say it or write it.[46. Copernicus stated and with a diagram illustrated exactly the opposite of what Bruno now claims. In other words, Copernicus indicated (see transl. cit., p. 526) the earth's position in exactly the same way as Torquato did.] Because the biggest jackass on earth would know that from that part one would always see the diameter of the sun equal [the same] [47. Once more, Bruno states that Torquato marked the center of the cpicycle as the position of the earth.] and other numerous conclusions would follow that cannot be verified. Tace, tace [Be quiet, be quiet], said Torquato, tu vis me docere Copernicum [you want to teach me Copernicus]? I care little about Copernicus, said the Nolan, and I care little that you or others understand him;[48. Such boastings are rather rare in contemporary scientific literature which contains otherwise many unusual statements.] but I want to remind you of this alone, that before you come to instruct me another time, study better [the subject]. The gentlemen there present showed so much diligence [interest] that the book of Copernicus was brought in, and by looking at the figure they saw that the earth was not marked on the circumference of the epicycle as was the moon, so that Torquato wanted that the point in the center of the epicycle on the circumference of the third sphere was designating the earth. [49. And this is precisely what Bruno stated a page earlier concerning Torquato's procedure.]

Smi. The cause of the error was that Torquato has studied the figures [50. In fact, Torquato studied Copernicus' diagram far better than Bruno did.] in that book, and has not read the chapters and even if lie had, he did not understand them.

THE. The Nolan began to laugh and told him that this point represented no other thing than the [fixed] point of the compass as it traced out the epicycle of the earth, and of the moon which is one and the same. Or if you truly wish to know where the earth is according to the meaning of Copernicus: read his own words. They read and found that the earth and the moon were as if carried by the same epicycle,[51. Another misstatement of Bruno about Copernicus. English astronomers knew the point not only from Copernicus but also from the English translation of the passage in question which appeared in 1576 in an Appendix attached by Thomas Digges to the new edition of Prognostication euerlastinge, a work of his father, Leonard Digges. The passage reads as follows: 'Then followeth the great Orbe wherein the globe of mortalitye [the earth] inclosed in the Moones Orbe as an Epicicle and holdynge the earth as a Centre by his owne waight restinge alway permatiente, in the middest of the ayre is caryed rounde once in a yeare.' See the critical edition of that Appendix by Francis R. Johnson and Sanford V. Larkey, 'Thomas Digges, the Copernican System, and the Idea of Infinity of the Universe in 1576' (The Huntington Library Bulletin, Number 5, April, 1934, Cambridge, Mass., I larvard University Press, 1934), p. 87. ] etc. And so they kept ruminating in their own language, until Nundinio and Torquato departed, having greeted all the others except the Nolan. And he sent one right away that he greet them on his behalf. Those cavaliers after begging the Nolan that he should not be upset because of the discourteous impoliteness and brazen ignorance of their doctors; but that be should have compassion over the poverty of this country, which was left a widow by good letters [learning] concerning philosophy and real mathematics [astronomy] (in which they are now all like blind men; [52. Contrary to Bruno, astronomy and other sciences stood at a respectable level in late sixteenth-ccntury England, as clearly evidenced by carefully documented historical studies, such as Francis R. Johnson, Astronomical Tbougbt in Renaissance England: A Study of lbe Englirb Scientific lFritingifrom 1500 to 1645 (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1937), and Antonia Mc Lcan, Humanism and The Rise of Science in Tudor England (New York, Neale Watson Academic Publications, 1972).] [so] there come these jackasses and present themselves as seers and offer bladders for lanterns), they left him with most polite salutations and went on their way; we and the Nolan returned home late along another route, without encountering these usual molestings, because the night was very dark, and the butting and kicking animals did not pester us on our way back as they did on our going, because, taking a deep rest, they were retired in their sheepfolds and stables.


It was night. Tired bodies were plucking quiet sleep
Over the lands, rested the forests and the violent
Seas, as the stars were halfway through their orb,
And silent lay all meadows, animals etc.
[53. Aeneid, IV: 522-25.]

Smi. Now we have said enough today, please, Theophil, return tomorrow, because I want to understand some other points about the doctrine of the Nolan. Because this doctrine of Copernicus, though convenient for computations, nevertheless is not safe and expeditious in regard to the natural [physical] reasons, which are the principal ones. [54. This remark of Smith makes it clear that the Fifth of last Dialogue will be devoted to the explanation of the physical world by real, that is, physical causes. Bruno can now move 'far beyond' Copernicus. ]

THE. I shall gladly return another time.

FRU. I also.

PRu. Ego quoque. Valete [I, too. Good bye].

End of the Fourlb Dialogme

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Last updated 1 September 1999