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Chapter Four Italian Aristotelianism after Pomponazzi Despite the Fifth Lateran Council and the controversy surrounding Pietro Pomponazzi , throughout the sixteenth century, Italian natural philosophers continued to attempt to uncover Aristotle’s true positions, regardless of their agreement or disagreement with Christian doctrines. Often appealing to Averroes’ or Alexander of Aphrodisias’s authority, they justified their method using similar terms that Pomponazzi, Alessandro Achillini, and others had used in the first decades of the sixteenth century. Averroes’ theory of a single rational soul for all humans convinced fewer in the sixteenth century than it had in the 1490s; in spite of this, Averroes remained a significant and, at times, controversial influence. Already Agostino Nifo, and Nicoletto Vernia had abandoned the theory of the unicity of the intellect by the first decade of the sixteenth century. After Luca Prassicio, few prominent philosophers explicitly argued for it. The shift away from Averroes’ theory of the soul did not depend on ecclesiastical degrees or prosecutions.1 On this issue the Church’s influence was limited. A number of thinkers, influenced by Alexander or arguments such as Pomponazzi’s, interpreted Aristotle’s soul as being corruptible, tied to sensations, and thereby part of the material world, a position that was also condemned at the Fifth Lateran Council. Just as earlier thinkers had done, they did not argue that this position was unambiguously true but only that this view was Aristotle’s or that according to principles of Peripatetic philosophy the materiality of the soul was probable. Even though Averroes’ theory of a single intellectual soul had limited appeal, his works held wide influence among university professors in Italy during the sixteenth century. For many scholars, he was still considered the best guide to finding Aristotle’s true opinion. For others he remained emblematic of mistaken Italian Aristotelianism after Pomponazzi 71 methods of natural philosophy, a synecdoche for the view that philosophy is distinct from theology. It was not until the establishment of the Jesuit order and the beginning of the Council of Trent that ecclesiastical authorities became more concerned with controlling the instruction of philosophy and restraining the influence of Pomponazzi and Averroes. Both those who valued Averroes and those who attacked his views were affected by humanism. Those who advocated reading Averroes saw their project as involving determining Aristotle’s true view. As a result, philological and historical reasoning counted among their motivations. Those who condemned Averroes emphasized a different strain of humanism, one that enlisted philosophy and erudition for the cultivation of virtue. For them, the study of nature was subalterned to both religion and ethics. Averroes in the Sixteenth Century During the Renaissance, interest in Averroes grew. His complete works were printed over ten times before 1570s.2 During this time, Averroes’ writings were edited, translated, and retranslated.3 Jacobo Mantino, Giovanni Francesco Burana , Abraham de Balmes, and Elia del Medigo, among others, translated works previously not extant in Latin.4 Some of the most prominent philosophers of Italy wrote commentaries specifically on Averroes’ writings. The growing interest resulted from the continuing desire to uncover Aristotle’s views and the belief in the correspondence between Averroes and the Greek commentators. The scrutiny and interest in his work meant that philosophers followed his view for numerous issues, not just those surrounding the intellect. Scholars frequently described, and presumably prized, Averroes’ positions because they were “Peripatetic,” a term that suggests that they conformed to Aristotle ’s actual view. For example, siding with Averroes and Achillini, Girolamo Fracastoro and Giovanni Battista Amico, both former students at Padua, revived Aristotle’s cosmology and attempted to build homocentric models of the orbs that were capable of accounting for the trajectories of planets.5 Since Ptolemaic innovations in astronomy such as equants and nonuniform motion could not be found in Aristotle’s De caelo, Fracastoro and Amico hoped to establish a model that was consistent with the principles of natural philosophy, rather than the dictates of a mathematics or the innovations of astronomers. In 1537, Amico, crediting his teachers at Padua, Marcantonio Genua and Vincenzo Maggio, for inspiration , wrote that he was greatly persuaded by the Peripatetic opinion that required homocentric orbs for the planets and was aware that Averroes had interpreted Aristotle in a similar fashion.6 72 subv erting aristotle Interest in Averroes’ solutions to natural philosophical problems led a number of scholars to write commentaries on his works, a tradition that corresponded to the needs of university education. The 1405 statutes of the Studio of...


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