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Chapter Five Religious Reform and the Reassessment of Aristotelianism A number of Italian natural philosophers prized Averroes or attempted to follow Aristotle’s principles without regard for their correspondence to Christian doctrine . Sixteenth-century Catholic authorities reacted by trying to establish orthodox ways of considering Aristotle and Aristotelian natural philosophy. The rapid successes of the Protestant Reformation signaled the ineffectiveness of the Fifth Lateran Council’s attempt at reforming the Catholic Church. In response to the Reformation, the Council of Trent, first convened in 1542, spent nearly the next twenty years setting forth ways of avoiding corruption among the clergy and its flocks. Simultaneously, the Council established new dogma and standards of orthodoxy . These attempts at reforming the Catholic Church included the reaffirmation of Aristotelian understandings of causation and reconsiderations of how philosophy should be taught.1 Paolo Sarpi (1552–1623), the Venetian historian and naturalist, observed that Aristotelian thought was connected to so many decisions of the Council of Trent that if Aristotle “had not been adopted, we [Catholics] would lack many articles of faith.”2 Among the most significant ways in which philosophical education changed during these years was the result of the establishment of the Jesuit order. Charged with educating youth both in Catholic lands and in missions, Jesuits established schools around the world designed to educate students to be able to use the most sophisticated intellectual tools, both philosophical and humanistic, to defend the faith. In the case of natural philosophy, Jesuits adopted Thomas’s synthesis of Aristotelianism and faith and conceived philosophy as subordinate to theology. This choice entailed their affirming the “Apostolici regiminis” of the eight session of the Fifth Lateran Council, which had largely been ineffective or ignored Religious Reform and the Reassessment of Aristotelianism 87 in the years immediately after its promulgation. Consequently, Jesuit philosophers sought to minimize the influence of Averroes and eliminate that of Pomponazzi by promoting a version of Aristotelianism that privileged metaphysics and reconciled philosophy and theology. For specific doctrines, such as his views on the soul, Jesuits considered Averroes’ views not only mistaken but also perverse and depraved, just as humanists had. To counter those influenced by Averroes and Pomponazzi, they relied on philosophical arguments, considerations of linguistic issues, and the authority of the Catholic Church. Like earlier humanists, Jesuits pointed to the linguistic barriers that hindered Averroes from accurately interpreting Aristotle. Unlike these humanists, they did not adopt a strategy of invective. Rather they attempted to expunge Averroes’ view of the soul from philosophical education. Their strategy called for unifying Aristotelianism by deemphasizing the existence of “sects” of philosophers. Such a strategy emerged from some of the earliest Jesuits. In the 1550s, Jeronimo Nadal, an associate of the founder of the Jesuit order, Ignatius of Loyola, envisioned a series of handbooks that could harmoniously collect the important parts of Scholastic thought.3 In this fashion, he hoped to build a version of Aristotelianism that conformed to Catholic doctrine, fending off the alternatives, namely, materialist and Platonist philosophies. The development of the Jesuit position toward Aristotle arose in the 1550s and was eventually codified beginning in 1589 in the Ratio atque istitutio studiorum Societatis Iesu, shortened to Ratio studiorum. This handbook established guidelines for Jesuit teaching. The Jesuits’ international diffusion, prominence in education, and relatively high internal discipline fostered the diffusion of their Catholic version of Aristotelianism that emphasized the concordance of faith and reason as one of the predominant versions of philosophy in Europe and its colonies. In spite of the univocal character of the Ratio studiorum, many Jesuits were philosophers and therefore disagreed with each other at times. Furthermore , their positions evolved over time. Yet the internal control of the publishing of their works meant that their printed writings shared a high degree of agreement that corresponded to doctrinal orthodoxy. Jesuits frequently evoked the Fifth Lateran Council and the “Apostolici regiminis” in the formation of their own rules for conducting philosophy and in identifying heretical or unorthodox positions. Therefore, their techniques went beyond the boundaries of philosophical argument , as they used inquisitorial procedures to battle against opposing versions of natural philosophy, perhaps most notably in the failed prosecutions of the Paduan philosopher Cesare Cremonini but also in denunciations of numerous writings that led to their placement on the index of prohibited books. 88 subv erting aristotle The Development of Jesuit Aristotelianism One of the primary goals of Jesuit instruction in philosophy was the inculcation of good moral habits among its students. This goal was shared...


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