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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/116

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
promotores fuerunt
D. Philippus Bardella et
cives Ferrariensis etc.
D. Antonius Leutus qui ei dedit insignia

In the year 1500 Copernicus delivered lectures at Rome before an audience of two thousand hearers, the Archbishop of Mechlin declares. These lectures could not have announced the heliocentric theory, which dates from the year 1506 only, nor could they have been before the university, because Copernicus did not take the degree that admitted him to the privilege of teaching until 1503. He took no degree at Krakau, so far as is known.

Copernicus was now quite free to prosecute his studies in medicine, which he combined with philosophy. The celebrated Pomponazzi was then a member of the faculty, in the prime of his vigor. He had taken his degrees in philosophy and medicine at Padua in 1487, and in the next year, when he was but twenty-six years of age, had been chosen extraordinary professor. It was a custom of those days to choose two professors of each subject in order that their public disputations might stimulate their hearers to independent thinking. The ordinary professor of philosophy was Achillini—a veteran of the strict school of Aristotle.

Pomponazzi remained at Padua until the university was closed in 1509; and in Ferrara till 1512, when he removed to Bologna, where in 1516 he wrote his famous treatise on the 'Immortality of the Soul'—the foundation of his character as a skeptic and of his fame as a philosopher. Into his doctrines it is not necessary to enter at length. Briefly they are that man, standing on the confines of two worlds—the material and spiritual—necessarily partakes of the nature of both. Man is partly mortal (since the human soul depends in some degree on matter) and partly immortal. The soul is, Pomponazzi says, absolutely mortal, relatively immortal. This doctrine was, of course, a denial of the theory of the Roman church. He was vehemently attacked. His book was burned in Venice. Powerful friends among the cardinals protected him in Rome. His university stood by him and confirmed him in his professorial chair for eight years, and increased his salary to 1,200 ducats.

Pomponazzi was a thinker of essentially modern spirit. Reason, he said, was superior to any authority. If, in his teaching of Aristotle, he should find himself in error, "ought I," he says, "to interpret him differently from my real sentiment? If it is said—the hearers are scandalized—well, be it so. They are not obliged to listen to me, or to forbid my teaching. I neither wish to lie, nor to be false to my true conviction." He decides, on psychological grounds, against the immortality of the soul, and then proceeds to build up a system of