Tommaso Campanella (kahm-pah-NEHL-lah), born Giovanni Domenico Campanella, was a universal thinker, for he was philosopher, theologian, political theorist, educator, utopian, astrologer, and poet. More important, he is significant in the history of ideas as one of those who led in the movement from a medieval worldview to a modern, more scientific one.
The son of an illiterate shoemaker in southern Italy, Campanella entered the Dominican order at fourteen. He became a great scholar, gifted with an extraordinary memory. He was also a prolific writer, producing at least a hundred works in both Latin and Italian. His life and his writing are inextricably linked, for his writings not only expressed his thoughts but also brought about the terrible events of his life.
As a Dominican monk, Campanella was trained in the Aristotelian tradition. The Dominican Saint Thomas Aquinas had used Aristotle for his defense of Christian belief, a defense based upon the reconciliation of reason and faith. Influenced by other readings, especially those of the naturalist philosopher Bernardino Telesio, Campanella rejected Aristotelianism as being abstract and pagan. He argued for a more concrete explanation of the world, although he never rejected reason. Nor did his Catholic faith waver; however, he wished to propound another kind of defense of that faith. Unfortunately, the Church of the day was unwilling to accept such a defense.
His first writings and his own stubborn strength would lead to his being thrown into prison, tortured horribly, and tried for heretical religious ideas as well as for conspiracy against the Spanish rulers of southern Italy. He would remain in prison for nearly twenty-seven years, from 1599 to 1626, writing almost all the time, even in solitary confinement. These prison works include A Discourse Touching the Spanish Monarchy, written possibly as early as 1598 and, paradoxically, a kind of defense of Spanish power; The City of the Sun, written in 1602; and A Defense of Galileo, written in 1616, a treatise that added to his...
(The entire section is 855 words.)