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The First of the Moderns or the Last of the Ancients? Bernardino Telesio on Nature and Sentience

Citation: Giglioni, Guido (2010) The First of the Moderns or the Last of the Ancients? Bernardino Telesio on Nature and Sentience. Bruniana & Campanelliana, XVI (1). pp. 69-87. ISSN 1724-0441


Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

Bernardino Telesio’s philosophy of nature marked a momentous change in the philosophical panorama of late Renaissance. By redefining the notion of sentience (sensus) as the ability, inherent in the two principle forces of the universe (heat and cold), to react and adapt to a reality in constant change, Telesio championed a view of nature and man that radically departed from the principles of Aristotle’s natural philosophy. In developing his new notion of sentience, Telesio insisted on the aspects of receptivity and awareness. Through the first, he stressed the primary role of pneumatic matter (spiritus), understood as a thin, supple and swift vehicle capable of accounting for all material changes in the universe ; through the second, he raised the property of self-perception to the level of a universal natural property. This allowed him to replace the key Aristotelian concept of unintentional teleology with the idea of a self-organising power inherent in nature and to endow the material spirit with the ability to feel and react to all phenomena occurring in the universe (spiritus omniscius omnino). By relying on subtly discerning tendencies of pursuit and avoidance, Telesio’s spirit was thus capable of preserving life at all levels, both higher and lower, physical and ethical.

Creators: Giglioni, Guido (0000-0003-1844-2002) and
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Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Warburg Institute
  • 2010 (published)


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