Born in 1568, in Stilo, Calabria (Southern Italy), Giovanni Domenico Campanella attracted attention and caused controversy as a Dominican monk, natural philosopher, political theorist, and utopian writer. Some of Campanella’s most popular works include Philosophy Proven by the Senses (1591), Selections (poetry, 1622), A Defense for Galileo (1622), The City of the Sun (1623), The Great Epilogue (1623), and Metaphysica (1638). Showing a great fascination with natural science, astronomy, astrology, mathematics, and “natural” magic, Campanella worked these subjects into his writings on philosophy and theology. Campanella’s concept of time is interwoven with his understanding of creation and eternity and their connection with God as creator.
Campanella (1568-1639) entered the Dominican order in 1583 and adopted the name Tommaso in honor of Thomas Aquinas. In his studies, the young monk quickly disagreed with the traditionally accepted Aristotelian philosophy and began following the work of Bernardino Telesio (On the Nature of Things). Campanella wanted to strip away the writings of the popular Greek philosophers and examine the natural world through the human senses. The empiricism and beliefs that Campanella embraced, however, contained weaknesses and contradictions.
For Campanella, every human being, animal, and plant consists of three “primalities.” As created beings, humans reflect the three-part nature of God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and consist of body, mind, and soul, as opposed to the Aristotelian dualist nature of body and soul. Therefore, Campanella’s writings reflect the emerging Renaissance philosophy and contain themes of occultism, “natural” magic, animism, and pantheism. These philosophies and beliefs raised suspicions within the Roman Catholic Church about this Dominican monk’s writings. Suspected of heresy and treason, Campanella underwent several Inquisition trials and periods of imprisonment from 1592 to 1626. Between his imprisonments, Campanella traveled throughout France and Italy and wrote voluminously. In 1597, authorities arrested Campanella for his association with and leadership of a political conspiracy to establish a new political order, following his utopian ideas (laid out in The City of the Sun), of a theocratic monarchy. Although Campanella spent 8 years in Rome following his imprisonments, he fled to Paris, France, in 1634, for safety and gained acceptance in the scholarly community until his death in 1639.
Although Philosophy Proven by the Senses and City of the Sun express and describe Campanella’s philosophical and political framework, Campanella’s Great Epilogue and Compendium provide the most in-depth look at time and eternity. In these works, Campanella defines time as “the successive duration of things.” The Eternal God created time when he created the temporal universe, and the changes and mutations that occur in the world, such as the young becoming old, prove the succession of time. Campanella defines eternity as “the permanent duration of the Maker, without a before or after” (or a past or future). These two concepts contrast with Aristotelian thought, which says that time relates only to human activity and that the world exists as an eternal universe. Therefore, Campanella understood time as created with the world and representing the continual movement and flow of nature.
Campanella’s literary contributions reflect the philosophy and ideas of the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, promote intellectual freedom, and support a political utopia of equality and ideal living conditions. The Dominican monk’s works pertaining to time and eternity also presented challenges to traditional worldviews and incorporated theology and empiricism.
See also Saint Thomas Aquinas; Giordano Bruno; Eternity; Galileo Galilei; God as Creator; Metaphysics; Nicholas of Cusa (Cusanus)
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