Threat of Giordano Bruno
Giordano Bruno is one of many natural philosophers of the sixteenth century that posed a major threat to his contemporaries and was thus executed for heresy. Bruno made his most controversial claims in third dialogue of The Ash Wednesday supper. To understand why his claims were so controversial and why his contemporiries viewed him as a threat, it is useful to examine the role of natural philosophy in European society. Through his discussion on the purpose of knowledge and natural philosophy in the third part of The Scientific Revolution, Steven Shapin tells us explicitly why natural philosophers like Bruno were viewed as a threat by their contemporaries:
The permanent crisis of European order was, then, the general backdrop to debates over natural knowledge and its relations to state power and social order…If natural philosophy remained the exclusive concern of professional scholars, there would be no particular reason to suggest that its contentiousness required urgent remedy… Yet interest in natural knowledge was never the sole prerogative of university scholars… (Shapin 125).
By examining the assertions that Bruno makes in the third dialogue of The Ash Wednesday supper in light of Steven Shapin’s discussion on political implications of natural philosophy, one can three reasons why Bruno was seen as a major threat to his contemporaries: he discredited Aristotelian view of the universe, he devolved the power and responsibility of understanding nature from state leaders to the individuals, his explanations deemphasized the role of god as a primary and final cause.
As Steven Chapin suggests in his discussion on the purposes of knowledge, natural philosophy of Ancient Greeks and Romans existed harmoniously with church doctrine and the teachings of the scriptures. However, he does point out that, “… there were a number of quite specific problems for the relations between the views of some natural philosopher and the interests of some...