Giordano Filippo Bruno

Bruno, Giordano Filippo


Born 1548 in Nola; died Feb. 17, 1600, in Rome. Italian philosopher and poet; representative of pantheism.

Persecuted by the clergy for his views, Bruno left Italy and lived in France, England, and Germany. When he returned to Italy in 1592, he was charged with heresy and freethinking, and after eight years’ imprisonment he was burned at the stake. (For trial documents, see Voprosy istorii religii i ateizma, vol. 1, 1950; vol. 6, 1958.)

In the philosophy of Bruno the ideas of Neoplatonism—especially the notions of first cause and of the world soul as the moving principle of the universe, leading Bruno to hylozoism—are intertwined with a strong influence from the views of the materialists of antiquity and the Pythagoreans. Bruno’s formulation of a pantheistic philosophy of nature, which was opposed to scholastic Aristotelianism, was in many respects made possible by his acquaintance with the philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa. From him Bruno also got the idea of “negative theology,” which proceeds from the impossibility of defining god in positive terms. From these sources Bruno considered the task of philosophy to be not the knowledge of a supernatural god but of nature, which is “god in things.” He developed the heliocentric theory of Copernicus, which had a great influence on him, and expressed ideas about the infinity of nature and the infinite plurality of worlds in the universe (On Infinity, the Universe, and the Worlds, 1584; see Dialogues, 1949). He affirmed the physical homogeneity of the world in his teaching of the five elements—that is, earth, water, fire, air, and ether—of which all bodies consist. The notion of a single infinite simple substance, out of which the plurality of things originates, is connected in Bruno’s philosophy to the idea of the inner affinity and coincidence of opposites (On Cause, the Principle, and the One, 1584). In infinity the straight and the curved, the center and the periphery, form and matter, and so on are identical and coincide. The basic unity of being is the monad, in the activity of which merge the corporeal and the spiritual, the object and subject. The supreme substance is the “monad of monads,” or god; as a whole it is present in each particular thing—“all in all.”

These ideas exerted great influence on the development of the philosophy of the modern era; the idea of the one substance and its relation to individual things was elaborated by Spinoza, the idea of the monads by Leibniz, the idea of the unity of all being and the “coincidence of opposites” in the dialectics of F. Schelling and G. Hegel. Thus, Bruno’s philosophy became the connecting link between the medieval philosophical systems and the philosophical concepts of modern times.


In his cosmology Bruno proposed several hypotheses which, in advance of his time, have been verified only by later astronomic discoveries, such as the presence of other planets within our solar system, unknown at his time; the rotation of the sun and the stars around an axis (On the Unmeasurable and the Innumerable, 1591); the existence in the universe of an innumerable quantity of bodies similar to our sun. Bruno refuted the medieval idea of the opposition of earth to heaven and opposed anthropocentrism, speaking of the possibility that other worlds were inhabited.

As a poet, Bruno belonged to the opponents of classicism. Bruno’s own compositions include the anticlerical satirical poem Noah’s Ark, philosophic sonnets, and the comedy The Candlestick (1582; Russian translation, 1940), in which he broke with the regulations of “academic comedy” and created a free dramatic form that permitted him to give a realistic picture of the life and manners of the Neapolitan street. In this comedy Bruno ridicules pedantry and superstition and with caustic sarcasm comes down on the obtuse and hypocritical amoralism brought about by Catholic reaction.



Opera latine …, vols. 1-3. Naples, 1879-91.
Opere italiane, 2nd ed., vols. 1-3. Bari, 1925-27.
In Russian translation:
Izgnanie torzhestvuiushchego zveria. St. Petersburg, 1914.
O geroicheskom entuziazme. Moscow, 1953.


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