Pomponazzi, Pietro

Pomponazzi, Pietro

(pyĕ`trō pōmpōnät`tsē), 1462–1525, Italian philosopher, b. Mantua. He was a professor at Padua, Ferrara, and Bologna. Pomponazzi aroused great interest in intellectual circles when he questioned St. Thomas Aquinas's interpretation of Aristotle. In his De immortalitate animae (1516), Pomponazzi argued that evidence suggests that the soul is mortal; its immortality, therefore, must be accepted as an article of faith. His naturalist position is developed in De incantationibus (1520), in which he stressed the evolution of man and of nature. He sought to reconcile this position with the dogmas of the church by distinguishing between faith and knowledge and by asserting that what is true in theology may not be true in philosophy.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pomponazzi, Pietro


Born Sept. 16, 1462, in Mantua; died May 18, 1525, in Bologna. Italian philosopher. Leading representative of Renaissance Aristotelianism.

Pomponazzi studied philosophy and medicine in Padua. He was a professor at the universities of Padua (1495–1509), Ferrara and Bologna (from 1512).

Taking the theory of double truth as his point of departure, Pomponazzi argued in the treatise On the Immortality of the Soul (1516) that it is impossible to provide a rational proof for the immortality of the human soul, which, in his opinion, is a truth of religious revelation. He criticized the teachings of ibn Rushd (Averroës) and Thomas Aquinas on the soul, pointing out that these teachings are not based on the data of “natural reason” or the philosophy of Aristotle. Developing this point of view in ethics, Pomponazzi asserted that virtue in itself is man’s natural reward and the reason for man’s “dignity.” Vice is man’s natural punishment. Pomponazzi’s On the Immortality of the Soul gave rise to heated controversies with the representatives of orthodox Thomism.

In the treatise On the Natural Causes of Phenomena, or On Incantations (1520; published 1556), Pomponazzi refuted the belief in miracles and witchcraft and tried to explain mysterious phenomena in terms of natural causes. In the treatise On Fate, Free Will, and Predestination (1520, published 1567) he defended a conception of fate that was similar to the teachings of Stoicism. Pomponazzi had a considerable influence on the development of Western European freethinking of the 16th and 17th centuries.


Tractatus acutissimi…. Venice, 1525.
Opera omnia. Basel, 1567.
Tractatus de immortalitate animae. Bologna, 1954.
Libri quinque de fato, de libero arbitrio et de praedestinatione. Lugano, 1957.


Gorfunkel’, A. Kh. “Dve pravdy P’etro Pomponatstsi.” In the collection Srednie veka, fasc. 36. Moscow, 1973. Pages 109–28.
Florentino, F. Pietro Pomponazzi…. Florence, 1868.
Nardi, B. Studi su Pietro Pomponazzi. Florence, 1965.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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