Telesio, Bernardino

Telesio, Bernardino

(bĕrnärdē`nō tālā`zyō), 1509–88, Italian philosopher, one of the leaders in the attack on that part of Aristotelian philosophy that had furnished the foundation for scholasticism. With Bruno and Campanella, he opened the way to a new naturalism, deemphasizing theories of metaphysics and urging the importance of scientific knowledge based upon experience and experiment. He was born into a noble family and studied first with a scholarly uncle in Milan. Further study followed at Rome and in Padua. At Naples he lectured and afterward established his Academia Cosentina in the interest of more scientific methods of thought. While he produced many works on science and philosophy, the outstanding achievement is his De natura rerum juxta propria principia [on the nature of things according to their own principles] (1565–86, new ed. 1910–23). In this he regarded matter as a positive reality that has no need to look outside itself for its sufficient explanation. Out of two opposing fundamental forces (the dry-warm and the moist-cold) in conflict, he sought to produce the reason for all forms of life, great and small. These principles, unscientific by modern standards, were derived from early Greek naturalistic philosophy.

Telesio, Bernardino


Born 1509 in Cosenza; died there Oct. 2,1588. Italian natural philosopher of the Renaissance.

Telesio graduated from the University of Padua in 1535. His chief work was On the Nature of Things According to Their Own Principles (1565; nine books in 1586). An opponent of scholastic Aristotelianism, Telesio founded the Academia Telesiana, or Cosentina, in Naples—an academy for the experimental study of nature on the basis of natural laws. Telesio’s natural philosophy is derived from the hylozoism of classical antiquity. According to Telesio, the opposite elements of heat and cold are the chief moving forces, or first principles, acting on all inert matter. The matter of the earth is identical to that of the heavens, but earthly matter is ruled by cold, and heavenly matter by heat. Heat is the source of all organic life as well as of the life spirit—a pure matter existing in animals and in man. In addition, man has an immortal soul, given him by god.

In his theory of knowledge, Telesio elaborated a philosophy based on the principles of sensationalism. He regarded the universal striving for self-preservation as the basis of ethics. With his emphasis on experiential knowledge, Telesio exerted great influence on T. Campanella, G. Bruno, R. Descartes, and F. Bacon.


De rerum natura juxta propria principia, vols. 1–3. Cosenza, 1965–77.
Varii de naturalibus rebus libelli, parts 1–8. Venice, 1590.


Gorfunkel’, A. Kh. “Materializm i bogoslovie v filosofii B. Telezio.” In the collection Ital’ianskoe Vozrozhdenie. [Leningrad] 1966.
Florentino, F. B. Telesio, vols. 1–2. Florence, 1872–74.
Gentile, G. B. Telesio. Bari, 1911.
Troilo, E. B. Telesio. Modena, 1924.
Soleri, G. Telesio. Brescia, 1944.


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