Bernardino Telesio

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.