Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576), a preeminent natural philosopher, physician and astrologer of the sixteenth century, is known for the great diversity of his intellectual pursuits and published writings. Across much of his work, we find an overriding concern with the dangers of human life, how those dangers might be foreseen, and how their force can be mitigated. This essay begins by asking about foreknowledge of and anxiety about the future in his autobiography, the De propria vita, written at the end of his dramatic life. In particular, I ask about the characterization of foreknowledge there: when Cardano had devoted so much effort to working out method and sense in medicine and astrology, why do the episodes of foreknowledge in his autobiography seem so haphazard and disorienting? I will use this question to consider how Cardano views the limits of human knowledge and the need for divine assistance. I will then focus on his treatise on dreams, the Somniorum Synesiorum libri quatuor, to examine his understanding of nature as an instrument of divine warning. Finally, bringing into consideration key moments from his commentary on Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, I will ask what these insights can tell us about Cardano’s position on human agency in regards to the revolutions and catastrophes that he believes to be decreed by fate.

Shadows of the Thrown Spear: Girolamo Cardano on Anxiety, Dreams, and the Divine in Nature

Jonathan Regier
2023

Abstract

Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576), a preeminent natural philosopher, physician and astrologer of the sixteenth century, is known for the great diversity of his intellectual pursuits and published writings. Across much of his work, we find an overriding concern with the dangers of human life, how those dangers might be foreseen, and how their force can be mitigated. This essay begins by asking about foreknowledge of and anxiety about the future in his autobiography, the De propria vita, written at the end of his dramatic life. In particular, I ask about the characterization of foreknowledge there: when Cardano had devoted so much effort to working out method and sense in medicine and astrology, why do the episodes of foreknowledge in his autobiography seem so haphazard and disorienting? I will use this question to consider how Cardano views the limits of human knowledge and the need for divine assistance. I will then focus on his treatise on dreams, the Somniorum Synesiorum libri quatuor, to examine his understanding of nature as an instrument of divine warning. Finally, bringing into consideration key moments from his commentary on Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, I will ask what these insights can tell us about Cardano’s position on human agency in regards to the revolutions and catastrophes that he believes to be decreed by fate.
Forthcoming 2023
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/5007020
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