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Pomponatius here considers the mortality of the soul as philosophically proved. The eight difficulties of the doctrine are the commonest general arguments for immortality; and these arguments Pomponatius refutes no more on the Scholastic method, but by sound common sense and by moral considerations. Among these difficulties the fourth runs thus : Since all religions ("omnes leges”) maintain immortality, then if there is really no such thing, the whole world is deluded. To this, however, the answer is: That almost every one is deluded by religion must be admitted ; but there is no particular misfortune in that. For as there are three laws—those of Moses, Christ, and Mohammed, they are either all three false, and then the whole world is deluded-or two at least are false, and then the majority are deluded. We must know, however, that according to Plato and Aristotle, the legislator (“politicus ”) is a physician of the soul, and as the legislator is more concerned to make men virtuous than to make them enlightened, he must adapt himself to their different natures. The less noble require rewards and punishments. But some cannot be kept in check by these, and it is for them that immortality has been invented. As the physician says what is not true,-as the nurse allures the child to many things of which it cannot as yet understand the true reason: so acts the founder of a religion, and is completely justified in so acting, his final end being regarded as a purely political one.
We must not forget that this view was very widely held among the upper classes in Italy, and especially among practical statesmen. Thus Macchiavelli speaks in his Discourses on Livy : 49 "The princes of a republic or a kingdom must maintain the pillars of the religion they hold. If this is done, it will be an easy thing for them to keep their state religious, and therefore in prosperity and unity. And everything that favours their interests, even
49 Comp. Macchiavelli, Erörter, überg. von Dr. Grutzmacher, Berlin, über d. Erste Decade des T. Livius, 1871, S. 41.
although they hold it to be false, they must favour and assist, and must do so all the more, the more prudent and politic they are. And as this conduct of the wise has been observed, the belief in miracles has arisen, which are exalted by religion, although they are equally false, because the prudent magnify them, no matter what their origin may have been, and then the respect paid to them by these men secures them universal belief.” Thus Leo X. may have very well said within himself, when preparing to sit in judgment on Pomponatius's book : “The man is quite right, if only it would make no scandal !”
To the third objection, that if our souls were mortal there could be no just ruler of the world, Pomponatius replies: “The true reward of virtue is virtue itself, which makes man happy; for human nature can have nothing higher than virtue, since it alone makes man secure and free from all disturbances. In the virtuous man all is in harmony; he has nothing to fear or hope, and remains unmoved in fortune or misfortune. To the vicious man vice itself is punishment. As Aristotle shows in the seventh book of the Ethics, to the vicious man everything is spoiled. He trusts nobody; he has no rest, waking or sleeping; and leads, in tortures of soul and body, such a miserable life, that no wise man, however poor and weak he may be, would choose the life of a tyrant or a vicious aristocrat."
Spiritual apparitions are explained by Pomponatius to be the delusions of the excited fancy or the deceptions of priests. The possessed' are sick (Object. 5 and 6). At the same time, he admits a residuum of these appearances, and refers them to the influence of good and evil spirits, or to astrological causes. Belief in astrology was indissolubly bound up with the Averroistic rationalism.
In conclusion, Pomponatius protests with great energy against those persons (Object. 8) who maintain that vicious and guilty men commonly deny the immortality of the soul, while good and upright men believe it. On the contrary, he says, it is quite obvious that many vicious persons believe in immortality, and at the same time allow themselves to be carried away by their passions, while many righteous and noble men have held the soul to be mortal. Among these he reckons Homer and Simonides, Hippokrates and Galen, Alexander of Aphrodisias and the great Arabian philosophers; finally, of our own countrymen ('ex nostratibus,' here we see, even in the Scholastic, the spirit of the renascence !), Pliny and Seneca.
In a similar spirit Pomponatius wrote of the freedom of the will, and boldly set forth its inconsistencies. Here, in fact, he criticises the Christian idea of God as he acutely tracks out and exposes the contradiction between the doctrine of the omnipotence, omniscience, and goodness of God, and the responsibility of man. In a special treatise, moreover, Pomponatius attacked the belief in miracles, where it is indeed true that we must also take astrological influences, as natural and actual facts, as part of our bargain. Thus it is genuinely Arabian, for example, when he refers the gift of prophecy, to the influence of the stars and to a mysterious communion with unknown spirits.50 On the other hand, the efficacy of relics depends upon the imagination of the credulous, and would be just as great if the relics were the bones of a dog.
There has been some controversy whether, in regard to these views of Pomponatius, his submission to the Catholic faith was more than a mere form. Such questions are, it is very true, in many similar cases extremely difficult to decide, since we are in no way justified in applying to them the standard of our own time. The immense respect for the Church-increased by so many a stake and autoda-fé—was quite sufficient to shed a holy awe about the creed, even in the minds of the boldest thinkers—an awe which veiled in impenetrable cloud the border-line between word and fact. But in what direction Pomponatius
30 Maywald, Lehre von d. Zweif. Wahrh., S. 45 ff.
made the tongue of the balance incline in this contest between philosophical and theological truth, he has sufficiently indicated for us when he declares the philosophers alone to be the gods of the earth, and as far removed from all other men, of whatever condition, as real men are from painted men!
This equivocal character of the relation between faith and knowledge is in many ways a characteristic and constant feature of the period of transition to the modern freedom of thought. Nor could even the Reformation discard it; and we find it, from Pomponatius and Cardan down to Gassendi and Hobbes, in the most various gradations, from timidly-concealed doubt to conscious irony. In connection with it appears the tendency to an equivocal defence of Christianity, or of individual doctrines, which loves to turn the darker side outwards; and there are instances as well of obvious intention to produce an unfavourable conviction, as in Vanini, as also cases such as that of Mersenne's "Commentary on Genesis,” where it is hard to say what is the precise object.
Any one who finds the essential element of Materialism in its opposition to the belief of the Church, might reckon Pomponatius and his numerous more or less bold successors among the Materialists. If, on the contrary, we seek the beginnings of a positive Materialistic interpretation of nature, we shall fail to find any rudiment of such an interpretation even amongst the most enlightened Scholastics. A single, and an as yet quite unique, instance that may be thus reckoned appeared, indeed, as early as the fourteenth century. In the year 1348, at Paris, Nicolaus de Autricuria 51 was compelled to make recantation of several doctrines, and amongst others, this doctrine, that in the processes of nature there is nothing to be found but the motion of the combination and separation of atoms. Here, then, is a formal Atomist in the very heart
51 Prantl, Gesch. d. Logik im Abendl., iv. S. 2 foll. VOL. I.
of the dominion of the Aristotelian theory of nature. But the same bold spirit ventured also upon a general declaration that we should put Aristotle, and Averroes with him, on one side, and apply ourselves directly to things themselves. Thus Atomism and Empiricism here go hand in hand together!
In reality, the authority of Aristotle had first to be broken before men could attain to direct intercourse with things themselves. While, however, Nicolaus de Autricuria, in complete isolation, so far as we yet know, was making a fruitless effort in this direction, there began about the same time in Italy the prelude to the great struggle between Humanists and Scholastics in Petrarca's violent assaults.
The decisive struggle fell in the fifteenth century, and although, on the whole, the relations to Materialism are somewhat distant - since the great Italian Humanists were for the most part Platonists—it is nevertheless interesting to observe that one of the earliest champions of Humanism, Laurentius Valla, first made himself extensively known by a “Dialogue on Pleasure,” which may be regarded as the first attempt at a vindication of Epikureanism.52 It is true that in the issue the representative in the dialogue of Christian ethic carries off the victory over the Epikurean as over the Stoic; but the Epikurean is treated with a visible liking, which is of great weight in view of the general horror of Epikureanism which was still prevalent. In his attempts to reform logic, Valla was not always fair to the subtleties of Scholasticism, and his own treatment tinges logic very strongly with rhetorical elements. Yet the undertaking was of great historical importance, as the first attempt at a serious criticism which not only attacked the corruptions of Scholasticism, but did not shrink even before the authority of Aristotle himself. Valla is in other provinces also one of the first leaders of awakening criticism. His appearance is in 62 Comp. Lorenzo Valla, ein Vortrag von J. Vahlen. Berlin, 1870, S. 6 foll.