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Francesco Patrizi, for whom professorships in Platonic philosophy had been founded in Ferrara (1578) and Rome (1592), and the subsequent suppression of these positions by Robert Bellarmine who concluded that Platonism was more dangerous to Christianity than Aristotelianism.12

Another scientific authority brought to the fore by the humanist movement was Lucretius, whose De rerum natura presented the Epicurean theory that the natural world is formed by the random movement and coalescence of atoms. Although Epicureanism continued to be associated with immorality and impiety in the minds of many, Lucretius found a Christianizing champion in the French Oratorian Pierre Gassendi (i592-i655). Against Lucretius, Gassendi maintained that atoms were divinely created and endowed with motion by God and introduced angels and rational souls to complement the materialistic structure of the world. Gassendi concluded that his system was more pious than Aristotle's, because, among other virtues, it could account better for the transformation involved in the eucharist.13 Although Gassendi's particular type of atomism did not find many followers, his arguments smoothed the way for the acceptance of Descartes' mechanical philosophy, which, despite differences on various specifics, also rested on the assumption that the world can be explained as particles of matter in motion.

The Stoics appealed to Justus Lipsius, who applied them not only to political but also to natural philosophy, again with the claim that the results were more pious than Aristotelianism.14 The Pre-Socratic philosophers, known for their naturalism, were also used as the basis for 'newphilosophies' which proclaimed their superior piety. For example Bernardino Telesio (1509-88) explained the natural world as the interaction between the two principles ofhot and cold and Christianized his system by introducing a universal spirit of divine origin which infused the world. Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639), a disciple of Telesio, carried the idea of the world-spirit to a pansensist extreme of envisioning the whole universe as a living animal in which God was omnipresent and immanent. Nature was thus full of correspondences and divine messages which the natural philosopher could interpret, especially through astrology. But neither of these claims to piety seemed convincing to the post-Tridentine church: Telesio's works were condemned posthumously in 1593 and Campanella spent most of thirty years in Italian jails and fled to France after his release in 1634.15

12 Firpo, 'The flowering and withering of speculative philosophy', p. 278.

13 Osler, 'Baptizing Epicurean atomism'.

14 Barker, 'Stoic contributions to early modern science'.

15 On these and other anti-Aristotelian philosophers, see Kristeller, Eight philosophers of the Italian Renaissance.

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