Cesare Cremonini (philosopher)

Cesare Cremonini (philosopher)
Cesare Cremonini
Full name Cesare Cremonini
Born 22 December 1550
Cento (then in the Papal States), Province of Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Died 19 July 1631
Padua (then under Republic of Venice rule), Province of Padua, Veneto, Italy
Era Early Modern philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Aristotelianism, Averroism, Scholasticism
Main interests Metaphysics (esp. nature of the human soul), Astronomy, Medicine
Notable ideas Mortality of the soul, Separation of reason and faith

Cesare Cremonini, sometimes Cesare Cremonino (22 December 1550[1] – 19 July 1631), was an Italian professor of natural philosophy, working rationalism (against revelation) and Aristotelian materialism (against the dualist immortality of the soul) inside scholasticism. He signed his Latin texts Cæsar Cremoninus[2][3] (and its genitive form Cæsaris Cremonini at the start of some titles), or Cæsar Cremonius.[4][5]

Considered one of the greatest philosophers in his time, patronized by Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, corresponding with kings and princes who had his portrait, paid twice the salary of Galileo Galilei, he is now more remembered as an infamous side actor of the Galileo affair, being one of the two scholars who refused to look through Galileo's telescope[2]. Galileo used him as the main prototype for the character Simplicio in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.



Cesare Cremonini was born in Cento in the then Papal States. He was a professor of natural philosophy for about 60 years:

He taught the doctrines of Aristotle, especially as interpreted by Alexander of Aphrodisias and Averroes.

He was so popular in his time that most kings and princes had his portrait[9] and corresponded with him, sometimes consulting him about private and public affairs.[10] At Padua, his salary was twice that of Galileo. He was especially popular among the French intellectuals who called him "le Cremonin" (the Cremonin); even a remote writer such as Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac mentioned him as "le grand Cremonin" (the great Cremonin) in his Lettres.[11]

Cremonini and Galileo

At Padua, Cremonini was both a rival and a friend of his colleague Galileo (who taught geometry, mechanics, and astronomy there from 1592 to 1610).

When Galileo claimed he had discovered mountains on the Moon, Cremonini was one of the scholars who sternly refused to even check through the telescope, alleging that Aristotle had definitely proved that the Moon could only be a perfect sphere. Later, Galileo used Cremonini as the main prototype for the character Simplicio in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.

But when Galileo was about to move, Cremonini warned him that moving from Venice-ruled Padua to Tuscany would bring him under the jurisdiction of the Roman Inquisition.

Cremonini and the Inquisition

Following up on the controversy opened in 1516 by Pietro Pomponazzi and continued by Jacopo Zabarella (his predecessors in the chair), Cremonini too taught that reason alone cannot demonstrate the immortality of the soul - his blind adherence to Aristotle implying that he believed in the mortality of the soul. After a paper he wrote about the Jesuits, and public statements he made in favor of laic teachers, the Jesuits in Venice accused him of materialism, then relayed their grievances to Rome. He was prosecuted by the Inquisition for atheism and the Averroist heresy of "double truth", and ordered to refute his claims: as was his manner, Cremonini gently refused to retract himself, sheltering himself behind Aristotle's authority, and because Padua was then under the tolerant Venetian rule, he was kept out of reach of a full trial. (In 1611,[12] the Inquisition would check their proceedings against Cremonini in search of ammunition against his friend Galileo.)

As for the accusations, and beyond Cremonini's teachings: indeed his personal motto was "Intus ut libet, foris ut moris est"[13] (Latin for "In private think what you wish, in public behave as is the custom"), which was taken by humanists as meaning that a scientific thinker could hold one set of opinions as a philosopher, and another set as a Christian; it was also adopted by European Libertines (brought back to France by his student and confidant Gabriel Naudé). After his death, Cremonini had his tombstone engraved with "Cæsar Cremoninus hic totus jacet" (Latin for "Here lies all of Cremonini"), implying that no soul survived.

His student Naudé (who had been his confidant for three months) qualified most of his Italian teachers as "Atheists"[14] and especially Cremonini as a "déniaisé" ("one who has been wised up, unfoolish, devirginized", the Libertines' word for unbelievers); he added to his friends, translated, "The Cremonin, Professor of Philosophy in Padua, confessed to a few choice Friends of his that he believed neither in God, nor in Devil, nor in the immortality of the soul: yet he was careful that his manservant was a good Catholic, for fear he said, should he believe in nothing, that he may one morning cut my throat in my bed".[15] Later, Pierre Bayle pointed out that Cremonini did not believe in the immortality of the soul (in the "Crémonin" article of his Historical and Critical Dictionary). Gottfried Leibniz, in his 1710 Theodicy, dealing with the Averroists, who "declared that man's soul is, according to philosophy, mortal, while they protested their acquiescence in Christian theology, which declares the soul's immortality", says "that very sect of the Averroists survived as a school. It is thought that Caesar Cremoninus, a philosopher famous in his time, was one of its mainstays".[16] Pierre Larousse, in his opinionated Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, stated Cremonini was not a Christian.

Death and legacy

When he died in 1631 (during the Paduan outbreak of the Italian Plague of 1629-1631), more than 400 students were working with him. His previous students included, alphabetically:

  • Theophilos Corydalleus, graduated 1613, a Greek philosopher, had a tremendous influence in the Greek-speaking world during the 17th and 18th centuries
  • William Harvey, graduated 1602, an English doctor who was the first to correctly describe the circulation of the blood
  • Joachim Jung, graduated 1619, a German mathematician and naturalist popularized by John Ray
  • Ioannis Kottounios, an eminent Greek scholar and his successor to the chair of philosophy at Padua
  • Giusto Lipsio, an Italian philosopher
  • Gabriel Naudé, in 1625-27, a French scholar and Cardinal Mazarin's librarian
  • Guy Patin, a French doctor, headmaster of the School of Medicine in Paris
  • Antonio Rocco, an Italian philosophy teacher and libertine writer
  • Corfitz Ulfeldt, in 1628-29, a famous Danish statesman and traitor
  • Flemming Ulfeldt, also in 1628–29, a Danish statesman and military leader, younger brother of Corfitz

He was buried in the Benedictine monastery of St. Justina of Padua (to which he also willed his possessions). His name has been given to several streets ("via Cesare Cremonini" in Cento, "via Cesare Cremonino" in Padua) and an institute ("Istituto Magistrale Cesare Cremonini" in Cento).


Concise bibliography

Below are his main books (many of them including separate treatises), listing only their most usual abridged titles:

  • 1596: Explanatio proœmii librorum Aristotelis De physico auditu
  • 1605: De formis elementorum
  • 1611: De Anima (student transcript of a Cremonini lecture)
  • 1613: Disputatio de cœlo
  • 1616: De quinta cœli substantia (second series of De cœlo)
  • 1626: De calido innato (reprinted in 1634)
  • 1627: De origine et principatu membrorum
  • 163?: De semine (printed or reprinted in 1634)
    --- Posthumous:
  • 1634: De calido innato et semine (expanding 1626 with 163?)
  • 1644: De sensibus et facultate appetitiva
  • 1663: Dialectica

(Not included are poems and other personal texts.)

Extended bibliography

Below are his main books (with usual short titles, original full titles, and indication of some variants or misspellings commonly found in literature). As was the practice of the time, many of them are made of opuscules, separate treatises grouped in a single binding. (Please note that Latin title spelling can vary depending on their grammatical position in a sentence, such as a "tractatus" becoming a "tractatum" in the accusative case when inside a longer title.)

  • 1596: Explanatio proœmii librorum Aristotelis De physico auditu [1+20+22+43+1 folios[17]] (Explanatio proœmii librorum Aristotelis De physico auditu cum introductione ad naturalem Aristotelis philosophiam, continente tractatum de pædia, descriptionemque universæ naturalis Aristoteliæ philosophiæ, quibus adjuncta est præfatio in libros De physico auditu. Ad serenissimum principem Alphonsum II Estensem Ferrariæ ducem augustissimum) also ("Explanatio proœmii librorum Aristotelis De physico auditu, et in eosdem Præfatio, una cum Tractatu de Pædia, seu, Introductione ad philosophiam naturalem Aristotelis."[18]) (ed. Melchiorre Novello as "Melchiorem Novellum") - Padua: Novellum
    • "Tractatus de pædia" alias "De pædia Aristotelis" or sometimes "De pœdia Aristotelis" (also as "Descriptio universæ naturalis Aristoteliæ philosophiæ", or erroneously "Diatyposis universæ naturalis aristotelicæ philosophiæ")
    • "Introductio ad naturalem Aristotelis philosophiam" (sometimes "Introductio ad naturalem Aristotelis philosophiam")
    • "Explanatio proœmii librorum Aristotelis De physico auditu" (sometimes "Explanatio proœmii librorum De physico auditu")
  • 1605: De formis elementorum (Disputatio De formis quatuor corporum simplicium quæ vocantur elementa) - Venice
  • 1611: De Anima (De Anima lectiones 31, opiniones antiquorum de anima lect. 17) - student transcript of a Cremonini lecture
  • 1613: Disputatio de cœlo (Disputatio de cœlo : in tres partes divisa, de natura cœli, de motu cœli, de motoribus cœli abstractis. Adjecta est Apologia dictorum Aristotelis, de via lactea, et de facie in orbe lunæ) - Venice: Thomam Balionum
    • "De cœlo"
      • "De natura cœli"
      • "De motu cœli"
      • "De motoribus cœli abstractis"
    • "De via lactea"
    • "De facie in orbe lunæ"
  • 1616: De quinta cœli substantia (Apologia dictorum Aristotelis, de quinta cœli substantia adversus Xenarcum, Joannem Grammaticum, et alios) - Venice: Meiettum (second series of De cœlo)
  • 1626: De calido innato (Apologia dictorum Aristotelis De calido innato adversus Galenum) - Venice: Deuchiniana (reprinted in 1634)
  • 1627: De origine et principatu membrorum (Apologia dictorum Aristotelis De origine et Principatu membrorum adversus Galenum) - Venice: Hieronymum Piutum
    • "De origine"
    • "De principatu membrorum"
  • 163?: De semine (Expositio in digressionem Averrhois de semine contra Galenum pro Aristotele)[19] - (printed or reprinted in 1634)
    --- Posthumous:
  • 1634: De calido innato et semine (Tractatus de calido innato, et semine, pro Aristotele adversus Galenum) - Leiden: Elzevir (Lugduni-Batavorum) (expanding 1626 with 163?)
    • "De calido innato"
    • "De semine" (Apologia dictorum Aristotelis De Semine)
  • 1644: De sensibus et facultate appetitiva (Tractatus tres : primus est de sensibus externis, secundus de sensibus internis, tertius de facultate appetitiva. Opuscula haec revidit Troylus Lancetta auctoris discipulus, et adnotatiotes confecit in margine) also (Tractatus III : de sensibus externis, de sensibus internis, de facultate appetitiva) (ed. Troilo Lancetta, as "Troilus Lancetta" or "Troilo de Lancettis"), Venice: Guerilios
    • "De sensibus externis"
    • "De sensibus internis"
    • "De facultate appetitiva"
  • 1663: Dialectica (Dialectica, Logica sive dialectica) (ed. Troilo Lancetta, as "Troilus Lancetta" or "Troilo de Lancettis") (sometimes "Dialecticum opus posthumum") - Venice: Guerilios

(Not included are poems and other personal texts.)


Dictionaries and encyclopedias
  • Léopold Mabilleau: Étude historique sur la philosophie de la Renaissance en Italie, Paris: Hachette, 1881
  • J.-Roger Charbonnel: La pensée italienne au XVIe siècle et le courant libertin, Paris: Champion, 1919
  • David Wootton: "Unbelief in Early Modern Europe", History Workshop Journal, No. 20, 1985, pages 83–101 : Averroes, Pomponazzi, Cremonini
Cremonini and Galileo
  • Evan R. Soulé, Jr.: "The Energy Machine of Joseph Newman", Discover Magazine, May 1987, online version : telescope incident account
  • Thomas Lessl: "The Galileo Legend", New Oxford Review, June 2000, pp. 27–33, online at CatholicEducation.org : telescope incident note
  • Paul Newall: "The Galileo Affair", 2005, online at Galilean-Library.org : telescope incident note (with typo "Cremoni")
  • W.R. Laird: "Venetischer Aristotelismus im Ende der aristotelischen Welt: Aspekte der Welt und des Denkens des Cesare Cremonini (1550-1631)(Review)" in Renaissance Quarterly, 1999, online excerpt at Amazon.com or excerpt at FindArticles.com
  • Stephen Mason: "Galileo's Scientific Discoveries, Cosmological Confrontations, and the Aftermath", in History of science, volume 40, December 2002, pp. 382–383 (article pp. 6–7), PDF version online : salary, advices to Galileo
  • Galileo Galilei, Andrea Frova, Mariapiera Marenzana: Thus Spoke Galileo, Oxford University Press, 2006 (translated from a 1998 book), ISBN 0198566255, page 9 : Inquisition


  1. ^ Birth in 1550 is by far the most common date, but sometimes 1552 is found (inferred by some from the assertion that he started teaching at age 21 in 1573, see Pierre Bayle or [1]). Thus, some sources will say "ca. 1550", or "1550 or 1552".
  2. ^ "Cæsar Cremoninus", ancient illustration
  3. ^ "Caesar Cremoninus", International Catalogue of Mediaeval Scientific Manuscripts, Munich University
  4. ^ "Cæsar Cremonius", ancient illustration
  5. ^ "Cæsar Cremonius", Manuscripts Catalogue of Italian litterati, British Library
  6. ^ Short bio of Cremonini on the Cento site
  7. ^ Some sources say 1590, possibly a wrong inference from his tenure ending in 1590 at Ferrara.
  8. ^ Some sources say 1629, possibly because the Italian Plague of 1629-1631 perturbed or stopped lessons, but it's not been sourced.
  9. ^ Pierre Bayle, page 224
  10. ^ Encyclopædia Universalis
  11. ^ Pierre Bayle, page 224, note C
  12. ^ May 1611 entry in the online Galileo Timeline
  13. ^ John Addington Symonds: Renaissance in Italy, Volume 1, 1887, footnote 11, online version
  14. ^ Michel Jeanneret: "L'Italie, ferment de liberté", in Atti dei convegni lincei, La Cultura letteraria italiana e l'identità europea (2001), Roma: Accad. Nazionale dei Lincei, 2002, pp.183-193 (in French) online quoting René Pintard quoting Gabriel Naudé
  15. ^ Sophie Houdard: "De l'ennemi public aux amitiés particulières. Quelques hypothèses sur le rôle du Diable (15e-17e siècles)", in Raisons politiques n° 5, Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2002/1, ISBN 2724629329, pp. 9-27 (in French) online quoting René Pintard quoting Naudé
  16. ^ Gottfried Leibniz: Theodicy , 1710, Open Court Publishing Company, Peru, Illinois: 1951 translation by E.M. Huggard, ISBN 0-87548-437-9, page 81 online
  17. ^ The table of content of this volume is disputed. Some see it as two treatises, others as three with divergences about which is the middle one. The breakdown from Léopold Mabilleau is used here.
  18. ^ British Museum Dept. of Printed Books, Henry Ellis, Henry Hervey Baber: Librorum impressorum qui in Museo britannico adservantur catalogus, II. pars I. C, 1814, article "Cremoninus, Cæsar" online
  19. ^ According to Léopold Mabilleau, page 70 and note page 76 (reused identically in J.-Roger Charbonnel) who conflates the Digressionem paper and the text added to the 1634 reprint. Mabilleau says "1624" but it looks like a typo for the 1634 edition.

External links

Texts of Cremonini

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