[6.9.3] Giordano Bruno Individual Soul and its Perfection

Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) analyzed the relation between the individual soul and body and its phases:

  • The Universe aggregates human beings, among others.
  • Soul and body are components of a human being.
  • Soul is component of the universal soul.
  • The soul of a living human and the soul of a dead human are its phases.
  • The soul is immortal, incorporeal and indestructible. 

The following OntoUML diagram shows Bruno’s model of the individual soul and its phases:

Bruno’s model of the individual soul and its phases
UniverseThe universe was perfect. It could not be otherwise. It was, essentially, a bodily manifestation of God. Nothing in the universe, however “mean”, was “unconducive to the integrity and perfection of what is excellent”.
There was “nothing that is bad for some things in some place that is not good and optimal for something elsewhere” 
(BOL I.3, 272). Philosophers through the ages had said much the same, as had scholastic authors. “The death of a fly”, wrote Thomas Aquinas (Super Sententiis, lib. 1, d. 39, q. 2 a. 2 co.) “is sustenance for a spider”. Then Thomas added a qualification. Creatures nobler than the irrational animals, for example, human beings, have a will, which, the more closely it cleaved to God, was “the more free from the necessity of natural causes” (ibid.). The cosmos provided the setting for human beings to demonstrate that they merited everlasting salvation. For Bruno, however, they were, no less than anything else, transient modes or “corruptible substances”, in essence, “accidents” of the One Being (BOI I, 664, 729; II, 125, 181–182). They were, as for Spinoza (Ethics, pt IV, prop. 4), part of nature, not a privileged species for which, as Christian doctrine maintained, nature had been created.
HumanBeingSoul and body are components of a human being
BodyHuman beings are understood as combinations of body and soul,component of HumanBeing
SoulHuman beings, understood as combinations of body and soul, perished. But what of their souls? Bruno stated unequivocally that they were individual, that is to say, that they were indestructible,
component of HumanBeing
SoulOfDeadHumanSoul of dead human: Death was an illusion, no more than the dissolution of an ephemeral conjunction of soul and matter.
 We should await mutation serenely, not fear death, as Pythagoras, or more exactly Ovid’s ‘Pythagoras’, had rightly observed (Ovid, Metamorphoses, 15.153–175; BOI I, 665). Bruno’s doctrine of metempsychosis required him to uphold the soul’s immortality, even though, as he noted, he interpreted the doctrine differently from Pythagoras, Pythagoreans, Plato, Platonists, the Sadducees, Scripture (Psalm 36:6 [KJV]), Origen and the Druids. Souls of the dead did not endure a shadowy existence in some other world before reincarnation in the manner that the “Pythagorean” Virgil ( Aeneid, VI.743–751)
and others had described (BOI II, 511–515). That is to say, on the death of one body, a soul did not retain the personality that it had accrued and commandeer another body, like a helmsman changing ships. Rather, we should understand that the soul turned its operative powers to forming a new body, the limitations of
which were determined by Providence (BOL III, 257, 429–430) 
subkind of Soul
SoulOfLivingHumanThe of soul living humansubkind of Soul
UniversalSoulHow could an individual soul endowed with human body, one that encouraged the development of its rational and intellectual potential, ensure a prosperous reincarnation? By turning, as many before Bruno had urged, from the world of sense data to the intelligible principles underlying it. From sensibilia, the soul composed intelligibilia by virtue of the intelligible light of the Universal [Soul] (Intellect), in which all souls, as indeed all other things to some degree (see Section 5), participated.component of Soul
Imortal; Incorporeal; IndestructibileThe soul is imortal, incorporeal, indestructibile


  • Knox, Dilwyn, “Giordano Bruno“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

First published: 2023/2/28

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