Scienza, Tecnica, Politica: Il Problema del Metodo nel Pensiero di Jacopo Aconcio

Leonesi, Elisa (2009) Scienza, Tecnica, Politica: Il Problema del Metodo nel Pensiero di Jacopo Aconcio, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Europa e Americhe: costituzioni, dottrine e istituzioni politiche, 21 Ciclo.
Documenti full-text disponibili:
[img] Documento PDF (Italiano) - Accesso riservato - Richiede un lettore di PDF come Xpdf o Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (12MB)


The aim of this PhD thesis is to study accurately and in depth the figure and the literary production of the intellectual Jacopo Aconcio. This minor author of the 16th century has long been considered a sort of “enigmatic character”, a profile which results from the work of those who, for many centuries, have left his writing to its fate: a story of constant re-readings and equally incessant oversights. This is why it is necessary to re-read Aconcio’s production in its entirety and to devote to it a monographic study. Previous scholars’ interpretations will obviously be considered, but at the same time an effort will be made to go beyond them through the analysis of both published and manuscript sources, in the attempt to attain a deeper understanding of the figure of this man, who was a Christian, a military and hydraulic engineer and a political philosopher,. The title of the thesis was chosen to emphasise how, throughout the three years of the doctorate, my research concentrated in equal measure and with the same degree of importance on all the reflections and activities of Jacopo Aconcio. My object, in fact, was to establish how and to what extent the methodological thinking of the intellectual found application in, and at the same time guided, his theoretical and practical production. I did not mention in the title the author’s religious thinking, which has always been considered by everyone the most original and interesting element of his production, because religion, from the Reformation onwards, was primarily a political question and thus it was treated by almost all the authors involved in the Protestant movement - Aconcio in the first place. Even the remarks concerning the private, intimate sphere of faith have therefore been analysed in this light: only by acknowledging the centrality of the “problem of politics” in Aconcio’s theories, in fact, is it possible to interpret them correctly. This approach proves the truth of the theoretical premise to my research, that is to say the unity and orderliness of the author’s thought: in every field of knowledge, Aconcio applies the rules of the methodus resolutiva, as a means to achieve knowledge and elaborate models of pacific cohabitation in society. Aconcio’s continuous references to method can make his writing pedant and rather complex, but at the same time they allow for a consistent and valid analysis of different disciplines. I have not considered the fact that most of his reflections appear to our eyes as strongly conditioned by the time in which he lived as a limit. To see in him, as some have done, the forerunner of Descartes’ methodological discourse or, conversely, to judge his religious theories as not very modern, is to force the thought of an author who was first and foremost a Christian man of his own time. Aconcio repeats this himself several times in his writings: he wants to provide individuals with the necessary tools to reach a full-fledged scientific knowledge in the various fields, and also to enable them to seek truth incessantly in the religious domain, which is the duty of every human being. The will to find rules, instruments, effective solutions characterizes the whole of the author’s corpus: Aconcio feels he must look for truth in all the arts, aware as he is that anything can become science as long as it is analysed with method. Nevertheless, he remains a man of his own time, a Christian convinced of the existence of God, creator and governor of the world, to whom people must account for their own actions. To neglect this fact in order to construct a “character”, a generic forerunner, but not participant, of whatever philosophical current, is a dangerous and sidetracking operation. In this study, I have highlighted how Aconcio’s arguments only reveal their full meaning when read in the context in which they were born, without depriving them of their originality but also without charging them with meanings they do not possess. Through a historical-doctrinal approach, I have tried to analyse the complex web of theories and events which constitute the substratum of Aconcio’s reflection, in order to trace the correct relations between texts and contexts. The thesis is therefore organised in six chapters, dedicated respectively to Aconcio’s biography, to the methodological question, to the author’s engineering activity, to his historical knowledge and to his religious thinking, followed by a last section concerning his fortune throughout the centuries. The above-mentioned complexity is determined by the special historical moment in which the author lived. On the one hand, thanks to the new union between science and technique, the 16th century produces discoveries and inventions which make available a previously unthinkable number of notions and lead to a “revolution” in the way of studying and teaching the different subjects, which, by producing a new form of intellectual, involved in politics but also aware of scientific-technological issues, will contribute to the subsequent birth of modern science. On the other, the 16th century is ravaged by religious conflicts, which shatter the unity of the Christian world and generate theological-political disputes which will inform the history of European states for many decades. My aim is to show how Aconcio’s multifarious activity is the conscious fruit of this historical and religious situation, as well as the attempt of an answer to the request of a new kind of engagement on the intellectual’s behalf. Plunged in the discussions around methodus, employed in the most important European courts, involved in the abrupt acceleration of technical-scientific activities, and especially concerned by the radical religious reformation brought on by the Protestant movement, Jacopo Aconcio reflects this complex conjunction in his writings, without lacking in order and consistency, differently from what many scholars assume. The object of this work, therefore, is to highlight the unity of the author’s thought, in which science, technique, faith and politics are woven into a combination which, although it may appear illogical and confused, is actually tidy and methodical, and therefore in agreement with Aconcio’s own intentions and with the specific characters of European culture in the Renaissance. This theory is confirmed by the reading of the Ars muniendorum oppidorum, Aconcio’s only work which had been up till now unavailable. I am persuaded that only a methodical reading of Aconcio’s works, without forgetting nor glorifying any single one, respects the author’s will. From De methodo (1558) onwards, all his writings are summae, guides for the reader who wishes to approach the study of the various disciplines. Undoubtedly, Satan’s Stratagems (1565) is something more, not only because of its length, but because it deals with the author’s main interest: the celebration of doubt and debate as bases on which to build religious tolerance, which is the best method for pacific cohabitation in society. This, however, does not justify the total centrality which the Stratagems have enjoyed for centuries, at the expense of a proper understanding of the author’s will to offer examples of methodological rigour in all sciences. Maybe it is precisely because of the reforming power of Aconcio’s thought that, albeit often forgotten throughout the centuries, he has never ceased to reappear and continues to draw attention, both as a man and as an author. His ideas never stop stimulating the reader’s curiosity and this may ultimately be the best demonstration of their worth, independently from the historical moment in which they come back to the surface.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Leonesi, Elisa
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze politiche e sociali
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Data di discussione
25 Giugno 2009

Altri metadati

Gestione del documento: Visualizza la tesi