Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lull and Ignatius of Loyola Encounter Muslims

How to Deal with Muslims?
Raymond Lull and Ignatius of Loyola

Final version now available in:  Levy, Ian Christopher, Rita George-Tvrtković, and Donald F. Duclow, eds. Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and Dialogue in the Late Middle Ages. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2014, pp. 160-176

Paul Richard Blum, Loyola University Maryland
As a small contribution to the investigation into the relationship between Christians and Moslems, I should like to exploit two sources that shed light on it from a late medieval and a Renaissance angle. The one is Raymond Lull's Vita coetanea the other Ignatius of Loyola's autobiography, which originally was referred to as Acta P. Ignatii.[1] What is peculiar about the two is that both are non-thematic accounts of the relation of a Christian to Muslims; they are autobiographical narratives about events that occurred before their main career, but dictated late in life; and the narratives are indubitably designed to instruct their followers as they are written in third person, which decreases subjectivity and enhances authority. I tend to read the two accounts as deliberate messages about what was important, to the effect that all acta may be read as agenda et vitanda, because the narrated facts acquire emblematic meaning. If we keep in mind Ignatius' instruction to visualize the life of Christ (compositio loci), we may as well imagine the episodes of his life for the sake of gaining delight and instruction about our own course of action. Here a quick summary of the two stories:
Raymond Lull (1232–1315) had a Saracen slave who taught him Arabic. One day in 1273, they came to a fight after some anti-Christian slurs from the slave. While the Saracen was in prison Lull was tormented by the thought that he might be obliged to kill his teacher-servant. When the prisoner had hanged himself Lull thanked God for having spared him to soil his hands. In 1522 Ignatius of Loyola encountered a Moor who ridiculed the virginity of St. Mary. Unsure whether or not to go after him, Ignatius let his mule decide, and Ignatius saw it to be God’s will to proceed to Montserrat, instead.
In both cases, it is not the wickedness or ignorance on the side of the Muslims but the weakness of the Christian that drives the conflict. Let us now take a closer look into the biographical and theoretical contexts of both stories in order to see, if there is a pattern that helps conceptualizing the Christian-Muslim relationship.
There is no need to explain further the structure and origin of the Vita coetanea; however, what is worth stressing is the fact that it is a narrative of conversion and illumination. In this emplotment, the slave episode is located after Raymond had completed a peregrination, had accepted not to go to Paris but to return home. Arrived there, he tells us he did three things: dressed himself in the most simple fashion, learned Latin (here rather than in Paris), and "having bought himself a Saracen, he learned Arabic language from him."[2] We gather that his role as a hermit and his study of Latin and of Arabic are one act.
After that follows the famous lacuna of nine years: "Nine years later, it happened that … his Saracen slave blasphemed the name of Christ."[3] It is pointless to speculate what might have happened during those nine years, what needs to be interpreted is that Lull refuses to tell us. The plot says: the upshot of nine years of retirement and study was that the slave spoke up against his master. Since the episode ends with the death of the Slave, one may even read it as the effective obliteration of the content of the nine years of formation.[4] It will be necessary to interpret the content of this blasphemy and that encountered by Ignatius, but that must be postponed for now.
Raymond loses his temper, "nimio zelo motus", and beats the slave.[5] The slave resists. What made him resist? He grew enraged in the same measure as Raymond exceeded what was appropriate. Carolus Bovillus enlarged the motivational syndrome by narrating that the "purchased Saracen feared that Raymond's education might become dangerous for the Mohammedan religion (particularly because he had exacted to be trained in speaking Arabic only for the purpose of preaching)."[6] This may be true, but the narrator focuses on the equivalence of passions. The question evoked is not the intentions of the Muslim or the would-be missionary, but the pent-up zeal on both sides.
Consequently, the Slave plotted to kill his master, shouting "You're dead!" managed to get hold of a sword, attacked and wounded him. But Raymond overcame the attacker.[7] While the athletic Franciscan friar Erhard Wolfram Platzeck relished the prowess and strength of his hero,[8] it appears to be more important that Lull, after so many adventures, still reminds his readers that he had been wounded and that physical violence was needed to stop the assault. Whereas the philosopher remains victorious, physically, he finds himself in a spiritual or moral standoff. Having prevented his household to kill the Muslim and having locked him up, he faced a dilemma:[9] to put him to death would have been severe and harsh, since the culprit was his teacher of Arabic; to release him appeared too dangerous. Obviously the dilemma comes from the very same relationship that had led to the fight, namely that of the slave-owner being subordinate to the slave as teacher; or, the Christian having made himself dependent on the Muslim for the sake of subduing him. (Or any other version to describe this imbalanced relationship.)
If we look at Lull's predicament as a paradigm in a global perspective, we may say: one conundrum of the attitude of the Christian world towards the Muslim world is that any assertion of hegemony depends upon the ability to understand the allegedly lower religion, but any effort to understand the other world creates a kind of coexistence which would be contradictory to end by violence. The mutual dependency appears to be the result of the most elementary attempt at living with the target of mission.
In terms of slave-master relationship we see that the mutual instruction (language traded for Christian education) brings the slave-teacher to hate the master-religion, whereas the master-student is prevented to exercise his power bluntly. Since the slave takes recourse to verbal abuse, the master falls into violence, which only induces the slave to attempt at the master's life. This is the point, when the master gains the upper hand, not only by overwhelming the attacker, but more importantly by putting an end to violence. Now let us see how the story ends.
In his "perplexity" Raymond retires to praying to God. In a classic mystical pattern, he is "sad" about God's persistent silence. Returning home, he made a detour to the prison cell, to see after captive, and found that his slave had hanged himself with the very "rope with which he had been bound."[10] Obviously, the poor man had no other tool for his suicide, one could remark flippantly. Why should Lull remember that detail after forty years? In a symbolic reading, the Muslim was put to death by his Christian hosts and yet he agreed to it and participated in his defeat actively. In this sense, he took the weapon out of his master's hand (as the master had extorted the sword) and executed himself. We moderns would, of course, expect that Lull would mourn the loss of his teacher of Arabic. Instead, we learn that Lull "joyfully gave thanks to God, not only for keeping his hands innocent (innoxias) of the death of this Saracen but also for freeing him from that terrible perplexity concerning which he had just recently so anxiously asked Him for guidance."[11]
According to Michael Dougherty, it is a pattern of the Vita coetanea that Lull ascribes or even imputes the solution of moral dilemmas to divine intervention;[12] this is consistent with the mystical persona that transpires from the Vita. The solution is external to his actions and yet fulfills his conflicting intentions: the blasphemer and attacker is dead without having soiled the missionary's hands.
The next step in the narrative is the divine inspiration of the Ars major. In a symbolic reading, post hoc is propter hoc. After having retired for nine years to study Latin and Arabic, the Muslim teacher becomes a threat that is removed by divine intervention, thus clearing the way for the intuition of the new method to convert Muslims with rational arguments. What are we supposed to learn from this narrative?
1.       Mission inevitably requires acculturation, immersion in the culture of those who are intentional subjects of conversion.
2.      Familiarity with the world of the others tends to become mutual: the inherent negation of the culture to be converted will be turned against the hegemonically behaving missionaries. The slave sees through the ruses of the master and emulates the master.
3.      The sword of the sermon tends to fall back into the sword of violence. And that is an instantaneous and mutual twist.
4.      Hence follows a predicament of violence and non-violence that cannot be resolved but by external intervention.
5.      Does that not tell us, regarding mission to non-believers: don't even try?

We all know, Lull kept trying, and he advocated continuously and with endurance the usage of both swords.[13] And, indeed, to give up mission would end the dialectics of acquaintance and hostility that is at the heart of the episode. In the same way as only God could have it both ways, namely, leaving Lull innocent and yet kill the attacker, it is also God who commands to try both swords and not only the militant one. In this dialectical reading, the most troubling sub-dilemma is the death of the Saracen if we identify him, as we did, as both the target of mission (manifest in his role as a slave) and the facilitator of the acculturation attempt by Lull (manifest in his role as teacher). Why must the teacher die? The answer may lay in two details: the one that Raymond had no regret for the person to lose his life, and the other, that Raymond quotes him threatening: "You are dead!" The first indicates that this is not a novel about emotions but about the dilemmatic structure of mission. The second says that the converted-to-be religion must "die", disappear from the tribulations of the missionary, then mission is accomplished. But, the divine command remains: maintain your innocence! Whether it is possible to remain innocent while subjugating another culture, is a question that Lull has made patent. His own way was the revelation that there might be a transcultural method of communication, his Lullian art.
Let us now switch to Ignatius of Loyola's encounter with a Moor. This happened in 1522, about 250 years later. As I mentioned, the narrative structure is the same as in Lull: Ignatius is telling, in third person, the story of his life for instructional purposes.[14] Also the situation in the life plot is the same: the saint immediately before his spiritual and intellectual breakthrough. The not so young but newly converted man is on his way to Montserrat. His soul "was still blind, though with great desires to serve [God] as far as its knowledge went."[15] And so with youthful vanity he dreams of great "exploits" in the footsteps of the great saints, unaware that his dreams were nothing but "exterior deeds" devoid of humility, patience, let alone discernment.[16] Even after the event, we are discussing here, Ignatius entertains chivalric phantasies, modeled on the knight-errant Amadis that would later be parodied by Cervantes. And we will have occasion to return to chivalry. The irony that Ignatius followed the knightly path on a mule might have been narrated on purpose.
Ignatius inserts in his narrative about his way to Montserrat the episode when he met a Moor. The two of them, both riding a mule, enter a conversation about Our Lady. The Muslim doubts the possibility that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth, bringing forward "natural reasons", and Ignatius loses the argument. It may be significant that he refers to himself at this point as "the pilgrim": it is not the charisma of a pilgrim to engage in theological and scientific debates. At any rate, he becomes enraged feeling "obliged to stand up for [St. Mary's] honor" and to stab the blasphemer.[17] In a more direct way than Lull, Ignatius finds himself in a dilemma, namely, to murder or to let the Muslim go.
The pilgrim does not pray explicitly, rather, he follows a pattern familiar to him from his beloved chivalric novels: since the Moor was continuing for a while on their common route but soon would turn off the main road, Ignatius decided not to decide and let the mule go on a loose rein, whichever road it would take. Amadis, for instance, in the anonymous novel with that title, had a dream in which his horse with loosened reins would carry him out of troubles.[18]  And early in his career as a knight Don Quijote comes to a crossroads, and undecided where to go, and explicitly imitating the knight-errants, he lets the horse decide (which then chooses to return home).[19]
While employing an emplotment well familiar to his audience, Ignatius reports that God willed to have his mule choose the path that would spare the Muslim's life.[20] After that incident, Ignatius proceeds to Montserrat. Why does he tell this story?
We know that throughout his years of pilgrimage he always wanted to go to Jerusalem, and he only desisted from his plans, when after many frustrations and disappointments, while his still unofficial Society never managed to get a passage to the Holy Land, Christ himself appeared to him at La Storta saying: "In Rome I will be more favorable to you."
Compared with Lull's experience and message, Ignatius' is more simple; but it also simplifies and reduces the problem. For in his narrative, the drive to the Holy Land appears to be a mere impulse, a naïve calling of a descendant of the knightly class. He describes his impulse to imitate the saints as the daydreams of a youth who has not yet realized that the role of a hero and the role of a companion of Jesus are conflicting and incompatible patterns. God and the mule must determine the true calling.
It is obvious that the La Storta event was held to be the key to the Jesuits' mission within the Christian world, almost torn apart by heretics of all brands. Therefore, compared with Lull's narrative, the counterreformation narrative teaches:
1.       Mission in the post-medieval world requires rational discourse.
2.      The other knows as much about the would-be missionary as the missionary about him. Hence a civil discourse is possible, but without result.
3.      The sword of the sermon has turned into that of persuasion, and where that fails, even violence is pointless.
4.      If the missionary is ignorant of the dialectics of violence and non-violence, he should take recourse to external intervention.
5.      Consequently, regarding mission to non-believers: don't even try! Reform your own religious behavior.

[1] Munitz/Endean p. 8.
[2] Vita coetanea n. 11; Bonner, Doctor illuminatus, p.15. The question of symbolism in this phase of Lull's life has been raised by Fernando Domínguez Reboiras, "Idea y estructura de la Vita Raymundi Lulii", Estudios Lulianos 27 (1987), 1-20; 12-13.  
[3] Ibid. p. 16.
[4] Amador Vega, Ramon Llull and the Secret of Life, New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2002, p. 7.
[5] Vita coetanea n. 11; Bonner, Doctor illuminatus, p. 17.
[6] Carolus Bovillus, Vita, in Acta Sanctorum, Junii tomus septimus. Paris/Rome: Palme, 1867, June 30, pp. 613-618; n. 5, cap. 2, p. 616A: "Timensque ideo emptitius Saracenus, qui eum docuerat, ne Raemundi doctrina Mahumenticae legi perniciosa fieret (praesertim cum solius praedicationis causa, Arabici sermonis peritia, ab eo se imbui postulasset) …"
[7] Vita coetanea n. 12; Bonner p. 17.
[8] Platzeck, Das Leben des seligen Raimund Lull, p. 152: "Die Szene zeigt uns einen körpelich noch gewandten Raimund, der dazu über beachtliche Kräfte verfügte."
[9] Carefully analyzed by M. V. Dougherty, Moral Dilemmas in Medieval Thought. From Gracian to Aquinas. Cambridge: University Press, 2011, 94-101.
[10] Vita coetanea n. 13: "inuenit, quod ipse fune, quo ligatus fuit, iugulauerat semet ipsum"; Bonner p. 17.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Dougherty p. 101.
[13] Cf. Blum, Philosophy of Religion in the Renaissance, pp.1-14.
[14] That the words recorded are his is obvious from Concalves da C^amaras, the secretary who received the dictation and describes in detail Ignatius' design and determination. See Munitz/Endean p. 4-7.
[15] Reminiscences n. 14, p. 18.
[16] Ibid. p. 18-19; "exploits" n. 17, p. 20.
[17] Ibid. n. 15, p. 19.
[18] Vasco Lobeira, Amadis of Gaul, vol. 1, London: Smith, 1872, book 2, chapter 3,  p. 266.
[19] Miguel de Cervantes, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, [1605], I 4; read at
[20] Reminiscences n. 16, p. 19.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Contarini's Response to Pomponazzi

Gasparo Contarini's Response to Pomponazzi: A Methodic Antidote to Physicalism of the Mind

Paul Richard Blum (Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore; currently Palacky University Olomouc, Czech Republic)
The printed version is now accessible here.

Abstract: Gasparo Contarini (1483-1542) was the first to write a critique of Pietro Pomponazzi's treatise On the Immortality of the Soul. Pomponazzi, his former teacher, appreciated the critique so much that he published and republished it as the most comprehensive and serious contribution to the debate. This study suggests a close examination of the work because Contarini approaches the issue from a methodological, rather than dogmatic or ideological point of view, showing that the distinction between mortality and immortality is one of seamless transition. Concluding this sketch it is suggested to study Contarini's career as a diplomat and Cardinal as coherent with his philosophical achievements.

It is the purpose of this chapter to underline the importance and character of Gasparo Contarini's contribution[1] to the debate on the immortality of the soul. Contarini, a former student of Pietro Pomponazzi, responded immediately to the publication of Pomponazzi's De immortalitate animae (1516); and the teacher included, anonymously but approvingly, Contarini's critique in his Apologia (1518), which was his own response. Contarini's reply to the apology appeared together with the first critique as books I and II of his De immortalitate animae in the posthumous edition of his works.[2] Although we need to be aware that Contarini is closely responding to Pomponazzi's treatise, it would derail our investigation into an infinite regress if we went into the details of this exchange because it is obvious that Pomponazzi and Contarini were enveloped in the medieval and Renaissance debate about the nature of the human soul and intellect.[3] Therefore, it is methodically convenient to look at Contarini's book as a text in and of itself.
Let us begin with Contarini's statements on the principles of philosophizing that open and close his work. He seems to have identified a fundamental problem of philosophy that marks his disagreement with Pomponazzi and gives occasion to his writing.
1.    The Opening
In his dedicatory letter to Pomponazzi, Contarini exposes at length his wavering between mortality and immortality of the soul. He mentions his university experience in Padua, the major schools of Averroes and Alexander of Aphrodisias, but does not name any of the contemporaries. Within his description of the pro and con of mortality, he issues the principle "nullique assentiendum sit viro philosopho, quod neque per se sit notum; neque efficaci ratione comprobatum." (180E) This is, of course, not just an ephemeral autobiographic remark; rather, he is establishing a philosophical principle: a philosopher, cannot accept anything 'as true which I did not clearly recognize to be so,' either through self-evidence or through rational proof. Why is it necessary to state that? Because the student wants to beat his teacher with the weapons he had received from him: reliance on accessibility of truth and the power of rational argument. Furthermore, in the course of the discussion he will address the problem that had troubled Pomponazzi concerning the truth of faith as it is inevitably connected with the question of immortality. Is there a rift between faith and reason, authority and argument? That is the subtext Contarini is establishing.
For he continues observing that the one party denies immortality, the other claims to have clear rational insight about it (inspicere certis rationibus, 180F) and therefore deserves to be trusted (adhibenda sit fides). On the surface he suggests a solution of practical wisdom: when two people disagree whether they see a person at a distance or not, it is more likely that the one has a weak vision than that the other claims to see what is not there, provided that this one has sound eyes and mind (180G). This only appears to be a pragmatic conclusion with some epistemological merit. For, provided there is no ill will and reasoning comes to a standoff, it is epistemologically sound to suspect the source of variance in the beholder, rather than in the issue at hand. But also looking at it logically, one result outweighs the other, for the positive answer outweighs the negative one. To deny what is there is weaker than to affirm it, for it would require the counterfactuality of not seeing what is there. In the case at hand, not to believe in immortality would be easier (true or not) than to believe in immortality if it were false. In the end, it's a wager, and Contarini will come back to it.
Let us assess what Contarini is avoiding: he is not swerving into skepticism, nor into fideism—both strategies used by Pomponazzi in the final part of his treatise. Not even double truth is an option. Rather, towards the end of the second book, Contarini will refer to the truth of reason and that of faith: it is a relation of enhanced perfection to the effect that faith confirms and makes even more plausible what natural reason has found on its own:
If natural light proves that the soul is immortal but wavers with regard to the state of the souls after death and is unable to adduce anything certain, then it is highly consistent that it is perfected by the supernatural light; and what is perfected does not at all disagree with that which has been initiated by natural light.[4]
So he is not defending 'non-verlapping magisteria' as Stephen Jay Gould would have it.[5] Therefore we may term Contarini's programmatic approach an hermeneutics of plausibility. In the long history of fides quaerens intellectum, or intellectus quaerens fidem, it would be worth investigating whether this is an old strategy or a new twist. It seems to be more than establishing reason as elaborating the praeambula fidei, because—in an atmosphere when fideism was a serious alternative to rationalism—Contarini refuses to separate the truth of revelation from natural knowledge and claims a seamless consistence of both. This will be one of the major messages of this text to the detractors of immortality as we can see from the conclusion of the second book.
2.    The Conclusion
Concluding his response to Pomponazzi , Contarini summarizes the commonality and the divergences of their theories. They agree that the intellect is abstract from matter; that the intellect is one, indivisible, and not determined by place or time; and that understanding lies in the intellect (tanquam in subjecto, 231B; i.e., where it actually takes place) rather than in the body.
They disagree first on the series inferences, made by Contarini, namely that the intellect must be a form, which is an autonomous act (actus, qui per se est) that is imperishable. In these terms it appears contradictory that Pomponazzi admits abstraction but denies immortality (231B). The second point of disagreement is the theory that rational argumentation about the process of sensing and thinking proves that the intellect is a pure form, but that the consequences, namely the state of immortality, is beyond rational investigation.
For Contarini this amounts to denying an antecedent of a scientific proof on the basis of the impossibility to verify its factual consequence with the same epistemological instrument (eodem lumine certificari, 231C). Philosophy proves that the soul is immortal but cannot make any statements about the post-mortal life. In modern parlance, it is impossible to tell what it is like to be immortal. Contarini is stretching the scientific imagination because he implies that science can lead to further fields of investigation that are valid in some way and yet require some kind of transition to a different method or to different sources of verification. Reason leaves itself behind.
In a first approximation we may infer that there is a plurality of investigative fields and resources; and such plurality not only defies 'non-overlapping magisteria' in terms of scientific method but also assumes a seamless transition from one realm of reality to another. It is obvious that non-overlapping sciences cannot defeat each other. But the temptation lies in assuming that contiguous disciplines and heir relevant realities interfere with each other. The reality of the soul is such an area of contiguity and distinction: the material form, the lower powers of the soul, and the immaterial form of the human being—this is how the debate about immortality can be represented, as suggested by Contarini. One could either try to show that the physical reality of the embodied soul encompasses the soul entirely, including the mind. This would be physicalism.[6] Or one could try and convince oneself that the ultimate reality is of spiritual nature, as some Neoplatonists tried to argue, taking recourse to emanation and similar metaphysical forms of thought.[7] That would be animism. Here Contarini intervenes by stating: the fact that the study of the human soul leads to a reality (that of spiritual beings), which cannot be researched in terms of animal psychology, does not refute its finding that the human intellect is immortal, and the impossibility to research immortality from within does not make the human intellect mortal.
Those observations lead to his final remark that "this we take to be true philosophizing; and this philosophy is the perfection of the mind, namely, that which acknowledges its deficiency".[8] Contarini lifts his disagreement with Pomponazzi to the level of philosophical principle. If we want to label the two methods, we can certainly use terms like scientism versus critical philosophy. As Contarini presents his former teacher, Pomponazzi seems to follow the logic of Aristotelian natural philosophy, i.e., some sort of physicalism, whereas Contarini aims at philosophical method and uses the immortality problem as a welcome occasion to move forward into meta-theory. It is always wise to overcome a theoretical impasse by leaving the well-known stakes and claims behind and moving to a level that not only solves the problem but also explains why it has become contentious. This is what Contarini is doing in his opening and closing of his contribution to the debate. In order to overcome physicalism, he elevates the problem to a methodical and meta-theoretical level, which allows him, instead of simply denying physical stances, to show the contiguity of mortal and immortal soul in one consistent theory and reality.
Now it is time to see how he achieves that within this book on the immortality.
3.    Some examples
Contarini's aim is to prove that the human intellect is a form, and an immaterial one that is also immortal. In order to convince his readers he reports the notions of substance and accident, form and matter, generation (coming to be) and perishing; from there they moves on to material forms, to organic composites and their mode of activity. Then he explains motion and operation with the distinction between movement that is induced externally and internal movement (what Aristotle called animate substances) and arrives at that kind of motion which is eternal and (here he reaches the goal of his narrative), being infinite cannot be material (184E). The fruit of this reasoning is this second kind of forms, which are qualified as immaterial and as the principle of motion in material things.
If we feel reminded of lectures in history of philosophy, this might be a good guess. It is worth noting that Contarini refers again and again to "the philosophers" as those who established the notion of immaterial form step by step. He does not argue in the direct sense; rather he prefers a narrative that tells us: immortal souls are a plausible story. This is a rhetorical ploy with a number of effects and implications. For one thing, he can withdraw from their teachings any time, and specifically so, in case doubt about the orthodoxy of this philosophy arises. He also appeals to his primary reader, Pomponazzi, to recall the standards of professional philosophy, which are not idiosyncratic inventions but establish and follow certain rules of argument and terminology. But to my mind, the most important effect of this style of presentation is the distanced perspective on the theory. Referring to 'the philosophers' means inserting an argumentative layer between the argument and the matter at hand. Such an additional level not only allows to disown the subject matter (if need be) but also to take a critical look at the way the argument is coherently constructed and at the procedure that made the theory. At the same time, the whole argument acquires a historicist ring: 'that's why and how we arrived over time at the theory as it is now.' My point is to show that Contarini argues on the level of meta-theory.
The other example comes from the context of the activity of the soul that can be described as striving or desire (appetitus) and manifests itself in free will and choice. Contarini expressly states: "You see, from free choice of the will follows that the human soul is of itself without body and consequently absolutely immortal."[9] His philosophical argument is self-movement. And he refers to Plato who had argued the soul is immortal because it moves itself. Now, with respect to the host of traditional arguments regarding the freedom of will and choice, Contarini steps out of his routine and argues: "Whoever observes himself can see that: One should ask oneself 'who am I', and he will see clearly that one is neither brain, nor heart, nor some bodily part, but something standing above all parts of the body."[10] He claims that self-motivation and immateriality are evident to personal experience and that this argument trumps the historical development of Aristotelianism. He is not shy to proclaim that this argument is the strongest possible that less than any other evidence from the philosophy of nature may be objected (193C). Furthermore, it is of interest for modern philosophy of mind that he expressly distinguishes the mind from brain. He establishes a kind of brain/mind dualism in order to defeat it with self-inspection. Contarini declares the observation of the "Who am I?" to be the key to sound philosophy.
These examples from Contarini's complex treatise suggest that he not only enters the debate where it had matured with Pomponazzi, he also tends to transcend the debate by showing the theoretical 'economy' or 'mechanism' of the current discourse. To enter the debate would mean to plainly 'decide' whether or not the soul is immortal; what he achieves is to convince his readers of the foundations, the pruposes, and the philosophical strategies that are at work. This must have been the reason why Pomponazzi cherished his former student's response as the most comprehensive and acute of all.[11] How much he appreciated this critique of his own philosophy transpires from the fact that Pomponazzi used the same word "accutissimus" for it that even adorned the title of his own collection of tretises.
At this point some remarks on Contarini's personality are in order.
4.    Life and Philosophy
Contarini wrote a small number of other works, philosophical, political, and theological. Most importantly after his treatise on immortality he authored a Compendium on Prima Philosophia,[12] in which he established in short chapters and with little discussion a Neoplatonic system of the world, that is, a world of hierarchical ontology. The final part (liber septimus) reiterates the immateriality and immortality of the human soul based on the continuous gradation of beings from God via the intelligences down to material things.[13] He also wrote specialized treatises on logic, physics, and one on the freedom of the will, which might have been known to Descartes.[14] In a commentary on some letters of St. Paul he explains the doctrine of resurrection in the same pattern of hierarchy as we had seen: his terminology of incarnation and resurrection is that of the doctrine of body and soul. [15]
In this last mentioned work, the Cardinal was speaking, and therefore I want to make a few remarks on Contarini's public career.[16] As a member of a noble family in Venice he was born in 1483 and soon appeared to be gifted and prone to philosophy. As anonymous writer said about him:
Munera non sperno. Pien di philosophia la lingua e'l petto. (No task was too hard, for he always had philosophy on his tongue and in his heart.)[17]
Naturally he entered the service of the Venetian Republic after he had studied at Venice's university, that of Padua. His most important teachers were Marcus Musurus, a Byzantine, for Greek, and Pietro Pomponazzi for Philosophy. As I mentioned at the beginning, when Pomponazzi published Contarini's responses to his treatise on the immortality of the soul, he omitted the name, calling him just "The Contradictor", while at the same time praising his as the most complete critique possible. This is why Contarini remained nameless in the debate on immortality and as a philosopher in his own right.
It was also customary at that time that young noble men joined various clubs and circles with cultural and political agendas. One effect was that he entertained to join a religious order, another that he started to ponder the theology of justification and human works, not much different from Martin Luther at the same time. I don't know enough detail about Contarini's doubts; however, this fact makes it interesting how much Contarini emphasizes the activity and operation of the human mind and the experience of free will. An important experience was his visit in Florence in 1511, where he learned to admire Francesco Cattani da Diaccetto (1466-1522), one of Marsilio Ficino's students.
So, while the young Venetian is working as a diplomat and bureaucrat for his home town, he is personally engaged in religious and philosophical troubles. Therefore he wrote at the same time both his treatise on the immortality of the soul and a book on the duties of bishops, which exists in English translation, a book that set standards of morality and applies them to the public office.[18] The most exemplary bishop of his time, Contarini says, was Pietro Barozzi (1441-1507),[19] the same bishop of Venice who in 1489 had decreed that the theory of the one intellect by Averroes should not be discussed anymore. Of course this decree was futile, since among others Pomponazzi and his student kept debating about Averroism. So we see that Contarini kept combining political, moral, and theoretical agendas.
This was in 1517, a year known for the Lutheran reform. Indeed, in 1521 the Venetian was invited by the Emperor Charles V to the Diet (Reichstag) in Worms which among others debated the causa Luther. Shortly after that he is on a mission to Spain, where he wrote in his spare time the book on First Philosophy, as mentioned, followed by his most read book, at least in the past, on the Venetian government, which was most likely inspired by Thomas More, the author of the Utopia, whom he met in Flanders in 1521.  
During the years that followed he continued his political activities for Venice and also for the Church, which included an appeal to religious concord in his treatise on the Confessio Augustana, so that in 1535 he was made Cardinal. Together with Reginald Pole he was member of a group, called spirituali, with strong sympathy for Luther's doctrine of justification and with more or less heretic movements, but also with a strong conviction as to the authority of the Church. For their irenic attitude both became the leading Church politicians who tried to avoid the secession of the Protestants during the preparations of the Council of Trent (1545-63).
His combining spirituality and politics can be captured in the fact that Contarini made himself a copy of the (yet unedited) Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, having done the exercises personally; he helped writing the foundational document and worked to get the new order approved by Pope Paul III.[20] What he had not achieved with the Germans, he managed with the Basque and Spanish bullheads: he saved them from isolation and heresy and integrated them in the Church.
Therefore, my concluding question of this sketch, which is intended to raise interest in this nameless philosopher, is this: Is any of his attitudes, his spirituality, his politics, his Neoplatonic metaphysics, connected with his specific way of addressing the question of the immortality?

Works cited:
Carnap Rudolf, "Psychologie in physikalischer Sprache", Erkenntnis, 3 (1932/1933), 107-142.
Contarini Gasparo, Opera (Paris: Nivellius, 1571).
Contarini Gasparo, The Office of a Bishop, ed. John Patrick Donnelly (Milwaukee, Marquette, 2002).
Dittrich Fr. (ed.), Regesten und Briefe des Cardinals Gasparo Contarini (1483-1542) (Braunsberg: Huye, 1881).
Fragnito Gigliola, "Gasparo Contarini", in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 28 (Roma: Treccani, 1983), sub voce: .
Fragnito Gigliola, "The Expurgatory Policy of the Church and the Works of Gasparo Contarini", in Heresy, Culture, and Religion in Early Modern Italy: Contexts and Contestations, ed. Ronald K. Delph, Fontaine, Michelle M. Fontaine, and John Jeffries Martin (Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2006), pp. 193-210.
Gleason Elisabeth G. Gasparo Contarini: Venice, Rome, and Reform (Berkely:  University of California Press,  1993).
Gould Stephen Jay, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March 1997) 16-22 (quoted from
Ignatius de Loyoa, Exercitia spiritualia, ed. Iosephus Calveras and Candidus de Dalmases (Rome: Institutum historicum Societatis Iesu, 1969) (Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu, vol. 100).
Janowski Zbigniew, Cartesian Theodicy: Descartes' Quest for Certitude (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2000).
Pomponazzi Pietro, Tractatus acutissimi, utillimi et mere peripatetici (Venice: Scotus, 1525; reprint ed. Francesco Paolo Raimondi Casarano: Eurocart, 1995).

[1] This chapter is a first attempt at highlighting the importance of Contarini. Therefore no attempt at presenting a full account of Contarini's life and thought has been made. On Gasparo  Contarini (1483-1542) see Fragnito Gigliola, "Gasparo Contarini", in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 28 (Roma: Treccani, 1983), sub voce: Gleason Elisabeth G. Gasparo Contarini: Venice, Rome, and Reform (Berkely:  University of California Press,  1993). Fragnito Gigliola, "The Expurgatory Policy of the Church and the Works of Gasparo Contarini", in Heresy, Culture, and Religion in Early Modern Italy: Contexts and Contestations, ed. Ronald K. Delph, Fontaine, Michelle M. Fontaine, and John Jeffries Martin (Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2006), pp. 193-210.
[2] I will refer to the editions in Pomponazzi Pietro, Tractatus acutissimi, utillimi et mere peripatetici (Venice: Scotus, 1525; reprint ed. Francesco Paolo Raimondi Casarano: Eurocart, 1995), fols. 76r-80v; and Contarini Gasparo, Opera (Paris: Nivellius, 1571), pp. 179-231. Plain page references within the ranges of 179-231 will refer to this edition.
[3] For those not familiar with the debate, the question of the immortality of the soul had the following main components:
1.       The soul, according to the Aristotelian tradition, consisted of
a.       the vegetative
b.      the sensitive, and the rational part, whereby
1.       the sensitive and rational parts consisted of sense perception, common sense, imagination and phantasy, reason, and memory
2.       imagination, reason and memory could also be termed intellect
3.       the intellect includes also the will
2.       The intellect is
a.       either eternal before and after birth
b.      or born with a human being and dies with the body
c.       either incorporated in the individual but one and the same for all humans
d.      or created by God with the individual and survives individually after death waiting for reunification at the resurrection
3.       The soul is
a.       one thing together with the intellect – what happens to it at death?
b.      composed of several parts, of which the lower parts (vegetative and sensitive) die away while the upper part of the soul may be immortal
c.       the substantial form of the human being
4.       The human being is an individual thanks to
a.       the body which gives numeric identity
b.      the soul which makes the individual beyond death.
[4] 229C: "Cum ergo lumen naturale probet animam esse immortalem: de statu vero animarum post mortem fluctuet, nihilque certi affere possit, maxime congruum est, ut id lumine naturali perficiatur; neque hoch quod perfectum est, disconvenit ei quod lumine naturali inchoatum est."
[5] Gould Stephen Jay, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March 1997) 16-22: "whatever my private beliefs about souls, science cannot touch such a subject and therefore cannot be threatened by any theological position on such a legitimately and intrinsically religious issue." (Quoted from
[6] I am using the term 'physicalism in the sense of the programmatic attempt at describing and investigating psychic facts with the methods and patterns of physical science. Cf. Carnap Rudolf, "Psychologie in physikalischer Sprache", Erkenntnis, 3 (1932/1933), 107-142 ("Psychology in the Language of Physics").
[7] From a physicalist point of view, employing these modes of thought indicates defeat from the beginning.  
[8] 231C: "Hocque putamus vere philosophari; hancque philosophiam, quae suum noscit defectum, perfectionem animi esse censemus."
[9] 193C: "Ecce ergo quod ex electione libera voluntatis, sequitur humanum animum per se esse sine corpore: quare et absolute immortalem."
[10] 193C: "Si quis etiam se ipsum consideret, poterit hoc perspicue comprehendere: interroget enim se quisque, quis sum ego? videbit vtique se non esse cerebrum, neque cor, neque aliquam corporis partem, sed superius quoddam partibus omnibus corporis superstans."
[11] Pomponazzi,  Tractatus acutissimi, 76ra: "… hic contradictor, mea sententia nihil reliquit; quod rationabiliter adversus nos adduci possit. Est enim tractatus iste copiosus, doctus, gravis, acutissimus; et divino artificio conflates."
[12] Opera, pp. 9-176.
[13] Opera, pp. 169-176.
[14] Janowski Zbigniew, Cartesian Theodicy: Descartes' Quest for Certitude (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2000), p. 43-44.
[15] Opera, pp. 433-; Ad Hebraeos, chapter 2, pp. 516-517.
[16] Based on Fragnito and Gleason as cited.
[17] Dittrich Fr. (ed.), Regesten und Briefe des Cardinals Gasparo Contarini (1483-1542) (Braunsberg: Huye, 1881), Regesten no. 1, p. 8.
[18] Contarini Gasparo, The Office of a Bishop, ed. John Patrick Donnelly (Milwaukee, Marquette, 2002).
[19] Ibid. pp. 85, 95, 121.
[20] Ignatius de Loyoa, Exercitia spiritualia, ed. Iosephus Calveras and Candidus de Dalmases (Rome: Institutum historicum Societatis Iesu, 1969) (Monumenta Historica Societatis Iesu, vol. 100), (introduction) p. 86: "Romae, Cardinalis Gasparus Contarini, factis Exercitiis, ea sibi manu popria exscripsit" (footnote: MI, Scripta, II, 872); p. 87 and 91: the scribe of the so-called Autograph of the Exercitia is identical with the one who wrote the Quinque Capita or Formula Instituti Societatis Iesu, which Contarini submitted to Paul III.