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Girolamo Cardano: Philosopher of Threat


Throughout Europe and the Americas, we find the expert knowledge of traditional state and scientific institutions—the expert management of risk and otherness—doubted and undermined by groups questioning its hidden motives and meanings. The current project addresses the deep history at play in our conceptions of threat and individual agency in managing threat. It will examine the works of Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576), as well as his Roman Inquisition documents, in order to chart an early-modern transformation of great significance: the shift in the management of threat from spiritual expertise to secular expertise. Girolamo Cardano was the most widely-read natural philosopher of the latter sixteenth century. His literary output and fame stretched across numerous disciplines—medicine, astrology, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, mathematics—and his ideas continued to exert major influence well into the seventeenth century. As diverse as his projects and interests were, a common theme unites them: the individual, by Cardano’s reckoning, lives in a network of danger, from bodily illness and accident, to chance events, to faults of intellect and memory, to the vagaries of human passion. In a recent study of his Inquisition trial, I have examined the place of Catholic doctrine in his astrology and celestial physics, and the key points of criticism leveled at Cardano by the Holy Office. This project would build from that foundation, significantly expanding and deepening its results. Assisted by tools from the digital-humanities, it will establish an anatomy of threat in Cardano’s work, analyze his views of natural philosophy as a response to threat, and examine how his censorship by the Roman Inquisition represented a criticism of secular expert approaches to threat.

Field of science

  • /humanities/philosophy, ethics and religion/ethics/ethical principles
  • /humanities/philosophy, ethics and religion/philosophy

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Dorsoduro 3246
30123 Venezia
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 183 473,28