Averroistic Themes in Girolamo Cardano’s De Immortalitate Animorum
In his De immortalite animorum (1545), Cardano proves to be abreast of the contemporary debate over the individual immortality of the human soul. The debate had reached its peak when Pietro Pomponazzi published De immortalitate animae (1516). Cardano did not hesitate to measure himself with such complex topics as the nature of the passive, potential and active intellects, skilfully manoeuvring among the interpretations of a wide range of past commentators (Theophrastus, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Themistius, Simplicius, Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas). From a speculative point of view, the boldest and most original part of the treatise is the solution given by Cardano to the question of the individual survival of human souls. Given the elements of the puzzle left by Aristotle (his views on the eternity of the world and on the productive and fully actualised nature of the intellect), the most plausible explanation for Cardano was to assume a plurality of active intellects, each characterised by both individuality and immortality, cyclically transmigrating from one body to another every time such bodies perish. This chapter shows how Cardano’s solution was powerfully influenced by Averroes’s doctrine of the intellect’s unity.