Skip to main content

Nicholas of Cusa

  • 33 Accesses

Abstract

Nicholas of Cusa was born in Kues (Germany) in 1401 and died in 1464 in Todi (Italy); he studied canon law and pursued a career in the Church, eventually becoming Cardinal. In his philosophical work he covered philosophical theology, mathematical theory, mysticism, philosophical anthropology, and philosophy of religion. His philosophical theology shifted the perspective from dogmatic approaches to epistemology so that the quest for knowing God was rephrased as the problem of consciously knowing that the transcendent is unknowable. For this he developed the concept of coincidence of opposites that occurs on the level of the absolute and of the minimal. This insight is exercised in and illustrated by mathematical studies, most prominently the squaring of circles. At this juncture, mathematics meets mysticism, since both address the dependence of the finite from the absolute. Mysticism, however, was for Cusanus always also a pastoral effort communicated to ordinary believers. Mystical experience opens the anthropological idea that aiming for the supernatural is essential to being human and prefigured in the dual nature of Christ. One foundation of Nicholas’ thinking is the mutual implication of oneness and diversity (as implied in the idea of coincidence); applying this to the question of diversity of religions he suggests that all of them, including Islam, compete with one another in worshipping one and the same God so that religious war is a contradiction in terms. Cusanus was received as a model of rational mysticism but also as the first modern philosopher to emphasize the power of the human mind.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

Primary Literature

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 1565. Opera. 3 vols. Basel: Petri.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 1932 ff. Nicolai de Cusa Opera omnia, ed. Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. 22 vols. Lipsiae/Hamburgi: Meiner.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 1988. Nicholas of Cusa’s debate with John Wenck. A translation and an appraisal of De Ignota Litteratura and Apologia Doctae Ignorantiae, ed. Jasper Hopkins. Minneapolis: Banning.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 1989. The layman on wisdom and the mind. Translated by M. L. Führer. Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 1990. Nicholas of Cusa on interreligious harmony: Text, concordance and translation of De pace fidei, ed. James E. Biechler. Lewiston: Mellen.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 1991. The catholic concordance. Translated by Paul E. Sigmund. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 1994. De Pace Fidei and Cribratio Alkorani. Translated by Jasper Hopkins. Minneapolis: Banning Press. http://jasper-hopkins.info/CAI-12-2000.pdf.

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 1997. Selected spiritual writings. Translated by H. Lawrence Bond. New York: Paulist Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholas of Cusa. 2008. Writings on church and reform. Translated by Thomas M. Izbicki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nikolaus von Kues. 1787. Des Kardinals Nicolaus von Cusa Dialogus von der Uebereinstimmung oder Einheit des Glaubens. Mit Zusätzen von D. Joh. Sal. Semler. Translated by Elias Kaspar Reichard. Leipzig: Beer.

    Google Scholar 

Secondary Literature

  • Albertson, David. 2014. Mathematical theologies: Nicholas of Cusa and the legacy of Thierry of Chartres. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bakos, Gergely Tibor. 2011. On faith, rationality, and the other in the late middle ages. A study of Nicholas of Cusa’s Manuductive approach to Islam. Eugene: Wipf and Stock.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bellitto, Christopher M., Thomas M. Izbicki, and Gerald Christianson, eds. 2004. Introducing Nicholas of Cusa: A guide to a renaissance man. New York: Paulist Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blum, Paul Richard. 2010. Philosophy of religion in the renaissance. Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blum, Paul Richard. 2018. Nicholas of Cusa on peace, religion, and wisdom in renaissance context. Regensburg: Roderer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blumenberg, Hans. 1983. The legitimacy of the modern age. Translated by Robert M. Wallace. [originally 1966]. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bocken, Inigo, ed. 2004. Conflict and reconciliation: Perspectives on Nicolas of Cusa. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bocken, Inigo, ed. 2012. Visions of reform. Lay piety as a form of thinking in Nicholas of Cusa. In Reassessing reform, ed. Christopher M. Bellitto and David Zachariah Flanagin, 214–31. Washington: CUA Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bungus [Bongo], Petrus. 1983. Numerorum mysteria, ed. Ulrich Ernst. Reprint of ed. Bergamo: Ventura, 1599. Hildesheim: Olms.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burton, Simon J.G., Joshua Hollmann, and Eric M. Parker, eds. 2019. Nicholas of Cusa and the making of the early modern world. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Calma, Dragos, and Ruedi Imbach. 2013. Heymeric de Campo, auteur d’un traité de métaphysique. Étude et édition partielle du ‘Colliget principiorum’. Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen age 80: 277–423.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Casarella, Peter J. 1992. Nicholas of Cusa’s theology of the word. Ph.D. Thesis Yale University. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International.

    Google Scholar 

  • Casarella, Peter J., ed. 2006. Cusanus: The legacy of learned ignorance. Washington, D.C: The Catholic University of America Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cassirer, Ernst. 2010. The individual and the cosmos in renaissance philosophy. Translated by Mario Domandi. [original 1927]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • de Certeau, Michel. 1987. The gaze of Nicholas of Cusa. Diacritics: A Review of Contemporary Criticism 17 (3): 2–38.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Christianson, Gerald, and Thomas M. Izbicki, eds. 1991. Nicholas of Cusa in search of god and wisdom: Essays in honor of Morimichi Watanabe. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clemens, Franz Jakob. 2000. Giordano Bruno und Nicolaus von Cusa. Eine philosophische Abhandlung [1847], ed. Paul Richard Blum. Bristol: Thoemmes Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Connes, Pierre, and James Lequeux. 2020. Nicolaus Cusanus: The homogeneous Cosmos. In History of the plurality of worlds: The myths of Extraterrestrials through the ages, ed. Pierre Connes and James Lequeux, 143–158. Cham: Springer.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Counet, J.-M. 2004. Mathematics and the divine in Nicholas of Cusa. In Mathematics and the divine: A historical study, ed. T. Koetsier and L. Bergmans, 273–290. Amsterdam/Boston: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cuozzo, Gianluca. 2012. Mystice videre: Esperienza religiosa e pensiero speculativo in Cusano. Milano: Mimesis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cusanus-Portal., http://cusanus-portal.de/. (Works in the 1565 and 1932 ff. editions; English and German translations; bibliography; biography; lexicon).

  • Dall’Igna, Antonio, and Damiano Roberi, eds. 2013. Cusano e Leibniz: Prospettive filosofiche. Milano/Udine: Mimesis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Emery, Kent, Jr. 1984. Mysticism and the coincidence of opposites in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century France. Journal of the History of Ideas 45 (1): 3–23.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fiamma, Andrea. 2010. Commento al De visione Dei di Nicola Cusano. Rivista di ascetica e mistica 1: 35–82.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fiamma, Andrea. 2016a. Nicola Cusano ed Eimerico da Campo: Gli anni coloniensi. Medioevo. Rivista di storia della filosofia medievale 41: 217–257.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fiamma, Andrea. 2016b. Richard Falckenberg and the modernity of Nicholas of Cusa. Viator 47 (2): 351–366.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Fiamma, Andrea. 2019. Nicola Cusano da Colonia a Roma (1425–1450). Università, politica e umanesimo nel giovane Cusano. Münster: Aschendorff.

    Google Scholar 

  • Floss, Pavel. 2020. The philosophy of Nicholas of Cusa. An introduction into his thinking. Basel: Schwabe.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frank, S. L. 1983. The unknowable: an ontological introduction to the philosophy of religion. Translated by Boris Jakim. Athens: Ohio University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frank, Semen L. 1995. In Das Unergründliche: Ontologische Einführung in die Philosophie der Religion, ed. Alexander Haardt. Freiburg: Alber.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamann, Florian. 2005. Koran und Konziliarismus. Anmerkungen zum Verhältnis von Heymericus de Campo und Nikolaus von Kues. Vivarium 43 (2): 275–291.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hartzheim, Caspar. 1730. Vita Nicolai de Cusa. Treviris: Reulandt.

    Google Scholar 

  • Izbicki, Thomas M. 2008. Reform, ecclesiology, and the Christian life in the late middle ages. Aldershot: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Izbicki, Thomas M., Jason Aleksander, and Donald F. Duclow, eds. 2019. Nicholas of Cusa and times of transition: Essays in honor of Gerald Christianson. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Izbicki, Thomas M., and Christopher Bellitto, eds. 2002. Nicholas of Cusa and his age: Intellect and spirituality. Essays dedicated to the memory of F. Edward Cranz, Thomas P. McTighe and Charles Trinkaus. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levy, Ian Christopher, Rita George-Tvrtković, and Donald F. Duclow, eds. 2014. Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and dialogue in the late middle ages, Studies in medieval and reformation traditions. Vol. 183. Boston: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Machetta, Jorge Mario, and Claudia D’Amico, eds. 2005. El problema del conocimiento en Nicolás de Cusa: Genealogía y proyección. Buenos Aires: Biblos.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meier-Oeser, Stephan. 1989. Die Präsenz des Vergessenen: Zur Rezeption der Philosophie des Nicolaus Cusanus vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert. Münster: Aschendorff.

    Google Scholar 

  • Monaco, Davide. 2016. Nicholas of Cusa: Trinity, freedom and dialogue. Münster: Aschendorff.

    Google Scholar 

  • Murawski, Roman. 2019. Mathematics and theology in the thought of Nicholas of Cusa. Logica Universalis 13 (4): 477–485.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Oosterhoff, Richard J. 2019. Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and Charles de Bovelles on Platonism, Theurgy, and intellectual difficulty. In Plotinus’ legacy: The transformation of Platonism from the renaissance to the modern era, ed. Stephen Gersh, 73–95. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Pasqua, Hervé. 2013. Nicolas de Cues et l’islam. Louvain-La-Neuve, Leuven: Institut Supérieur de Philosophie, Peeters.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pasqua, Hervé, ed. 2017. Infini et altérité dans l’oeuvre de Nicolas de Cues (1401–1464). Leuven, Louvain-la-Neuve: Peeters, Institut Supérieur de Philosophie.

    Google Scholar 

  • Riedenauer, Markus. 2007. Pluralität und Rationalität: Die Herausforderung der Vernunft durch religiöse und kulturelle Vielfalt nach Nikolaus Cusanus. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Secchi, Pietro. 2006. “Del mar più che del ciel amante”: Bruno e Cusano. Roma: Edizioni di storia e letteratura.

    Google Scholar 

  • Secchi, Pietro. 2017. Agostino in Cusano: Occorrenze, contesti, riferimenti. Lexicon Philosophicum 5: 199–209.

    Google Scholar 

  • Secchi, Pietro. 2018. Studi cusaniani. Firenze: Olschki.

    Google Scholar 

  • Senger, Hans Gerhard. 2002. Ludus sapientiae: Studien zum Werk und zur Wirkungsgeschichte des Nikolaus von Kues. Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Valkenberg, Pim. 2019. The missionary purpose of the Cribratio Alkorani. Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval 26 (1): 15–28.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Vimercati, Emmanuele, and Valentina Zaffino, eds. 2020. Nicholas of Cusa and the Aristotelian tradition: A philosophical and theological survey. Berlin: De Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  • Volzhin, Sergei. 2018. Johann Georg Hamann. Wiederentdeckung der coincidentia oppositorum im Zeitalter der Aufklärung. Regensburg: Roderer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watanabe, Morimichi. 2011. Nicholas of Cusa: A companion to his life and his times. Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Webb, Hillary S. 2020. Coincidentia Oppositorum. In Encyclopedia of psychology and religion, ed. David A. Leeming, 463–465. Boston: Springer US.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wenck de Herrenberg Johannes. 1910. De ignota litteratura. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, ed. E. Vansteenberghe, VIII 6. Münster: Aschendorff.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ziebart, K. Meredith. 2011. Heymeric of camp. In Encyclopedia of medieval philosophy, ed. Henrik Lagerlund, 473–476. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ziebart, K. Meredith. 2014. Nicolaus Cusanus on faith and the intellect: A case study in 15th-century fides-ratio controversy. Leiden/Boston: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul Richard Blum .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2020 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this entry

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

Blum, P.R. (2020). Nicholas of Cusa. In: Sgarbi, M. (eds) Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_178-1

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_178-1

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-02848-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-02848-4

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Religion and PhilosophyReference Module Humanities and Social Sciences