Pomponazzi against Thomas Aquinas? Pomponazzi’s criticism of Averroè


  • Francesco Luigi Gallo Dottore di Ricerca in Filosofia. Pontificia Università Lateranense




hylomorphism, soul, immateriality, Aristotelianism, Averroism, intellect


A well-established thesis among the scholars of Pietro Pomponazzi is that the target of criticism by Pomponazzi’s De immortalitate animae (1516) is represented by the anthropological vision of Aquinas. However scholars have adequately concentrated on the fourth chapter of the Treatise, which, as appropriately noted by V. Perrone Compagni, is one of the most demanding in terms of length and density. It is interesting to note, however, that in the fourth chapter of Pomponazzi’s work the critique of Mantovano is not for Aquinas, but for Averroes.

The polemical intensity with which Pomponazzi critiques the Averroist position seems to mean that, from the Aristotelian perspective, the Averroist monopsychism really constitutes a critical point of primary interest. In fact, the argument of the unity of the formal human principle, which S. Vanni Rovighi defines as the most characteristic thesis of the anthropology of Thomas Aquinas, seems consistent only with the condition of an integral somatization of the soul. According to Pomponazzi, in fact, Aquinas’s anthropological proposal turns out to be a structurally contradictory and philosophically unacceptable attempt, while the Averroist solution still retains some internal coherence, given that the immateriality of the intellect seems to be irreconcilable with the hylomorphic theory.

In this scenario, the Averroist position seems to constitute the dialectical pole with reference to which Pomponazzi elaborates his anti-dualistic anthropological model. Furthermore, it is also reductionist, consistent with his criticisms of Aquinas. In this sense, it could be argued that Averroism (such as that of Sigieri of Brabante) and the materialism of Pomponazzi represent the two extremes in the middle of which is the Thomistic position is, with all its alleged contradictions. Therefore the true antithesis seems to be, in the final analysis, that between Pomponazzi and Averroism.

According to the principles of the hylomorphism the materiality or the immateriality of the intellect allows the endorsement of either Avveroistic or materialistic views, out of which, the Pomponazzi’s thesis emerges paradigmatically in the tradition of the peripatetic philosophy. These are the two paths towards which the Aristotelian hylomorphism naturally moves.





Human nature, soul and body. Convergence of perspectives