Marco Antonio Zimara was born in San Pietro in Galatina in around 1470 and died sometime after 1529, the last year for which we have certain information regarding his life. He completed his studies in Padua, receiving a doctorate in artibus in 1501 and obtaining a degree in medicine. Marcantonio’s fame is linked in particular to the compilation of his Tabula, but he was also a prominent figure in the world of Renaissance publishing. This can be seen, for example, in the wide circulation of his works throughout Europe for most of the seventeenth century and his efforts as an editor of the works of Aristotle and his medieval interpreters, as well as in his attempts to resolve the most debated contradictions between the teaching of Aristotle and that of Averroes. This endeavor gave rise to the Theoremata and the Solutiones contradictionum and can clearly be discerned in all his work, including his surviving manuscripts. Following Aristotle, he reaffirms the superiority of diffinitio over demonstratio and, within the latter, the priority of demonstratio propter quid over demonstratio quia. However, he recognizes that the complexity of nature eludes the absoluteness of logical reconstruction, which is more suited to metaphysics.
KeywordsSeventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Wide Circulation Teaching Period Prominent Figure
Marco Antonio Zimara was born in San Pietro in Galatina in around 1470 and died sometime after 1529, the last year for which we have certain information regarding his life. He completed his studies in Padua, receiving a doctorate in artibus in 1501 and obtaining a degree in medicine. His teachers at the Studium of Padua included the Scotists Antonio Trombetta and Maurizio Ibernico, the Averroist Nicoletto Vernia, and Pietro Pomponazzi. In 1507, in Padua, he was appointed to the extraordinary chair of philosophy, and later, in 1525, to the chair of ordinary philosophy in primo loco. Between his first and second teaching periods in Padua, he continued with his didactic activities, moving first to Salerno (1520) and then to Naples (1523), and he also became involved in the political life of his native town, where he held the office of mayor in 1514 (Antonaci 1970; Paladini 2001; Rugge 2004).
Heritage and Rupture with the Tradition
Zimara’s commentaries on the Aristotelian corpus and on editions of Aristotle by medieval interpreters are important for understanding his relationship with the preceding philosophical tradition. In addition to Aristotle, Marcantonio also commented on and republished the works of Themistius, John of Jandun, and Albert the Great. Zimara’s interest in the works of Aristotle went hand in hand with his teaching activities. Close examination of the chronology of Zimara’s editions of Aristotle reveals that the focus of his interests was related to the centers of study in which he was lecturing. Thus, in the early sixteenth century, during his first teaching period in Padua, he was concerned with publishing logical and metaphysical works, without neglecting the more important commentaries, such as those of John of Jandun and Albertus Magnus. In Salerno, however, already towards 1520, he gave greater importance to Aristotelian physics and medical questions, which were gaining ground in that center, traditionally more inclined toward problems of medical science, due to the diffusion of the apocryphal Problemata. His time in Naples and the second period in Padua, however, were taken up with more specialized works, which reflect his mature thought (Antonaci 1970; Garin 1973; Papuli 1991; Spruit 1995).
Innovative and Original Aspects
Marcantonio’s fame is linked in particular to the compilation of his Tabula, but he was also a prominent figure in the world of Renaissance publishing. This can be seen, for example, in the wide circulation of his works throughout Europe for most of the seventeenth century and his efforts as an editor of the works of Aristotle and his medieval interpreters, as well as in his attempts to resolve the most debated contradictions between the teaching of Aristotle and that of Averroes. This endeavor gave rise to the Theoremata and the Solutiones contradictionum and can clearly be discerned in all his work, including his surviving manuscripts (Antonaci 1970; Rugge 2004).
Zimara’s Tabula was published posthumously, with the first edition dating to 1537. The encyclopedic nature and organization of the work, which was one of the earliest and most successful examples of a dictionary of philosophical terms, made it extremely useful in Italian and foreign centers of study. An examination of the various editions, which were also gradually improved in terms of their layout and the prominence given to the most important entries, allows the development of particular topics and the new features they assumed to be traced, particularly with regard to physics (the concepts of motion, time, and space) and medicine (the circulation of the blood, the function of the liver, and the anatomy of the heart and the arteries), which now attracts the attention of teachers and students in the Faculty of Arts.
The Tabula would be sufficient, in itself, to provide an overview of the history of thought in the period spanning the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Marcantonio had a particular propensity for synthesis, which was the result of his careful examination of the questions.
The Theoremata was also a fundamental work with a broad scope, and was as widely read as the Tabula. Its topics range from logic, physics, and metaphysics to medicine. The latter is given much importance because, although the Theoremata was completed and published for the first time in Naples in 1523, when Marcantonio Zimara was teaching metaphysics at the University of San Lorenzo, it was greatly influenced by his time in Salerno and the speculative interests of the Studio there, where he had not only taught philosophy but also theoretical medicine during the previous years. Zimara remained in Salerno for a number of years (probably from 1518 to 1522) and left a lasting impression there. Many additions were made to the subsequent editions of the work (from 1539 onwards), particularly by his son Teofilo, without, however, deviating from the genuine text and thought of the Teoremata.
Yet another, equally significant work by Zimara was his Solutiones contradictionum. The original version of this dates back to Zimara’s first teaching period in Padua, in around the first decade of the sixteenth century. It reflects the richly polemical and often tumultuous environment that stimulated the minds of the pupils and teachers, both in and out of school, centered on one essential issue: the correct interpretation of Aristotle by Averroes.
Zimara took a stand against the Arab philosopher’s detractors. Nevertheless, as he himself stated, his intention was not an indiscriminate and preconceived acquittal of Averroes, but a careful examination of the text and the commentary, which was not to be forced or led toward interpretations that reflected neither Aristotelian nor Averroistic thought.
The detractors of Zimara’s position included his teacher, and then bitter rival, Pomponazzi, who used his authority and prestige to hamper his assignment to the ordinary chair of philosophy for a long time, as is well known (Nardi 1958; Bianchi-Randi 1982; Bianchi 2003).
Impact and Legacy
In both Solutiones contraddictionum and the Tabula, as well as in the Theoremata, Zimara admits the possibility of regressive demonstration in scientia. Following Aristotle, he reaffirms the superiority of diffinitio over demonstratio and, within the latter, the priority of demonstratio propter quid over demonstratio quia. However, he recognizes that the complexity of nature eludes the absoluteness of logical reconstruction, which is more suited to metaphysics. The cognitive subject emerges as central to Zimara’s thought, safeguarded by logical procedures that are indispensable for scientific progress, due to their discursive and argumentative nature. Logic, as can be clearly seen from a reading of his Annotationes to John of Jandun’s Metafisica, has a formal and instrumental nature and is strictly distinct from metaphysics. Logical rigor is in fact the means by which the subject involved in study gains awareness of his centrality in the cognitive process. Some interpreters have recently highlighted this centrality of the cognitive subject as his most interesting contribution to the philosophical debate of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, making Zimara a figure of unquestionable importance in both the teaching of Padua and in Renaissance publishing (Mahoney 1971; Verardi 2012; De Carli 2013).
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