Reprinted from: http://core.ecu.edu/phil/ryane/fplsint.htm  (no longer online)

Frane Petrić
by Ljerka Schiffler

  1. Biography
  2. Petric's doctrines
    1. The City of Man as a Place in History, or the Future of Utopia
    2. Poetics and Rhetoric
    3. Petric's Poeticological Model
    4. New Rhetoric
    5. Epistemology of History
    6. Petrić and Anti-Aristotelianism
  3. The Historical and Philosophical Destiny of Petric's Work
  4. Bibliography (not available)

Part I

Biography

Frane Petrić (Patritius, Patricius, Patrizzi, Franciscus) was a Renaissance philosopher, polyhistor, erudite, and a specialist in Greek and Latin studies (Cres [Cherso], April 25, 1529 -- Rome, February 6, 1597). The data on his life can be found in his autobiographical letter to Baccio Valori, written in Ferrara on January 12, 1587.(1) Petrić was the son of the town judge Franjo and Marija Lupetina, Flacius' cousin.(2) His father, accused of subversive activities against the Venetian authorities and of supporting the Protestants, was sentenced to banishment and died in exile. Petrić used the heritage to finance his studies, although as a son of a banned heretic us period of his life began; he went on many voyages (he served in the Venetian navy under the command of Andrea Doria and went in combat near Novigrad) and changed many jobs (book and cotton trade, publishing  he published G. C. Delminio's and B. Cotrugli's works). He went to trade school in Venice, and studied grammar under a priest, Andrea Fiorentino, who worked as a proofreader for the Giunti publishing company. As Flacius' protégé he went to Ingolstadt where he studied Greek. Petrić remained there until the war that Charles V led against the Protestants. He studied medicine in Padua in 1547, but soon left it for philosophical and mathematical studies.

Petrić studied Classical philosophical and literary texts, especially Plato's and Aristotle's philosophy, the rich tradition of Peripateticism, the speculative profuseness and diversity of the most ancient traditions of thinking and syncretistic religions, the mystical, Chaldaic, Arab and Hebrew traditions, Hermetic writings (Petrić claimed that there was more philosophy in a single Hermetic treatise than in entire Aristotle) and neo-Platonic philosophy (important for Petrić's concepts of light, the One, first principles, the first efficient cause). Petrić studied the works of the most interesting Neo-Platonic thinkers, such as M. Ficino, particularly his "Theologia Platonica" and his doctrine of the renewal of "prisca theologia / sapientia"(3), a philosophical project of renewal of Christianity, also important in Petrić's philosophy, and Pico della Mirandola who was known as "princeps concordiae" and whose concept of philosophy of truth undoubtedly influenced the formation and development of Petrić's model of thought.

After his father's death in 1551 Petrić sold his books on medicine. He then went to Ancona, and on short trips to Venice (where he became a member of the Accademia della Fama), Bologna, Verona, Vicenza, Mantova, Modena and Ferrara. He stayed on Cyprus for a while, where he worked as the supervisor of Count Contarini-Zaffo's and the Cyprus archbishop F. Mocenigo's estates. Petrić also worked on melioration projects. He traveled to Spain and sold a collection of seventy-five Greek philosophical, theological, scientific and musical codexes he had brought from Cyprus to the Spanish king Philip II for his Escorial library (twenty-seven survived, the rest were destroyed in a fire in 1671). Petrić taught Plato's philosophy in Padua until 1592, when Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini asked him to come to Rome and teach Platonic philosophy at the Sapienza, where he remained until his death. It was during his stay in Padua that Petrić became a member of the Dalmatian Students Club (and its senator for two terms).(4) He was also a member of the "Congregation of St. Jerome" as well as a member of many academies, Accademia della Crusca among others.


  1. A. Solerti, Autobiografia dell Patrizi, in: Archivio storico per Trieste, l'Istria e il Trentino, vol. III, fasc. 3-4, 1886.
  2. On various opinions about the issue of Petrić's origin, birthplace and forms of his last name, see the first comprehensive historical bio-bibliographic study: Vladimir Premec, Franciskus Patricijus, Beograd 1968. Petrić's claim about his royal origins has not been verified.
  3. Petric', furthermore, had been considering to write a biography of Ficino, as he remarked in a letter to B. Valori, written in Rome in 1595, but had to abandon the idea because of other commitments; see Francesco Patrizi da Cherso, Lettere ed opusculi inediti, critical edition by Danilo Aguzzi Barbagli, Firenze 1975.
  4. N. C. Papadopoli, Hystoria gymnasii patavini, Venetiis 1726, vols. I, II.

Part II - Petric's Doctrines

1. The City of Man as a Place in History, or the Future of Utopia 

Among his first philosophical and literary works, Petrić published the "La città felice" ("Happy Town") in 1553, written after Thomas More's "Utopia" and before Tomaso Campanella's "The City of the Sun" (a theoretical concept of a philosopher's state), regarded as one of the most exceptional texts in the wide literary panorama of the sixteenth-century literature, among the philosophical and moralistic treatises, compendia, and the works discussing city esthetics and poetics (A. Nifo's (Niphus) "De Principe", F. Piccolomini's "Institutione dell'uomo nobile, nato in città libera", "Compendio della scienza civile", F. Sansovino's "Del governo"), depictions of imaginary, ideal towns as the iconographic themes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (found in e.g. P. Della Francesca's, Fr. G. Martini's, P. Perugino's and P. Da Modena's paintings) and the scientific-theoretic and practical city constructions, as well as the treatises on architecture and painting (Leonardo, L. B. Alberti, A. Palladio).

Petrić's "La citta felice" was written with pedagogical intents, in order to contribute to the intellectual, moral and physical perfection of man, as a "guide" toward human happiness, as he put it, but also to contribute to man's political perfection, in order to point at the fundamental laws necessary for a perfect community. Petrić considers the issue of feasibility and the ways of achieving an accomplished life in a perfect community. Basing his views on Plato's ontological-epistemological doctrines (the concept of knowledge, the relation between knowledge and truth understood within the context of Plato's doctrine about ideas, the ideal Being and the idea of Good, and his teaching about soul and virtues, "Republic", "Statesman") and Aristotle (individual and political ethics, the distinction between speculative and ethical virtues and the notion of ultimate happiness, "Nicomachean ethics"), Petrić transforms them under the influence of neo-Platonic, Christian and ancient sapiential traditions. Numerous and different interpretations of the nature and characteristics of Petrić's "La citta felice", undertaken according to Platonic, Aristotelian, mystic-Hermetic, and Counter Reformation religious tenets respectively, underline the significance and the distinctive qualities of this work, quite different from the other utopian works of the period. 

Petrić's political model of the best possible society (modeled according to the social, political, but also to the cultural and intellectual circumstances of the period) corresponds to an aristocratic, rigid class society: in harmony with the Platonic-Christian concepts, it consists of three subordinated classes (peasants, craftsmen, merchants) and three ruling ones (soldiers, state administrators, priests), governed by a king-philosopher, priest and magus, who takes care of the citizens' lives, their religion and education, of the town arrangement, position and defence, and of everything else that concerns the citizens' happiness. The "La città felice" shows Petrić's already developed intellectual views of the early stages of his Paduan period, his medical studies and his knowledge of the philosophical and religious traditions of Platonism, neo-Platonism (M. Ficino, Pico della Mirandola), peripateticism, cabala, the astrological-Hermetic concepts, and of other doctrines significant for Renaissance thought (mystic-Hermetic and the esoterical traditions of "prisca philosophia" and "religio philosophica", etc.). 

Traces of these traditions are visible in Petrić's philosophy of man and in his political concepts. For example, his comparison of the individual and social "bodies", the social and physiological functions, his concept of correspondence between bodily and mental health, between earthly and celestial, then his view of wise men as society healers, and many other ideas, point to the sources that to a large degree influenced Petrić's methodological starting points and helped form his philosophical concepts. His model of the happy town contains one of these concepts, being based on the idea of renewal of the dignity of speculative sciences, philosophy in the first place, as the condition for achievement of ultimate human happiness and prosperity. The work discusses many concrete issues, e.g. geographical, topographical, climatic, strategic, economic and zoning instructions for city planing, then the phenomena of origin and decline of states, forms of government, legislation, achieving and keeping the peace, demographical, ecological, religious, health and hygiene issues, and many other ones.(1) Petrić's happy town concept does not express new social ideas; it is neither a utopistic construction nor just another literary work of the period; although in the wake of the Classical philosophical city of logos, it is rather a Renaissance thinker's endeavor to provide a unique philosophical project that would point the way to the realization of the true human nature as a whole personality. It is in this manner that the discourse about the utopian elements of Petrić's work is possible, along with the one about the future of utopias in general. 


  1. See M. Mucillo, Aristotelismo, platonismo ed ermetismo ne "La Citta felice" di Francesco Patrizi da Cherso, in: Utopie de gli anni Ottanta (G. Saccaro, ed.); Del Buffa, A. O. Lewis, Roma s.d., pp. 553-577; L. Firpo, Il pensiero politico del Rinascimento e della Controriforma, in: Grande antologia filosofica (M. F. Sciacca, ed.), Milano 1964; ibid., La citta ideale nel Rinascimento, Torino 1975; C. Vasoli, Franceso Patrizi da Cherso, Roma 1989. 
2. Poetics and Rhetoric

Petrić's philosophical thought as a whole, and therefore his esthetical thought, his theory concerning beauty and poetry, may be understood in a broader context (influences of the ancient philosophical, theological and esthetical traditions) and in a narrower one (the theoretical discussions led in the second half of the century), the context of the Council of Trent and Reformation and Counter-Reformation movements. These discussions were general and theoretic, but practical issues were also discussed, e.g. individual artistic expression and characteristics of individual style (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Durer, Arcimboldo). The nature of art, its task and purpose, individual arts (poetry, music, painting) and their respective individual qualities, differences, their subjects, their relative merits (the issue of primacy) were among the topics discussed in many treatises that witness to the change of cultural values, of the understanding of art and in the taste of the period. 

Petrić's literary, poeticological and musicological analyses bear witness to his various interests, broad education and thorough knowledge of nearly all the cultural issues of his time. His involvement in the European spiritual dialog and his contributions to it may be apprehended by referring to his works, from those of his youth to the ones written in the mature period of his philosophical production.

Petrić's youth was characterized by the study of Plato's philosophy and ancient Hermetic tradition, divine wisdom ("divina sapientia", "philosophia perennis") of the poet-theologian tradition, and by the study of the role of mathematics, as the supreme science about essences, in Plato's doctrines about ideas, beauty and the good. The other significant element of Petrić's future intellectual and especially philosophical development was the study of Aristotle, the search for true and authentic Aristotle's teaching. The result of this search was a poeticological theory that criticized Aristotle's poetical rules and introduced Petrić's own instead.

The foundations of Petrić's theoretical views and tenets can be observed in his early short treatises and commentaries written during the Paduan period: the discourse on poetic rapture ("Discorso della diversita de' furori poetici") and his 1553 commentary of a sonnet by Petrarch ("Lettura sopra il sonetto del Petrarca 'La gola, e l'sonno, e l'ociose piume'"). These works were published together with the "La citta felice", and they are also significant as Petrić's contributions to Renaissance literary theory and critique and textual hermeneutics, and to the then still Petrarchian literary tendencies. Not just another "reading" of Petrarch following the common European literary pattern of the period, Petrić's subtle philosophical analysis of Petrarch's poetic symbols and antithetical metaphors, undertaken according to the Platonic-Christian paradigm, induces the reader to reconsider the relationship between poetry and philosophy; it is actually an incentive to philosophy. Using Plato to interpret Petrarch and philosophy to explicate poetry, Petrić finds the answers to some of the contemporary problems in Petrarch's humanistic world-view, his culture, reflectivity, his ideals and in his way of thinking.

Petrić's commentary to Luca Contile's rhymes ("Le rime di Messer Luca Contile, divise in tre parti, con Discorsi, et Argomenti di M. Francesco Patritio...", 1560) discusses the same range of issues. A renowned poet, translator and scientist, Contile was the author of several comedies, mythological tales, and dialogs concerning love. Like Petric', he was a member of the Academy della Fama. Although lacking somewhat in theoretical and speculative reach, and not considering the literary value of Contile's poetry outside the context of contemporary theoretical and philosophical discussions about poetic art and sonnets in poetry, Petrarchism in particular, the documentary value of this commentary is indisputable, as much as it is significant for an understanding of the develoment of Petrić's poeticological and esthetical ideas. Petrić builds his commentary on Platonic and neo-Platonic corpus of esthetical doctrines (especially Ficino's commentaries to Plato's "Symposium"), outlining the foundations of his own image of the world and his concepts of the universe, beauty and love being its principles (reflections of Platonic and Neo-Platonic doctrines, the myth about Eros, Ficino's understanding of love and beauty, earthly and celestial love), and defines the phenomenology of love according to its types. Petrić's interpretations reflect the complexity of philosophical consideration of these basic notions of Renaissance esthetic theory, showing correspondence with contemporary practice in literature and fine arts. The commentary may be understood as an excuse for contributing to Renaissance speculations on the nature, aspects and meanings of these phenomena. Along with the traditional metaphysical meaning of love, Petrić emphasizes its other aspects, analyzing love as a natural, biological phenomenon, and the physiology and psychology of love.

"Le rime di Messer Luca Contile - and Petrić's dialogs "Delfino overo del Baccio" (1) and "Amorosa filosofia", written in Modena in 1577, in which he describes Tarquinia Molza, praising "new Diotime" (2) - stand out from the corpus of contemporary treatises written in Platonic-Petrarchian manner. Discussing the origin and nature of poetry and differences among various arts (painting, music, poetry), commonly central issues of contemporary treatises, discussions and controversies, Petrić lays the foundations of his later theory of poetic invention, creativity, imagination (phenomenon of the extraordinary) and poetic genius as the basic categories opposed to principles of Aristotle's poetics. Petrić analyses the central problems of art theory: sources of poetic inspiration, already construed by Horace in his "Ars poetica" (Petrić differentiates between natural and supernatural inspiration, divine or prophetic, artistic talent, imagination, intuition on the one side, and knowledge, technique, choice of subject, and stylistic expresiveness on the other), personality of the artist, the relation between emotional and rational, reason and imagination, the cognitive function of art, and universal nature of poetry. These treatises include the origins of Petrić's much later theory of poetry, concurrent with Ariosto-Tasso polemics about mimetic vs. creative nature of poetry, about rules, conventions and freedom in poetic creation, relation beween poetry and philosophy, poetic conceit (concetto), relations between true, probable and extraordinary, form and content; some historiographers interpret it as a polemics about the historically counterpoised phenomena of Renaissance and Baroque.

Written in the Platonic-Ficinian speculative dialog tradition, Petrić's dialogs about beauty and love discuss themes common to the contemporary dialog and treatise literature ("trionfi d'amore" that succeeded the medieval "corti d'amore") of "nice discussions" about "Cupid's sacred secrets" (B. Castiglione, "Il Cortegiano", Book IV), the beautiful, its nature, sorts and forms (beautiful in music and nature), about the relation between beautiful and love. Petrić here follows the Platonic-Neo-Platonic model of thought. His analyses reflect the study of Hermetic literature, cosmological and mystic-esoteric doctrines and Christian heritage, Latin apologists, as well as the contemporary insights from the fields of artistic expression (painting, music) and sciences (anatomy, biology, psychology and psychophysiology - especially in the dialogs on love and kiss). 


  1. The dialog was published in Francesco Patrizi da Cherso, Lettere ed opuscoli inediti, op.cit., pp. 135-166. 2 The work was published by J. C. Nelson, Firenze 1963.
3. Petrič's Poeticological Model

Petrič's unique model of philosophical thought was gradually established from the earliest period to his mature philosophical period (from 1576 to 1592 when Petrić worked in Modena and Ferrara, taught Plato's philosophy at the University of Ferrara, and wrote his works on poetics, geometry and parts of his "Nova de universis philosophia"). One of its domains is taken into consideration in his work entitled "Della Poetica" (1586). This work is a synthesis of nearly thirty years of research into historical issues and into the theory of poetic art and the beautiful. Seeking to determine the position of poetry, Petrić enlarged its scope as established by the traditional systematization of disciplines. In the seven parts ('decades') of his poetics (La deca istoriale, disputata, ammirabile, plastica, dogmatica universale, sacra, semisacra) Petrić presents an outline of the periods and themes in poetry, its sorts and genres, from antiquity to his time, expounding the origins and development of poetry, the phenomena of poetic 'craft', terminology, language and style, poetic inspiration, invention, the miraculous, allegorical, metaphorical and symbolic as the essential characteristics of poetic achievements. Endeavoring to "enrich the tedious poetic products of my times by the abundant culture of the past", as he puts it, Petrić points at the revelatory function of art, namely poetic speech as an endowment of human knowledge. 

In certain parts of his poetics Petrić demolishes Aristotle's normative poetics by a methodological, historiographic, polemical literary critique. Pointing at the falseness and inadequacy of Aristotle's general doctrines and principles of poetic art, Petrić refutes Aristotle basing his arguments on literary history and poetic practice, refuting Aristotle's interpreters' and followers' theses as well, L. Castelvetro's views in particular. Petrić argues against the cornerstones of Aristotle's poetic theory and his definitions: Mimesis, imitation as the essential denominator, common to all the arts (their only difference being means, objects and ways of imitation), cognitive differentiation between history and art (individual-universal, real-possible, true-false), form and content, literary genres, and finally, the essence of poetry. Petrić juxtaposes Aristotle's rules with his own, "new" poetic rules. These are the rules on which Petrić builds his poetic philosophy. Pointing at verse as the essence of poetry, free choice of content (anything may be used as the subject of poetry, even history and science; their respective differences are in the treatment of a subject), the role of poetic imagination, of the sublime, Petrić stresses the autonomy of artistic creation, the distinctive "truth" of poetic work, and the universal language of poetry.(1)

Guided by the idea of renewal of poetry and construing a comprehensive and systematic theory of poetry, Petrić presents a model of a possible systematization of poetic art. Petrić's "Della Poetica" is the first systematic endeavor to construe a poetics of the miraculous, his scheme of a poetic theory based on new principles and methods. Petrić opposes the rational foundation of poetic art, understanding of poetry as an intellectual exercise, by a new, alternative system that establishes the category of miraculous, irrational, imaginary (basic notions of Manneristic and Baroque esthetics. Freedom instead of rules, creation (creatio) instead of imitation (imitatio, mimesis) are for Petrić the distinctive characteristics of poetry. 

Petrić's work on transformation of the inherited system of values and his attempt at establishing objective criteria for evaluation of the creative process is an original contribution to the change in esthetic principles. It is therefore not without reason that certain culture historians and theoreticians (Klaniczay, Aguzzi Barbagli, Barilli) consider him to be a theoretician of the new Baroque esthetics. 


  1. L. Bolzoni, L'universo dei poemi possibili. Studi su Francesco Patrizi da Cherso, Roma 1980; see the treatises on Petrić's poetics in: Ljerka Schiffler, Iz hrvatske filozofske ba'tine, Zagreb 1980; ibid., Humanizam bez granica. Hrvatska filozofija u europskom obzoru, Zagreb 1992.
4. New Rhetoric 

Within the context of his research into language phenomenon and the science of the art of speech, to which history and poetics also pertain, Petrić studies the philosophical foundations of rhetoric. In the related dialogs ("Della retorica dieci dialoghi", 1562) Petrić presents the history of rhetoric(1) from Greek sophists, Plato's concept of rhetoric as a craft and relation between dialectics and oratory, Aristotle's doctrine describing oratory as the art of persuasion, Roman normative rhetoric and medieval "holy rhetoric" (rhetoric with poetry considered as identical), to the humanistic ideal of unity of rhetoric and philosophy and the Renaissance concept of rhetoric as a universal discipline. Petrić based his endeavor to construe a perfect, philosophical rhetoric on new principles that allow the reconstruction of rhetoric and its establishment as a discipline, no longer as art (ars) but rather as a science (scientia), as sure and perfect knowledge. Petrić expounds the elements of rhetorical topic, discussing e.g. speech and its subject, parts of speech and oratory ornaments, the scope of rhetoric, the problem of adequacy of words, the correspondence between words and objects, words and their respective meanings, truth and knowledge, and the relation among philosophy, rhetoric and dialectics, which was an important topic at the European sixteenth-century universities.

The task of rhetoric, according to Petric', is essentially different from the task of philosophy; while rhetorical utterance is mere philodoxy, cognizance of truth belongs to philosophy. Pointing out that rhetoric is connected with imperfect knowledge, that it belongs to the domain of opinion, of the probable, not to the domain of knowledge (the word-object adequacy problem) and that it does not have a proper research object, borrowing it from other disciplines, therefore not being autonomous but rather a servant to politics or ethics, Petrić criticizes Classical rhetoric, explains its contradictions and negates its significance, regarding it as an unnecessary and vain word-game. The orator is thus left with mere knowledge of the ways of speech usage, the techniques of persuasion. Analysing the relation between rhetoric and related disciplines, Petrić expounds his thesis on perfect rhetoric-antirhetoric and his theory of language and its functions (rhetorical, cognitive), processes of understanding, attempting to base rhetoric on new principles as a scientific-philosophical discipline, according to the model of mathematical science, as sure and perfect knowledge.


  1. Cf. B. Croce, Francesco Patrizi e la critica della retorica antica, in: B. Croce, Problemi di estetica, Bari 1940; L. Menapace Brisca, La retorica di Francesco Patrizi o del platonico antiaristotelismo, "Aevum", 1952, 26, pp. 434-461.
5. Epistemology of History

In the dialog-treatise "The Ten Dialogs on History" ("Della historia dieci dialoghi", 1560) Petrić methodically and critically discusses the mode of writing history, the presentation of the nature of historical knowledge and the way of determining its basic categories.

In his theoretical reflection Petrić tackles with a number of issues common in the sixteenth-century Europe, teeming with novel social, historical, cultural, economic and religious events and relations. Petrić endeavors to construe a general theory of history in the way similar to that of a number of Renaissance treatises on history (F. Robortello, S. Speroni, C. Sigonius, A. Viperano, A. Sardi) that discuss the nature of historical knowledge, considering it to be a part of either ethics, politics or rhetoric, an art (ars), and determining its similarities and dissimilarities with poetics in view of Aristotle's definitions. Petrić's epistemology of history, the definition of nature and essence of history, its task and purpose, the elements that distinghuish it -- as an art of words -- from poetics and rhetoric, show his novel view of history. Petrić regards history as an essentialy human feat, and it is in this context that he perceives the novel role and significance of history in human life (knowledge of truth and its usage in attainment of human happiness). Petrić considers the types of history (universal and individual, macro- and micro-history), examines human relation with history, expounds the problems of historical truth and objectivity, the methods and criteria used in historical research and presentation of its results (application of critical-philological method, collection and study of sources, etc.), classifies historians, writes about their qualities (ethical and critical traits), points out the role of history in political action and in the development of human attitude. On the whole, Petrić's model of scientific history includes not only political records, but also the spiritual, economic and cultural ones.

Petrić may be regarded as an exceptional historiographer and as an original thinker, since many of his methods, concepts and ideas are still thought inspiring by some theoreticians of history (J. Bodin). 

6. Petrić and Anti-Aristotelianism
1. Preparing the Way for a Philosophical Synthesis: "Peripatetic Discussions"

Petrić's comprehensive work "Peripatetic Discussions" ("Discussionum peripateticarum", 1 Vol., Venezia 1571; 4 Vols., Basel 1581) is of particular importance in understanding the entire complexity of philosophical problems on the one side and the fate of Aristotelianism in Europe during the Renaissance period on the other. Petrić indirectly presented his philosophical model and his concept of philosophy and its meaning and purpose (freedom of philosophy based on critical thinking, source research, doubt in inherited norms of thought and in "eternal truths") through the first Renaissance attempt at reconstruction and reinterpretation of Classical philosophical tradition, a contribution to the polemics with Aristotle and peripateticism(1) that offers novel answers to old questions and doubts and contradictions of Aristotle's doctrines and their deviations through eclectic and concordistic interpretations. Well versed in history of philosophical thought, in his "Discussions" Petrić undertook a philological and historically critical documentary textual analysis of the corpus of Aristotle's philosophy and its sources by a completed scientific apparatus (Petrić is the author of the thesis about librarian origins of the title 'Metaphysics'). Petrić reconstructed Aristotle's life on the basis of various ancient sources and his doctrines (including the differences from his predecessors), the history of his work and the history of Aristotelian peripatetic tradition (e.g. Arab reception of Aristotle's philosophy, its French and Spanish interpreters, similarities and discrepancies between Aristotle's and Plato's philosophies, etc.). Petrić pointed at the contradictions, deficiencies, lack of originality and at the falsehood -- the circulus vitiosus -- of Aristotelian philosophy, Scholastic Aristotelianism in particular. Petrić's objections focus on numerous aporias in Aristotle's thought. Analyzing the wide range of issues considered in Aristotle's natural philosophy, logics, physics, metaphysics, theology, Petrić criticizes Aristotle's scientific method and his theory of knowledge as sophistry, pointing at the intrinsic incoherence and contradictions of his definitions and classification of sciences, at the dubitable division of physics and metaphysics (as a problematic science on being, considering its object), at Aristotle's disagreement with and lack of understanding of his Hermetic, Pythagorean and Platonic predecessors' philosophical tenets. Petrić criticizes Aristotle's concepts of motion, of eternal heaven, the universe, the Unmoved Mover (a critique of Scholastic Aristotelianism) etc., through a detailed analysis of Aristotle's basic natural philosophy notions, the principles of natural things, substance, matter, form, causes, finite and eternal principles. On the basis of his thorough critique Petrić concluded that Aristotle had been unable to comprehend the true problems of philosophy, and that Aristotle's ("Godless") philosophy was therefore useless and not applicable to the establishment and renewal of true and right Christian religion and philosophy, the foundations of which Petrić finds in a renewal of ancient wisdom, philosophia perennis (Platonism, Hermetism). However, since certain elements of Aristotelianism nevertheless remained in Petrić's natural philosophy, his theories of space and motion, as well as in his philosophical synthesis -- "Nova de universis philosophia" -- his philosophical model is not to be understood as radically anti-Aristotelian, as some philosophy historians do interpret it.

Interpreting and evaluating both Aristotle's philosophy and its interpretations and evaluations throughout history, Petrić strives to include Aristotle into neo-Platonic philosophical tradition and also make room for his own philosophical views. Critique of Aristotle in the "Peripatetic Discussions" provides the basis for future development of Petrić's own true science on being and the universe ("Nova de universis philosophia"), defining at the same time new topics, tasks and meaning of philosophical thinking, of his unique philosophical model.

Polemics and critiques followed immediately after the work was published, especially concerning the interpretation of the subject of Aristotle's "Metaphysics", and the problem of relation between theology and ontology. In 1584, Th. Angeluti publishes his critique of Petric', entitled "Quod metaphysica sint eadem quae physica nova Theod. Angelutii sententio". Petrić replies the same year by his "Apologia contra calumnias Theo. Angelutii eiusque novae sententiae quod Metaphysica eadem sint quae phyica" and addresses it to a peripatetician C. Cremonini, pleading for freedom of philosophical thought and against Scholastic authority and Angeluti's criticism. Angeluti responds with the treatise "Exercitationum cum Francesco Patrizio liber primus" (1585), and F. Muti, a disciple of Telesius, writes his "Disceptationum libri V contra calumnias Theodori Angelutii in maximum phylosophum F. Patritium" (1588). There were other reactions to Petrić's work.(2) In the context of Renaissance Aristotelianism and Platonism of the late 1570's Petrić took part in the philosophical discussions and polemics about the central issues of natural philosophy, cosmology and physics, discussions about Telesius' natural philosophy and his view of Eleatic natural philosophy and interpretation of the One and many, the First Being and principle, God and nature. Petrić tried to interpret Telesius' philosophy as an echo of Parmenidean doctrines and demonstrate its contradictions and certain difficulties in understanding of some of Telesius' tenets, for example the notion of matter(3). A. Persio, an important person at the time, Telesius' follower and fellow-worker, author of philosophical and medical treatises(4), criticized Petrić's objections to Telesius' metaphysical views ("Apologia pro Bernardino Telesio adversus Franciscum Patritium").

2. "Nova de universis philosophia": Petrić's Coherent Philosophical System

Petrić's fundamental philosophical work, "Nova de universis philosophia" ("New Universal Philosophy", 1591, 1593) is a coherently elaborated philosophical system.

Petrić's entire rich and fruitful opus, showing his many and varied interests, is guided by philosophy based on "proof, not respectability" ("rationibus, non authoritatibus"), striving to attain knowledge of entirety.

"The philosopher's task is to discover, explain and prove the truth and the hiden in (the) entirety (of nature)"; this was Petrić's starting point of "Nova de universis philosophia" and of his philosophical model, a search for the knowledge of truth, the entirety of nature, world and man, human accomplishments, language, poetry, history, rhetoric.

In four comprehensive parts of his new philosophy ("Panaugia", "Panarchia", "Pampsychia", "Pancosmia"), as a Renaissance uomo universale, erudite and polyhistor, considering ancient philosophical heritage, Petrić systematically -- "divinis oraculis, geometricis necessitatibus, philosophicis rationibus, clarissimisque experimentis" -- presents his original, natural philosophy world-view and his ontological, gnoseological and theory of knowledge concepts. Petrić built elements from many traditions of thought (trying to adapt them all to suit Christian teachings) into his natural philosophy. In Petrić's unique elaboration these elements acquired new characteristics (pantheism, panpsychism, pancallism). "Nova de universis philosophia", written "methodo Platonica" according to Petric', includes his entire philosophical views: his theories about the universe, the fundamental principles of the physical world (space, light, heat, fluid, dampness), the concept of an all-permeating and all-vivificatory light and luminosity as the principle of life and occurrences, vivified nature and unity of the world, understood as a structural whole, of perfect beauty and harmony; the concept of the universal world-soul that sets everything in motion and mediates all occurences(5) (animistic theory of the universe, "Unomnia", "One-All"(6)). In a series of treatises Petrić writes about the following scientific issues: space, as the first principle of the physical world, mathematical and physical spaces, introducing the notions of infinitely big and infinitely small, an indivisible smallest line as a part of space, thus opposing Plato's and Aristotle's views; heat as the efficient cause of temperature changes, thus creating his thermal theory of matter and its chemical properties, criticizing Telesius' natural philosophy. Although Petrić never accepted Copernican cosmological views, and although his thought is a combination of philosophy, theology, metaphysical speculations and science, his astronomical theories, his view of the structure of the universe and natural motion of cosmic forces, and his straightforward opposition to non-scientific interpretations of the world (he stressed philosophical significance of mathematics) are important in the development of scientific thought, so many of his ideas provided inspiration for his contemporaries' cosmological systems and for later natural philosophy theories (G. Bruno's mathematical research, Galileo's laws of motion, Kepler's views of dynamics, etc.)(7) Taking part in contemporary polemics about astrology, Petrić expounded and empirically proved -- along with scientific theories and philosophical views -- a series of natural phenomena on the basis of his own experiences and research undertaken during his travels.

A number of Petrić's philosophical and scientific ideas, theories (ontological monism, a pantheistic-animistic theory of universe, pancallism, panpsychism) and views (mathematical, physical, chemical and astronomic ones) were accepted by certain philosophers and scientists and used as basis of their own theories (G. Bruno, Th. Campanella, R. Descartes, G. Galilei, P. Gassendi, J. Kepler, J. A. Komensky, G. W. Leibniz, I. Newton, G. Vico).

"Nova de universis philosophia" was condemned by the Catholic church and its distribution was consequently prohibited. Its author was accused of unorthodox thinking contrary to Catholic religion, establishing a new relation between philosophy and theology, revival of non-Christian religions, introducing mythical, magic, cabalistic and Hermetic elements into Christian doctrines and faith, claims concerning omni-unity of matter, and of denying the existence of God. The work was put on the list of prohibited books and its distribution forbidden until Petrić corrected ("donec corrigatur"(8)) all the controversial paragraphs. In vindication of his work Petrić wrote several treatises ("Apologia", "Declarationes in quaedam suae philosophiae loca obscuriora", "Emendatio... in libros suos novae philosophiae"(9)), trying to prove his endeavor to establish a novel philosophy in conformity with Christian doctrines. In 1593 appeared the somewhat modified second edition of "Nova de universis philosophia". Petrić failed to complete his other work similar to "Nova de universis philosophia". He finished just the first two chapters of his "Prime Philosophy" before he died (Francisci Patricii Primae philosophiae, 1596; the manuscript of the first part, "De principiis", is in the Biblioteca Communale in Parma, Italy, and the second part was published by Eugenio Garin in 1954, "Archivio di filosofia").

The appendix to "Nova de universis philosophia" includes the following Hermetic writings that Petrić collected and translated from Greek into Latin: Zoroastri oracula CCCXX ex Platonicis colecta; Hermetis Trismegisti libelli et fragmenta quotcunque reperiuntur, ordine scientifico disposita; Asklepij discipuli tres libelli; Mystica Aegyptorum, a Platone dictata, ab Aristotele excepta et perscripta Philosophia; Platonicorum dialogorum nouus penitus a Francisco Patritio inventus ordo scientificus; Capita demum multa in quibus Plato Concors, Aristoteles vero Catholice fidei adversarius ostenditur. They were also published as a separate book in Hamburg in 1593, entitled "Magia philosophica hoc est Zoroaster et eius CCCXX Oracula Chaldaica".

The magic-Hermetic tradition and the translations of "prisca theologia" and "prisca philosophia" were Petrić's framework for his project of the renewal of Christianity, his opposition to Scholastic peripateticism. The foundation of a new, pious philosophy, is an original Petrić's idea present in many of his works, in "La citta felice", the dialogs on history and rhetoric, in the "Discussionum peripateticarum" and "Della poetica", and finally in his philosophical-theological synthesis, the system of "Nova de universis philosophia".(10) These works -- and other ones -- dealing with numerous and various fields, philosophy and theology, but also linguistic sciences, geometry, history of music, history of warfare, etc., distinguish Petric', a Croatian cosmopolitan thinker, as a remarkable creative personality who left his mark on the sixteenth century, the "superiori saeculo"(11), one of the most fertile periods in European spiritual and cultural history. Petrić's ideas secured a considerable reception in Europe because of his model of thought, partly resulting from the ways of thinking common to his time, partly outgrowing them. This model -- universal knowledge, cognitio universitatis -- that Petrić gradually developed throughout his entire opus is actually a model of emancipaton of philosophical thought.


  1. See L. Artese, Una lettera di A. Persio al Pinelli, notizie intorno all'edizione del primo tomo delle "Discussiones" del Patrizi, Rinascimento, XXXVII, n.s. XXVI, 1986, pp. 339-348; M. Girardi Kars'ulin, Filozofska misao Frane Petric'a, Zagreb 1988.
  2. See M. Girardi Kars'ulin, op. cit.
  3. See B. Telesio, Varii de naturalibus rebus libelli, L. De Franco, ed., Firenze 1981.
  4. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, Italy, ms. Magliabechiana cl. CII. 39.
  5. See M. Brida, Petric'evo tumaèenje du{e svijeta, "Prilozi za istra`ivanje hrvatske filozofske bas'tine", 19-20, Zagreb, 1984, pp. 25-37.
  6. E. Banic'-Pajnic', Ishodis'te Petric'eva promis'ljanja Jednog, "Prilozi za istra`ivanje hrvatske filozofske bastine", 23-24, Zagreb, 1986, pp. 99-126; ib., Ontoteologijske pretpostavke i implikacije koncepcije beskonac'nog u Nikole Kuzanskog, Giordana Bruna i Frane Petric'a, "Prilozi za istraz'ivanje hrvatske filozofske bas'tine", 41-42, 1995, pp. 37-56.
  7. See Z'. Dadic', Frane Petrić o pojmu neprekinutosti i beskonac'nosti, "Prilozi za istraz'ivanje hrvatske filozofske bastine", 9-10, Zagreb, 1979, pp. 161-168; ib., Hrvati i egzaktne znanosti u osvitu novovjekovlja, Zagreb 1994, pp. 101-124 (Neoplatonic'ka prirodna filozofija Frane Petric'a); S. Paus'ek-Baz'dar, Prirodnoznanstveni pogledi Frane Petric'a, in: "Dani hvarskog kazalis'ta", XVIII., Hrvatski humanizam. XVI. stolje}e - Protestantizam i reformacija, Split, 1992, pp. 157-170.
  8. See S. Krasic', 'Sluc'aj Petrić i stavljanje na indeks zabranjenih knjiga njegova djela 'Nova de universis philosophia', "Prilozi za istraz'ivanje hrvatske filozofske bas'tine", 9-10, Zagreb, 1979, pp. 85-109.
  9. See L. Firpo, Filosofia italiana e Controriforma, II. La condanna di Francesco Patrizi, in: "Rivista di filosofia", Milano, 1950, pp. 159-173.
  10. See C. Vasoli, Magia e scienza nella civilta umanistica, Bologna 1976; ibid., Profezia e ragione. Studi sulla cultura del Cinquecento e del Seicento, Napoli 1974; F. Purnel, /Francesco Patrizzi and the Critics of Hermes Trismegistus, "Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies", IV, 1976; Papers presented at the international congress at Cres, Croatia, on April 25, 1979, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of Petrić's birth, published in "Prilozi za istraz'ivanje hrvatske filozofske bas'tine", Zagreb, 1979, 9-10; E. Banic'-Pajnic', Smisao i znaèenje Hermesove objave, Zagreb, 1989, pp. 115-144.
  11. Th. Cornelius Cosentinus, cf. E. Garin, Dal Rinascimento all'Illuminismo, Pisa 1970.

Part III

The Historical and Philosophical Destiny of Petrić's Work

It is posssible to determine the significance and role of Petrić's thought in the European history of philosophy on the basis of the results of philosophical historiography research. One may speak of reflections, similarities and correspondences, interdependence, borrowings and reception of numerous Petrić's views and ideas. There are analogies with, and possible influences on contemporary and more recent thinkers in Croatian and European philosophy and literature (e.g. T. Tasso, A. Romei, G. Vico and others).

Some of Petrić's ideas were influential in the development of science. Petrić's philosophical and natural history views -- ontological monism, his pantheistic-animistic theory of universe, pancallism, panpsychism, the doctrine about the unity of knowledge, encyclopedism, the concept of a unified history of philosophy, the postulate that objectivity should be the criterion of science, etc. -- were directly or indirectly incorporated into other thinkers' doctrines (B. Telesius, F. Vranèić / Verantius, G. Bruno, N. Copernicus, P. Gassendi, I. Newton). 

Petrić and his work were documented by his contemporaries, e.g. by the historian Jac. Aug. De Thon in a bio-bibliographical note in his "Historia sui temporis", who stressed the importance of Petrić's major works "Nova de universis philosophia" and "Della poetica". Giordano Bruno mentioned Petrić in the third dialog of "Della causa principio et uno" (Venetia 1584). Tommaso Cornelio (Cornelius Cosentinus) lists Petrić among those who traced the path for free thinking and exceled in their time in his "Epistola ad Marcellum Crescentium ab illustribus illis philosophicae libertatis vindicibus Telesio, Patritio et Galileo", 1661.(1) 

The influence of Petrić's scientific thought on contemporary and more recent scientists, natural philosophers in particular, was considerable. He also influenced the authors and thinkers who had recognized the novelty of Petrić's physical and metaphysical theories, even though some of them criticized his views, Johannes Kepler for example, who criticized Petrić's cosmology, refuting some of his concepts concerning physical body, infinity of space, nature of light, as well as Petrić's methodology and the influence of magic-Hermetic doctrines on his views etc. ("De Stella Nova Serpentari", 1606; "Epistola explicante propositum operis de Harmonia mundi", 1619).

The hypothetical character and paradoxes of Petrić's thought were noted by Pierre Bayle in the third volume of the "Dictionnaire historique critique" (entry "Patrice", remark B). Petrić was either praised or criticized in the critical histories of philosophy written by I. N. Erythraeus, A. Teissier, L. Moreri, G. Morhof, I. Bruckner, and in the Croatian works by I. Kukuljevic'-Sakcinski, F. Markovic', S'. Juric', K. Krstic', V. Filipović and others.

Some of Petrić's natural philosophy concepts, e.g. his theory of space and theory of forces, were of some importance in the creation of the astronomical world-view of N. Copernicus, in Newton's and Leibniz' natural philosophies and in Thomas Burnet's concepts ("Theoria Telluris sacra Orbis nostri", 1680; "Archeologia philosophica", 1692); /Kant's concept of space is similar to Petrić's views. 

The influence of Petrić's historiographic views on his contemporaries are also noticeable: Jean Bodin for example ("Methodus ac facilem historiarum cognitionem", "Six livres de la Republique"); Viperanus, the court historiographer of Philip II; U. Foglietta, the historian of the House of Savoy. 

There are prose authors, poets and philosophers, such as T. Tasso, T. Campanella, A. Kircher, P. Gassendi, R. Descartes, J. A. Komensky, and G. Vico, who were also influenced by Petrić's views.(2) Petrić's work on geometry was mentioned by Th. Hobbes in the description of his "ideal library". The Protestant theologian Adam Tribbechow also praises Petrić's "Nova de universis philosophia" ("De doctoribus scholasticis et corrupta per eos divinarum humanarumque rerum scientia liber singularis", Gissen 1665), while Giuseppe Valetta points at the significance of Petrić's philosophical ideas in the context of Aristotelianism ("Discorso filosofico in materia di Inquisitione et intorno ad corregimento della filosofia di Aristotele", Napoli 1697). Among those who did not accept Petrić's natural philosophy concepts was William Gilbert (F. Bacon learned about Petrić's ideas through his work) who refuted Petrić's idea of fluid as a component of all bodies ("De Mundo nostro sublunari philosophia nova", 1651).

Rene Rapin, a Jesuit, criticizes Petrić's anti-Aristotelianism, especially his "Discussionum peripateticarum" ("La comparaison de Platon et d'Aristote, avec le sentiment des Peres sur leur doctrine", 1671). 

Leibniz accused Petrić of corrupting his soul by reading pseudo-Platonists.(3) 

Joseph Glanvill, an English Platonist, advocates contrary views ("Scepsis scientifica or Confessed Ignorance, the Way to Science", 1665). There are similarities to Petrić's concepts in the works written by some of the Cambridge neo-Platonists, e.g. in Henry More's concepts of matter and space ("An Antidote against Atheism", 1653; "Immortality of Soul, Enchiridion metaphysicum", 1671). Some authors4 point at the influence of Petrić's concepts of space on Newton (although he does not mention Petrić explicitly) and on P. Gassendi's anti-Aristotelianism ("Exercitationes paradoxicae adversus Aristoteleos", 1624; "Syntagma philosophicum", Opera omnia, 1658). 

Petrić's neo-Platonic views and his philosophy of light was stressed by Francis Bacon in the "Descriptio globi intellectualis" (1694). A French theologian, philosopher and scientist, Marin Mersenne, mentions Petrić and criticizes the same theory ("Quaestiones celeberrimae in Genesim", 1623). Petrić was considered to be a great philosopher of his time by Jan Amos Comenius / Komensky ("Unum necessarium", 1658) whose works show many similarities to Petrić's views. Isac Cardoso, a physician from Mantua, Italy, characterizes Petrić as a new philosopher, along with Telesius, Galilei and others ("Philosophia libera in septem libros distribuita", 1673). Petrić was mentioned in many contemporary treatises on poetics and rhetoric, and in polemics about literature: Giambattista Strozzi's "Dell'unita della favola", 1559; Cesare Crispolti's "Lezione del sonetto", 1592; Paolo Beni's "Disputatio... comoediam atque tragoediam", 1600; Fabrizio Beltrami's "Discorso contra la poetica del Patrizi", 1587, and "Alcune considerazioni intorno all'alegoria", 15945. Petrić was used as a character in literary dialogs, for example in T. Tasso's "Il Malpiglio", "Il Ghirlinzone", G. Comanini's "Il Figino", A. Romei's "Discorsi".

It is thus evident that Petrić's work has remained present in the history of thought until the modern times because of its multifariousness, novelty and its theoretical and methodological significance. This in the first place involves his endeavor to establish a new, free philosophy, his philosophy of nature and mystic philosophy. Some of Petrić's ideas, e.g. the mathematical knowledge of nature, the cosmological model of the world and their respective implications, significant in the history of European scientific thought, are notable in the context of modern cosmological theories.(6) 

Petrić's modern model of thought and his idea of philosophical renewal, as developed through his works, are the reasons for the long and interesting historical reception of his philosophy in Europe. 


  1. In: E. Garin, Dal Rinascimento all'Illuminismo, Pisa 1970, pp. 100, 124, 130.
  2. The reflections of some of Petrić's ideas and philosophical views in the seventeenth-century pansophistic projects (J. A. Komensky, A. Kircher and others) are depicted in my book Humanizam bez granica. Hrvatska filozofija u europskom obzoru, Zagreb 1992, pp. 137-150.
  3. "Franciscus Patritius... pseudo-Platonicorum lectione animum praecorruperat", cf. Die philosophische Schriften von Leibniz, ed. C. I. Gerhardt, Vol. 7, Berlin 1875-90, VII, pp. 147-149.
  4. J. T. Barker, A Historical and Critical Examination of English Space and Time Theories from Henry More to Bishop Berkeley, New York 1930; A. Koyre, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, London 1957. 
  5. See Trattati di poetica e retorica del Cinquecento (ed. B. Weinberg), Roma-Bari 1974. 
  6. See M. Jammer, Concepts of Space. The History of Theories of space in Physics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970, 2nd edition. 

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