AGOSTINO NIPHO (Eutychus Augustinus Niphus Suessanus)—a philosopher, astrologer, and physician, b. in 1473 in Sessa Aurunca (near Caserta) in Italian Campania, d. around 1546 in Salerno.
Agostino Nipho studied the liberal arts in Naples. At the University of Padua he was a student of the well-known Averroist Nicoletto Verni (whose master was Cajetan of Thiene). From 1492 he taught in Padua. He started a discussion with his master Verni on the correct interpretation of the doctrine of Alexander of Aphrodisia concerning the human soul. In 1496 he became Pomponazzi’s successor in the seat in Padua. Three years later in his hometown he began a medical practice, but in 1505 he returned to teaching philosophy, first in Naples, then in Salerno (1506–1507), again in Naples (1507–1508), and in 1514 in Rome. Agostino Nipho resumed his polemics with Pomponazzi and published with papal approval a response to Pomponazzi’s De immortalitate animae. In the years that followed Agostino Nipho lectured in Pisa (1519–1522), Salerno (1522–1526 and 1533–1535), and Naples (1531–1532). He also held the post of mayor of his hometown during which time it was visited by Emperor Carol V (March 24, 1536).
Agostino Nipho wrote many philosophical works, political works, and works on natural science. The most important include the following. De intellectu et daemonibus (Pd 1492) is the main treatise reflecting Agostino’s youthful views on the intellect and was written in the spirit of Averroism. In Super tres libros De anima (Ve 1503) he breaks with Averroes’ interpretation of the views of Aristotle on the human soul and he breaks with the view of the unity of the intellect. His In librum Destructio destructionum commentarii (Ve 1497, Ly 1529) was a commentary on Averroes’ Tahafut al- tahafut, De infinitate primi motoris (Ve 1504). His In duodecim μητα τα φυσικα seu metaphysices Aristotelis et Averrois volumen (Ve 1505) was a commentary on Book XII of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. De immortalitate animae libellus adversus Petrum Pomponatium (Ve 1518) contains various philosophical arguments for the immortality of the human soul (Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas). Expositiones in Aristotelis libros Metaphysices (Ve 158 and 1559) discusses metaphysical problems such as analogy and participation, and problems in the philosophy of God. De regnandi peritia (Na 1523) is a paraphrase of Machiavelli’s Prince. In De pulchro et amore (R 1531) his conception of beauty and love looks to the ancient Greek approaches to these problems (chiefly the Aristotelians). Other works include the two-volume Opuscula moralia (P 1645), Expositiones in omnes Aristotelis libros, De Historia animalium, De partibus animalium et earum causis ac De Generatione animalium (written in 1534 in Salerno, published in Venice in 1546), Physicorum auscultationum Aristotelis libri octo (Ve 1546), In libros de Sophisticis elenchis (Ve 1551); Dilucidarium metaphysicarum disputationum in Aristotelis Deum et quattuor libros metaphysicarum (Ve 1559). Agostino deserves credit for completing (together with Zimara) a monumental edition of Averroes’ writings between 1495 and 1497.
Agostino’s philosophical views went through marked changes, particularly in anthropological and psychological questions. In the first stage of his literary work Agostino was an apparent disciple of Siger’s Averroism (he accepted Siger of Brabant’s conception of the intellect). Later he was inclined to Thomistic solutions (he recognized the agent and passive intellect as faculties of the soul). Despite the basic change in orientation, Agostino retained certain Averroistic views and tried to demonstrate an agreement between Averroism and the principles of Christianity. He stated that the intellect has an operatio propria that is independent of sense impressions. Agostino’s doctrine of the soul contained Platonic and Plotinian elements, among others. Agostino received the solutions of Plato through Ficino. Like many of his contemporaries, in the question of cognitive forms (species) Agostino seems to have accepted an a priori position when he stated that the source of these forms is a pure spirit or God.
Furthermore, Agostino taught that Aristotle’s doctrine was not applicable in religious doctrine. This concerns especially the understanding of God, because as Agostino argues the theological idea of God as ens simpliciter infinitum is unacceptable for the philosopher who describes God as the most perfect being. On the other hand, the right way for philosophical reflection about God is, according to him, the “physical” way whereby we come to know God as the mover of the world.
In cosmology Agostino belonged to the critics of Ptolemy’s astronomical hypothesis. He rejected the epicycles and eccentrics in the Ptolemaic theory because they had no place in the Aristotelian cosmology that he defended. Agostino tried to reconcile Aristotle’s cosmology with certain authors of his time. To this tend he introduced a distinction between the mathematical limits of the universe, which are merely of the imagination (secundum imaginationem), and the real limits that can be perceived by the senses (secundum rei naturam). This distinction was particularly important in the sixteenth- century discussion on the world’s spatial infinity.
Agostino was also interested in the problem of atoms. He considered matters such as the atomic hypothesis in physics and chemistry. He also tried to modify the Aristotelian-Averroistic theory of motion with the help of the conception of impetus.
L. Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Lo 1941, V 69–93; B. Nardi, Sigieri di Brabante nel pensiero del Rinascimento italiano, R 1945; idem, Saggi sull&rsquou;aristotelismo padovano dal secolo XIV al XVI, Fi 1958; H. Randall, Scientific Method in the School of Padua, in: Roots of Scientific Thought, NY 1960 (passim); E. J. Ashworth, Agostino Nifo’s Reinterpretation of Medieval Logic, Rivista critica di storia della filosofia 31 (1976), 354–374; S. Swieżawski, DF V (passim); E. P. Mahoney, Philosophy and Science in Nicoletto Vernia and Agostino Nifo, in: Scienza e filozofia all’Università di Padova nel quattrocento, Pd 1983, 135–202; idem, Plato and Aristotle in the Thought of Agostino Nifo (ca. 1470–1538), in: Platonismo e aristotelismo nel mezzogiorno d’Italia (secc. XIV–XVI), Palermo 1989, 81–102; idem, Agostino Nifo and Neoplatonism, in: Il neoplatonismo nel rinascimento, R 1993, 205–231.