He was born at Sessa Aurunca near Naples. He proceeded to Padua, where he studied philosophy. He lectured at Padua, Naples, Rome, and Pisa, and won so high a reputation that he was deputed by Leo X to defend the Catholic doctrine of immortality against the attack of Pomponazzi and the Alexandrists. In return for this he was made Count Palatine, with the right to call himself by the name Medici.
In his early thought he followed Averroes, but afterwards modified his views so far as to make himself acceptable to the orthodox Catholics.
In 1495 he produced an edition of the works of Averroes; with a commentary compatible with his acquired orthodoxy. In the great controversy with the Alexandrists he opposed the theory of Pietro Pomponazzi, that the rational soul is inseparably bound up with the material part of the individual, and hence that the death of the body carries with it the death of the soul. He insisted that the individual soul, as part of absolute intellect, is indestructible, and on the death of the body is merged in the eternal unity.
His principal philosophical works are:
- De immortalitate animi (1518 and 1524)
- De intellectu et daemonibus (1492)
- De infinitate primi motoris quaestio, and
- Opuscula moralia et politica.
His numerous commentaries on Aristotle were widely read and frequently reprinted, the best-known edition being one printed at Paris in 1654 in fourteen volumes (including the Opuscula).
The famous phrase, to 'think with the learned, and speak with the vulgar' is attributed to Nifo.1
- Or 1529 or 1531 depending on who you believe
- John Watkins, Hobbes's System of Ideas (London: Grower, 1965), p. 56.
- Leen Spruit (ed), Agostino Nifo De intellectu (Leiden, Brill, 2011) (Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, 201/1).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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