Zabarella was born into a noble Paduan family. He received a humanist education and entered the University of Padua, where he received a doctorate in 1553. His teachers included Francesco Robortello in humanities, Bernardino Tomitano in logic, Marcantonio Genua in physics and metaphysics, and Pietro Catena in mathematics. In 1564 he succeeded Tomitano in a chair of logic. In 1577 he was promoted to the first extraordinary chair of natural philosophy. He died in Padua at the age of 56 in 1589. His entire teaching career was spent at his native university. His successor was Cesare Cremonini.
Zabarella's work reflects his teaching in the Aristotelian tradition. His first published work was Opera logica (Venice 1578), followed by Tabula logicae (1578). His commentary on Aristotle's Posterior Analytics appeared in 1582. His great work in natural philosophy was De rebus naturalibus, published posthumously in 1590. It constituted 30 treatises on Aristotelian natural philosophy, the introduction to which was written only weeks before his death. His two sons edited his incomplete commentaries on Aristotle's texts, also published posthumously (the commentary on the Physics in 1601 and the commentary on On the Soul (1605).
Zabarella consulted newly recovered Greek commentators such as Alexander of Aphrodisias, Philoponus, Simplicius and Themistius, as well as medieval commentators like Thomas Aquinas, Walter Burley and Averroes. Unlike some earlier scholastic philosophers, he read Greek, and was therefore able to use the Greek text of Aristotle. He devoted much effort to presenting what he considered to be the true meaning of Aristotle's texts.
- Opera Logica, (first edition Venise, 1578; second Venise, 1586; third Lyon-Francfort, 1586–87) contains:
- 1. De natura logicae; 2. De quarta figura syllogismorum; 3. De methodis; 4. De conversione demonstrationi in definitionem; 5. De propositionibus necessariis; 6. De speciebus demonstrationis; /. De regressu; 8. De tribus praecognitis; 9. De medio demonstrationis.
- Opera Logica, (fourth edition Kōln, 1597) with the addition of:
- 10. In II libros Posteriores analyticos commentarii (Venise, 1582); 11. De doctrinae ordine apologia (Padova, 1585); 12. Tabulae logicae (Venise, 1578).
- Opera Logica, anastatic reprint of the Kōln 1597 edition by Wilhelm Risse, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1966.
- De rebus naturalibus libri XXX (Venise, 1590).
- In libros Aristotelis Physicorum commentarii, (Venise, 1601).
- Commentarii in Meteora, In Commentarii in Aristotelis libros physicorum, item In libros De generatione et corruptione, item In Meteora, (Frankfurt, 1602).
- Commentarii in III libros De anima, (Venise, 1605).
- Iacobus Zabarella, Tables de logique. Sur l'Introduction de Porphyre, les Catégories, le De l'interprétation et les Premiers Analytiques d'Aristote: Petite synopse introductive à la logique aristotélicienne. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2003, translated by Michel Bastit.
- Jacques Zabarella, La nature de la logique, Paris: Vrin 2009, translated by Dominique Bouillon.
- Jacopo Zabarella, On Methods, edited and translated by John P. McCaskey (I Tatti Renaissance Library; Harvard University Press, to be published April 2014).
- Volume 1, Books I-II.
- Volume 2, Books III-IV.
- Edwards, William F. (1960): The Logic of Iacopo Zabarella (1533–1589). Unpublished Ph.D.thesis, Columbia University.
- H. Mikkeli (1992): An Aristotelian Response to Renaissance Humanism. Jacopo Zabarella on the Nature of Arts and Sciences, The Finnish Historical Society: Helsinki.
- Randall, J.H. (1961): The School of Padua and the Emergence of Modern Science. Editrice Antenore: Padova.
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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- Giacomo Zabarella entry by Heikki Mikkeli in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Biography at The Galileo Project
- Ulrich G. Leinsle (1998). "Jacopo Zabarella". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German) 14. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 292–295. ISBN 3-88309-073-5., biography of Jacopo Zabarella
- Philosophy Institute of the Düsseldorf University: Philosophengalerie, article "Jacobus Zabarella (Giacomo Zabarella)" (in German) online : with picture
- Texts of Zabarella
- German translation of De ordine intelligendi, by Rudolf Schicker
- German translation of Zabarella's De natura, by Rudolf Schicker
- Opera Logica (PDF)