Jonathan Regier

Jonathan Regier

Robert Lehman Fellow
Girolamo Cardano on Natural and Political Risk
Jonathan Regier


Jonathan Regier is a research fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where he recently completed a Marie Curie fellowship. He is an historian of early modern philosophy and science. His work explores several themes that mark the intellectual landscape of the period: humanist innovation in medicine and natural philosophy, the mathematization of nature, and the naturalization of the divine. His studies have appeared in Isis, Bruniana & Campanelliana, HOPOS, Early Science and Medicine, among other journals and volumes. He took his PhD at Université Paris Diderot, and has held fellowships at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Ghent University.

Project Summary

In my research, I am curious about the joint history of risk and expertise. How did Renaissance experts—from physicians and astrologers, to philosophers and political counselors—appeal to danger, uncertainty, and security? How did they justify their expertise by such appeals? In order to make these broad questions manageable, my focus is currently on Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576), one of Europe’s preeminent physicians and among the most widely referenced authors of his time. Cardano published in almost every possible discipline: natural and moral philosophy, medicine, astrology, divination, and mathematics. Many of his scholarly efforts were devoted to understanding and managing the dangers and uncertainties of life. While at I Tatti, I will explore his political thought. A rather overt pessimism imbues his discussions of civic and religious power: those who wield authority are underwhelming and overmatched; they do and perhaps must meet risk with a combination of treachery and mediocrity. Drawing from a number of Cardano’s writings, I will reconstruct his views on collective power and its preservation, and on how the individual must navigate power. I will also situate his political philosophy in terms of context and reception—in terms of his philosophy of nature and mind, his readings of Tacitus, Machiavelli and others, his anticipation of theories of reason of state and sovereignty, and his influence on French libertins érudits of the seventeenth century, chiefly Gabriel Naudé.