Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus

Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus

German Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Philosopher, Theologian, Jurist, Mathematician and Astronomer

Author Quotes

If full knowledge about the very base of our existence could be described as a circle, the best we can do is to arrive at a polygon.

The earth, which cannot be the center, cannot lack all motion. In fact, it is even necessary that it be moved in such a way that it could be moved infinitely less.

In God we must not conceive of distinction and indistinction, for example, as two contradictories, but we must conceive of them as antecedently existing in their own most simple beginning, where distinction is not other than indistinction.

The fact is that man has no longing for any other nature but desires only to be perfect in his own.

It has been asserted that there is a separate species on the earth to correspond with each one of the stars. Now if the earth provides in each species a focus for the action of each star, why may not a similar provision be made among other heavenly bodies that are subject to the action of their fellows?

The great Dionysius says that our understanding of God draws near to nothing rather than to something. But sacred ignorance teaches me that that which seems to the intellect to be nothing is the incomprehensible Maximum.

It is impossible for the world machine to have this sensible earth, air, fire, or anything else for a fixed and immovable center. For in motion there is no simply minimum, such as a fixed center.... And although the world is not Infinite, it cannot be conceived of as finite, since it lacks boundaries within which it is enclosed... Therefore, just as the earth is not the center of the world, so the sphere of fixed stars is not its circumference.

The intellect alone has an eye for viewing an essence, which it cannot see except in the true Cause, which is the Fount of all desire. Moreover, since all things seek to exist, then in all things there is desire from the Fount-of-desire, wherein being and desire coincide in the Same.

It is possible that those who will read things previously unheard of, and now established by Learned Ignorance, will be astonished.

The machine of the world will have its centre everywhere, so to speak, and its circumference nowhere, because its circumference and its centre are God, who is everywhere and nowhere.

A given circle cannot be so true that a truer one cannot be found; and the movement of a sphere at one moment is never precisely equal to its movement at another, nor does it ever describe two circles similar and equal, even if from appearances the opposite may seem true.

It is self-evident that there is no comparative relation of the infinite to the finite. ... Therefore, it is not the case that by means of likeness a finite intellect can precisely attain the truth about things. ... For truth is not something more or something less but is something indivisible. Whatever is not truth cannot measure truth precisely. ... For the intellect is to truth as an inscribed polygon is to the inscribing circle.

The posse {i.e. potential} of the mind to see, therefore, surpasses the posse to comprehend.

A human is above all the creatures of God, and only a bit lower than the angels.

It must be added that this earth is not spherical, as some have said, though it tends towards sphericity; indeed, the shape of the world is contrasted in its parts, as well as its motion; but when the infinite line is considered as contracted in such a way that, as contracted, it could not be more perfect or more spacious, then it is circular, and the corresponding corporeal figure [is the] spherical one. For all motion of the parts is towards the perfection of the whole; thus heavy bodies [move] towards the earth, and light ones [move] upward, earth towards earth, water towards water, fire towards fire; accordingly, the motion of the whole tends as far as it can towards the circular, and all shapes towards the spherical one, as we see in the parts of animals, in trees, and in the sky. But one motion is more circular and more perfect than another, and it is the same with shapes.

The rational is apprehended through the intellect, however, the intellect is not found in the region of the rational; the intellect is as the eye and the rational as the colors.

According to the movement of reason, plurality or multitude is opposed to unity. Hence, it is not a unity of this sort which properly applies to God, but the unity to which neither otherness nor plurality nor multiplicity is opposed. This unity is the maximum name enfolding all things in its simplicity of unity, and this is the name which is ineffable and above all understanding.

It must not be said either that, because the earth is smaller than the sun, and receives an influence from it, it is also more vile; for the whole region of the earth, which extends to the circumference of the fire, is large. And though the earth is smaller than the sun, as is known to us from its shadow and the eclipses, still we do not know whether the region of the sun is greater or smaller than the region of the earth; however, they cannot be precisely equal, as no star can be equal to another. Nor is the earth the smallest star, for it is larger than the moon, as we are taught by the experience of the eclipses, and even, as some people say, larger than Mercury, and possibly than some other stars. Thus the argument from the dimension to the vileness is not conclusive.

Though the world is not infinite, yet it cannot be conceived as finite, since it has no limits between which it is confined. The earth, therefore, which cannot be the center cannot be lacking in all motion; but it is necessary that it move in such a way that it could be moved infinitely less. Just as the earth is not the center of the world, so the sphere of the fixed stars is not its circumference, though if we compare the earth to the sky, the earth appears to be nearer to the center, and the sky to the circumference. The earth therefore is not the center, neither of the eighth nor of [any] other sphere, nor does the rising of the six signs [of the Zodiac] above the horizon imply that the earth is in the center of the eighth sphere. For even if it were somewhat distant from the center and outside the axis, which traverses the poles, so that in one part it would be elevated towards one pole, and in the other [part] depressed towards the other, nevertheless it is clear that, being at such a great distance from the poles and the horizon being just as vast, men would see only half of the sphere [and therefore believe themselves to be in its center].

All those who make an investigation judge the uncertain proportionally, by means of a comparison with what is taken to be certain. Therefore, every inquiry is comparative and uses the means of comparative relation. ... Hence, the infinite, qua infinite, is unknown; for it escapes all comparative relation.

Nor is the darkness of colour a proof of the earth?s baseness; for the brightness of the sun, which is visible to us, would not be perceived by anyone who might be in the sun.

Thus wise men have been right in taking examples of things which can be investigated with the mind from the field of mathematics, and not one of the Ancients who is considered of real importance approached a difficult problem except by way of the mathematical analogy. That is why Boethius, the greatest scholar among the Romans, said that for a man entirely unversed in mathematics, knowledge of the Divine was unattainable. ?

All visible things would not claim as their king some color of their region, which is actually among the visible things of this region, but rather would say, he is the highest possible beauty of the most lucid and perfect color.

Number, in consequence, includes all things that are capable of comparison. It is not then in quantity only that number produces proportion; it produces it in all things that are capable of agreement and differences in any way at all, whether substantially or accidentally.

Wonder is the reason we seek to know any reality whatsoever.

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Nicholas of Cusa, also Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus
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German Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Philosopher, Theologian, Jurist, Mathematician and Astronomer