Potestas Essendi

A Virtual Space for Thoughts on the Middle Ages, by Nicola Polloni


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Translating Experience

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What is the role of experience in medieval encounters with nature, self, and God? The Aristotelian sciences, such as astronomy and meteorology, zoology and botany, as well as other medieval disciplines such as medicine, alchemy, and magic drew on experience in different ways and to different degrees. Their applications range from singular references to experience in different arguments to collected works of experience, such as the medical literary genre of the Experimenta that focuses on medical remedies. Yet the same concepts—tajriba, nissayon, experientia / experimentum—are also used in the encounter with the self; more specifically in the realms of epistemological inquiry, internal reflection on experience of the natural world, or the question of conscience. A third prominent area where experience plays a central role in medieval discourses is encounters with the divine through rapture, prophecy, the practice of magic and necromancy—discourses in which the concept of experience finds its very limits.

Despite their diversity of applications, all three encounters of experience with nature, self, and God seem to share a twofold approach: on the one hand, ‘experience’ is discussed as a noetic object to reflect upon epistemological and psychological questions; on the other hand, ‘experience’ is used as noetic tool to increase, correct, and corroborate the knowledge acquired in the different disciplines. What seems to underlie all encounters with experience and approaches to it, however, are questions of ‘translation’ on the three levels of the conceptual, the linguistic, and the material—translations that cross not only cultural and religious boundaries, but also from the real world to that of parchment.

The aim of our first conference on the vast topic of experience in the medieval world is to explore some fundamental basics in order to begin to conceive of medieval experience in a more nuanced fashion. Among the questions we would like to explore are those concerning three different perspectives:

(1) Experience as a tool of knowledge: How did medieval thinkers draw on experience in these three different encounters of nature, self, and God? Does experience assume different roles and functions within the different disciplines?

(2) Experience as an object of knowledge: Was experience conceived of differently in the two realms of the empirical and the non-empirical? Or was experience thought to involve some common core—a core concept that could be ‘translated’ from one encounter to another and from one realm to another?

(3) The aspect of ‘translating’ experience: How did medieval thinkers negotiate linguistic translations of experience from one scholarly language to another (Arabic, Latin, and Hebrew)? To what extent did these linguistic translations involve trans-cultural and trans-religious translations of experience in theory and practice? How and why did medieval thinkers translate experience from technical and difficult language to a simpler and easy-to-understand language? And last but not least, how did material translations—the very activity of writing experienced events onto parchment—affect the medieval understandings and applications of experience found in their texts?

The conference is sponsored by the Department of History and the Department of Theology of Durham University, the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS), with the support of the Society for Medieval Philosophy (SOFIME) and the Italian Society for the Study of Medieval Philosophy (SISPM).

Conference Website


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Theoretical Enthusiasm and Doctrinal Condemnation: 1181-1215

The fifth and final video-lecture of the research seminar The Penetration of Arabic Philosophy into the Latin Philosophical Tradition (1162-1215) is online [GO to the seminar webpage]. The seminar is organised by the Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group (AAIWG).

The previous lectures have examined one of the first and most exemplar cases of Latin assimilation of Arabic philosophy, i.e., Dominicus Gundissalinus’s reflection. The final lecture of the research seminar is centred on the decades between the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century, examining how the Arabic writings translated in Toledo were received, criticised, and assimilated by the Latin thinkers. The first writings to be analysed are the two anonymous treatises De causis primis et secundis and De peregrinationibus animae apud inferos (or ‘Anonymous D’Alverny’), together with Daniel of Morley’s Philosophia. In these works one can clearly see two different ‘patterns’ for the reception of the Arabic writings, different perspectives that share some interesting theoretical points. A rather different approach characterises the following generation of thinkers dealing with these texts. The lecture takes into account some exemplar cases of this attitudes (Alexander Neckam, John Blund, Robert Grosseteste). Finally, the focus is centred on Paris, and the condemnation of Aristotle’s natural philosophy and its commentators in 1210/15.

Thematic articulation of the lecture

  • The Peregrinations of the Soul in the Afterlife
  • De causis primis et secundis et de fluxu qui consequitur eas
  • Daniel of Morley
  • Contrasting Developments
  • Condemnation and Resurgence
  • Conclusive Remarks


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Attempting an ‘Epistemological Revolution’

The fourth video-lecture of the research seminar The Penetration of Arabic Philosophy into the Latin Philosophical Tradition (1162-1215) is online [GO to the seminar webpage]. The seminar, organised by the Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group (AAIWG) is composed of five video-lectures that will be uploaded on the dedicated Youtube channel during the next weeks.

This lecture examines the epistemological reflection by Dominicus Gundissalinus exposed in his De divisione philosophiae. After a brief analysis of the problems arising from the consideration of Gundissalinus’s De scientiis as an original work, the focus of this lecture is centred on the examination of Gundissalinus’s perspective in his treatise On the Divisions of Philosophy, paying particular attention to his prologue, where the Toledan philosopher presents his articulation of knowledge, and to the so-called Summa Avicennae de convenientia et differentia scientiarum praedictarum, a section in which Gundissalinus expounds the principles through which the division he proposes is pursued. The final part of the lecture is then focused on the analysis of two exemplar cases of sciences and disciplines presented by the De divisione philosophiae: natural philosophy and metaphysics.

Thematic articulation of the lecture

  • Gundissalinus’s De scientiis
  • Toward a New Articulation of Knowledge
  • The Doctrine of Subalternation
  • Natural Philosophy
  • Metaphysics
  • Final Remarks

 


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Call for Papers

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 16.46.33.pngCall for Papers
Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval

Original papers are sought to the scientific journal Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval, vol. 24 (2017), to be published in December 2017. The Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval is a yearly scholarly open access publication, indexed and peer-reviewed. The Revista is the official journal of SOFIME (Sociedad de Filosofía Medieval: http://www.sofime.eu), and it is distributed by the University of Zaragoza’s Press.

Our journal is continuously published since 1993, with scientific contributions in Spanish, English, French, German, Italian and Portuguese. The submitted articles must be original contributions to the discussion on medieval thought and the transmission of knowledge (from the Middle Ages up to the Early-Modern Period), nonetheless contributions related to the intellectual tradition of Late Antiquity are welcomed too. Papers must be approximately between 5,000 and 25,000 words in length. The deadline for the submission is 1 July 2017. The contributions will be evaluated through a blind peer-review process. To submit a paper, sign up and follow the instructions on our OJS website:

https://www.uco.es/ucopress/ojs/index.php/refime/index


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Gundissalinus’s Psychological Reflection

The third video-lecture of the research seminar The Penetration of Arabic Philosophy into the Latin Philosophical Tradition (1162-1215) is online [GO to the seminar webpage]. The seminar, organised by the Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group (AAIWG) is composed of four video-lectures that will be uploaded on the dedicated Youtube channel during the next weeks.

Following the examination of the main metaphysical problems with which Gundissalinus dealt in his cosmological works (see AAIWG/RS-2), the third lecture of the research seminar is dedicated to the analysis of Gundissalinus’s discussion of psychology. The lecture exposes the main features presented by Gundissalinus in his De anima, and the peculiarities on the use of his Arabic and Latin sources, regarding the four main themes discussed in Gundissalinus’s writing: the existence of the soul, its ontological composition, its origin and immortality, and the psychological faculties.

Thematic articulation of the lecture

  • The Existence of the Soul
  • The Composition of the Soul
  • Origin and Destiny of the Soul
  • Psychological Faculties
  • Final Remarks

 


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Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Medieval Philosophy

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Bibliography (Primary sources):

  • Gundissalinus, De processione mundi, English translation by J.A. Laumakis, The Procession of the World, Milwaukee 2002.
  • Ibn Gabirol, The Font of Life, English translation by J.A. Laumakis, Milwaukee 2014.
  • Avicenna, The Metaphysics of the Healing, English translation by M.E. Marmura, Provo 2005.
  • Hermann of Carinthia, De essentiis, critical edition and English translation by Ch. Burnett, Leiden 1982.


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Dominicus Gundissalinus: Metaphysics and Cosmology

The second video-lecture of the research seminar The Penetration of Arabic Philosophy into the Latin Philosophical Tradition (1162-1215) is online [GO to the seminar webpage]. The seminar, organised by the Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group (AAIWG) is composed of four video-lectures that will be uploaded on the dedicated Youtube channel during the next weeks.

This lecture examines the metaphysical and cosmological reflection by Dominicus Gundissalinus (1125ca.-1190ca.), translator from Arabic into Latin and original philosopher active in Toledo in the second half of the twelfth century. After a short exposition of the contents and theoretical developments of Gundissalinus’s two cosmological writings – De unitate et uno and De processione mundi – the focus is centred on the peculiarities of Gundissalinus’s interpretation of the Arabic sources he used, and particularly Avicenna and Ibn Gabirol, and Gundissalinus’s attempt at assimilating their metaphysical doctrines into the Latin philosophical tradition. Particular attention is also paid to the progressive problematization of Ibn Gabirol’s ontology (namely, universal hylomorphism) by Gundissalinus. This problematization is accompanied and led by Gundissalinus’s progressive acceptance of the ontology proposed by Avicenna in Liber de philosophia prima, I, marking a theoretical shift between De unitate et uno and De processione mundi, the latter being possibly Gundissalinus’s last treatise to be written.

Thematic articulation

  • Gundissalinus’s style and approach
  • De unitate et uno
  • De processione mundi
  • Some final remarks