Career Updates, Research and Activities

Output Report 2016

As always at the end of the year, time comes for some overall assessment of this year’s outputs. Here it goes: my annual output report for 2016.


Gundissalinus on Necessary Being: Textual and Doctrinal Alterations in the Exposition of Avicenna’s Metaphysics

Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 26/1 (2016): 129-160.

DOI: 10.1017/S0957423915000144

This article examines the textual alteration strategy carried out by Dominicus Gundissalinus in his original works. One of the most striking examples of this approach can be detected in the large quotation of Avicenna’s Philosophia prima I, 6–7 in Gundissalinus’ cosmological treatise De processione mundi, in which the Spanish philosopher variously modifies the text he translated a few years before. After a short presentation of Gundissalinus’ double role as translator and philosopher, the study moves on to the analysis of Avicenna’s doctrine of necessary and possible being, and the five demonstrations of the unrelated uniqueness of necessary being offered by Avicenna. These arguments are directly quoted by Gundissalinus: nevertheless, the author modifies the text in many passages, here examined through the analysis of some representative excerpts. The results of this enquiry suggest that Gundissalinus is following an effective alteration strategy, envisaging at least two main purposes: the clarification of Avicenna’s line of reasoning, and the doctrinal assimilation of Philosophia prima’s theories in his original philosophical system. In appendix to this article the whole text of the two versions of Philosophia prima I, 6–7 is presented.


Gundissalinus’s Application of al-Fārābi’s Metaphysical Programme. A Case of Epistemological Transfer.

Mediterranea. International Journal on the Transfer of Knowledge 1 (2016): 69-106.

DOI: 10.21071/mijtk.v0i1.5174

This study deals with Dominicus Gundissalinus’s discussion on metaphysics as philosophical discipline. Gundissalinus’s translation and re-elaboration of al-Fārābī’s Iḥṣā’ al-ʿulūm furnish him, in the De scientiis, a specific and detailed procedure for metaphysical analysis articulated in two different stages, an ascending and a descending one. This very same procedure is presented by Gundissalinus also in his De divisione philosophiae, where the increased number of sources –in particular, Avicenna– does not prevent Gundissalinus to quote the entire passage on the methods of metaphysical science from the Iḥṣā’ al-ʿulūm, with some slight changes in his Latin translation. The analytical procedure herein proposed becomes an effective ‘metaphysical programme’ with regards to Gundissalinus’s onto-cosmological writing, the De processione mundi. The comparative analysis of this treatise with the procedure received by al-Fārābī shows Gundissalinus’s effort to follow and apply this metaphysical programme to his own reflection, in a whole different context from al-Fārābī’s and presenting doctrines quite opposed to the theoretical ground on which al-Fārābī’s epistemology is based, like ibn Gabirol’s universal hylomorphism. Nevertheless, thanks to the application of the ‘metaphysical programme’, one can effectively claim that Gundissalinus’s metaphysics is, at least in the author’s intentions, a well-defined metaphysical system. In appendix to this article the three Latin versions of al-Fārābī’s discussion on metaphysics are reported, e.g., Gundissalinus’s quotations in De scientiis and De divisione philosophiae, and Gerard of Cremona’s translation in his De scientiis.


Aristotle in Toledo: Gundissalinus, the Arabs, and Gerard of Cremona’s Translations

In ‘Ex Oriente Lux’. Translating Words, Scripts and Styles in the Medieval Mediterranean Society, ed. by C. Burnett and P. Mantas, Arabica Veritas IV (Córdoba: UCOPress and London: The Warburg Institute, 2016), 147-185.

At least since the first decade of the thirteenth century, therefore, the Aristotelian texts translated by Gerard of Cremona were studied, used, and quoted in the Île-de-France and England. Nonetheless, these texts had been available since at least 1187, the year in which Gerard of Cremona died in Toledo, and probably beforehand. The period of time between the composition and completion of the translations and the first attested receptions of Aristotle in England and France indicates a chronological gap with respect to the use of these sources and texts. A possible contribution to help clarify this thorny question may be suggested, namely, to examine the influence of Aristotle’s texts translated by Gerard before their spread throughout the continent. That is to say, to consider their reception in the Castilian capital, Toledo, where, during the second half of the twelfth century, at least three philosophers, Abraham ibn Daud, Dominicus Gundissalinus, and Daniel of Morley, are known to have lived and worked.


María Jesús Soto Bruna, Concepción Alonso Del Real, De unitate et uno de Dominicus Gundissalinus, EUNSA, Pamplona 2015. ISBN: 9788431329426

Anuario filosófico 49/2 (2016): 484-486.



Da Stagira a Parigi: prospettive aristoteliche tra Antichità e Medioevo

Università di Pavia, 30-31 maggio 2016. Organisers: Chiara Blengini, Silvia Gastaldi, Nicola Polloni, Cesare Zizza.


Gundisalvo, Guillermo de Auvernia, y el problema de atribución del De immortalitate animae

VII Congreso Internacional Iberoamericano de la Sociedad de Filosofía Medieval: De relatione. Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Barcelona (ES), 14-16 November 2016.

Entre las obras atribuidas a Gundisalvo, el tratado De immortalitate animae pone algunos problemas de primaria importancia. De hecho, existen dos versiones de la obra, con dos diferentes tradiciones manuscritas que atribuyen el tratado a Gundisalvo y a Guillermo de Auvernia, aspecto que ha suscitado, en las últimas décadas, la refutación de la paternidad gundisalviana del De immortalitate por muchos autores. En esta contribución se tomarán en cuenta los datos presentados a favor y en contra de la atribución a Gundisalvo y a Guillermo, con particular atención a la ontología en que se basa en tratado y a la posible historia del texto. Por último, se intentará proponer una hipótesis de investigación que pueda contribuir a la vexata quaestio sobre la paternidad de esta obra muy peculiar.

Dominicus Gundissalinus and the Renovation of Medieval Philosophy

Conference: Translation and Philosophy:  Gundissalinus and Ibn Daud in 12th Century Spain. University of South Carolina, Columbia (SC), 11 November 2016.

Gundissalinus’s contribution is crucial and developed in a twofold way. On the one hand, indeed, the translating activity pursued by Gundissalinus and his participation to the ‘Avicenna project’ with Abraham Ibn Daud made available to the Latin public texts whose relevance is undeniable for the subsequent Aristotelization of medieval philosophy: and this is the case of Avicenna’s De anima and Liber de philosophia prima. But Gundissalinus’s choice to translate also peculiar writings like al-Kindi’s De radiis or Ibn Gabirol’s Fons vitae had permanent consequences on the reflections of many philosophers, like Grosseteste or Bacon. On the other hand, the second and even more important contribution by Gundissalinus is his original philosophical speculation as it is offered in the treatises he wrote. With those writings, Gundissalinus tried to fill the gap in the Latin philosophical framework in which he received his education, and thus, in the first place, Chartres. He tried to exceed the limits of the Timaic Platonism, criticising the doctrine of primordial chaos in a Gabirolian basis; refusing the theory of the demiurge following Avicenna’s doctrine of necessary being; revising the cosmological Platonism of Hermann of Carinthia’s De essentiis by putting them under a crypto-Aristotelian natural lens. The very same effort can be seen at work on Gundissalinus’s elaboration of a new articulation of science, the De divisione philosophiae, where he proposes a lay system of knowledge that could be able to integrate the new disciplines whose knowledge was made available thanks to the translation movement. And finally, a very similar scenario is provided by the consideration of his De anima, and his theoretical effort at assimilating the great news of the time, that is, Avicenna’s psychology.

Gundissalinus, Avicenna, and the Road to Paris

Lecture. Marquette University, Milwaukee (WI), 2 November 2016.

Together with two further, anonymous works,  the De causis primis et secundis and the Book on the Peregrinations of the Soul in the Afterlife, Gundissalinus’s writings mark the theoretical and even material path that will lead to the great receptions and criticisms of Avicenna and the other ‘Arabs’ in Paris and Oxford during the thirteenth century and beyond—from John Blund to Albert of Cologne, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and Duns Scotus. I will try to cast some light on this very first stage of ‘theoretical appropriation’ of Avicenna’s doctrines in the Latin West, analysing how Avicenna’s doctrines have been accepted or rejected by Gundissalinus and the two anonymous authors of the De causis primis et secundis and the On the Peregrinations of the Soul in the Afterlife, and pointing out, in particular, the role played by other translations produced in Toledo on Avicenna’s philosophical reception.

Translation and Appropriation: Necromancy, Astrology, Alchemy

Lecture. University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame (IN), 31 October 2016.

The early-medieval traditional articulation of knowledge was based on the division between trivium and quadrivium expounded, posited under the authority of authors like Boethius and Martianus Capella. The human knowledge, thus, found its development through the seven liberal arts­—grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometrics, music and astronomy. The seven liberal arts were accompanied, in the mind of any early-medieval scholar, by the twofold division of philosophy in theoretical and practical; and by the mechanical arts, from agriculture to architecture, to cynegetics and navigation, discussed by a vast number of classical and early-medieval sources, among which one has to remember at least Macrobius, Isidore of Seville, Augustine, Priscianus, and the Roman authorities such as Virgil’s and Vitruvius’s. Notwithstanding their undeniable bond with the classical (and pagan) authorities, in these medieval systems of knowledge there is no place for bizarre disciplines like astrology or divination, or demoniac arts like necromancy, while others were simply unknown, like science of gold-making that will be called alchimia. This situation will abruptly change in the second half of the twelfth century as a direct consequence of the translation movements from Arabic and Greek into Latin, a change of perspective that constitute the topic with which we are going to deal today. We will take into account two articulations of knowledge, the system proposed by Hugh of St Victor in his Didascalicon and that expounded by Gundissalinus in his De divisione philosophiae, pointing out how the scenario changes with the arrival of the ‘new’ sciences in the Latin West.

Aristotele a Toledo

Conference: Da Stagira a Parigi: prospettive aristoteliche tra Antichità e Medioevo. University of Pavia, Pavia (IT), 30-31 May 2016.

Al momento della sua morte, avvenuta nel 1187, Gerardo ha tradotto dall’arabo al latino ben 71 opere, stando almeno all’eulogio scritto in suo onore dai suoi studenti; e tra questi scritti si trova un buon numero di opere aristoteliche: la Physica, il De generatione et corruptione, il De caelo, i primi tre libri delle Meteore, gli Analitici secondi ma anche gli pseudo-aristotelici Liber de causis e De causis proprietatum et elementorum quattuor. Manca quello che sarà il “piatto forte” dell’aristotelismo latino, la Metaphysica, che era già parzialmente disponibile tramite la translatio vetustissima di Giacomo da Venezia (comprendente i primi quattro libri) e la Metaphysica vetus che arrivava fino al sesto libro. Da Toledo, queste traduzioni aristoteliche si diffusero con estrema rapidità, insieme agli altri testi filosofici e scientifici resi disponibili in lingua latina, contribuendo all’Aristotelian shift del secolo successivo. Il mio intervento non si concentrerà sulla diffusione delle opere aristoteliche toledane in Europa, ma su una questione apparentemente secondaria, eppure di grande interesse per comprendere le modalità e gli sviluppi del movimento di traduzione toledano, aspetto preliminare ma fondamentale per comprendere la diffusione dei testi tradotti dall’arabo. Nello specifico, la questione cui tenterò di rispondere è se ci sia stata una ricezione degli scritti aristotelici tradotti da Gerardo già a Toledo, e quindi prima della disseminazione nel resto d’Europa, da Oxford a Parigi a Roma.

Entre Toledo, Segovia y Chartres: convergencias doctrinales en la discusión metafísica de Domingo Gundisalvo

Conference: Espacios de la filosofía medieval: Córdoba, Toledo y Paris. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid (ES), 9 March 2016.

Mi presentación se concentra en la especulación metafísica de Gundisalvo, traductor y filósofo toledano del siglo XII y, junto a Ibn Daud, uno de los más importantes exponentes del llamado «circulo de Toledo». Los principales aspectos cosmológicos y ontológicos desarrollados por Gundisalvo en sus tratados De processione mundi y De unitate serán analizados a partir de la recepción gundisalviana de las fuentes arábigas traducidas en Toledo. En particular, mi análisis se enfoca sobre la convergencia entre dos conjuntos doctrinales fundamentales para Gundisalvo: por un lado, la especulación de Ibn Gabirol, cuyo Fons vitae constituye probablemente la fuente más importante del filósofo toledano. Por otro lado, examinaré como el substrato de la reflexión gundisalviana se sitúa rotundamente en la huella de la tradición chartreana, evidenciando como el recurso a la ontología gabiroliana corresponde a específicos problemas elaborados en Chartres, y cuya solución se propagará de Toledo a Oxford y Paris.

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