Potestas Essendi

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



January 2018 – Talk: Domingo Gundisalvo y Daniel de Morley acerca del establecimiento y conservación de la causalidad del universo. International Conference Explicatio y ratio naturae. Comprensiones medievales sobre el origen del universo, Pamplona (Spain), 16 January 2018.

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 07.40.51Daniel of Morley’s Philosophia and Dominicus Gundissalinus’s De processione mundi are two very relevant synthesis of twelfth-century cosmology. Written in the same period, both works receive the new texts translated into Latin in Toledo, but with very different approaches: while Gundissalinus grounds his reflection on metaphysical sources, and Avicenna in particular, Daniel tends to use with more perspicacity the natural writings translated in the previous decades. My contribution will analyse the discussion on primary and secondary causality presented by these two authors, pointing out how a very same phenomenon, i.e., the Toledan translation movement, can be seen as the origin of two extremely different reflections, which nonetheless share the same purpose of contributing to the solution of the very same problems and questions on the derivation of the ontic multiplicity from God.

February 2018 – Talk: Chaos in Toledo: Gundissalinus, Daniel of Morley, and the Chartrean Tradition. International Conference Scire naturam: filosofia e ciências, da antiguidade ao início da modernidade, Porto (Portugal), 26-28 February 2018.

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 12.24.26 pm.pngMy contribution focuses on a specific and fascinating historical moment of the course of the doctrine of primordial chaos – the end of the twelfth century – and on two peculiar authors, Dominicus Gundissalinus and Daniel of Morley. They are two important witnesses of how the Greek- and Arabic-into-Latin translation movements progressively reshaped the philosophical approach to the doctrine of primordial chaos and to Plato’s Timaeus in general. Both studying in Toledo in the second half of the century, Gundissalinus and Daniel supposedly had access to a wide range of new sources through which construct a different description of the cosmic institution beyond the traditional reference to Plato. Both authors combine Arabic sources with twelfth-century auctoritates: the outcomes of their reflections, though, are rather different in both scope and approach.

March 2018 – Talk: Pass the Buck, Stop the Book. Arabic Philosophy in Latin Europe Before Michael Scot. International Conference Crossing Lands. Spreading knowledge in the Near East and the Mediterranean from Late Antiquity to Middle Ages, Cordoba (Spain), 14 March 2018.

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 11.37.02 pm.pngCirculation, reception, and criticism of Arabic philosophy during the fifty years separating Gundissalinus and Michael Scot is yet a matter of hypothesis, if not a real mystery: few authors and texts are available, while the destination of the Toledan translations, and consequently their demand, is still unproven, In this paper, I will try to re-address the question of how these texts circulated throughout Europe by asking an additional question, that is, how successful was Gundissalinus’s peculiar attempt at merging Avicenna’s and Ibn Gabirol’s metaphysical accounts, a question which, in turn, corresponds to asking what is the history of the effects of Gundissalinus’s ontology in the first decades after its elaboration.

March 2018 – Talk: A Matter of Possibility: Nicolaus Cusanus, Gundissalinus, and Thierry of Chartres on the Material Substrate. 2018 Congress of the Renaissance Society of America (Panel: Metaphor and Mysticism: Reading Nicholas of Cusa in Seventeenth-Century England, organised by the American Cusanus Society), New Orleans, 22-24 March 2018.

My paper will analyse Nicholas of Cusa’s discussion of the material substrate and the influence he seems to receive from two quite peculiar twelfth-century sources: Thierry of Chartres and Dominicus Gundissalinus. In particular, I will address two main questions on matter. On the one hand, the problems arising from the consideration of coming-to-be of the substrate in the doctrinal framework offered by the creative relation between God and Universe. On the other hand, I will focus on the conceptual bond linking matter to possibility, and the non-Aristotelian positions on the substrate held by the three authors: positions substantially different, but bound together by a certain degree of continuity in both questions and answers concerning the fundamental physical and metaphysical role played by matter.

April 2018 – Talk: Sources of Light: Remarks on the Grosseteste/Avicebron ConnectionInternational Conference Science Imagination and Wonder – Robert Grosseteste and His Legacy, Oxford (UK), 3-6 April 2018.

Robert Grosseteste’s doctrine of light, with its metaphysical and physical implications, is one of the most intriguing and fascinating theories of the Latin Middle Ages. Identified with the first form joining matter in God’s creation of the universe, but also used to explain physical dynamics of movement and causality, lux and lumen, its ontical correlative, play a pivotal role in Grosseteste’s scientific and philosophical reflection. What sources Grosseteste used to ground his theory? Recent studies have pointed out the relevance of peculiar sources – such as Artephius’s Clavis sapientiae – for Grosseteste’s elaboration. Its main source, though, still appears to be a rather problematic work: Avicebron’s Font of Life – with the possible addition of the Latin translator of this text, the Iberian philosopher Dominicus Gundissalinus.  In my paper, I will re-assess the problem of the Grosseteste/Avicebron connection in relation to the doctrine of light. Problems of consistency within Grosseteste’s approach and reflection will be addressed in order to understand the reasons behind his acceptation of a redundant, but yet metaphorical and marginal point of Ibn Gabirol’s speculation, hopefully casting some light on whether the Font of Life actually is the main source of Grosseteste’s doctrine.

May 2018 – Talk: Expanding Matter: Cosmologies of Light in Artephius and Grosseteste. 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies (Session: Structures of Order in Medieval Science I: Experience and Authorities), Kalamazoo (MI), 10-13 May 2018.

Light and Matter. My paper will examine the interaction between these two principles of existence in the intriguing cosmologies elaborated by two peculiar authors: ‘Artephius’ (Clavis sapientiae) and Robert Grosseteste (De luce). Examination of their cosmogonies and descriptions of the first moments of the universal institution will provide the ground to address the intricate question of how a mysterious Hermetical text and a well-known English philosopher shared the same approach to the never-ending problem of matter’s dimensionality.