Articles & Chapters

Nature, Souls, and Numbers:
Remarks on a Medieval Gloss on Gundissalinus’s De processione mundi

In M.J. Soto-Bruna (ed.), Causality and Resemblance. Medieval Approaches to the Explanation of Nature. Hildesheim – Zürich – New York: OLMS, 75-87. DOWNLOAD

Screenshot 2018-10-10 at 9.10.28 am.pngGundissalinus’s De processione mundi expounds a detailed description of the institution of the universe based on a fascinating range of Latin and Arabic sources. Realising a synthesis between Avicenna’s and Avicebron’s metaphysical positions, the universe depicted by Gundissalinus is grounded upon a delicate and yet intrinsically coherent web of interpretations of divergent philosophical perspectives. A rather problematic point of De processione mundi is the use Gundissalinus makes of the ratio numerorum. In particular, his use of numerical series—twice in the text—to demonstrate the completeness of the created universe appears to entail striking contradictions with what Gundissalinus claims in his treatise. My contribution addresses this “consistency problem” pointing out that the meaning of the two numerological series can be clarified through a curious gloss on the text attested by the entire manuscript tradition of De processione mundi.

The Toledan Translation Movement and Gundissalinus:
Some Remarks on His Activity and Presence in Castile

In Y. Beale-Rivaya and J. Busic (eds.), A Companion to Medieval Toledo. Reconsidering the Canons. Leiden – Boston: Brill, 263-280. DOWNLOAD

9789004380516.jpgThe origins of the Toledan translation movement can be traced back to the translation activities developed in Southern Italy and Northern Spain since the end of the eleventh century. In Italy, the translations were realized from Greek into Latin; whereas in Catalonia and the Ebro valley, translators as Plato of Tivoli, Robert of Ketton, and Hermann of Carinthia translated Arabic writings. Following different linguistic tracks, these first translations shared a common interest on scientific works, and particularly astronomy. The activity of these first translators was also directly connected to the main scientific milieux of the time, namely Salerno and Chartres, where the translated texts were read and used.

L’acqua che si trasforma in pietra.
Gundissalinus e Avicenna sulla generazione dei metalli

In C. Panti and N. Polloni (eds), Vedere nell’ombra. Studi su natura, spiritualità e scienze operative offerti a Michela Pereira. Firenze: SISMEL, 103-119. DOWNLOAD

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What are the sources of a curious example of generation mentioned by Gundissalinus, by which water becomes a stone? This contribution explores the theoretical aims of the example presented in De processione mundi, assessing the Avicennian doctrinal framework in which it is placed by Gundissalinus. The origin of the example itself, though, appears to be far more complicated. After examining possible Latin sources and the alchemical implications suggested by the example, the study focuses on a different hypothesis: that Gundissalinus had access to the Arabic version of Avicenna’s De generatione and corruptione

Gundissalinus and Avicenna:
Some Remarks on an Intricate Philosophical Connection

Documenti e Studi sulla Tradizione Filosofica Medievale 28 (2017): 515-552 DOWNLOAD

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 08.31.10This article analyses the peculiarities of Dominicus Gundissalinus’s reading and use of Avicenna’s writings in his original works. Gundissalinus (1120ca – post 1190) is indeed the Latin translator of Avicenna’s De anima and Liber de philosophia prima, but also an original philosopher whose writings are precious witnesses of the very first reception of Avicennian philosophy in the Latin West. The article points out the structural bond with the Persian philosopher upon which Gundissalinus grounds his own speculation. This contribution stresses, in particular, the important role played by Avicenna’s psychology, epistemology, and metaphysics in order to provide Gundissalinus with a different set of answers to at least two main questions. On the one hand, the problem of creatural existence and cosmological causation, concerning which Gundissalinus tends to doctrinally merge Avicenna with Ibn Gabirol. On the other hand, Avicenna’s influence is crucial for Gundissalinus’s attempt at elaborating a new system of knowledge, which was supposed to be able to include the new sciences made available by the translation movement, but that also needed to be internally organised through firm epistemological principles. Beside his crucial contribution as translator, Gundissalinus’s first philosophical encounter with the Avicenna paved the road for the subsequent reception of the Persian philosopher’s works, opening a hermeneutical perspective which would be pivotal for the thirteenth-century discussions on soul, knowledge, and being.

Toledan Ontologies: Gundissalinus, Ibn Daud, and the Problems of Gabirolian Hylomorphism  

In A. Fidora and N. Polloni (eds.), Appropriation, Interpretation and Criticism: Philosophical and Theological Exchanges Between the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin Intellectual Traditions, FIDEM, Barcelona – Roma, 2016, 19-49. DOWNLOAD

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 17.40.36This contribution focuses on a particular branch of Gundissalinus’s production, namely ontology, and a peculiar feature of his reflection: the progressive problematization of his doctrine of hylomorphism. I will analyse the sources that influenced Gundissalinus’s mature discussion of ontological composition, underscoring the changes introduced by the Toledan philosopher to his previous doctrinal positions regarding the status of hylomorphic components and their cosmogonic causation. In order to do so, I will briefly examine the opposing theories elaborated by Ibn Gabirol and Ibn Sīnā, doctrines merged together by Gundissalinus in his final metaphysical reflection. Eventually, I will put forward a hypothesis about a possible medium of both Gundissalinus’s change of position and his doctrinal synthesis – i.e., Ibn Daud’s philosophical influence on Gundissalinus.

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

In Ch. Burnett and P. Mantas (eds.), ‘Ex Oriente Lux’. Translating Words, Scripts and Styles in the Medieval Mediterranean World (Arabica Veritas, IV), CNERU – The Warburg Institute, Córdoba, 2016, 147-185. DOWNLOAD

Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 18.42.41.pngAt 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.

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

Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 26/1, 2016: 129-160. DOWNLOAD

arabic_sciences-and-philosophyThis 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. DOWNLOAD

homepageimage_en_usThis 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.

Thierry of Chartres and Gundissalinus on Spiritual Substance: The Problem of Hylomorphic Composition  

Bulletin de Philosophie Médiévale 57, 2015: 35-57. DOWNLOAD

r53l2l14In this contribution I examine the problem of spiritual composition in Thierry of Chartres and Gundissalinus. While the former is quite reticent in admitting a spiritual hylomorphism, the latter develops Thierry’s outcomes through the results of al-Ghazali’s and Ibn Daud’s treatment of spiritual substances.

The resulting ontology affirms that also spiritual creatures are composed of matter and form: an unacceptable perspective for the three sources used by Gundissalinus.

Elementi per una biografia di Dominicus Gundisalvi  

Archives d’Histoire Doctrinale et Littèraire du Moyen Âge 82, 2015: 7-22. DOWNLOAD

downloadThis study summarizes the main hypothesis and evidences in our possess regarding the biography of the translator and philosopher Dominicus Gundissalinus, who worked in Toledo during the second half of the 12th century. The main phases of Gundissalinus’life are presented through the exam of documental sources and data drawn from works ascribed to the “Gundissalinus’Circle”. The article clarifies some important aspects of Gundissalinus’ stay in Segovia, and tries to answer some questions regarding his transfer to Toledo in 1162.

‘Natura vero assimilatur quaternario’: numerologia e neoplatonismo nel De processione mundi di Dominicus Gundissalinus  

In J. L. Fuertes Herrenos – Á. Poncela González (eds.), De Natura. La naturaleza en la Edad Media, vol. 2, Húmus, Ribeirão, 2015, 679-688. DOWNLOAD

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-09-02-39Nelle ultime pagine del De processione mundi, Dominicus Gundissalinus presenta due interessanti scansioni numerologiche dell’esistente a partire dai risultati dell’indagine sulla genesi del cosmo, affrontata nella trattazione anteriore. Già nelle pagine precedenti, il filosofo toledano manifesta una certa tendenza ad utilizzare la numerologia come strumento apodittico volto a suffragare l’argomentazione filosofica, sancendone così la validità in modo rigoroso. Un utilizzo, questo, che si esplicita in brani la cui paternità non è direttamente gundissaliniana, ma che sono risultanti da una combinazione delle tre fonti principali di Gundissalinus nella redazione del suo trattato: la Philosophia prima avicenniana, il De essentiis di Ermanno di Carinzia e il Fons vitae di Avicebron.

Il De processione mundi di Gundissalinus: prospettive per un’analisi genetico-dottrinale 

Annali di Studi Umanistici 1, 2013: 25-38. DOWNLOAD

3077625_fcovIl De processione mundi si rivela dunque un trattato di estremo interesse, tanto rispetto alla rielaborazione gundissaliniana delle dottrine ivi presentate in chiave non più propriamente platonica, quanto – e parallelamente – rispetto alla ricezione delle istanze critiche tipiche della seconda metà del XII secolo, che fungono da sostrato al rapido mutamento di paradigma speculativo nel giro di pochi decenni. Le questioni dottrinali che Gundissalinus si pone, gli esiti filosofici che accoglie dal mondo arabo e quelli che rigetta dalla tradizione latina ci lasciano intravedere la ricerca di nuove risposte a quelle domande cui il sistema platonico-timaico non appariva più in grado di far fronte. Ed è proprio il tentativo gundissaliniano di sviluppare una prospettiva ontologica nuova che prescindesse dalla crisi del platonismo – che egli già percepiva e che costituisce lo sfondo della sua riflessione – a condensare il maggiore interesse storico e filosofico per la sua figura. Comprendere Gundissalinus e la sua opera può così permettere di gettare luce su quel periodo che segna il tramonto del paradigma platonico e il rapido sorgere dell’aristotelismo quale Weltanschauung complessiva del XIII e XIV secolo.

Coming soon


Trustworthy Translator or Vicious Misintepreter? Gundissalinus, Ibn Gabirol, and the Doctrinal Consistency of the Fons vitae

In N. Polloni, M. Benedetto, F. Dal Bo (eds.), Solomon Ibn Gabirol: Sources, Doctrines, and Influence on Medieval Philosophy, forthcoming.

Survived only in its Latin translation—crucially accompanied by a Hebrew epitome and a few Arabic excerpts—the text of Ibn Gabirol’s Font of Life has raised many problematic questions concerning the actual meaning, the referred tradition, and the philosophical range Ibn Gabirol wanted to expose through this writing. Tricky doctrinal cores and ambiguous passages, which create a sort of theoretical tension throughout the work, have been variously addressed by scholarship as expressions of Ibn Gabirol’s ‘doctrinal perspectivism’ or ‘philosophical ingenuity’. Recently, the studies by Pessin casted new light on the relation between the Arabic original version of the Font of Life and its Latin translation, realised by Gundissalinus in the twelfth century. Pointing out a substantial semantic slippage in the Latin rendering of key terms such as ‘voluntas’ and ‘materia’, Pessin’s interpretation allowed a whole new comprehension of the Font of Life, marked by a renewed doctrinal consistency, until then quite precarious. This paper departs from Pessin’s hermeneutics of Ibn Gabirol’s writing focusing on the practical implication upon which it is grounded, i.e., Gundissalinus’s active role as ‘creative interpreter’ of the Arabic original texts of the Font of Life. Did Gundissalinus consciously ‘Aristotelise’ Ibn Gabirol’s Neoplatonic framework? The Toledan philosopher, though, doesn’t seem to have the necessary knowledge of Aristotle to do so. Did he misinterpret the text through a censurable (but accidental) use of Latin terms excessively bound to the Latin tradition? Or did he simply and plainly translated the Arabic text he had at his disposal, de verbo ad verbum, as he did with all the further Arabic writing he worked on? All these hypotheses will be analysed, and special attention will be paid to Gundissalinus’s reception of Ibn Gabirol’s theories in his original philosophical works, as well as to the pivotal role played by the most anti-Gabirolian Jewish thinker of that time: Abraham Ibn Daud, Gundissalinus’s collaborator on the Latin translation of Avicenna.