Potestas Essendi

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

Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Medieval Philosophy


The seminar ‘Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Medieval Philosophy: Gundissalinus’s ‘The Procession of the World’ and its Arabic and Latin Sources’ has been cancelled.  For further information write me via email.


Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Medieval Philosophy

Translator from Arabic into Latin and original philosopher, Dominicus Gundissalinus is one of the most peculiar figures of the twelfth century. Animated by a strong belief on the universal value of philosophy and science, Gundissalinus tried to resolve the long-lasting problems of the Latin philosophical tradition through the Arabic texts he translated in Toledo, the first Latin philosopher in doing so in the Middle Ages. Gundissalinus’s main speculative interests were metaphysics, psychology, and epistemology: this open course will examine one of the most intriguing writings by the Toledan philosopher: the De processione mundi, a fascinating cosmological and ontological treatise.  Through the analysis of Gundissalinus’s writing, the course will examine different metaphysical systems, both Latin and Arabic (starting with Boethius, Aristotle, Ibn Gabirol, Avicenna), and the main problems arising from the problematisation of the concepts of being, matter, and existence will be discussed, paying special attention to the history of the effects of these problematic cores in the thirteenth century (Grosseteste, Bacon, Aquinas).

Seminar Articulation

24 April 2017: Crossing Boundaries: Philosophy, Science, Translations

2 May 2017: Diverging Perspectives and Unlikely Syntheses: Dominicus Gundissalinus

8 May 2017: The Materiality of the Spirit and Other Ontological Amenities

15 May 2017: The Unrelated Necessity of the One

22 May 2017: Creation, Causation and Cosmic Institution

12 June 2017: What if God were Matter, and Space an Illusion? 

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.

Bibliography (Secondary sources)

A. Bertolacci, ‘A Community of Translators: The Latin Medieval Versions of Avicenna’s Book of the Cure’, in C.J. Mews and J.N. Crossley (eds.), Communities of Learning: Networks and the Shaping of Intellectual Identity in Europe 1100-1500, Turnhout, 2011, pp. 37-54.

S. Brentjes, A. Fidora, and M. Tischler, ‘Towards a New Approach to Medieval Cross-Cultural Exchanges’, Journal of Transcultural Medieval Studies 1/1 (2014): 9-50.

Ch. Burnett, ‘Arabic into Latin: the Reception of Arabic Philosophy into Western Europe’, in P. Adamson and R. Taylor (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, Cambridge, 2005, pp. 370-404.

Ch. Burnett, ‘Communities of Learning in the Twelfth-Century Toledo’, in C.J. Mews and J.N. Crossley (eds.), Communities of Learning: Networks and the Shaping of Intellectual Identity in Europe, 1110-1500, Turnhout. 2011, pp. 9-18.

A. Fidora, ‘Dominicus Gundissalinus and the Introduction of Metaphysics into the Latin West’, The Review of Metaphysics 66 (2013): 691-712.

R. Fontaine, ‘Abraham Ibn Daud: Sources and Structures of ha-Emunah ha-Ramah’, Zutot 2 (2002): 156-163.

A. Hyman, ‘Aristotle’s “First Matter” and Avicenna’s and Averroes’ “Corporeal Form”’, in A. Hyman (ed.), Essays in Medieval Jewish and Islamic Philosophy, New York, 1977, pp. 335-406.

J. Jolivet, ‘The Arabic Inheritance’, in P. Dronke (ed.), A History of Twelfth-Century Western Philosophy, Cambridge. 1988, p. 113-148.

J.A. Laumakis, ‘Avicebron (Ibn Gabirol): Creation ex Nihilo’, The Modern Schoolman 79 (2001): 41-55.

J.A. Laumakis, ‘Aquinas’ Misinterpretation of Avicebron on the Activity of Corporeal Substances: Fons Vitae II, 9 and 10’, The Modern Schoolman 81 (2004): 135-149.

M. Pereira, ‘Remarks on materia naturalis’, in P. Bernardini and A. Rodolfi (eds.), Roger Bacon’s Communia Naturalium. A 13th Century Philosopher’s Workshop, Firenze, 2014, pp. 103-138.

S. Pessin, ‘Matter, Form and the Corporeal World’, in T. Rudavsly and S. Nadler (eds.), The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy: From Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century, Cambridge, 2009, pp. 269-301.

N. Polloni, ‘Thierry of Chartres and Gundissalinus on Spiritual Substance: The Problem of Hylomorphic Composition’, Bulletin de Philosophie Médiévale 57 (2015): 35-57.

N. Polloni, ‘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.

T. Silverstein, ‘Elementatum: Its Appearance Among the Twelfth-Century Cosmogonist’, Mediaeval Studies 16 (1954): 156-162.

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