The Twelfth-Century Renewal of Latin Metaphysics: Gundissalinus’s Ontology of Matter and Form

Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2020. xiii + 318pp. ISBN: 9780888448651.

Medieval metaphysics is usually bound up with Scholasticism and its influential exemplars, such as Aquinas and Duns Scotus. However, the foundations of the new discipline, which would reshape the entire edifice of Western philosophy, were established well before the rise of Scholasticism through an encounter with the Arabic philosophical tradition. The Twelfth-Century Renewal of Latin Metaphysics uncovers what rightly should be considered the first attempt to construct a metaphysical system in the Latin Middle Ages in the work of Dominicus Gundissalinus. A philosopher and translator who worked in Toledo in the second half of the twelfth century, Gundissalinus elaborated a fascinating metaphysics grounded on a substantive revision of the Latin tradition through the work of Avicenna, Ibn Gabirol, and al-Farabi. Based on a series of structural dualities of being that express the ontological difference between the caused universe and the uncaused creator who lies beyond any duality, it was to prove original and far-reaching. With Gundissalinus we witness the first Latin appropriation of crucial doctrines, like the modal distinction between necessary and possible existence, formal pluralism, and universal hylomorphism. This study thoroughly analyses Gundissalinus’s revisionary interpretation of his Latin and Arabic sources, paying particular attention to the “unlikely blending” of Ibn Gabirol’s universal hylomorphism and Avicenna’s modal ontology which became the cornerstone of his metaphysics.


Domingo Gundisalvo. Una introducción

Madrid: Editorial Sindéresis, 2017. 165pp. ISBN: 9788416262342.

Gundisalvo desempeñó su papel principal como filósofo, y como tal, fue el primero en acoger críticamente las doctrinas avicenianas, farabianas, gabirolianas y aristotélicas. En este sentido, Gundisalvo nos proporciona un panorama donde el platonismo timaico típico de la Escuela de Chartres y de Hermann de Carintia estaba en crisis y que, en varias décadas, llegó a ser superado por la revolución aristotélica del siglo XIII. En sus escritos, Gundisalvo parece quedarse entre las dos orillas de este caudal especulativo, acogiendo el aristotelismo neoplatónico árabe y rechazando fundamentos doctrinales timaicos, sin renegar de su formación platónica y boeciana. Por consiguiente, además del explícito valor de sus traducciones y de aquellos textos que tuvieron una gran difusión y recepción, como el De divisione o el De unitate, resulta evidente el valor implícito de la figura de Domingo Gundisalvo como filósofo un contexto cultural irrepetible como lo fue Toledo en el siglo XII.


Review by M.J. Soto Bruna

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Early Robert Grosseteste on Matter

Notes and Records: the Royal Society Journal of the History of Science. Ahead of print, July 2020.

This article investigates the origin of Robert Grosseteste’s theory of matter. Covering Grosseste’s early production, from his De artibus liberalibus to De luce and the Commentarius on Aristotle’s Physics,the article examines Grosseteste’s gradual developing of a philosophical theory of matter and prime matter by means of his progressive study of the works of the Aristotelian tradition. Surprisingly, Grosseteste’s first notion of matter is bound to alchemy and astrology. It is a physical notion of matter as subject to astral influence and human manipulation. Only with his study of Aristotle’s Physics, does Grosseteste elaborate a more Aristotelian theory of matter, directly engaging himself with the manifold problems of assimilating Aristotle’s theories into a Christian-based speculation. As a consequence, a much refined version of his theory of matter is presented in the commentary on the Physics and De luce, where prime matter is envisioned as an extensionless point containing in itself the possibility of the existence of the entire universe. Notwithstanding the gradually more philosophical attitude marking Grosseteste’s reflection, some tension between the alchemical and metaphysical epistemes of matter he engaged with can be appreciated throughout much of Grosseteste’s early production.


Hugh of St Victor, Dominicus Gundissalinus and the Place of the Mechanical Arts in Premodern Architectures of Knowledge

With Alexander Fidora. Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie, accepted.

This contribution engages with the problematic position of the mechanical arts within premodern systems of knowledge. Superseding the secondary position assigned to the mechanical arts in the Early Middle Ages, the solutions proposed by Hugh of St Victor and Gundissalinus were highly influential during the thirteenth century. While Hugh’s integration of the mechanical arts into his system of knowledge betrays their still ancillary position as regards consideration of the liberal arts, Gundissalinus’s theory proposes two main novelties. On the one hand, he sets the mechanical arts alongside alchemy and the arts of prognostication and magic. On the other, however, using the theory put forward by Avicenna, he subordinates these “natural sciences” to natural philosophy itself, thereby establishing a broader architecture of knowledge hierarchically ordered. Our contribution examines the implications of and the reception afforded to such developments at Paris during the thirteenth century, emphasising the relevance that the solutions offered by Gundissalinus enjoyed in terms of the ensuing discussions concerning the structure of human knowledge.

A Matter of Philosophers and Spheres. Medieval Glosses on Artephius’s Key of Wisdom

Ambix, 67/2 (2020): 135-153.

The article examines the two Latin versions of Artephius’s Clavis sapientiae (Key of Wisdom) that have been preserved in early modern collections of alchemical texts. A comparative analysis of the two versions shows that one of them has undergone a process of textual manipulation. In particular, an interpolation of short philosophical passages concerning the doctrine of prime matter has relevant interpretative implications. These additions appear to be grounded in the early thirteenth-century philosophical debate on cosmology and the first Latinate reception of Aristotle’s metaphysics.


Gundissalinus on the Angelic Creation of the Human Soul. A Peculiar Example of Philosophical Appropriation

Oriens 47/3-4 (2019): 313-347.

With his original reflection—deeply influenced by many important Arabic thinkers—Gundissalinus wanted to renovate the Latin debate concerning crucial aspects of the philosophical tradition. Among the innovative doctrines he elaborated, one appears to be particularly problematic, for it touches a very delicate point of Christian theology: the divine creation of the human soul, and thus, the most intimate bond connecting the human being and his Creator. Notwithstanding the relevance of this point, Gundissalinus ascribed the creation of the human soul to the angels rather than God. He also stated that the angels create the souls from prime matter, and through a kind of causality which cannot be operated by God. What are the sources of this unusual and perilous doctrine? And what are the reasons which led Gundissalinus to hold such a problematic position? This article thoroughly examines the theoretical development and sources of Gundissalinus’s position, focusing on the correlations between this doctrine, the overall cosmological descriptions expounded by Gundissalinus in his original works, and the main sources upon which this unlikely doctrine is grounded: Avicenna and Ibn Gabirol.


Gundissalinus and Avicenna: Some Remarks on an Intricate Philosophical Connection

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

This 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.


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

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

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.

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.


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

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

In 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.

This 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.


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

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

Il De processione mundi si rivela 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.


Edited Volumes

The Philosophy and Science of Roger Bacon. Studies in Honour of Jeremiah Hackett

Edited by Nicola Polloni and Yael Kedar. London: Routledge, 2021.

This volume collects thirteen scholarly contributions on the life, thought, and context of one of the most fascinating characters of medieval culture, Roger Bacon. The volume is also meant to celebrate one of the most influential interpreters of Bacon’s thought, Professor Jeremiah Hackett, who has recently retired and whose many contributions have shaped the scholarly consideration of Roger Bacon profoundly and substantively. At least since John Dee’s rediscovery of Bacon’s works and, for different reasons, Robert Greene’s Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, the name of Roger Bacon is bound to the “Romantic” character of a peculiar scientist interested in the secrets of nature and living in a time of darkness. When the common perception is contrasted with the historical data, this fictional image fades away. The Middle Ages, and especially the 13th century, were not a time of darkness. The renewal of science and philosophy started in the 12th century, and flourished during Bacon’s time with the discovery of new sciences, new theories, and new interests. In this context, however, it is surely true that Bacon’s activity was characterised by some peculiar traits that nourished much of the early-modern narrative about him. He harshly criticised the world he was living in and, particularly, the academic system and the two mendicant orders, Dominicans and Franciscans. He publicly and repeatedly supported the study and practice of problematic sciences like alchemy and astrology and became a central advocate of the use of mathematics and experimental science for the mastery of nature. He was the proponent of a profound reshaping of Latin culture through a reform of the education system, the details of which he submitted to the Pope.

Vedere nell’ombra. Studi su natura, spiritualità e scienze operative offerti a Michela Pereira.

Edited by Cecilia Panti and Nicola Polloni. Firenze: SISMEL (Micrologus’ Library 90), 2018. ISBN 978-88-8450-813-3. 430 pp.

The volume collects twenty-eight original essays by colleagues and friends of Michela Pereira offered on the occasion of her seventieth birthday. As a pioneer of the re-evaluation of fundamental areas of the Western philosophical and scientific tradition, starting with alchemy, Michela Pereira has dedicated important studies to Hildegard of Bingen, Roger Bacon, Ramon Llull, in addition to being one of the most authoritative interpreters of the feminist movement in the modern world. «Seeing in the shadow», the title of this volume, recalls a suggestive image coined by Hildegard to establish a connection between the work of creation, human nature and prophetic knowledge, three contexts around which the interests of Michela Pereira turn. The essays of the volume interpret these topics in many thought-provoking ways. Covering a wide temporal arc, from late Antiquity to Early Modern Times, and ranging from alchemy and medicine to spirituality, prophecy and myth, from the body-soul relation to performative arts, such as theatre and music, they also include brief editions of unedited medieval texts and an updated bibliography of Michela Pereira’s publications.


Review by R. Ramis Barceló

Review by C. Crialesi

Review by L. Cesco Frare

Appropriation, Interpretation and Criticism: Philosophical and Theological Exchanges Between the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin Intellectual Traditions

Edited by Alexander Fidora and Nicola Polloni. Barcelona – Roma: FIDEM, 2017. ISBN: 978-2-503-57744-9. 336 pp.

The volume gathers eleven studies on the intellectual exchanges during the Middle Ages among the three cultures which existed side by side in the same geographical area, i.e. the vast space from the British Isles to the Sahara Desert, and from the Douro Valley to the Hindu Kush. These three cultures – who may not be reduced to their confession or ethnicity – are historically related to each other in many respects, both material (trade, wars, marriages) and immaterial (the interdependence among their religious narratives and their philosophical speculations). The studies herein presented focus on some peculiar examples of the transcultural interactions among exponents of the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin philosophical and theological traditions. While we do not want to downplay the fundamental role of the religious contexts, our focus on the linguistic denominations of these cultures aims at drawing attention to the conceptual medium, or rather media, which underlined and shaped the interactions and interplays among these traditions – interplays that were characterized by the contact of these three languages being used by people of different religious beliefs in their quest for knowledge: Spanish Jews writing in Arabic, Jews collaborating in the translation of Arabic texts into Latin through the vernacular, Western Muslims whose writings were read mainly by Jews and Christians in Hebrew and Latin.


Review by J.L. Luque

Book Sections

*Roger Bacon on the Conceivability Matter

In Roger Bacon and Medieval Science and Philosophy. Studies in Honour of Jeremiah Hackett, ed. by N. Polloni and Y. Kedar (London: Routledge, 2021).

This contribution analyses Roger Bacon’s solution to the problem of how humans can conceive matter. Being potential and formless, the effort to ground a partial knowability of matter has intrigued many medieval philosophers. Their solutions were often intertwined with the ontological assumptions they made about this peculiar metaphysical entity and their ontological commitment about its existence. In the case of Bacon, this already problematic point is further complicated by his complex ontology based on radical formal pluralism (= any composite has a plurality of non-incidental forms) and extreme realism. The first section of the chapter examines Bacon’s discussion of the problem in his Questions on Physics, where the solution is provided by the analogical strategy: matter can be known by analogy to the form. However, can this procedure be applied also to the case of prime matter? The second section explores Bacon’s distinction between secondary and specific matters and the ontological structure characterising the composite that he envisioned. I argue that the analogical strategy must be complemented with another procedure able to get below “the matter we know” (proximate matter). The third section analyses Bacon’s criticism of the doctrine of the unicity of matter in the Opus tertium. In this context, I examine Bacon’s discussion of reversed abstraction to conceive the genus generalissimum and argue that this procedure is required to complement the analogical strategy in the case of the conceivability of prime matter.

*Disentangling Roger Bacon’s Criticism of Medieval Translations

In 13th-Century English Franciscans, ed. by L. Schumacher (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021).

In his Compendium studii philosophiae, Roger Bacon declares that ‘were I to have power over the books of Aristotle I would have them all burned because it is nothing but a waste of time to study them, a cause of error, and a multiplication of error beyond what can be accounted for.’ Bacon’s pyromaniac attitude to Aristotle is not due to his dislike of the acclaimed Philosopher, but rather to the Latin rendering of his works. Bacon points out that ‘since the labors of Aristotle are the foundations of all of science, no one can estimate how great the damage is to Latins because of the bad translations philosophers have received.’ Apparently, nothing can be better than something, if the latter is a source of error and discord. Expanding on the same line of reasoning, Bacon observes that it would be better to do as Robert Grosseteste did (pace sua), when he ‘entirely disregarded the books of Aristotle and their methods’ – at least according to Bacon. One might wonder, what was so bad about the Latin translations of Aristotle to motivate such harsh criticism by Bacon? In the following pages, I want to discuss Roger Bacon’s critique of the Latin translators and present a different interpretation of Bacon’s stance. This topic has been studied by Gabriel Théry and Richard Lemay. In their discussion of Bacon’s position, however, both scholars appear to have been quite unable to distinguish theory from rhetoric, purpose from persuasiveness, and the historical actor from the historical witness. As a consequence, the biases they see and blame in Bacon’s criticism of the translators are mirrored by their own criticism of Bacon’s words.

*Misinterpreting Ibn Gabirol? Questions, Doubts, and Remarks on the Latin Translation of the Fons vitae

In Solomon Ibn Gabirol’s Philosophy and Its Impact in the Middle Ages, ed. by N. Polloni, M. Benedetto, and F. Dal Bo (Turnout: Brepols, 2021).

The present contribution aims to cast some light on the questions about whether and how Gundissalinus and John of Spain have Aristotelised the Fons vitae. I want to provide scholarship with contextual data and some further doubts about the making of the Latin translation of Ibn Gabirol’s work. In the first section, I expound the main historical coordinates of Dominicus Gundissalinus’s activity as translator and philosopher. Next, the second section examines Gundissalinus’s interpretation of Ibn Gabirol and his gradual detachment from some of Ibn Gabirol’s doctrines he previously held. Gundissalinus’s disingenuousness in his first reception of the Fons vitae is then contrasted with Ibn Daud’s harsh criticism of Ibn Gabirol. My analysis shows that Ibn Daud interprets the Fons vitae in a noticeably Aristotelian way, consistent with the Latin rendering of the text. Finally, in the last section, I explore different possibilities (and raise some doubts) about the Latin translation of the Fons vitae.

The Liberal Arts: Inheritances and Conceptual Frameworks

With G.E.M. Gasper, S. Sønnesyn, N. Lewis, and J. Cunningham.
In Knowing and Speaking: Robert Grosseteste’s De artibus liberalibus ‘On the Liberal Arts’ and De generatione sonorum ‘On the Generation of Sounds’, ed. byG.E.M. Gasper, C. Panti, T.C.B. McLeish, H. Smithson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 36–50.

To contextualize this somewhat beguiling treatise is to understand it at once product of Grosseteste’s own thinking, as as a a response and reaction to his inheritances, ancient and more contemporary, and as a distinctive contribution to wider shifts in the way that the arts were conceived. What follows offers a description and commentary of the developments of the liberal arts, as conceptual framework and institutional platform, from late antiquity to Grosseteste’s lifetime. This allows an overview of changes to the liberal arts as a whole, and within the individual arts, and a wider perspective in which to consider Grosseteste’s achievements in this area. Some of the authors and texts discussed would not have been familiar to Grosseteste, but others would, bringing to the fore questions about the textual sources he dwelt with in the composition of his treatise.


The Use of the Stars: Alchemy, Plants, and Medicine

With G.E.M. Gasper, S. Sønnesyn, A. Lawrence-Mathers, and N. El-Bizri.
In Knowing and Speaking: Robert Grosseteste’s De artibus liberalibus ‘On the Liberal Arts’ and De generatione sonorum ‘On the Generation of Sounds’, ed. byG.E.M. Gasper, C. Panti, T.C.B. McLeish, H. Smithson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 166–195.

The final sections (§§11-13) of On the Liberal Arts move to the uses of astronomy in natural philosophy with three specific examples: the planting of plants, the transmutation of metals, and medical interventions. Grosseteste’s conceptual framework for astronomy emerges from a variety of sources, mediating different models of the cosmos and its operations and components. The emphasis on the quadrivial arts and their application within the disciplines of natural philosophy marks his text out as significantly different from previous medieval treatises on the liberal arts, and the focus on astronomy as the culmination of the applicability of the arts is rarer still. The stress laid on astronomy at the culmination of the treatise offers particular insight into the broader worldview that frames Grosseteste’s conception of the liberal arts.


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

In Causality and Resemblance. Medieval Approaches to the Explanation of Nature, ed. by M.J. Soto-Bruna (Hildesheim – Zürich – New York: OLMS, 2018), 75-87.

Gundissalinus’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 Dominicus Gundissalinus: Some Remarks on His Activity and Presence in Castile

In A Companion to Medieval Toledo. Reconsidering the Canons, ed. by Y. Beale-Rivaya and J. Busic (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018), 263-280.

The 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 Vedere nell’ombra. Studi su natura, spiritualità e scienze operative offerti a Michela Pereira, ed. byC. Panti and N. Polloni (Firenze: SISMEL, 2018), 103-119. 

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


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

In Appropriation, Interpretation and Criticism: Philosophical and Theological Exchanges Between the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin Intellectual Tradition, ed. byA. Fidora and N. Polloni (Barcelona and Roma: FIDEM, 2017), 19-49.

This 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 ‘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.


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

In De Natura. La naturaleza en la Edad Media, ed. by J.L. Fuertes Herreros and Á. Poncela González (Ribeirão: Húmus, 2015), 679-688.

Nelle 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.


Book Reviews

Tiziana Suarez-Nani, Agostino Paravicini Bagliani. Eds. Materia: Nouvelles perspectives de recherche dans la pensée et la culture médiévales (XIIe-XVIe siècles). Florence: SISMEL, 2017. ISBN: 9788884508072

Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval 27/1 (2020), 199-210.


Andreas Lammer. The Elements of Avicenna’s Physics: Greek Sources and Arabic Innovations. Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2018. ISBN 9783110543582

Isis 110/3 (2019): 586-587.


José Martínez Gázquez. The Attitude of the Medieval Latin Translators Towards the Arabic Sciences. Florence: SISMEL, 2016. ISBN: 9788884506948

Aestimatio 13 (2018): 141-144.


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.


Sarah Pessin, Ibn Gabirol’s Theology of Desire. Matter and Method in Jewish Medieval Neoplatonism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2013. ISBN: 9781107032217

Theology and Sexuality 21/2 (2015): 163-165.


Further Publications

L’ombra di Brexit sull’accademia inglese

In circolo. Rivista di filosofia e culture 2 (2016).


Domingo Gundisalvo, Filósofo de frontera

Madrid: Fundación Ignacio Larramendi, 2013. DOI: 10.18558/FIL033. 95pp.

En esta síntesis de las obras y del pensamiento de Gundisalvo, nos encontramos ante un personaje complejo, un filósofo que acoge críticamente las doctrinas presentes en las obras que traducía del árabe y las liga a las doctrinas latinas para construir un edificio filosófico no epigónico y bien fundado. La peculiaridad del pensamiento gundisalviano reside en su doble papel de traductor y filósofo, como en el caso de su predecesor Hermann y a diferencia de su compañero Gerardo de Cremona, que nunca escribió un obra filosófica. Gundisalvo parece cultivar un interés especulativo bien preciso y directo hacia la recepción crítica de las obras arábigo-hebraicas que traducía, un interés que se manifiesta en las temáticas de tales obras –metafísica, psicología y epistemología– directamente relacionadas con los textos que este autor redactó.