Good news, finally

After months of uncertainty (a secondary outcome of the pandemic), finally some splendid, fantastic news: I have been awarded a FWO senior research fellowship at KU Leuven! During the next three years I will have the much consequential opportunity to work on late medieval theories of matter (both ontological and epistemological) mentored by Russell Friedman! I could have hoped for nothing better than this! The next three years are going to be a unique experience – I am so excited! And although I will miss Berlin (especially, my amazing colleagues here), I can’t wait to move to Leuven in the autumn.

Books, Articles, CFPs

New article

My article of Artephius has just been published by Ambix:

Nicola Polloni, “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.

You can read the article here.


UPDATE: Reshaped, cancelled, and postponed events due to COVID-19

Due to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, many aspects of our lives have been or are about to be affected. In this moment of grave concern, academia must do its part to contribute to the efforts put in place by governments all over the world to delay the spread of the virus. After much pondering, I have decided to do my part rescheduling, postponing, and cancelling most of the events I had planned for the forthcoming months.

Matter Reading Group
The reading group “Matter and Nature: Robert Boyle and the Criticism of Aristotle” will take place regularly from 24 April 2020, yet we will meet on Skype rather than in person. This can be a great occasion to extend the reading group to many other interested people. In case anyone wants to join the party, just drop me a line.

Prime Matter Workshop II
The second Berlin workshop on matter (“Prime Matter: The Metaphysical Foundation of Reality”) was supposed to take place at HU Berlin on 14 May 2020. Unfortunately, I had to cancel that date and I am currently looking for a suitable date in late July 2020. HU Berlin has recently cancelled all meetings and events until 20 July 2020, so it is not an easy task.
HU measures against COVID-19 can be consulted at this link.

Neil Lewis Seminar on Richard Rufus
Neil Lewis (Georgetown) was supposed to come to Berlin and give a splendid seminar on Rufus’s theory of prime matter on 26 May 2020. Considering the current situation, we are considering other options online.

Medieval Philosophical Gatherings
I had in mind a fantastic series of talks for the upcoming semester but, with almost no flights over Europe, going ahead with the organisation of the Medieval Philosophical Gathering would have been just an exercise of wishful thinking. I have therefore cancelled the series of lecture for the Summer Semester 2020. A few scholars will give lectures during the reading group (that is, via Skype).

Book Presentations
Also the book presentations that were planned for the semester – starting with Nikolaus Egel’s new edition of Bacon’s Opus tertium – are cancelled. This is a shame, also because I wanted to discuss my own new book! But there will be time in the near future, once the storm has passed.

Launch of the Roger Bacon Research Society
Much effort and weeks of planning did not save the launch of the recently founded Roger Bacon Research Society. The meeting was supposed to take place at the Warburg Institute in London on 29 May 2020, hosting the first RBRS Annual Lecture by Jeremiah Hackett. We will reschedule the meeting later in the Summer or Autumn 2020.

I know, a lot of changes: the next months are not going to be easy. Yet we must do our best to keep healthy and strong, both physically and mentally. It must not be a moment of despair. As an Italian living abroad, I am myself very concerned especially for my family and friends living under lockdown in Italy. Unfortunately, it is very likely that similar measures will be taken also in other countries in Europe and elsewhere. Considering all this, a change of plans is nothing but a trifle.

Nonetheless, this does not exempt us from trying to soften the rigidity of the situation, if we can do so. For this reason, I am thinking about possible virtual activities (i.e., on Skype or YouTube) that can help breaking the solitude and boredom of home quarantine, especially if the situation were to further deteriorate. I invite all my colleagues to do the same. Let’s find ways to stay together even if we cannot do so physically. Let’s try to convert this moment of concern and limitations into a moment of shared discussions and human closeness, as much as we can.

Activities, Conferences, Meetings, Events

Moments from the first Berlin Prime Matter Workshop

It has been exhausting, but so rewarding! The first Prime Matter Workshop has been an incredible success. Splendid talks, awesome speakers, brilliant discussions, and a lot of people attending.

Below, some photos taken throughout the day.

Can’t wait for the second Prime Matter Workshop, on 14 May 2020!

Conferences, Meetings, Events

Next week in Berlin – Prime Matter: The Ontological Stakes of Physical Endurance

On week to go!

The First Berlin Workshop on prime matter is going to take place at HU Berlin on 28 February 2020: The Ontological Stakes of Physical Endurance.

More info here:

Books, Articles, CFPs

NEW ARTICLE: Gundissalinus on the Angelic Creation of the Human Soul

My new article on Gundissalinus’s doctrine of the creation of human souls has just been published by Oriens.

You can download it HERE – and let me know what your thoughts are about it!

Here’s the abstract: 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.


The New Semester is Here!

The Winter Semester 2019 has just started. And with it, a fresh new reading group, this time dedicated to exploring Nicholas of Autrecourt’s Universal Treatise (more here). Also the Medieval Gatherings have started again with Elena Baltuta’s talk on Kilwardby’s intentionality of pain (you can watch the video here). The semester couldn’t have started in a better way!


Extending Reality

Terrific artistic time with Rosie Reed Gold at Tate Modern! Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition has been the most beautiful, captivating, metaphysical exhibit I have ever seen in my life. It is just unique!

My immense gratitude to Rosie for this splendid experience and her unparalleled artistic guidance! A lot of inspiration for new explorations of precarious ontologies with Rosie and the Extensions Project Group ( – more soon!

Conferences, Meetings, Events


It’s been such an honour to be invited to give a lecture at the Center for the History of Philosophy and Science of Radboud University in Nijmegen. A unique and splendid group of people working on so many intriguing aspects of medieval, renaissance, and early modern philosophy and science. My heartfelt gratitude to Paul Bakker for this brilliant opportunity.

Conferences, Meetings, Events

CFP: De intellectu (Porto, Feb 2020)


De intellectu: Greek, Arabic, Latin, and Hebrew Texts and Their Influence on Medieval Philosophy. A Tribute to Rafael Ramón Guerrero

University of Porto, 6th-7th February 2020

Philosophy changed radically during the Middle Ages as a result of the translation of a considerable number of texts by Aristotle and his followers from Greek into Arabic, Latin and Hebrew. As an example, epistemological and anthropological questions were rethought and substantively reshaped in the Latin world after the translations of Aristotle’s De anima by James of Venice and William of Moerbeke (from Greek), and by Michael Scot (from Arabic, together with Averroes’s long commentary on it), after it had been successively translated into Syriac and Arabic. This crucial and complex process followed an already long and parallel history of paraphrases and commentaries on this work in Greek, Syriac and Arabic.
The discussion of De anima III.4-5, on the intellect, was conditioned or driven by a large number of texts from different periods. Among those texts are the Greek commentaries or paraphrases on De anima by Alexander of Aphrodisias, Themistius, Simplicius, John Philoponus, and Averroes, alongside independent short treatises, such as Alexander of Aphrodisias’s De intellectu et intellecto, al-Kindī’s De intellectu, al-Fārābī’s De intellectu et intellecto, Averroes’ Epistula de connexione intellectus abstracti cum homine, and his son’s Epistula de intellectu. In several other works “intellect” plays a most pivotal role, such as in Plotinus’s Enneads paraphrased in the Arabic Theologia Aristotelis and in Proclus’s Elementatio Theologica epitomised in the Liber de causis. Other works added to the debate, such as Avicenna’s Liber de anima, al-Ghazālī’s Summa theoricae philosophiae, Averroes’s Long Commentary on De Anima, Maimonides’ Dux neutrorum, Isaac Israeli’s Liber de definicionibus, not to mention texts from the Christian tradition, such as Nemesius of Emesa’s De natura hominis and Sophonias’ commentary on De anima. A similarly radical change occurred in thirteenth-century Jewish philosophy through the translation into Hebrew of many of these same texts, at the same time that a very different change was taking place in Arabic philosophy.

“Nous” – rendered as ‘aqlsekhelintellectus, and their vernacular derivatives – became a key philosophical concept in late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, being intimately connected to a wide range of issues in psychology, epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. However, because of its centrality and the manifold conflicting interpretations and solutions accompanying it, “intellect” became a highly contentious problem, one that both authors and commentators tried to disentangle within the context of overlapping Platonic, Aristotelian, Neoplatonic, and Stoic traditions. The ways intellect was conceptualized in this long period influenced and shaped the discussions of fundamental philosophical problems, such as: the body-soul relationship, intuitive and abstract knowledge, mental content, intelligible forms, immortality of the soul, happiness and the highest end of man.

Celebrating the career and the scholarly contributions of Rafael Ramón Guerrero, we welcome a discussion of current research on texts and problems concerning the intellect within the four linguistic spaces in which Aristotelian theories played a central role. We also encourage the submission of contributions centred on the circulation and diffusion of these and other texts which the historical actors in the Greek, Arabic, Latin, and Hebrew spaces used to facilitate, shape, and turn specific debates on the intellect into predominant discourses in the history of philosophy.

Rafael Ramón Guerrero (Granada, 1948), Professor of History of Medieval and Arabic Philosophy in the Facultad de Filosofía of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, along his career he has produced an outstanding contribution to teaching and research in Medieval Philosophy. He obtained his PhD in Madrid in 1979 under the supervision of José Antonio García-Junceda with a thesis entitled Contribución al estudio de la filosofía árabe: Alma e Intelecto como problemas fundamentales de la misma, which served as the basis for his book La recepción árabe del De anima de Aristóteles: Al-Kindi y Al-Farabi (Madrid 1993). This problem remained the focus of his attention in several publications, translations of Arabic philosophers, teaching, conferences, supervision of doctoral theses, and direction of research projects. His work is internationally renowned, and his academic activity is particularly influential in Spain, Portugal, and Latin-America. With this Conference, his students, colleagues and friends wish to honour the Professor, the Academic, the Scholar.
Call for papers

Open until October 30th, 2019. Send a proposal with name, institution, title, and an abstract up to 300 words to
Presentation: 20 minutes + discussion. Languages: English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, German.

Organising Committee

José Meirinhos, Celia López, José Higuera (Porto), Nicola Polloni (Berlin), Pedro Mantas España (Córdoba).

Scientific Committee

Amos Bertolacci (Pisa; Lucca), Alexander Fidora (Barcelona), Catarina Belo (Cairo), Charles Burnett (London), Cristina D’Ancona Costa (Pisa), Gregorio Piaia (Padova), Jean-Baptiste Brenet (Paris), José Luis Villacañas (Madrid), José Meirinhos (Porto), Josep Puig Montada (Madrid), Jules Janssens (Leuven), José Luis Fuertes Herreros (Salamanca), Katja Krause (Berlin), Luis Alberto De Boni (Porto Alegre), Mário Santiago de Carvalho (Coimbra), Steven Harvey (Bar Ilan), Thérèse Cory (Notre Dame).

Scientific Support

Sociedad de Filosofía Medieval (Salamanca – Córdoba) — Sociedade Portuguesa de Filosofia.
Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy TL – Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto.
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia; Universidade do Porto


Mattia Cipriani on Thomas of Cantimpré

Shots from the enlightening talk given by Mattia Cipriani on Thomas of Cantimpré’s Liber de Natura Rerum. Almost two hours discussing source and aims, manuscripts and circulation, intricacies and implications of a fascinating author that contributed so much to the history of medieval science. Video available very soon!