THE SOUND OF SILENCE: USING CONFUSED PERCEPTIONS TO CONCEIVE METAPHYSICAL PRINCIPLES
2023 International Medieval Congress Leeds, University of Leeds (UK), 3-6 July 2023
What does one hear when listening to silence? And what when one says that she’s seeing darkness? According to the Scholastic philosopher Giles of Rome (1243-1316), these borderline perceptual cases are analogical with the epistemological process by which we can grasp… prime matter, the metaphysical entity which constitute all bodies. In my talk, I will expand on Giles of Rome’s discussion of the metaphor of silence as speaking of the conceivability of prime matter. First, I will shortly present why prime matter appears to be ungraspable by definition in reason of its formlessness and extensionlessness. Second, I will examine Giles of Rome’s solution to the conceivability puzzle. I will start from his (short) introduction of the analogical method in his commentary on the Physics and move on to the (long) treatment of how humans can know prime matter in his Hexaemeron. Finally, I will scrutinize Giles of Rome’s account by contrasting it with both its sources (Augustine, Calcidius) and later developments (Francisco Suárez, Manuel Góis).
EXPANDING QUANTITY: ROBERT GROSSETESTE ON THE BODILY FORM
Workshop Quantity, Extension, and Infinity in the 13th and 14th Centuries, Tel Hai College, Tel Hai (IL), 5-7 June 2023
Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253) shows a marked tendency to explain physical and metaphysical theories by recurring to the geometrical scheme of light radiation. Moving along geometrical lines, light displays its causal agency when interacting with the bodies and their ontological root, i.e., matter. Bodies are the primary subject of a universe that is moved like a clockwork: a “machina mundi” that can be moved only insofar as its cogs are extended, quantified substances. Yet before quantity and extension, before bodiliness and physicality, the cosmological roots of the universe were an extensionless substrate and an agent that tends towards infinite extension: prime matter and light. How can quantifiable bodies come out of an extensionless, featureless prime matter? In my paper, I will analyse Grosseteste’s theory of the bodily form as bestower of extension (i.e., potentially quantified bodiliness). First, I will discuss the kind of hylomorphism endorsed by Grosseteste, particularly whether he adheres to universal hylomorphism or not. Second, I will examine how he envisioned the functionality of the bodily form and what implications his theory has in terms of formal pluralism. Finally, I will draw some general conclusions on Grosseteste’s hylomorphism.
REASSESSING GUNDISSALINUS ON PRIME MATTER
2023 AAIWG International Conference, Marmara University, Istanbul (TR), 29 May – 1 June 2023
Dominicus Gundissalinus, a 12th-century philosopher, is a transitional figure in the development of philosophy from pre-Scholastic to Scholastic thought. He is one of the first Latin thinkers to engage systematically with hylomorphism. Gundissalinus’s approach to this theory is unique in several ways. While he draws primarily from Ibn Gabirol (Avicebron) and Avicenna, he shows little direct engagement with Aristotle, and his approach is grounded in the 12th-century framework with its Platonic nuances, even as he moves toward Aristotelianism. In my talk, I will examine Gundissalinus’s theory of prime matter through the lenses of the most debated issues in scholastic hylomorphism. First, I will discuss how Gundissalinus engaged with the dual functions that prime matter was supposed to carry out in medieval Aristotelianism according to its role as substrate of substantial change and potency of the compound. Second, I will address Gundissalinus’s solution to the problem of how matter is related to the form focusing particularly on his formal pluralism and the problem of the emergence of the three dimensions. In my conclusions, I will summarise the implications of Gundissalinus’s hylomorphism and its impact on the tradition.
IDLE SUBSTRATES IN A WORLD OF FORMS? FRANCISCUS TOLETUS ON PRIME MATTER, ACCIDENTS, AND ELEMENTS
Conference: The Mechanization of the Natural World, 1300-1700, Stockholm University, Stockholm (SE), 25-28 May 2023
Scholastic hylomorphism conceived of matter as a potential substrate whose main function is to be joined to forms. The course of nature happens upon this entity which, inert in itself, is constantly transformed into the matter of something else through the incessant processes of generation and corruption. New interpretations of nature would gradually challenge the usefulness of what appeared to be an idle, elusive substrate. In my talk, I want to photograph Francisco Toletus’s theory of prime matter by considering the overall treatment of this entity that he gives in his commentaries on the Physics and DGC. Firstly, I will discuss Toletus’s stances on the substantiality and potency of prime matter, stressing his strive for a balance between Aquinas’s and Scotus’s positions. Secondly, I will discuss two further aspects related to prime matter with which Toletus engages in his commentaries, namely, the inhesion of accidents in prime matter and the case of elemental mixing. My analysis will shed light on Toletus’s theory of matter and display a certain tension between opposite tendencies in his hylomorphism.
GIACOMO ZABARELLA ON CONCEIVING MATTER BY ANALOGY
University of Cluj, Cluj (RO), 2 May 2023
How can humans grasp such an elusive entity as prime matter? For centuries, medieval scholasticism relied on a claim that Aristotle makes in Ph. I.7 about the underlying substrate of generation and corruption and maintaining that matter can be known by analogy. Analogies, however, can be drawn in many ways and, on this regard, medieval scholasticism was marked by two opposite tendencies. On the one hand, many philosophers maintained that prime matter can be grasped by analogy with the artefacts. On the other, many more conceived this procedure as an analogy with the form, a tendency that grows particularly strong from the 14th century onwards. In my lecture, I will focus on Giacomo Zabarella’s harsh critique of the scholastic treatment of this method and his reassessment of Ph. I.7. In ontology, Zabarella is renowned for having maintained that prime matter is bodily (i.e., the “intrinsically extended view”, using Robert Pasnau’s taxonomy) yet potential. Less is known about Zabarella’s epistemology of prime matter and, crucially, how the two sides of the equation (ontology and epistemology) are intertwined in his hylomorphism. Firstly, I will briefly introduce Aristotle’s analogical strategy in Ph. I.7 and outline the ways it was read by some prominent scholastic philosophers. Secondly, I will expand on Zabarella’s criticism of the “analogy with the form” interpretation, contrasting his arguments with those of Scotus’s, one of his main targets. Finally, I will draw my conclusions on the reasons behind Zabarella’s critique and introduce a working hypothesis about the origins of the “analogy with the form” interpretation in the 13th century.
FRANCISCO DE TOLEDO ON THE CONSTITUTION OF HYLOMORPHIC SUBSTANCES
University of Helsinki, Helsinki (FI), 17 February 2023
According to hylomorphism, physical substances have a hylomorphic core made of prime matter and substantial form which is further qualified by accidents. My talk expands on how the Jesuit philosopher Francisco de Toledo (1532-1596) conceived of these basic components of substances and particularly prime matter. First, I will expand on the reasons why prime matter is a puzzling entity of Scholastic ontology, focusing especially on the requirements proceeding from the admission of a principle of hylomorphic union able to explain the individuality of each substance. Second, I will analyse Toledo’s claim that prime matter and (physical) substantial forms are partial substances, stressing his reliance on a dual epistemological consideration of prime matter. Third, I will discuss Toledo’s refutation of the Thomist claim that prime matter is a pure potency and the emendation of the principle of hylomorphic union that it implies. Finally, I will draw some conclusions concerning the curious blending of epistemological and ontological aspects of Toledo’s physical hylomorphism.
PROBLEMATIC BLENDS OF EPISTEMIC PROCEDURES TO CONCEIVE PRIME MATTER
Workshop: The Logic of Matter. University of Helsinki, Helsinki (FI), 16 February 2023
I will discuss three short texts expanding on the conceivability of prime matter and detailing the solutions elaborated by Francisco de Toledo, Francisco Suárez, and Pedro da Fonseca. More specifically, I will focus on some exegetical problems arising from the peculiar blending of analogical and abstractive procedures to grasp prime matter in Toledo and Fonseca, and the possible interpretations of a short passage in Suárez’s DM XIII. Indeed, Toledo and Fonseca seem to combine the analogical procedure from Ph. I.7 with negative abstraction, a method usually attached to Aristotle’s stripping-away argument which, nonetheless, carries out a refuting function in Metaph. Z.3. I will introduce each text and detail the novelties introduced by each author and the problematic issues that seem to arise.
FRANCISCO DE TOLEDO ON MATTER
Lecture, Tel Hai College, Tel Hai (IL), 17 January 2023
Hylomorphism, the doctrine claiming that all bodily substances are compounds of matter and form, was an extremely successful explanatory device during the Middle Ages. While present-day Neo-Aristotelian metaphysicians are re-assessing the philosophical value of this theory, there is at least one aspect of Scholastic hylomorphism that still puzzles philosophers and historians of philosophy alike: the notion of prime matter. Grounded on Aristotle’s philosophy yet probably absent from its original thought, the notion of a first, utterly unqualified, and potential substrate of the bodily world originated harsh debates and philosophical controversies throughout Scholasticism. Its main dual functionality as (1) enduring substrate of substantial change and (2) potency that is joined to the substantial form to constitute an individual substance created a series of doctrinal frictions that were differently addressed. In my talk, I will analyse how the Jesuit philosopher Francisco de Toledo (1532-1596) engaged with the manifold problems concerning prime matter. First, I will briefly introduce some central issues emerging from the Scholastic consideration of prime matter and the Thomistic and Scotistic trends related to them. Second, I will analyse Toledo’s discussion of prime matter in his commentary on Physics I.7, focusing particularly on the role that prime matter plays in (1) the generation of a new substance and (2) the metaphysical constitution of bodies. Third, I will connect Toledo’s treatment of the ontology of prime matter with his discussion of how this entity can be conceived and stress the relevance of the latter in Toledo’s formulation of the former. My conclusions will assess how Toledo’s theory resolves some of the most problematic issues at stake with the inclusion in our ontology of such an elusive entity.
FRANCISCO SUÁREZ AND MANUEL GÓIS ON PRIME MATTER AND ITS CONCEIVABILITY
Lecture, University of Haifa, Haifa (IL), 17 January 2023
Prime matter, the primary substrate out of which the universe is shaped according to Scholastic philosophers, was a cornerstone of the premodern consideration of the physical world. Notwithstanding its centrality, prime matter was a source of manifold problems that marked the Scholastic debate profoundly. These problems often emerged from two seemingly opposed functions that this entity was asked to carry out. On the one hand, prime matter was meant to be the enduring substrate that allows generation and corruption to occur naturally. On the other, prime matter was also meant to express a sort of “sheer” potentiality, which it needs to be joined to the substantial form and constitute an individual substance. These two claims seem to be mutually exclusive and medieval philosophers strived to harmonise them. Yet, on what epistemic grounds is it possible to make valid claims about prime matter? How can humans conceive such an elusive entity that seems to escape any qualification and categorisation? My talk will explore these entanglements of ontological and epistemological issues by discussing two crucial case-studies: Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) and Manuel Góis (1543-1597), the main author of the Coimbran commentary on Aristotle’s Physics. Firstly, I will briefly introduce the conceivability problem in relation to the later medieval debate on prime matter. Secondly, I will examine Suárez’s solutions to the dual-functionality problem (matter as substrate and potency) and the question of knowability highlighting their interrelation. Thirdly, I will move on to analyse Góis’s disordered treatment of the conceivability problem and his reliance on Pedro da Fonseca (1528-1599). My examination will show that Suárez and Góis deploy similar epistemic procedures to justify the knowability of prime matter. Yet, they connect these procedures to their opposite claims about the ontology of prime matter – an entitative act for Suárez, a pure potency for Góis. My conclusions will assess the reasons behind this duality of outcomes and whether the epistemic obstacles to grasp prime matter may hinder the reasoning about its ontology or not.
TRANSLATIONS AND ACCOMMODATIONS: THREE STORIES OF CROSS-CULTURAL EXCHANGE
Lecture, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan (IL), 16 January 2023
Cross-linguistic translations mark crucial aspects of our lives: they are so crucial that we often do not realise how much we rely on them. Naturally, much of the relevance we bestow upon translations nowadays is due to the planetarisation of our society, the internet, and the possibility to reach out anyone in the globe with a simple click on our laptops. Yet it would be a mistake to believe that translations started to play such a meaningful role in human societies only in recent years. Broadly conceived, translation means interpretation and interpretation is a defining factor of our lives. Narrowly conceived as rendering of a written or spoken text from one language into another, translations defined the history of our societies almost since their beginning. In my lecture, I will explore how translations shaped some central aspects of the intellectual and scientific production in medieval Europe. And we are going to do that by focusing on three translators and their stories: they are Livius Andronicus, Dominicus Gundisalvi, and Prospero Intorcetta. None of them had probably thought that he would end up being a translator later in his life nor that he would have to engage with cultural production for most of his life. They lived centuries apart from each other, but their biographies and activities are very good examples of the foundational role played by translations in the establishment of cultural, philosophical, and scientific traditions in Latin Europe.
MATTER AND PRIME MATTER IN THE LATIN MIDDLE AGES: SURVEYING AN ELUSIVE SUBSTRATE
Lecture, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan (CH), 22 November 2022.
The notion of prime matter is among the most problematic aspects that defined the Latin developments of Aristotelianism. In its most radical conceptions, prime matter lacks all kind of features: it is extensionless and potential inasmuch as it is completely devoid of any forms. Yet how can such a minimally existent entity carry out the function of enduring substrate of substantial change? What problems arise from the inclusion of prime matter into our ontology, particularly in relation to the structural entanglements of medieval natural philosophy with metaphysics? And finally, how did medieval philosophers tackle the issue of prime matter’s conceivability since this entity cannot be known in itself but only obliquely? My lecture will discuss these central questions about the notion of prime matter by outlining some of the solutions that medieval philosophers strived to give to these problems. Firstly, I will briefly examine why medieval natural philosophy requires a substrate that endures change and how this requirement is connected to prime and secondary matters. Secondly, I will present some main questions related to this entity and the alternative answers that were produced by the Scholastic debate. Finally, I will discuss the conceivability problem that premodern philosophers faced to justify that prime matter is knowable and analyse the most successful strategies that were formulated to resolve this problem.
sYSTEMATISING MATTER IN COIMBRA: MANUEL DE GÓIS ON THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF PRIME MATTER
15th International Congress of SIEPM, University of Paris, Paris (FR), 22-26 August 2022.
In writing the Coimbra commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, Manuel de Góis attempted an overall systematisation of how this central text ought to be interpreted. The aim of the commentary implied De Góis to engage with a wide web of often opposite theories and sources and give a broad picture of how the natural world should be considered, understood, and described. Yet some central items entailed by the Scholastic explanation of nature exceeded nature itself: this is the case of prime matter. My talk will discuss De Góis’s treatment of matter in his commentary on the first book of the Physics. I will focus particularly on the question inquiring about the definition, conceivability, and name of prime matter (bk 1, ch. 9, q. 2). How does the Coimbra commentary engage with these problematic aspects arising from an epistemological consideration of prime matter? How are De Góis’s claims related to his stances about the ontology of this peculiar entity? And how does the insertion of new sources that were unavailable in the Middle Ages, like Plotinus, impact on the consideration of prime matter as epistemic object? First, I will present some of the main problems entailed by an epistemological consideration of prime matter. Second, I will analyse how the Coimbra commentary on the Physics deals with this problem through the discussion of definition, conception, and name of prime matter. Finally, I will examine how De Góis’s stances are connected to his general interpretation of hylomorphism and the role that both new and old sources play in his solution to the problem about the conceivability of prime matter.
ROGER BACON’S “MATHEMATICAL PROOFS” AGAINST THE INFINITY OF PRIME MATTER’S POTENCY
With Yael Kedar. Roger Bacon Conference, St Bonaventure University (US), 21 July 2022.
The question of the infinity of matter is tightly linked, in Bacon’s writings, to his theory of the unity of matter, as well as to the relation between the concepts of potentiality, extension and essence. The reasoning which Bacon provides against the ideas of the infinity of matter and its extension, is but another phase in his comprehensive argumentation against the postulate that the form alone makes the things of the world vary, while the substrate of these variations, namely, matter, remains in essence one and the same. Among the arguments which Bacon employs in this context three are particularly intriguing, since they serve as examples of Bacon’s use of “mathematical proofs” for issues related to other domains of knowledge, in this case – metaphysics. Bacon offers the quantitative argument that the assumption of an infinite potential inhering in finite substance leads to the absurdity of the part having a greater essence than the whole and the finite possessing more essence than the infinite. These proofs raise several questions which we aim to discuss, the most prominent of which focus on Bacon’s quantitative treatment of essences: its meaning, basis and implications.
FORMLESSNESS AND METAPHORS OF AN ELUSIVE SUBSTRATE: FACING THE EPISTEMIC OBSCURITY OF PRIME MATTER
57th International Congress on Medieval Studies. Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo (MI), 9-14 May 2022.
The notion of matter (materia) was a common reference in technical and philosophical texts throughout the Middle Ages. While the tradition shifted from early-medieval Platonism to late-medieval Aristotelianism, the term “materia” never ceased to be at the centre of problems, debates, and controversies. During this process, this notion was reshaped, gradually acquiring new disciplinary epistemes that expanded on the explanatory functions that matter was required to carry out. In my talk, I want to discuss one specific aspect that is common to most theories of matter formulated throughout the early and later Middle Ages alike: how can humans conceive matter? This question characterised many discussions of primordial or prime matter, that is, the substrate of the physical universe that in itself is intangible, unperceivable, and formless. Being so remote from human perception and reasoning, prime matter might appear to be a mere abstraction or even an epistemic void placed at the very heart of the study of nature. How can anyone know anything about something with no forms nor qualifications? To justify an epistemic access to prime matter, medieval actors formulated a plurality of strategies to conceive such elusive substrate. My talk will focus on one of these strategies, which is based on Plato’s Timaeus and Calcidius’s commentary. According to this strategy, matter can be grasped by incidental perception, like when we see darkness without actually seeing anything. How should we understand this peculiar statement? And how was it treated by medieval actors? Focusing on some meaningful case studies from the 12th and 13th centuries, I will examine the interpretive fragmentation of this procedure, also in relation to another analogical approach proposed by Aristotle in Physics I 7 to justify the conceivability of prime matter.
UNTANGLING MEDIEVAL NATURAL PHILOSOPHY: AN EXCURSION INTO MATTERS, FORMS, AND OTHER PECULIAR ENTITIES
UC Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve (BE), 9 May 2022.
Physical substances are bodies. According to medieval Scholasticism, their bodiliness implies that these substances are made of matter and form. This doctrine is called “hylomorphism” and, although it is a metaphysical doctrine, it impacted profoundly on medieval natural philosophy. With few exceptions, all later medieval philosophers accepted hylomorphism. However, their conceptions of matter and form and the way they mutually interact were very different. Such richness of interpretations originated harsh debates around central questions. While hylomorphism is a metaphysical problem, its consequences directly involved the realm of natural philosophy. Indeed, physics studies bodily substances and hylomorphism explains how these substances exist: hence, the two disciplines were intimately related. The best example to appreciate the collision of metaphysics with natural philosophy is the theory of elemental mixtures. We will explore the raging seas of such medieval controversies by looking at how different historical actors engaged with (some of) these problems
ROGER BACON ON PRIME MATTER, ELEMENTS, AND MIXTURES: COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVES
Workshop: Materia, 气/Qì, and Their Epistemes. KU Leuven and University of Science and Technology Beijing, Leuven (BE) and Beijing (CN), 10-11 December 2021.
Among the most problematic items devised by medieval metaphysics, prime matter was a cornerstone of the Scholastic examination of the ontological structure What is a body made of? This question has been scrupulously discussed by European medieval philosophers for centuries. Its answers had to delve into both physical and metaphysical considerations of bodies, trying to solve frictions originated from Aristotle’s texts and their authoritative interpretations. In my talk, I will discuss Roger Bacon’s claim that the substrate of elemental transmutation and generation and corruption of mixtures is not prime but natural matter. I will examine the main features characterising natural matter in relation to its substrate to both elements and mixtures and consider the state of this matter considered per se and under the instantiation of elements and mixtures. This examination will allow for some fundamental preliminary questions about the possibility of historical and philosophical comparison of Bacon’s theory with the process of instantiation of 理 into chunks of 气 elaborated by in the context of 宋明理學, to be discussed with the other participants in the workshop.
SUÁREZ ON THE EPISTEMIC CHALLENGE OF CONCEIVING PRIME MATTER
Lecture, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg (SE), 25 November 2021.
Among the most problematic items devised by medieval metaphysics, prime matter was a cornerstone of the Scholastic examination of the ontological structure of bodies and their constitutive processes of generation and corruption. Either considered as a complete potency (with Aquinas) or an entity provided with some entitative actuality (with the Scotists), prime matter was a peculiar yet central entity to be included in these philosophers’ ontological catalogues. An additional sign of such peculiarity was the restricted conditions by which prime matter was supposed to be conceivable. My talk will expand on how these epistemological conditions were discussed by Francisco Suárez in his Metaphysical Disputations, focusing on the solution that the Spanish philosopher proposes to the problem of prime matter’s conceivability. First, I will briefly discuss the main options elaborated in the central Middle Ages to justify an epistemic access to prime matter. Suárez was indeed well aware of the medieval discussion of this problem and his solution can be better appreciated by a broader consideration of alternative possibilities. Second, I will examine the doctrinal context of Suárez’s treatment of prime matter in his thirteenth metaphysical disputation since the epistemological issue of conceivability is grounded on his ontological treatment of prime matter. Finally, I will analyse Suárez’s solution to the problem about the conceivability of prime matter particularly in consideration of two epistemic strategies: analogy and negative abstraction.
UNMITIGATED HYLOMORPHISM: ROGER BACON ON MATTERS, POTENCIES, AND CHANGE
Conference: The Elusive Substrate: Prime Matter and Hylomorphism from Ancient Rome to Early Qing China. KU Leuven, Leuven (BE), 5 November 2021.
Grounded on interpretations of Aristotle’s Physics and Metaphysics, later medieval theories of hylomorphism tend to be characterised by harshly debated opposite positions. This is evident with many aspects of the hylomorphic partnership constituting bodily substance: discussions on the ontological condition of prime matter, its uniformity in both super- and sublunary realms, and the number and graduality of substantial forms within a compound were controversial aspects of a heated debate. Yet it seems that most medieval philosophers agreed upon some general points, mostly related to the functionality of matter and form within the compound. Concerning prime matter, two main functions seem to characterise its contribution to both the constitution of the natural world and its vicissitudes. Prime matter is (1) the enduring substrate of substantial change that perdures when a new substantial form is educed, and (2) it expresses the potentiality of the compound to be transmuted into something else. It may be argued that the metaphysical necessity of prime matter arises from these two main functions. In my talk, I will challenge this assumption by examining the strange case of Roger Bacon’s hylomorphism. Contrary to mainstream philosophers of the time, Bacon’s reading of Aristotle, Avicenna, and Averroes led him to formulate a rather curious yet intrinsically coherent hylomorphic system based on a plurality of metaphysical matters and forms nested within the compounds. After a short analysis of Bacon’s hylomorphic pluralism, I will discuss Bacon’s answer to two key questions: What is the metaphysical substrate of the elements? And what ontological part expresses the potency of a compound? I will argue that, although for Bacon prime matter does not carry out any of the main functions usually ascribed to this entity, it is nonetheless integral to the constitution of both bodily and spiritual worlds.
BONAVENTURE AND THE EPISTEMIC ELUSIVENESS OF PRIME MATTER
Conference: Ut bon(aventurian)i fiamus: International Conference on the 800th Anniversary of Bonaventure’s Birth. University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana (SLO), 1 October 2021.
Medieval philosophy often shows itself as a sort of wild forest made of difficult problems, refined doctrines, and complex solutions. In my talk, today, I will focus mostly on one of the roots that allowed such speculative forest to grow: hylomorphism and, specifically, the theory of matter. Matter, indeed, has been the subject of a long-lasting series of debates and issues that from some point of view started with the beginning of Greek philosophy itself. While the substantial form, too, underwent a process of gradual epistemic detachment in the later Middle Ages, it is matter, and especially prime matter, that gave origin to widespread controversies between and within different philosophical traditions. In my talk, I will examine Bonaventure’s only reference to the conceivability of prime matter. Discussing some of the ontological implications of the epistemic strategy mentioned by Bonaventure (negative abstraction), I will show how such reference appears to hint at a specific interpretation of Augustine’s stance on the problem of matter’s conceivability. According to such reading of Augustine, it seems that Bonaventure limits the scope of application of negative abstraction avoiding any definitive endorsement of this epistemic strategy.
COGNICIONES PROBLEMÁTICAS: SUÁREZ, LOS CONIMBRICENSES Y EL RETO EPISTEMOLÓGICO DE LA MATERIA PRIMERA
VIII Congreso Internacional Iberoamericano de la Sociedad de Filosofía Medieval: De cognitione. Universidade do Porto, Porto (PT), 6-8 September 2021.
En la Escolástica medieval, la doctrina del ilemorfismo pone las bases del estudio de la naturaleza tanto a nivel de movimiento natural (mutación sustancial y accidental) como de constitución ontológica de los entes corpóreos. Entre los distintos aspectos relacionados al ilemorfismo medieval, la correlación entre ontología y epistemología de la materia primera parece haber jugado un papel principal en la justificación de las posibilidades epistémicas de la filosofía natural. Se trata de dos preguntas fundamentales: ¿cuál es el estatuto ontológico de la materia primera? ¿Y cómo es posible tener intelección de esta entidad? En esta presentación examinaré el problema escolástico de la cognocibilidad de la materia primera desde el punto de vista de una obras muy particular: las Disputationes metaphysicae de Francisco Suárez. Mediante su discusión de como los seres humanos puedan tener cognición de la materia primera será posible abordar la cuestión histórica acerca de cómo aspectos principales del ilemorfismo fueron desarrollados en la segunda escolástica.
WISDOM IS OUT THERE! ROGER BACON AND THE EPISTEMIC RECONSTRUCTION OF LOST BOOKS AND MISSED KNOWLEDGE
Conference: Exchange of Knowledge Between Literate Cultures, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen (DK), 19-21 July 2021.
During the Latin Middle Ages, translations of scientific and philosophical texts from Greek and Arabic into Latin crucially contributed to cause the Aristotelian shift that characterised the Scholastic tradition up to the 17th century. These translations also fostered an idealistic conception about the “knowledge of the others” (ancient sages and Islamicate thinkers alike) that needed be retrieved and implemented in Latin Christendom. A philosopher and scientist from the 13th century, Roger Bacon was an enthusiastic and omnivorous reader and a harsh critic of how the translators often rendered the original texts into Latin. He daringly proposed a reform of Latin knowledge which included the study of foreign languages as necessary instrument to proper understand sacred, philosophical, and scientific texts. Engaging with the lines of Bacon’s attitude towards Greek and Islamicate wisdom, my talk expands on a specific aspect: Bacon’s description of the epistemic treasures that science and philosophy still had to offer to the Latinate debate. In particular, I will focus on Bacon’s treatment of Aristotle and Ibn Sīnā, examining how Bacon reconstructs the list of works that these thinkers had authored yet were not available to the Latins (nor existing, in most cases). In this context, I will discuss how such beliefs impacted on Bacon’s own interpretation of both philosophers, with curious and relevant outcomes in the intellectual history of the Latin Middle Ages.
MAJOR ISSUES IN MEDIEVAL HYLOMORPHIC THEORY
With Zita Toth. De Wulf Mansion Centre Research Day, KU Leuven, Leuven (BE), 14 June 2021.
MEDIEVAL UNIVERSES IN DISORDER
Talk, MeLO Seminar. KU Leuven, Leuven (BE), 12 March 2021.
In the 12th century, primeval chaos was a shared cosmogonical theory, discussed and accepted by an impressive number of philosophers and theologians. Grounded on the Timaeus, the kind of hylomorphism that was applied to this theory was often proceeding from Calcidius. Yet what happens to the theory of primeval chaos after the “Aristotelian shift” of the 13th century? How did Scholasticism interact with this curious theory which seems in open contradiction with the central tenets of the Aristotelian framework? Primeval chaos was maintained by some “best sellers” of the time, like Plato’s Timaeus, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and many works by theologians like Augustine, Hugh of St Victor, and Peter Lombard. How did Scholastic philosophers interact with these authoritative coordinates when primeval chaos appeared to be untenable? In my paper, I will first discuss the central tenets of the main sources working as authoritative coordinates up to the 12th century. Second, after a short examination of the arguments against primeval chaos elaborated in the 12th century, I will analyse how three 13th-century philosophers – Roger Bacon, Thomas Aquinas, and Albert the Great – engaged with the problem of primeval chaos in their commentaries on Aristotle. From there, I will draw my conclusions on how the theory of primeval chaos was discussed by 13th-century philosophers adopting a completely different set of authoritative coordinates who substantively changed the way in which this theory was conceived.
FRAGMENTACIONES HILEMÓRFICAS: ROGERIO BACON Y EL PROBLEMA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN ONTOLÓGICA DEL MUNDO
Lecture, Institute of Medieval Studies, Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona (ES), 24 February 2021.
El hilemorfismo – la doctrina aristotélica según la cual cada ente corpóreo es un compuesto de materia y forma – ha sido una de las teorías más desarrolladas y debatidas durante la Escolástica medieval. Sin tener acceso a los textos principales donde Aristóteles discute esta doctrina, los primeros siglos de la Edad Media produjeron un ‘hilemorfismo ingenuo’ fundado en correspondencias sinonímicas con los textos sagrados interpretados platónicamente. Con el pasaje al siglo trece y la disponibilidad de textos de Aristóteles, Avicena, y Averroes, la situación muta drásticamente. En Física I, Aristóteles delinea los fundamentos del mundo natural y sus principios: materia, forma, y privación. Sin embargo, ¿que significa propiamente decir que este árbol o aquella piedra son compuestos hilemórficos? ¿Cual es su materia, la materia primera o algún tipo de materia segunda? Y si es una materia segunda, ¿esto no implicaría una pluralidad de formas sustanciales que parece ser excluida por Aristóteles? Estas preguntas caracterizaron muchos aspectos de la discusión metafísica en el siglo trece. En mi ponencia, discutiré la solución propuesta por Rogerio Bacon examinando sus críticas a las soluciones alternativas propuestas por Alberto Magno y Tomás de Aquino, por un lado, y la tradición franciscana, por otro.
HYLOMORPHIC CROSSROADS: IBN DAUD, GUNDISSALINUS, AND THE FONT OF LIFE
Conference: Abraham ibn Daud: historia, filosofía y teología política en Sefarad, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid (ES), 9-10 March 2021.
Contrasted to the extant excerpts from the Arabic original version, the Latin translation of Ibn Gabirol’s Fons vitae reveals a systematic reinterpretation of main philosophical stances and doctrines. The translation was made in Toledo by Dominicus Gundissalinus and John of Spain. My paper will dive into the intricate questions arising from this case of supposed linguistic clumsiness of two otherwise reliable translators. Their reinterpretation of Fons vitae would have consequential outcomes for Scholastic ontology through the assumption of a “universal hylomorphism” coarsely linked to Augustine. I shall discuss the philosophical stances on hylomorphism maintained by Ibn Gabirol, Gundissalinus, and Abraham Ibn Daud. Supposedly, the head of Gundissalinus’s and John’s translating team was Ibn Daud. In his Emunah Ramah,Ibn Daud expresses much criticism of Ibn Gabirol’s hylomorphism, refuting both its mistakes and misinterpretations in connection to Islamicate Aristotelianism. In turn, Gundissalinus’s philosophical treatises closely follow Ibn Gabirol’s theories, without showing any awareness of its controversial ontological outcomes. Was Gundissalinus’s lack of expertise and awareness of Aristotle’s metaphysics that led him to mis-render Ibn Gabirol’s work? And why Ibn Daud, the main translator of the team, should have agreed to having his colleagues translating a text he despised so much?
ROGER BACON ON THE CONCEIVABILITY OF MATTER
Conference: 13th-Century English Franciscans. King’s College London, 25 July 2020.
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 part of the paper 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 part 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 part 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.
MATTER, FIRST AND FINAL
Roundtable discussion with Neil Lewis and Rega Wood. Robert Pasnau’s Virtual Colloquium, 25 June 2020.
ORIGINAL, FIRST, OR PRIME: 12TH-CENTURY PERSPECTIVES ON MATTER, WITH AND WITHOUT ARISTOTLE
Conference: Prime Matter: The Ontological Stakes of Physical Endurance. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin (DE), 28 February 2020.
Although the main coordinates of Aristotle’s hylomorphism were known to Latin philosophers even before those translations, the concept of “prime matter” seems to arise in the Latinate world only between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries, circumscribed by Aristotle’s own works. Earlier in the tradition, materia prima better corresponds, if such a terminological distinction can be allowed, to the “first” rather than “prime” matter of the universe, cosmologically connoted yet deprived of many of the features characterising its Aristotelian cognate, “prime matter”. Although defined by different and oscillating characteristics than prime matter, this first, primordial, and original matter of the universe envisioned by early-medieval thinkers was still a matter whose corporeal or incorporeal status needed to be addressed. My talk will focus on this specific and rather understudied problem of medieval philosophy: Was early-medieval first matter corporeal or even material? Under what circumstances can matter be said to be a body? And finally, what was the horizon of this problem, considering the early-medieval lack of direct access to Aristotle’s metaphysical and natural works? I will address these questions through four case-studies corresponding to four different models elaborated to answer the question of the emergence of corporeity. They are the “Incorporeal Body”, the “Bodily Matter”, the “Coincidence of Accidents”, and the “Abstraction without Subsistence” models.
MATTER, APPREHENSION, AND METAPHYSICS: PREJUDICES IN FAVOUR OF THE ACTUAL?
Conference: De intellectu. Greek, Arabic, Latin, and Hebrew Texts and Their Influence on Medieval Philosophy. A Tribute to Rafael Ramón Guerrero. Universidade do Porto, Porto (PT), 6-7 February 2020.
Originated within the Aristotelian tradition yet somewhat alien to Aristotle himself, like a virus prime matter spread to other traditions and latitudes, in different disciplines and periods. A matter of research and teaching, the notion of prime matter seems to be unavoidable for any scholar of medieval philosophy. With this talk, I would like to problematise it by asking some questions about not only the medieval discussion of this notion, but also concerning our preliminary comprehension of what prime matter is or better was. On the one hand, such a preliminary and often unspoken comprehension can be considered as a sort of prejudice that, as such, needs to be clarified in order to positively proceed to the historical examination of this notion. On the other hand, this preliminary problematisation would help to specify the ontological commitment of our own philosophical theories applied to the interpretation of those doctrines.
DOMINICUS GUNDISSALINUS AND THE RECEPTION OF ARABIC PHILOSOPHY IN THE 13TH CENTURY
With Alexander Fidora. Conference: The Intercultural Roots Early Scholasticism: Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Latin. King’s College London, London (UK), 23-24 January 2020.
While today the importance of Dominicus Gundissalinus and his division of philosophy is generally acknowledged, the significance of his contribution for later epistemological developments still needs to be assessed with more precision. For a long time, histories of philosophy provided only a few references to Michael Scot (d. before 1236) and his tract De divisione philosophiae, along with Robert Kilwardby (d. 1279) and his famous De ortu scientiarum, when dealing with the influence of Gundissalinus’s division of the sciences. Our talk will examine the problematic reception of Gundissalinus’s works in the 13th century, and posit a fundamental distinction among the different uses of a source that seems to characterise medieval philosophy.
SHADOWS OF GUNDISSALINUS IN THE SUMMA HALENSIS
Conference: The Summa Halensis: Philosophy and Reception. King’s College London and University of Oxford, Oxford (UK), 23-25 September 2019.
In the past few decades, important studies published have shed some crucial light on the impact exerted by Gundissalinus on some central medieval authors. His theories provided them with a first interpretation of sometimes exotic doctrines derived from the Arabic texts he himself translated into Latin in Toledo. However, only a few medieval authors explicitly mentioned Gundissalinus’s name or that of his works. In contrast to this rather meagre set of references, his influence appears to have been greater, although in a subtle, murky, shadowy way. My talk is focused on a preliminary analysis of the influence that the theories of Dominicus Gundissalinus have had on the Summa Halensis, directly and indirectly. In other to have some discussion about that, I shall start with a general account of what I mean when I say that Gundissalinus’s reception is problematic and why some of his philosophical stances are quite peculiar, sometimes ingenuous, other times bizarre.
A MATTER TO BE GRASPED: EPISTEMIC STRATEGIES AND ONTOLOGICAL PROBLEMS ABOUT PRIME MATTER
Lecture. Radboud University, Nijmegen (NL), 20 September 2019.
The lecture examines the medieval reception of two epistemic strategies proposed by Aristotle to know (prime) matter. Both analogical and negative strategies are developed from two main tensions this metaphysical concept is constructed upon. On the one hand, the tension between metaphysics and natural philosophy, on which the analogical strategy is based, focusing on the role of prime matter as physical substrate. On the other hand, the tension between metaphysics and logic, from which the negative strategy arises in its consideration of prime matter as general subject. It is from the borderline encounters of these philosophical disciplines that the conundrum of matter has been nurtured since the Greek commentators of Aristotle, if not before.
MATTER AS EPISTEMIC OBJECT: INTELLECTION, MANIPULATION, AND PARTICULARISATION IN THE 13TH CENTURY
2019 Meeting of the History of Science Society. Utrecht (NL), 23-27 July 2019.
The paper explores the richness of scientific and philosophical approaches to matter in the thirteenth century. The twelfth-century Arabic- and Greek-into-Latin translation movements provided, in a relatively short time, Latinate audience with different accounts of matter as epistemic object proper to diverse disciplines—natural philosophy, logic, metaphysics, as well as alchemy, medicine, and astronomy. I will discuss tensions and implications arising from a consideration of such a plurality of meanings and theories of matter and materiality in the thirteenth century.
ROBERT GROSSETESTE: PATTERNS OF CAUSALITY, MATTER, LIGHT, AND THE DIVINE
2019 International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, Leeds (UK), 1-4 July 2019.
Light. From the myth of the cave of Plato’s Republic to the holy atar of Zoroastrianism, up to the dreams of galactic warp-engines, light has always played an enveloping role in human imagination and thought. Light is intimately related to goodness, in its founding link with the Idea of the Good, again in Plato’s Republic, which shines goodness over the universe in analogy to the Sun, whose light provides visibility and, therefore, truth and even existence upon the world. Light also coincides with being, existence, and form. In Plotinus’s Enneads, for instance, the images of the transcendent forms, like rays of light, are reflected off the darkness of matter as off a dark mirror. Finally, light is perspicuity of knowledge, the final resolution of doxastic belief as expounded by Augustine’s theory of divine illumination and, following a much-complicated process, Aristotle’s theory of the soul in its Arabic and Latin developments.
EXPERIENCING MATTER: TRANSLATIONS AND TRANSITIONS IN GROSSETESTE’S EARLY WORKS
Conference: Premodern Experience of the Natural World in Translation. Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin (DE), 27-28 June 2019.
Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175-1253) was a most influential scientist and philosopher active in England in the Middle Ages. My contribution will explore the curious development of a philosophical concept of matter in Grosseteste’s reflection. Differently from most of his colleagues, Grosseteste did not receive a proper philosophical training. His first works were focused on scientific themes (astronomy, optics, alchemy) and characterised by “empirical attitudes”. Grosseteste grounded these works on Arabic scientific texts translated into Latin a few decades before and providing him with specific notions of natural matter. This first phase of Grosseteste’s reflection is indeed marked by a consideration of matter as “experienceable materiality”—a substantively different notion from Aristotle’s. Gradually, though, Grosseteste would have to combine his early notion of matter with Aristotelian matter. How did these two notions interact in Grosseteste’s reflection? Did Grosseteste’s proto-empirical approach reflect in his philosophical position of matter as natural principle? And did a gradual access to different sets of translated sources impact on this conceptual elaboration?
MOVEMENTS, CLUSTERS, AND TEAMS: MODERN PERSPECTIVES ON PREMODERN TRANSLATIONS
Conference: The Multi-ethnic Borderlands of Medieval Toledo: New Directions. Texas State University and Universidad de Castilla La Mancha, Toledo (ES), June 5-7, 2019.
Premodern scientific translations into Latin have been a central aspect of cross-cultural studies in the last century. Consideration of how books and ideas, problems and doctrines have easily crossed cultural, political, and religious boundaries throughout the Middle Ages has substantively reshaped the intellectual history of Premodern Europe. In the twelfth and thirteenth century, Toledo has been a most eminent venue of this “translation movement”. Translators like Gerard of Cremona, Dominicus Gundissalinus, Marc of Toledo, and Michael Scot contributed to make available to the Latin public a fundamental set of scientific and philosophical works which would have had major revolutionary outcomes in Europe. Undoubtedly, the historical relevance of the Toledan translation movement is central. This paper addresses a different question. It does not concern the relevance of this phenomenon, but our approach and implicit understanding of its intrinsic dynamics. What is it that we mean when we refer to a translation “movement”? What are the unspoken implications of our consideration of this activity (or activities) as an implicitly organised and organically developed phenomenon? And finally, if not a movement, how should we consider and refer to it when we study the crucial cultural events that took place in Toledo?
MARGINAL EPISTEMOLOGIES OF MATTER: PREMODERN STRATEGIES FOR KNOWING THE PRIME SUBSTRATE
Conference: Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions: Intellect, Experience and More. Università di Pisa, Pisa (IT), 22-25 May 2019.
This paper explores some relevant strategies adopted by medieval authors in order to supersede the intrinsic limitations on prime matter’s knowability as implied by the “otherness” of its peculiar ontological status. In particular, I shall focus on how medieval authors have engaged with problematic passages from (and hermeneutics of) Aristotle’s Metaphysics Ζ, 10 and I, 8; Physics Α, 7; and Plato’s Timaeus, 52b. Examination of relevant cases will show a fundamental tension in place between the scanty conditions of knowability of prime matter and the pivotal role this notion was meant to play in both natural philosophy and metaphysics.
LE QUESTIONI SULLA FISICA DI RUGGERO BACONE: IL PROBLEMA DELLA MATERIA
Conference: La Fisica di Aristotele nel Medioevo. Parigi e Oxford (1210-1270). Università di Roma “Tor Vergata”, Roma (Italy), 3 April 2019.
Il problema della materia, di cosa sia questa entità di cui l’universo è composto in modo radicale e originario, è uno dei problemi più affascinanti, duraturi e al contempo tra i più complessi della tradizione filosofica. Sotto molti aspetti, il mistero della materia non è oggi più chiaro di quanto lo fosse in antichità, ma di sicuro la posizione del problema è ben diversa. Non si tratta di campi elettromagnetici discreti che circoscrivono il vuoto e di particelle subatomiche che, con fare felino, sono e non sono al medesimo tempo. La fisica premoderna si basa su concetti diversi, fondamentalmente radicati su una visione del mondo come un continuo fisico, in cui il vuoto non esiste e dove spesso il discreto di riduce al continuo.
PREMODERN TRANSLATIONS INTO LATIN: RHETORICAL STRATEGIES AND HISTORICAL RECONSTRUCTIONS
Conference: Mapping the Rhetoric of Science Writing in Antiquity and Beyond. Ionian University, Corfu (GR), 28-29 March 2019.
This paper approaches a specific problem concerning a rather peculiar phenomenon: the translations into Latin made in the Middle Ages. How can we distinguish between rhetorical exaggerations and reliable descriptions in letters and prologues accompanying the translated texts? To what extent can they be considered as trustworthy witnesses of the translator’s activity and social context? From this starting point, questions on the use of rhetoric in Premodern translations will be extended to our contemporary consideration of that phenomenon. How does rhetoric shape our scientific discourse on cross-cultural historical events like translations and doctrinal appropriations? And how much does our consideration of contemporary problems affect implicitly our appreciation of the past? Notwithstanding our historical distance, it will be argued, Premodern and modern rhetorical approaches to cross-cultural phenomena do not appear to differ much in style, as they do in orientation.
LOOKING INTO THE UNKNOWABLE: PREMODERN CONUNDRUMS OF PRIME MATTER
Lecture. Durham University, Durham (UK), 5 March 2019.
In his Allegoria Peripatetica, the renaissance scientist and philosopher Fortunio Liceti engaged with a “sharp man” who claimed that prime matter is a sort of nothingness which can be grasped only by imagination. Fortunio’s short reply is lapidary. Prime matter does exist and has a marginal substantial existence. Moreover, it is knowable not through imagination, but through the intellect—and indeed only the fools are unable to conceive prime matter, as they have no intelligence. Less than a century afterwards, another philosopher and scientist with much prestige, Francis Bacon, would claim that the prime matter is nothing but a fairy matter, completely useless if not dangerous. Even more, Bacon adamantly acknowledges that any claim that things are made of this fairy matter is perverse and utterly inappropriate for natural philosophy. Be a matter of fairy tales or for very intelligent people, the notion of prime matter has fascinated generations of philosophers with its manifold tortuous intricacies. Medieval thinkers were no exception. This talk engages with some of these intricacies and tortuosities, examining how premodern thinkers acknowledged that prime matter was indeed knowable, at least under certain conditions.
INSIDE MARC OF TOLEDO’S APPROACH TO IBN TÛMART AND HIS PHILOSOPHICAL AND THEOLOGICAL DOCTRINES
With Pedro Mantas-España. Conference: Trespassing Walls. Jews, Christians and Muslims around Their Texts and Traditions. Universidad de Córdoba, Cordoba (ES), 29 January 2019.
In our presentation we summarise our plans of collaboration within a forthcoming project leads by Juan Pedro Monferrer. The first step consists in a survey of Marie-Therese d’Alverny’s paper on Marc of Toledo and his translations commanded by Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada and master Maurice (it includes a summary of their edition, their philological analysis and commentaries). The second step combines a review synthesis of ibn Tūmart doctrine. With the third step, we enter what we consider the most relevant part of our contribution. We analyse key aspects of Rodrigo’s intellectual-political biography; the context of his Historia arabum as strategic political narrative, and his rational more than tolerant attitude toward Muslims and the Arab culture. Through this third step of our study, Marc of Toledo’s translations could be considered as an instrument which served Jiménez de Rada’s political purposes.
KNOWING THE SHADOW. PRIME MATTER AND ITS KNOWABILITY IN THE 13TH CENTURY
Conference: Matter, Mind, and More. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin (DE), 9 November 2018.
Matter, and especially prime matter, is a ubiquitous, somewhat shadowy, and yet central philosophical notion. A sort materia phantastica, as Francis Bacon famously observed stating that its description is not but “a hard and perverse desire”, prime matter has been a philosophical conundrum for centuries. Medieval thinkers were aware of that, although their acknowledgement of these peculiarities has been gradual and, eventually, coincided with their detachment from this bizarre concept. A central moment of this process are the manifold and intricate discussions on matter in the thirteenth century—discussions that, as you might know, are also the subject of my research. The thirteenth century, though, is marked by what we could define as a doctrinal rupture that implied a gradual detachment from a Timaeus-based narrative and an Arabic-shaping of some new Aristotelian tendencies.
FROM MATTER TO MATERIALITY: PREMODERN QUESTS FOR KNOWING THE PRINCIPLE OF CORPOREALITY
2018 Meeting of the History of Science Society. Seattle (WA), 1-4 November 2018.
For a premodern scientist, matter is what made an apple this apple and also distinguished that apple from the mental idea. Matter was the carrier of three-dimensional extension and the bearer of forms, which in turn articulated the patterns of definition, shape, and intrinsic nature of this or any apple. Premodern knowing depended on form whence matter appears to inevitably escape it – as matter is, by definition, what is other than form. How was the premodern understanding of corporeality shaped by the grounding and yet shadowy functions by matter? And how could premodern thinkers grasp what matter is – and subsequently how it can properly satisfy the physical conditions of dimensionality and corporeality – if matter cannot be known? This paper will examine two alternative strategies that were put in place to resolve this puzzle in the High Middle Ages: the denial that knowing matter is possible (Aquinas) and the assumption that it can be known albeit feebly and mediatedly (Scotus and Ockham). While both strategies meant to resolve this puzzle, they also contributed to stress the theoretical flaws which originated by the tension between the physical functions of matter and its (un)knowability. This crucial impasse would facilitate the identification of matter and materiality, as it required philosophers and scientists to provide new answers and narratives beyond the Aristotelian tradition and to drastically contribute to the final ousting of Aristotelian metaphysics from natural science.
AVICENNIAN COSMOLOGIES? REMARKS ON GROSSETESTE AND “THE ARABS”
Aquinas and the Arabs Annual Fall Meeting. Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City (MX), 23-25 August 2018.
It is usually acknowledged that Robert Grosseteste was one of the first thirteenth-century Latin philosopher to study, quote, and be influenced by ‘the Arabs,’ particularly Avicenna, Averroes, and Ibn Gabirol. At a closer look, the situation appears to be rather different, as Grosseteste’s use of his sources – rarely mentioned by name – is very peculiar. This paper explores both presence and influence of Islamicate authors on Grosseteste’s early production, stressing the originality of his approach to the philosophy of ‘the Arabs.’
EXPANDING MATTER: COSMOLOGIES OF LIGHT IN ARTEPHIUS AND GROSSETESTE
53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies. Western Michigan University, 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.
SOURCES OF LIGHT: REMARKS ON THE GROSSETESTE/AVICEBRON CONNECTION
Conference Science Imagination and Wonder – Robert Grosseteste and His Legacy. University of Oxford, 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.
NICHOLAS OF CUSA AND GUNDISSALINUS: A PRELUDE ON MATTER
Conference: East-Western Transmission of Knowledge. Universidad de Córdoba, Cordoba (ES), 3 April 2018.
Two hundred and fifty years and around a thousand miles separate the peculiar thinkers on which this talk is going to focus: Dominicus Gundissalinus and Nicholas of Cusa. While the latter is surely one of the most original and important thinkers of the Renaissance, Gundissalinus is a rather unstudied and often forgotten character of that ‘philosophical revolution’ taking place between the end of the twelfth- and the beginning of the thirteenth century. Living in different times and places, both Gundissalinus and Cusa are eminent witnesses of the exhaustion of shared philosophical traditions and the very construction of new frameworks and theoretical landscapes.
ARABIC PHILOSOPHY IN LATIN EUROPE BEFORE MICHAEL SCOT
Conference: Crossing Lands. Spreading knowledge in the Near East and the Mediterranean from Late Antiquity to Middle Ages. Universidad de Córdoba, Cordoba (ES), 14 March 2018.
Circulation, 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.
CHAOS IN TOLEDO: GUNDISSALINUS, DANIEL OF MORLEY, AND THE CHARTREAN TRADITION
Conference: Scire naturam: filosofia e ciências, da antiguidade ao início da modernidade. Universidade do Porto, Porto (PT), 26-28 February 2018.
My 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.
DOMINGO GUNDISALVO Y DANIEL DE MORLEY ACERCA DEL ESTABLECIMIENTO Y CONSERVACIÓN DEL UNIVERSO
Conference: Explicatio y ratio naturae. Comprensiones medievales sobre el origen del universo. Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona (ES), 16 January 2018.
Daniel 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 ontological multiplicity from God.
TRADUCCIÓN Y CIRCULACIÓN DEL CONOCIMIENTO ÁRABE A FINALES DEL SIGLO XII: UNAS NOTAS DE INTRODUCCIÓN
Conference: Oriente próximo y la cuenca del Mediterráneo. Fe, creencia y transmisión textual entre lo canónico y lo apócrifo. Universidad de Córdoba, Cordoba (ES), 30 November 2017.
Los mil años que separan la caída de Roma y las noventa y nueve tesis de Lutero están marcados por un incesante movimiento de personas, confines, ideas, mercancías, problemas y libros. Mediante estos movimientos, conocimientos y practicas circularon más allá de toda frontera geográfica, teológica y cultural, remodelando y refundando enteras tradiciones que estaban atadas entre sí por numerosos factores y un mar común. En sus orillas, se hablaban cuatro lenguas principales: árabe, hebreo, latín, y griego. Los movimientos de traducción que tuvieron lugar en todo el Mediterráneo durante la Edad Media y el Renacimiento estaban finalizados en superar estos límites lingüísticos y hacer disponible nuevo y precioso conocimiento. Se trata de una larga historia, cuyas raíces departen del comienzo mismo de la civilización humana.
ACCORDANCE AND STRIFE: ENCOUNTERS WITH MODERNITY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY
ACPA Conference Philosophy, Faith and Modernity. Dallas (TX), 16-19 November 2017.
Since its very beginning, Christian philosophy received the crucial influence of Neoplatonic metaphysics. Augustine and Boethius, are the peak of a well-known process which shaped many aspects of the reflection on God and His creation throughout the Middle Ages. Among these themes, the discussion of the ontological difference between the Creator and His creation is one of the most intriguing, and it is as well the subject of this talk. Specifically, I will exposit two different strategies in dealing with this problem, elaborated by two very peculiar thinkers of the twelfth century—David of Dinant and Dominicus Gundissalinus. Their reflections, indeed, are marked by the reception of the new translations from Greek and Arabic realised in the second half of the twelfth century, translations that were to reshape the Latin philosophical debate in its entirety. David and Gundissalinus, then, are two witnesses of a first and radical approach to these scientific novelties, aspects of that ‘modernity’ the medieval thinkers had to face in the thirteenth century, and beyond.
SCIENCES OF MATTER? KNOWLEDGE OF THE MATERIAL SUBSTRATE IN THE TWO BACONS
2017 Meeting of the History of Science Society. Toronto (ON), 9-12 November 2017.
Separated by more than three centuries, the figures of Roger Bacon (ca. 1220 – ca. 1292) and Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) are exemplar cases of the problematic relation between philosophy and science. Both attempted to revolutionise the scientific method of their day by criticizing causes of error, albeit under opposite circumstances. On the one hand, Roger attacked the ‘scholastic method’ as entangled in the passive use of philosophical authorities rather than in knowledge making based on experience. On the other, Francis elaborated a new speculative method which, in his eyes, could supersede the Aristotelian tradition grounded on late scholasticism, which included Roger’s views. Both thinkers thus studied physics with their peculiar interest, yet both had to also address the problem of matter as the irreducible root of physical reality. Roger lamented the lack of a detailed discussion on matter in the Aristotelian corpus, whereas Francis stressed the excesses of the Aristotelian approach to physics in answering the question of the knowability of matter, that is, if matter in itself—rather than what is material—can be known. My paper will focus on this fundamental aspect of the history of a ‘science of matter’ in the Middle Ages and in the Early Modern Period. In particular, I will show how and why the birth of the ‘science of matter’ would require the definitive sacrifice of the philosophical notion of matter proper to the Aristotelian tradition, and replace it by a quantitative (and thus mathematizable) concept of matter.
MATTER OF CHANGE: PHILOSOPHICAL CLAIMS AND RELIGIOUS CONCERNS ON THE SUBSTRATE
Conference: Pre-Modern Sciences and Religions. Harvard University, Cambridge (MA), 6-7 November 2017.
The concept of matter is integral to the history of philosophy, and yet, it is also a source of puzzling problems and doctrinal tensions for almost every discipline thematising its notion. One of these tensions arising from the philosophical enquiry on matter appears as crucial: that is, the relation between matter and God. Up to the end of the twelfth century, this relation is mainly established and discussed in cosmogonic terms: matter, providing the ‘ontological leap’ from spiritual to corporeal beings, must enter the description of the world institution from its very beginning, as a direct effect of God’s creation. At the same time, though, in this relation matter appears to be characterised by an intimate ‘otherness’: God’s creative power, absolute unity and true being are the opposite of matter’s inert status, intrinsically tending to multiplicity and chaos, posited ‘between some kind of substance and nothing’ (with Plato) and yet furnishing tangible existence to the bodies. In my talk, I am going to discuss four twelfth-century authors who engaged with the problem of matter and God, starting with Calcidius’s Latin translation of Plato’s Timaeus. They are Peter Lombard, William of Conches, Honorius of Autun, David of Dinant, and Dominicus Gundissalinus.
‘INDEED, THE SOUL HAS NOT BEEN MADE BY THE FIRST MAKER’: CREATION, IMITATION, AND MATTER
Conference: Creation and Artifice. The Warburg Institute, London (UK), 1-2 June 2017.
Gundissalinus’s radical interpretation of Ibn Gabirol’s account of matter as presented in his Fons vitae has pivotal implications for the Archdeacon’s cosmogonic theory. Gundissalinus considers God’s creative action to be limited to the creation and first composition of matter and form generally speaking (De processione mundi). As a consequence, the causative and institutive process of the temporal world in itself and in its parts has to be based upon the causality of a secondary cause. In Gundissalinus’ eyes, this secondary cause does not create (for creation is always ex nihilo), but rather moulds matter through a series of secundariae compositiones which imitate God’s ontogonic causality in ‘creating’ new bodies and souls every day (De anima, De processione mundi). In my talk, I will examine Gundissalinus’s peculiar interpretation of creation from matter on the basis of his sources (starting with Ibn Gabirol and Ibn Daud), and I will draw a first sketch of the dissemination and the influence of his positions on thirteenth-century debates concerning matter and universal hylomorphism.
I NUMERI DELLA NATURA: TESTIMONIANZE NUMEROLOGICHE IN GUNDISALVI E GROSSATESTA
Conference: Rappresentazioni della natura nel Medioevo. Università di Padova, Padua (IT), 24-27 May 2017.
Il nesso tra numeri e ordine naturale, variamente trattato dalle fonti tardoantiche della speculazione medievale (Agostino, Macrobio e Marziano Capella in particolare), trova nel dodicesimo secolo una nuova portata teoretica legata alla pervasiva tematizzazione del concetto di natura. Il caso più emblematico a riguardo è sicuramente la riflessione di Teodorico di Chartres, che lega la tematica numerologica alla costituzione stessa dell’essere creaturale. Lo sviluppo di questo tema nella riflessione di Domenico Gundisalvi e Roberto Grossatesta costituisce l’oggetto del presente contributo. Per entrambi questi autori, la matematica costituisce uno strumento indispensabile per la comprensione della realtà. In Gundisalvi, probabile autore del Liber mahameleth, lo studio dei numeri ha una validità primariamente pratica che però risulta di grande rilevanza per la dimostrazione della completezza della creazione, come richiesto dal programma metafisico proposto nel De divisione philosophiae. In Grossatesta, la matematica, accompagnata dalla geometria, ha un valore cruciale e fondativo per lo studio della realtà fisica, in particolare negli scritti successivi al 1225 e alla piena formulazione della sua teoria della luce. Tanto il De processione mundi di Gundisalvi (ed. Bülow, pp. 55,6-56,12) quanto il De luce di Grossatesta (ed. Panti, pp. 84,205-85,232) si concludono con una scansione numerologica della costituzione e della natura del creato. Il mio contributo si focalizzerà sull’esame di questi due brani, evidenziandone la portata dottrinale ed esaminando le relazioni genetico-dottrinali tra i due testi, al fine di comprendere come l’applicazione della numerologia al problema della composizione fisica trovi un coerente sviluppo dalla tematizzazione chartreana a quella oxoniense della prima metà del tredicesimo secolo, passando per Toledo.
EFFECTUS, AFFECTUS, AND DEFECTUS: CAUSALITY AND CAUSATION OF THE SUBSTRATE
Conference: Aspectus and Affectus: Robert Grosseteste, Understanding and Feeling. Georgetown University, Washington DC, 30 March-1 April 2017.
Based on the same Latin verb facio, the terms ‘affectus’, ‘effectus’, and ‘defectus’ are widely used by the Latin philosophers in reference to different disciplines and peculiar problems of the reflection on, among others, being, soul, and knowledge. By a metaphysical viewpoint, these concepts are bound to each other as they describe three ontological situations reciprocally connected as different aspects of a causal event. From that event, something (a.) is caused following the casual footprints of the event (effectus); (b.) it receives (and, in some case, provides) an accidental or substantial disposition (affectus), which is characterised by (c.) its lack of different characteristics or further improvement of those characteristics that the thing already has from the causal event (defectus). Often developed through slightly different vocabularies and theoretical contexts, the doctrinal genesis of this causal dynamic is connected to Aristotle’s thematization of physics and metaphysics, and its interpretations by the Muslim and Jewish philosophical traditions. Finally available to the Latin philosophers since the end of the twelfth century, these pivotal sources will reshape the medieval debate on physics and metaphysics up to the Early-Modern Period. In my talk I will examine a border-line case of this metaphysical dynamic: the substrate of corporeal bodies, matter, and its role in the constitution of the hylomorphic compound. Specifically, I will focus on the problematic position of matter as a per se ontological defectus (i.e., complete lack of actuality) which affects and effects the caused being, examining the opposed approaches to this problem offered by Ibn Gabirol and Avicenna, and their Latin developments.
LA CIENCIA DE ‘LOS OTROS’. PECULIARES ASIMILACIONES DE TEORÍAS ÁRABES POR LA TRADICIÓN FILOSÓFICA LATINA
Lecture. Universidad de Córdoba, Cordoba (ES), 26 January 2017.
Uno de los topoi más típicos de la percepción común de la Edad Media por los no especialistas es el reconocimiento de un choque de civilizaciones entre los musulmanes y los cristianos. Este topos, arraigado en eventos históricos muy peculiares como la reconquista en la península ibérica o las cruzadas en el Oriente Medio, se ha vuelto en uno de los pilares de la retórica política de hoy en día. Como bien sabéis, durante los mil años que componen la Edad Media, la historia de las relaciones entre cristianos, musulmanes y judíos muestra características y peculiaridades muy diferentes de esta idea común. Es una historia compleja de encuentros y enfrentamientos, curiosidad y aversión, colaboración y aislamiento. Y todavía, desde una perspectiva cultural y filosófica, se trata de la historia de una fusión continúa entre horizontes diferentes y a menudo opuestos, marcada por la influencia continuativa de la filosofía griega en las tres tradiciones filosóficas abrahámicas y de cada una de estas tres – o mejor dicho, cuatro, considerando la reflexión bizantina como algo diferente de la latina – en las otras, con diferentes grados de aceptación, problematización y repulsión. Córdoba, la ciudad de Averroes y Abraham ibn Daud. Estamos en uno de los lugares más simbólicos de este largo proceso que ha marcado indisolublemente la construcción y el desarrollo de la filosofía occidental, y hoy os presentaré algunos aspectos del aproximación de los primeros filósofos latinos a interesarse en la reflexión filosófica y científica en lengua árabe. Analizaremos algunos ejemplos de tres características de este primer aproximación a la cultura árabe entre la segunda mitad del siglo doce y el comienzo del siglo trece: el sincretismo teológico, la consideración de los árabes respeto a los griegos, y el sentimiento de inferioridad cultural de los latinos hacia su propia producción científica y filosófica.
CONTRASTING PERSPECTIVES: THE LATINS, THE ARABS, AND THE RISE OF A NEW APPROACH TO PHILOSOPHY
Conference: Filosofia Medieval: em curso e em toda a extensão. Universidade do Porto, Porto (PT), 12-13 January 2017.
The translation movement from Arabic into Latin had long-lasting effects on Medieval speculation, allowing the Latin philosophers to deal with new doctrines, problems, and approaches thanks to the translated works by Aristotle, Avicenna or Averroes. While the acceptance and criticism of many of these theories will be fully achieved in the second half of the thirteenth century, the first phase of assimilation of the ‘new’ doctrines is marked by an enthusiastic and, perhaps, ingenuous approach. In my talk, I will analyse some examples of this Latin appropriations of ‘Arabic’ philosophy, dealing with some intriguing authors between the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century (Gundissalinus, Daniel of Morley, Alexander Neckam, and Robert Grosseteste).
GUNDISALVO, GUILLERMO DE AUVERNIA, Y EL PROBLEMA DE ATRIBUCIÓN DEL DE IMMORTALITATE ANIMAE
VII Congreso Internacional Iberoamericano de la Sociedad de Filosofía Medieval: De relatione. Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Barcelona (ES), 14-16 November 2016.
Entre las obras atribuidas a Gundisalvo, el tratado De immortalitate animae pone algunos problemas de primaria importancia. De hecho, existen dos versiones de la obra, con dos diferentes tradiciones manuscritas que atribuyen el tratado a Gundisalvo y a Guillermo de Auvernia, aspecto que ha suscitado, en las últimas décadas, la refutación de la paternidad gundisalviana del De immortalitate por muchos autores. En esta contribución se tomarán en cuenta los datos presentados a favor y en contra de la atribución a Gundisalvo y a Guillermo, con particular atención a la ontología en que se basa en tratado y a la posible historia del texto. Por último, se intentará proponer una hipótesis de investigación que pueda contribuir a la vexata quaestio sobre la paternidad de esta obra muy peculiar.
DOMINICUS GUNDISSALINUS AND THE RENOVATION OF MEDIEVAL PHILOSOPHY
Conference: Translation and Philosophy: Gundissalinus and Ibn Daud in 12th Century Spain. University of South Carolina, Columbia (SC), 11 November 2016.
Gundissalinus’s contribution is crucial and developed in a twofold way. On the one hand, indeed, the translating activity pursued by Gundissalinus and his participation to the ‘Avicenna project’ with Abraham Ibn Daud made available to the Latin public texts whose relevance is undeniable for the subsequent Aristotelization of medieval philosophy: and this is the case of Avicenna’s De anima and Liber de philosophia prima. But Gundissalinus’s choice to translate also peculiar writings like al-Kindi’s De radiis or Ibn Gabirol’s Fons vitae had permanent consequences on the reflections of many philosophers, like Grosseteste or Bacon. On the other hand, the second and even more important contribution by Gundissalinus is his original philosophical speculation as it is offered in the treatises he wrote. With those writings, Gundissalinus tried to fill the gap in the Latin philosophical framework in which he received his education, and thus, in the first place, Chartres. He tried to exceed the limits of the Timaic Platonism, criticising the doctrine of primordial chaos in a Gabirolian basis; refusing the theory of the demiurge following Avicenna’s doctrine of necessary being; revising the cosmological Platonism of Hermann of Carinthia’s De essentiis by putting them under a crypto-Aristotelian natural lens. The very same effort can be seen at work on Gundissalinus’s elaboration of a new articulation of science, the De divisione philosophiae, where he proposes a lay system of knowledge that could be able to integrate the new disciplines whose knowledge was made available thanks to the translation movement. And finally, a very similar scenario is provided by the consideration of his De anima, and his theoretical effort at assimilating the great news of the time, that is, Avicenna’s psychology.
GUNDISSALINUS, AVICENNA, AND THE ROAD TO PARIS
Lecture. Marquette University, Milwaukee (WI), 2 November 2016.
Together with two further, anonymous works, the De causis primis et secundis and the Book on the Peregrinations of the Soul in the Afterlife, Gundissalinus’s writings mark the theoretical and even material path that will lead to the great receptions and criticisms of Avicenna and the other ‘Arabs’ in Paris and Oxford during the thirteenth century and beyond—from John Blund to Albert of Cologne, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and Duns Scotus. I will try to cast some light on this very first stage of ‘theoretical appropriation’ of Avicenna’s doctrines in the Latin West, analysing how Avicenna’s doctrines have been accepted or rejected by Gundissalinus and the two anonymous authors of the De causis primis et secundis and the On the Peregrinations of the Soul in the Afterlife, and pointing out, in particular, the role played by other translations produced in Toledo on Avicenna’s philosophical reception.
TRANSLATION AND APPROPRIATION: NECROMANCY, ASTROLOGY, ALCHEMY
Lecture. University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame (IN), 31 October 2016.
The early-medieval traditional articulation of knowledge was based on the division between trivium and quadrivium expounded, posited under the authority of authors like Boethius and Martianus Capella. The human knowledge, thus, found its development through the seven liberal arts—grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometrics, music and astronomy. The seven liberal arts were accompanied, in the mind of any early-medieval scholar, by the twofold division of philosophy in theoretical and practical; and by the mechanical arts, from agriculture to architecture, to cynegetics and navigation, discussed by a vast number of classical and early-medieval sources, among which one has to remember at least Macrobius, Isidore of Seville, Augustine, Priscianus, and the Roman authorities such as Virgil’s and Vitruvius’s. Notwithstanding their undeniable bond with the classical (and pagan) authorities, in these medieval systems of knowledge there is no place for bizarre disciplines like astrology or divination, or demoniac arts like necromancy, while others were simply unknown, like science of gold-making that will be called alchimia. This situation will abruptly change in the second half of the twelfth century as a direct consequence of the translation movements from Arabic and Greek into Latin, a change of perspective that constitute the topic with which we are going to deal today. We will take into account two articulations of knowledge, the system proposed by Hugh of St Victor in his Didascalicon and that expounded by Gundissalinus in his De divisione philosophiae, pointing out how the scenario changes with the arrival of the ‘new’ sciences in the Latin West.
ARISTOTELE A TOLEDO
Conference: Da Stagira a Parigi: prospettive aristoteliche tra Antichità e Medioevo. University of Pavia, Pavia (IT), 30-31 May 2016.
Al momento della sua morte, avvenuta nel 1187, Gerardo ha tradotto dall’arabo al latino ben 71 opere, stando almeno all’eulogio scritto in suo onore dai suoi studenti; e tra questi scritti si trova un buon numero di opere aristoteliche: la Physica, il De generatione et corruptione, i primi tre libri delle Meteore, gli Analitici secondi ma anche gli pseudo-aristotelici Liber de causis e De causis proprietatum et elementorum quattuor. Manca quello che sarà il “piatto forte” dell’aristotelismo latino, la Metaphysica, che era già parzialmente disponibile tramite la translatio vetustissima di Giacomo da Venezia (comprendente i primi quattro libri) e la Metaphysica vetus che arrivava fino al sesto libro. Da Toledo, queste traduzioni aristoteliche si diffusero con estrema rapidità, insieme agli altri testi filosofici e scientifici resi disponibili in lingua latina, contribuendo all’Aristotelian shift del secolo successivo. Il mio intervento non si concentrerà sulla diffusione delle opere aristoteliche toledane in Europa, ma su una questione apparentemente secondaria, eppure di grande interesse per comprendere le modalità e gli sviluppi del movimento di traduzione toledano, aspetto preliminare ma fondamentale per comprendere la diffusione dei testi tradotti dall’arabo. Nello specifico, la questione cui tenterò di rispondere è se ci sia stata una ricezione degli scritti aristotelici tradotti da Gerardo già a Toledo, e quindi prima della disseminazione nel resto d’Europa, da Oxford a Parigi a Roma
DOMINICUS GUNDISSALINUS ENTRE TOLEDO, SEGOVIA Y CHARTRES: CONVERGENCIAS DOCTRINALES
Conference: Espacios de la filosofía medieval: Córdoba, Toledo y Paris. Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid (ES), 9 March 2016.
Mi presentación se concentra en la especulación metafísica de Gundisalvo, traductor y filósofo toledano del siglo XII y, junto a Ibn Daud, uno de los más importantes exponentes del llamado «circulo de Toledo». Los principales aspectos cosmológicos y ontológicos desarrollados por Gundisalvo en sus tratados De processione mundi y De unitate serán analizados a partir de la recepción gundisalviana de las fuentes arábigas traducidas en Toledo. En particular, mi análisis se enfoca sobre la convergencia entre dos conjuntos doctrinales fundamentales para Gundisalvo: por un lado, la especulación de Ibn Gabirol, cuyo Fons vitae constituye probablemente la fuente más importante del filósofo toledano. Por otro lado, examinaré como el substrato de la reflexión gundisalviana se sitúa rotundamente en la huella de la tradición chartreana, evidenciando como el recurso a la ontología gabiroliana corresponde a específicos problemas elaborados en Chartres, y cuya solución se propagará de Toledo a Oxford y Paris.
POSSIBILITÀ MATERIALI E NECESSITÀ FORMALI: LETTURE GUNDISSALINIANE DI IBN SINA, IBN GABIROL E IBN DAUD
Conference: Idee, testi e autori arabi ed ebraici e la loro ricezione latina. Università di Pavia, Pavia (IT), 3-4 December 2014.
Nella sua riflessione metafisica, Gundissalinus mostra una progressiva presa di coscienza di alcune problematiche principali tanto in relazione alla progressione cosmogonica quanto rispetto all’analisi della composizione ontologica degli enti. In questo senso è possibile tracciare le tappe di questo percorso attraverso la problematizzazione della principale fonte dell’ontologia di Gundissalinus, ossia il Fons vitae di Ibn Gabirol, in relazione alla ricezione della metafisica avicenniana. In questo intervento analizzeremo come Gundissalinus “legge” Ibn Gabirol a partire dal De unitate et uno, prima opera in cui troviamo una decisa adesione tanto alla cosmologia quanto all’ontologia gabiroliane, per poi esaminare come tale adesione venga progressivamente problematizzata dapprima nel De anima e, in seguito, nel De processione mundi, dove l’analisi gundissaliniana è segnata dalla necessità di reinterpretare la riflessione di Ibn Gabirol alla luce della Metaphysica e della Physica di Ibn Sina: una nuova ermeneutica in cui l’influsso di Abraham Ibn Daud su Gundissalinus non è affatto indifferente.
LES SOURCES NÉOPLATONICIENNES ARABES DE LA COSMOLOGIE DE GUNDISSALINUS
Conference: Métaphysique et cosmologie médiévales. Héritages philosophiques du Livres des causes. Dijon (FR), 16 September 2014.
Aujourd’hui je vous présenterai quelques-uns des aspect les plus importants de la pensée métaphysique de Dominicus Gundissalinus par rapport à ses principaux sources néoplatoniciennes arabes. Je commencerai en illustrant brièvement quelques donnés biographiques concernant Gundissalinus, depuis je passerai à traiter des points fondamentaux de la réflexion philosophique gundisalvienne par rapport à ses sources, et finalement je vous presentarai des remarques à propos de l’éventuel accès de notre auteur au Liber de causis.
TOLEDO, CROCEVIA DI CULTURE: IL CASO DEL MOVIMENTO DI TRADUZIONE
Conference: Cantieri d’Autunno 2013. Università di Pavia, Pavia (IT), 15 October 2013.
Il 6 maggio 1085, dopo un breve assedio, l’antica capitale visigota di Toledo, inglobata nel dominio andaluso fin dal 711, si arrese alle truppe di Alfonso VI di Castiglia, che prese possesso della città il 25 maggio. Città di frontiera, tra il mondo islamico degli almohadi e degli almoravidi e un mondo latino in cerca di un riscatto politico, spirituale e culturale rispetto all’altra sponda del Mediterraneo, Toledo visse nel dodicesimo secolo un periodo di fioritura sociale e scientifica molto particolare e pressoché unico nella sua storia. Caratteristica principale e condizione materiale per un simile sviluppo fu un melting pot culturale, formato dalla coabitazione e collaborazione tra mozarabi, musulmani, ebrei e cattolici: questo crogiuolo interculturale, favorito da un’amministrazione cittadina ancora tollerante, costituisce una sorta di unicum nella storia d’Europa. Perciò non sorprende che Toledo divenga, nella seconda metà del XII secolo, il fulcro di quel movimento di traduzione dall’arabo al latino che condusse alla “svolta aristotelica” del secolo successivo, traduzioni realizzate tramite la stretta collaborazione tra individui appartenenti a religioni e culture diverse, ma uniti dalla comune credenza in una validità universale del sapere scientifico e filosofico. In questo contributo tratteremo inizialmente della storia del XII secolo toledano, dei principali problemi affrontati nell’assimilazione della città al regno di Castiglia, e specialmente quelli relativi alla convivenza con la popolazione musulmana e mozarabica. In secondo luogo, passeremo all’analisi specifica delle condizioni che resero possibile il movimento di traduzione dall’arabo, colto come principale manifestazione delle peculiarità della società toledana (ma con uno sguardo anche alle altre esperienze di traduzione, sottolineandone le differenze), esaminandone personaggi, metodologie e lavori, per concludere con alcune brevi riflessioni sull’impatto dirimente di queste traduzioni per la storia del pensiero e della cultura europei.
GUNDISSALINUS AND AVICENNA: SOME REMARKS ON THE TEXTUAL PRESENCE OF AVICENNIAN ‘METAPHYSICA’
Conference: 12th- and 13th-Century Attempts to Translate Muslim and Jewish Texts into Latin. Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum (DE), 19 March 2013.
My talk will focus on both Gundissalinus’s translation activity and his main metaphysical treatise, De processione mundi, examining a specific aspect of Gundissalinus’ double work as philosopher and translator. I will examine particularly the relationship between Gundissalinus’s first translation of the Ilahiyyat and the long quotation from that work in De processione mundi. By analysing the modifications proposed by Gundissalinus in his own work light will be shed on how these textual alterations imply a different theoretical understanding of Avicenna’s ontology.
‘NATURA VERO ASSIMILATUR QUATERNARIO’: ALCUNE OSSERVAZIONI SULLA NUMEROLOGIA DEL DE PROCESSIONE MUNDI
VI Congreso Internacional Iberoamericano de la Sociedad de Filosofía Medieval: De natura. Universidad de Salamanca, Salamanca (ES), 4 December 2012.
Il De processione mundi di Dominicus Gundissalinus propone una struttura cosmogonica e ontologica incentrata sulla dottrina dell’essere necessario di Dio in opposizione all’essere possibile delle creature, proponendo una versione corretta dell’ilemorfismo universale gabiroliano. In questa processione cosmogonica, la causalità divina si esplica nei due distinti piani di realtà – ontologico e ontico – come creatio, compositio e generatio. La trattazione gundissaliniana della causa non si esaurisce però del tutto nella dottrina delle tre causazioni recepita da Ermanno di Carinzia: nel trattato possiamo infatti rintracciare alcuni riferimenti alla teoria numerologica che a prima vista risultano abbastanza oscuri, ma che si rivelano di notevole interesse ad un esame più attento.