Books and Volumes

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

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

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

Domingo Gundisalvo. Una introducción.

Madrid: Editorial Sindéresis, 2017. ISBN: 978-84-16262-34-2. 165pp.

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

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

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

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

Forthcoming Books and Volumes

Glimpses of the Invisible: Gundissalinus’s Ontology of Matter and Form.

Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Winter 2020.

This book is about a curious philosopher who was active in Toledo in the second half of the twelfth century. As with every first encounter with the main character of a most famous British television drama, although the philosopher I am referring to is probably one of the most important figures of that century, his name usually prompts a simple yet surprising question: “Gundissalinus who?” Outside the boundaries of specialised knowledge and research, this intriguing thinker is unknown. Within those boundaries, scholars have sometime underestimated both the relevance and originality of Gundissalinus’s production. Recent scholarship has contributed to a profound shift in outlook, pointing out many relevant doctrines which were elaborated by Gundissalinus. This study contributes to this process of Gundissalinus’s re-discovery, with a philosophical and historical analysis of his metaphysical reflection in order to display its profound originality and pioneering contribution to the course of medieval philosophy.

A “Greek” Jew: Solomon Ibn Gabirol’s Philosophy and Its Impact in the Middle Ages.

Edited by N. Polloni, M. Benedetto, and F. Dal Bo. Preliminary agreement with Brepols (PATMA). Currently under peer-review.

‘The Peregrinations of the Soul in the Afterlife’,
an Anonymous Twelfth-Century Treatise

Pre-contract with Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations – link


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

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

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

Gundissalinus and Avicenna: Some Remarks on an Intricate Philosophical Connection.

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

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

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

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

This article examines the textual alteration strategy carried out by Dominicus Gundissalinus in his original works. One of the most striking examples of this approach can be detected in the large quotation of Avicenna’s Philosophia prima I, 6–7 in Gundissalinus’ cosmological treatise De processione mundi, in which the Spanish philosopher variously modifies the text he translated a few years before. After a short presentation of Gundissalinus’ double role as translator and philosopher, the study moves on to the analysis of Avicenna’s doctrine of necessary and possible being, and the five demonstrations of the unrelated uniqueness of necessary being offered by Avicenna. These arguments are directly quoted by Gundissalinus: nevertheless, the author modifies the text in many passages, here examined through the analysis of some representative excerpts. The results of this enquiry suggest that Gundissalinus is following an effective alteration strategy, envisaging at least two main purposes: the clarification of Avicenna’s line of reasoning, and the doctrinal assimilation of Philosophia prima’s theories in his original philosophical system. In appendix to this article the whole text of the two versions of Philosophia prima I, 6–7 is presented.

Gundissalinus’s Application of al-Fārābi’s Metaphysical Programme. A Case of Epistemological Transfer.

Mediterranea. International Journal on the Transfer of Knowledge 1, 2016: 69-106.

This study deals with Dominicus Gundissalinus’s discussion on metaphysics as philosophical discipline. Gundissalinus’s translation and re-elaboration of al-Fārābī’s Iḥṣā’ al-ʿulūm furnish him, in the De scientiis, a specific and detailed procedure for metaphysical analysis articulated in two different stages, an ascending and a descending one. This very same procedure is presented by Gundissalinus also in his De divisione philosophiae, where the increased number of sources –in particular, Avicenna– does not prevent Gundissalinus to quote the entire passage on the methods of metaphysical science from the Iḥṣā’ al-ʿulūm, with some slight changes in his Latin translation. The analytical procedure herein proposed becomes an effective ‘metaphysical programme’ with regards to Gundissalinus’s onto-cosmological writing, the De processione mundi. The comparative analysis of this treatise with the procedure received by al-Fārābī shows Gundissalinus’s effort to follow and apply this metaphysical programme to his own reflection, in a whole different context from al-Fārābī’s and presenting doctrines quite opposed to the theoretical ground on which al-Fārābī’s epistemology is based, like ibn Gabirol’s universal hylomorphism. Nevertheless, thanks to the application of the ‘metaphysical programme’, one can effectively claim that Gundissalinus’s metaphysics is, at least in the author’s intentions, a well-defined metaphysical system. In appendix to this article the three Latin versions of al-Fārābī’s discussion on metaphysics are reported, e.g., Gundissalinus’s quotations in De scientiis and De divisione philosophiae, and Gerard of Cremona’s translation in his De scientiis.

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

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

In this contribution I examine the problem of spiritual composition in Thierry of Chartres and Gundissalinus. While the former is quite reticent in admitting a spiritual hylomorphism, the latter develops Thierry’s outcomes through the results of al-Ghazali’s and Ibn Daud’s treatment of spiritual substances. The resulting ontology affirms that also spiritual creatures are composed of matter and form: an unacceptable perspective for the three sources used by Gundissalinus.

Elementi per una biografia di Dominicus Gundisalvi.

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

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

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

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

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

Book Chapters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least since the first decade of the thirteenth century, therefore, the Aristotelian texts translated by Gerard of Cremona were studied, used, and quoted in the Île-de-France and England. Nonetheless, these texts had been available since at least 1187, the year in which Gerard of Cremona died in Toledo, and probably beforehand. The period of time between the composition and completion of the translations and the first attested receptions of Aristotle in England and France indicates a chronological gap with respect to the use of these sources and texts. A possible contribution to help clarify this thorny question may be suggested, namely, to examine the influence of Aristotle’s texts translated by Gerard before their spread throughout the continent. That is to say, to consider their reception in the Castilian capital, Toledo, where, during the second half of the twelfth century, at least three philosophers, Abraham ibn Daud, Dominicus Gundissalinus, and Daniel of Morley, are known to have lived and worked.

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

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

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


Gundisalvi, Dominicus.

In Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.

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

with G.E.M. Gasper, S. Sønnesyn, A.L. Mathers, and N. El-Bizri.  In G.E.M. Gasper, C. Panti, T.C.B. McLeish, H. Smithson (eds.), Knowing and Speaking: Robert Grosseteste’s De artibus liberalibus ‘On the Liberal Arts’ and De generatione sonorum ‘On the Generation of Sounds’, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Post-print.

The Liberal Arts: Inheritances and Conceptual Frameworks.

with G.E.M. Gasper, S. Sønnesyn, N. Lewis, and J. Cunningham. In G.E.M. Gasper, C. Panti, T.C.B. McLeish, H. Smithson (eds.), Knowing and Speaking: Robert Grosseteste’s De artibus liberalibus ‘On the Liberal Arts’ and De generatione sonorum ‘On the Generation of Sounds’, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Post-print.

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

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

Book Reviews

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

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

M.J. Soto Bruna, C. Alonso Del Real, De unitate et uno de Dominicus Gundissalinus, EUNSA, Pamplona 2015. ISBN: 9788431329426.

Anuario filosófico 49/2 (2016): 484-486.

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

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

Other Contributions

Domingo Gundisalvo, Filósofo de frontera.

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

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