THE TWELFTH-CENTURY RENEWAL OF LATIN METAPHYSICS: GUNDISSALINUS’S ONTOLOGY OF MATTER AND FORM
Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2020. xiii + 318pp. ISBN: 9780888448651.
Medieval metaphysics is usually bound up with Scholasticism and its influential exemplars, such as Aquinas and Duns Scotus. However, the foundations of the new discipline, which would reshape the entire edifice of Western philosophy, were established well before the rise of Scholasticism through an encounter with the Arabic philosophical tradition. The Twelfth-Century Renewal of Latin Metaphysics uncovers what rightly should be considered the first attempt to construct a metaphysical system in the Latin Middle Ages in the work of Dominicus Gundissalinus. A philosopher and translator who worked in Toledo in the second half of the twelfth century, Gundissalinus elaborated a fascinating metaphysics grounded on a substantive revision of the Latin tradition through the work of Avicenna, Ibn Gabirol, and al-Farabi. Based on a series of structural dualities of being that express the ontological difference between the caused universe and the uncaused creator who lies beyond any duality, it was to prove original and far-reaching. With Gundissalinus we witness the first Latin appropriation of crucial doctrines, like the modal distinction between necessary and possible existence, formal pluralism, and universal hylomorphism. This study thoroughly analyses Gundissalinus’s revisionary interpretation of his Latin and Arabic sources, paying particular attention to the “unlikely blending” of Ibn Gabirol’s universal hylomorphism and Avicenna’s modal ontology which became the cornerstone of his metaphysics.
DOMINGO GUNDISALVO: UNA INTRODUCCIÓN
Madrid: Editorial Sindéresis, 2017. 165pp. ISBN: 9788416262342.
Gundisalvo desempeñó su papel principal como filósofo, y como tal, fue el primero en acoger críticamente las doctrinas avicenianas, farabianas, gabirolianas y aristotélicas. En este sentido, Gundisalvo nos proporciona un panorama donde el platonismo timaico típico de la Escuela de Chartres y de Hermann de Carintia estaba en crisis y que, en varias décadas, llegó a ser superado por la revolución aristotélica del siglo XIII. En sus escritos, Gundisalvo parece quedarse entre las dos orillas de este caudal especulativo, acogiendo el aristotelismo neoplatónico árabe y rechazando fundamentos doctrinales timaicos, sin renegar de su formación platónica y boeciana. Por consiguiente, además del explícito valor de sus traducciones y de aquellos textos que tuvieron una gran difusión y recepción, como el De divisione o el De unitate, resulta evidente el valor implícito de la figura de Domingo Gundisalvo como filósofo un contexto cultural irrepetible como lo fue Toledo en el siglo XII.
[MATERIAL PLURALISM IN ROGER BACON’S PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE, Journal of Dialectics of Nature]
Hylomorphism, the theory claiming that all bodies are made of matter and form, was among the most consequential and controversial theories marking the history of premodern European philosophy. This theory was open to many issues concerning both natural philosophy and metaphysics, especially in relation to the ontological condition of matter and form and the ontological constitution of natural bodies (elements and mixtures). This contribution explores the curious intertwining of both physical and metaphysical levels according to one of the most original thinkers from medieval Europe, Roger Bacon. After a short examination of the main theoretical problems implied by hylomorphism, I discuss Bacon’s adherence to universal hylomorphism and formal pluralism showing his original interpretation of these doctrines. His strong interpretation implies him to formulate a different theory of metaphysical matter by claiming that each substantial form needs to be joined to a specific metaphysical matter apt to it. While Bacon’s claim preludes to a very generous ontology, it is also the key to a novel consideration of natural change and the position of a new ontological actor as substrate of natural vicissitudes: natural matter, a physical rather than metaphysical entity.
*SOMBRAS DE GUNDISALVO EN LA SUMMA HALENSIS
Anales del Seminario de Historia de la Filosofía 40/2 (2023), forthcoming.
La contribución de Domingo Gundisalvo a la historia de la filosofía medieval ha sido de fundamental importancia especialmente por su originalidad y sincretismo. Sin embargo, la recepción explícita de las obras de Gundisalvo en el siglo XIII ha sido explorada sólo parcialmente. Este artículo discute el problema desde un punto de vista metodológico a través del examen de un caso particular: la influencia de las obras de Gundisalvo en la Summa Halensis. Después de haber presentado los problemas principales de un análisis del impacto de Gundisalvo en el siglo XIII, el artículo discute algunos ejemplos de la influencia explicita en Roger Bacon y Thomas de York. La ultima parte de la contribución examina el uso del De unitate et uno de Gundisalvo por parte de los autores de la Summa Halensis y un posible ejemplo de influencia implícita de otros textos gundisalvianos en esta obra.
ORDERING THE SCIENCES: AL-FĀRĀBĪ AND THE LATINATE TRADITION
With Alexander Fidora. Ishraq: Islamic Philosophy Yearbook 10 (2022): 110-130.
Although al-Fārābī exerted a remarkable influence on medieval Latin philosophy, his reception in and contribution to Western thought have received far less scholarly attention than that of Avicenna and Averroes. In an attempt to redress the balance, the present article argues that al-Fārābī played a central role in some of the major intellectual shifts and changes in 12th– and 13th-century Europe. Thus, we show how al-Fārābī informed the systematic translation of new philosophical corpora – including Aristotle – and how he shaped the ensuing epistemological reorganisation of the medieval ordo scientiarum, which found its institutional expression in the newly established universities and their curricula.
CONCEIVING PRIME MATTER IN THE MIDDLE AGES: PERCEPTION, ABSTRACTION, AND ANALOGY
Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, Ahead of Print version, Nov 2021.
In its formlessness and potentiality, prime matter is a problematic entity of medieval metaphysics and its ontological limitations drastically affect human possibility of conceiving it. In this article, I analyse three influential strategies elaborated to justify an epistemic access to prime matter. They are incidental perception, negative abstraction, and analogy. Through a systematic and historical analysis of these procedures, the article shows the richness of interpretations and theoretical stakes implied by the conundrum of how prime matter can be known by human beings. In particular, the reasons behind the later medieval acceptance of analogy as the main way to unveil prime matter become clearer by pointing out the correlation between the ontological and epistemological levels of the medieval examination of prime matter.
HUGH OF ST VICTOR, DOMINICUS GUNDISSALINUS AND THE PLACE OF THE MECHANICAL ARTS IN MEDIEVAL ARCHITECTURES OF KNOWLEDGE
With Alexander Fidora. Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie 153/3 (2021): 291-318.
This contribution engages with the problematic position of the mechanical arts within medieval systems of knowledge. Superseding the secondary position assigned to the mechanical arts in the Early Middle Ages, the solutions proposed by Hugh of St Victor and Gundissalinus were highly influential during the thirteenth century. While Hugh’s integration of the mechanical arts into his system of knowledge betrays their still ancillary position as regards consideration of the liberal arts, Gundissalinus’s theory proposes two main novelties. On the one hand, he sets the mechanical arts alongside alchemy and the arts of prognostication and magic. On the other, however, using the theory put forward by Avicenna, he subordinates these “natural sciences” to natural philosophy itself, thereby establishing a broader architecture of knowledge hierarchically ordered. Our contribution examines the implications of and the reception afforded to such developments at Paris during the thirteenth century, emphasising the relevance that the solutions offered by Gundissalinus enjoyed in terms of the ensuing discussions concerning the structure of human knowledge.
ROBERT GROSSETESTE ON MOTION, BODIES, AND LIGHT
British Journal for the History of Philosophy 29/6 (2021): 1034–1053.
The article dissects Grosseteste’s theory of the origin of bodily motion discussed in De motu corporali et luce. The first section examines Grosseteste’s discussion of the metaphysical structure of body qua body and the postulation of a kind of original motion (motion qua motion) as a common feature to all bodies. The second section discusses how Grosseteste’s stance on the ontological structure of bodies is connected to his claim that motion qua motion is originated by the apprehensive power as such. The latter is a generic feature common to the apprehensive powers of celestial intelligences, humans, and animals. Finally, the last section of the article analyses Grosseteste’s identification of light with the cause of five kinds of change. Stressing the tensions within his treatment of this problem, I argue that Grosseteste elaborates a remarkably original theory of the ontological structure of corporeal beings, which stems from his blending of Aristotelian natural philosophy with metaphysical assumptions inherited from the Platonic tradition.
EARLY ROBERT GROSSETESTE ON MATTER
Notes and Records: the Royal Society Journal of the History of Science 75/3 (2021): 397–414.
This article investigates the origin of Robert Grosseteste’s theory of matter. Covering Grosseste’s early production, from his De artibus liberalibus to De luce and the Commentarius on Aristotle’s Physics,the article examines Grosseteste’s gradual developing of a philosophical theory of matter and prime matter by means of his progressive study of the works of the Aristotelian tradition. Surprisingly, Grosseteste’s first notion of matter is bound to alchemy and astrology. It is a physical notion of matter as subject to astral influence and human manipulation. Only with his study of Aristotle’s Physics, does Grosseteste elaborate a more Aristotelian theory of matter, directly engaging himself with the manifold problems of assimilating Aristotle’s theories into a Christian-based speculation. As a consequence, a much refined version of his theory of matter is presented in the commentary on the Physics and De luce, where prime matter is envisioned as an extensionless point containing in itself the possibility of the existence of the entire universe. Notwithstanding the gradually more philosophical attitude marking Grosseteste’s reflection, some tension between the alchemical and metaphysical epistemes of matter he engaged with can be appreciated throughout much of Grosseteste’s early production.
A MATTER OF PHILOSOPHERS AND SPHERES: MEDIEVAL GLOSSES ON ARTEPHIUS’S KEY OF WISDOM
Ambix, 67/2 (2020): 135-153.
The article examines the two Latin versions of Artephius’s Clavis sapientiae (Key of Wisdom) that have been preserved in early modern collections of alchemical texts. A comparative analysis of the two versions shows that one of them has undergone a process of textual manipulation. In particular, an interpolation of short philosophical passages concerning the doctrine of prime matter has relevant interpretative implications. These additions appear to be grounded in the early thirteenth-century philosophical debate on cosmology and the first Latinate reception of Aristotle’s metaphysics.
GUNDISSALINUS ON THE ANGELIC CREATION OF THE HUMAN SOUL: A PECULIAR EXAMPLE OF PHILOSOPHICAL APPROPRIATION
Oriens 47/3-4 (2019): 313-347.
With his original reflection—deeply influenced by many important Arabic thinkers—Gundissalinus wanted to renovate the Latin debate concerning crucial aspects of the philosophical tradition. Among the innovative doctrines he elaborated, one appears to be particularly problematic, for it touches a very delicate point of Christian theology: the divine creation of the human soul, and thus, the most intimate bond connecting the human being and his Creator. Notwithstanding the relevance of this point, Gundissalinus ascribed the creation of the human soul to the angels rather than God. He also stated that the angels create the souls from prime matter, and through a kind of causality which cannot be operated by God. What are the sources of this unusual and perilous doctrine? And what are the reasons which led Gundissalinus to hold such a problematic position? This article thoroughly examines the theoretical development and sources of Gundissalinus’s position, focusing on the correlations between this doctrine, the overall cosmological descriptions expounded by Gundissalinus in his original works, and the main sources upon which this unlikely doctrine is grounded: Avicenna and Ibn Gabirol.
GUNDISSALINUS AND AVICENNA: SOME REMARKS ON AN INTRICATE PHILOSOPHICAL CONNECTION
Documenti e Studi sulla Tradizione Filosofica Medievale 28 (2017): 515-552.
This article analyses the peculiarities of Dominicus Gundissalinus’s reading and use of Avicenna’s writings in his original works. Gundissalinus (1120ca – post 1190) is indeed the Latin translator of Avicenna’s De anima and Liber de philosophia prima, but also an original philosopher whose writings are precious witnesses of the very first reception of Avicennian philosophy in the Latin West. The article points out the structural bond with the Persian philosopher upon which Gundissalinus grounds his own speculation. This contribution stresses, in particular, the important role played by Avicenna’s psychology, epistemology, and metaphysics in order to provide Gundissalinus with a different set of answers to at least two main questions. On the one hand, the problem of creatural existence and cosmological causation, concerning which Gundissalinus tends to doctrinally merge Avicenna with Ibn Gabirol. On the other hand, Avicenna’s influence is crucial for Gundissalinus’s attempt at elaborating a new system of knowledge, which was supposed to be able to include the new sciences made available by the translation movement, but that also needed to be internally organised through firm epistemological principles. Beside his crucial contribution as translator, Gundissalinus’s first philosophical encounter with the Avicenna paved the road for the subsequent reception of the Persian philosopher’s works, opening a hermeneutical perspective which would be pivotal for the thirteenth-century discussions on soul, knowledge, and being.
GUNDISSALINUS ON NECESSARY BEING: TEXTUAL AND DOCTRINAL ALTERATIONS IN THE EXPOSITION OF AVICENNA’S METAPHYSICS
Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 26/1 (2016): 129-160.
This article examines the textual alteration strategy carried out by Dominicus Gundissalinus in his original works. One of the most striking examples of this approach can be detected in the large quotation of Avicenna’s Philosophia prima I, 6–7 in Gundissalinus’ cosmological treatise De processione mundi, in which the Spanish philosopher variously modifies the text he translated a few years before. After a short presentation of Gundissalinus’ double role as translator and philosopher, the study moves on to the analysis of Avicenna’s doctrine of necessary and possible being, and the five demonstrations of the unrelated uniqueness of necessary being offered by Avicenna. These arguments are directly quoted by Gundissalinus: nevertheless, the author modifies the text in many passages, here examined through the analysis of some representative excerpts. The results of this enquiry suggest that Gundissalinus is following an effective alteration strategy, envisaging at least two main purposes: the clarification of Avicenna’s line of reasoning, and the doctrinal assimilation of Philosophia prima’s theories in his original philosophical system. In appendix to this article the whole text of the two versions of Philosophia prima I, 6–7 is presented.
GUNDISALIN O NUŽNOM BIĆU: TEKSTUALNE I DOKTRINARNE IZMJENE U IZLAGANJU AVICENINE ‘METAPHYSICA’
Logos – Časopis za filozofiju i religiju 7/1-2 (2018): 71-101. Bosnian translation of “Gundissalinus on Necessary Being: Textual and Doctrinal Alterations in the Exposition of Avicenna’s Metaphysics”.
Ovaj rad izučava strategiju tekstualne izmjene od strane Dominika Gundisalina u njegovim izvornim djelima. Jedan od najupečatljivijih primjera ovakvog pristupa može se uočiti u dugom citatu Ibn Sīnine Metaphysica I, 6-7 u Gundisalinovom spisu De processione mundi, u kojem španski filozof na razne načine modifikuje tekst koji je preveo nekoliko godina ranije. Nakon kratkog izlaganja Gundisalinove dvostruke uloge, prevodioca i filozofa, studija se bavi Ibn Sīninom učenju o nužnom i mogućem biću, te sa njegovih pet demonstracija o neuporedivoj jedinstvenosti Nužnog bića. Ovi argumenti su direktno citirani od strane Gundisalina; pa ipak, on modifikuje tekst u mnogim odlomcima, a čije ćemo reprezentativne izvode analizirati u ovom radu. Rezultat naše istrage ukazuje na to da Gundisalin primjenjuje efektivnu strategiju izmjene i to zbog dvostruke svrhe: razjašnjavanja Ibn Sīninog rezonovanja, te zbog doktrinarne asimilacije teorija Metaphysica u svoj orginalni filozofski sistem. U dodatku su prezentovani tekstovi obje verzije Metaphysica I, 6–7.
GUNDISSALINUS’S APPLICATION OF AL-FĀRĀBĪ’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 SUBSTANCES: 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.
*HYLOMORPHISM INTO PIECES: ELEMENTS, ATOMS AND CORPUSCLES IN PHILOSOPHY, SCIENCE, AND MEDICINE (1400–1600)
Edited by Nicola Polloni and Sylvain Roudaut. Contract with Palgrave McMillan. Expected publication: Fall 2023.
The volume offers a coherent set of contributions on elements, atoms and corpuscles in late medieval and early modern philosophy and medicine (between ca. 1400 and 1600). Its main focus is the replacement of hylomorphism – the dominant theory of bodies in the Middle Ages – by new theories of matter (corpuscularianism and atomism) at the dawn of the Modern period. The volume will offer a comprehensive view of a crucial historical moment for the history of philosophy and science: the rise of a new conception of matter against declining scholastic theories. The gathered contributions highlight the key aspects of this historical transition by investigating precise concepts that were central to this transition, namely the notions of elements, atoms and corpuscles. While several papers study the semantic evolution of these notions over the defined period, others focus on specific actors of this paradigm shift. Thus, the contributions bring new light on the gradual process by which hylomorphism was eventually replaced by a more positive conception of matter and natural processes: despite what is usually assumed, the reconceptualization of atoms and corpuscles that made possible the defense of new theories of matter did not entirely take place outside of a scholastic tradition supposedly reluctant toward innovative physical doctrines. Quite on the contrary, even if many authors defending early modern versions of atomism were openly anti-Aristotelian, many thinkers of the late medieval period were already willing to integrate new theories of matter in the conceptual framework of Aristotelian natural philosophy (to which the notions matter and form were central) and tried to harmonize them with the traditional concepts and axioms proper to scholastic doctrines. The volume covers these conceptual innovations by showing how they resulted from a complex interaction between different fields of late medieval and early modern knowledge. In this respect, some contributions focus on the influence of reflections coming from the fields of medicine and chemistry in the emergence of corpuscular theories of matter, while others underline the gradual involvement of scientific experiments and early modern technology in this process. By bringing together studies ranging from metaphysical discussions proper to late medieval philosophy to ideas and concepts inherited from medical science, the volume will provide a complete overview of this important theoretical shift characterizing the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern era.
*UNRAVELLING IBN GABIROL’S METAPHYSICS: PHILOSOPHICAL AND HISTORICAL STUDIES
Edited by Nicola Polloni, Marienza Benedetto, and Federico Dal Bo. Turnhout: Brepols, forthcoming.
This volume dives into this plurality of voices bearing witness to Ibn Gabirol. Some criticise while others praise him. Some of their arguments in claiming allegiance or refusal are well-grounded, while other may appear quite naive. In any case, the voices of these historical actors constantly considered Ibn Gabirol’s speculation as a reference that could not be tacitly dismissed, even when it was considered to be erroneous. This volume should be considered as an invitation to reconsider Ibn Gabirol’s originality and his pivotal contribution to the history of philosophy in the Abrahamic tradition on the shores of the Mediterranean Basin. A reconstruction of the entire intricate history of Ibn Gabirol’s impact on both Latin and Hebrew traditions is impossible, for different reasons. Among them, the lack of studies on many medieval philosophers who interacted with Ibn Gabirol’s thought seems to preclude any comprehensive appreciation of his influence on the Latin Middle Ages. In some ways, the echo of Aquinas’s criticism against Ibn Gabirol still appears to be consequential for present-day scholarship. And it results in an unspoken tendency to neglect both the relevance and influence of this great Jewish philosopher.
FRAGMENTED NATURE: MEDIEVAL LATINATE REASONING ON THE NATURAL WORLD AND ITS ORDER
Edited by Mattia Cipriani and Nicola Polloni. London: Routledge, 2022. ISBN: 9780367557034, 228 pp.
This volume examines a plurality of problems, theories, and images of the order and regularity that medieval philosophers and practitioners saw as structuring the natural world. Such richness of perspectives is directly bound to the plurality of epistemes of nature that characterised European philosophy and science in the Middle Ages and to the specificities of the case-studies discussed by the contributors. While most medieval thinkers agreed on considering nature as an ordered structure of interactions, any glimpse of such structure had its own coordinates. Different domains engaged with nature according to their own methods and assumptions. Consideration of a diverse set of animals or plants may lead to diverse sets of features and theories. And the reading of an authoritative text could apport very different ideas in one period and another, in one tradition and its competitor. Yet in all these cases, philosophers and practitioners not only looked at nature appreciating its order, but had to order themselves nature in return, prescribing (and proscribing) rules, texts, behaviours, and narratives. Hence, the natural order of the universe is based on the theoretical reordering of data, solutions, and theories by interested practitioners.
THE PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE OF ROGER BACON. STUDIES IN HONOUR OF JEREMIAH HACKETT
Edited by Nicola Polloni and Yael Kedar. London: Routledge, 2021. ISBN: 978-03-6747-1743. 240pp.
This volume collects thirteen scholarly contributions on the life, thought, and context of one of the most fascinating characters of medieval culture, Roger Bacon. The volume is also meant to celebrate one of the most influential interpreters of Bacon’s thought, Professor Jeremiah Hackett, who has recently retired and whose many contributions have shaped the scholarly consideration of Roger Bacon profoundly and substantively. At least since John Dee’s rediscovery of Bacon’s works and, for different reasons, Robert Greene’s Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, the name of Roger Bacon is bound to the “Romantic” character of a peculiar scientist interested in the secrets of nature and living in a time of darkness. When the common perception is contrasted with the historical data, this fictional image fades away. The Middle Ages, and especially the 13th century, were not a time of darkness. The renewal of science and philosophy started in the 12th century, and flourished during Bacon’s time with the discovery of new sciences, new theories, and new interests. In this context, however, it is surely true that Bacon’s activity was characterised by some peculiar traits that nourished much of the early-modern narrative about him. He harshly criticised the world he was living in and, particularly, the academic system and the two mendicant orders, Dominicans and Franciscans. He publicly and repeatedly supported the study and practice of problematic sciences like alchemy and astrology and became a central advocate of the use of mathematics and experimental science for the mastery of nature. He was the proponent of a profound reshaping of Latin culture through a reform of the education system, the details of which he submitted to the Pope.
VEDERE NELL’OMBRA. STUDI SU NATURA, SPIRITUALITÀ E SCIENZE OPERATIVE OFFERTI A MICHELA PEREIRA
Edited by Cecilia Panti and Nicola Polloni. Firenze: SISMEL (Micrologus’ Library 90), 2018. ISBN 9788884508133. 430 pp.
The volume collects twenty-eight original essays by colleagues and friends of Michela Pereira offered on the occasion of her seventieth birthday. As a pioneer of the re-evaluation of fundamental areas of the Western philosophical and scientific tradition, starting with alchemy, Michela Pereira has dedicated important studies to Hildegard of Bingen, Roger Bacon, Ramon Llull, in addition to being one of the most authoritative interpreters of the feminist movement in the modern world. «Seeing in the shadow», the title of this volume, recalls a suggestive image coined by Hildegard to establish a connection between the work of creation, human nature and prophetic knowledge, three contexts around which the interests of Michela Pereira turn. The essays of the volume interpret these topics in many thought-provoking ways. Covering a wide temporal arc, from late Antiquity to Early Modern Times, and ranging from alchemy and medicine to spirituality, prophecy and myth, from the body-soul relation to performative arts, such as theatre and music, they also include brief editions of unedited medieval texts and an updated bibliography of Michela Pereira’s publications.
APPROPRIATION, INTERPRETATION AND CRITICISM: PHILOSOPHICAL AND THEOLOGICAL EXCHANGES BETWEEN THE ARABIC, HEBREW AND LATIN INTELLECTUAL TRADITIONS
Edited by Alexander Fidora and Nicola Polloni. Barcelona – Roma: FIDEM, 2017. ISBN: 978-2-503-57744-9. 336 pp.
The volume gathers eleven studies on the intellectual exchanges during the Middle Ages among the three cultures which existed side by side in the same geographical area, i.e. the vast space from the British Isles to the Sahara Desert, and from the Douro Valley to the Hindu Kush. These three cultures – who may not be reduced to their confession or ethnicity – are historically related to each other in many respects, both material (trade, wars, marriages) and immaterial (the interdependence among their religious narratives and their philosophical speculations). The studies herein presented focus on some peculiar examples of the transcultural interactions among exponents of the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin philosophical and theological traditions. While we do not want to downplay the fundamental role of the religious contexts, our focus on the linguistic denominations of these cultures aims at drawing attention to the conceptual medium, or rather media, which underlined and shaped the interactions and interplays among these traditions – interplays that were characterized by the contact of these three languages being used by people of different religious beliefs in their quest for knowledge: Spanish Jews writing in Arabic, Jews collaborating in the translation of Arabic texts into Latin through the vernacular, Western Muslims whose writings were read mainly by Jews and Christians in Hebrew and Latin.
*MISINTERPRETING IBN GABIROL? QUESTIONS, DOUBTS, AND REMARKS ON A PROBLEMATIC LATIN TRANSLATION
In Unravelling Ibn Gabirol’s Metaphysics: Philosophical and Historical Studies, ed. by N. Polloni, M. Benedetto, and F. Dal Bo (Turnout: Brepols, forthcoming).
The present contribution aims to cast some light on the questions about whether and how Gundissalinus and John of Spain have Aristotelised the Fons vitae. I want to provide scholarship with contextual data and some further doubts about the making of the Latin translation of Ibn Gabirol’s work. In the first section, I expound the main historical coordinates of Dominicus Gundissalinus’s activity as translator and philosopher. Next, the second section examines Gundissalinus’s interpretation of Ibn Gabirol and his gradual detachment from some of Ibn Gabirol’s doctrines he previously held. Gundissalinus’s disingenuousness in his first reception of the Fons vitae is then contrasted with Ibn Daud’s harsh criticism of Ibn Gabirol. My analysis shows that Ibn Daud interprets the Fons vitae in a noticeably Aristotelian way, consistent with the Latin rendering of the text. Finally, in the last section, I explore different possibilities (and raise some doubts) about the Latin translation of the Fons vitae.
DOMINICUS GUNDISSALINUS’ ON UNITY AND THE ONE
In Contextualizing Premodern Philosophy: Explorations of the Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin Traditions, ed. by L.X. López Farjeat, K. Krause, and N. Oschman (London: Routledge, 2023), 293-308.
This chapter offers the first English translation of a treatise by Dominicus Gundissalinus (ca. 1115–post 1190), On Unity and the One (De unitate et uno), completed by an introduction to the main theoretical coordinates discussed in the treatise. In his first philosophical work, Gundissalinus treats a delicate metaphysical problem: What do we mean when we say that something is “one”? Grounding his discussion on Ibn Gabirol’s Fons vitae, Gundissalinus’ answer to this question is remarkably Neoplatonic. Proceeding from the true One, unity is the efficient cause of the union of two opposite entities, matter and form, into the ontological individuality proper to each and every created thing. Gundissalinus connects this metaphysical point to various sets of problems, from the hierarchical order of the universe to the difference between discrete and continuous quantities. Accordingly, De unitate et uno is a significant example of the first Latin encounter with Jewish Neoplatonism in a fast-changing landscape that would shift to Aristotelianism only a few decades after Gundissalinus’ death.
CAOS A TOLEDO: DOMENICO GUNDISALVI, DANIELE DI MORLEY E LA CORPOREITÀ DELLA MATERIA PRIMA
In Verba et mores: Studi per Carla Casagrande, ed. by C. Crisciani and G. Zuccolin (Rome: Aracne, 2022), 301-319.
Questo contributo si concentra su un aspetto della riflessione intellettuale di Daniele di Morley che mostra alcune vicinanze – e opposizioni – con alcune critiche espresse da Domenico Gundisalvi. Nello specifico, Gundisalvi attacca duramente la dottrina del caos primordiale in quanto inammissibile da un punto di vista ilemorfico. Daniele di Morley discute lo stesso problema e rigetta parzialmente questa teoria, tuttavia da un punto di vista differente: la materia originale è necessariamente corporea. Nelle pagine seguenti discuterò le posizioni di questi due filosofi rispetto a come il caos primordiale si relazioni alla teoria della materia prima, cercando di delineare punti di contatto e coordinate interpretative di questo problema.
TOLEDAN TRANSLATORS, ROGER BACON, AND THE DYNAMIC SHADES OF EXPERIENCE
In Premodern Experience of the Natural World in Translation, ed. by K. Krause, M. Avxentevskaya, and D. Weil (London: Routledge, 2022), 325-340.
Medieval literary cultures were nurtured by translations from other languages. Particularly, medieval European philosophy is rooted on translations of theoretical and practical texts from Greek and Arabic. These translations can be considered as ‘objects of experience’ that are impacted by the societal world of the translators and impact in return on the perception of the extra-mental world of their readers. This contribution examines how different ‘shades’ of the historical actors’ experience of the external world about translations. First, the chapter discusses the social and personal interactions of translators working in medieval Toledo and the translation activities that resulted. Second, it examines Roger Bacon’s criticism of translations and his use of “experience” to sustain his argument, stressing the persuasive function that his accounts of experience perform in the text. The results of this case-studies examination show the irreducibility of the notion of ‘experience’ to a fixed restricted meaning and stress the role of translations as ‘epistemic vessels of experiences’ that may be personal, accounted, or persuasively invented.
MEDIEVAL UNIVERSES IN DISORDER: ONTOLOGICAL ROOTS, AUTHORITATIVE COORDINATES, AND PRIMEVAL CHAOS
In Fragmented Nature: Medieval Latinate Reasoning on the Natural World and Its Order, ed. by M. Cipriani and N. Polloni (London: Routledge, 2022), 49-75.
Plato’s theory of primeval chaos marked much of the medieval discussion on cosmogenesis up to the 13th century. Many thinkers from the early Middle Ages agreed with the Timaeus in believing that the universe was originally in a state of chaos and later arranged in the beautiful order we now appreciate. Yet following the Latin translations of Aristotle’s works, Scholastic philosophers would abruptly start to ignore or reject this influential theory. Curiously, instead of acknowledging its Platonic origin, they often referred it back to a different set of ancient authors such as Anaxagoras and Hesiod. My contribution examines this shift in the interpretation of primeval chaos and the systematic use of “authoritative coordinates” in the debate on the tenability of this theory. Firstly, I examine some influential sources of the theory of primeval chaos, with specific emphasis on Ovid and Calcidius. Secondly, I discuss some of the main features of the 12th century debate on primordial disorder in relation to the first reception of Aristotle’s works in Latin Europe. Thirdly, I analyse three important case-studies from the 13th-century treatment of this topic: Roger Bacon, Thomas Aquinas, and Albert the Great. Their refutations of primeval chaos and its traditional authoritative coordinates shed light on the extent of the interpretative reshaping of this theory in the 13th century. Finally, I show that the main doctrinal reasons behind such a doctrinal restyling of primeval chaos proceed from Aristotelian hylomorphism. Nonetheless, other aspects of this process are still unclear, starting from the substitution of the “old” auctoritates (Plato, Ovid, Calcidius) with “new” authors (Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Hesiod) whose works were only partially and mediately known by medieval philosophers.
THE PEREGRINATIONS OF THE SOUL IN THE AFTERLIFE: A WORK FROM LATE 12TH-CENTURY IBERIA. INTRODUCTION, EDITION, AND TRANSLATION
With Charles Burnett. In Mark of Toledo: Intellectual Context and Debates between Christians and Muslims in Early Thirteenth Century Iberia, ed. by Charles Burnett and Pedro Mantas España (London: The Warburg Institute and Cordoba: UCOPress, 2022), 155-195.
The Peregrinations of the Soul in the Afterlife is a highly original text on Christian philosophy concerning the possible directions the human soul can take after death. The vocabulary and sources strongly suggest that the work was written in the circle of Dominicus Gundissalinus in the late twelfth century, and could therefore have been written in Toledo in the milieu of Marcus of Toledo. Its intelligent blend of Arabic philosophical texts (largely translated by Gundissalinus and his team) and Christian theological references make it well worth further study, which can be facilitated by the new edition and English translation provided in this article.
DISENTANGLING ROGER BACON’S CRITICISM OF MEDIEVAL TRANSLATIONS
In Early Thirteenth-Century English Franciscan Thought, ed. by L. Schumacher (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021), 261–282.
In his Compendium studii philosophiae, Roger Bacon declares that ‘were I to have power over the books of Aristotle I would have them all burned because it is nothing but a waste of time to study them, a cause of error, and a multiplication of error beyond what can be accounted for.’ Bacon’s pyromaniac attitude to Aristotle is not due to his dislike of the acclaimed Philosopher, but rather to the Latin rendering of his works. Bacon points out that ‘since the labors of Aristotle are the foundations of all of science, no one can estimate how great the damage is to Latins because of the bad translations philosophers have received.’ Apparently, nothing can be better than something, if the latter is a source of error and discord. Expanding on the same line of reasoning, Bacon observes that it would be better to do as Robert Grosseteste did (pace sua), when he ‘entirely disregarded the books of Aristotle and their methods’ – at least according to Bacon. One might wonder, what was so bad about the Latin translations of Aristotle to motivate such harsh criticism by Bacon? In the following pages, I want to discuss Roger Bacon’s critique of the Latin translators and present a different interpretation of Bacon’s stance. This topic has been studied by Gabriel Théry and Richard Lemay. In their discussion of Bacon’s position, however, both scholars appear to have been quite unable to distinguish theory from rhetoric, purpose from persuasiveness, and the historical actor from the historical witness. As a consequence, the biases they see and blame in Bacon’s criticism of the translators are mirrored by their own criticism of Bacon’s words.
ROGER BACON ON THE CONCEIVABILITY MATTER
In Roger Bacon and Medieval Science and Philosophy. Studies in Honour of Jeremiah Hackett, ed. by N. Polloni and Y. Kedar (London: Routledge, 2021), 76-97.
This contribution analyses Roger Bacon’s solution to the problem of how humans can conceive matter. Being potential and formless, the effort to ground a partial knowability of matter has intrigued many medieval philosophers. Their solutions were often intertwined with the ontological assumptions they made about this peculiar metaphysical entity and their ontological commitment about its existence. In the case of Bacon, this already problematic point is further complicated by his complex ontology based on radical formal pluralism (= any composite has a plurality of non-incidental forms) and extreme realism. The first section of the chapter examines Bacon’s discussion of the problem in his Questions on Physics, where the solution is provided by the analogical strategy: matter can be known by analogy to the form. However, can this procedure be applied also to the case of prime matter? The second section explores Bacon’s distinction between secondary and specific matters and the ontological structure characterising the composite that he envisioned. I argue that the analogical strategy must be complemented with another procedure able to get below “the matter we know” (proximate matter). The third section analyses Bacon’s criticism of the doctrine of the unicity of matter in the Opus tertium. In this context, I examine Bacon’s discussion of reversed abstraction to conceive the genus generalissimum and argue that this procedure is required to complement the analogical strategy in the case of the conceivability of prime matter.
THE LIBERAL ARTS: INHERITANCES AND CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKS
With G.E.M. Gasper, S. Sønnesyn, N. Lewis, and J. Cunningham. In Knowing and Speaking: Robert Grosseteste’s De artibus liberalibus ‘On the Liberal Arts’ and De generatione sonorum ‘On the Generation of Sounds’, ed. byG.E.M. Gasper, C. Panti, T.C.B. McLeish, H. Smithson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 36–50.
To contextualize this somewhat beguiling treatise is to understand it at once product of Grosseteste’s own thinking, as as a a response and reaction to his inheritances, ancient and more contemporary, and as a distinctive contribution to wider shifts in the way that the arts were conceived. What follows offers a description and commentary of the developments of the liberal arts, as conceptual framework and institutional platform, from late antiquity to Grosseteste’s lifetime. This allows an overview of changes to the liberal arts as a whole, and within the individual arts, and a wider perspective in which to consider Grosseteste’s achievements in this area. Some of the authors and texts discussed would not have been familiar to Grosseteste, but others would, bringing to the fore questions about the textual sources he dwelt with in the composition of his treatise.
THE USE OF THE STARS: ALCHEMY, PLANTS, AND MEDICINE
With G.E.M. Gasper, S. Sønnesyn, A. Lawrence-Mathers, and N. El-Bizri. In Knowing and Speaking: Robert Grosseteste’s De artibus liberalibus ‘On the Liberal Arts’ and De generatione sonorum ‘On the Generation of Sounds’, ed. byG.E.M. Gasper, C. Panti, T.C.B. McLeish, H. Smithson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 166–195.
The final sections (§§11-13) of On the Liberal Arts move to the uses of astronomy in natural philosophy with three specific examples: the planting of plants, the transmutation of metals, and medical interventions. Grosseteste’s conceptual framework for astronomy emerges from a variety of sources, mediating different models of the cosmos and its operations and components. The emphasis on the quadrivial arts and their application within the disciplines of natural philosophy marks his text out as significantly different from previous medieval treatises on the liberal arts, and the focus on astronomy as the culmination of the applicability of the arts is rarer still. The stress laid on astronomy at the culmination of the treatise offers particular insight into the broader worldview that frames Grosseteste’s conception of the liberal arts.
NATURE, SOULS, AND NUMBERS: REMARKS ON A MEDIEVAL GLOSS ON GUNDISSALINUS’S DE PROCESSIONE MUNDI
In Causality and Resemblance. Medieval Approaches to the Explanation of Nature, ed. by M.J. Soto-Bruna (Hildesheim – Zürich – New York: OLMS, 2018), 75-87.
Gundissalinus’s De processione mundi expounds a detailed description of the institution of the universe based on a fascinating range of Latin and Arabic sources. Realising a synthesis between Avicenna’s and Avicebron’s metaphysical positions, the universe depicted by Gundissalinus is grounded upon a delicate and yet intrinsically coherent web of interpretations of divergent philosophical perspectives. A rather problematic point of De processione mundi is the use Gundissalinus makes of the ratio numerorum. In particular, his use of numerical series—twice in the text—to demonstrate the completeness of the created universe appears to entail striking contradictions with what Gundissalinus claims in his treatise. My contribution addresses this “consistency problem” pointing out that the meaning of the two numerological series can be clarified through a curious gloss on the text attested by the entire manuscript tradition of De processione mundi.
THE TOLEDAN TRANSLATION MOVEMENT AND DOMINICUS GUNDISSALINUS: SOME REMARKS ON HIS ACTIVITY AND PRESENCE IN CASTILE
In A Companion to Medieval Toledo. Reconsidering the Canons, ed. by Y. Beale-Rivaya and J. Busic (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018), 263-280.
The origins of the Toledan translation movement can be traced back to the translation activities developed in Southern Italy and Northern Spain since the end of the eleventh century. In Italy, the translations were realized from Greek into Latin; whereas in Catalonia and the Ebro valley, translators as Plato of Tivoli, Robert of Ketton, and Hermann of Carinthia translated Arabic writings. Following different linguistic tracks, these first translations shared a common interest on scientific works, and particularly astronomy. The activity of these first translators was also directly connected to the main scientific milieux of the time, namely Salerno and Chartres, where the translated texts were read and used.
L’ACQUA CHE SI TRASFORMA IN PIETRA. GUNDISSALINUS E AVICENNA SULLA GENERAZIONE DEI METALLI
In Vedere nell’ombra. Studi su natura, spiritualità e scienze operative offerti a Michela Pereira, ed. byC. Panti and N. Polloni (Firenze: SISMEL, 2018), 103-119.
What are the sources of a curious example of generation mentioned by Gundissalinus, by which water becomes a stone? This contribution explores the theoretical aims of the example presented in De processione mundi, assessing the Avicennian doctrinal framework in which it is placed by Gundissalinus. The origin of the example itself, though, appears to be far more complicated. After examining possible Latin sources and the alchemical implications suggested by the example, the study focuses on a different hypothesis: that Gundissalinus had access to the Arabic version of Avicenna’s De generatione and corruptione.
TOLEDAN ONTOLOGIES: GUNDISSALINUS, IBN DAUD, AND THE PROBLEM OF GABIROLIAN HYLOMORPHISM
In Appropriation, Interpretation and Criticism: Philosophical and Theological Exchanges Between the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin Intellectual Tradition, ed. byA. Fidora and N. Polloni (Barcelona and Roma: FIDEM, 2017), 19-49.
This contribution focuses on a particular branch of Gundissalinus’s production, namely ontology, and a peculiar feature of his reflection: the progressive problematization of his doctrine of hylomorphism. I will analyse the sources that influenced Gundissalinus’s mature discussion of ontological composition, underscoring the changes introduced by the Toledan philosopher to his previous doctrinal positions regarding the status of hylomorphic components and their cosmogonic causation. In order to do so, I will briefly examine the opposing theories elaborated by Ibn Gabirol and Ibn Sīnā, doctrines merged together by Gundissalinus in his final metaphysical reflection. Eventually, I will put forward a hypothesis about a possible medium of both Gundissalinus’s change of position and his doctrinal synthesis – i.e., Ibn Daud’s philosophical influence on Gundissalinus.
ARISTOTLE IN TOLEDO: GUNDISSALINUS, THE ARABS, AND GERARD OF CREMONA’S TRANSLATIONS
In ‘Ex Oriente Lux’. Translating Words, Scripts and Styles in the Medieval Mediterranean Society, ed. by C. Burnett and P. Mantas, Arabica Veritas IV (Córdoba: UCOPress and London: The Warburg Institute, 2016), 147-185.
At least since the first decade of the thirteenth century, therefore, the Aristotelian texts translated by Gerard of Cremona were studied, used, and quoted in the Île-de-France and England. Nonetheless, these texts had been available since at least 1187, the year in which Gerard of Cremona died in Toledo, and probably beforehand. The period of time between the composition and completion of the translations and the first attested receptions of Aristotle in England and France indicates a chronological gap with respect to the use of these sources and texts. A possible contribution to help clarify this thorny question may be suggested, namely, to examine the influence of Aristotle’s texts translated by Gerard before their spread throughout the continent. That is to say, to consider their reception in the Castilian capital, Toledo, where, during the second half of the twelfth century, at least three philosophers, Abraham ibn Daud, Dominicus Gundissalinus, and Daniel of Morley, are known to have lived and worked.
NATURA VERO ASSIMILATUR QUATERNARIO: NUMEROLOGIA E NEOPLATONISMO NEL DE PROCESSIONE MUNDI DI DOMINICUS GUNDISSALINUS
In De Natura. La naturaleza en la Edad Media, ed. by J.L. Fuertes Herreros and Á. Poncela González (Ribeirão: Húmus, 2015), 679-688.
Nelle ultime pagine del De processione mundi, Dominicus Gundissalinus presenta due interessanti scansioni numerologiche dell’esistente a partire dai risultati dell’indagine sulla genesi del cosmo, affrontata nella trattazione anteriore. Già nelle pagine precedenti, il filosofo toledano manifesta una certa tendenza ad utilizzare la numerologia come strumento apodittico volto a suffragare l’argomentazione filosofica, sancendone così la validità in modo rigoroso. Un utilizzo, questo, che si esplicita in brani la cui paternità non è direttamente gundissaliniana, ma che sono risultanti da una combinazione delle tre fonti principali di Gundissalinus nella redazione del suo trattato: la Philosophia prima avicenniana, il De essentiis di Ermanno di Carinzia e il Fons vitae di Avicebron.
REVIEW OF “THE ARABIC, HEBREW AND LATIN RECEPTION OF AVICENNA’S PHYSICS AND COSMOLOGY” (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018)
Isis 112/3 (2021), 598-599
REVIEW OF “RICHARD DE FOURNIVAL ET LES SCIENCES AU XIIIE SIÈCLE” (Firenze: SISMEL, 2018)
Aestimatio NS 2/1 (2021): 238-244
REVIEW OF “MATERIA: NOUVELLES PERSPECTIVES DE RECHERCHE DANS LA PENSÉE ET LA CULTURE MÉDIÉVALES” (Florence: SISMEL, 2017)
Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval 27/1 (2020), 199-210.
REVIEW OF “THE ELEMENTS OF AVICENNA’S PHYSICS: GREEK SOURCES AND ARABIC INNOVATIONS” (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018)
Isis 110/3 (2019): 586-587.
REVIEW OF “THE ATTITUDE OF THE MEDIEVAL LATIN TRANSLATORS TOWARDS THE ARABIC SCIENCES” (Florence: SISMEL, 2016)
Aestimatio 13 (2018): 141-144.
REVIEW OF “DE UNITATE ET UNO DE DOMINICUS GUNDISSALINUS” (Pamplona: EUNSA, 2015)
Anuario filosófico 49/2 (2016): 484-486.
REVIEW OF “IBN GABIROL’S THEOLOGY OF DESIRE. MATTER AND METHOD IN JEWISH MEDIEVAL NEOPLATONISM” (Cambridge: CUP, 2013)
Theology and Sexuality 21/2 (2015): 163-165.