Spring 2019 Pisa AAIWG International Meeting



                   Aquinas,               Alfarabi,                       Avicenna,         Averroes,              Maimonides  &    Albertus


under construction: draft only

version #4

The Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group (AAIWG)

Spring / Summer 2019 International Meeting

Pisa, Italy 22-25 May.

“Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions:

Intellect, Experience and More”

(room location To Be Announced)

22 May

Schedule for graduate student presentations

8:45 welcome

22 May (tentative) schedule for graduate student presentations

8:45 welcome

9:00-9:45 (1) Nicholas Oschman, Marquette University, Milwaukee

“Al-Fārābī and Political Deception”

Abstract: When examining the topic of political deception in the history of philosophy, Abū Naṣr al-Fārābī, the 10th century Muslim Neo-Aristotelian thinker, known under the epithet ‘the Second Teacher’ (after Aristotle), significantly advances and perfects Plato’s theoretical account of the ‘noble lie’, while sidestepping many of the problematic aspects of the Phoenician Tale of the Republic. In particular, al-Fārābī, who argues that perfect political governance requires political deception, namely the expression of philosophical truths through the images and symbols of religion, avoids the capriciousness and arbitrariness of Plato’s model by specifying the causes which necessitate political deception as constitutive for human happiness. Al-Fārābī contends that political deception is necessary for human happiness insofar as all humans require association (ijtimā‘) and cooperation (ta‘āwun), yet all but the most exemplary humans are inherently deficient. This deficiency (naqṣ) is necessitated by al-Fārābī’s cosmological model, which necessitates the deficiency of the human being, insofar as she is brought about through a deficient cause (i.e. the motions of the heavens) and constituted through a mixture (iḵtilāṭ) of matter (mādda) and contrary forms (al-ṣuwar al-muḍādda). In other words, while all humans seek happiness (al-sa‘ada), an entirely intellectual condition only fully realized when a human being achieves the psychological status of becoming an ‘acquired intellect’ (‘aql al-mustafāḍ), most humans lack the rational capability to achieve this status. They can only achieve a facsimile of this happiness through facsimiles of the truth, expressed by the ruling Imām of a city, which enable them to live virtuous lives and contribute to a community in which, at least, some community members are happy. Al-Fārābī describes these necessitated facsimiles of the truth as near similitudes (mithālāt qarība) of the truth, which have an affinity (munāsaba) to the truth and by which the truth is known (ma‘lūm), even if never known fully. They are not simply deceptions, but untruths subservient to the truth, translations of philosophy into the language and imagery of religion. These are poetical statements (al-’aqāwīl al-shi‘riyya), statements which serve as a kind of syllogism (sulujismus) with the force of analogy (quwwa qiyās).

9:45-10:30 (2) Sara Abram, Università Degli Studi Di Padua, Padua

“Al-Siǧistānī’s doctrines of the soul through the lenses of al-Tawḥīdī. Some remarks.”

Abstract: The aim of my presentation is to read and comment specific passages about Abū Sulaymān al-Siǧistānī’s doctrine of the soul as conveyed by Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī’s philosophical works, in particular al-Muqābasāt and al-Imtāʿ wal-muʾānasa. I will focus on al-Siǧistānī’s definitions of the soul taken from doxographical collections, and in particular on the references he made to the Greek sources as transmitted by the Arabs, such as the De anima by Aristotle and the Enneads by Plotinus. If we know something about al-Siǧistānī and his circle, is thanks to his disciple and faithful companion al-Tawḥīdī, a multifaceted thinker, one of the greatest masters of Arabic language of his time and a very important historian of philosophy. The relevance of his legacy – partially neglected from contemporary studies as it was in ancient times – is given by his reports and transmission of doctrines, works and related sources circulating in the 10th century-Baġdād.

10:30-11:15 (3) Dominic Dold, MPIWG / TU Berlin

“Defining the science of animals: Peter of Spain’s Questiones super libro De animalibus Aristotelis”

Abstract: The oldest Latin medieval commentary on Aristotle's zoological works was written by Peter of Spain, probably in the 1240s. It is based on Michael Scot’s translation of Aristotle’s Historia animalium, De partibus animalium and De generatione animalium from Arabic (about 1210). Peter was not only a well-read philosopher, but also a physician deeply acquainted with the medical learning of his times. Indeed, he most likely also commented on the Articella, the standard compilation of medical texts in his days. He was thus able to draw on many logical texts, from both the logica vetus and logica nova, as well as on Galenic sources. In my paper, I want to explore (1) how the domain of a science of animals (zoology) is defined in Peter’s Questiones super libro De animalibus Aristotelis, and (2) in what way such a definition of the subject matter of zoology can indeed be a definition. I shall outline an answer to Question 1, while at the same time, identifying relevant sources; I shall also propose a sketch for a systematic framework to investigate Question 2

11:15-11:45 break

11:45-12:30 (4) Traci Wietecha, LMU, Munich

“Is the Peasant a Pygmy? Albert the Great on Human Potential for Virtue”

Abstract: For Albertus Magnus, the attainment of civic happiness purifies and prepares a human being for the rigorous study of the sciences which is required to attain the ultimate happiness in this life, contemplative happiness. The acquisition of virtue and the attainment of civic happiness are thus necessary prerequisites in order for a human being to achieve complete fulfillment of his/her natural end. In his account, Albert takes over Averroes’s remark that “peasants” cannot attain a fully happy life, as they are incapable of perfecting their capacity for philosophical reflection. Somewhat disturbingly, the Universal Doctor adopts a version of Averroes’s elitist position, which raises questions not only about the political implications of his account but also the compatibility of his ethical teaching for Christianity. This paper explores Albert’s account of the capabilities (or lack thereof) of peasants and the implications of this view for a theory of human potential for virtue.

12:30-1:15 (5) Yu Qui, University of Notre Dame, South Bend

“Beatific Vision: Human Beings’ Highest Happiness?”

Abstract: Aquinas’s theory of beatific vision seems to contain a dilemma: on the one hand, as human beings’ ultimate happiness, such an intellectual action should fully satisfy human beings’ intellectual appetite for the bonum in communi, thus should be the full possession of the perfect goodness— i.e., God himself; on the other hand, since intelligere est secundum modus intelligentis, it seems impossible for us finite human beings to fully possess our infinite creator via any intellectual action. Facing this dilemma, we are forced to find some way to explain how human beings’ innate appetite for infinite goodness can be fully satisfied without fully possessing the desired object. After a detailed examination of Aquinas’s discussions in the Summa Theologiae, this paper argues that the most promising solution to this dilemma is to interpret human beings’ desire of God as primarily amor concupiscentiae rather than amor amicitiae. However, this solution can hardly be integrated with Aquinas’s action theory and his treatise of human happiness, both of which are mainly based on amor concupiscentiae.

2:45-3:30 (6) Nathaniel Taylor, Marquette University, Milwaukee

“The Problem of a “Per Se Existent” and Aquinas’s Avicennian Metaphysics”

Abstract: Reflection on the formula made famous by Descartes and Spinoza “ens per se is substance” yields surprising conclusions. The first is that no such formula exists in Aristotle, yet such a formula, which is commonplace in Aquinas, Albert, and Alexander of Hales to name a few, is a Neoplatonic innovation circuitously transmitted to medieval Latins through both Arabic and Greek sources. The second is that “ens per se” and substance have to be divorced in Aquinas’s thought; for, “ens per se” is a divine name according to Aquinas, but substance is not. The third is that Aquinas credits Avicenna for divorcing “ens per se” and substance, but this precise divorce is nowhere to be found in Avicenna. This paper documents the various formulae for substance in Avicenna and argues that Aquinas rejects this equation of “ens per se” and substance with recourse to arguments found in Avicenna and al-Ghazali, but by no means replicates those arguments. I argue that Aquinas, using the resources found in Avicenna and al-Ghazali, discovers the real distinction between existence and essence and that substance is esse creatum in a manner entirely his own.

3:30-4:15 (7) Joshua Lim, University of Notre Dame, South Bend

"The Twofold Relation of the Human Mind: Aquinas’s Argument for the Infused Knowledge of Christ.”

Abstract: Aquinas’s development on Christ’s acquired knowledge is well-known. The reason given for this development is Aquinas’s commitment to a neo-Chalcedonian christology; without an operating agent intellect, Christ’s humanity would be imperfect. This same commitment lies behind Thomas’s response to one of the chief arguments against acquired knowledge: no two habits of the same species of knowledge can exist in one subject. If all intelligible species already exist in Christ’s soul through infusion, then he cannot be said to acquire the same habit of knowledge through the light of the agent intellect. Thomas eventually argues that the two knowledges have different rationes: the former comes from below, the latter, from above. Is this an ad hoc development? I argue that it is not; rather, Thomas argues on the basis of a twofold potency existing in human nature: “The human mind has a twofold relation: one to superiora […] the other to inferiora” (III, q. 9, ad 2). I explore Thomas’s development against the backdrop of scholastic teaching, particularly Albert’s, in order to better understand why Christ, in his humanity, must not only have an operating agent intellect, but also the infusion of all intelligible species in order to be perfect qua human.

4:15-5:00 (8) Brett Yardley, Marquette University, Milwaukee

“Revealed Testimony: Social Epistemology in Aquinas, al-Ghazali, and Saadya Gaon”

Abstract: In the Abrahamic faiths, God speaks.  If God is a speaker, then textual revelation is testimonial.  Since testimony is knowledge obtained by hearing from a speaker, testimony (and subsequently Scripture) has been historically deemed inferior to immediate personal experience and reason.  This is relevant for thinkers from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam who viewed Scripture as a trustworthy and reliable source of knowledge from God to man. Using contemporary social epistemology’s standards of testimonial justification, I analyze the testimonial accounts of Saadya Gaon, al-Ghazali, & Thomas Aquinas.  My aim is to show that, while social epistemology is a new field, its concepts of testimony and testimonial “justification” have always been present in historical thinkers using different terminology to affirm the reliability of Scripture and general everyday practical epistemology by maintaining the credibility of religious knowledge in a propositional form transmittable to other humans with the same level of testimonial warrant