international Workshops



                   Aquinas,               Alfarabi,                       Avicenna,         Averroes,              Maimonides  &    Albertus


The next AAIWG meeting is at the Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City, 24-25 August 2018. Click HERE.

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

Spring 2018 International Meeting

in Morocco in two parts

Rabat 12-13 March 2018:

The Sources of Ibn Rushd’s Thought and its Influence”

Hosted by the Abou Bakr al-Kadiri Foundation for Culture ( at its premises in Salé, Morocco. Organizers: Prof. Abdou Filali-Ansary and Prof. Fouad Ben Ahmed; and Prof. Richard C. Taylor & Prof. Luis López-Farjeat.

For information, see


Marrakech 15-16 March 2018:

Human Knowing in the Medieval Arabic

and Latin Traditions

Hosted by the Abou Bakr al-Kadiri Foundation for Culture ( at its premises in Salé, Morocco. Organizers: Prof. Abdou Filali-Ansary and Prof. Fouad Ben Ahmed; and Prof. Richard C. Taylor & Prof. Luis López-Farjeat

For information, see


Our London event was a marvelous success with many philosophically penetrating insights and many complex discussions of arguments and issues. The Warburg Institute was a delightful venue and a generous and welcoming host. We are sincerely grateful to our good friend and colleague Dr. Charles Burnett. We are considering options for the publication of papers since the thematic unity of the event was particularly strong.

Our thanks to the presenters and attendees for their valuable participation.

We also want to thanks the Ismaili Institute for its kind hospitality for the 31 May afternoon presentation that opened the discussions that took place on 1-2 June 2017.

Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group (AAIWG) annual Spring/Summer Workshop will be in London at

The Warburg Institute of the University of London

1-2 June 2017

Creation and Artifice in Medieval Theories of Causality”

Including a 3 pm Wednesday 31 May pre-conference visit for

AAIWG members with faculty at the nearby

Institute of Ismaili Studies

210 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London

followed by a presentation at 4:00 pm by

Prof. Richard Taylor (Marquette University &

DeWulf-Mansion Centre, KU Leuven)

“Creation and Artifice:

The Metaphysics of Primary and Secondary Causality”

For information and link to registration, click HERE.

Warburg Institute Schedule

Thursday, 1 June 2017

          9:00 – 9:15  Registration of Attendees

           9:15-9:30 Welcome (Burnett, Krause)

Session 1: Chair: Mary Catherine Sommers, Houston

          9:30– 10:25 Talk 1: Michael Chase, Paris:

          Creation and Continuity In Neoplatonism: Origins and Legacy

          10:30 – 11:25 Talk 2: Luís Xavier Lopéz-Farjeat, México:

          Al-Jabbār and al-Ghazālī on Divine Speech and the Controversy 

           over the Createdness of the Qur’ān

          11:25 – 11:50 Coffee Break

          11:55 – 12:50 Talk 3: David Twetten, Milwaukee:

          Aristotle Less Transformed: Averroes and Why the Prime Mover

          Is not an Artist, but the Art

          12:50 – 14:30 Lunch for speakers, chairs, organizers

Session 2: Chair: Janis Esots, London

          14:30 – 15:25 Talk 4: Ann Giletti, Oxford:

          The Eternity of the World and Eternal Creation on the Part of

          the Creature: Did They Amount to the Same Thing?

          15:30 – 16:25 Talk 5: R. E. Houser, Houston:

          Creators—Created and Uncreated: What Aquinas Learned from


          16:25 – 16:50 Coffee Break

Session 3: Chair: Charles Burnett, London

          16:50 – 18:15 Keynote 1: Amos Bertolacci, Pisa:

          Is God a Substance According to Avicenna?


Friday, 2 June 2017

Session 4: Chair: Katja Krause, Durham

          9:00 – 9:15 Arrival and Registration

          9:15 - 10:10 Talk 6: Charles Burnett, London: Agency and

          Effect in the philosophy of Abu Ma‘shar of Balkh


          10:15 – 11:10 Talk 7: Nicola Polloni, Durham:

          'Indeed, the soul has not been made by the First

           Maker’: Creation, Imitation, and Matter

          11:10 – 11:35 Coffee Break

          11:35 – 12:30 Talk 8: Philippe Vallat, Vienna:

          What kind of creature is the assumed nature? Aquinas’s Greek-

           Arabic Christology and Chalcedon

          12:30 – 12:45 Update: Richard Taylor, Milwaukee:

          Update on the Work of the AAIWG Members

          12:45 – 14:30 Lunch for speakers, chairs, organizers

Session 5: Chair: Richard Taylor, Milwaukee

          14:30 – 15:25 Talk 9: Therese Cory, South Bend:

          Colour is in the Air, as the Power of Art is in the Instrument:

          The Concept of Spiritual Inherence in the Arabic and Latin


          15:30 – 16:25 Talk 10: Dragos Calma, Cambridge:

          Being in the Light of the Intellect

          16:25 – 16:50 Coffee Break

Session 6: Chair: Charles Burnett, London

          16:50 – 18:15 Keynote 2: Jon McGinnis, St Louis:

          For every action …: Medieval Islamic Reactions to Views on

          Generation and Creation


Abstracts AAIWG Meeting

Warburg Institute London 2017

Is God a Substance According to Avicenna?

Amos Bertolacci, Pisa

The paper aims at showing that Avicenna’s position on the issue of whether God is a substance or not is less straight-foward than one should expect: distinct passages of his works, and in particular of his magnum opus Book of the Cure/Healing, appear to hold views on the subject that are not perfectly congruent. The exposition focuses on the various elements and constraints (Aristotelian; Neoplatonic; Theological; genuinely Avicennian) that interact in Avicenna’s account of the topic, finding in the writings of the Shaykh al-Ra’is an incomplete synthesis.


*     *

Agency and Effect in the philosophy of Abu Ma‘shar of Balkh (Albumasar)


The ninth-century astrologer, Abu Ma‘shar Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Balkhi gave a sophisticated account of how generation and change in the sublunar world is effected by the movements of the heavenly bodies. He sides with the philosophers against the astrologers, and takes as his principle sources ArisTotle and Hermes.

Charles Burnett, London


*     *

Being in the Light of the Intellect

Dragos Calma, Cambridge University

The preliminary remarks on the different readings of the fourth theorem of the Book of Causes given by Albert the Great, Thomas

Aquinas and Giles of Rome will provide the context of the discussion on being and essence in some early 15th c. authors, such as John of Nova Domo, Heymeric of Campo and Gerard of Monte. I will mainly show that our present-day reading of the fourth theorem does not coincide with those of the late Thomists and Albertists who interpreted it to define and redefine the notions of flowing and creation. Indeed, while scholars consider that Albert understood the first created being to be the first undetermined concept, John of Nova Domo and Heymeric of Campo considered that Albert designated in his exegesis the being produced in the light of the God’s intellect - the being from which all created thing derive. But upon closer inspection, one can identify the doctrine and the vocabulary tacitly borrowed from Giles of Rome. Late Thomists, such as Gerard of Monte, disagreed with these interpretations and proposed a close reading of Aquinas’ metaphysics, and concluded in favour of a concord with Albert the Great.


*     *

Creation and Continuity in Greco-Roman

and Arabo-Islamic Neoplatonism

Michael Chase, Paris

I will argue in this paper, following an insight first proposed, as far as I know, by Marwan Rashed, that one major factor that distinguishes pagan and Christian views on the way in which the First Principle brings reality into existence is the fact that for the pagans, “creation” is continuous, in a sense that will have to be further specified, while for Philoponus it is discontinuous. To provide the background for this contrast, I discuss some key moments of the pervasive debate between proponents of continuity and discontinuity in the Greek and Arabic traditions, insofar as they relate to the question of creation especially the arguments of Aristotle against the atomists in Physics VI and VIII. I suggest that a key criterion for distinguishing between creationists and emanationists is the following question: does the world have a first moment in its existence, or not?


*     *

Colour is in the Air, as the Power of Art is in the Instrument:

The Concept of Spiritual Inherence in the Arabic and Latin Traditions

Therese Cory, South Bend

This paper investigates a kind of instrumental causation which involves a special kind of presence of some form or quality in an instrumental cause, as in the case of an artist's use of instruments, or the presence of light and colour in the air.  (The examples of art and colour, incidentally, are both linked to the active intellect by Aristotle).  In the Latin tradition, these phenomena are associated with the notion of esse spirituale or esse intentionale.  I will investigate this the notion of intentional inherence in instrumental causes, as it is unfolded in treatments of light and colour in the Islamic tradition (Avicenna, Averroes), and their development in central thinkers at Paris in the mid-13th century (Albert, Bonaventure, Aquinas).


*     *

The Eternity of the World and Eternal Creation on the Part of the Creature:

Did They Amount to the Same Thing?

Ann Giletti, Oxford

Latin scholastics confronting Aristotle's controversial theory of the Eternity of the World often also treated, in the same context, a theory long familiar to the Latin West, Eternal Creation.  Aristotle had proved that the world was eternal in Physics, using principles of natural philosophy.  His theory conflicted with the biblical account of Creation and was condemned by the Bishop of Paris in 1270 and 1277.  The other theory, Eternal Creation, was that God, with his eternal, infinite power, eternally creates the world.  Scholastics debated Aristotle's theory using principles mostly of his natural philosophy and some metaphysics.  The approach to Eternal Creation was divided into two angles:  God's eternal creative power (Eternal Creation on the part of God); and what the world, for its part, is capable of (Eternal Creation on the part of the world/creature).  The philosophical possibility that God could eternally create the world gained substantial acceptance, in deference to his infinite power; while the idea that the world could exist eternally as a result was hotly contested and condemned.  Nevertheless, some prominent scholastics accepted the idea, including Aquinas.  In the debate over Eternal Creation on the part of the creature, arguments drew on principles of natural philosophy and metaphysics.  Many arguments were the same as those used to debate Aristotle's theory.  The two theories were distinct, yet did proving the possibility of Eternal Creation on the part of the creature amount to proving the possibility of Aristotle's theory?  The approaches and reactions of several scholastics suggest they thought this was the case, or feared it could be seen this way.


*     *

Creators—Created and Uncreated:

What Aquinas Learned from Avicenna

Rolen Edward Houser, Houston

What we call creation or creativity Avicenna and Aquinas thought of as a kind of efficient causality; and about God as the creative efficient cause of the world Aquinas learned much from Avicenna, for he himself has said so. When answering the question “Is God’s existence known self-evidently (per se notum)?” in his Scriptum super libros Sententiarum (1.d.3.2), he said that God’s existence is not self-evident but can be demonstrated. As an example of a demonstration “from efficient causality” of God as creator of the world, he mentions no Christian author, nor Aristotle, but Avicenna. And Aquinas learned much from Avicenna about both created and uncreated creators. In this paper, I propose to look at Avicenna’s explanations of creators—both God and creatures—and then consider what parts of Avicenna’s doctrine Aquinas embraced, what he left behind, and why.


*     *

Al-Jabbār and al-Ghazālī on the Controversy

over the Createdness or Uncreatedness of the Qur’ān

Luis Xavier López-Farjeat, México

In 833 the abbasid caliph al-Ma’mun (d. 833) began a religious persecution known as the miḥna against the opponents of the Mu‘tazilite doctrine of the creation of the Qur’ān. With al-Mu‘tasim (d. 842) and al-Wathiq (d. 847), the two successors of al-Ma’mun, the persecution lasted for fifteen years. Around 849-850, al-Mutawakkil proclaimed the opposite doctrine, that is, the uncreatedness of the Qur’ān. As with most theological matters in the early Islamic context, doctrinal disagreements took place between Ḥanbalites, Mu‘tazilites, and Ash‘arites. In this case, while the Ḥanbalites held that the Qur’ān was eternal and uncreated, containing the word of God—as Sunni Islam holds—the Mu‘tazilites taught that the Qur’ān indeed is the word of God but is created in time. The Ash‘arites, for their part, represented an intermediate position in trying to argue in which sense the Qur’ān is uncreated and in which sense it is not. Behind this theological controversy there are a couple of philosophical and theological issues respectively, that is, the definition of language and the way in which divine speech (kalām) should be understood. On the one hand, the Ash‘arites and al-Ghazālī (d. 1111) hold that divine speech is a divine essential attribute distinct from human speech; on the other hand, al-Jabbār (d. 1025) representing the Mu‘tazilite stance thinks language is not an essential attribute but something created and conventional (iṣṭilāḥ) designed to transmit God’s word. In this paper I shall discuss the theories of language and divine speech behind the opposite positions regarding the createdness or uncreatedness of the Qur’ān from the perspectives of two theologians, al-Jabbār and al-Ghazālī, who continued this discussion long after the miḥna.


*     *

For every action …:

Medieval Islamic Reactions to Views on Generation and Creation

Abstract forthcoming

Jon McGinnis, St. Louis

What are the limits of human creative activity? The medieval alchemist, Jabīr ibn Ḥayyān’s (fl. c. 721–c. 815), thought that there were virtually no bounds on the human capacity to generate, even allowing that humans might be able to animate lifeless elements. In contrast, Avicenna (980–1037) was not even sure that a father and mother could properly be said to generate their own offspring through their own agency but instead require an additional cause outside of the natural order. Again, are there any limits on God’s creative activity? Many early Muslim theologians argued that God could not create an eternal effect, while many medieval Muslim philosophers maintained that God could not create by choice but must act of necessity. Could God create eternally and by choice then? Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (1201–1274) and certain later Sufis like ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Jāmī (1414–1492) argued, yes, even if we cannot fully understand such an act. In this paper, McGinnnis considers these contrasting views of generation and creation within their historical context, thus providing an overview of creation, artifice and medieval Islamic theories of causality.


*     *

Igitur anima non est facta a primo factore:

Creation, Imitation, and Matter

Nicola Polloni, Durham University

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.


*     *

Aristotle Less Transformed: Averroes and

Why the Prime Mover Is not an Artist, but the Art

David Twetten, Milwaukee

Medieval thinkers faced difficult choices as they learned to read Aristotle, especially given that, prior to the Renaissance, no one showed that he is a polytheist (even if, no less than Plato, he believes in a first cause). This paper takes up Arabic and Christian readings of Aristotle on divine causality. The most infamous and dominant reading, traceable to the late antique pagan Neoplatonist Ammonius, took Aristotle’s prime mover to be an artist, identifiable with the demiurge of Plato’s Timaeus and the nous of Plotinus. We find such a reading of Aristotle in Albert and Aquinas, for example, and in nearly all of the Arab philosophers. Only Averroes, the greatest medieval Aristotelian, broke from this reading, but he did so at the cost of being misunderstood. God, he holds, is not the first artisan, but rather the first art. As Stephen Menn has argued, this is Aristotle’s refined reinterpretation of Plato’s first efficient cause. Christian Latin readers of Averroes missed the subtlety of the Commentator’s position, just as we miss Aristotle’s, by framing the main question as follows: is Aristotle’s God an efficient cause (an artist) or an exclusively final cause? I reframe the question so as to bring out Averroes’ (and Aristotle’s) true thought. The paper distinguishes the many senses of “efficient cause” in play: creator (whether creating eternally or with temporal newness); artisan, agent or maker; “agent cause” and generator; “mover;” and Aristotle’s “whence is the beginning of motion” (hothen hē archē tēs kinēseos), which takes as its prime instance an artisan’s art. I present the texts of Averroes that show his acceptance of the latter alone: God is an agent by being a formal cause. Then I discuss the key passage(s) in Averroes that misled medieval Hebrew and Latin readers, as well as our contemporaries: the analogy of the baths. The point of Averroes’ analogy is that first “efficient cause” (properly understood) and the first final cause belong to the same being in the case of immaterial things, and that that being is not the first artisan — the intellectual soul of the outermost celestial sphere. In other words, for Aristotle, the first “efficient cause” (a mere “whence-cause”) is the art, not the artisan.


*     *

What kind of creature is the assumed nature? Aquinas’s Greek-Arabic Christology and Chalcedon

Philippe Vallat, Vienna



For AAIWG / AAP Workshops 2009-2017,

click HERE.