Marquette University

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

St Joan of Arc Chapel

The Marquette University

The Midwest Seminar in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy


The Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group

are pleased to host

Steven Harvey, Bar Ilan University, Israel, &

Katja Krause, Max Planck Institute for the

History of Science


“Joining Cultures Through

Divisions of Knowledge”

29 March 2019

12 noon - 2:30 pm

Location Raynor Library 320a

My topic concerns the literary form, known well in medieval Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin cultures as the division or enumeration of the sciences. I do not refer to the divisions of the sciences as a ‘genre’ because these divisions may appear as an independent treatise, as an introduction to a philosophical work (such as an encyclopaedia), as a section embedded in a book and, at times, even as scattered comments throughout a writing. Yet the knowledge they contained became quite popular and almost requisite for the beginning student of philosophy and the sciences in all three cultures. I will begin by briefly considering the ancient Greek classifications of the sciences, their similarities and differences. Did they determine and explain their classifications on the basis of topics, mental faculties, and/or methods employed? Our focus with regard to the medieval classifications will be on questions such as: Why were these enumerations written? Why were they so popular in all three cultures? How did they change when they crossed borders and were brought together with already existing divisions? Or did they, at times, remain the same? What were their functions / purposes within the different cultures? Were these similar or did they differ? And what were the reasons for this? For example, did social, political, religious and/or pedagogical factors change the epistemic functions of these divisions? I will give special attention to the most popular of these divisions, Alfarabi's Iḥṣā’ al-ʿulūm, in the Arabic original, and via the Hebrew and Latin translations. And I will compare Alfarabi’s text to other important classifications in Hebrew and Latin to gauge in which ways these divisions of knowledge joined cultures together.