University of Denver and Marquette University


Twelfth Annual Summer Conference 2019


Marquette University

19-21 June 2019


For information on projected Workshops 2015-2027, click HERE.

Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions

International Live Video Workshop on

Neoplatonism & Aristotelianism

in Early Arabic Philosophy

19-21 June 2019

Acceptances of proposals for paper presentations

will be made on a rolling basis

with a deadline of 1 April 2019.

NOTE: Requests for permission to present

via Skype may be considered.

All submissions must include a CV, title and abstract

of no more than 150 words.

Presentations will be 30 min. with 15 min. for discussion.

Application procedure

Established Scholars: send a title, tentative abstract & CV

Graduate Students: send a title, abstract & CV and have your faculty advisor or dissertation director email indicating that you are doing professional level work.

Fees and Refreshments

This event has no conference fees and no refreshments. Refreshments are available from library vending machines or at a university coffee shop across the street from the library.

Send by email to:

This event will be hosted at Marquette University

in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

Presented by the Departments of Philosophy at

the University of Denver and Marquette University


the University of Denver’s Center for Judaic Studies


Prof. Sarah Pessin, University of Denver


Prof. Richard C. Taylor, Marquette University

First held at Marquette University in 2008, this Summer Conference alternates between the University of Denver and Marquette University.

Workshop Format & Schedule

Featuring expert keynote video presentations by

TBA #1 Michael Chase, CNRS Paris

TBA #2 Richard C. Taylor, Marquette University

TBA #3 Sarah Pessin, University of Denver


Attendance at this workshop via Skype will be available

on a limited basis.

For details, contact

No fees are charged for participation or attendance at this event.

Refreshments and lunches are available at the campus coffee shop

or nearby restraurants.

Event Location:

Raynor Memorial Library,

third floor, room 320a

Wednesday 19 June 2019

9:00 am - 11:00 pm

Text workshop and video presentation #1

Dr Michael Chase, CNRS

12:30-2:30 pm

Text workshop and video presentation #2

Prof. Richard Taylor, Marquette University

2:20-3:00 Coffee / Tea Break

Contributed papers

(1) 3:00-3:45 Dr. Timothy Bellamah, O.P., Commissio Leonina, Paris

“Whose meaning?  What intentiality? The Liber de causis and Medieval Christian Understandings of Biblical Authorship”

  1. (2)3:45-4:30 Brett Yardley, Marquette University

“Instrumental Causality and the Metaphysics of Primary and Secondary Causality”

4:30-5:00 Coffee / Tea Break

(3) 4:15-5:00 Matthew Dupree,  Loyola Marymount University

“Reality and the Logic of Opposition: Averroes and Al-Farabi on Freedom and Foreknowledge”

(4) 5:00-5:45 Luke Blong, Loyola Marymount University

“Unbeknownst to Him Zayd Might be Determined  Al Farabi’s Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle’s De Interpretatione 9 with regards to Freedom, Possibility, and Logical Necessity”

Evening: buffet dinner at the home of Prof. Taylor

Thursday 20 June 2019

9:00 am - 11:00 pm

Text workshop and video presentation #1

Prof. Sarah Pessin, University of Denver

12:30-5:45 pm

Five Contributed papers

(5) 12:30-1:15 David Abergel, Marquette University

“Avicenna on Nothing”

(6) 1:15-2:00 Mousa Mohammadian  & Faeze Fazeli, University of Notre Dame

“Avicenna’s Flying Man in Einstein’s Elevator”

(7) 2:00-3:45 Mark Schulz,  Marquette University

“Divine Infinity and Divine Will in Avicenna and Aquinas”

3:45-4:15 Coffee / Tea Break

(8) 4:15-5:00 Nathaniel Taylor,  Marquette University

“Is a Substance a Being through Itself? Aristotle’s Silence, Alexander’s Affirmation, and Avicenna’s Rejection.”

(9) 5:00-5:45 Rachel Katz,  University of Chicago

“It is not too wonderous if God collected the entire world in a single individual”: Ibn Ḥasdai’s portrait of Aristotle in/and the Maimoniden controversies”

(10) 5:45-6:30 Prof. Traci Phillipson, Marquette University, "Moral Responsibility in Averroes: A Critique of Aquinas’ Claims Regarding the Possibility of Moral Responsibility in the Philosophical Psychology of Averroes"  via Skype.

Dinner suggestions TBA

Friday 21 June 2019

9 am - 12 pm

Live discussion among and with the three

keynote presenters

For those remaining in Milwaukee for Friday evening, we propose to go to the Friday Fish and Chicken dinner at The Seven Seas

restaurant situated beautifully on Pewaukee Lake, some 30

minutes west of Milwaukee. Car sharing available. Cost ca. $17.


Abergel, David, Marquette University

Title: “Avicenna on Nothing”


The purpose of this proposed study is to raise the question of whether Avicenna’s doctrine of emanative origination involves the notion of creation ex nihilo. This will be accomplished by examining the status of the nonexistent as formulated in his doctrine. There is vast disunity among scholars with regard to whether creation ex nihilo is necessarily temporal. Avicenna seems to suggest that non-temporal emanative origination can involve creation ex nihilo. And what is more, Thomas Aquinas, in his early work the Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, seems to agree. However, in this investigation I will try to show that Avicenna’s purported use of the notion of creation ex nihilo is perhaps not what it seems to be. Al-Kindi used creation ex nihilo with a beginning of time. It was thus with the language and framework of the issue constructed by Al-Kindi that Avicenna formulated his doctrine. I will argue that Avicenna’s use of the notion of nonexistence is merely polemical and that upon close examination Avicenna uses it to construct a doctrine that is entirely unique without involving a notion of creation ex nihilo. In other words, Avicenna’s notion of nothing turns out to be empty.

Blong, Luke, Loyola Marymount University

Title: “Unbeknownst to Him¨ Zayd Might be Determined  Al Farabi’s Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle’s De Interpretatione 9 with regards to Freedom, Possibility, and Logical Necessity”


Al-Farabi’s discussion of the problem of divine foreknowledge and free will within his Commentary on Aristotle’s De Interpretatione Chapter 9 is brief and cursory but remarkable in his application of Aristotle’s logical distinctions A-Farabi’s evaluation of the notions of indefinite and possible as well as his distinction between necessity in itself and necessity through another culminates in the Zayd example where Al-Farabi emphasizes metaphysical reality over logic Fehrullah Terkan explains that Zayd’s power to refrain remains an unsatisfactory solution I will seek to contribute more to the understanding of the nuance in Al-Farabi’s solution in tandem with Terkan’s reading.

Dupree, Matthew, Loyola Marymount University

Title: Reality and the Logic of Opposition: Averroes and Al-Farabi on Freedom and Foreknowledge

Abstract: Averroes and Al-Farabi both expended a substantial amount of effort in analyzing Aristotle’s De Interpretatione 9. Yet, each came to dramatically different conclusions. The former chose to focus on probabilistic knowledge, whereas the latter chose to focus on freedom as a fundamental fact. These conclusions factor into their views on divine foreknowledge. Averroes held to a view that denied divine foreknowledge of future contingents, and his arguments also enable a view whereby God could know the future probabilistically. Al-Farabi held to a robust conception of

divine foreknowledge. In this paper, I argue that their respective views can be related to modern currents in the free will debate; Averroist views correspond with libertarian conceptions of freedom, whereas Al-Farabi’s views parallel compatibilist thought. I conclude that the structuring of their respective analyses is of vital importance in understanding the ends for which they were attempting to argue.

Katz, Rachel, University of Chicago

Title: “It is not too wonderous if God collected the entire world in a single individual”: Ibn Ḥasdai’s portrait of Aristotle in/and the Maimoniden controversies”

Abstract: Abraham ibn Ḥasdai is known to history as an early translator of Arabic works into Hebrew and not much more. But a closer look at this his diverse corpus reveals ibn Ḥasdai as deeply embroiled in the politics of his day, using his translations to serve polemical ends in an intense intellectual and cultural climate. As the developing schools of Maimonideanism and Kabbalah vied for legitimacy and waged war over the proper place of philosophy in Jewish tradition, ibn Ḥasdai sought to mediate tensions by paving a sort of third way, guided by strongly Neoplatonic, ascetic ethics and a fiercely pietistic image of Aristotle. This paper will explore how ibn Ḥasdai drew on and adapted unexpected Greco-Arabic sources to cultivate a harmonious image of philosophy in the increasingly hostile and polarized environment of the 1230s Maimonidean controversy.

Mohammadian, Mousa, & Fazeli, Faeze, University of Notre Dame

Title: “Avicenna’s Flying Man in Einstein’s Elevator”

Abstract: In a famous thought experiment, Einstein invites us to consider two scenarios about someone in a flying elevator in space: first, putting the earth beneath the elevator and second, pulling the elevator upward with acceleration g. He argues that whereas the outside observer could make a distinction between these two scenarios, the inside observer couldn’t. Rather, she experiences the exact same thing in both cases. Employing Einstein’s distinction between the outside observers and the inside observers, we read Avicenna’s Flying Man Though Experiment (FMTE) with two separate questions in mind:

1.What does the outside observer (i.e., us) understand from FMTE?

2.What does the inside observer (i.e., the flying man) apprehend in FMTE?

We show that the literature either conflates these two questions or focuses on (1). We, however, focus on (2). Invoking Avicenna’s metaphysical distinction between essence and existence, we argue that the flying man apprehends some existence with no essence. Finally, we show that our interpretation explains two discontents about FMTE raised by Deborah Black (2008), namely, Avicenna’s failing to clarify the faculty through which one is aware of her self and, FMTE’s requiring direct acquaintance with an immaterial particular which does not seem possible in Avicenna’s epistemological paradigm.

Schulz, Mark, Marquette University

Title: “Divine Infinity and Divine Will in Avicenna and Aquinas”

Abstract: In this paper I will examine and contrast the notion of God as infinite in both Avicenna and Aquinas.  I will show that Avicenna, does not treat the notion of divine infinity in any systematic sense as a divine attribute, and to the extent that he does think of God as infinite, only takes this in a negative sense in which God is not limited. Aquinas has a more robust and extensive treatment of divine infinity, developing it as a divine attribute which follows from God’s nature as pure being and pure act.  For Aquinas, infinity takes on the positive sense of God having an infinite plurality of perfections within the simple divine being.  I will argue that Aquinas’s differences from Avicenna on infinity in God stem in an important part from his use of sources such as the Liber de Causis to develop of a notion of God as infinite pure being as opposed to the necessary being of Avicenna, and that this metaphysical difference can be seen as the basis for many of the ways in which Aquinas differs from Avicenna, including divine knowledge, divine will, and their doctrines of creation.

Taylor, Nathaniel, Marquette University

Title: “Is a Substance a Being through Itself? Aristotle’s Silence, Alexander’s Affirmation, and Avicenna’s Rejection.”

Abstract: As the work of Etienne Gilson and Robert Pasnau reflects, a common description of substance in the middle ages was “ens per se or “a being in itself.” Pasnau suggests that this “being in itself” description finds its source in Aristotle’s Categories, but no such description is to be found—not merely in the Categories, but in any of Aristotle’s works. So, if not from Aristotle, where did the “being in itself” description come from? In this paper, I set out the history of the phrase “being in itself” as a description of substance and argue that it introduced into the Aristotelian lexicon by the later commentators like Alexander of Aphrodisias seemingly in order to explain the independent subsistence of a substance as opposed to the dependent subsistence of an accident in a substance. I argue that Alexander’s introduction of the language of being to describe substance introduces an ambiguity into the very meaning of “substance” which the 10th century Aristotelian Avicenna recognizes. I argue that Avicenna, thinking that all substances are in themselves contingent beings, is motivated to reject any description of substance that could be taken to attribute being in itself, in the sense of actual being, to a substance. 

Yardley, Brett, Marquette University

Title: “Instrumental Causality and the Metaphysics of Primary and Secondary Causality”

Abstract: Important Christian doctrines such as the sacraments are explained using instrumental causality—the theory of causal motion where the power of a principal agent works hiddenly through a lower cause to achieve an end beyond the lower cause’s natural powers.  Instrumental causality is frequently cited as originating in Aristotle, however, like other medieval doctrines instrumental causality is not found explicitly in his works.  Even the implicit notions of the theory in Aristotle would be insufficient to support the complex movements required by later thinkers.  In this presentation I explore the philosophical notions of instrumental causality and the metaphysics of primary and secondary causality.  I will briefly show how the theory progressed from propositions in Proclus’s Element of Theology to the Arabic Kalam fi mahd al-khair (“The Discourse on the Pure Good”) and finally the Liber de Causis (“The Book of Causes”). My aim is to show that the philosophical concept did not pass unchanged from Aristotle to the later Scholastics in a faithful chain of transmission. Instead, as recent scholarship from Richard Taylor and Christina D’Ancona have shown that works such as Kalam fi mahd al-khair did not merely translate Proclus into Arabic, the theory of instrumental causality evolved to fit the needs of subsequent generations of scholars. 

Housing Options

Among the most convenient local hotels are the four star Ambassador Hotel and the less expensive three star Ambassador Inn across the street.

See  and respectively.

Housing available at Marquette University

Room Block Dates: June 17, 2019 departing on June 23, 2019

Sleeping Room Summary

Nights of June 17, 2019 – June 23, 2019 - 16 single rooms

Nightly Room Rates
Straz Tower
Single Occupancy         $56.75       

Triple Occupancy$91.50
Quad Occupancy$102.00

Reservation Procedures

Cut-Off Date

Cut-off date: May 23, 2019. Rooms requested after the cut-off date are subject to availability.
Check in time: After 3 p.m.*
Checkout time: Prior to 10 a.m.*
*These times are based upon Central Standard Time.

Reservation Procedures

Method of reservation is Individual/Direct. Individuals are requested to call 414-288-4737 to secure a room reservation. Individuals should let the reservations assistant know they are associated with the Abrahamic Traditions Conference. 

Guaranteed Reservations

All reservations must be guaranteed with a valid credit card number. MasterCard or Visa are accepted.  Failure to check-in as scheduled without canceling the reservation at least 48 hours prior to the date of arrival will result in the guest being charged one night’s room. Failure to check-out at the posted time on the date of departure will also result in a penalty fee. There are no refunds for early departures.

Additional Policies

Rooms reserved under room blocks are not guaranteed to be located in the same area of the residence hall. It is our policy to try to keep all groups together, but special requests at times prohibit this from happening.

There is a $5 lockout policy to any guest who is locked out of his/her room.  There is a $75 key replacement fee that is billed to the guest for any key that is lost or not returned upon checkout.  Rooms are re-keyed immediately for security reasons; therefore, we cannot issue refunds for guests who send in or return keys after checkout time. 

Each guest is expected to leave his/her guest room in the same condition in which it was found at check-in.  Any damages sustained to the room during the guest’s stay will be billed directly to the guest.  Any damages noticed by a guest should be brought to the immediate attention of the desk staff.

Force Majeure

Neither party shall be considered in default in the performance of its obligations under this Agreement if such performance is prevented or delayed by Force Majeure. "Force Majeure" shall be understood to be any cause which is beyond the reasonable control of the party affected and which is forthwith, by notice from the party affected, brought to the attention of the other party, including but not limited to, severe weather, war, hostilities, revolution, civil commotion, strike, lockout, epidemic, accident, fire, wind or flood or because of any law, order, proclamation, ruling, regulation or ordinance of any government or subdivision of government or because of any act of God.


The Abrahamic Traditions Conference agrees that it shall defend and fully indemnify Marquette University against any loss, cost, damage, injury or expense (including reasonable attorneys' fees) which may be sustained or incurred by Marquette, its trustees, officers, employees, students, agents and guests as a result of the Abrahamic Traditions Conference, its employees', agents' or invitees' use of, or presence at, the Licensed Space. Neither party shall be liable to the other for any indirect, incidental, special or consequential damages of any kind whatsoever, including lost profits, even if advised of the possibility thereof.

Weapons Policy
The Abrahamic Traditions Conference and its members are not permitted to:
- Carry any weapons on University property except as expressly permitted by applicable state law.
- Openly carry any weapons on University property.
- Carry any weapons in any University building or leased space or at any University special event marked with signage specifying “WEAPONS ARE PROHIBITED IN THIS BUILDING.”
- Store any weapons in a personally owned vehicle on University property except in the vehicle’s glove compartment or trunk, or encased such that the existence of the weapon is concealed. 

- Encased means completely zipped, snapped, buckled, tied or otherwise fastened, with no part of the weapon exposed.

- Fail to lock a personally owned vehicle on University property that contains any weapon when the Abrahamic Traditions Conference member is not present in the vehicle.

- Possess unloaded ammunition on University property.
- Imply possession of, threaten to use, display, brandish, use, or discharge a weapon on University property for any purpose or reason except lawful self-defense or lawful defense of others.

- Fail to report timely to the University Department of Public Safety the presence  on University property of any person whom the Abrahamic Traditions member has reason to believe is in possession of or carrying a weapon in violation of University policy, unless doing so would subject the Abrahamic Traditions Conference member or others to the threat of physical harm, or take other action in response to the presence of any person whom the Abrahamic Traditions Conference member has reason to believe is in possession of or carrying a weapon in violation of University policy except for reporting the presence of the weapon to the University Department of Public Safety.

The Abrahamic Traditions Conference members whose actions violate applicable State law with respect to the possession of weapons on University property may be subject to criminal prosecution.  The Abrahamic Traditions Conference members whose actions violate this provision will be asked to leave University property immediately and may be subject to no-trespassing directives in the future.  UNIVERSITY reserves the right to terminate this Rooms Agreement for one or more violations of this provision.

Guest Identification

For security purposes, each guest must be easily identified by the front desk attendant when entering the residence facility. Individuals will be issued a Marquette University Conference Services lanyard/name badge with room key attachment at guest check-in.  Name badge details are pulled from information provided during the room reservation process, which must be completed no later than 7 working days prior to initial arrival date.  A fee of $10 will be incurred for a replacement lanyard/name badge.


Campus parking is available to residential guests at a 2019 summer rate of $7 per vehicle per night.  An additional one-time $7 charge is incurred for a swipe card allowing unlimited in-out access to campus lots for the duration of the stay.  MasterCard or Visa are accepted forms of payment.  The desk receptionist will provide individual drivers with a university-issued parking permit and swipe card at check-in.


al-Farabi  Avicenna  Averroes  Maimonides  Gersonides  Ibn Gabirol  Augustine  Aquinas  Scotus