Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’*


The De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy,

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


The Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group,

Marquette University, Milwaukee

Aquinas,          Alfarabi,             Avicenna,        Averroes,      Maimonides  &    Albertus

Prof. Andrea Robiglio, De Wulf-Mansion Centre, KU Leuven,


Prof. Richard C. Taylor, Marquette University, member De Wulf-Mansion Centre

& guest professor at KU Leuven 2010-12

announce a collaborative 4-5 June 2012 workshop conference at K.U. Leuven

on the thought of Albertus Magnus and the Arabic tradition under the title,

Translation and Transformation in Philosophy:

Albert, between Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’


Amos Bertolacci (Pisa), Jules Janssens (Leuven), Olga Lizzini (Amsterdam), Luis Lóṕez-Farjeat (Mexico City), Josep Puig Montada (Madrid), Jörn Müller (Würzburg), Richard C. Taylor (Milwaukee), Jörg Tellkamp (Mexico City)

Tentative Program (subject to revision)

Monday 4 June 2012

18h00 Welcome by Prof. Antoon Vandevelde, Dean, Institute of Philosophy, KUL

Session 1 Chair: Gerd Van Riel, coordinator, De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, KU Leuven

18h10 Amos Bertolacci,  Scuola Normale, Pisa,

“Albert the Great in front of Averroes' Criticisms of Avicenna”

20h00 Dinner for all presenters, chairs and special guests

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Session 2 Chair: Russell Friedman, De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, KU Leuven

9h00 - 9h50 Richard C. Taylor, Philosophy Department, Marquette University, Milwaukee & member DWMC, KU Leuven, 

“Albert the Great’s Account of Human Knowledge in his De homine: A Concoction Formed From the Writings of Avicenna and Averroes”

9h55-10h45 Jörn Müller, Institut für Philosophie, Universität Würzburg, 

“Are intelligibles stored in the soul? Avicenna, Albert and Aquinas on the functions of memory”

10h45-11h15 Coffee

Session 3 Chair: Cécile Bonmariage, Institut supérieur de Philosophie Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-neuve

11h15-12h05 Jörg Tellkamp, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City,

“Incohatio formae and incohatio animae in Albert the Great’s Commentary on De anima” 

12h10-13h00 López-Farjeat, Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City, 

“Albert the Great on the Knowledge of Separate Forms and his Discrepancies with ‘the Arabs’ in the De anima III, 3, 8-11” 

13h00-15h00 Lunch

Session 4 Chair: Isabelle Moulin, Institut Catholique de Paris

15h00-15h50 Olga L. Lizzini, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam,

“Fluxus.  Some remarks on Avicenna and Albertus Magnus”

15h50-16h20 Coffee

Session 5 Chair: Thérèse-Anne Druart, The Catholic University of American, Washington, DC

16h20-17h10 Jules Janssens, De Wulf-Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, KU Leuven,

Arabic Sources in Albert the Great’s Section on Sleep and Dreams of the De Homine”

17h15-18h05 Josep Puig Montada, Universidad Complutense de Madrid,

“Albert and 'the Arabs': On the Eternity of Movement”

18h05-18h15 Closing remarks

Presentation titles & abstracts

Amos Bertolacci (Pisa)

“Albert the Great in front of Averroes' Criticisms of Avicenna”

Averroes frequently and harshly criticizes Avicenna in the Long Commentary on the Metaphysics, the commentary of his in which the polemic against Avicenna is most recurrent and intensive. Now, on the issues about which Avicenna’s and Averroes’ standpoints are at odds, in his own commentary on the Metaphysics Albert the Great adopts a harmonizing strategy, striving to focus on similarities and to dispense with differences. This strategy consists in “hiding”, as much as possible, the dissent, and has material, stylistic and doctrinal aspects.

Due to this articulated strategy, Albert’s commentary on the Metaphysics represents a noteworthy case: it is the only Aristotelian commentary in which Albertus, despite using the corresponding long commentary of Averroes, does not reproduce explicitly (i.e. naming both Avicenna and Averroes) any of the criticisms of Avicenna that he finds in his source. Conversely, it is also the only Aristotelian commentary of this kind in which Avicenna and Averroes are never said to be in agreement on a certain position. In other words, despite his reticence, Albert is deeply aware of the dissent that he tries to conceal. This concealment of dissent concentrates on a precise theoretical area, namely the doctrine of the primary and most universal concepts (the so-called “transcendentals”) in ontology, which Albert rightly individuates as a crucial aspect of the confrontation between Avicenna and Averroes.

Jules Janssens (Leuven)

Arabic Sources in Albert the Great’s section on sleep

and dreams of the De Homine”

It is generally acknowledged that the De Homine, which can be dated ca. 1241-2, belongs to Albert’s earlier works. In the section, entitled De proprietatibus animae sensibilis in se, quae sunt somnus et vigilia et somnium, one encounters a rather important use of Arabic sources, among which preeminently Avicenna’s de Anima, Algazel’s Metaphysics, as well as Averroes’ De somno et vigilia – although always, as has already been noted by scholars as R. de Vaux and H. Gätje, attributed to Alfarabius. Besides one finds minor quotations from Averroes’ Capitulum de corde and De substantia orbis, pseudo-Avicenna Liber celi et mundi, Costa ben Luca’s De differentia animae et spiritus and the Liber de Causis. It will be examined how Albert uses these sources in his exposé and what is their significance with respect to Albert’s own doctrine. This latter aspect will be highlighted in a more detailed way with regard to a few major aspect of Albert’s theory of dreams.

Olga Lizzini (Amsterdam)

“Fluxus.  Some remarks on Avicenna and Albertus Magnus”

One of the most important elements of the legacy that Arabic metaphysics left to the Latin world is the theory of emanation or fluxus.  As has emerged from recent studies (de Libera, Ronin), Albertus Magnus seemed particularly receptive to the concept of emanation.  Two texts, both translated into Latin in 12th-century Toledo, are especially relevant:  the Liber de causis and Avicenna's Metaphysics.  My contribution will focus on the latter.  First I shall attempt to introduce the essential elements of Avicenna's theory of emanation in order to show which elements may be related to Albertus Magnus' metaphysical analysis as regards the God-world relationship.  I shall then focus on the notion of appropriate preparation (isti'dad ḥass), presenting a comparison with the Albertine doctrine of incohatio formae.

Luis Lóṕez-Farjeat (Mexico City)

“Albert the Great on the Knowledge of Separate Forms and

his Discrepancies with ‘the Arabs’ in the De anima III, 3, 8-11” 

In Albert’s De anima III, 3, chapters 6-11 there is a discussion on whether the human intellect is able to apprehend only the forms abstracted from matter or if is possible for it to know something separated from magnitude. If the human intellect is able to understand separate forms, this would mean that some forms are not apprehended with phantasms and magnitude but by the conjunction of the human possible intellect and the separate intellect. This matter is quite problematic since it is not clear enough whether separate forms are known through the perfect conjunction of the possible intellect and the agent intellect or by means of the agent intellect which acts both as efficient and formal cause of these forms. When discussing these matters Albert brings to his digressions several opinions from ‘the Arabs’: he discusses with Avempace, al-Fārābī, Avicenna, and al-Ghazālī. Finally, he explains his own position following Averroes and some views from Avempace and Avicenna. In this paper I reconstruct Albert’s argumentation against Avempace and Avicenna showing that beyond his discrepancies with them he was influenced by some of their views and by the way in which Averroes states the discussion in his Long Commentary on the De anima.      

Josep Puig Montada (Madrid)

“Albert and the Arabs: On the eternity of movement”

Per rationes physicas, based on physical arguments, movement is perpetual but metaphysical speculation shows that movement has a beginning. Albert tries to prove the beginning of the world because he can consequently prove the beginning of movement, and of time. However he admits his arguments to be based not of the physical science but on metaphysical speculation.

The paper considers his sources and his differences to Averroes. While Averroes considered that God’s infinite will created the world impressing it with an infinite duration, Albert defended that “the necessary order” between the cause and the effect necessitated the duration of the world to have a beginning."

Jörn Müller (Würzburg)

“Are intelligibles stored in the soul? Avicenna,

Albert and Aquinas on the functions of memory”

According to Avicenna’s De anima the main function of memory is to store the connotational attributes (intentiones) of perceived objects which are instinctively registered by the estimative power. But Avicenna denies a higher epistemological role to memory by stating that it is not a storehouse for intelligibles. Albert partially agrees with this denial of intellectual memory in De homine but nevertheless posits remaining intelligibles in the possible intellect. Aquinas, on the other hand, strongly objects to this Avicennian doctrine as early as in his commentary on the Sentences. I will reconstruct the central lines of argument in this debate with its philosophical and theological background, thereby throwing light on the complex interplay between the three positions. From this analysis, some general considerations concerning the possible functions of memory in this area will emerge. 

Richard C. Taylor (Milwaukee)

“Albert the Great’s Account of Human Knowledge in his De homine:

A Concoction Formed From the Writings of Avicenna and Averroes”

The theory of knowledge set forth in detail by Albert the Great in his De homine explicitly draws its key elements from the De Anima by Avicenna and the Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle byAverroes.  From the former Albert adopted the account of pre-intellectual abstraction and rejected the notion that the forms intelligible in act come to be in the individual human soul only due to an emanation from or a conjoining with the unique separately existing substance called Agent Intellect shared by all human beings. From Averroes Albert took the account of intellectual abstraction whereby forms intelligible in potency are transferred from the mode of being of particulars to the mode of being of intelligibles in act essential for the formation of universals. But Albert also erroneously read the texts of Averroes as holding for the material intellect and the agent intellect to be powers belonging individually to each human soul. Only by this complex array of ingredients was Albert able to concoct the epistemology of the De homine.

Jörg Tellkamp (Mexico City)

“Incohatio formae and incohatio animae in

Albert the Great’s Commentary on De anima

Albert the Great’s conception of the soul seems to be ambiguous, because he characterizes the coming into existence of an animate being (a) in an Aristotelian fashion as first perfection due to the embodiment of a substantial form and (b) as a process that relies on the primordial receptivity of matter with regard to a form. The (meta)physical theory of incohatio formae translates into incohatio animae and it thus adds a component that is not consistent with the Aristotelian naturalism.  Instead Albert relies on a philosophical tradition that holds that the soul, apart from being intrinsic to the animate being, has an extrinsic and transcendent origin, combining a Platonizing theory of the soul with an Aristotelian account.

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