Events at IMT

PhiBor Talks

The 'Flying Man' in Avicenna's Treatise The Easterners: A Classic of  'Western' Philosophy

A lecture by Dag Nikolaus Hasse
Universität Würzburg

6 June 2023, 5pm | San Francesco Complex - classroom 1 | online at

Abstract | The thought experiment of the Flying Man, which Avicenna (d. 1037 CE) develops in several works, is controversial among scholars. But interestingly, the difference in interpretations has less to do with the content of the Flying Man than with its function. The dispute revolves around the question of what the Flying Man is for, what argumentative function it has, what Avicenna wants to show. By providing a critical edition of the psychology chapter from Avicenna's treatise 'The Easterners', I would like to shed new light on this question and show that the Flying Man is not an answer to the question of the nature of the soul. But neither is he a bridge to the discussion of substantiality that follows. What is he then?

Poster picture by Danninx, under a Creative Common License

Translation and Self-Fashioning: The Letters of Bulghaith Al-Darāwi (1664-1667)

A lecture by Pier Mattia Tommasino
Columbia University in the City of New York | Visiting Professor, IMT School, Lucca

5 June 2023, 5pm | San Francesco Complex - classroom 1 | online at

Abstract | This seminar challenges the current trends in the field of global microhistory, especially the use of biography. Rather than the biography of a global go-between, this seminar offers an intensive contrastive microanalysis of ego-documents, mainly letters. It focuses on the letters exchange between the Moroccan Muhammad Bulghaith Al-Darāwi, imam of Livorno’s prisons between 1661 and 1666, and the Moroccan Jesuit Balthazar Loyola Mandes (1631-1667), Al-Darawi’s mentor during the process of Al-Darawi’s release and conversion to Catholicism. A comparative microanalysis of Al-Darawi’s letters in Arabic and the translations into Italian that Loyola Mandes penned for the Jesuits in Rome let us enter the gray-zones of Mediterranean captivity and unpack Loyola Mandes’s use of translation as a tool of self-fashioning across the Jesuit order and the Medici court. This close comparative observation of Arabic and Italian ego-documents and conversion narratives urges us to reflect on the relationship between ethnocentrism, multilingualism, and archival research.

Philosophy with or Against Medicine? Avicenna's Global Project in the Šifāʾ -Qānūn Ensemble

A lecture by Tommaso Alpina
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

21 March 2023, 5pm | San Francesco Complex - classroom 1 | online at

Abstract | This talk will focus on the ‘zoological enterprise’ that Avicenna embarks on in his Book of Animals (Kitāb al-Ḥayawān, Liber de Animalibus), his only writing on this topic. In this regard, I will aim to answer two questions: 1) What is Avicenna’s goal in writing this book? 2) How does Avicenna reach his goal? In answering these questions, it is essential to consider the composition of the whole Book of the Cure/Healing (Kitāb al-Šifāʾ), to which the Book of Animals belongs, and its complementarity with the Canon of Medicine (Qānūn fī l-ṭibb). The anatomy and physiology of the organic body, that is, of the proximate matter of the living organism, is the field where (natural) philosophy and medicine interact, overlap, and conflict. According to my interpretation, in zoology as the philosophical study of the organic body, Avicenna aims to overcome the tensions between (Aristotelian) philosophy and (Galenic) medicine and to reconcile the two traditions and their different authorities (Aristotle and Galen) of which he is the heir. To reach his goal, Avicenna makes use of three different modalities: 1) explicit refutation of Galen’s arguments and defence of Aristotle (e.g. in the case of the origination of blood vessels and nerves and the issue of cardiocentrism); 2) explicit refutation of Galen’s arguments but concomitant adherence to and silent use of parts of his arguments (e.g. in the theory of the two semina and the development stages of the embryo); 3) insertion of medical principles within an Aristotelian theoretical framework (e.g. in the theory of humors within the exposition of the three levels of composition of the organic body). The thematic contexts in which these three modalities emerge have not been arbitrarily chosen. On the contrary, they represent areas of investigation that go beyond zoology and intersect other fundamental natural sciences such as psychology and meteorology.

Porphyry on ittiḥād. "New" Materials from Porphyry, On the soul in the Muqābasāt of al-Tawḥīdī

A lecture by Michael Chase
CNRS Centre Jean Pépin-UMR 8230-ENS-PSL, Paris-Villejuif - Max Planck Institute for the HIstory of Science, Berlin

10 October 2022, 5pm | San Francesco Complex - classroom 1 | online at

Abstract | I propose that new materials from the Muqābasāt of al-Tawḥīdī should be attributed to the Arabic treatise On the Soul, which I argue is an extract from an authentic work by Porphyry. These materals contain indications of doctrines on the origin, nature and function of the union (ittiḥād) between the human soul and the divine Agent Intellect that are unattested in Porphyry’s extant Greek works, but may help to shed light on Avicenna’s hitherto unexplained violent reaction to and dismissal of Porphyrian noetics.

Una ricostruzione della lunga storia delle teorie astronomiche delle maree

A lecture by Lucio Russo
Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata

22 April 2022, 11am | San Francesco Complex - classroom 1 | online at | in collaboration with MoMiLab

Abstract | Si ritiene in genere che la prima teoria scientifica delle maree sia quella di Newton. In questa presentazione, si mostra invece che: 1) Newton arrivò alla sua sintesi attingendo in modo essenziale a due tradizioni apparentemente contrapposte: quella che attribuiva il fenomeno della marea ai moti della Terra (sostenuta, tra gli altri, da Cesalpino, Sarpi, Galileo, Baliani e Wallis) e la teoria luni-solare, giunta a Newton attraverso Marcantonio De Dominis. 2) Entrambe le teorie precedenti trasmettevano aspetti parziali e complementari dell’antica teoria ellenistica delle maree, che Newton in larga misura ricostruisce.


Aqua et terra | ألماء والأرض
Interactions of Aristotelian Elements in Medieval Philosophy, from the Bible to Dante

26-27 May 2023 | Org. A. Bertolacci, M. Signori

In Aristotle’s physical system, the four elements behave according to their fundamental qualities – hotness and coldness, dryness and wetness – and are therefore subject to specifically defined forms of spatial interaction. Among these connections, the one between earth (cold and dry) and water (cold and wet) is particularly rich of consequences for Aristotelian science, because it encroaches the domains of meteorology – full of wet phenomena such as rain and snow –, of geology – addressing issues like the physical shape of the earth, the formation of mountains, etc. –, and of biology – inasmuch as the relation between earth and water is key to the genesis and persistence of complex forms of life. In the religious domain, the biblical account of creation in the Genesis spells out with a certain degree of detail how earth and water were formed, shaped, and divided at the beginning of time, and how animals began to exist in the respective terrestrial and aquatic domains. The intersections between revealed/religious and philosophical/scientific accounts of the relation between water and earth were accordingly explored in much detail by medieval thinkers, not only in the Christian-Latin world, but also in the Jewish-Hebrew and Islamic-Arabic milieus. In this elaborate framework, a singular little text attributed to Italian poet Dante Alighieri, the Questio de aqua et terra, is a paradigmatic specimen of the significance of these debates also outside the boundaries of universities, and possibly for people who were not specifically trained in Aristotelian science and philosophy, or else in theology and Biblical exegesis.

The topic dealt with in the Questio is a central one for the Peripatetic physics of the elements, i.e. the issue of why and how did dry land emerge from water, if water is absolutely lighter than earth, and the elements take the shape of a sphere in their proper domain. This workshop aims to revise the complex tradition which finds in the Questio an all-peculiar exemplum, highlighting the possible crosspollinations between Arabic and Latin Peripatetic sources, and the treatment given to the issue in Dante’s purported treatise. In so doing, the workshop wishes to provide new material to Dante scholars interested in better understanding the theoretical and scientific teachings of the Questio, as well as the debated issue of its authorship. Likewise, it is an aim of the seminar to give historians of medieval and early modern thought a chance to discuss the interrelated issues of physics and religious exegesis raised by the most fundamental elemental interaction of water and earth, in the framework of the long history of Aristotelianism from its Greek origin up to its most recent, post-medieval incarnations.

Workshop on Scientific Computing

1-2 December 2022

A first online workshop disseminating the results of the PRO3 joint programme project "Scientific computing for natural sciences, social sciences, and applications: methodological and technological development", joining the efforts of researchers of IMT School, Scuola Normale Superiore, Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati di Trieste, Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori di Pavia and Gran Sasso Science Institute.

Watch the video of the conference here! 

Da Baghdad a Firenze. 

Itinerari del sapere sulle orme di Alberto Magno

First Italian Reading Group on Albert the Great
[Summa theologiae sive de mirabili scientia Dei]


Venerdì 6 maggio | Dottrina

Teologia, filosofia, noetica


Alessandro Palazzo

(Università di Trento)

Tra scienza e teologia: il "Grande anno" nella Summa Theologiae di Alberto Magno


Paola Bernardini

(Università di Siena)

Per Aristotelem et per veritatem. Argomenti contro l’unicità dell’intelletto nella Summa Theologiae di Alberto Magno


Anna Rodolfi

(Università di Firenze)

Mezzi e oggetti della conoscenza angelica nella Summa Theologiae di Alberto Magno


Teologia e scienze


Stefano Perfetti                

(Università di Pisa)

In theologicis magis quam in physicis. I commenti biblici e la Summa Theologiae di Alberto Magno come luoghi veritativi della sua riflessione filosofica


Amalia Cerrito

(Università di Pisa-Firenze)

Maschile e femminile, paternità e maternità nel pensiero di Alberto Magno: il caso della generazione delle piante tra filosofia naturale, teologia ed esegesi biblica



Sabato 7 maggio | Fonti

Platonismo e aristotelismo


Alessandra Beccarisi

(Università di Foggia)

Alberto Magno lettore della Elementatio Theologica di Proclo nella Summa Theologiae


Amos Bertolacci

(Scuola IMT Alti Studi, Lucca)

Aquila o airone? Alberto Magno interprete della Metafisica di Aristotele nel Prologo della Summa Theologiae


Tradizione araba


Silvia Di Vincenzo

(Scuola IMT Alti Studi, Lucca)

Alberto Magno lettore di Avicenna in Summa Theologiae, tract. I, quaestio 5, capitolo 3: utrum theologia habet modum argumentationis


Marco Signori

(Scuola IMT Alti Studi, Lucca | Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa)

Chartula brevis. L’anima intellettuale come libro e come luogo tra Algazel e la Summa Theologiae di Alberto Magno


Discussione finale

Research Seminars

Advanced Topics in East and West


A series of research seminars on topics of Arabic and Latin philosophy, history and culture,
organized at PhiBor Unit by Amos Bertolacci

List of participants and talks


Friday 26 November, 4-6PM, Aula 1

Sina Salari (Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran; visiting student IMT)

The doctrine of providence of Alexander of Aphrodisias in the Arabic tradition



Friday 17 December, 4-6PM, Aula 2

Francesco Omar Zamboni (Ph.D. Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa; University of Jyväskylä, Finland)

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Ontology of Trans-Categorical Properties



Friday 14 January, 3-5PM, Aula 2

Alessia Astesiano (Ph.D. Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa; Scuola di Archivistica, Paleografia e Diplomatica, Firenze)

Being potential or being actual? A controversial way of describing the continuum and the infinite in Aristotle's and Avicenna's Physics



Friday 28 January, 3-5PM, Aula 2

Sina Salari (Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran; visiting student IMT)

On the problem(s) of providence



Friday 11 February, 3-5PM, Conference Room

Marco Signori (Ph.D. candidate Scuola Normale Superiore Pisa; research collaborator IMT)

On the Origins of the Term coaequaevus in Medieval Latin Thought. Between Latin Platonism and Arabic Philosophy



Friday 25 February, 3-5PM, Aula 2 

Alfonso Quartucci (Ph.D. Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa; University of Toronto)

Avicenna on the structure of metaphysics



Friday 11 March, 3-5PM, Aula 2

Arturo Mariano Iannace (Ph.D. candidate IMT)

Philosophy, politics, and images: a possible interpretation of the Exultet rolls



Friday 25 March, 3-5PM, Aula 2

Ginevra Tozzi (Ph.D. candidate IMT)

Avicenna’s Commentary on Aristotle’s De Interpretatione and his discussion on future contingents



Friday 8 April, 2:30-4.30 PM, Aula 2

István Lánczky (Ph.D., Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, Péter Pázmány Catholic University, Budapest)

Individuals in Context: Avicenna’s Theory of Individuation in His Metaphysical Framework



Friday 22 April, 3-5 PM, Aula 2

Amos Bertolacci (IMT)

“Things That No Eye Has Ever Seen and No Ear Has Ever Heard”: Avicenna’s Recourse to an Islamic ḥadīṯ and its interreligious scope



Friday 20 May, 3-5 PM, Aula 1

Germano Gorga (Ph.D. candidate IMT)

Texts, Numbers and Diagrams: A Philosophical Analysis of Islamic Astronomical Manuscripts