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.

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