Joint Conference in Helsinki June 9-11

The Conference is jointly organised by the ERC research project Rationality in Perception: Transformations of Mind and Cognition 1250-1550 (directed by José Filipe Silva) and the Research Programme Representation and Reality: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives in the Aristotelian Tradition (directed by Christina Thomsen-Törnqvist)



Day 1

9.30-10 José Filipe Silva and Christina Thomsen-Thörnqvist, OPENING WORDS

10-11 Eyjólfur K. Emilsson, Plotinus on Perceptual Judgment and Innateness

11-12 Sarah Byers, Victorinus and Augustine on the Identity of Content Known in First and Second Actuality of Knowledge

12-14 LUNCH

14-15 Jörn Müller, Truth as adequation in Thomas Aquinas: Some problems

15-16 Therese Cory, Assimilation vs. Representation: A Proposal regarding Intelligible Species in Aquinas

16-16.30 COFFEE

16.30-17.30 KEYNOTE 1: Mohan Matthen, Perception as Spatial Representation

19.30 DINNER


Day 2

9.30-10.30 Jon McGinnis, Some Becoming Remarks: Avicenna’s Criticism of the Assimilation Theory of Cognition and of Becoming the Intelligible Object

10.30-11 COFFEE

11-12 Carla Di Martino, Rationality in Perception. Avicenna and Aquinas

12-13 Cecilia Trifogli, Thomas Aquinas and Giles of Rome on the Reception of Forms without the Matter

13-14.30 LUNCH

14.30-15.30 Dominik Perler, Is Assimilation Possible? Suárez on Intellectual Cognition

15.30-16 COFFEE

16-17 Keynote 2: Pavel Gregoric, The Intellect and its Objects in Aristotle’s De Anima III.4

19:30 DINNER


Day 3

10-11 Pauliina Remes, Platonists on Starting Points of Reasoning

11-11.30 COFFEE

11.30-12.30 Jari Kaukua, Avicenna’s Empiricism Reconsidered

12.30-13.30 Ana Maria Mora MarquezIntellectual knowledge of the particular (1250-1350)

13.30-15 LUNCH

15-16.30 RiP Workshop



(For the Junior Scholars Workshop, see Section ‘Activities‘)

Joint Workshop in Uppsala

RiP PI José Filipe Silva and Postdoc Anselm Oelze will participate in a one day workshop jointly organised by our project and Pauliina Remes of Uppsala University.


A Workshop in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy: From Thought to Perception

Organizers: Philosophy Department, Uppsala university, and Rationality in Perception ERC-project, University of Helsinki.


Tuesday 18.4.1017

Before lunch break: Eng/2-K1023; after lunch break: Eng/2-1023.

10.15-10.30 Opening of the workshop

10.30-11.30 Peter Larsen: “Are There Forms of Sensible Qualities in Plato”

11.45-12.45 Vasilis Politis: “Why Are Froms Necessary for Thought”


14.30-15.30 José Filipe Silva: “Of Shadows and Men: How Platonic was Augustine?”

coffee break

16.00-17.00 Anselm Oelze: “Rationality without Reason: Late-Medieval Explanations of Rational Behaviours in Nonhuman Animals”


For further info, see:

Conference and Workshop June 2017

The preparations for the 2017 Conference and Workshop are well under way. The two events are organised in cooperation with the research group Representation and Reality. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Aristotelian Tradition (Gothenburg, Sweden) and the Workshop also with the Nordic Network for the History of Philosophy. The programme of the Conference will be announced in April but for now please look at our Call for Papers:

(you can also find it here: Workshop:


Call for Papers

Workshop on

Perception, Knowledge, and Assimilation

June 12, 2017, University of Helsinki

ʻAll humans naturally strive for knowledgeʼ, Aristotle famously states at the beginning of his Metaphysics. Yet philosophers have wondered ever since what it means to know something and how we can actually acquire knowledge. Can we know anything at all, and if so, where does this knowledge come from? Do we need to have sensory information first and do we have to become like the things we want to know? In the history of philosophy, different answers have been given to these and related questions and in this workshop, we would like to discuss some of them, especially those by ancient, medieval, and early modern philosophers in the Greek, Latin, and Arabic tradition. We warmly welcome papers on any of these periods and traditions with particular focus on the role of perception and/or assimilation in the process of knowledge acquisition.

The workshop is organized by the European Research Council project Rationality in Perception: Transformations of Mind and Cognition 1250-1550 ( and the Representation and Reality. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Aristotelian Tradition programme ( as part of the Nordic Network for the History of Philosophy workshop series ( It is intended to bring together junior scholars – doctoral students and early postdocs – from different fields in the history of philosophy. We will select up to 4 papers (25mins each plus 15mins for discussion). We are able to provide meals and accommodation (for 2 nights). Travel costs will be reimbursed up to 500 euros. All participants are very welcome to attend at their own cost the international conference “Knowledge as Assimilation” which takes place at the University of Helsinki immediately before the workshop (June 9-11).

If you would like to submit a paper for the workshop please send an abstract of no more than 300 words to until Friday, March 31, 2017. The organizers will notify you of their decision by the second week of April. For further information, please contact the organizers at



Program Workshop






Saturday, November 26, 2016

University of Helsinki, Main Building: Aud. IV



9-9:15 Opening words: José Filipe Silva (Helsinki)


Chair: Mikko Yrjönsuuri (Jyväskylä)

Paper 1: Andrea Vella (Catania), You are what you see. Sensibilia as a key to John of Jandun’s philosophy


Chair: Juhana Toivanen (Jyväskylä)

Paper 2: Christian Kny (Würzburg/Düsseldorf), Indeterminate Facticity, Activity, Reciprocity:  Tracing Sense Perception in the Works of Nicholas of Cusa

11:15-11:30 Coffee Break


Chair: Annemieke Verboon (Helsinki)

Paper 3: Yamina Adouhane (Paris), Does Averroes’s criticism of Avicenna’s concept of “possible existent” (mumkin al-wujūd) miss its target?

12:30-13:30 Lunch


Chair: Paolo Rubini (Helsinki)

Paper 4: Wahid Amin (Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham), Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī on Necessary (Eternal) Truths and Necessary (Eternal) Being


Chair: José Filipe Silva (Helsinki)

Paper 5: Anna-Katharina Strohschneider (Würzburg), Agostino Nifo, Averroes, and the relationship between physics and metaphysics


General Q&A session

Concluding Remarks: Jari Kaukua (Jyväskylä)

18:00 Dinner for speakers and chairs


The workshop is funded by the ERC projects: Rationality in Perception: Transformations of Mind and Cognition 1250-1550 [] and Epistemic Transitions in Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science: From the 12th to the 19th Century []



Paper 1: Andrea Vella (Catania), You are what you see. Sensibilia as a key to John of Jandun’s philosophy

As the main studies about John of Jandun (e.g. MacClintock’s, Schmugge’s and Brenet’s books) show, three of the most important questions about this philosopher are: what does Jandun thinks of the truths of faith that are contradicted by the conclusions he reaches by using natural reason? how really close is he – one of the principes averroistarum – to Averroes’ thought? how does he explain the fact that only few human beings are philosophers, given that supposedly everybody loves knowing? These are still open questions, which haven’t received an unanimously accepted answer. In this talk it will be argued that studying what Jandun wrote about sensibilia in his Quaestiones on different Aristotle’s works can contribute to the clarification of the mentioned problems.


Paper 2: Christian Kny (Würzburg/Düsseldorf), Indeterminate Facticity, Activity, Reciprocity:  Tracing Sense Perception in the Works of Nicholas of Cusa

Looking at the research on Nicholas of Cusa, his notion of sense perception is not a topic that is widely discussed. Statements on this notion – apart from a few notable exceptions – usually run along the following lines: Cusanus is trying to get as close as possible to the absolute, to god. In this process, human intellectuality plays a central role, while sense perception just provides an excitatio. This excitatio is necessary as an enabler of intellectuality, but beyond that, sense perception does not contribute to the approximation to god. Thus, with regard to Cusanus’ epistemic and epistemological goals, sense perception is only of minor importance.

This characterization of sense perception helps to understand why it is not a widely discussed topic. However, it obstructs the view on the fact that Cusanus’ account – or accounts – of sense perception are rather fascinating. Indeterminate facticity, activity, and reciprocity all figure in these accounts, and it is by no means obvious if or how these thematic strands are coherent. In my talk, I will try to trace these thematic strands, critically evaluating their coherence and the significance of sense perception in the works of Nicholas of Cusa. It will become clear that, even if Cusanus conceives sense perception as an excitatio, it deserves more attention than it usually gets.


Paper 3: Yamina Adouhane (Paris), Does Averroes’s criticism of Avicenna’s concept of “possible existent” (mumkin al-wujūd) miss its target?         

One of Avicenna’s major philosophical contributions concerns the modal concepts of possible and necessary. They play a central role in his metaphysics, and notably in his new proof of God’s existence. Averroes is a fervent critique of this proof: he refuses the very idea of a metaphysical proof as it is the task of physics to prove the existence of a prime mover and only movement and not existence can lead to such proof. His criticism relies largely on the denunciation of Avicenna’s understanding of the concept of possible, which is said to be equivocal, general, and the basis for an erroneous and unnatural division of existents. His polemic masterpiece, the Tahâfut al-Tahâfut, offers a comprehensive view of these attacks, which can be found throughout the discussions I, III, IV, VIII and X. Scholars, as eminent as H. A. Davidson, have questioned the pertinence and accuracy of the Rushdian criticism. I would like to examine the relevant passages of the Tahâfut al-Tahâfut in order to determine what exactly is Averroes’s understanding of the Avicennan concept of possible and whether his critique reaches its target.


Paper 4: Wahid Amin (Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham), Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī on Necessary (Eternal) Truths and Necessary (Eternal) Being

In the Posterior Analytics Aristotle defines six conditions for each of the premises of a demonstrative syllogism, the most important of which prima facie is the condition of truth. In his Categories and scattered remarks in the Metaphysics, Aristotle also explains that all true statements and demonstrative conclusions must ultimately refer to being. One question that is debated even today among scholars of Aristotle’s thought is whether a necessary truth requires an eternal referent—whether or not, that is, there is a temporal necessity for an eternal object of existence to serve as the truthmaking principle of necessary facts. Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, a thirteenth-century Muslim philosopher and polymath, argues in precisely these terms, albeit that in his time the straight-forward Aristotelian conception of truth as a form of correspondence (al-taṭābuq) had been significantly developed to account for different types of propositions which had not been considered in the original Corpus Aristotelicum. The following paper discusses, first, the principle of correspondence and its connection to mental existence (al-wujūd al-dhihnī), second, the different types of propositions and the conditions of their truthmaking discussed in later post-Avicennan works of philosophy, and third, Ṭūsī’s argument for metaphysically grounding the truth of necessary propositions in an eternal being that is not God—the Necessary of Existence in Itself. The following paper will hence show how Ṭūsī proffers a unique argument in the history of Arabic philosophy for the existence of an eternal being—an Intellect—other than the First Principle, which combines the principles of Aristotelian science with the cosmological emanative scheme found within Neo-Platonism.


 Paper 5: Anna-Katharina Strohschneider (Universität Würzburg), Agostino Nifo, Averroes, and the Relationship between Physics and Metaphysics

The Renaissance philosopher Agostino Nifo (d. 1538) was strongly influenced by Averroes. In addition to two commentaries on Aristotle’s Metaphysics which draw heavily on Averroes, Nifo wrote a supercommentary on the twelfth book of Averroes’ Long Commentary on the Metaphysics. This metaphysical side of Nifo’s occupation with Averroes’ philosophy has not been thoroughly investigated so far.

In his commentary, Averroes writes at length about the relationship between physics and metaphysics, defending his own theory against both Alexander of Aphrodisias and Avicenna.

This means that, in his commentaries, Nifo, too, must take a stand on the division of labour between the two sciences: Does metaphysics prove the existence of the first cause, or does this task belong to physics? Does metaphysics take over the results of physics, or vice versa?

I argue that Nifo actually introduces a different take on the respective responsibilities of physics and metaphysics, while on the surface simply paraphrasing and explaining Averroes’ theory. Nifo puts more emphasis than Averroes himself on the type of demonstration the two sciences employ, and he focuses more on the hylomorphic aspect of metaphysics.

My talk aims to point out the similarities and differences between the two philosophers, while trying to explain how Nifo interpreted the relevant passages in Averroes in order to arrive at a notably different theory of the relationship between physics and metaphysics.