Principal Investigator: 

José Filipe (Pereira da) SilvaIMG_0094.JPG

Associate Professor in Medieval Philosophy – Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki



Postdoctoral Researchers: 

  1. Tuomas VauraI graduated as a Doctor of theology in Philosophy of Religion (Faculty of Theology, the University of Helsinki) in 2017. My supervisors were Professor (emeritus) Simo Knuuttila and Dr. Virpi Mäkinen. In my doctoral thesis, titled The Psychology of the Incarnation in Thirteenth- and Early Fourteenth- Century Theology, I studied the medieval academic discussions about Christ’s human cognition, will and passions, from the point of view of  medieval philosophical psychology. In 2015, I was a visiting doctoral researcher at Faculty of Philosophy, KU Leuven.

    I am enthusiastic about medieval philosophical psychology, especially when the human cognition, volitions and passions are related to the theological questions. One of my specialities is working with medieval manuscripts.

  2. Annemieke Verboon

Annemieke Verboon (born in Delft, the Netherlands). Previously worked as a postdoctorate at the Groupe d’Anthropologie Scholastique (CRH/EHESS) and the Centre Alexandre Koyré (CNRS) in Paris, after studying in Amsterdam, Louvain and Leiden (PhD).

I am interested in the early modern concept of the “human” as developed at the crossroads between the history of philosophy, theology and medicine. Combining these different disciplines permits the study of ideas about the human being from a variety of perspectives (cultural, spiritual, psychological, biological and anatomical), which make up historical anthropology. At the heart of my work are the notions of materiality and immateriality, as they relate to the issue of body and soul, and the notion of incarnation of metaphysical and abstract entities. I have moreover a special interest in visual forms of abstract concepts. This inflection is the result of an encounter between my interest in medieval history (I received a doctorate from the University of Leiden), the history of medieval art (University of Amsterdam) and medieval philosophy (Universities of Louvain and Granada).

The contrast between materiality and immateriality was at the core of my thesis, entitled Lines of thought: diagrammatic representations and scientific texts of the arts faculty, 1200-1500. In this work, I dealt with the notion of incarnated knowledge, in which I tied together diagrammatic thinking, textual and visual argumentation, and seeing and knowing in epistemic images produced in the arts faculty during the late Middle Ages. At the same time, this study reflected upon the complex relationship between the history of philosophy, natural and social sciences. The objective of this thesis was to obtain a better understanding of the ways in which the different “sciences” concretized and incarnated the invisible and unanimated world, which was undertaken by means of a philosophical and historical analysis of the role of visual diagrams, speculation and practices in the production of knowledge. In general, and in my thesis in particular, I advocate a contextualizing and transversal approach in order to offer a more rigorous reading of what is at stake in the history of knowledge and philosophy. I have, therefore, for example, been able to demonstrate that, by means of a series of historical examples from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries, the form of the diagrams of the so-called Tree of Porphyry in logic was determined rather culturally than the result of a rational operation. In another publication, I demonstrated that the diagrammatic Tree of Porphyry helps the reader to compare its content to other arborescent diagrams. From the thirteenth century onwards, “arborisare” is an extremely useful tool for the artes praedicandi, as well as for the artes liberales (Verboon 2008; Verboon 2014). Other chapters in this book dealt with diagrams of qualities and quantities within the natural sciences, as well as diagrams of the powers of the soul in philosophical psychology.

After my thesis, I concentrated on those aspects of my thesis that seemed the most promising: diagrams of the powers of the soul. The quantity and richness of the material were much more significant than I could have hoped for during my doctorate. I have been granted the occasion to explore this file further, with the help of a Marie Curie Fellowship (IEF), at the Centre Alexandre Koyré, along with Rafael Mandressi as Scientific Correspondent. This project gave me the opportunity to go through hundreds of manuscripts kept in many different European libraries, which were often quite remote. In so doing, I started a large heuristic and systematic research campaign to establish a corpus of images featuring cognition processes, faculties and the brain. Brain faculty images have been used from the thirteenth century onwards and were still in use in scientific publications of the seventeenth century, despite the many significant conceptual changes in the illustrated theory. The diagram has become iconic and of great epistemological value to the study of ideas about human cognition in Europe, transmitting concepts of Aristotle and Galen into the modern period. I have, therefore, focused on the history of sciences, exploring the role of these images in scientific debates and what light this discipline can shine upon epistemic images. The objective of the research is a monograph about these diagrams as part of the commentary tradition, in the context of the fifteenth-century university-textbook called the Parvulus philosophia naturalis (Peter of Dresden). This book is currently in preparation. In my article, “Brain ventricle images: a century after Walther Sudhoff”, I present the visual sources of the psychology faculty and its place in historiography (Verboon, 2014).

In 2015, I was granted a French fellowship by the Laboratoire d’Excellence HASTEC (Histoire et Anthropologie des Savoirs, des Techniques et des Croyances), based at the GAS (Groupe d’Anthropologie Scolastique) of the CRH (Centre de Recherches Historiques), along with Sylvain Piron as Scientific Correspondent. The GAS is the scholastic branch of the GAHOM, which was founded by the late Jacques Le Goff. Thanks to this fellowship, I was able to develop some case studies of the diagrams found during the previous years. The selected diagrams formed a group, which related to a lecture enunciated at the University of Leipzig at the end of the 15th century. This work resulted in, among others, a publication about cognitive perception (Verboon, forthcoming 2016).

My research on philosophical psychology in texts and images has brought me fully into the philosophy of the spirit under several inflections: the theory of knowledge, cognitive psychology, the union between soul and body, emotions etc. My current interests reach out to the concept of the brain, in terms of a physical organ that functions as an executive platform for exceptional immaterial operations.


(in preparation of publication). Étudier l’âme aux facultés des arts à la fin du Moyen Âge. L’épitomé Parvulus philosophiae naturalis de Pierre de Dresde, avec texte édité et les diagrammes des étudiants (preliminary title, publisher in negotiation)

(unpublished, finally searching for a publisher). Lines of thought: diagrammatic representation and the scientific texts of the Arts faculty, 1200-1500.
Open Access download at

2016 (forthcoming). La perception sensorielle et la physiologie du savoir. Manuel du fin XVe siècle MS Würzburg, UB, M ch f. 118, Archives des Sciences Sociales des Religions, Des images pour faire croire, nr. 173. Octobre.

2014b. Brain ventricle images: a century after Walther Sudhoff. New manuscript sources from the XVth century, Sudhoffs Archiv. Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 98: 2, 212-233.

2014a. The Medieval Tree of Porphyry: An Organic Structure of Logic, in: A. Worm and P. Salonis (eds.), The Tree. Symbol, Allegory and Structural Device in Medieval Art and Thought, International Medieval Research, 20. Turnhout (Brepols) pp. 83-101.

2008. Einen alten Baum verpflanzt man nicht. Die Metapher des Porphyrianischen Baums im Mittelalter, in: I. Reichle, S. Siegel, A. Spelten, eds., Visuelle Modelle, München (Wilhelm Fink) pp. 251-268.


2. Anselm Oelze 

Doctoral project “Theories of Animal Rationality in the Later Middle Ages”, supervisors: Prof Dr Dominik Perler (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) and Prof Dr Bernd Roling (Freie Universität Berlin)

M.St. in Philosophical Theology, University of Oxford

B.A. in Philosophy (major) and Political Science (minor), Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg i. Br.


20 November, 2015, “Do Animals Grasp Universals? Some Medieval Views on Universal Cognition in Nonhuman Animals”, talk at the Finnish Workshop in Medieval Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä

14 July, 2015, “Material Souls, Material Thoughts? Some Medieval Views on Rational Operations in Non-Rational Animals”, talk at the conference “Immateriality, Thinking, and the Self in the Long Middle Ages”, University of Cambridge

21 May, 2015, “Reasoning without Reason? Roger Bacon on the Cogitative Power and Animal Thinking”, talk at the Berlin-Toronto-Groning Workshop “Mind, Matter and Metaphysics”, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

18 April, 2015, “Colours and Philosophers. Roger Bacon on the Psychology of Seeing and the Judgments of Sense”, talk at the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference “Colours: Aspects and Approaches”, University of Oxford

29 January, 2014, “Hobbes’ Nominalism Revisited”, talk at the Dutch Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy, University of Groningen

13 April, 2012, “Paradisiac Vegetarianism. Some Thoughts on the Consumption of Meat as Consequence of the Fall in Honorius Augustodunensis’ Elucidarium”, talk at the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference “Meat: Aspects and Approaches”, University of Oxford


(2015) (with Martin Klein), “Thinking in the Middle Ages”, Bulletin de Philosophie Médiévale 56, 418–28.

(forthcoming), “Geschichte der Tieretik: Mittelalter”, Handbuch Tierethik, eds. J. S. Ach and D. Borchers (Stuttgart: Metzler).


3. Christian Kny

I studied at the universities of Augsburg (B.A. in history, philosophy, and English literature; with a semester in Swansea, Wales), Bonn (M.A. in philosophy), and Würzburg (PhD in philosophy). My doctoral thesis on the epistemology of Nicholas of Cusa was supervised by Prof. Jörn Müller (Würzburg) and Prof. Isabelle Mandrella (Munich). I defended it in Mai 2017 and am now finishing the preparations for its publication.

My research interests are, generally speaking, theories of (human) cognition. In my doctoral thesis, I give a systematic account of Nicholas of Cusa’s notion of human cognition. On the one hand, I examine its shape and coherence. On the other hand, I compare some of its features to what other authors (Aristotle, Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, Dietrich of Freiberg, John McDowell) contribute to a few selected topics.

Working on my thesis, sense perception and especially the current scholarly debates on active perception found their way into the centre of my attention – Nicholas’ notion of sense perception falls into the ‘active’ category, but little research has been done on the topic. Contributing to “Rationality in Perception” allows me to pursue my rising interest in active cognition in two regards: First, I can give a more thorough account of Nicholas’s notion of sense perception, expanding on what I can only briefly discuss in my doctoral thesis. Second, as a part of this account, I can branch out historically. Comparing Nicholas’s view with how other authors conceive sense perception at the same time helps placing him in the “bigger picture” and enriches this picture with Nicholas.



Kreative, asymptotische Assimilation. Menschliche Erkenntnis bei Nicolaus Cusanus. Aschendorff 2019.


(In preparation), “In Touch with the World? Nicholas of Cusa’s Idiota de mente and John McDowell’s Mind and World“.

(Forthcoming), “Der menschliche Geist zwischen Kreativität und Assimilation”, in Idiota de mente, ed. I. Mandrella.

(2016), “Scientia laudis: Überlegungen zum Weltverhältnis des Menschen”, in Cusanus 2014. Können – Spielen – Loben, eds. T. Borsche and H. Schwaetzer, Münster, 487-503.

(2015), “Einzelnes erkennt Einzelnes: Die Leistungsfähigkeit menschlicher Erkenntnis unter dem Gesichtspunkt der singularitas“, in Singularität und Universalität im Denken des Cusanus. Beiträge der 5. Jungcusanertagung 11.-13. Oktober 2012, ed. C. Ströbele, Regensburg, 37-52.


4. Carla Di Martino

My research in philosophy is almost entirely devoted to the study of the Greek, Arabic and Latin reception of Aristotle’s psychological works and the doctrine of spiritual knowledge in Augustine. More precisely, I have been working extensively on the idea of a “sensible and yet discursive capacity” (fittingly named “Ratio Particularis” by Thomas Aquinas) as it is developed in Arabic psychological science and its first reception in the Latin West.


Selected Publications


Ratio Particularis: Doctrines des Sens Internes d’Avicenne à Thomas d’Aquin. Paris: Vrin, 2008.



“Il ruolo della intentio nell’evoluzione della psicologia di Agostino: dal De Libero Arbitrio al De Trinitate, Revue des études augustiniennes, 46/2 (2000), p.173-198.

“Alle radici della percezione. Senso Comune e Sensazione Comune in Aristotele, De Anima III.1-2”, AHDLMA 68 (2001), p. 7-26.

“La perception spirituelle. Perspectives de recherche pour l’histoire des Parva Naturalia dans la tradition arabo-latine”, Veritas (3/2008), p.21-35.


Former Researchers: 

  1. Postdoc Vili Lähteenmäki (PhD Jyväskylä 2009)
  2. Postdoc Paolo Rubini (PhD Berlin 2013)I studied philosophy and history at the University of Bologna, where I obtained my master degree (laurea) in philosophy in 1994. Later on, I specialised in Latin palaeography at the State Archive of Bologna (1997). In 1998 I moved to Germany; I was first in Marburg and then in Bochum, where I studied medieval philosophy with Burckhard Mojsisch.From 2006 to 2010 I was member of the research project Transformation of the soul. Philosophical psychology between 1500 und 1750, headed by Dominik Perler at the Humboldt University of Berlin. I was involved in several activities promoted within the project; among others, I contributed a section about Nicolas Malebranche to an anthology on theories of ideas in early modern philosophy. Furthermore, I wrote my PhD thesis on Pietro Pomponazzi, a controversial Aristotelian philosopher in Renaissance Italy. My study focussed on his naturalised philosophy of mind and in particular on his theory of cognition, which I tried to outline against the backdrop of late medieval Aristotelianism. My first supervisor was Dominik Perler.In 2010 and 2011 I collaborated in a further project based at the Humboldt University of Berlin: the edition of Ernst Cassirer’s unpublished manuscripts. Inter alia, I edited a volume of lectures on early modern philosophy held by Cassirer between 1933 and 1937. The volume (ECN 14) is going to be published in 2017.From 2012 I am a staff member of the Leibniz edition at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities ( My work area concerns Leibniz’s manuscripts about natural philosophy, mechanics and life sciences. In particular, I have been contributing to the edition of the volumes VIII/2 (ca 1670-1676) and VIII/3 (mechanics and acoustics, after 1677). The vol. VIII/2 is going to be published in 2016.In 2013 I defended my PhD thesis and received my doctorate degree at the Humboldt University Berlin. Since then I have been collaborating with Dominik Perler’s research group at the Department of Philosophy of the Humboldt University. My PhD thesis was published in 2015.Psychology and philosophy of nature in the late middle ages and early modern time are still what I am mostly interested in. Now I am trying to explore further 16th century Aristotelians besides Pomponazzi, in the first place Jacopo Zabarella. My special focus is on the influence of the post-Hellenistic Peripatetic commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias on both of them. Furthermore, I aim at exploring possible connections between late Aristotelianism and Leibniz’s natural philosophy, for instance with regard to Leibniz’s views on motion and matter.Publications


    2015    Pietro Pomponazzis Erkenntnistheorie. Naturalisierung des menschlichen Geistes im Spätaristotelismus, Leiden: Brill (Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, 116) (



    (2016) G. W. Leibniz: Sämtliche Schriften und Briefe, Bd. VIII/2, hrsg. von der Berliner Arbeitsstelle der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (H. Hecht, E. Knobloch, P. Rubini, H. Siebert, S. Stork), Berlin: De Gruyter


    (2017) E. Cassirer: Nachgelassene Manuskripte und Texte, Bd. 14: Zu Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, hrsg. von P. Rubini unter Mitarbeit von G. Freudenthal, D. Kaegi, J. M. Krois, & A. G. Ranea, Hamburg: Meiner

    2015    E. Cassirer: Nachgelassene Manuskripte und Texte, Bd. 12: Schillers philosophische Weltanschauung. 1920.1921, hrsg. von J. Fingerhut unter Mitarbeit von P. Rubini, Hamburg: Meiner


    forthcoming     “The Function of the Intellect: Intentionality and Representationalism”, in: Schmid (ed.), Philosophy of Mind in the Late Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, London: Routledge (History of the Philosophy of Mind, ed. R. Copenhaver & C. Shields, vol. 3)

    in preparation  “Jacopo Zabarella”, in: Corcilius & M. Lenz (Hrsg.), Transformationen der aristotelischen Kognitionstheorie in der Frühneuzeit, Berlin: De Gruyter

    2013    “Pomponazzi e l’anima degli animali”, in: Muratori (ed.), The Animal Soul and the Human Mind. Renaissance Debates, Pisa & Rom: Serra (Bruniana & Campanelliana. Supplementa 36, Studi 15), 75-95

    2010    “Nicolas Malebranche”, in: Perler & J. Haag (Hrsg.), Ideen. Repräsentationalismus in der Frühen Neuzeit, 2 Bde, Berlin & New York: De Gruyter, vol. 1: Texte, 197-230

    2010    “Nicolas Malebranche”, in: Perler & J. Haag (Hrsg.), Ideen. Repräsentationalismus in der Frühen Neuzeit, 2 Bde, Berlin & New York: De Gruyter, vol. 2: Kommentare, 161-207

    2010    “Erklärung der Wunder im Spätaristotelismus: Pietro Pomponazzis De incantationibus”, in: Alexandrescu & R. Theis (eds.), Nature et surnaturel. Philosophies de la nature et métaphysique aux XVIe-XVIIIe siècles, Hildesheim, Zürich & New York: Olms, 23-35

    2009    “Nicolas Malebranche”, in: Jordan & B. Mojsisch (eds.), Philosophenlexikon, Stuttgart: Reclam, 342-344

    2009    “Pietro Pomponazzi”, in: Jordan & B. Mojsisch (eds.), Philosophenlexikon, Stuttgart: Reclam, 437-439


    2008    “Pietro Pomponazzi. Convegno internazionale di studi, Mantua, 23.-24. Oktober 2008”, in: Bochumer Philosophisches Jahrbuch für Antike und Mittelalter 13, 241-249

    2006    C. Vasoli & P. C. Pissavino (eds.), Le filosofie del Rinascimento, Milano: Bruno Mondadori, 2002, in: Bochumer Philosophisches Jahrbuch für Antike und Mittelalter 11, 271-283

    2005    P. Pomponazzi, Expositio super primo et secundo De partibus animalium, a cura di S. Perfetti, Firenze: Olschki, 2004, in: Bochumer Philosophisches Jahrbuch für Antike und Mittelalter 10, 263-272

    2004    R. Chiaradonna, Sostanza movimento analogia. Plotino critico di Aristotele, Napoli: Bibliopolis, 2002, in: Bochumer Philosophisches Jahrbuch für Antike und Mittelalter 9, 209-219