12.00 Tommaso Alpina (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa): Intellection, Active Intellect and Intellectual Memory in Avicenna
This paper aims at providing a model of interpretation of the Avicennian doctrine of human intellection. The main problem about human intellection concerns the way in which Avicenna explains it in two famous chapters of his De anima, namely chapter II. 2, where a general account of his theory of abstraction is provided (taºrÍd), and chapter V. 5 where, in the case of the first acquisition of an intelligible form, the abstractive paradigm is combined with an emanatist view, in which the intervention of the Active Intellect (al-‘aql al-fa‘‘Ál) seems to play a decisive role. The claim I defend in this paper is that both abstraction and emanation, taken separately, are necessary but not sufficient conditions to explain how the human intellect acquires the intelligible forms. The examination of the particulars stored in the imagination by the human intellect triggers off the process of abstraction of the immaterial core from the particulars, then the light of the Active Intellect intervenes to guarantee the correctness of the process of abstraction and the universality of the forms abstracted. This role of guarantor which the Active Intellect plays at the epistemological level, is related to its role of collector of intelligible forms at the ontological level, since in chapter V. 6 Avicenna denies the possibility of intellectual memory. The human intellect has only a ‘procedural’ role: intellect, in other words, does not produce the contents of knowledge by itself, but combines or separates intelligible forms that are stored in the Active Intellect to which the human intellect itself ascends only when it is actually thinking them, so becoming ‘acquired intellect’ (‘aql mustafÁd).
12.40 Alisa Kunitz-Dick (University of Cambridge): ‘Omne namque quod est, aut est per aliquid aut per nihil’: Anselm’s Third Argument for God’s Existence in the Monologion, its Metaphysical Foundations, and its Immediate Historical Influence
This paper examines Anselm's third argument for the existence of God, located mainly in chapter three of the Monologion. I argue that, although the soundness of the demonstration as a whole is questionable, the first division begins skilfully in an ontologically neutral manner, and, using a sophisticated argument concerning the definition of 'nothing', justifies and sets up Anselm's own theory of causation (per aliquid). When this argument is considered historically, it does not appear to have been derived from any earlier sources or to have had any great influence, except that Richard of St Victor employed a poorly constructed variation of it.
13.20 Lunch Break
14.20 Sarah Hogarth (University of Western Ontario): Thomas Bradwardine’s Account of Future Contingents
In his treatise De futuris contingentibus (On future contingents), Thomas Bradwardine presents an interestingly original account of future contingents in opposition to that of William Ockham. The problem for both thinkers, of course, is how to go about reconciling God's foreknowledge with the real contingency of future events. According to Ockham's highly influential account, this is possible because although God has knowledge in the present of future contingent events, the fact that the subject matter of that knowledge is future and contingent makes the knowledge itself future and contingent in some special sense; thus, Ockham denies that the sort of inferences we may make about the necessity inhering in present events can in any way apply to God's present knowledge of things future, or in turn to the objects of that knowledge. Bradwardine is not satisfied with this solution, which he considers to be incompatible with divine immutability, and instead proposes a solution resting on the distinction between absolute and ordered (or ordained – ordinata) power. Bradwardine argues that God's knowledge of future events is enacted by his ordered power, and that relative to this power, the events of his knowledge are indeed necessary; however, this relative necessity says nothing of the events' absolute necessity. So Bradwardine employs Boethius' distinction between conditional and absolute necessity: but what makes his account markedly original and significant is the added distinction between God's absolute and ordered power. Somewhat surprisingly, Bradwardine's De futuris contingentibus has received almost no scholarly attention. In 1979, Jean-François Genest produced an edited text of the treatise; however, apart from Genest's introduction to the text, and a subsequent volume in which Bradwardine figures as a foil for discussion of Buckingham's philosophy, I can find no published treatment of this fascinating work. Before his death, Norman Kretzmann began translating portions of Bradwardine's treatise into English (copies of this have circulated in unpublished form), but this project was never completed, and Kretzmann never wrote anything else on the topic. Calvin Normore has discussed Bradwardine's criticisms of Ockham's account as found in De causa Dei, but entirely neglects to mention the solution presented in Defuturis contingentibus. What I therefore intend to achieve in this paper is a pioneering presentation of Bradwardine's account of future contingents, highlighting his criticism of Ockham and his divergence from other previous accounts.
15.10 John Marenbon (University of Cambridge): Why Leibniz misunderstood Abelard
Leibniz is well known for having claimed that God must create the best of all possible universes and then having to struggle, perhaps unsuccessfully, to avoid determinism. Over 500 years before, Peter Abelard put forward a very similar position and also argued, possibly more successfully than Leibniz, that it was compatible with there being contingency in the universe. Leibniz knew Abelard's argument and discusses it in his Theodicy. Yet he does not see Abelard as a precursor, but dismisses him as someone who is merely playing with words. My talk will discuss this strange misunderstanding. I shall explain what Abelard did in fact argue, and then show how Leibniz was led by the late medieval reception of Abelard's argument into misunderstanding his position.
16.00 Meeting ends – Tea will be available in the Warburg Institute common room