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A lost Greek metaphysics and its reconstruction from Arabic: the Treatise on the Goals of the Sage of al-Fārābī and its late-antique model


Friday, 31 January 2020 to Monday, 6 April 2020
Total hours: 40
Hours of lectures: 20
Hours of supplementary teaching: 20

Examination procedure

  • oral exam


Familiarity with Greek. Knowledge of Arabic is not required. Students of every year can attend.


The course aims at reconstructing the introduction to Aristotle’s Metaphysics written in late antique Greek philosophy in the framework of Ammonius Son of Hermeias’s school in Alexandria (V-VI cent.), which is lost in the original Greek version and is known to us thanks to al-Fārābī’s (d. 951) adaptation. The text at issue and its Greek source provide a precious specimen of interpretation of the Metaphysics based on the exegesis of Alexander of Aphrodisias and Themistius, and mark a turning-point of the Arabic-Islamic speculation on metaphysics, with important repercussions on the thought of Avicenna.

Educational Goals

In its two components, the course aims at familiarizing students with the two main trends of metaphysics in Greek ancient philosophy (Plato and Aristotle), with specific attention to two key-texts of this discipline (Plato’s Parmenides and Aristotle’s Metaphysics), analyzed on the basis of their exegesis in late antiquity and of the subsequent transmission of the reflection regarding the second of them in the Arabic-Islamic cultural environment.

Bibliographical references

A. Bertolacci, The Reception of Aristotle’s Metaphysics in Avicenna’s Kitāb al-Šifāʾ: A Milestone of Western Metaphysical Thought, Brill (“Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science”, vol. 63), Leiden-Boston 2006, pp. 66-72.

Classical Arabic Philosophy: An Anthology of Sources, transl. with intro. and notes by Jon McGinnis & David C. Reisman, Hackett, Indianapolis-Cambridge 2007, pp. 78-81.