Course Program

Against the background of the doctrine of substance formulated by Aristotle and of the main problems that scholarship detects therein, the course examines the most significant treatments of this topic in the classical or formative age of Arabic-Islamic philosophy (falsafa). After its initial confinement in logic (al-Kindī, d. after 870 dC), the reflection on substance plays a pivotal role in al-Fārābī (d. 950-1 dC), in whose works substance emerges as a key-concept not only of logic, but also of natural philosophy and metaphysics. The full development of the issue is found Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā, m. 1037 dC), who devotes to substance lengthy and articulated discussions in the single sections of his summae of philosophy (logic, natural philosophy, metaphysics), and clarifies its systemic role: for Avicenna, the account of substance given by metaphysics resumes, complements, and gounds its examination by particular disciplines like logic and natural philosophy, thus providing unity and coherence to the entire setting. Avicenna’s intent of granting consistency to the various aspects of Aristotle’s doctrine of substance undergoes the criticism of Averroes (Ibn Rušd, d. 1198 dC): in the commentaries on Physics and Metaphysics, the Commentator disagrees with Avicenna on many tenets of the doctrine of substance that this latter propounds as development and revision of Aristotle’s position.

The course has a seminar format and includes a series of lectures by the instructor, followed by student reports on specific subjects.

Bibliographic references

C. Cerami, Génération et substance. Aristote et Averroès entre physique et métaphysique, De Gruyter, Boston-Berlin 2015.

G. Galluzzo, The Medieval Reception of Book Zeta of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.

Vol. 1: Aristotle’s Ontology and the Middle Ages: The Tradition of Met., Book Zeta, Brill, Leiden-Boston 2013.

Substance and Attribute: Western and Islamic Tradition in Dialogue, ed. C. Kanzian, M. Legenhausen, Ontos Verlag, Frankfurt 2007.




The course is aimed at undergraduates, but is also open to graduate students. Attendance of one of the two levels of the seminar " Introduction to the Arabic language " (v. Didatitca Integrativa) or , for those who have sufficient knowledge of the Arabic language , of the seminar "Introduction to Persian language " (v. Didattica Integrativa) or of the graduate seminar "A remarkable case of negative theology among Arabic philosophers: God is not a substance", is among the academic obligations.
Students unable to attend the Arabic seminars, the Persian seminar, or the graduate seminar will be able to fulfill the corresponding obligation by taking a final oral examination , on authors , books or topics of the history of Islamic philosophy relevant to the course ( to be discussed with the teacher ).
The knowledge of Arabic or Persian is not required. The texts discussed in class will be presented in translation ( Italian , English or French).