Students, staff and members of the public are welcome to attend the lectures (usually delivered in English) and will have an opportunity to participate in the questions and general discussions that follow.

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19 March, 17.30-18.45, Courtroom, Faculty of Theology

What is the Arabic for zoon politikon? Ethics and politics in Ibn Ṭufayl (d. 581/1185)

Corrado La Martire (Thomas-Institut, University of Cologne)

“What is essential in a human being?” This timeless philosophical enigma is at the heart of the thought of Abū Bakr Muḥammad ibn Ṭufayl al-Qaysī, known in Christian Europe as Abubacer. To ask “what is essential in a human?” or “what is a human essentially?” is to ask what a human really is, what predicates are applied to humans, and what role a person has in society.

Prevailing academic views of Ibn Ṭufayl’s Ḥayy b. Yaqẓān (Philosophus autodidactus) can be divided into two types: either the work is a realistic look at isolated human being amidst a morally bankrupt population, harking back to the teachings of Plato’s Republic, or it portrays a pure and abstract ideal of the spiritual life in the footsteps of the natural first man, and insists on the moral imperative of isolation.

The difficulty with both of these interpretations is that they preclude any possibility of happiness for a the human person living in a society, because they assume that every society is corrupt and imperfect. In other words, they tend to interpret Ḥayy b. Yaqẓān as an attempt to demonstrate that the human person is not essentially social. However, the intellectual and spiritual perfection sought through isolation cannot be separated from a practical purpose. The isolation of the human being is not undergone in order to distinguish him or herself from imperfect human societies. On the contrary, such isolation is undertaken in order to conduct to a higher accomplishment that is properly both practical and political.

On this basis, this paper argues that Ibn Ṭufayl’s human is comparable to the Aristotelian zoon politikon. Through a comparison of Ibn Ṭufayl’s Ḥayy, and Aristotle’s social animal we shall see how Ibn Ṭufayl reuses the concepts and the vocabulary of al-Fārābī and transposes them from the plan of the city to that of the individual. By comparing the relevant terminology, it becomes possible to illustrate how the concept of zoon politikon has entered into Arabic philosophy, and particularly in Ibn Ṭufayl’s conception of the human through the lenses of al-Fārābī’s virtuous man and Ibn Bājjah’s solitary.

Dr Corrado La Martire is head editor for the Averroes Project at the Thomas-Institut, University of Cologne. He was a lecturer at the Humboldt University in Berlin between 2015 and 2017. The topics of his research are intellectual controversies in the medieval Islam and charity, endowments and charitable institutions.

12 February, 17:00-18:00, Courtroom, Faculty of Theology

The Sound of the Word: The Bible in Medieval Chant

Harald Buchinger (University of Regensburg)

In the Middle Ages, liturgy was the most important site of for the reception of Scripture. The Bible was not only read in church; it was also the major source of chant texts, thus shaping culture and spirituality of the congregants. This is particularly true for the Roman Rite and therefore for much of the Medieval West. The lecture investigates the liturgical mechanisms and reflects the hermeneutical principles that lie behind the use of Scripture in the Gregorian core repertoire, and it sheds light onto the distinctive theology and characteristic spirituality of the Roman Rite.

Professor Buchinger is Chair of Liturgical Studies (Liturgiewissenschaft) at the University of Regensburg. He specializes in liturgy in Late Antiquity, chant, the liturgical reception of the Bible, processions, the relationship between Jewish and Christian liturgy, and the liturgical year (especially Pesach and Pascha). His numerous writings include a two-volume prize-winning monograph Pascha bei Origenes, and the entry for “Psalm (liturgisch)” in the Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum. He is also Principal Investigator of the DFG Centre for Advanced Studies 2770 “Beyond the Canon: Heterotopies of Religious Authority in Late-Antique Christianity.”