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Home > Archives > Previous years: Seminars > Seminars 2012–2013: archives > Models of physical transmission in the Aristotelian tradition 2012–2013

Axis History and Philosophy of Science of Nature

Models of physical transmission in the Aristotelian tradition 2012–2013

Research Project by A. Hasnaoui, V. Cordonier, (SPHERE)


The Aristotelian world is populated by bodies in motion, but also by affections, powers or "passions" that explain their structural and functional properties and the way they behave towards one another. Yet Aristotle specified neither the ontological status of these affections nor, more importantly, the way in which they were transmitted within a given body or from one body to another. It is in the work of Aristotelian commentators that such questions were formulated, questions which, from Alexander of Aphrodisias onwards, were raised with a particularly acute sense of urgency in relation to processes that seemed to derogate from the Aristotelian principle according to which physical contact was the requisite condition for one body to act upon another: this is the case of "electromagnetic" phenomena, but also of more common processes in the sub-lunar world (such as the transmission of visual qualities from an object to the eye of the beholder) or the celestial world (such as the transmission of heat from the Sun to the Earth). The attention attracted by such processes encouraged commentators to clarify those notions that Aristotle had left vague and to develop explanations that he had never provided and models of which he had never conceived.

To record the history of these developments, one must be in a position to isolate past discussions of a question which, because it is not the subject of a specific treatise and is not confined to certain passages within the works of Aristotle, cuts across various fields – from physiology to cosmology – in relation to which Aristotelian commentators borrowed from and engaged with other traditions. This means that identifying the reference corpus is crucial if we are to clarify the parameters of the problem itself. It is first of all in this vein that we propose to discuss the selected texts – and the reasons behind our choices – with a view to providing an inventory of the locations and instances in which this problem was raised, analysing what forms it took, and identifying the developments to which it led. The first two sessions will focus on the Greek commentators, but subsequent sessions will also consider the Arabic, Hebraic and Latin traditions, with the ultimate objective of publishing a balanced monograph on the history of this problem.

Archives : 2013-2014.

PROGRAM 2012-2013: sessions on Thursdays, 14:00–17:00, Room Malevitch (483A).

University Paris Diderot, building Condorcet, 10 rue Elsa Morante, 75013 Paris –Interactive map. Metro : line 14, RER C, stop: Bibliothèque Nationale. Bus : n° 62 89 325 64, stop: Avenue de France.

2012 Nov. 22
Valérie Cordonier (SPHERE)
Modèles de transmission physique dans la tradition péripatéticienne : cartographie d’un débat

2013 Feb. 28

Valérie Cordonier (SPHERE)
La transmission des propriétés visibles : Alexandre d’Aphrodise critique de Galien


April 25

:: Attraction à distance : questions autour du magnétisme au Moyen Age

Nicolas Weill-Parot (CRHEC, UPEC)

Aux limites de la contiguïté : le magnétisme dans la physique médiévale

Sabine Rommevaux (SPHERE)

Attraction à distance : questions autour du magnétisme au Moyen Age