28 Mar 2023 - 30 Mar 2023 All day Various locations



  • Suf Amichay (University of Cambridge)


  • Suf Amichay (Cambridge University)
  • Necmeddin Beşikci (Cambridge University)
  • Charles Burnett (Warburg Institute)
  • Charles Manekin (University of Maryland)
  • John Marenbon (Cambridge University)
  • Yoav Meyrav (Hamburg University)
  • Pree Jareonsettasin (King’s College London)
  • Ineke van’t Spijker (Cambridge University)
  • Silvia Di Vincenzo (Scuola IMT Alti Studi Lucca)
  • Tony Street (Cambridge University)
  • Riccardo Strobino (Tufts University)
  • Mohammad Saleh Zarepour (University of Manchester)


In the middle ages, science relied on logic rather than on mathematics. Medieval thinkers inherited a scientific method that had strict criteria for achieving certitude. In that system, invented by Aristotle, true knowledge can only be built on eternal, universal premises. The system, created by pagan philosophers in antiquity, relied on the theory of the eternity of the world: that the universe as we know it existed always without a beginning in time. Despite some notable exceptions, few medieval thinkers could commit to the idea that the world was eternal; this stood in contradiction with the articles of faith of all three Abrahamic religions, which teach that the world was created by God and that nothing but God is eternal. The medieval problems of time in logic, and the relation of time to truth, are representative of a larger clash between science and religion, and indeed are some of the most immediate consequences of this collision. Some examples of interesting discussions on this theme: philosophers such as Anselm of Canterbury believed that truth must itself be eternal, which prompted the problem of having an entity co-eternal with God. In the 13th century, Robert Kilwardby, the archbishop of Oxford, forbade the use of proper names (referring to humans, who are of temporal existence) in logic: since true proposition must be eternally true, true propositions about proper names perpetuate the existence of the person referred to. Islamicate philosophers following Avicenna developed complex theories of modal logic to avoid identifying the necessary with the eternal.

The topic of the conference is intentionally open to different methodological interpretations. Among the invited speakers there are scholars dealing with theology, natural philosophy, logic and social history. Our conference also aims to bring together scholars of Hebrew, Arabic and Latin medieval philosophy.

Supported by:

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Day 1, 28 March, Junior Parlour, Trinity College

14:30 - 15:00

Welcome session and gathering

15:00 - 15:50

Charles Burnett (Warburg Institute)
‘Searching for the truth in Hebrew, Arabic and Latin texts’

16:00 - 16:50

 Silvia Di Vincenzo (Scuola IMT Alti Studi Lucca)
‘Possibly never true: some aspects of post-Avicennian classifications of universals’

17:00 - 17:50

 Yoav Merav (Hamburg University)
‘A Hebrew scribe’s note about infinite power and eternal motion’

18:00 - 19:00


Day 2, 29 March, The Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity

10:00 - 10:50

Charles Manekin (University of Maryland)
‘Timeless truth and existence in Gersonides’

11:00 - 11:50

Mohammad Saleh Zarepour (University of Manchester)
‘Avicenna on future contingency’

12:00 - 12:50

Necmeddin Beşikci (University of Cambridge)

13:00 - 14:30


14:30 - 15:20

Suf Amichay (University of Cambridge)
‘The principle of plenitude: Somce Medieval applications and limitations’

15:40 - 16:30

Pree Jareonsettasin (King’s College London)
‘How not to read Boethius: Bradwardine and Marenbon on misreadings of Boethius’ distinction between simple and conditional necessity’

Day 3, 30 March, The Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity

10:00 - 10:50

Riccardo Strobino (Tufts University)
‘Conditionals and indirect proof in Avicenna’s theory of demonstration’

11:00 - 11:50

John Marenbon (University of Cambridge)
‘Truth without facts: a default position for medieval philosophers?’

12:00 - 12:50

Ineke van’t Spijker (University of Cambridge)
‘The rhetoric of truth and time in Hugh of Saint-Victor’

13:00 - 14:30


14:30 - 15:20

Tony Street (University of Cambridge)
‘Taftāzānī on Avicenna on the subject term’

15:30 - 16:00

Final Remarks

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk