Reading Nature With Aristotle

afis GuliziaThis is an optional course with credits, primarily intended for Master students (History and Philosophy of Science), but also open to PhD students, postdocs, and members of the Institute for Research in the Humanities. It is divided into seminars and lectures, and it runs from October 12 till November 2 (six classes of four hours each). The course focuses on the Aristotelian science of natural problems, which continues to be a most neglected area of Peripatetic thought despite having been the bedrock of influential debates up to the Enlightenment. It provides a fresh history of one philosophical genre, the problems, and it asks what does it mean to do philosophy within the confines of such epistemic vehicle. This is an excellent opportunity for a first encounter with Aristotle.

Lecturer: Stefano Gulizia (CUNY / IRH-ICUB Visiting Professor)

Time: 10.00 – 14.00

The courses will take place at the Faculty of Philosophy, Council Room. For further information, send an e-mail at:

Lists of topics include:

  • formation and constraints of Aristotle’s doctrinal corpus;
  • intellectual relationship between text and commentary;
  • natural history from classical antiquity to the seventeenth century;
  • knowledge about the weather and the heavens in the early modern period;
  • humanist methods of reading and note-taking;
  • scientific debates and expertise in Galileo Galilei’s Padua


1. October 12: Introduction

2. October 16: Constructing [Aristotle]

    • Aristotle, Problems, ed. P. Louis (Paris, 1991), nos. 10, 14, 22, and 29; trans. R. Mayhew (Cambridge, 2011).
    • De Leemans and M. Goyens, eds., Aristotle’s Problemata in Different Times and Tongues (Leuven, 2006), pp. 1-20; 113-144 (essays by Joan Cadden and Iolanda Ventura).


  • Robert Mayhew, ed., The Aristotelian Problemata Physica: Philosophical and Scientific Investigations (Leiden, 2015), pp. 1-78.
  • Richard Sorabji, ed., Aristotle Re-Interpreted: New Findings on Seven Hundred Years of the Ancient Commentators (London, 2016), pp. 1-79.
  • Brian Lawn, The Salernitan Questions: An Introduction to the History of Medieval and Renaissance Problem Literature (Oxford, 1963).
  • Ian MacLean, “The Market for Scholarly Books and Conceptions of Genre in Northern Europe, 1570-1630,” in Id., Learning and the Market Place (Leiden, 2009), pp. 9-24.

3. October 19 (14:00-18:00): Montage and Metamorphosis of the Bodily

  • Aristotle, Problems, ed. P. Louis (Paris, 1991), nos. 11, 12-13, and 19; trans. R. Mayhew (Cambridge, 2011).
  • Ann Blair, “The Problemata as a Natural Philosophical Genre,” in Anthony Grafton and Nancy Siraisi, eds., Natural Particulars: Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge, 1999), pp. 171-204.


  • Hellmut Flashar, Aristoteles: Problemata physica (Berlin, 1962), introduction.
  • Pierre Louis, Aristote: Problèmes (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1991), introduction.
  • Gianna Pomata, “Praxis Historialis: The Uses of Historia in Early Modern Medicine,” in Gianna Pomata and Nancy Siraisi, eds., Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 105-146.
  • Jean Céard, “L’encyclopédisme à la Renaissance,” in L’encyclopédisme: Actes du colloque de Caen, ed. Annie Becq (Paris, 1991), pp. 57-67.
  • Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (New York, 1998).

4. October 23 (14:00-18:00): The meteorological debate

  • Aristotle, Problems, ed. P. Louis (Paris, 1991), nos. 23 and 26; trans. R. Mayhew (Cambridge, 2011).
  • Seneca, Naturales Quaestiones, ed. P. Parroni (Milan, 2002), book V; trans. W. Heinemann (Cambridge, 1971).


  • Malcolm Wilson, Structure and Method in Aristotle’s Meteorologica: A More Disorderly Nature (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 19-113.
  • Gareth Williams, The Cosmic Viewpoint: A Study of Seneca’s Natural Questions (Oxford, 2012), especially pp. 171-257.
  • Rienk Vermij, “A Science of Signs. Aristotelian Meteorology in Reformation Germany,” Early Science and Medicine 15 (2010): 648-674.
  • Craig Martin, Renaissance Meteorology. Pomponazzi to Descartes (Baltimore, 2011), pp. 60-105.
  • Sean Cocco, Watching Vesuvius: A History of Science and Culture in Early Modern Italy (Chicago, 2013).

5. October 30: Looking at Problems with Galileo’s People

  • Matteo Valleriani, Galileo Engineer (Berlin, 2010), pp. 3-20; 117-154.
  • Dana Jalobeanu, “Elements of Natural History in Sidereus nuncius,” Roum. Philosophie 58 (2014): 55-77.


  • Filippo De Vivo, “How to Read Venetian Relazioni,” Renaissance and Reformation 34 (2011): 25-59.
  • Daniel Stolzenberg, “A Spanner and His Works: Books, Letters, and Scholarly Communication Networks in Early Modern Europe,” in Ann Blair and Anja-Silvia Goeing, eds., For the Sake of Learning: Essays in Honor of Anthony Grafton (Leiden, 2016), pp. 157-172.
  • J. Henninger-Voss, “How the New Science of Cannons Shook Up the Aristotelian Cosmos,” Journal of the History of Ideas 63 (2002): 371-397.
  • Richard Yeo, Notebooks, English Virtuosi, and Early Modern Science (Chicago, 2014).

6. November 2: Final discussion and Exams