CMES: H.A.R. Gibb Lecture: Avicenna and Avicennism


Tuesday, November 3, 2015, 4:00pm to 6:00pm


CGIS South Rm S030, 1730 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA

CMES is pleased to present the 2015 H.A.R. Gibb Arabic & Islamic Studies Lecture Series with

Robert Wisnovsky
Professor and James McGill Professor of Islamic Philosophy, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

Robert  Wisnovsky received his BA (1986) in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from Yale University, and his MA (1990) and PhD (1994) in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton, where his supervisor was Prof. Hossein Modarressi. Wisnovsky then took up a Postdoctoral Research Assistantship (1994-1996) in Prof. Richard Sorabji’s Ancient Commentators on Aristotle project, in the Philosophy Department of King’s College London. His first teaching job was in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department at Harvard, where he was Assistant Professor (1996-2002) and then Associate Professor (2002-2004) of Islamic Intellectual History. In 2004 Prof. Wisnovsky came to the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill, where he is currently James McGill Professor of Islamic Philosophy, having served as Director of the Institute from 2005-2008.

Prof. Wisnovsky is a specialist in the history of Islamic thought, with an emphasis on the philosophy of Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā, d. 1037). His research initially focused on the origins and development of Avicenna’s thought, and his publications in this area include Aspects of Avicenna (ed., 2001) and Avicenna’s Metaphysics in Context (2003; Turkish and Persian translations, 2010). Over the past ten years, he has concentrated on investigating the complex processes by which Avicenna’s philosophical theories were appropriated by post-Avicennian Muslim mutakallimūn in order to solve long-standing theological problems, and then naturalized in the curricula of the institutions where they taught, all the way up to the end of the 19th century. He has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on this topic, and in 2008 he received a $1.5 million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to create a database of post-classical Islamic philosophy, a project that is ongoing.

Other research activities include the discovery and investigation of two dozen philosophical treatises, thought to have been lost, by the Arabic Christian philosopher Yaḥyā ibn ʿAdī (d. 974). Wisnovsky has published editions, translations and studies of a number of these “lost” treatises, as well as a facsimile edition of the codex that contains them: A Safavid Anthology of Classical Arabic Philosophy. Facsimile Edition of MS Madrasah-i Marvī 19 (ed., 2015). Wisnovsky also served as the Principal Investigator of the McGill research group “Transmission, traduction et transformation dans les cultures médiévales”, supported by the Fonds Québecois de la Recherche sur la Société et Culture and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. His publications in this area include Vehicles of Transmission, Translation and Transformation in Medieval Textual Culture (co-ed., 2011) and Agents of Transmission, Translation and Transformation in Medieval Textual Culture (co-ed., 2016).

A link to Professor Wisnovsky's second lecture (Nov. 5) in this series can be found here.

Contact: Liz Flanagan