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Per cognitionem visualem. The Visualization of Cognitive and Natural Processes in the Middle Ages

From: 2021-06-14 To:2021-06-15

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  • Thematic Line

    Medieval & Early Modern Philosophy
  • Research Groups

    Aristotelica Portugalensia
    Reason, Politics & Society
  • XXV Annual Colloquium of the SIEPM, Porto 14-15 and 21-22 June 2021 (Program and Abstracts now published)

    Per cognitionem visualem.
    The Visualization of Cognitive and Natural Processes in the Middle Ages

    XXV Annual Colloquium of the Société Internationale pour l'Étude de la Philosophie Médiévale

    Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto.

    14-15 and 21-22 June 2021

    Remote meeting
    To get the zoom links for the colloquium please e-mail
    siepmporto2020@gmail.com and SIEPM@kuleuven.be


    Poster and Program: PDF


    Book of Abstracts: PDF




    The purpose of this colloquium is to deepen understanding of the Medieval visual tools that represented and demonstrated philosophical and scientific knowledge and, to an extent, the accumulation of empirical data with a focus on medieval Latin, Greek, Arabic and Jewish traditions. While some sought to outline physical phenomena, others depicted cognitive processes such as deduction or inference, for instance, arbor porphyriana, astronomical diagrams, or geometrical illustrations of physical motion. In addition to this, various kinds of graphics, charts, and diagrams supported the dissemination of legal knowledge, prognostic methods, genealogical records, moral schemes, division of sciences, and medical practices.   

    Visual tools, which appear frequently in Medieval manuscripts, have often been considered as “illustrative material” intended to facilitate the comprehension and interpretation of texts. This material has been widely described as the iconographic representation of Christian theology, and of the Medieval Arts and Disciplines. However, these “visual aids” offer something more than a straightforward correspondence between a conceptual interpretation and its figurative depiction. They are in fact key to understanding methods of acquiring and shaping knowledge through visual frameworks with didactical, disputational or heuristic purposes. Transforming knowledge through visual or data cumulative devices emerged as an additional way to the understanding of natural phenomena and the different sorts of relations lurking between its elements.

    Following Hugh of Saint Victor’s work, Patrice Sicard described the study of these kinds of images as “visual exegesis”, a method of visual training derived from the Augustinian tradition (Trin. XI, 2.2), and Augustine’s explanation of how the soul develops understanding through the corporal and rational observation of natural signs. Thomas Aquinas, centuries later, concerning the difference between singular objects, general concepts, and their specular representations, introduced distinctions between three kinds of visual media that are closely aligned with intellectual vision (De ver. q. 18., a. 1, ad 1um). The first of these is the light that allows the physical vision (visio corporalis); the second is the concept generated in the mind (species rei visae); and the third is a medium permitting access to the object’s knowledge, such as an image that is seen “in a mirror” (sicut in speculum).

    Visual representations were thus deeply involved in Medieval traditions concerning the dissemination and teaching of philosophy and science. Consequently, they were not only examples of theological or philosophical interpretation, but rather brought together manifold intellectual activities, illuminating various perceptual, cognitive, and spiritual concerns.

    The colloquium will address the following issues:

    • Visual tools and the representation of philosophical or scientific knowledge;
    • “Visual exegesis” applied to the different modalities of the representations of knowledge;
    • The relations expressed through schemes and visual classifications,
    • The connection between visual perception and knowledge generated through the representation of objects;
    • The gathering of perceptual data in diagrams, graphs, schemes, tables and all sorts of graphical representations;
    • The visual representation of the elements and natural processes;
    • The different uses of diagrams and other visual representations (teaching, mnemonic, demonstration, invention, prognosis, etc.);
    • The relationship between corporal and spiritual realms expressed by visual tools;
    • Reflections on reflection: mirrors and knowledge.

    Due to the colloquium’s broad philosophical and disciplinary scope, interdisciplinary approach is particularly appropriate.



    Call for Papers
    The Colloquium welcomes proposals for 30-minute papers, to be followed by 10-15 minutes discussion, on topics relating to the colloquium’s subjects concerning this call and all areas of research covered by the SIEPM, from the 6th to the 17th centuries.
    Dead line: 1st February 2020


    Send a proposal by email to siepmporto2020@gmail.com, including in a word attached file:

    • Name;
    • Academic affiliation, email, and postal address;
    • Title of the presentation;
    • Abstract of no more than 250 words, in the language in which you want to present your paper (English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish).
    • Up to 5 relevant index terms.


    Notifications of acceptance may be expected no earlier than 1st March 2020. (sent in February).


    Cancelled: Brepols-SIEPM Stipend
    To facilitate attendance at the Annual Colloquium, Brepols-SIEPM stipends are available for researchers under the age of 35 or from low-currency countries. The stipends are 500 €, or 750 €, if the journey is transcontinental. One need not be a current SIEPM member to apply for these stipends. Applications should be submitted via the online stipend form. The deadline for all applications is 15th March 2020.

    For more information and conditions, see Brepols-SIEPM Stipends:https://hiw.kuleuven.be/siepm/brepols-siepm-stipends

    SIEPM's XXY annual Conference webpage

    Faculdade de letras da Universidade do Porto.

    Promoting project
    From Data to Wisdom. Philosophizing Data Visualizations in the Middle Ages and Early Modernity (13th-17th Century)”, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, AAC nº 02/SAICT/2017 - Nr. 029717. http://ifilosofia.up.pt/projects/data-wisdom

    José Higuera Rubio – José Meirinhos

    Lídia Queiroz (FDTW researcher) – Isabel Marques (IF-UP)
    Celeste Pedro (FDTW researcher)

    Bacon, Tractatus perspective - Opus maius (ms © London, BL, Royal, 7 F VIII, f. 54v, [4th quarter of the 13th C.]).

    Support & Funding
    Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto - FIL/00502 (LT Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy / international research network Medieval and Early Modern Science and its Dependence on Philosophy)
    Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)
    U.Porto e Banco Santander - Programa Santander Universidades


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