Dustin Klinger

Dustin Klinger

Andrew W Mellon Fellow
The Humanists and the Arabs: Arabic Philosophical Manuscripts in the Scholarly Circles of Florence, Venice, and Rome, 1450-1650
Dustin Klinger


Dustin Klinger is a research fellow at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. He works on pre-modern Arabic philosophy, with special interests in the cross-cultural transmission of ideas, the history of logic, and philosophy of language. His first monograph is about the development of an Arabic tradition of philosophy of language between the 12th and the 15th centuries in the Islamic East. Dustin Klinger’s work on Arabic philosophy has appeared in Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Logic, and Nazariyat, as well as in collected volumes. Currently he is coauthoring, with Peter Adamson and Fedor Benevich, a volume on language, logic, and epistemology in 12th-13th century Arabic philosophy. He studied in Oxford, Paris and Pisa, and received his PhD from Harvard in 2021.

Project Summary

Dustin Klinger’s project studies the material and intellectual histories connected to the circulation of Arabic manuscripts on post-classical Islamic philosophy in humanist scholarly circles between 1450 and 1650. In 1486 Pico della Mirandola wrote to Ficino that the study of Arabic philosophers in Latin translation was mere repetition of medieval knowledge, and that it was time to study the original Arabic texts – which Pico avidly did. When Pico died in Florence at only thirty-one on the 17th of November in 1494, he left one of the largest private libraries of the century, containing no less than 200 volumes in Arabic and Hebrew. We tend to see the humanists’ interest in Arabic philosophical manuscripts as largely limited to texts that supported their reconstruction of Greek philosophy. However, as a groundbreaking new study reconstructing the Arabo-Hebrew library of Pico shows (Murano, 2022), it contained a number of Arabic philosophical works that had nothing to do with Greek philosophy. If Pico was not an exception, it is very hard to imagine that Renaissance scholars had no access to post-Averroist Arabic philosophy. Previous scholarship on the influence of post-classical Arabic philosophy in Renaissance Italy has relied on printed editions of Arabic philosophers in Latin translation. But Arabic philosophical writing in this period was essentially tied to manuscript culture. One of the reasons was that a great part of philosophical ideas was developed in the marginal notes of manuscripts. For Renaissance scholars, to engage with post-classical Arabic philosophy meant to read and annotate Arabic manuscripts. There are such annotations for example in Ferdinand Postel’s (1510-1581) copy of an astronomical treatise. That many Renaissance scholars were in fact able to read Arabic is supported by recent research showing that Arabic language study was far more widespread in Renaissance Italy than hitherto assumed. As an I Tatti fellow, Dustin Klinger will study the collections of Arabic philosophical manuscripts in the archives of Florence, Venice and Rome, to tell the story of Arabic philosophy in Renaissance Italy through the material culture of manuscripts.