The late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries were a turning point in the thought of the west. This was the age of Averroes, Maimonides and Aquinas, each of whom struggled to reconcile their respective faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity with ancient Greek pagan philosophy. This was also the age when each faith discovered that the others were engaged in the very same process. Much intellectual borrowing took place, especially from Arab thought to Judaism and Christianity.
There was scarcely an intellectual figure in this period of any consequence, or a subject of any importance which was unknown to Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and in which he did not play a leading role. It was not without reason he was called during his lifetime stupor mundi (wonder of the world).
Is the world eternal or created? Can something be created from nothing? Does God's existence have a purpose? Are all descriptions of God simply qualities which humans admire? Does God necessarily act from reason? Can God's omnipotence and human free will be reconciled? Can there be a proper name for God? Does God exist in a place, or everywhere and nowhere? Do heaven and hell exist in a place? Can we learn ethics from reason alone? These are among the questions which this dialogue of Frederick II addresses.