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Aristotle Transformed: The Ancient Commentators and Their Influence (Ancient Commentators on Aristot
Name: Aristotle Transformed: The Ancient Commentators and Their Influence (Ancient Commentators on Aristot
Author: richard sorabji
Pages: 544
Year: 1990
Language: English
File Size: 13.35 MB
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Preface The story of the ancient commentators on Aristotle has not previously been told at book length. Here it is assembled for the first time by drawing both on some of the classic articles translated into English or revised and on the very latest research. Some of the chapters will be making revisionary suggestions unfamiliar even to specialists in the field. The philosophical interest of the commentators has been illustrated elsewhere.1 The aim here is not so much to do this again as to set out the background of the commentary tradition against which further philosophical discussion and discussions of other kinds can take place. The importance of the commentators lies partly in their representing the thought and classroom teaching of the Aristotelian and Neoplatonist schools, partly in the panorama they provide of the 1100 years of Ancient Greek philosophy, preserving as they do many original quotations from lost philosophical works. Still more significant is their profound influence, uncovered in some of the chapters below, on subsequent philosophy, Islamic and European. This was due partly to their preserving anti Aristotelian material which helped to inspire medieval and Renaissance science, but still more to their presenting an Aristotle transformed in ways which happened to make him acceptable to the Christian Church. It is not just Aristotle, but this Aristotle transformed and embedded in the philosophy of the commentators, that lies behind the views of later thinkers. Many of the commentaries are being translated in the series 'The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle', published by Duckworth and Cornell University Press from 1987 onwards (general editor: Richard Sorabji). The present book will also serve as an introduction to them. Chapters 1, 4, 10, 11, 19 and 20 are new; 2, 6, 8 and 12 are translated; 5, 9, 14, 15 and 18 are substantially revised. Others are revised in more minor ways; Greek and Latin passages are translated throughout. The original articles appeared as follows: Chapter 2: Karl Praechter, 'Die griechischen Aristoteleskommentare', Byzantinische Zeitschrift 18,1909, 516 38. Chapter 3: Hans B. Gottschalk, pp. 1089 112 and 1150 1 of 1 For example, Time, Creation and the Continuum and Matter, Space and Motion, and in a related volume Philoponus and the Rejection of Aristotelian Science, London and Ithaca N.Y. 1983, 1988, 1987.


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viii Preface 'Aristotelian philosophy in the Roman world from the time of Cicero to the end of the second century AD', in W. Haase (ed.), Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt II, 36.2, Berlin 1987. Chapter 5: H.J. Blumenthal, 'Themistius, the last Peripatetic commentator on Aristotle?', in Arktouros, Hellenic Studies presented to Bernard M. W. Knox on the occasion of his 65th birthday, Berlin 1979. Chapter 6: Pierre Hadot, 'L'harmonie des philosophies de Plotin et d'Aristote selon Porphyre dans le commentaire de Dexippe sur les Categories', in Plotino e il Neoplatonismo in Oriente e in Occidente, Problemi attuali di scienza e di cultura 198, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome 1974, 31 47. Chapter 7: Sten Ebbesen, Commentators and Commentaries on Aristotle's Sophistici Elenchi, 3 vols, vol. 1 = Corpus Latinum Commentariorum in Aristotelem Graecorum (CLCAG), vol. 7, part 1, Brill, Leiden 1981,133 70. Chapter 8: H.D. Saffrey, 'Comment Syrianus, le maitre de l'ecole neoplatonicienne d'Athenes, considerait il Aristote?', in Jiirgen Wiesner (ed.),Aristoteles: Werk und Wirkung, vol. 2, Berlin 1987. Chapter 9: Richard Sorabji, 'Infinite power impressed: the transform ation of Aristotle's physics and theology', in Sarah Hutton and John Henry (eds), New Perspectives in Renaissance Thought: Essays in the History of Science, Education and Philosophy in memory of Charles B. Schmitt, London 1989. Chapter 12: Ilsetraut Hadot, 'La vie et l'oeuvre de Simplicius d'apres des sources grecques et arabes', in Simplicius sa vie, son oeuvre, sa survie, Peripatoi 15, Berlin 1987, 3 39. Chapter 13: H.J. Blumenthal, 'Neoplatonic elements in the de Anima commentaries', Phronesis 21,1976, 64 87. Chapter 14: L.G. Westerink, Anonymous prolegomena to Platonic Philosophy, Amsterdam 1962, Introduction, xxxii. Chapter 15: James Shiel, 'Boethius' commentaries on Aristotle', in R. Hunt, R. Klibansky, L. Labowsky (eds), Medieval and Renaissance Studies 4,1958, 217 44. Chapter 16: Sten Ebbesen, 'Boethius as an Aristotelian scholar', in Jiirgen Wiesner (ed.),Aristoteles: Werk und Wirkung, vol. 2, Berlin 1987. Chapter 17: Robert Browning, 'An unpublished funeral oration on Anna Comnena', Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society n.s. 8, 1962, 1 12. Chapter 18: H.P.F. Mercken, The Greek Commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle in the Latin Translation of Robert Grosseteste, vol. 1 = Corpus Latinum Commentariorum in Aristotelem Graecorum{CLCAG), vol. 6, part 1, Brill, Leiden 1973, Introduction, *3 *29.


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Acknowledgments I wish to thank the following for their generous permission to print, and in some cases to translate, earlier work: Chapter 2: BSB B.G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, Leipzig. Chapter 3: the editors of Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt. Chapters 4, 8,12,16: Walter de Gruyter and Co., Berlin. Chapter 6: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome. Chapters 7 and 18: Professor G. Verbeke, director of the Corpus Latinum Commentariorum in Aristotelem Graecorum. Chapter 9: the organisers of the Charles B. Schmitt Memorial Symposium held at the Warburg Institute on 20 1 February 1987. Chapter 13: van Gorcum, Assen The Netherlands. Chapter 14: North Holland Publishing Co., Amsterdam. Chapter 15: the editors of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Chapter 17: the Cambridge Philological Society. The work on this book, like that on the translations in the series 'The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle', has been generously funded by the following sources: the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency of the USA, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the Jowett Copyright Trustees, the Royal Society (UK), Centro Internazionale A. Beltrame di Storia dello Spazio e del Tempo (Padua), Mario Mignucci (Padua) and Liverpool University. For an enormous investment of work on the typescripts, including electronic wizardry, I am indebted to John Ellis, Duran Dodson and Eric Lewis, and for the indexing to John Ellis, Duran Dodson, Lars Mortensen and Jean Pierre Schneider. For his role in the preparation of the King's College bibliography on the commentators, I am grateful to Titos Christodoulou. The three translations from French and one from German were all executed by Victor Caston. The typing kindly undertaken by Gertrud Watson and D. Woods was exceptionally difficult because of the extensive revision of some chapters. Thanks are due to them and not least to Deborah Blake at Duckworth, whose patience and editorial skill has brought this book and the related volumes of translation to light. ix


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CHAPTER ONE The ancient commentators on Aristotle Richard Sorabji Two impulses: Andronicus and Porphyry Cicero reports in the Topics (ch. 3), written in 44 BC, that Aristotle is ignored by all but a few philosophers, and indeed his own knowledge of Aristotle does not extend far beyond the early dialogue works. Yet even before the time he was writing, as Gottschalk argues in Chapter 3 below, a new explosion of interest in Aristotle was under way, which was to occupy the rest of the century. Whether in Rome or more probably in Athens, Andronicus of Rhodes had begun his work on the great edition of Aristotle which forms the basis of today's editions, and he had accompanied some of the treatises with commentaries. Altogether five different commentaries were produced on Aristotle's Categories by the end of the century, along with a Doric version of the Categories purporting to be the work of the old Pythagorean Archytas, and two compendia of the Philosophy of Aristotle. The commentaries are lost, except for fragments, notably those preserved in Simplicius' commentary on the Categories, and the next comparable boost to Aristotelian studies would not come until Porphyry in the third century AD. But the tradition of commentary on Aristotle had begun. The earliest surviving commentaries come from Aristotelians of the second century AD, culminating at the end of that century and the beginning of the next in the commentaries of the greatest expositor and elaborator of Aristotle's thought within the Aristotelian tradition, Alexander of Aphrodisias (appointed to his Aristotelian Chair between 198 and 209). Outside the Aristotelian schools, the chief interest in the first two centuries AD still focused on Aristotle's Categories. The work seems to have acted as a catalyst, attracting commentaries from three schools, the Stoic, Platonist and Aristotelian. Gottschalk suggests below that it was the Aristotelians who first described the Stoic scheme as one of categories', but that the comparison forced them in return to establish a correct order for their own scheme of categories, since order was


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