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Aristotle: Tradition and Influence

Aristotle: Tradition and Influence

An account of the Aristotelian tradition would cover, without any interruption, the whole of the intellectual history of the Western world and, in recent times, of other areas as well. On the other hand, the influence of Aristotle’s works and doctrines on the cultural developments of civilization is, in most fields, elusive and undefinable. Especially in the province of science-if we use “science” in the stricter, modern sense-it may be found that Aristotle’s influence is very limited, or effective only in the sense that mistakes, eliciting opposition, criticism, and new solutions to old and new problems, are the starting point of scientific progress. Positive influence and starting points for positive developments are found, for the different sciences, much more frequently in the works of Euclid and Ptolemy; of Hippocrates and Galen; of Archimedes; of al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and Ibn Rushd (Averro?s); possibly of Boethius; and, back through Boethius, of Nicomachus of Gerasa.

Still, there are two aspects in this progress that bear the Aristotelian imprint and justify an extensive account of the spread of Aristotle’s works and of their study; the methodical aspect and the conceptuallinguistic aspect. These two cannot always be separated, but they must not be confused if Aristotle’s influence is to be clearly seen and properly assessed. This section will, therefore, be devoted first and foremost to such an account. We shall then consider a set of concepts and words that became essential for the elaboration of scientific problems and, indeed, for making scientific discoveries clearly expressible and understandable in the technical and, at the same time, the common language. some exemplification will be given of the methodical aspect, insofar as it can be traced back to Aristotle’s influence, and of the actual contributions derived from his works, mainly by discussion, rejection, and positive substitution of antiAristotelian views. In this connection it must be recorded that a very limited amount of the literature that developed around the works of Aristotle in later antiquity, in the Middle Ages, and even into the eighteenth century has been properly edited, much less has been critically read, and only a minimal proportion of it has been examined from the point of view that interests us here.

The transmission and spread of Aristotle’s works can best be followed by considering the different languages or groups of languages in which it took place: basic, of course, was the Greek tradition, from which all others sprang, directly or indirectly (fourth century B.C. to our times); most important and permanent in value was the Latin (fourth century A.D. to sixteenth and seventeenth centuries); very influential, especially through elaborations and translations into Latin, was the Semitic (first Syriac, then [and mainly] Arabic, finally Hebrew [fifth century A.D. to sixteenth century]; only occasionally effective in its own right and more valuable as a help in the rebirth of the study of Greek civilization was the tradition in German, Neo-Latin, English, and, more recently, many other modern languages (tenth century to our times); limited to very narrow cultural units was the Armenian and possibly the Georgian (ca. fifth century A.D. to tenth century and later).

The Transmission of Aristotle’s works in Greek. Compared with the impact of what constitutes the traditional Aristotelian corpus, typically represented by the Berlin Academy edition of 1835, the influence of the other works of Aristotle-preserved, if at all, in a number of more or less extensive fragments--can be considered negligible; we cannot pursue their tradition here. The corpus, based mainly, it seems, on lectures, preparations for lectures, accounts of lectures, and elaboration of collected material (De animalibus), must have begun to be organized in Aristotle’s own time, by Aristotle himself and his pupils (Theophrastus, Eudemus, and others). The process continued in his school, with vicissitudes, for 250 years after his death. The quasi-final organization of Aristotle’s available material seems to have been accomplished by Andronicus of Rhodes (ca. 70 B.C.). It may be assumed that from Andronicus’ edition there derived, with minor changes and developments, the transmitted texts as we know them in Greek. From Andronicus to the middle of the sixth century. the spread of the corpus or parts of it is continuously testified by the activities in the several philosophical schools, whether mainly Peripatetic in character, or eclectic, or more purely Neoplatonic. Andronicus’ pupil Boethus of Sidon ’commented on Aristotle’s works making the Physics the basis of Aristotelian philosophy; as century after, Nicholas of Damascus expounded Aristotle’s philosophy and wrote (in the mood of Aristotle’s De animalibus) a De plantis, which came to be ascribed to Aristotle; and ca. A.D. 100, Ptolemy Chennos of Alexandria wrote a work on the life and works of Aristotle. In the second half of the second century A.D., Galen, famous for his medical work, was a critical popularizer of Aristotle’s logic, physics, and metaphysics, and many other authors comented on this or that work.

The texts of Aristotle were, obviously, already popular over a wide area. When ca. A.D. 200, Alexander of Aphrodisias became professor of philosophy in Athens, as a “Second Aristotle,” he commented upon a large proportion of the corpus and left in his works abundant evidence of the variety of readings that had been infiltrating the nearly 300-year-old transmission of the basic edition. Although only minor fragments of papyri containing Aristotle’s texts from the corpus and no manuscript older than the ninth century exist, the expanding study of the works in Athens, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Pergamum justifies the statement that many manuscripts were available in many centers. The sixth century adds new evidence, since, at least in the case of some logical works, we possess not only the quotations of many Greek commentators but also theliteral translations into Latin, Syriac, and Armenian: these testify to the variety of the Greek tradition, a variety that continued and became more complicated in later centuries.

The ban on pagan schools in 529 led to a reduction, if not to a halt, in the production of Greek copies of the works of Aristotle until the revival of the late eighth and ninth centuries. Then really “critical” editions of some works, and transcriptions of many, if not all, started again. The University of Constantinople became a center of studies of some of these works; the old libraries still possessed among them at least one copy of each of the writings of Aristotle. And it is possible to surmise that in form (some of them were rich in scholia extracted from the old commentaries) they were like the manuscripts of the sixth or earlier centuries. The number of extant manuscripts of the ninth and tenth centuries is very small, and does not cover the whole corpus; but the stronger revival of the eleventh century was the beginning of the uninterrupted transcription and transmission of the more popular works. This gathered momentum, not only in Constantinople but also in the numerous centers where lay and theological schools were flourishing.

By the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries publication had expanded to such an extent that about 150 manuscripts from that period still survive. There are only a few exceptions to show that not all of Aristotle was dominating the higher philosophical studies, side by side with Plato: the Politics, unearthed perhaps in the eleventh century and turned into a fruitful career by the Latin translator William of Moerbeke, does not appear in our collections in any manuscript older than the thirteenth century. The Poetics appears in late manuscripts, except for one of the eleventh century and one of the thirteenth. But the bigger collections, especially of the logical works, are relatively numerous. A new impetus to the dissemination was given in the fifteenth century by the migration of scholars from the Greek world to Italy and by the interest in Greek studies in Florence, Venice, and other cities. In the fifteenth century the number of copies of the several parts of the corpus, including the rarest works, multiplied, and the way was prepared for the printed editions, from the Aldine of 1495-1498 to those of the seventeenth century. There was then about a century of interruption: Aristotle was “out” from most points of view. By the end of the eighteenth century the new interests of learning brought about the new wave of Greek editions of Aristotle-a process that is still in full swing.

The Transmission of Aristotle’s Works in Latin. No evidence has come to light to show that any work by Aristotle or any extensive paraphrase was available in Latin before ca. A.D. 350. Cicero’s claim that his Topica was based directly on Aristotle’s work of the same title is false. His model was the work of a rhetorician, not of a logician, and bears only vague, occasional, accidental resemblances to what Aristotle wrote. The latinization of Aristotle took place through different channels: by far the most important was the direct translation from the Greek originals; second in importance was the translation of Greek paraphrases and commentaries; third, the translation of some of Aristotle’s works from direct or indirect Arabic versions, whether alone or accompanied by Arabic commentaries; fourth, the versions of Arabic works based, in various measure, on Aristotelian texts; finally, some translations from the Hebrew renderings of Arabic versions, commentaries, and paraphrases. All this happened in the course of four identifiable stages, very different in length, between the middle of the fourth century and the end of the sixteenth: (a) the first stage probably lasted only a few years and involved a few individuals belonging to two groups working in Rome; (b) the second corresponds to a few years in the first quarter or first half of the sixth century, with Boethius as the only person concerned with this activity in Italy, and possibly some minor contributors in Constantinople; (c) the third stage covers about 150 years, from ca. 1130 to ca. 1280, when the work was carried out probably in Constantinople and certainly in Sicily, Italy, Spain, Greece, England, and France by at least a score of people of many nationalities and callings--by the end of this period the whole of the Aristotelian corpus as it has reached us in Greek, with very minor exceptions, could be read and studied in Latin; (d) the fourth stage extended from shortly after 1400 to ca. 1590. Only in the third stage did the Arabic tradition contribute directly to the Latin one; and only in the fourth did it do so through the Hebrew.

(a) The intellectual intercourse between Greek and Latin in the third and fourth centuries, of which the most striking example outside religion was the spread of the knowledge of Plotinus’ doctrines, led to the need for Latin texts of some of the works considered basic by the Greeks. It was in this Neoplatonic atmosphere (tempered by Porphyry with more Aristotelianism than Plotinus had accepted, rather than discussed and criticized) that the African Marius Victorinus, a pagan converted to Christianity, popularized the contents of Porphyry’s introduction to logic, the Isagoge; if we accept Cassiodorus’ testimony, he also translated Aristotle’s Categories and De interpretatione. He certainly included Aristotelian views in his De definitionibus, the only work by Victorinus that contains some Aristotle and that has reached us in full (only sections of his version of the Isagoge survive in one of Boethius’ commentaries). The attraction exercised by Themistius’ school in Constantinople led to another, possibly purer, wave of Aristotelianism among the pagan revivalists, so vividly depicted in Macrobius’ Saturnalia. Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, one of their leaders, rendered into Latin Themistius’ teaching on the Analytics. Agorius’ work was probably lost very soon, and there was no Latin text of Themistius’ work on the Analytics until the second half of the twelfth century. This was based on an Arabic translation of part of that work (which was not translated from the Greek before the end of the fifteenth century). But Themistius’ teaching of the Categories-a detailed exposition with additions and modernizations-found its Latin popularizer in a member of the same circle (perhaps Albinus). It is from this work, later ascribed to St. Augustine, under the title of Categoriae decem, that the Latin Aristotelianism of the Middle Ages started its career, never since interrupted.

(b) The middle and late fourth-century Aristotelianism, and much else of the cultural life of that time, was a faded, but not a lost, memory when, in the first decade of the sixth century, Boethius married a descendant of one of the prominent intellectual families, Symmachus’ daughter Rusticiana. He took up what remained of that tradition, and was encouraged by his father-in-law to renew it. Cultural relations with the Greeks were not as active around 505 as around 370, but Boethius managed to obtain some Greek books, among them a copy of the collection of Aristotle’s logical texts with an ample selection of notes from the greater masters of the past (Alexander, Themistius, and, mainly, Porphyry). So he probably managed to achieve what he had planned, to translate as much of Aristotle as he could get hold of: at least, we still preserve, in more or less original form, his translations of the Categories, De interpretatione, Prior Analytics, Topics, and Sophistici elenchi; he also claims to have produced a now lost translation of the Posterior Analytics. Since, by the fifth century, Aristotle’s logical works were prefaced by Porphyry’s Isagoge, Boethius also translated this text. He wrote that he intended to comment upon the works of Aristotle accessible to him; as it turned out, he commented on only the two shortest texts, the Categories and De interpretatione -or, better, he translated, adapted, and coordinated passages from Greek commentaries that he must have found on the margins of his Greek volume. The existence of a double recension for many section s of the Categories, Prior Analytics, and one short section of the Topics; the existence of a Latin version of a considerable collection of scholia to the Prior Analytics translated from the Greek and connected with one of the two recensions of this work; and a variety of evidence pointing to some editorial activity in Constantinople centering on Boethius’work in the first half of the sixth century suggest that Boethius’work as a translator in Italy had some continuation in the circle of Latin culture in Constantinople.

(c)The third stage is by far the most impressive, representing as it does a variety of interests, of cultural backgrounds, of centers of progressive attitude toward the renewal, on the basis of older traditions, of the intellectual life in Europe and, to a certain extent, also representing one further step in a continuity of Aristotelian studies, hardly interrupted from the first century B.C. to the thirteenth century a.D. It is here necessary to consider separately the translators from the Greek and those from the Arabic, as well as some of the centers and people connected with this transmission of Aristotle, First of all, it cannot be emphasized too strongly that Aristotle was latinized from the Greek much more than from the Arabic and, with very few exceptions, earlier from the Greek than from the Arabic. Although competent scholars have tried to make this fact known, the commonly held view of historians of ideas and of people in general is the wrong view: that the Latin Middle Ages owed their knowledge of Aristotle first and foremost to the translations from the Arabic.

(c-1)The Aristotelian revival of the ninth and the eleventh centuries in the higher schools of Constantinople-particularly the second revival, due to such people as Michael Psellus, Ioannes Italus, Eustratius of Nicaea, and Michael of Ephesus-brought its fruits to the Latin revival (or, better, discovery) in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the second quarter of the twelfth century James(Iacobus), a cleric with philosophical, theological, and juridical interests who seems to describe himself as Venetian-Greek, was in Constantinople and in touch with the Aristotelian corpus. He translated, either in Constantinople itself, or possibly in Italy, at least the Posterior Analytics, the Sophistici elenchi, the Physics, the De anima, parts of the Parva naturalia, and the Metaphysics. Of the translation of the last work only Books I-III and the beginning of Book IV remain; of the translation of the Elenchi only fragments have been recovered, mainly in contaminated texts of Boethius’version. He also translated some Greek notes to the Metaphysics, a short introduction to the Physics (known, in much of the Latin tradition, as De intelligentia Aristotelis), and probably Commentaries to the Posterior Analytics and Elenchi ascribed to Alexander of Aphrodisias. Finally, he himself commented at least on the Elenchi. James’s translations, in spite of their extreme literalness, reveal a considerable knowledge of the learned Greek language of his time and interests in a variety of fields. Conscious of his limitations, which seem to be more marked when the technical language of mathematics and some philosophical terminology in Latin are concerned, he transcribes some key words in Greek letters, occasionally attempting an approximate translation. Some if his versions remained the basis, directly and through revisions, of the knowledge and study of much of Aristotle until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

In 1 158 Henry, nicknamed Aristippus, a Norman dignitary of the church and court in Sicily, was on an embassy at Constantinople, from which he brought back several books. With its combination of a recent Arabic past, enlightened Norman rule, and refined cultural life, Sicily was, in its own right, one of the best training grounds for a man like Henry, interested in problems of human life and death (he translated Plato’s Phaedo and Meno) and curious about the workings of nature (like Empedocles, he climbed Mt. Etna to observe the volcano firsthand). He, and others around him, were conscious of the scientific tradition of Sicily; books of mechanics, astronomy. optics, and geometry were available, and attracted people from as far as England. Henry contributed to this tradition with a translation of at least Book IV of the Meteorologics. With less pedantry than James, he varied his vocabulary more than a work of science could admit; still, his translation remained indispensable for about a century, and what may be called Aristotle’s physical chemistry was known primarily through his text.

(c-2)At approximately the same time, and presumably drawing on the same Greek sources of Aristotelian studies, a number of scholars with quite a good knowledge of Greek produced either new versions of texts already translated-whether the older translations were known to them cannot always be established -and versions of works previously unknown in Latin. These scholars remain anonymous. with the possible exception of a certain John, who produced, after the Venetian James, another translation of the Posterior Analytics; a second scholar translated anew the Topics and the Prior Analytics; a third, the De sensu; a fourth, the short treatises De somno and De insomniis; a fifth, the De generatione et corruptione and the Nicomachean Ethics (of which only Book I [“Ethica nova”], Books II and III [“Ethica vetus”], and fragments of Books VII and VIII [“Ethica Borghesiana”] remain); a sixth, again after James, the Physics (only Book I [“Physica Vaticana”] remains) and the Metaphysics without Book XI (the first chapter is lost); and a seventh, probably the Rhetoric. Some of these translations had little or no success (Prior and Posterior Analytics, Topics, Rhetoric, Physics); the others, within the limits of their survival (De generatione et corruptione, De sensu, De somno, De insomniis, Nicomachean Ethics, Metaphysics), remained in use, in the original form or in revisions, for three or four centuries. They all testify to the vast interest in the recovery of Aristotle in the twelfth century.

(c-3) While Constantinople, possibly together with minor Greek centers, was giving the Aristotelian material to the Latin scholars, the intense cultural activity of the Arab world had spread to northwestern Africa and Spain, providing Latin scholarship, especially in the part of Spain freed from Arab domination, with a vast amount of scientific and philosophical material and the linguistic competence for this to be rendered into Latin. Leaving aside for the moment the spreading of Aristotelian ideas through works of Arabic writers, mention must be made of the one translator of Aristotelian ideas through works of Arabic writer, mention must be made of the one translator of Aristotelian work from the Arabic, the Italian Gerard of Cremona, active in Toledo from ca. 1150 to his death in 1187. Being a scientist, he translated from the Arabic what was accessible to him of the more scientific works of Aristotle: the Posterior Analytics (theory of science by induction and deduction), Physics, De generatione et corruptione, De caelo, and Meteorologics (most of Book IV of this was either not translated or was soon lost). He also translated Themistius’ paraphrase of the Posterior Analytics. The two of these works that did not exist in translation from the Greek (Meteorologics I-I11 and De caelo) were often transcribed and not infrequently studied for about sixty years in these versions from the Arabic. The others were occasionally used as terms of comparison or as additional evidence where the texts from the Greek were considered basic. It should also be mentioned that Gerard translated, under the name of Aristotle, thirty-one propositions from Proclus’ Elements of Theology accompanied by an Arabic commentary, which formed the text (occasionally ascribed to Aristotle, more frequently left anonymous by the Latins) known under the title Liber de causis. Toward the end of the twelfth century, Alfred of Sareshel translated, again under the name of Aristotle (which attribution remained unchallenged for several centuries), Nicholas of Damascus’ De plantis.

By the end of the twelfth century most of Aristotle had, therefore, found its way into Latin, but that does not mean that his works were soon widely accessible. To make them so, activity was still necessary in both transcription and translation. Some works had not yet been translated, and versions of others had been partly or completely lost; it was also relaized that new versions made directly from the Greek would be necessary where only translations from the Arabic or inadequate versions from the Greek were available, and that revisions were necessary for almost every text; finally, it was felt that in order to achieve a more complete understanding of the words of Aristotle, translated by people whose knowledge of Greek was based mainly on the modernized, Byzantine usage, it was useful or necessary to give the reader of Latin access to many of the commentaries, Greek or Arabic, that linked the present with the past.

(c-4) The work done with these aims in view, on the basis of Greek texts, was carried out almost completely in the thirteenth century by two outstanding northerners: Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln and chancellor of Oxford University, and the Flemish Dominican William of Moerbeke, later archbishop of Corinth. A minor contribution came from a Sicilian, Bartholomew of Messina. Grosseteste, philosopher and theologian, linguist and scientist, politician and ecclesiastic, grew up at a time when it was already known how much Aristotle could help in the promotion of that Western European culture of which the foundations had been laid in the twelfth century. He was well aware of the contributions that the fading Greek renaissance could now offer, at least in books and teachers of the language. Grosseteste encouraged other Englishmen to go to Greece, southern Italy, and Sicily to collect books and men of learning. With their help, in the second quarter of the thirteenth century, he learned the language and, what concerns us here, thoroughly revised what remained of the older version of the Nicomachean Ethics; translated anew the major part of it, of which the older translation had been lost; and translated a large collection of commentaries on the several books of this work, some of them dating as far back as the third century, some as recent as the eleventh and twelfth. He also replaced with a translation from the Greek the De caelo, available until then only in a version from the Arabic, and added the translation of at least part of the vast commentary by Simplicius on the same work. Finally, he translated as Aristotelian the short treatise De lineis insecabilibus (“On Lines Not Made of Points”).

William of Moerbeke, also a philosopher, theologian, scientist, and ecclesiastic, but in these fields a lesser man than Grosseteste, traveled from the Low Countries to Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor, widening the scope of his discoveries and of his translations to include Neoplatonic philosophy, geometry, mechanics, and medicine. His activity as an Aristotelian translator was enormous and covered approximately the third quarter of the century. He was the first to translate from Greek into Latin the Aristotelian zoological encyclopedia, the De animalibus, and Books I-III of the Meteorologics; he can almost be considered the discoverer, for our civilization, of the Politics; he was the first to translate into Latin the Poetics and Book XI of the Metaphysics; he translated anew the De caelo, the Rhetoric (he probably did not know of the existence of the Greco-Latin translations of these two works), and Book IV of the Meteorologics; he accompanied his versions of Greek commentaries with new translations of the Categories and De interpretatione; and he revised, with different degrees of thoroughness but always having recourse to Greek texts, James’s versions of Posterior Analytics, Physics, De anima, De memoria and other minor texts of the Parva naturalia, Boethius’version of the Sophistici elenchi, and the anonymous versions of the De generatione et corruptione, of Books I-X and XII-XIV of the Metaphysics, and of the De sensu, De somno, and De insomniis. He also translated the extensive commentaries by Simplicius on the Categories and (again, after Grosseteste) the De caelo, by Alexander of Aphrodisias on the De sensu and Meteorologics, by Themistius on the De anima, by Ammonius on the De interpretatione, and by Philoponus on one part of Book III of the De anima. With the possible exception of the De coloribus (one fragment seems to be translated by him), he avoided all the works wrongly ascribed to Aristotle.

In contrast, Bartholomew of Messina, working for King Manfred around 1260, specialized in the pseudepigrapha; De mundo, Problemata, Magna moralia, Physionomia, De mirabilibus auscultationibus, De coloribus, and De principiis (Theophrastus’ Metaphysics). The only translation of a possibly genuine Aristotelian text made by Bartholomew is that of the De Nilo. To complete the picture of the translations from the Greek of “Aristotelian” works before the end of the thirteenth century (or possibly a little after), we should add a second translation of the De mundo, by one of Grosseteste’s collaborators, Nicholas of Sicily, two anonymous translations of the Rhetorica ad Alexandrum, and two partial translations of the Economics. Finally, an anonymous revision of Books I-II and part of Book III of James’s translation of the Metaphysics was made around 1230, and an equally anonymous revision of the whole of Grosseteste’s version of the Nicomachean Ethics was carried out probably between 1260 and 1270.

(c-5) The work of translating Aristotle or Aristotelian commentaries from the Arabic in the thirteenth century centered, again, mainly in Toledo and to a smaller extent in southern Italy. Most of this work was carried out by Michael Scot; other contributors were William of Luna and Hermann the German. Michael Scot was the first to make known to the Latins the Books on Animals, and it was his translation of most of the Metaphysics (parts of Books I and XII and the whole of Books XI, XIII, and XIV were not included), together with Averro?s’ Great Commentary, that provided many students of Aristotle with the bulk of this complex of Aristotelian texts: most of James’s translation had probably been lost before anybody took any real interest in this work, and the anonymous Greco-Latin version (Media) made in the twelfth century emerged from some isolated repository ca. 1250. Under the title Metaphysica nova, Michael’s version, isolated from Averro?s’ commentary, held its ground for about twenty years and was quite widely used for another twenty. The following translations must be ascribed to Michael Scot, some with certainty, some with great probability: the De anima, Physics, and De caelo with Averro?s’ Great Commentary, the Middle Commentary of the De generatione et corruptione and of Book IV of the Meteorologics, and Averro?s’ Summaries of the Parva natturralia.

William of Luna translated, in or near Naples, the Middle Commentaries to Porphyry’s Isagoge and Aristotle’s Categories. De interpretatione, and Prior and Posterior Analytics. Hermann the German translated Averro?s’ Middle Commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics, Rhetoric, and Poetics. The last-mentioned was, in fact, the only source from which Latin readers acquired what knowledge they had-and that was mainly distorted-of Aristotle’s Poetics: under the title Poetria (Averrois or Aristotelis) it was read quite widely; William of Moerbeke’s translation from the Greek remained unknown until 1930, and the next translation from the Greek was not made until shortly before 1500.

By the end of the thirteenth century, the whole of the Aristotelian corpus as we know it, and as it has been known-if we except the relatively few fragments of early works-since that first century B.C., was available in Latin to practically everybody who cared to have access to it. The only exception consisted of the four books of the Ethics that are not common to the Nicomachean Ethics (which appears with the full complement of ten books) and to the Eudemian Ethics (which normally contains only the four that differ from those of the Nicomachean); only a small portion of this seems to have been translated, and is connected with passages of the Magna moralia in the so-called De bona fortuna. The general picture of the diffusion of Aristotle in these translations until the beginning to the sixteenth century is provided by the survival to our times of no fewer than 2,000 manuscripts containing from one to about twenty works, and by the fact that the most complete catalog of early printings (down to 1500) lists over 200 editions, without counting a large number of volumes that contain some of these translations with commentaries.

The detailed picture, when properly drawn, will show the difference in the popularity of the several works; but the difficulty in drawing such a picture derives from the fact that many works, especially minor ones, were transcribed as parts of general, mainly Aristotelian, collections without being actually taken into detailed account. Still, it may be significant that one of these collections, Corpus Vetustius- containing the Physics, Meteorologics, De generatione et corruptione, De anima, Parva naturalia, De caelo, and Metapysics in the translations made before 1235-remains in slightly fewer than 100 manuscripts, all of the thirteenth (or very early fourteenth) century; a similar collection, including the same works in the new or revised translations in a more complete form (Corpus recentius) is preserved in about 200 manuscripts of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. This shows that the more scientific of the works of Aristotle became indispensable in all centers of study and in private libraries. A statistical study of their provenance has not been made: it is, however, clear that France and England are most prominent in this respect for the Corpus Vetustius; and France, Italy, Germany, England, and Spain for the Corpus recentius.

If we consider the translations that most influenced Western culture and ascribe the authorship to those who produced them in the basic form, a quite accurate assessment of the individual abilities in transmitting Aristotle’s works, and thus in shaping some of the philosophical, scientific, and common language of modern civilization, can be made. Their success in presenting formulations that, although not always carefully and strictly Aristotelian, have contributed a basis for discussion and polemics, and have thus led, in the dialectic of history, to much progress, can be suggested by the following list:

(1) Boethius: Categories, De interpretatione, Prior Analytics, Topics, Sophistici elenchi;

(2) James the Venetian-Greek: Posterior Abalytics, De anima, Physics, De memoria (perhaps Metaphysics I-III);

(3) Twelfth-century anonymous translators from the Greek: Metaphysics IV-X, XII-XIV (perhaps I-III), De generatione et corruptione, Nicomachean Ethics I-III, De sensu, De somno, De insomnits;

(4) Michael Scot: Metaphysics I-X, XII, De animalibus;

(5) Robert Grosseteste: Nicomachean Ethics IV-X;

(6) William of Moerbeke: Meteorologics, Politics, Rhetoric, De animalibus, Metaphysics XI, De caelo.

An important, if sometimes misleading, role in the Latin transmission of Aristotle must be ascribed to the translators of commentaries. All of them contributed to the transmission and improvement of the technique of interpretation, as developed in the Greek schools of the second through sixth centuries. From this point of view, the greatest influence was probably exercised by the commentaries adapted from the Greek by Boethius and those of Averro?s, which are linked, through an almost continuous line of scholastic discipline, with the tradition of the Greek schools. From the point of view of the contributions to the actual critical understanding of Aristotle, probably the most important of Averro?s’ commentaries were those on the Metaphysics, Physics, and De anima.

(d) The last stage in the Latin transmission of Aristotle-if we disregard the occasional translations of the seventeenth to twentieth centuries-covers what is normally called the humanistic and Renaissance period. This is the period beginning with and following the reestablishment of a more intimate collaboration between Greeks and western European scholars, which extended and deepened the understanding of the “old” Greek through a wider knowledge of the history, literature, science, etc., of the ancient world and a much more accurate understanding of the language as it was understood in ancient times. Another aspect that was soon presented as typical of the new movement in translations was the purity and perspicuity of the Latin language (purity ought to have carried with it the elimination of technical words that were not yet technical in classical Latin); but a closer study of many translations shows that the standards of knowledge of the ancient Greek background and of the Greek language were not consistently higher than in the Middle Ages, and that the need for very literal translations and technical usages of a medieval or of a new kind could not be avoided. In fact, very many new versions of Aristotle are hardly distinguishable, in their essential features, from those of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. And what there was of a new philosophy of language applied to translations-the philosophy of meanings of contexts as against the meanings of individual words—was not always conducive to a better understanding of the original.

A complete survey of new translations down to the last quarter of the sixteenth century is impossible here. Although some of the later versions may still have exercised some influence in their own right, it seems that greater influence was exercised by some of those of the fifteenth century. And it is questionable how much even the latter ousted the medieval translations, or substituted something of great importance for them. We shall confine ourselves to a quick survey of the new versions of the fifteenth century, which were due in almost equal measure to Greek scholars attracted to Italy and to the Italians whose Greek scholarship resulted from contact with them.

The first Italian translator was a pupil of Manuel Chrysoloras, Roberto de’ Rossi, who in 1406 translated the Posterior Analytics. Probably the greatest and most influential translator at the beginning of this movement was Leonardo Bruni of Arezzo, translator of the Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, and Economics (1416-1438). Gianozzo Manetti added to new translations of the Nicomachean Ethics and Magna moralia the first version of the Eudemian Ethics (1455-1460), an effort soon followed by Gregorio of Citta di Castello (or Tifernate). Giovanni Tortelli again translated (ca. 1450) the Posterior Analytics; and in the 1480’s Ermolao Barbaro translated, if his statements are to be taken literally, the whole of the logical works, the Physics, and the Rhetoric (only some if his versions remain). Before 1498 Giorgio Valla produced new translations of the De caelo, Magna moralia, and Poetics, and Lorenzo Laurenziano one of the De inteipretatione.

In the meantime, from the early 1450’s, the Greeks who had entered into the heritage of Latin culture were competing, or leading the way, in translation. The greatest of all, as a man of culture, collector of books, theologian, ecclesiastic, and philosopher, was Iohannes Bessarion, who translated the Metaphysics. His vast collection of manuscripts, among them many Greek volumes of Aristotle, was the basis of the Library of St. Mark in Venice. The most productive were John Argyropulos, translator of the Categories, De interpretatione, Posterior (and part of the Prior) Analytics, Physics, De anima, De Caelo, Metaphysics, and Nicomachean Ethics (and the pseudo-Aristotelian De mundo, also translated shortly before by Rinucio Aretino), and George of Trebizond, translator of the De animalibus, Physics, De caelo, De generatione et corruptione, De anima, Problemata, and Rhetoric. Theodore of Gaza translated the De animalibus and Problemata, and Andronicus Callistus the De generatione et corruptione.

What had been done to a very limited extent in the fifteenth century was done on a large scale in the first half of the sixteenth, mainly by Italian scholars: the translation of Greek commentaries from the second to the fourteenth centuries. In this field the Renaissance obscured almost completely what had been done in the Middle Ages, something that, with a few exceptions, it failed utterly to do with the entrenched translations of Aristotle.

The Oriental Transmission of Aristotle’s Works. The Greek philosophical schools of the fifth and sixth centuries were attended by people of the various nations surrounding the Mediterranean. Greek was the language of learning, but new languages were emerging to a high cultural level, especially as a consequence of the development of theology from the basic tenets and texts of the Christian faith. What had become necessary for the Greek-speaking theologian, a lay cultural basis, was necessary for the Syrian and for the Armenian. Apart from this, most probably, pure philosophical interest was spreading to other nations that were becoming proud of their nationhood. Thus, probably from the fifth century, and certainly from the sixth, Aristotelian texts started to be translated, and commentaries to be translated into, or originally written in, these languages.

The Armenian tradition, to some extent paralleled by or productive of a more limited Georgian tradition, has not been sufficiently investigated. Armenian culture continued in several parts of the world through the centuries--Armenia itself, India, Europe, and recently America-obviously depending on the culture of the surrounding nations but probably with some independence. A vast amount of unexplored manuscript material, stretching from the eighth century or earlier to the nineteenth century, is now concentrated in the National Library of Manuscripts in Yerevan, Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. What is known in print is confined to translations of Porphyry’s Isagoge, the Categories and De interpretatione, the apocryphal De mundo, and Helias’ commentary to the Categories.A semimythical David the Unconquered (David Invictus) of the fourth or fifth century is mentioned as the author of some of these translations.

The Syriac tradition, more limited in time and space, apparently was richer both in translations of works of Aristotle and in original elaboration; apart from this, it formed the basis of a considerable proportion of the Arabic texts of Aristotle and, through them, of some of the Latin versions. The Nestorian Probus (Probha), of the fifth century, is considered the author of the surviving translations of De interpretatione and of Prior Analytics I.1-7, which may well belong to an eighth-century author. But there is no reason to doubt the ascription of translations and commentaries to Sergius of Theodosiopolis (Resh’ayna). He was a student in Alexandria and later active in Monophysite ecclesiastical and political circles in Antioch and in Constantinople, where he died ca. 535. He translated into Syriac the Categories with the Isagoge, and the De mundo (all still preserved), and possibly an otherwise unknown work by Aristotle, On the Soul. Toward the end of the seventh century, the Jacobite Jacob of Edessa translated the Categories; shortly after, George, bishop of the Arabs (d. 724), produced a new version of this book, of the De interpretatione, and of the entire Prior Analvtics. Probably the most influential Syriac translators were two Nestorians, ?unayn ibn Is?āq (d.876)and his son Is?āq ibn ?unayn (d.910 or 911). ?unayn translated into Syriac the De interpretatione, De generatione et corruptione, Physics 11 (with Alexander of Aphrodisias’ commentary), Metaphysics XI, and parts of the Prior and Posterior Analytics; his son possibly finished the version of these last two works, and translated the Topics into Syriac. ‘Abd al-Masih ibn Na‘ima and Abu Bishr Matta translated the Sophistici elenchi. Ishaq and Abu Bishr Matta also are among the translators from Greek into Arabic. Other translations into Syriac, which cannot be assigned to a definite author, include the Poetics (probably by lshaq ibn Hunayn), the De animalibus, possibly the Meteorologics, and a number of Greek commentaries to Aristotelian works. Not the least important feature of these translations into Syriac is the fact that numerous Arabic versions were made from the Syriac, rather than from the Greek.

Arabic translations from Aristotle were made in the ninth and tenth centuries, some by Syriac scholars, among whom the most prominent was Ishaq ibn Hunayn. They were done in the latter part of the ninth century and at the beginning of the tenth, when Baghdad had become the great center of Arabic culture under al-Mamun. Of the many translations listed in the old Arabic bibliographies we shall mention only those that still exist. Those made by Is?āq ibn ?unayn, presumably directly from the Greek, are Categories, De interpretatione, Physics, De anima, and Metaphysics II; by Ya?yā ibn Abī-Man?ūr, Isa ben Zura, and ibn Naim, the Sophistici elenchi (Ya?yā also translated part of Metaphysics XII); Abī ’Uthman ad-Dimashki and Ibrahim ibn ’Abdallāh, the Topics; Abu Bishr Matta, the Posterior Analytics and the Poetics (perhaps both through the lost Syriac version by Is?āq ibn ?unayn); Ya?yā ibn al Bitriq, the De caelo, Meteorologics, and De animalibus; Astat (Eustathius), Metaphysics III-X; Theodorus (Abū Qurra[?], the Prior Analytics; unknown translators, the Rhetoric and Nicomachean Ethics VII-X. Of the apocrypha, we have two translations of the De mundo, one of which was made by “Usha ibn Ibrahim al-Nafisi from the Syriac of Sergius of Theodosiopolis (Resh’ayna). Finally, it must be mentioned that it was in the Arab world that sections of Plotinus’ work(or notes from his conversations) were edited under the title Theology of Aristotle, and thirty-one propositions from Proclus’ Elements of Theology were commented upon and edited as Aristotle’s Book of Pure Goodness (generally known under the title De causis, which it acquired in the Latin tradition).

Elaborations of Aristotle’s Works. The transcriptions of the Greek texts, the translations into the several languages, and the multiplication of the copies of these translations were obviously only the first steps in the spread of Aristotle’s pure or adulterated. The more permanent influence of those doctrines was established in the schools, through oral teaching, or on the margin of and outside the schools, through writings of different kinds at different levels. There would be, at the most elementary level, the division into chapters, possibly with short titles and very brief summaries; then occasional explanations of words and phrases in the margins or between the lines in the manuscripts of the actual Aristotelian texts (glosses or scholia), or more extensive summaries and explanations of points of particular interest at some moment or other in the history of thought.

At a higher level there would be systematic expositions or paraphrases, adhering closely to the original text but adapting the diction, the language, and the articulation of the arguments to the common scholastic pattern of this or that time, place, or school; then, expository commentaries, section by section, with or without introductory surveys and occasional recapitulations. The commentaries could aim at clarifying Aristotle’s doctrine or adding doctrinal developments. criticisms, or digressions. The discussions would then take on an independent status: “questions about the Physics,”“questions about the De anima,” and so on. These would normally represent the most marked transition from the exposition of Aristotle’s view-showever critically they might be treated-to the original presentation of problems arising from this or that passage. Very often such quaestiones would not have more than an occasional, accidental connection with Aristotle: the titles of Aristotle’s works would become like the headings of one or another of the main branches of philosophy, of the encyclopedia of knowledge, or of sciences. This soon led to the abandonment of the pretense of a connection with the “Philosopher’s” works and doctrines or, in many cases, to the pretense of abandoning him and being original while remaining, in fact, under the strongest influence of what he had said.

Systematic works covering a wide province of philosophy, or even aiming at an exhaustive treatment of all its provinces, could take the form of a series of expositions or commentaries on the works of Aristotle, or organize the accumulated intellectual experience of the past and the original views of the author with great independence at at many stages, but with explicit or implicit reference Aristotle’s corpus as it had been shaped into a whole-to a small extent by him and to a larger extent by his later followers.

Much of the philosophical literature from the first to the sixteenth centuries could be classified under headings corresponding to the ways in which Aristotle was explained, discussed, taken as a starting point for discussions, used as a model for great systematizations containing all kinds of details, or abandoned-either with or without criticism. In the Greek-speaking world, the vast commentaries by Alexander of Aphrodisias (third century) on the Metaphysics, the Analytics, Topics, and Meteorologics; those by Simplicius (sixth century) on the Categories, the De caelo, and the Physics; and those by John Philoponus (the Grammarian) on the De anima were among the most prominent examples of the developed, systematic, and critical commentaries of Aristotle’s texts. They were matched in the Latin world of the sixth century by Boethius’ commentaries on the Categories and De interpretatione, in the Arab world of the twelfth century by the “great” commentaries of Averro?s, and in the Latin world of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by those of Abailard, Robert Grosseteste, Aquinas, Giles of Rome, and many others. Themistius’ paraphrases (fourth century) of the logical works and of the De anima, partly imitated or translated into Latin in his own time, had their counterparts in works by Syriac-, Armenian-, and Arabic-writing philosophers: al-Kindi in the ninth century, the Turk al-Fārābī in the tenth, the Persian Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) in the eleventh, and Averro?;s in the twelfth contributed in this way much-needed information on Aristotle to those who would not read his works, but would like to learn something of his doctrines through simplified Arabic texts. Summae or summulae of the Elenchi, of the Physics, and of other works appeared in Latin in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, under such names as that of Grosseteste, or have remained anonymous. The collections of scholia of Greek manuscripts were continued by such genres as glossae and notulae: such collections on the Categories, written in the ninth century, and on the Posterior Analytics, the De anima, and the Meteorologics, written between the end of the twelfth and the middle of the thirteenth centuries, became in many cases almost standard texts accompanying the “authoritative” but difficult texts of the great master. At the level of philosophical systems we find the great philosophical encyclopedia of Avicenna (eleventh century), organized on the basis of the Aristotelian corpus but enriched by the philosophical experience of Aristotelians, Platonists, and other thinkers of many centuries, and above all by the grand philosophical imagination and penetration of its author. On the other hand, in the Latin world Albertus Magnus (thirteenth century), a man of inexhaustible curiosity, and with a frantic passion for communicating as much as he knew or thought he knew as quickly as possible, followed up his discoveries in the books of others with his own cogitations and developments, and presented his encyclopedia of knowledge almost exclusively as an exposition-cum-commentary of the works by Aristotle or those ascribed to him. What he had learned from others-he was one of the most learned men of his times, and much of his reading derived from the Arabic-finds its place in this general plan.

Quaestiones(ζητ?σει?) are found in the Greek philosophical literature, and one might be tempted to include in this class much of Plotinus’ Enneads. But it is when impatience with systematic explanatory commentary (mildly or only occasionally critical) leads to independent treatment of problems that the quaestio comes into its own-first, perhaps, as in Abailard, in the course of the commentary itself; then, in the second half of the thirteenth and much more in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, independently of the commentaries. It is in many of these collections of quaestiones that we find the minds of philosophers, impregnated with Aristotelian concepts and methods, searching more deeply the validity of accepted statements, presenting new points of view, and inserting in the flow of speculation new discoveries, new deductions from known principles, and corrected inferences from ambiguous formulations.

Aristotle’s Influence on the Development of Civilization. The influence exercised by Aristotle’s writings varied from work to work and often varied for the several sections of one and the same work. It would be relatively easy to select those short writings which, in spite of their inferior and confused nature or their incompleteness-the Categories and the De interpretatione from the first century B.C. to the sixteenth, and the Poetics from the early sixteenth to the nineteenth-penetrated more deeply and widely into the minds of intelligent people than did the more extensive, organized, and imaginative works, such as De animalibus, De anima, and the Physics. Moreover, one could possibly select a limited number of passages that left their permanent mark because they were repeatedly quoted, learned by heart, and applied, rightly or wrongly, as proverbs, slogans, and acquired “truths” are applied. Most of all, it is possible, and essential for our purpose, to select those concepts that became common property of the civilized mind, however much they may have been elaborated and, in the course of time, transformed. And if these concepts are not all originally Aristotelian, if they have found their way into the several fields of culture in more than one (the Aristotelian) way, it is our contention that pressure of continuous study and repetition and use of those concepts in Aristotelian contexts, in the ways sketched above, are responsible more than anything else for their becoming so indispensable and fruitful.

It is enough to try to deprive our language of a certain number of words in order to see how much we might have to change the whole structure of our ways of thinking, of expressing, even of inquiring. A conceptual and historico-linguistic analysis of a definition like “mass is the quantity of matter” would show us that whatever was and is understood by these words owes much to the fact that the concepts of “quantity” and of “matter” were for two millennia inculcated into the minds of men and into their languages, more than in any other ways through the centuries, stim elating thoughts, experiments, and interpretations of facts, because some bits of the Metaphysics and of the Physics were the sine qua non condition of men’s “knowledge” of the world. And if “potential” has assumed so many uses-from social and military contexts to electricity, dynamics, and what not-is it not because we have been trained to handle this term as an indispensable instrument to describe an infinite variety of situations that have something in common, as Aristotle repeated ad nauseam, when making “potency” one of the basis concepts for the understanding of the structure of the world? We have used, misused, abused, eliminated, and reinstated the concepts of “substance” and “essence,” “Relation” and “analogy,” “form,”“cause,” “alteration of qualities,” are and “development from potentiality to actuality” all terms that have not yet stopped serving their purpose. A writer of a detailed history of science would be hard put if he tried to avoid having recourse to Aristotle for his understanding of how things progressed in connection with them. At the very root of much of our most treasured scientific development lies the quantification of qualities; this started in the form of a general problem set by the distinction between two out of the ten “Aristotelian categories” in conjunction with Aristotle’s theory of the coming into being of new “substances.” It may be contended that, by his very distinction, Aristotle created difficulties and slowed progress. Perhaps there is something in that complaint; nevertheless, in this way he stimulated the search for truth and for formulations of more satisfactory hypotheses to fit, as he would say, τ? Φαιν?μενα—to fit what we see.

His exemplification of continuous and discontinuous quantities in the Categories may elicit an indulgent smile from those who lack any historical sense; and it would be impertinent to skip over twenty-two and a half centuries and say that here we are, faced by the same problems that worried Aristotle, but with more sophistication: continuous waves or discontinuous quanta? But how did it happen that the problems came to be seen in this way, with this kind of alternative? No doubt Aristotle was not the only ancient sage who taught the concept of continuity to the millennia to come, but no text in which the distinction-and the problems it brought with it-appeared was learned by heart, discussed and commented upon, or became the text for examinations and testing as often and as unavoidably as the Categories. Do things happen by chance, or through a chain of causality? Can we determine how and why this happens-is it “essential” that it should happen or is it “accidental”? Much scientific progress was achieved by testing and counter testing, under these, Aristotelian, headings, what the world presents to our perception and to our mind.

Again: classification, coordination, and subordination have been and are instruments of clear thinking, of productive procedures, of severe testing of results. The terms “species” and “genus” may be outmoded in some fields, but the fashion is recent; the words have changed, yet the concepts have remained. And with them we find, not even outmoded, “property” and “difference.” We have been conditioned by these distinctions, by these terms, because we come from Aristotelian stock.

It is, in conclusion, significant of Aristotle’s impact on the development of culture, and particularly of science, that among the more essential elements in our vocabulary there should be the following terms, coming directly from his Greek (transliterated in the Latin or later translations) or from the Latin versions, or from texts where some of these terms had to be changed in order to preserve some equivalence of meaning when they proved ambiguous: (a) category (class, group, etc.) and the names of the four categories actually discussed in the Categoriae-substance (essence), quantity, quality, relation; (b) universal and individual, and the quinque votes (another title for Porphyry’s Isagoge, which developed a passage of Aristotle’s Topics and was studied as the introduction to his logic)-genus, species, difference, property, accident (in the sense of accidental feature); (c) cause and the names or equivalents applied to the four causes until quite recent times-efficient, final, material, and formal; (d) couples of correlative terms, like matter-form (structure), potency-act (energy), substance-accident.

Terms like “induction” and “deduction,” “definition” and “demonstration” have certainly become entrenched in our language from many sources apart from Aristotle’s Analvtics. But again, the extent of their use, the general understanding of their meaning and implications, and the application in all fields of science of the methods of research and exposition that those terms summarize depend possibly more on the persistent study of Aristotle than on any other single source. All the wild anti-Aristotelianism of the seventeenth century would have been more moderate if people had realized then, as it had been realized, for instance, in the thirteenth century, how aware Aristotle was that experience, direct perception and knowledge of individual facts, is the very basis of scientific knowledge. The anti-Aristotelians were much more Aristotelian than they thought in some aspects of their methods; and that was because they had, unconsciously, absorbed Aristotle’s teaching, which had seeped through from the higher level of philosophical discussion to the common attitude of people looking for truth.

It has become a truism that observation of facts was recognized as the necessary beginning of science through a revolutionary attitude which had as its pioneers such people as Roger Bacon and Robert Grosseteste. One wonders whether many realize that -because he thought Aristotle to be very often right on important matters-Aquinas insisted that a problem which, for him and his contemporaries, was of the utmost importance-the problem of the existence of God-could be solved only by starting from the observation of facts around us. If, as it happened, Aquinas was going to carry the day with his very awkward “five ways,” he was also going to boost very widely the value of the basic principle on which so much depended in the development of science: observe first, collect facts, and draw your conclusions after. And it is in the course of the discussion of the Posterior Analytics that probably one of the main steps forward in the methodology of science was made by Grosseteste around 1230: probably not so much-as has been maintained-in passing from “experience” to “experiment” as in the discrimination of the contributory factors of a certain effect, in the search for the really effective causes, as against the circumstantial, accidental state of affairs.

One further example of the permanence of Aristotle’s teaching is provided by his insistence on the old saying that nature does nothing in vain. The development from this principle of the wrongly called “Ockham’s razor” is the result of a series of refinements; it may be possible (or has it already been done?) to see through which steps this principle of finality and economy of nature has established itself in all but the most independent or anarchic scientific minds.

Above all, probably, Aristotle’s explicitly stated methodical doubt as a condition for the discovery of truth and his exhaustive accumulation of “difficulties” (α?πoρíαι) have trained generation after generation in the art of testing statements, of analyzing formulations, of trying to avoid sophistry. The picture of an Aristotelianism confined to teaching how to pile up syllogisms that either beg the question or, at best, make explicit what is already implicit in the premises is very far from the Aristotelianism of Aristotle, and hides most of what Aristotle has meant for the history of culture and science. It is through observation, α?πoρεαι, reasoned and cautious argument, that he thought our statements should fit the phenomena (?αινóμ?να): no wonder that Aquinas himself was not troubled by the possibility that geocentrism might prove to be less “valid” than heliocentrism.

It is much more difficult to discover, isolate, and follow up the influence of Aristotle’s writings on the advancement of science considered in the several fields and, what counts more, in the solution of particular problems. It is also difficult to locate exactly in time and space the several steps by which methods of inquiry, learned directly or indirectly at the Aristotelian school, have been successfully applied as Aristotelian. Out of the vast amount of evidence existing, only a small fraction has been studied. Influences have hardly ever been the result of isolated texts or of individual authors; the accumulation of interpretations, refinements, new contributions, and variations in the presentation of problems has continued for centuries, and the more striking turning points are those at which the influence has been a contrario. Whether it is Simplicius (sixth century) commenting on the De caelo, and thus contributing to the methodical transformation of the study of the heavens, or William Harvey (eleven centuries later) taking as one of his basic texts for the study of the mechanics of the living body the De motu animalium, there is no doubt that we can rightly speak of Aristotle’s influence on the advancement of astronomy and of physiology. But determining the exact point at which that influence can be located, in what precise sense it can be interpreted, and in what measure it can be calculated would require much more than a series of textual references.

It might be suggested that one precise point in history at which Aristotle’s deductive theory in the Posterior Analytics contributed to the mathematization of nonmathematical sciences can be found in Robert Grosseteste’s commentary on that work (ca. 1230). Aristotle had considered optics as a science dependent on mathematics (geometry), and in his discussion of two types of demon-stration, the demonstratio propter quid. For Grosseteste the whole of nature was fundamentally light, manifesting itself in different states. It could be argued, therefore, that Grosseteste would have inferred that Aristotle’s examples revealed, more than he imagined, the mathematical structure of all natural (and supernatural) sciences. One can go further and, magnifying Grosseteste’s influence, state that quantification in natural sciences has its roots in the Posterior Analytics as interpreted by Grosseteste in the frame of his metaphysics of light. This is the kind of fallacy that results from not realizing how difficult it is to discover and assess Aristotelian influences. Nothing has so far been shown-although much has been said-to prove that statement.

Among the few fields in which many necessary inquiries have been made (through commentaries to Aristotle, quaestiones arising from the Physics, and independent treatises with an Aristotelian background) to show how (by appropriate or forced interpretation, by intelligent criticism or the process of development) modern science has to some extent come out of the study of Aristotle are those of the theories of rectilinear movement (constant velocity and acceleration), of “essential” transformations consequent to quantitatively different degrees of qualities, and of the nature and basic qualities of matter in connection with gravity. The temptation must, of course, be resisted to see Aristotle’s influence wherever some connection can he established, whether prima facie or after detailed consideration of chains of quotations, repetitions, and slight transformations. But the pioneering studies of Pierre Duhem, the detailed analyses and historical reconstructions by Anneliese Maier, Nardi, Weisheipl; the attempts at wider historical systematizations by Thorndike, Sarton, and Crombie; and the contributions by many scholars of the last thirty years confirm more and more the view that the debt of scientists to the Aristotelian tradition is far greater than is generally accepted.

Setbacks in the Aristotelian Tradition. The progress in the spread of Aristotelian studies had its obstacles and setbacks, at different times in different spheres and for a variety of reasons. These ranged from purely philosophical opposition to purely theological convictions and prejudices, and to the interference of political and political-ecclesiastical powers with the free flow of speculation and debate. The story of the setbacks could be considered as diverse and rich as that of the actual progress; we shall mention only some of the most famous, or notorious, examples.

In 529 Justinian ordered the closing down of all philosophical schools in Athens; such people as Simplicius and Damascius became political-philosophical refugees in the “unfaithful” Persian kingdom. Greek Aristotelian studies then had over two centuries of almost total eclipse.

A similar attack on philosophy, at a very “Aristotelian” stage, was carried out in 1195 by Caliph Ya‘ub al-Mansur in southern Spain; one of the exiled victims was the great Averroes, who had, among other things, strongly defended philosophy against the religious mystical onslaught by al-Ghazali, the author of the Destruction of Philosophers. Whatever the reasons for the centuries-long eclipse of Arabic philosophy, the blow of 1195 was certainly one of the most effective contributions to it.

Much has been made by the historians of philosophy, and particularly of science, of the Roman Church’s hostility to Aristotelianism, as made manifest by the decrees of 1210, 1215, and 1231-also confirmed later-“prohibiting” the study of Aristotle’s works on natural philosophy and then of those on metaphysics. The prohibitions, confined first to Paris and then to a few other places, and soon limited in scope (the works in question were to be examined by a committee of specialists and, where necessary, revised), turned out to be probably one of the most important factors in the most powerful and permanent expansion of Aristotelian studies in the whole of history. Interest was intensified, obstacles were avoided or disregarded, and witch-hunting did not succeed in doing much more than alerting philosophers and scholars to the danger of expressing Aristotle’s views as their own views, and of describing developments based on Aristotle’s works as the truth rather than as logically compelling inferences from authoritative statements.

The real setbacks to the spread of Aristotelian studies-not necessarily of the kind of Aristotelian influence sketched above-came in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when progress in scientific and historical knowledge; the interplay of the new interests with a sterilized, scholastic “Aristotelianism”, a passion for grand philosophical systems; refined, systematic criticism of current beliefs; and the impact of new theological disputes filled the minds of thoughtful people with problems that either were not present in Aristotle’s works or had now to be expressed in a differently articulated language.


1. Original Works. This section will be limited to the more essential references. The others will be found in works cited below under “Secondary Literature.”

The tradition of the Greek texts of Aristotle is documented mainly in their critical editions; for these see the article on his “Life and Works.” For the medieval Latin tradition see, above all, the Corpus philosophorum medii aevi, Aristoteles Latinus (Bruges-Paris, 1952-), of which the following vols. have appeared: I.1-5, Categoriae, L. Minio-Paluello, ed. (1961); I.6-7,Supplementa Categoriarum (Porphyry’s Isagoge and Pseudo-Gilbertus’ Liber sex principiorum), L. Minio-Paluello, ed. (1966); II.1-2, De interpretatione, L. Minio-Paluello, ed. (1965); III. 1-4, Analytica priora, L. Minio-Paluello, ed. (1962); IV. 1-4, Analytica posteriora, L. Minio-Paluello and B. G. Dod, eds. (1968); VII.2, Physica I (“Physica Vaticana”), A. Mansion, ed. (1957); XI. 1-2, De mundo, 2nd ed., W. L. Lorimer et al., eds. (1965); XVII.2.v, De generatione animalium, trans. Guillelmi, H. J. Drossaart Lulofs, ed. (1966); XXIX.I, Politica 1-11.11, 1st vers. by William of Moerbeke, P. Michaud-Quantin, ed. (1961); and XXXIII, Poetica, 2nd ed., trans. Guillelmi, with Hermann the German’s version of Averroes’ Poetria, L. Minio-Paluello, ed. (1968). V.1-3, Topica, L. Minio-Paluello, ed., is to appear in 1969. Older eds. of most of the translations or revisions of the thirteenth century appeared from 1475 on. Among other more recent eds., the following should be recorded : Politics, in F. Susemihl’s ed. of Greek text (Leipzig, 1872); Rhetoric, in L. Spengel’s ed. of Greek text (Leipzig, 1867); Metaphysica media, in Alberti Magni Opera omnia, XVI, B. Geyer, ed. (Munster, 1960- ); Metaphysica, trans. lacobi (“Meta-physica Vetustissima”), in Opera... Rogeri Baconi, XI, R. Steele, ed. (Oxford, 1932).

The best ed. of the Armenian texts of the Categoriae, De interpretatione, and De mundo was produced by F. C. Conybeare in Anecdota Oxoniensia, Classical Series (Oxford, 1892). George’s Syriac version of Categoriae, De Interpretatione, and Prior Analytics was edited by G. Furlani in Memorie dell’Accademia... dei Lincei Classe scienze morali, VI.5, i and iii, and VI.6.iii (Rome, 1933-1937). Most of the surviving Arabic translations of the Middle Ages were first edited or reedited by Abdurrahman Badawi in the collection Studii Islamici (then Islamica) (Cairo 1948-): these include all the works of logic, the Rhetoric, Poetics, De anima, De caelo, and Meteorologics. Of other eds. the following should be mentioned: Metaphysics (missing parts of Bks. I and XII, and the whole of Bks. XI and XIII-XIV), M. Bouyges, ed. (Beirut, 1938-1952); and Poetics, J. Tkatsch, ed. (Vienna, 1928-1932).

The extant Greek commentaries were edited by H. Diels and his collaborators in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca (Berlin, 1882-): the medieval Latin trans, are being published in the Corpus Latinum commentariorum in Aristotelem Graecorum (Louvain, 1957-), thus far consisting of I. Themistius on De anima, II. Ammonius on De interpretatione, 111. Philoponus on De anima, and IV. Alexander on De sensu all e d. by G. Verbeke.

The one major commentary by Averro?s that is preserved in Arabic, on the Metaphysics, was published with the Aristotelian text by Bouyges (see above). Many of the Latin medieval trans. of the longer and shorter commentaries by Averro?s were printed several times in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (1st ed., Venice, 1483); new trans. from the Hebrew of some of the same commentaries and of others (most importantly, the long commentary on Posterior Analytics) were published in the sixteenth century (first comprehensive ed., Venice, 1551-1561). Critical eds. of the medieval Latin and Hebrew trans. of Averro?s’ commentaries are being published in the Corpus philosophorum medii aevi, Corpus commentariorum Averrois in Aristotelem, the most important of which is Michael scot’s trans. of the long commentary on De anima, in Vol. VI,1, F. Stuart Crawford, ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1953).

II. Secondary Literature. A list of Greek MSS of Aristotle’s works and of those of his commentators, based manily on printed catlogs, was ed. by A. Wartelle, Inventaire des manuscrits grecs d’Aristote et de ses commentateurs (Paris, 1963), and supplemented by D. Harlfinger and J. Wiesner in Scriptorium, 18 , no. 2 (1964), 238-257. A descriptive catalog of all the known MSS of Aristotle’s works is being prepared by P. Mo0rayx and his collaborators of the Aristotelian Archive at the University of Berlin. The best sources for knowledge of the printed tradition are still the general catalogs of the British Museum and of the Prussian libraries; for recent times, see also the catalog of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Nearly all the available basic information for the Latin tradition in the Middle Ages is collected in the three vols. of G. Lacombe, E. Franceschini, L. Minio-Paluello, et al., Aristoteles Latinus, Codices: I., Rome, 1939; II., Cambridge, 1955: Supplem. Alt., Bruges, 1961. The bibliography that is in these vols, includes all the works of importance on the subject. Additional information on individual works will be found in the intros, to the eds. of texts in the Aristoteles Latinus series. Special mention should be made of E. Franceschini, “Roberto Grossatesta, vescovo di Lincoln, e le sue traduzioni latine,” in Atti della Reale Istituto Veneto, 93 , no. 2 (1933-1934), 1-138; G. Grabmann, Guglielmo di Moerbeke, it traduttore delle opere di Aristotele (Rome, 1946): J. M. Millás Vallicrosa, Las traduciones orientales en los manuscritos de la Biblioteca Catedral de Toledo (Madrid, 1942); L. Minio-Paluello, “Iacobus Veneticus Grecus, Canonist and Translator of Aristotle” in Traditio, 8 (1952), 265-304; “Note sull’ Aristotele Latino medievale,” in Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica, 42 ff. (1950 ff.). For the printed eds. of medieval Latin trans., see the Gasamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke and the library catalogs cited above.

For the humanistic and Renaissance trans. into Latin, see E. Garin, Le traduzioni umanistiche di Aristotele nel secolo XV, Vol. VII in Accademia Fiorentian La Colombaria (Florence, 1951), and the Gesamtkatalog and the library catalogs.

For the study of Aristotle in the Middle Ages, M Grabmann’s Mittelalterliches Geistsleben, 3 vols. (Munich, 1926-1956), and his earlier Geschichte der scholastischen Methode (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1909-1911) are of fundamental importance. Among the many works of a more limited scope, see F. Vasn Steenberghen, Siger de Brabant d’après see oeuvres inédites, II: Siger dans I’histoire de I’Aristotélisme, Vol. XII of Les Philosphes Belges (Louvain, 1942).

For the Armenian tradition, see conybeare’s ed. mentioned above; the catalogs of the more important collecBodleian Library, Bibliothèque Nationale); and G. W. abgarian, The Matenadaran (Yerevan, 1962).

For the Syriac tradition, see A. Baumstark, Geschichte der sayrischen Literatur (Bonn, 1922); and many articles by G. Furlani, listed in the bibliog. of his writings in Rivista degli studi orientali, 32 (1957).

For the Arabic tradition, see C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, 2nd ed., 2 vols, (Leiden, 1943-1949) and 3 vols. of supps. (Leiden, 1937-1942); R. Walzer, “Aris?ū?ālīs,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., I 630-635; Abdurrahman Badawi, Aristu’indal-’Arab (Cairo, 1947); M. Steinschneider, “Die arabischen uebersetzungen aus dem Griechischen,” in Zentralblatt Für Bibliothekswesen, 8 (1889) and 12 (1893), and “Die europa?schen Uebersetzungen aus dem Arabischen bis Mitte des 17 Jahrhunderts,” in Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, philos.-hist. Klasse, 149 no. 4, and 151, no. 1.

For the Hebrew tradition, see M. Steinschneider, Die hebraischen Uebersetzungen des Mittelaters und die Juden als Dolmesscher (Berlin, 1893); and H. A. wolfson, “Plan for the Publication of Corpus commentariorum Averrios in Aristotelem,” in Speculum (1931), 412-427.

No comprehensive study of Aristotle’s influence through the ages has ever been published. The standard histories of philosophy and science, general or specialized, contain much useful information, including bibliographies, e.g.; F. Ueberweg. Geschichte der Philosophie, 5 vols., 11th-13th eds. (Berlin, 1924-1928); E. Zeller, Die Philosophie der Griechen, 4th-7th eds. (1882-1920); I. Husik, A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy (Philadelphia, 1916; 6th ed., 1946); G. Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, 3 vols. (Baltimore, 1927-1948); Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, 8 vols. (New York, 1923-1958); C. Singer, Studies in the History and Method of Science (Oxford, 1921); and A. C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo (London, 1952).

Special problems, periods, or fields have been surveyed and analyzed in, e.g., P. Duhem, Le système du monde, 8 vols. (Paris, 1913-1916, 1954-1958), and Etudes sur Léonard de Vinci (Paris, 1906-1913); A. Maier, Metaphysische Hintergrü;nde der sp?tscholastischen Naturphilosophie (Rome, 1951), Zwei Grundprobleme der scholastischen Naturphilosophie, 2nd ed. (Rome, 1951), An der Grenze von Scholastik und Naturwissenschaft, 2nd ed. (Rome, 1952), and Zwischen Philosophic and Mechanik (Rome, 1958); A.C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental science (Oxford, 1953); M. Clagett, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages (Madison, Wis., 1959); and R. Lemay, Abu Ma’shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century (Beirut, 1962).

L. Minio-Paluello

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(b. Stagira in Chalcidice, 384 b.c.; d Chalcis, 322 b.c.)

the most influential ancient exponent of the methodology and division of sciences; contributed to physics, physical astronomy, meteorology, psychology, biology. The following article is in four parts; Method, Physics, and Cosmology; Natural History and Zoology; Anatomy and Physiology; Tradition and Influence.

Method, Physics, and Cosmology.

Aristotle’s father served as personal physician to Amyntas II of Macedon, grandfather of Alexander the Great. Aristotle’s interest in biology and in the use of dissection is sometimes traced to his father’s profession, but any suggestion of a rigorous family training in medicine can be discounted. Both parents died while Aristotle was a boy, and his knowledge of human anatomy and physiology remained a notably weak spot in his biology. In 367, about the time of his seventeenth birthday, he came to Athens and became a member of Plato’s Academy. Henceforth his career falls naturally into three periods. He remained with the Academy for twenty years. Then, when Plato died in 347, he left the city and stayed away for twelve years: his reason for going may have been professional, a dislike of philosophical tendencies represented in the Academy by Plato’s nephew and successor, Speusippus, but more probably it was political, the new anti-Macedonian mood of the city. He returned in 335 when Athens had come under Macedonian rule, and had twelve more years of teaching and research there. This third period ended with the death of his pupil, Alexander the Great (323), and the revival of Macedon’s enemies. Aristotle was faced with a charge of impiety and went again into voluntary exile. A few months later he died on his maternal estate in Chalcis.

His middle years away from Athens took him first to a court on the far side of the Aegean whose ruler, Hermeias, became his father-in-law; then (344) to the neighboring island Lesbos, probably at the suggestion of Theophrastus, a native of the island and henceforth a lifelong colleague; finally (342) back to Macedon as tutor to the young prince Alexander. After his return to Athens he lectured chiefly in the grounds of the Lyceum, a Gymnasium already popular with sophists and teachers. The Peripatetic school, as an institution comparable to the Academy, was probably not founded until after his death. But with some distinguished students and associates he collected a natural history museum and a library of maps and manuscripts (including his own essays and lecture notes), and organized a program of research which inter alia laid the foundation for all histories of Greek natural philosophy (see Theophrastus), mathematics and astronomy (see Eudemus), and medicine.

Recent discussion of his intellectual development has dwelt on the problem of distributing his works between and within the three periods of his career. But part of the stimulus to this inquiry was the supposed success with which Plato’s dialogues had been put in chronological order, and the analogy with Plato is misleading. Everything that Aristotle polished for public reading in Plato’s fashion has been lost, save for fragments and later reports. The writings that survive are a collection edited in the first century B.C. (see below, Aristotle : Tradition), allegedly from manuscripts long mislaid : a few items are spurious (among the scientific works Mechanica, Problemata, De mundo, De plantis), most are working documents produced in the course of Aristotle’s teaching and research ; and the notes and essays composing them have been arranged and amended not only by their author but also by his ancient editors and interpreters. Sometimes an editorial title covers a batch of writings on connected topics of which some seem to supersede others (thus Physics VII seems an unfinished attempt at the argument for a prime mover which is carried out independently in Physics VIII) ; sometimes the title represents an open file, a text annotated with unabsorbed objections (e.g., the Topics) or with later and even post-Aristotelian observations (e .g ., the Historia anirnalium). On the other hand it cannot be assumed that inconsistencies are always chronological pointers. In De caelo 1-II he argues for a fifth element in addition to the traditional four (fire, air, water, earth) : unlike them, its natural motion is circular and it forms the divine and unchanging substance of the heavenly bodies. Yet in De caelo III-IV. as in the Physics, he discusses the elements without seeming to provide for any such fifth body, and these writings are accordingly sometimes thought to be earlier. But on another view of his methods (see below, on dialectic) it becomes more intelligible that he should try different and even discrepant approaches to a topic at the same time .

Such considerations do not make it impossible to reconstruct something of the course of his scientific thinking from the extant writings, together with what is known of his life. For instance it is sometimes said that his distinction between “essence” and “accident,” or between defining and nondefining characteristics, must be rooted in the biological studies in which it plays an integral part. But the distinction is explored at greatest length in the Topics, a handbook of dialectical debate which dates substantially from his earlier years in the Academy, whereas the inquiries embodied in his biological works seem to come chiefly from his years abroad, since they refer relatively often to the Asiatic coast and Lesbos and seldom to southern Greece. So this piece of conceptual apparatus was not produced by the work in biology. On the contrary, it was modified by that work: when Aristotle tries to reduce the definition of a species to one distinguishing mark (e.g., Metaphysics VII 12, VIII 6) he is a dialectician, facing a problem whose ancestry includes Plato’s theory of Forms, but when he rejects such definitions in favor of a cluster of differentiae (De partibus animalium I 2–3) he writes as a working biologist, armed with a set of questions about breathing and sleeping, movement and nourishment, birth and death.

The starting point in tracing his scientific progress must therefore be his years in the Academy. Indeed without this starting point it is not possible to understand either his pronouncements on scientific theory or, what is more important, the gap between his theory and his practice.

The Mathematical Model. The Academy that Aristotle joined in 367 was distinguished from other Athenian schools by two interests: mathematics (including astronomy and harmonic theory, to the extent that these could be made mathematically respectable), and dialectic, the Socratic examination of the assumptions made in reasoning—including the assumptions of mathematicians and cosmologists. Briefly, Plato regarded the first kind of studies as merely preparatory and ancillary to the second; Aristotle, in the account of scientific and philosophical method that probably dates from his Academic years, reversed the priorities (Posterior Analytics I; Topics I 1–2). It was the mathematics he encountered that impressed him as providing the model for any well-organized science. The wórk on axiomatization which was to culminate in Euclid’s Elements Elements was already far advanced, and for Aristotle the pattern of a science is an axiomatic system in which theorems are validly derived from basic principles, some proprietary to the science (“hypotheses” and “definitions,” the second corresponding to Euclid’s “definitions”), others having an application in more than one system (“axioms,” corresponding to Euclid’s “common notions”). The proof–theory which was characteristic of Greek mathematics (as against that of Babylon or Egypt) had developed in the attempt to show why various mathematical formulae worked in practice. Aristotle pitches on this as the chief aim of any science: it must not merely record but explain, and in explaining it must, so far as the special field of inquiry allows, generalize. Thus mathematical proof becomes Aristotle’s first paradigm of scientific explanation; by contrast, the dialectic that Plato ranked higher the logical but free–ranging analysis of the beliefs and usage of “the many and the wise”–is allowed only to help in settling those basic principles of a science that cannot, without regress or circularity, be proved within the science itself. At any rate, this was the theory.

Aristotle duly adapts and enlarges the mathematical model to provide for the physical sciences. Mathematics, he holds, is itself a science (or rather a family of sciences) about the physical world, and not about a Platonic world of transcendent objects; but it abstracts from those characteristics of the world that are the special concern of physics—movement and change, and therewith time and location. So the nature and behavior of physical things will call for more sorts of explanation than mathematics recognizes. Faced with a man, or a tree, or a flame, one can ask what it is made of, its “matter”; what is its essential character or “form”; what external or internal agency produced it; and what the “end” or purpose of it is. The questions make good sense when applied to an artifact such as a statue, and Aristotle often introduces them by this analogy; but he holds that they can be extended to every kind of thing involved in regular natural change. The explanations they produce can be embodied in the formal proofs or even the basic definitions of a science (thus a lunar eclipse can be not merely accounted for, but defined, as the loss of light due to the interposition of the earth, and a biological species can be partly defined in terms of the purpose of some of its organs). Again, the regularities studied by physics may be unlike those of mathematics in an important respect: initially the Posterior Analytics depicts a science as deriving necessary conclusions from necessary premises, true in all cases (I ii and iv), but later (I xxx) the science is allowed to deal in generalizations that are true in most cases but not necessarily in all. Aristotle is adapting his model to make room for “a horse has four legs” as well as for “2 x 2 = 4.” How he regards the exceptions to such generalizations is not altogether clear. In his discussions of “luck” and “chance” in Physics II, and of “accident” elsewhere, he seems to hold that a lucky or chance or accidental event can always, under some description, be subsumed under a generalization expressing some regularity. His introduction to the Meteorologica is sometimes cited to show that in his view sublunary happenings are inherently irregular; but he probably means that, while the laws of sublunary physics are commonly (though not always) framed to allow of exceptions, these exceptions are not themselves inexplicable. The matter is complicated by his failure to maintain a sharp distinction between laws that provide a necessary (and even uniquely necessary), and those that provide a sufficient, condition of the situation to be explained.

But in two respects the influence of mathematics on Aristotle’s theory of science is radical and unmodified. First, the drive to axiomatize mathematics and its branches was in fact a drive for autonomy: the premises of the science were to determine what questions fell within the mathematician’s competence and, no less important, what did not. This consequence Aristotle accepts for every field of knowledge: a section of Posterior Analytics I xii is given up to the problem, what questions can be properly put to the practitioner of such-and-such a science; and in I vii, trading on the rule “one science to one genus,” he denounces arguments that poach outside their own field—which try, for instance, to deduce geometrical conclusions from arithmetical premises. He recognizes arithmetical proofs in harmonics and geometrical proofs in mechanics, but treats them as exceptions. The same impulse leads him to map all systematic knowledge into its departments—theoretical, practical, and productive—and to divide the first into metaphysics (or, as he once calls it, “theology”), mathematics, and physics, these in turn being marked out in subdivisions.

This picture of the autonomous deductive system has had a large influence on the interpreters of Aristotle’s scientific work; yet it plays a small part in his inquiries, just because it is not a model for inquiry at all but for subsequent exposition. This is the second major respect in which it reflects mathematical procedure. In nearly all the surviving productions of Greek mathematics, traces of the workshop have been deliberately removed: proofs are found for theorems that were certainly first reached by other routes. So Aristotle’s theoretical picture of a science shows it in its shop window (or what he often calls its “didactic”) form; but for the most part his inquiries are not at this stage of the business. This is a piece of good fortune for students of the subject, who have always lamented that no comparable record survives of presystematic research in mathematics proper (Archimedes’ public letter to Eratosthenes—the Ephodos, or “Method”—is hardly such a record). As it is. Aristotle’s model comes nearest to realization in the systematic astronomy of De caelo I-II (cf., e.g., I iii, “from what has been said, partly as premises and partly as things proved from these, it follows...”), and in the proof of a prime mover in Physics VIII. But these constructions are built on the presystematic analyses of Physics I-VI, analyses that are expressly undertaken to provide physics with its basic assumptions (cf. I i)and to define its basic concepts, change and time and location, infinity and continuity (III i). Ex hypothesi the latter discussions, which from Aristotle’s pupils Eudemus and Strato onward have given the chief stimulus to physicists and philosophers of science, cannot be internal to the science whose premises they seek to establish. Their methods and data need not and do not fit the theoretical straitjacket, and in fact they rely heavily on the dialectic that theoretically has no place in the finished science.

Dialectic and “Phenomena.” Conventionally Aristotle has been contrasted with Plato as the committed empiricist, anxious to “save the phenomena” by basing his theories on observation of the physical world. First the phenomena, then the theory to explain them: this Baconian formula he recommends not only for physics (and specifically for astronomy and biology) but for ethics and generally for all arts and sciences. But “phenomena,” like many of his key terms, is a word with different uses in different contexts. In biology and meteorology the phenomena are commonly observations made by himself or taken from other sources (fishermen, travelers, etc.), and similar observations are evidently presupposed by that part of his astronomy that relies on the schemes of concentric celestial spheres proposed by Eudoxus and Callippus. But in the Physics when he expounds the principles of the subject, and in many of the arguments in the De caelo and De generatione et corruptione by which he settles the nature and interaction of the elements, and turns Eudoxus’ elegant abstractions into a cumbrous physical (and theological) construction, the data on which he draws are mostly of another kind. The phenomena he now wants to save—or to give logical reasons (rather than empirical evidence) for scrapping—are the common convictions and common linguistic usage of his contemporaries, supplemented by the views of other thinkers. They are what he always represents as the materials of dialectic.

Thus when Aristotle tries to harden the idea of location for use in science (Physics IV 1–5) he sets out from our settled practice of locating a thing by giving its physical surroundings, and in particular from established ways of talking about one thing taking another’s place. It is to save these that he treats any location as a container, and defines the place of X as the innermost static boundary of the body surrounding X. His definition turns out to be circular: moreover it carries the consequence that, since a point cannot lie within a boundary, it cannot strictly have (or be used to mark) a location. Yet we shall see later that his theories commit him to denying this.

Again, when he defines time as that aspect of change that enables it to be counted (Physics IV 10–14), what he wants to save and explain are the common ways of telling the time. This point, that he is neither inventing a new vocabulary nor assigning new theory-based uses to current words, must be borne in mind when one encounters such expressions as “force” and “average velocity” in versions of his dynamics. The word sometimes translated “force” (dunamis) is the common word for the “power” or “ability” of one thing to affect or be affected by another-to move or be moved, but also to heat or to soften or to be heated, and so forth. Aristotle makes it clear that this notion is what he is discussing in three celebrated passages (Physics VII 5, VIII 10, De caelo I 7) where later critics have discerned laws of proportionality connecting the force applied, the weight moved, and the time required for the force to move the weight a given distance. (Two of the texts do not mention weight at all.) A second term, ischus, sometimes rendered “force” in these contexts, is the common word for “strength,” and it is this familiar notion that Aristotle is exploiting in the so-called laws of forced motion set out in Physics VII 5 and presupposed in VIII 10: he is relying on what a nontechnical audience would at once grant him concerning the comparative strengths of packhorses or (his example) gangs of shiphaulers. He says let A be the strength required to move a weight B over a distance D in time T; then (1) A will move 1/2 B over 2D in T; (2) A will move 1/2 B over D in 1/2 T; (3) 1/2 A will move 1/2 B over D in T; and (4) A will move B over 1/2 D in 1/2 T; but (5) it does not follow that A will move some multiple of B over a proportionate fraction of D in T or indeed in any time, since it does not follow that A will be sufficient to move that multiple of B at all. The conjunction of (4) with the initial assumption shows that Aristotle takes the speed of motion in this case to be uniform; so commentators have naturally thought of A as a force whose continued application to B is just sufficient to overcome the opposing forces of gravity, friction, and the medium. In such circumstances propositions (3) and (4) will yield results equivalent to those of Newtonian dynamics. But then the circumstances described in (1) and (2) should yield not just the doubling of a uniform velocity which Aristotle supposes, but acceleration up to some appropriate terminal velocity. Others have proposed to treat A as prefiguring the later idea not of force but of work, or else power, if these are defined in terms of the displacement of weight and not of force; and this has the advantage of leaving Aristotle discussing the case that is central to his dynamics—the carrying out of some finite task in a finite time—without importing the notion of action at an instant which, for reasons we shall see, he rejects. But Aristotle also assumes that, for a given type of agent, A is multiplied in direct ratio to the size or quantity of the agent; and to apply this to the work done would be, once more, to overlook the difference between conditions of uniform motion and of acceleration. The fact is that Aristotle is appealing to conventional ways of comparing the strength of haulers and beasts of burden, and for his purposes the acceleration periods involved with these are negligible. What matters is that we measure strength by the ability to perform certain finite tasks before fatigue sets in; hence, when Aristotle adduces these proportionalities in the Physics, he does so with a view to showing that the strength required for keeping the sky turning for all time would be immeasurable. Since such celestial revolutions do not in his view have to overcome any such resistance as that of gravity or a medium we are not entitled to read these notions into the formulae quoted. What then is the basis for these proportionalities? He does not quote empirical evidence in their support, and in their generalized form he could not do so; in the Physics and again in the De caelo he insists that they can be extended to cover “heating and any effect of one body on another,” but the Greeks had no thermometer nor indeed any device (apart from the measurement of strings in harmonics) for translating qualitative differences into quantitative measurements. Nor on the other hand does he present them as technical definitions of the concepts they introduce. He simply comments in the Physics that the rules of proportion require them to be true (and it may be noticed that he does not frame any of them as a function of more than two variables: the proportion is always a simple relation between two of the terms, the others remaining constant). He depends on this appeal, together with conventional ways of comparing strengths, to give him the steps he needs toward his conclusion about the strength of a prime mover; it is no part of the dialectic of his argument to coin hypotheses that require elaborate discussion in their own right.

It is part of the history of dynamics that, from Aristotle’s immediate successors onward, these formulae were taken out of context, debated and refined, and finally jettisoned for an incomparably more exact and powerful set of concepts which owed little to dialectic in Aristotle’s sense. That he did not intend his proportionalities for such close scrutiny becomes even clearer when we turn to his so-called laws of natural motion. Aristotle’s universe is finite, spherical, and geocentric: outside it there can be no body nor even, therefore, any location or vacuum or time (De caelo I 9); within it there can be no vacuum (Physics IV 6–9). Natural motion is the unimpeded movement of its elements: centripetal or “downward” in the case of earth (whose place is at the center) and of water (whose place is next to earth), centrifugal or “upward” in the case of fire and (next below fire) air. These are the sublunary elements, capable of changing into each other (De generatione et corruptione II) and possessed of “heaviness” or “lightness” according as their natural motion is down or up. Above them all is the element whose existence Aristotle can prove only by a priori argument: ether, the substance of the spheres that carry the heavenly bodies. The natural motions of the first four elements are rectilinear and terminate, unless they are blocked, in the part of the universe that is the element’s natural place; the motion of the fifth is circular and cannot be blocked, and it never leaves its natural place. These motions of free fall, free ascent, and free revolution are Aristotle’s paradigms of regular movement, against which other motions can be seen as departures due to special agency or to the presence of more than one element in the moving body. On several occasions he sketches some proportional connection between the variables that occur in his analysis of such natural motions; generally he confines himself to rectilinear (i.e., sublunary) movement, as, for example, in Physics IV 8, the text that provoked a celebrated exchange between Simplicio and Salviati in Galileo’s Dialoghi. There he writes: “We see a given weight of body moving faster than another for two reasons: either because of a difference in the medium traversed (e.g., water as against earth, water as against air), or, other things being equal, because of the greater weight or lightness of the moving body.” Later he specifies that the proviso “other things being equal” is meant to cover identity of shape. Under the first heading, that of differences in the medium, he remarks that the motion of the medium must be taken into account as well as its density relative to others; but he is content to assume a static medium and propound, as always, a simple proportion in which the moving object’s velocity varies inversely with the density of the medium. Two comments are relevant. First, in this as in almost all comparable contexts, the “laws of natural motion” are dispensable from the argument. Here Aristotle uses his proportionality to rebut the possibility of motion in a vacuum: such motion would encounter a medium of nil density and hence would have infinite velocity, which is impossible. But this is only one of several independent arguments for the same conclusion in the context. Next, the argument discounts acceleration (Aristotle does not consider the possibility of a body’s speed in a vacuum remaining finite but increasing without limit, let alone that of its increasing to some finite terminal speed); yet he often insists that for the sublunary elements natural motion is always acceleration. (For this reason among others it is irrelevant to read his proportionalities of natural motion as an unwitting anticipation of Stokes’s law.) But it was left to his successors during the next thousand years to quarrel over the way in which the ratios he formulated could be used to account for the steady acceleration he required in such natural motion; and where in the passage quoted he writes “we see,” it was left to some nameless ancient scientist to make the experiment recorded by Philoponus and later by Galileo, of dropping different weights from the same height and noting that what we see does not answer to Aristotle’s claim about their speed of descent. It was, to repeat, no part of the dialectic of his argument to give these proportionalities the rigor of scientific laws or present them as the record of exact observation.

On the other hand the existence of the natural motions themselves is basic to his cosmology. Plato had held that left to themselves, i.e., without divine governance, the four elements (he did not recognize a fifth) would move randomly in any direction: Aristotle denies this on behalf of the inherent regularity of the physical world. He makes the natural motions his “first hypotheses” in the De caelo and applies them over and again to the discussion of other problems. (The contrast between his carelessness over the proportionalities and the importance he attaches to the movements is sometimes read as showing that he wants to “eliminate mathematics from physics”: but more on this later.)

This leads to a more general point which must be borne in mind in understanding his way of establishing physical theory. When he appeals to common views and usage in such contexts he is applying a favorite maxim, that in the search for explanations we must start from what is familiar of intelligible to us. (Once the science is set up, the deductions will proceed from principles “intelligible in themselves.”) The same maxim governs his standard way of introducing concepts by extrapolating from some familiar, unpuzzling situation. Consider his distinction of “matter” and “form” in Physics I. He argues that any change implies a passage between two contrary attributes—from one to the other, or somewhere on a spectrum between the two—and that there must be a third thing to make this passage, a substrate which changes but survives the change. The situations to which he appeals are those from which this triadic analysis can be, so to speak, directly read off: a light object turning dark, an unmusical man becoming musical. But then the analysis is extended to cases progressively less amenable: he moves, via the detuning of an instrument and the shaping of a statue, to the birth of plants and animals and generally to the sort of situation that had exercised earlier thinkersthe emergence of a new individual, the apparent coming of something from nothing. (Not the emergence of a new type: Aristotle does not believe that new types emerge in nature, although he accepts the appearance of sports within or between existing types. In Physics II 8 he rejects a theory of evolution for putting the random occurrence of new types on the same footing with the reproduction of existing species, arguing that a theory that is not based on such regularities is not scientific physics.) Ex nihilo nihil fit; and even the emergence of a new individual must involve a substrate, “matter,” which passes between two contrary conditions, the “privation” and the “form.” But one effect of Aristotle’s extrapolation is to force a major conflict between his theories and most contemporary and subsequent physics. In his view, the question “What are the essential attributes of matter?” must go unanswered. There is no general answer, for the distinction between form and matter reappears on many levels: what serves as matter to a higher form may itself be analyzed into form and matter, as a brick which is material for a house can itself be analyzed into a shape and the clay on which the shape is imposed. More important, there is no answer even when the analysis reaches the basic elements—earth, air, fire, and water. For these can be transformed into each other, and since no change can be intelligibly pictured as a mere succession of discrete objects these too must be transformations of some residual subject, but one that now ex hypothesi has no permanent qualitative of quantitative determinations in its own right. Thus Aristotle rejects all theories that explain physical change by the rearrangement of some basic stuff of stuffs endowed with fixed characteristics. Atomism in particular he rebuts at length, arguing that movement in a vacuum is impossible (we have seen one argument for this) and that the concept of an extended indivisible body is mathematically indefensible. But although matter is not required to identify itself by any permanent first-order characteristics, it does have important second-order properties. Physics studies the regularities in change, and for a given sort of thing at a given level it is the matter that determines what kinds of change are open to it. In some respects the idea has more in common with the field theory that appears embryonically in the Stoics than with the crude atomism maintained by the Epicureans, but its chief influence was on metaphysics (especially Neoplatonism)rather than on scientific theory. By contrast, the correlative concept of form, the universal element in things that allows them to be known and classified and defined, remained powerful in science. Aristotle took it from Plato, but by way of a radical and very early critique of Plato’s Ideas; for Aristotle the formal element is inseparable from the things classified, whereas Plato had promoted it to independent existence in a transcendent world contemplated by disembodied souls. For Aristotle the physical world is all; its members with their qualities and quantities and interrelations are the paradigms of reality and there are no disembodied souls.

The device of extrapolating from the familiar is evident again in his account of another of his four types of “cause,” of explanation, viz. the “final,” or teleological. In Physics II 8 he mentions some central examples of purposive activity—housebuilding, doctoring, writing—and then by stages moves on to discerning, comparable purposiveness in the behavior of spiders and ants, the growth of roots and leaves, the arrangement of the teeth. Again the process is one of weakening or discarding some of the conditions inherent in the original situations: the idea of purposiveness sheds its connection with those of having a skill and thinking out steps to an end (although Aristotle hopes to have it both ways, by representing natural sports and monsters as mistakes). The resultant “immanent teleology” moved his follower Theophrastus to protest at its thinness and facility, but its effectiveness as a heuristic device, particularly in biology, is beyond dispute.

It is worth noting that this tendency of Aristotle’s to set out from some familiar situation, or rather from the most familiar and unpuzzling ways of describing such a situation, is something more than the general inclination of scientists to depend on “explanatory paradigms.” Such paradigms in later science (e.g., classical mechanics) have commonly been limiting cases not encountered in common observation or discourse; Aristotle’s choice of the familiar is a matter of dialectical method, presystematic by contrast with the finished science, but subject to rules of discussion which he was the first to codify. This, and not (as we shall see) any attempt to extrude mathematics from physics, is what separates his extant work in the field from the most characteristic achievements of the last four centuries. It had large consequences for dynamics. In replying to Zeno’s paradox of the flying arrow he concedes Zeno’s claim that nothing can be said to be moving at an instant, and insists only that it cannot be said to be stationary either. What preoccupies him is the requirement, embedded in common discourse, that any movement must take a certain time to cover a certain distance (and, as a corollary, that any stability must take a certain time but cover no distance); so he discounts even those hints that common discourse might have afforded of the derivative idea of motion, and therefore of velocity, at an instant. He has of course no such notion of a mathematical limit as the analysis of such cases requires, but in any event this notion came later than the recognition of the cases. It is illuminating to contrast the treatment of motion in the Mechanica, a work which used to carry Aristotle’s name but which must be at least a generation later. There (Mechanica 1) circular motion is resolved into two components, one tangential and one centripetal (contrast Aristotle’s refusal to assimilate circular and rectilinear movements, notably in Physics VII 4). And the remarkable suggestion is made that the proportion between these components need not be maintained for any time at all, since otherwise the motion would be in a straight line. Earlier the idea had been introduced of a point having motion and velocity, an idea that we shall find Aristotle using although his dialectical analysis of movement and location disallows it; here that idea is supplemented by the concept of a point having a given motion or complex of motions at an instant and not for any period, however small. The Mechanica is generally agreed to be a constructive development of hints and suggestions in Aristotle’s writings; but the methods and purposes evident in his own discussions of motion inhibit him from such novel constructions in dynamics.

It is quite another thing to say, as is often said, that Aristotle wants to debar physics from any substantial use of the abstract proofs and constructions available to him in contemporary mathematics. It is a common fallacy that, whereas Plato had tried to make physics mathematical and quantitative, Aristotle aimed at keeping it qualitative.

Mathematics and Physics. Plato had tried to construct the physical world of two-dimensional and apparently weightless triangles. When Aristotle argues against this in the De caelo (III7) he observes; “The principles of perceptible things must be perceptible, of eternal things eternal, of perishable things perishable: in sum, the principles must be homogeneous with the subject-matter.” These words, taken together with his prescriptions for the autonomy of sciences in the Analytics, are often quoted to show that any use of mathematical constructions in his physics must be adventitious or presystematic, dispensable from the science proper. The province of physics is the class of natural bodies regarded as having weight (or “lightness,” in the case of air and fire), heat, and color and an innate tendency to move in a certain way. But these are properties that mathematics expressly excludes from its purview (Metaphysics K 3).

In fact, however, the division of sciences is not so absolute. When Aristotle contrasts mathematics and physics in Physics II he remarks that astronomy, which is one of the “more physical of the mathematical sciences,” must be part of physics, since it would be absurd to debar the physicist from discussing the geometrical properties of the heavenly bodies. The distinction is that the physicist must, as the mathematician does not, treat these properties as the attributes of physical bodies that they are; i.e., he must be prepared to explain the application of his model. Given this tie-line a good deal of mathematical abstraction is evidently permissible. Aristotle holds that only extended bodies can strictly be said to have a location (i.e., to lie within a static perimeter) or to move, but he is often prepared to discount the extension of bodies. Thus in Physics IV 11, where he shows an isomorphic correspondence between continua representing time, motion, and the path traversed by the moving body, he correlates the moving object with points in time and space and for this purpose calls it “a point—or stone, or any such thing.” In Physics V 4, he similarly argues from the motion of an unextended object, although it is to be noticed that he does not here or anywhere ease the transition from moving bodies to moving points by importing the idea of a center of gravity, which was to play so large a part in Archimedes’ Equilibrium of Planes. In his meteorology, explaining the shape of halos and rainbows, he treats the luminary as a point source of light. In the biological works he often recurs to the question of the number of points at which a given type of animal moves; these “points” are in fact the major joints, but in De motu animalium 1 he makes it clear that he has a geometrical model in mind and is careful to explain what supplementary assumptions are necessary to adapting this model to the actual situation it illustrates. In the cosmology of the De caelo he similarly makes use of unextended loci, in contrast to his formal account of any location as a perimeter enclosing a volume. Like Archimedes a century later, he represents the center of the universe as a point when he proves that the surface of water is spherical, and again when he argues that earth moves so as to make its own (geometrical) center ultimately coincide with that of the universe. His attempt in De caelo IV 3 to interpret this in terms of perimeter locations is correct by his own principles, but confused.

This readiness to import abstract mathematical arguments and constructions into his account of the physical world is one side of the coin whose other face is his insistence that any mathematics must be directly applicable to the world. Thus, after arguing (partly on dialectical grounds, partly from his hypothesis of natural movements and natural places) that the universe must be finite in size, he adds that this does not put the mathematicians out of business, since they do not need or use the notion of a line infinite in extension: what they require is only the possibility of producing a line n in any required ratio with a given line m, and however large the ratio n/m it can always be physically exemplified for a suitable interpretation of m. The explanation holds good for such lemmata as that applied in Eudoxus’ method of exhaustion, but not of some proportionalities he himself adduces earlier in the same context or in De caelo I. (These proportionalities are indeed used in, but they are not the subject of, reductio ad absurdum arguments. In the De caelo Aristotle even assumes that an infinite rotating body would contain a point at an infinite distance from its center and consequently moving at infinite speed.) The same concern to make mathematics applicable to the physical world without postulating an actual infinite is evident in his treatment of the sequence of natural numbers. The infinity characteristic of the sequence, and generally of any countable series whose members can be correlated with the series of numbers, consists just in the possibility of specifying a successor to any member of the sequence; “the infinite is that of which, as it is counted or measured off, it is always possible to take some part outside that already taken.” This is true not only of the number series but of the parts produced by dividing any magnitude in a constant ratio; and since all physical bodies are in principle so divisible, the number series is assured of a physical application without requiring the existence at any time of an actually infinite set of objects: all that is required is the possibility of following any division with a subdivision.

This positivistic approach is often evident in Aristotle’s work (e.g., in his analysis of the location of A as the inner static boundary of the body surrounding A), and it is closely connected with his method of building explanations on the familiar case. But here too Aristotle moves beyond the familiar case. when he argues that infinite divisibility is characteristic of bodies below the level of observation. His defense and exploration of such divisibility, as a defining characteristic of bodies and times and motions, is found in Physics VI, a book often saluted as his most original contribution to the analysis of the continuum. Yet it is worth noticing that in this book as in its two predecessors Aristotle’s problems and the ideas he applies to their solution are over and again taken, with improvements, from the second part of Plato’s Parmenides. The discussion is in that tradition of logical debate which Aristotle, like Plato, called “dialectic,” and its problems are not those of accommodating theories to experimntally established facts (or vice versa) but logical puzzles generated by common discourse and conviction. (But then Aristotle thinks of common discourse and conviction as a repository of human experience.) So the argument illustrates Aristotle’s anti-Platonic thesis that mathematics—represented again in this case by simple proportion theory—has standing as a science only to the extent that it can be directly applied to the description of physical phenomena. But the argument is no more framed as an advance in the mathematical theory itself than as a contribution to the observational data of physics.

Probably the best-known instance of an essentially mathematical construction incorporated into Aristotle’s physics is the astronomical theory due to Eudoxus and improved by Callippus. In this theory the apparent motion of the “fixed stars” is represented by the rotation of one sphere about its diameter, while those of the sun, moon, and the five known planets are represented each by a different nest of concentric spheres. In such a nest the first sphere carries round a second whose poles are located on the first but with an axis inclined to that of the first; this second, rotating in turn about its poles, carries a third similarly connected to it, and so on in some cases to a fourth or (in Callippus’ version) a fifth, the apparent motion of the heavenly body being the resultant motion of a point on the equator of the last sphere. To this set of abstract models, itself one of the five or six major advances in science, Aristotle makes additions of which the most important is the attempt to unify the separate nests of spheres into one connected physical system. To this end he intercalates reagent spheres designed to insulate the movement of each celestial body from the complex of motions propelling the body next above it. The only motion left uncanceled in this downward transmission is the rotation of the star sphere. It is generally agreed that Aristotle in Metaphysics XII 8 miscalculates the resulting number of agent and reagent spheres: he concludes that we need either fifty-five or forty-seven, the difference apparently representing one disagreement between the theories of Eudoxus and Callippus, but on the latest computation (that of Hanson) the figures should be sixty-six and forty-nine. The mistake had no effect on the progress of astronomy: within a century astronomers had turned to a theory involving epicycles, and Aristotle’s physical structure of concentric nonoverlapping spheres was superseded. On the other hand his basic picture of the geocentric universe and its elements, once freed from the special constructions he borrowed and adapted from Eudoxus, retained its authority and can be seen again in the introductory chapters of Ptolemy’s Syntaxis.

Conclusion. These arguments and theories in what came to be called the exact sciences are drawn principally from the Posterior Analytics, Topics, Physics, De caelo and De generatione, works that are generally accepted as early and of which the first four at least probably date substantially from Aristotle’s years in the Academy or soon after. The influence of the Academy is strong on them. They are marked by a large respect for mathematics and particularly for the techniques and effects of axiomatizing that subject, but they do not pretend to any mathematical discoveries, and in this they are close in spirit to Plato’s writings. Even the preoccupation with physical change, its varieties and regularities and causes, and the use of dialectic in analyzing these, is a position to which Plato had been approaching in his later years. Aristotle the meticulous empiricist, amassing biological data or compiling the constitutions of 158 Greek states, is not yet in evidence. In these works the analyses neither start from nor are closely controlled by fresh inspections of the physical world. Nor is he liable to think his analyses endangered by such inspections: if his account of motion shows that any “forced” or “unnatural” movement requires an agent of motion in constant touch with the moving body, the movement of a projectile can be explained by inventing a set of unseen agents to fill the gap—successive stages of the medium itself, supposed to be capable of transmitting movement even after the initial agency has ceased acting. In all the illustrative examples cited in these works there is nothing comparable to even the half—controlled experiments in atomistic physics and harmonics of the following centuries. His main concerns were the methodology of the sciences, which he was the first to separate adequately on grounds of field and method; and the meticulous derivation of the technical equipment of these sciences from the common language and assumptions of men about the world they live in. His influence on science stemmed from an incomparable cleverness and sensitiveness to counterarguments, rather than from any breakthrough comparable to those of Eudoxus or Archimedes.


Aristotle is still quoted by reference to the page, column, and line of Vols.I, II of I, Bekker’s Berlin Academy edition (1831–1870, recently repr.). The later texts published in the Oxford Classical Texts and in the Budé and Loeb series are generally reliable for the works quoted. The standard Oxford translation of the complete works with selected fragments occupies 12 volumes (1909–1952). The ancient commentaries are still among the best (Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca, Berlin, 1882–1909). Of recent editions with commentaries pride of place goes to those by Sir David Ross of the Metaphysics (2nd ed., 1953), Physics (1936), Analytics (1949), Parva naturalia (1955), and De anima (1961). Others are T. Waitz, Organon (1844–1846); H. H. Joachim, De generatione et corruptione (1922).

Important modern works are W. Jaeger, Aristotle (2nd English ed., Oxford, 1948); W.D. Ross, Aristotle (4th ed., London, 1945). On the mathematics and physics, T.L. Heath, Mathematics in Aristotle (Oxford, 1949); P. Duhem, Le systéme du monde, I (Paris, 1913); H. Carteron. La notion de force dans le systéme d’Aristote (Paris, 1924); A. Mansion, Introduction à la physique aristotélicienne (2nd ed., Louvain-Paris, 1945); F. Solmsen, Aristotle’s System of the Physical World (Ithaca, N.Y., 1960); W. Wieland, Die aristotelische Physik (G?ttingen, 1962); I. Düring, Aristoteles (Heidelberg, 1966).

On the so-called laws of motion in Aristotle, I. Drabkin, American Journal of Philology, 59 (1938), pp.60–84.

G.E.L. Owen

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Aristotle: Natural History and Zoology

Aristotle: Natural History and Zoology

It is not clear when Aristotle wrote his zoology, or how much of his natural history was his own work. This is unfortunate, for it might help us to interpret his philosophy if we knew whether he began theorizing in biology before or after his main philosophical formulations, and how many zoological specimens he himself collected and identified. Some believe that he began in youth, and that his theory of potentiality was directed originally at the problem of growth. Others (especially Jaeger) hold that his interest in factual research came late in life and that he turned to biology after founding the Lyceum. Most probably, however, it was in middle life, in the years 344–342 b.c., when he was living on Lesbos with Theophrastus; many of his data are reported from places in that area. This would imply that he wrote the zoology with his philosophical framework already established, and on the whole the internal evidence of the treatises bears this out. It follows that in order to understand his zoological theory, we must keep his philosophy in mind. Yet it may also be true that in thinking out his philosophy, he was conscious of biological problems in a general way.

The zoological treatises must represent many years’ work, for they make up a fourth of the whole corpus, and both data and discussion are concisely presented. They owe little to Herodotus, Ctesias, Xenophon, or other extant literature; their possible debs to Democritus cannot be assessed, however, because his three zoological books are lost. Comparing the quality of Aristotle’s data with previous writings, we must conclude that he sifted and rejected a great deal; even by modern standards of natural history his reports are cautious. The chief collection of data is the Historia animalium. Out of 560 species mentioned in all his zoology, 400 appear only in this work and only five are not included. The treatises, as we now have them, form a course of instruction in which the Historia is referred to as the descriptive textbook, intended to be studied first and then kept at hand. Internal evidence suggests, however, that it was in fact written after the others, and that most of it was not written by Aristotle himself. This implies that he wrote the theoretical treatises before the main collection of data. Not that the treatises lack supporting data, but most of the information was common knowledge, whereas the reports that read like new, firsthand observation are nearly all confined to the later parts of the Historia.

Biological data were normally quoted in cosmological arguments, not least in the Academy. The Academicians’ interest was not so much in the animals for their own sake, but rather in using them as evidence for—and giving them a place within—a rational cosmology. There were two issues: to identify the formal groups of animals, and thus to classify them, and to explain their functioning as part of nature. Plato and Speusippus opposed the materialism of those like Democritus, whose lost books, entitled Causes Concerning Animals, were probably intended to explain biology in terms of atomism. Aristotle would have been familiar with these discussions since his youth, and his writings follow this essentially etiological approach. His earliest zoology is probably in the De partibus animalium, the De incessu animalium, and the Parva naturalia (all of which in their present form show signs of revision and editing), in which he sets out the“causes” of tissues and structures, and of such significant functions as locomotion, respiration, aging, and death. Here the a priori element in his theory appears strongly: for example, right is superior to left, and hence the right-hand side is the natural side to lead off with; organs properly exist in pairs, and hence the spleen (for which he found no function) exists as the partner of the liver. On the other hand, the teleological explanation, which is the main theme of De partibus animalium, is argued in a mature fashion with evidential support. This scientific maturity is even clearer in the next great treatise, De generatione animalium, in which he applies his concepts of form and matter, actuality and potentiality, to the problems of reproduction, inheritance, and growth of such inessential characters as color. On the question of classification he remains tentative and critical, as we would expect of one who rejected Plato’s theory of Forms. He often returns to the problem in both early and late writings, but states no clear position.

His teleology differs from others. He argues it in De partibus I on the same grounds as in Physics B, where he states more of his opponents’ case. He makes it clear that the “natural philosophers” (Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus) were combating a popular teleology which presented