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Philosophy 

철학 - 지혜의 탐구

2 ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL SCHOOLS

 

2.1 Aristotelianism

 
 

Aristotle's work, constituting the ancient world's greatest encyclopaedia, has exerted an immense influence over the succeeding centuries. It is proposed in the context of the present section to trace the course of the several streams of thought which had their source in Aristotle.

 

2.1.1 THE HELLENISTIC AGE AND NEOPLATONISM

The school founded by Aristotle in the Lyceum in Athens in 335 BC long survived his death. Its members became known as the Peripatetics. Aristotle's immediate disciples, Theophrastus of Eresus and Eudemus of Rhodes, devoted themselves to maintaining and to developing his teaching without altering either its content or its spirit; but after them the school fell rapidly into a decline as far as philosophy was concerned, and thenceforward until the middle or later decades of the 1st century BC no one taught as Aristotle had done. Then at last Andronicus of Rhodes made it his business to bring to light the long-sequestered treatises of Aristotle, to classify them according to their subject matter, and to publish them. His edition started a revival of interest in Aristotelian philosophy, and numerous commentaries on these texts were produced in the last centuries of the Hellenistic Age.

Andronicus himself interpreted a series of Aristotle's treatises, especially those of the Organon, and his example was followed. One of the most important commentators was Alexander of Aphrodisias, who taught in Athens from AD 198 to AD 211 and was known as the Second Aristotle because of the clarity of his exposition. Commentaries by him on part of the Organon, on Metaphysics I-IV, on the Meteorologica, and on the treatise On Sensation and the Sensible are extant; and in an original work of his, On the Soul, he gives a materialist interpretation of Aristotle's psychology of man, at the same time identifying the "active intellect" with God.

After Alexander, the Peripatetic school was absorbed by Neoplatonism, under which Platonic doctrines were resuscitated amid strong currents of Aristotelian influence. The last Greeks of the ancient world to write commentaries on Aristotle were all Neoplatonists, as follows:

Porphyry (234-c. 305), a pupil of Plotinus, wrote a very important Isagoge, or introduction, to the Categories, as well as a commentary on that treatise.

Themistius (c. 320-390), who taught in Constantinople, left commentaries on several works of Aristotle's, notably on the treatise On the Soul.

Ammonius Hermiae, who after studying under Proclus in Athens was head of the school of Alexandria toward the end of the 5th century, lectured on several of Aristotle's treatises: transcripts are extant of notes taken down at his lectures on the Categories, on the treatise On Interpretation, on the Prior Analytics, and also on Porphyry's Isagoge.

Simplicius, who was a pupil of Ammonius in Alexandria, wrote ample commentaries on the Categories, on the Physics, and on the treatise On the Heavens.

Finally John Philoponus, another pupil of Ammonius but a member of the Christian community in Alexandria, wrote against certain doctrinal errors that he detected in Aristotle: fragments of his treatise Against Aristotle are extant; so is most of his book De aeternitate mundi, which attacks the thesis of the eternity of the world as elaborated by the pagan Neoplatonist Proclus; and a series of Aristotelian commentaries is ascribed to him, some of which consist, however, of notes taken down at Ammonius' lectures and simply filled out by John Philoponus.

To sum up, Aristotle's philosophy can hardly be said to have been maintained in its entirety among the Greeks of the ancient world after the first generation of his disciples. Andronicus launched a revival in the 1st century BC, but from the 4th century AD onward Aristotelianism was submerged in Neoplatonism, which accommodated to its own peculiar view of the universe whatever Aristotelian doctrine it cared to take up.

 

2.1.2 ARISTOTELIANISM IN ARABIC PHILOSOPHY

Aristotelianism was to have a highly distinguished history in the world of Islam; but the Arabic philosophers, who owed their first acquaintance with it to the Neoplatonists' commentaries, never presented it in its purity or disengaged it from the Neoplatonic context in which it had been transmitted to them. This is readily understandable: whereas Aristotle's own metaphysic was too imperfect to satisfy Islamic monotheism, the Neoplatonist metaphysic of Plotinus supplied an invaluable complement, to which Muslim thinkers always, to a greater or lesser extent, had recourse. The tendency to combine Aristotelianism proper with Neoplatonism was moreover strengthened by the diffusion of a work known as the Theology of Aristotle: this, originally compiled in Syriac by a Christian monk availing himself of extracts from the Enneads of Plotinus, was translated into Arabic c. 840 and was commonly ascribed to Aristotle himself, with the result that the latter came to be credited with metaphysical doctrines characteristic of Plotinus. Much later, probably in the 12th century, another pseudo-Aristotelian work--of Arabic origin this time--was circulated in Spain, namely the work well known from its prompt translation into Latin as the Liber de causis ("On Causes"): a commentary on propositions selected from Proclus' Elements of Theology, it was monotheistic in inspiration and served further to confirm the habit of attributing to Aristotle creationist doctrines wholly foreign to him. (see also  Islamic philosophy)

The combination of Aristotelianism with Neoplatonism is already realized in the writings of the first Arabic philosopher, al- Kindi, who flourished in 9th-century Baghdad. A century later, al- Farabi (died c. 950), who likewise taught mainly in Baghdad, similarly linked Aristotle's doctrines with the metaphysic of the last Alexandrian Neoplatonists, stressing however the independence of philosophy from religion.

The first major thinker of Islam was the Iranian philosopher and physician Avicenna (properly Ibn Sina, 980-1037). Besides his personal writings, many of which are lost, he produced a great encyclopaedia of philosophy, Kitab ash-shifa` ("Book of Healing"), which consists largely of a paraphrase of Aristotelian writings but is capped with an emanationist metaphysic derived from the so-called Theology of Aristotle and from other Neoplatonic sources.

Aristotle's influence in the Arabic world reached its zenith with the work of Averroës (properly Ibn Rushd, 1126-98), of Córdoba in Andalusia, who professed a boundless admiration for the Greek master and regarded him as sent by God to teach men true philosophy. Often in reaction against Avicenna, Averroës meant to restore Aristotelianism in its integrity and composed three series of commentaries on Aristotle's treatises: (1) the "little commentaries," short compendiums or epitomes providing a brief analysis of the treatises; (2) the "middle commentaries," explaining the texts literally; and (3) the "great commentaries," a more advanced and more profound literal exegesis. While he is faithful, on the whole, to Aristotle's thought, Averroës nonetheless, perhaps unwittingly, gives it an undue extension by endowing the Aristotelian "prime mover" with the characteristics of the Plotinian and Islamic transcendent God, the universal First Cause. Furthermore, he often enough supplements Aristotle by advancing his own interpretation of obscure passages or by developing doctrines that Aristotle scarcely considered at all. The typical instance is where he propounds his own " monopsychism": forcing Aristotle to follow his metaphysical principles to their logical conclusion, Averroës maintains that the two human intellects, namely the passive or receptive intellect and the active intellect, being immaterial, cannot be multiplied in individuals; that consequently both are single substances, entering by their own operation into relation with human individuals, as the passive intellect thinks by means of the ideas that the active intellect abstracts from images in the human brain; and that the human individual is only a superior kind of animal, altogether mortal. If Averroës won few followers among the Arabs, his interpretation of Aristotle and, particularly, his monopsychism were taken up with great interest by Jewish and even more so by Christian thinkers.

 

2.1.3 ARISTOTELIANISM IN JEWISH PHILOSOPHY

Jewish speculative thought in the Muslim world was long dominated by Neoplatonism, but all Jewish philosophers from the time of Isaac Israeli (9th-10th century) to the end of the Middle Ages were subject, more or less, to the Aristotelian influence. A firmer orientation toward Aristotelianism is discernible in the famous Guide of the Perplexed of Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), a contemporary of Averroës and, like him, a native of Córdoba. But here again there is no occasion to speak of pure Aristotelianism: Maimonides adopts a large measure of Neoplatonic theology (emanation and the via negativa or "negative way" to knowledge of God), adopts also much of the Plotinian system of ethics, and furthermore differs from Aristotle on the question of the eternity of the world. Jewish philosophy in Spain, in France, and in Italy was influenced by Maimonides throughout the remainder of the Middle Ages and even longer. (see also  "Guide of the Perplexed, The," )

A Jewish opposition to Aristotelianism had already manifested itself most distinctly in the first decades of the 12th century, when Judah ha-Levi denounced the current philosophy. After Maimonides this anti-Aristotelian reaction persisted, notably among the Kabbalists.

 

2.1.4 THE CHRISTIAN EAST

During the patristic period, some Aristotelian doctrines infiltrated Eastern Christianity through Neoplatonic channels: they can be shown to have affected St. Gregory of Nyssa and Nemesius of Emesa in the 4th century; Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and John Philoponus (whose work as a commentator has already been mentioned) in the 6th; and St. John of Damascus in the 8th. In the 9th century the Byzantine patriarch Photius and his disciple Arethas took an interest in Aristotelian logic, and from the 11th century onward there was a major revival of Aristotelian studies in Constantinople, exemplified particularly by Michael of Ephesus (late 11th century) and by Eustratius of Nicaea (c. 1050-1120), who both wrote commentaries on parts of the Organon and on the Nicomachean Ethics. Further commentaries appeared in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the 15th century Cardinal Bessarion argued for the ultimate concordance of Aristotelianism with Platonism.

 

2.1.5 THE CHRISTIAN WEST

Aristotle's influence during the patristic period was even more restricted in Western Christianity than in Eastern: St. Augustine of Hippo, for instance, was acquainted with nothing Aristotelian except the Categories.

The fountainhead of Aristotelianism in the Christian West was the Roman philosopher Boethius (c. 480-524). With the intention of demonstrating the profound harmony between Plato and Aristotle, he set himself to translate the works of those two great masters into Latin. He is known to have succeeded at least in translating all the treatises of the Organon except the Analytica posteriora, together with Prophyry's Isagoge; and he also produced commentaries on the Categories, on the treatise On Interpretation, and on the Isagoge. Though his achievement fell short of his project, his work was of capital importance for the transmission of Greek philosophical thought and of Aristotelian logic to Latin Christendom: the Categories, the treatise On Interpretation, and the Isagoge constituted the principal textbooks of logic for the early Middle Ages and so came, later, to be known as the Ars vetus or Logica vetus ("old technique" or "old logic") when the other parts of the Organon, known as the Ars nova or Logica nova, had been rediscovered and published in Latin versions. Boethius therefore well deserves to be remembered as "the Teacher of the West," particularly because of the essential role played by Aristotelian logic in the intellectual formation of the new peoples who arrived in western Europe as barbarian invaders and remained there to develop a civilization replacing that of the Roman Empire. With his works on logic Boethius paved the way for the elaboration of the scholastic method, and in his commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge he posed the problem of universals, which was to figure so prominently in the controversies of a later age.

Charlemagne's educational policy confirmed the status of Aristotelian logic in the scholastic curriculum during the literary and scientific revival of the Carolingian Renaissance: "dialectic," or logic, was in fact the only philosophic discipline to be admitted among the seven "liberal arts" that represented secular, or "profane," learning in the program of teaching authorized by Charlemagne's capitulary of the year 778. Subsequently, between the 9th and the 12th centuries, more and more work on logic was undertaken; Aristotle's influence grew continuously as the nature of knowledge was discussed; and with Peter Abelard (1079-1142) the moderate realism of the Aristotelians was vindicated against the extreme realism of the Platonists. With Abelard likewise, and especially in his book Sic et non, the scholastic method was perfected. The scholastic method, a product of Aristotelian logic, contributed much not only to the development of speculative theology but also to the progress of the deductive sciences and to the grammatical organization of the European languages.

The triumph of Aristotelianism in the epistemology and in the logic of the 12th-century scholastics prepared the ground for the Aristotelian domination of the universities in the 13th century. The middle of the 12th century had seen the start of a massive penetration of Aristotle's works into western Europe, in Latin translations first from Arabic versions, then from Greek texts. Most of Aristotle's treatises were known by the beginning of the 13th century, but it was only gradually, in the course of the next 100 years, that the consequences of this flood of pagan philosophy became clear (Aristotle's works were accompanied by those of other pre-Christian Greeks, as well as by the commentaries of the Muslims). In the universities the "faculties" of arts (successors of the earlier schools of the liberal arts) enlarged their curricula from the start of the 13th century, and Aristotelianism became more and more firmly implanted, both at Paris and at Oxford, despite opposition from some of the ecclesiastical authorities. The Paris faculty of arts decided on March 19, 1255, that its students should attend lectures on every known treatise of Aristotle's, and indeed by that time every faculty of arts was turning into a faculty of philosophy teaching Aristotelianism. Already, moreover, in the 1220s, Aristotelianism had broken into the faculties of theology; and thenceforward until the end of the Middle Ages (or even later in some establishments) it was to remain fundamental to the structure of scholasticism, both philosophically and theologically. Of all the Aristotelian revivals, the most dynamic was that which the 13th century witnessed in the Christian West.

The revived Aristotelianism of the Christian Middle Ages was no purer, however, than that of the Arabs or that of the Jews had been: various complementary or corrective elements were always present, whether religious or philosophical. Philosophically the main influence was derived, once again, from Neoplatonism.

Up to 1250, Latin Aristotelianism remained very eclectic and, for the most part, Avicennian, so that Aristotle's doctrine, albeit preponderant, was compounded with secondary importations. Avicenna's paraphrases were found useful for the interpretation of difficult texts; the Jewish Neoplatonist Ibn Gabirol (Avicebron) was highly esteemed; Proclus was also available; and in the 1230s the work of Averroës became known to Christian Europe. For theology, Aristotelianism was combined with traditional doctrines (derived mainly from St. Augustine and from the Pseudo-Dionysius) or with the teaching of the 12th-century masters.

After 1250, the Aristotelian influence becomes perceptibly stronger, though at the same time it branches out in various directions. The several schools of thought can be distinguished from one another by the differences in their attitude toward Aristotle, but all remain basically Aristotelian (the Augustinian school in the strict sense of the name did not come into existence until c. 1270, as a reaction against heterodox Aristotelianism and Thomism). Thus the Aristotelianism of St. Bonaventura is of an Augustinian tendency; that of St. Albertus Magnus is more Neoplatonic, being strongly affected by Proclus, by the Pseudo-Dionysius, and by Avicenna; that of St. Thomas Aquinas is so profoundly recogitated as to be converted into a distinct system, Thomism; and that of Siger of Brabant is heterodox, as it accepts doctrines incompatible with Christianity.

The great doctrinal controversies of the 13th century were largely disputes between champions of the various sorts of Aristotelianism. Thus, when St. Thomas Aquinas held his ground against the majority of the Paris theologians (c. 1270), the conflict was not so much between Aristotelianism and Augustinianism as between the eclectic Aristotelianism for which Alexander of Hales and William of Auvergne had stood and the more consistent and vigorous Aristotelianism which Thomas was maintaining. Similarly the conflict between Thomas and Siger can be regarded as one between the Christian and the heterodox or pagan varieties of Aristotelianism.

From the end of the 13th century Aristotelianism in philosophy was upheld chiefly by the logicians, metaphysicians, psychologists, and ethical theorists teaching in the faculties of arts and was usually "moderate"; i.e., orthodox with respect to Christian doctrines. Thomism became the established system of the Dominicans and even won adherents outside their order. The Neo-Augustinianism that had come into being in the reaction against the nascent Thomism found its definitive expression in Scotism, which in fact was marked by a reversion to Aristotelianism in certain fields and remained in many respects dependent on Aristotle. Finally an Averroist Aristotelianism was launched in Paris by John of Jandun in the first quarter of the 14th century and was taken up in Italy by Taddeo da Parma and by Angelo d'Arezzo. This Latin Averroism was still flourishing in Italy in the 16th century, though it was opposed alike by the Platonism of the humanist Renaissance and by the rival Aristotelianism of the Alexandrists, who revived the doctrines of Alexander of Aphrodisias to interpret Aristotle's psychology.

The 14th century, however, saw also new currents of thought running counter to the influence of Aristotelianism. On the one hand, the Aristotelian system of physics was challenged both at Paris and at Oxford; on the other hand, moderate realism was battered successively by Nominalism, by phenomenalism, by Skepticism, and by agnosticism, which, to a greater or lesser degree, questioned the validity of knowledge and, in particular, the possibility of metaphysics. Failing to disengage itself soon enough from the obsolete physics, Scholasticism was brought farther and farther into disrepute by the successes of the new. One of the reproaches that the men of the humanist Renaissance cast most frequently at the Scholastics was that of being excessively obsequious to Aristotle. Nevertheless, Aristotelianism was still the standard doctrine of some universities down to the end of the 18th century and even longer. In the 19th and 20th centuries there was a great revival of Aristotelian studies, most notably in England (Oxford), in Germany, in France, and in Belgium (Louvain). For some scholars, the interest was chiefly historical: they saw Aristotle as one of the most brilliant products of Greek culture and, indeed, of human culture in general. For the promoters of the Thomist revival, on the other hand, the interest in Aristotelianism was essentially doctrinal, St. Thomas Aquinas having taken him as the main source of his philosophy.

 

2.1.6 CONCLUSION

Very different judgments have been passed on Aristotelianism in the course of history, and its value as a philosophy or as an instrument of theological speculation is still debated. Defenders of religion, whether Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, have often denounced Aristotelianism as tending toward empiricism, as defective in its metaphysic, and as limited to earthly life in its ethic, and they have accused its followers of being naturalists or rationalists. Platonists and idealists also object to Aristotelianism on the grounds that it is empiricist, that it gives a central place to natural philosophy in its scheme of things, and that it makes excessive use of discursive reason and of abstract concepts. Finally, many modern thinkers regard the majority of Aristotle's philosophical categories as out of date. On the contrary side, Thomists maintain that many of the notions advanced by Aristotle, not only in metaphysics but also in physics, in psychology, and in ethics, are still really valuable, quite independently of the evident fact that his "science" is now altogether obsolete.

(F.V.Sn.)

 
   


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