ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf


430. Various Forms of Renaissance Aristotelianism. -- Was there any need of a revival of Aristotelianism? Was it not dominant for centuries in the medieval schools? Yes; but for the philosophers of the Renaissance the scholastic Aristotle was a truncated Aristotle: and they set themselves to revive the real Aristotle. They made their own of the reproaches cast upon St. Thomas and his contemporaries by the Averroïsts of the thirteenth century. And these "reproaches" were indeed well merited, for the scholastics took care to avoid the servility of their adversaries in the cult of Aristotle. There was another reason too for regilding the crest of the Stagirite. The doctrines of Plato had been put on the market anew: and it seemed incumbent on many to defend the centuried monopoly of the Prince of the Lyceum against this latest intrusion. Hence all those impassioned controversies between Italian Platonists and Italian Aristotelians of the fifteenth century.{1}

But the defenders of Aristotle were not agreed among themselves upon his doctrines. Some of them, perpetuating the antischolastic traditions of the fourteenth century, knew only the Aristotle of Averroës' commentaries; others, doubting the fidelity of the Arabian commentator, sought the new spirit among the Greek commentators, especially in Alexander of Aphrodisias. Hence arose the Averroïst and Alexandrist parties,{2} whose controversies sum up the history of philosophic thought at the two Italian centres of Aristotelianism, Padua and Bologna, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The immortality of the soul was their chief bone of contention. For the Averroïsts, defenders of monopsychism (339), immortality is impersonal; for the Alexandrists the human soul perishes altogether with the body, as the form disappears in the dissolution of the compositum. Both parties agree in denying Divine Providence and human freedom. Those of either party who wanted to safeguard their Catholic belief; had recourse to the theory of the two truths. But most of them were quite unconcerned about the relations of their philosophy with Catholicism. The Fifth Lateran Council (1513) condemned as heretical the theory of the two truths, the theory of the unity of the human intellect, and the theory of the mortality of the human soul.{3}

{1} The disputes about the pre-eminence of Plato or Aristotle commenced at Byzantium, where GENNADIUS fought in favour of Aristotle; then extended to Italy and Rome, where MICHAEL APOSTOLIUS, ANDREAS CONTRARIUS and CARDINAL BESSARION took the side of Plato, while THEODORE GAZA, GEORGE OF TREBIZOND (1396-1584) and ANDRONICUS CALLISTUS took the side of Aristotle. Towards 1463-64 there was quite a war of pamphlets, in many of which personal invective took the place of argument. Among the Aristotelians, THEODORE GAZA (fl. 1478) may be ranked as equal to Bessarion among the Platonists. He was also a personal friend of Bessarion. Born at Salonika early in the fifteenth century, he shone for a time at Constantinople; then, like so many of his countrymen, he started for Italy long before the capture of that city. At the Papal court, which, in the pontificate of Nicholas V., rivalled that of the Medici, Theodore translated all the works of Aristotle. This was his principal achievement, and it was more highly valued than the similar enterprize of George of Trebizond, with whom he competed for the favour of the pontiff-king. There were other translators of Aristotle besides. Thus, the Byzantine, JOHN ARGYROPULUS, who died at Rome in 1486, translated, at the court of the Medici, the Organon, the Auscult. Phys., the De Coelo et Mundo, the De Anima and the Nich. Ethics. According to STEIN, Der Humanist Theodor Gaza als Philosoph (Arch. f. Gesch. d. Philos., 1889, p. 426), Gaza is a faithful and conscientious translator who worked on Aristotle's original writings, rendering them without any controversial prejudices. A. GASPARY, Zur Chronologie des Streites über Plato und Aristoteles im 15 Jahrh. (ibid.).

{2} Here and there we find other early Greek commentators revived. Thus HERMOLAUS BARBARUS, who translated the works of Aristotle, studied them according to Themistius. UEBERWEG, op. cit., iii., p. 14, 1888.

{3} WERNER, Sitzungsberichte, etc., 1881, p. 209.

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