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BOOK REVIEWS 1 17 Charles E. Butterworth, translator. Averroes' Middle Commentaries on Aristotle's Categories and De Interpretaione. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. Pp. xx + 193. $~.5 o. The volume is the first in a projected series of translations from the Arabic of Averroes's so-called "middle commentaries" on Aristotle's logical works, and on the Rhetoric and the Poetics. Averroes (1126-1198 ) wrote three different kinds of commentaries on Aristotle: short "epitomes," exhaustive "long" commentaries, and--as here--intermediate or "middle" commentaries. The purpose of these last appears to have been to explain the text of Aristotle clearly and concisely, with a minimum of digression. (Nevertheless, as Butterworth points out, the Middle Commentary on the De Interpretatione strays rather far from Aristotle's own work.) These new translations of the middle commentaries are based on the most recent critical editions now being published by the American Research Center in Cairo. The Middle Commentary on the De lnterpretatione has never before been translated into any language exce.pt Latin and Hebrew. But a previous English translation of the Middle Commentary on the Categories appeared as recently as 1969.' In his Preface, Butterworth explains why a new translation is appropriate. The previous translation was based on the Bouyges edition of the Arabic text, published in 193a. Since that time, several other manuscripts of the Arabic text have been located. Moreover, the Leiden manuscript on which Bouyges mainly based his edition appears to reflect an earlier and less polished redaction of the text. The Florence manuscript on which the most recent critical edition (and Butterworth's translation) is based seems to present Averroes's own revised and improved version of the text, done some six months after the version that stands behind the Leiden manuscript. Butterworth's Preface also briefly retells the still fascinating story of the preservation and transmission of Aristotle's works, of how they were translated first into Syriac, then frmn Syriac into Arabic, and finally from Arabic into Hebrew and Latin. But it would be a mistake to think (and here Butterworth's remarks might leave the reader with the wrong impression) that the Latin West obtained the texts of Aristotle only or even primarily via this circuitous route through the Arabic. On the contrary, as B. G. Dod observes, "There is a tenacious legend that the West learnt its Aristotle via translations from the Arabic, but the fact is that the West turned to Arabic-Latin translations only in default of the more intelligible Greek-Latin ones. The only translations from the Arabic to achieve wide circulation were the De caelo, Meteorologica IIII , De animalibus and Metaphysics, and all of these except the De animalibus were quickly displaced by William of Moerbreke's versions."' ' Herbert A. Davidson, translator, Averroes"Middle Commentaryon Porphyry'sIsagoge, Translatedfrom the Hebrew and Latin Versions, and on Aristi~tle'sCategoriae,Translatedfrom the Original Arabic and Latin Versions, "Corpus Commentariorum Averrois in Aristotelem," vol. I, a, x-z (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Mediaeval Academy of America, 1969). z Bernard G. Dod, "Aristoteleslatinus," in Norman Kretzmann, et at., The CambridgeHistoryof Later Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), Ch. ~, 45-79, at 52. Moerbeke's translations were directly from Greek. 1 I8 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY ~4: ~ JANUARY 198( To possess and read the texts of Aristotle, however, is not automatically to under stand them. Here Latin translations of the Arabic commentators, and particularly o Averroes, were of decisive importance. So true is this that,just as the Latin West calico Aristotle "the Philosopher," so too Averroes was called simply "the Commentator" everyone knew who was meant. Nevertheless, in the case of the Categoriesand DeInterpre tatione, Averroes's importance in this regard was minimal. For not only had the Latin possessed these Aristotelian works ever since Boethius's translations in the sixth century They also had Boethius's own commentaries on them, commentaries far more elaborat~ and detailed than Averroes's concise presentations in his Middle Commentaries. In addition to the Preface, the present volume contains a separate Introduction tc each of the two works translated here, separate outlines or tables of contents for eac] of the translations, the translations themselves, and an...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 117-118
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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