- The Medieval Reception of Book Zeta of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Volume 1: Aristotle’s Ontology in the Middle Ages: The Tradition of Metaphysics, Book Zeta; Volume 2: Pauli Veneti, Expositio in duodecim libros Metaphysice Aristotelis, Liber VII by Gabriele Galluzzo
In this noteworthy addition to the distinguished series Studien und Texte zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters, Galluzzo traces one medieval tradition of interpretation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics Zeta. He argues that a synthesis of the various threads within this tradition can be seen in Paul of Venice’s massive fifteenth-century commentary on Aristotle’s book. The first volume starts with a study of Metaphysics Zeta (ch. 1). Galluzzo then works through the high points of the literal commentary tradition of this famous Aristotelian text. (Galluzzo explicitly puts to one side commentaries peer modum quaestionis, since the “distance between the quaestiones and the text they are officially about may be in some cases rather great” (1:17). This tradition begins with the Latin translation of Averroes’s Long Commentary (ch. 2). Galluzzo then examines Thomas Aquinas’s exposition of book Zeta (ch. 3) and Albert the Great’s Metaphysica book 7, which is effectively a running paraphrase of Aristotle’s text (ch. 4). Afterward, Galluzzo turns to the fourteenth-century commentary by Alexander of Alexandria, which he identifies as a significant source for Paul of Venice’s commentary (ch. 5). The final study examines some aspects of Paul of Venice’s commentary on book Zeta (ch. 6). The second volume consists of a critical edition of the seventh book of Paul of Venice’s Expositio in duodecim libros Metaphysice Aristotelis. Instead of a translation, Galluzzo appends a detailed summary of this part of Paul’s Expositio to the first volume.
These volumes primarily will be useful to specialists and advanced students of medieval philosophy, but the studies should also be of interest to those who are gripped by Zeta itself. The chapters on Averroes, Aquinas, and Albert are especially illuminating and they should be accessible even to non-medievalists. The chapter on Aristotle presents a survey of the doctrines and arguments of Zeta and critically engages with the main contemporary interpretations of this text. The elaboration of Zeta 10–12, which contains some of the trickiest passages in Aristotle’s book, is especially clear. Someone who reads this chapter in conjunction with, for example, Burnyeat’s A Map of Metaphysics Zeta (Pittsburgh: Mathesis, 2001) should be well prepared for advanced study of Aristotle’s very demanding text.
The chapter is also helpful because it allows Galluzzo to point out many of the parallels between the medieval and contemporary interpretations of Zeta. Paul of Venice’s Expositio has not even appeared in a Renaissance edition. Thus, it is a notable event in itself that we now have a critical edition of a key book from a commentary by an important later medieval thinker. The summary presents an accurate picture of the structure and contents of the Expositio, although it will probably be most useful for those who are scrutinizing Paul’s treatise. As Galluzzo concedes, Paul of Venice’s commentary is not particularly original. Rather, as the author ably demonstrates, Paul’s commentary draws together and attempts to harmonize what are by his time the two dominant interpretations, namely, those of Averroes and Aquinas. This in fact requires some creativity, since Galluzzo convincingly shows that Averroes and Aquinas differ significantly about how to understand Zeta. For example, Aquinas is aligned with modern day “compatibilists,” since he insists that in Zeta, as in the Categories, the primary substances are hylomorphic composites and that what Zeta is really examining is the substance of these primary substances. Averroes also makes much of the distinction between being a substance and being the substance of something, but in the end, he is an “incompatibilist”: in Zeta the...