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Chapter One Scholasticism, Appropriation, and Censure The introduction and integration of Aristotelian thought into the Latin West during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is among the most remarkable movements of European intellectual history. The success that Aristotelianism enjoyed for more than four centuries obscures the originality and determination of those first thinkers who interpreted this newly translated corpus and adapted the writings of a long-dead pagan Greek to the needs of Christian medieval society. These needs were not just religious but also medical, and, perhaps most important , dialectical, as Aristotle’s logic became a tool used in all fields that required learned argument. Some of Aristotle’s writings, such as De interpretatione, had long been available in Latin. Masters at Cathedral Schools taught logic, demonstrating its applicability for organizing argument in general. Many of his works, however, were translated into Latin for the first time at the end of the twelfth century or during the thirteenth century, oftentimes first from Arabic translations and later from Greek.1 The existence of these translation movements depended on high esteem for the contents. For many medieval scholars, the worth of Aristotle’s works stemmed from their comprehensive conceptual framework for understanding nature and the cosmos. Extensive discussions of metaphysics and epistemology clarified and expanded this framework. Despite the comprehensiveness of his corpus, understanding Aristotle posed a number of difficulties. His extant writings derive from lecture notes, full of awkward wording and unclear phrasing. The content is conceptually challenging because he gave complex solutions for fundamental paradoxes about nature, being, and knowledge. Incorporating Aristotle’s works into what would develop into the Scholastic culture of the medieval universities required numerous aids. 12 subv erting aristotle The translators of Aristotle rendered not just his works into Latin but also made available the most sophisticated recent philosophical writings in order to clarify his philosophy. Two authors were especially significant: Avicenna and Averroes. Both wrote in Arabic and were Muslim. Avicenna lived in the eastern part of the Islamic world, and Averroes spent most of his life in al-Andalus. Avicenna’s and Averroes’ works were valued for multiple reasons. Both were outstanding philosophers ,deeplyengagedwithAristotelianthought.Bothwerealsoauthorsofmedical writings, and the desire for more effective medical knowledge was one of the impetuses that brought Aristotle’s writings on nature to the Latin world.2 Avicenna’s Canon became the primary introductory medical textbook for universities in Italy throughout the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.3 Numerous professors of medicine read and cited Averroes’ Colliget, a work on medicine, although its diffusion was smaller than the Canon’s. Averroes’ worth stemmed, in large part, from his extensive commentaries on Aristotle. These commentaries had the primary goal of explaining and clarifying the words and doctrines of Aristotle’s texts. Avicenna’s and Averroes’ appropriations of Aristotle were part of the Islamic intellectual movement falsafa, which was in debt to the late-antique Greek commentators on Aristotle. Practitioners of falsafa and the philosophy of the late Academy shared techniques, methods of exegesis, styles of presentation, and an interest in Plato and Neoplatonic authors. The Academy’s curriculum, as established by Iamblichus (circa AD 240–325), started with Aristotelian logic and natural philosophy leading to Platonic metaphysics, taught by lecturing on the dialogue Parmenides. Iamblichus gave a historical justification for his combining of Aristotle and Plato, contending that Aristotle had taken the material that comprised the Categories from the Pythagorean philosopher Archytas of Tarentum . Thus both Aristotle and Plato had Pythagorean roots.4 Despite Iamblichus’s reliance on a spurious text for this contention, later Greek philosophers, such as Simplicius, Proclus, and Ammonius, followed him and interpreted Aristotle in light of their Neoplatonism, seeking to reconcile or harmonize these two strands of thought, while simultaneously making a systematic and consistent interpretation of Aristotle.5 Avicenna, Averroes, and other proponents of falsafa appropriated these ideals of reconciliation and system building while adapting Greek philosophy to their own culture.6 Avicenna played an extremely important role in transforming Greek philosophy by incorporating discussions from kalām into his metaphysics and theories of the soul. Kalām was a doctrinal theology that arose independently from the Greek philosophical tradition during the first centuries of Islam. After Avicenna’s death, kalām and falsafa overlapped, whereas before they had been largely distinct.7 Scholasticism, Appropriation, and Censure 13 Averroes, however, was hostile to the development of a philosophical kalām.8 He attacked the philosophies of Avicenna and al-Ghazālı̄ (1058–1111), a Persian philosopher...


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