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Chapter Seven History, Erudition, and Aristotle’s Past By the late Middle Ages, some interpretations of Aristotle’s philosophy and its relation to Christianity depended on knowledge of the past and on conceptions of historical practice. Readings of Augustine and Cicero shaped Petrarch’s, Bruni’s, Ficino’s, and Valla’s depictions of Peripatetic philosophy. The discovery of the Hermetic corpus and the ideal of prisca theologia led Giovanni Pico della Mirandola , Augustinian Platonists, and Francesco Patrizi either to try to reconcile Aristotelianism to Christianity or to forsake it in the attempt to discover ancient wisdom . The desire to find Aristotle’s intent by relying on Greek texts and the views of the Greek commentators led a number of sixteenth-century Italian university professors to conclude that Aristotle deviated from key tenets of Christianity. Knowledge of Aristotle’s past reached new levels of sophistication at the turn of the seventeenth century. The Valencian humanist Pedro Juan Nuñez (1529–1602) edited a more accurate version of the biography of Aristotle attributed to Ammonius . Nuñez provided not just a commentary but a chronology of his life, which demonstrated the impossibility of Aristotle’s having studied with Socrates.1 Isaac Casaubon (1559–1614) created a critical edition and translation of the Greek text of Aristotle’s writings in 1590; and, versions emended by Giulio Pace came out in the following decades.2 Increased knowledge of Aristotle’s life made his pagan roots difficult to ignore. Guillaume Du Val, in his summary of the Metaphysics that accompanied Causabon’s and Pace’s 1619 edition, invited the readers to “wonder at the theology of this pagan man,” because of Aristotle’s belief in an eternal God.3 Yet Du Val did not see Aristotle as conforming completely to Christianity , interpreting him as believing that God does not see human actions, thereby 122 subv erting aristotle rendering his philosophy impious because he “denied divine providence and justice.”4 Awareness of Aristotle’s biography even led a few Catholic authorities to ponder Aristotle’s impiety. The Spanish Jesuit Francisco Arias contended that, since Aristotle was raised in “paganism without the faith of Christ, he becomes useless for the master of virtue.”5 Arias noted that, even though Aristotle’s moral doctrine was the “most reconcilable and discerning,” of all the pagans, he misunderstood the nature of God and thought abortion and infanticide were permissible.6 Emanuel do Valle de Moura, the bishop and general inquisitor in Evora, Portugal , maintained that Aristotle “frequently sacrificed to demons,” thereby rendering it plausible that he obtained diabolic aid in his discoveries about nature.7 Valle de Moura also recounted Aristotle’s supposed wickedness, which included not just Aristotle’s beliefs regarding providence but also his alleged indulgence in sodomy in his old age. Nevertheless, he left open the possibility that Aristotle, after confessing on his deathbed, recognized the immortality of the soul.8 DespiteArias’sandValledeMoura’slimitedinfluenceontheCatholicChurch’s endorsement of Aristotle, historical interpretation, nevertheless, guided many seventeenth-century evaluations of Aristotle and Aristotelians. These interpretations often built on, or criticized, the works of sixteenth-century authors. Those interested in Aristotle’s past frequently expanded their scope, looking not just at Aristotle but at the larger Aristotelian tradition. Seventeenth-century histories of philosophy examined ancient schools in addition to medieval and Renaissance thinkers. Patrizi pioneered this approach when he divided Aristotelians into ten historical groups, the last being those who defined the field during his lifetime.9 Although reasonable, Patrizi’s historical analysis of schools Aristotelianism was partisan, assisting in a larger polemic over Aristotelian philosophy’s inferiority to Platonism and Hermetic thought. Similarly, the seventeenth-century historical evaluations of Aristotelians emerged from polemics and debates over religion and philosophical orthodoxy that emerged in the aftermath of the Council of Trent. In France during the first half of the seventeenth century, investigations in Aristotelianism’s past circled around two main issues, one institutional, the other intellectual. The institutional question regarded whether university instruction must be based on Aristotle’s thought. The rise of Jesuits imposed Aristotelian thought on French universities and colleges during the first decades of the 1600s. As Jesuits took over existing colleges and founded new ones that competed with already established universities such as at Paris, deviations from Aristotle became less accepted in universities. In 1611, the Sorbonne reformulated the statutes surrounding instruction and made explaining Aristotle obligatory for professors.10 History, Erudition, and Aristotle’s Past 123 Similar statutes had been passed elsewhere in Europe: in Oxford...


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