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Reviewed by:
  • De Anima (On the Soul) by David Bolotin
  • Ignacio De Ribera-Martin
ARISTOTLE. De Anima (On the Soul). Translated by David Bolotin. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2018. xi + 152 pp. Paper, $18.00

Aristotle’s De anima is the first attempt of a comprehensive and scientific account of the soul as the principle of life in the history of thought. Its influence on the history of philosophy is perennial and cannot be overemphasized. At the same time, however, due to the complexity of its subject matter and to its intricate textual transmission through the centuries, the De anima is one of the most difficult Aristotelian treatises to read and interpret. In this light, Bolotin’s English translation of the De anima (as well as other recent English translations, such as Shield’s, Reeve’s, and Miller’s) should be welcomed with much gratitude by those interested in understanding such a monumental treatise. This includes those who do know Greek, since it is not possible to translate the De anima without at the same time making relevant word choices and thereby engaging to some extent in its interpretation. Bolotin’s translation is primarily based on Biehl’s edition of the text (1884), slightly revised by Otto Apelt in a Felix Meiner recent edition (1995). Since this edition is less complete from the point of view of the number of manuscripts collated (nine manuscripts), Bolotin has also made use of Jannone’s 1966 edition (collating fifteen manuscripts), and Siwek’s 1965 (so far, the most complete edition, collating a total of sixty-five manuscripts). There are several aspects of Bolotin’s translation that are commendable. Bolotin offers a very careful and accurate translation, almost word by word, which is particularly helpful to those who want to pay the price of some (tolerable) awkwardness in exchange for a precise translation of the text. He is quite attentive to the reader, signaling any addition to the translation that is not explicitly present in the Greek text. Another strength of Bolotin’s translation is the consistency with which he translates key terms through the whole treatise (alerting the reader when he eventually needs to render the key term differently). Thus, the reader who does not know Greek can be certain that the same English word is translating the same Greek word. Footnotes are also very helpful. Besides indicating the cross-references and parallel passages, as well as his departures from Biehl’s edition (and how the text would then be translated in the alternative readings), Bolotin also notes those passages whose interpretation is more complex, trying to make the best [End Page 587] possible sense of them without hiding the difficulties. In short, the translation is very close to the text and decently readable despite its awkwardness, which is a faithful reflection of the intricacy of the Greek itself. There are a few aspects of Bolotin’s translation that are open to discussion. While I agree that we should be as conservative as possible in rejecting emendations and additions to the text that are not supported by manuscripts, this cannot be the only textual principle in choosing the best reading. Otherwise, we would be ruling out a priori the possibility that copyists may have made some additions or modifications through the more than two millennia of textual transmission. The translation of key terms is sometimes too awkward (for example, “deed” for ergon or “being admissible” for endechesthai), and a few times probably disputable, as when Bolotin translates “material” for hulê (not every hulê is material), or “to judge” for krinein (“discerning” should be a better translation, as lower living beings discern while they are unable to judge). As he does in some cases, for example with logos, I would transliterate the difficult terms entelecheia and energeia rather than translate them consistently by “completion” and “actuality,” as Bolotin does. While the term “completion” seems to capture well the meaning of entelecheia—in fact, in the later Greek tradition some commentators would sometimes use the word teleiotês (completion) and entelecheia as almost interchangeable—rendering energeia as “actuality” obscures the fact that (inactive) entelecheia and some potentialities are also actual.

Notwithstanding the possibility to...


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pp. 587-588
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