ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

74. The Eclecticism of the Peripatetics. Aristotle's Interpreters and Commentators. -- To arrange, annotate, and popularize the great philosophical work of Aristotle, was from the first century B.C. the great preoccupation of the peripatetic school. ANDRONICUS OF RHODES, head of the Athenian School from 60 to 40 B.C., gave a powerful impetus to this work of exegesis by publishing, in conjunction with the grammarian TYRANNIO, a complete, annotated edition of the master's works (32). BOETHUS OF SIDON and ARISTO are two other commentators of note. Not that these men followed scrupulously on the lines of Aristotle in their own philosophy: no less than the others, the peripatetic school was susceptible to infiltrations from foreign sources. Under the Empire, the peripatetics continued to gravitate towards eclecticism while clinging more than ever to the works of Aristotle, whose Logic they took a special delight in commentating. The most celebrated among them was ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS (about 200 A.D.), the great commentator whom posterity has called the second Aristotle. Yet he also deviates in some capital points from Aristotelian philosophy. He emphasizes the individuality of substances so far as to reduce the universal to a pure concept without objective worth. He teaches that the passive intellect (nous hulikos kai phusikos) becomes an acting faculty (nous epiktêtos, rendered later on by intellectus acquisitus) through an extrinsic illumination (cf. the thurathen of Aristotle) which it receives from the "active intellect" or Divine being (nous poiêtikos). Our soul is wholly perishable; the potential intellect born with the body disappears with it: this is a denial of the immortality of the soul. Alexander thus decides, in the materialistic sense, a point of doctrine left in doubt by Aristotle (54). Whole schools of philosophy in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, accepted his interpretation. We may add that the Aristotelian commentator is a convinced defender of human liberty: in the name of liberty, he denies Providence.{1} From the second half of the third century Aristotle found numerous commentators and admirers in the Neo-Platonic School (86, 88). The latter, however, had not at any time a monopoly of the commentaries on the Stagirite.

{1} To peripatetic eclecticism we may also assign ADRASTUS OF APHRODISIAS (close of second century) and CLAUDIUS GALEN OF PERGAMUM (131-201), at once a physician and a philosopher.

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