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Aristotelianism is the tradition that stressed the theoretical "sciences" rather than the practical disciplines in Aristotle's encyclopedia of the disciplines, and within the theoretical disciplines the systematic presentation of "true and certain" knowledge rather than the inductive search for its principles.

Greek Aristotelianism

The edition of Aristotle's works made by Andronicus of Rhodes (fl. c. 70c. 50 b.c.e.) established the knowledge of a comprehensive, structured body of demonstrated conclusions as Aristotle's ideal of science. The works of Alexander of Aphrodisias (fl. c. 200), the first great commentator on Aristotle, complemented this view of the philosopher's scientific corpus. The Neoplatonic movement attempted to harmonize the thought of Plato and Aristotle as the two great representatives of the Greek tradition. The tradition of commentary on Aristotle as an introduction to the higher wisdom of Plato was represented at Athens by two works that transformed Aristotle's encyclopedia into an idealistic system. The Elementatio theologica (Rudiments of theology) and the Elementatio physica (Rudiments of physics) of Proclus (410?485) exhibit all forms of substance as deriving from a single first principle, the Platonic One.

Alexandrian exegesis of Aristotle's text, following Ammonius Hermiae, a pagan (fl. c.550), was more independent. John Philoponus, a Christian (fl. c. 529), even contested various Aristotelian notions. His introduction of the Judeo-Christian idea of creation into philosophy rendered Proclus's entire system questionable. These Alexandrian developments determined, in large measure, the approach to Aristotle's philosophy in the Byzantine world. Plato and Aristotle were regarded as representatives of "Hellenic philosophy," as part of a pagan tradition, generally opposed to "our (Christian) philosophy." The interest of Christian theologians in Aristotle was mostly limited to the parts of his logic necessary in theology, although under the dynasty of the Komnenoi (11th12th century), Aristotle's practical philosophy enjoyed a rebirth with the commentary on the Ethics put together by Eustratius of Nicaea (1054c. 1117). After the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in 1204, the necessity of answering the challenge of an increasingly sophisticated Latin theology led to the composition of compendia of Aristotelian doctrine, although the debate regarding Aristotelian methods of proof continued.

Arabic Aristotelianism

By the ninth century practically the entire corpus of Aristotle's works, together with those of his Greek commentators, had been made available in Islam. Aristotle's classification of the natural sciences supplied the structure for an encyclopedia in which classical authors like Hippocrates (c. 460c. 377 b.c.e.) and Galen (129c. 199), Euclid (fl. c. 300 b.c.e.) and Ptolemy (second century c.e.) also found a place. The understanding of science as a body of strictly demonstrated conclusions was decisive for Islamic Aristotelianism. In their commentaries on this enormous body of new doctrine, Arabic philosophers tended to comment on the logic, metaphysics, and natural philosophy as parts of a philosophical encyclopedia; few commentaries on the practical philosophy were written. Muslim thinkers opposed studies concerned with their own way of life, called the "Arabic or traditional sciences" (the Koran; traditions; kalam, or dialectical theology; and the like), to the "Greek or rational sciences," associated for the most part with Aristotle's name. Kalam's task was to supply the faithful with logical proofs for their belief, but its methods of proof forced the Aristotelian philosophers to refine their idea of scientific methodology.

In his Catalogue of the Sciences, the Persian philosopher, al-Farabi (c. 878c. 950) attempted to fit the "traditional sciences of the Arabs" into the Aristotelian division of the sciences. The doctrine of God is taken up under the theoretical science of metaphysics, whereas kalam is regarded as a part of politics, with the function of defending the articles of faith. Al-Farabi demanded that the theologians provide strict demonstrations in defense of Muslim doctrine. About a century later, another Persian philosopher, the famous physician Avicenna (9801037), undertook to reform kalam in accordance with the Aristotelian theory of demonstrative science and understood kalam not as a part of politics, but rather as metaphysics. Through the Persian theologian al-Ghazali (10581111), Avicenna's conception of logical proof was influential in Muslim theology. Averroës (11261198), writing in Muslim Spain, also confronted the theologians with Aristotle's idea of demonstrative science, stressing the truth and certainty of Aristotle's presentation of theoretical science.

Medieval Jewish Materialism

Medieval Judaism also needed Aristotelian science and the logic that went with it. Where conflicts between philosophy and the Jewish faith appeared, some thinkersof whom Moses Maimonides (11351204) was the most significantheld that philosophical speculation must proceed according to the theory of demonstrative science, without regard for theological doctrine. Only when the philosophical and theological doctrines have been clearly defined can one ask how the two realms are related. In spite of this view, an increasingly critical evaluation of Aristotle's doctrines in the light of the Jewish faith appeared in the fourteenth century.

Medieval Latin Aristotelianism

The works of Aristotle were made available in the Latin West in three clearly distinguishable stages. The first stage opened in the sixth century with Boethius's (c. 480c. 524) translations of Aristotle's treatises on logic, along with some notions transmitted by Cicero (10643 b.c.e.). Such works had but little effect upon the monastic life of the early Middle Ages. The second stage began in the twelfth century with the gradual translation of the entire corpus of Aristotle's works. Working in the tradition of the concordia discordantium (reconciliation of disagreements), Scholastic teachers made the epoch-making decision not to try to separateas the Byzantines and Muslims before them had donetheir own religious disciplines from the profane sciences inherited from the ancients. They attempted rather to situate theological teaching within the Aristotelian classification of the sciences. The masters were guided at first by Boethius and then by Euclid. In his De hebdomadibus (Concerning the weekly conferences), Boethius described the organization of scientific knowledge much as Aristotle had done, and early authors sought to develop a general theory of scientific method from it. Gilbert de La Porrée (10761154) maintained, for example, that first principles can be established for all the liberal arts and in the same way for theology itself. Nicholas of Amiens (fl. c. 1190) in his Ars fidei catholicae (Art of the Catholic faith) attempted to present theological doctrine in accordance with Euclid's geometrical model.

The condemnation in 1210 and 1215 of Aristotle's libri naturales (books of natural philosophy) at Paris was followed by an intense effort to axiomatize the quadrivial sciences. The attempt was most successful in the science of optics, a science subalternate to geometry. But the philosophers also turned their attention to Aristotle's theory of science. Robert Grosseteste (c. 11751253) commented on Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, explaining that "science" means true and certain knowledge derived by syllogistic demonstration from first principles. Accordingly, the theologians undertook to transform their discipline into an Aristotelian science. In his Summa aurea (Golden compendium), William of Auxerre (c. 11501231) proposed taking the articles of faith as the principles of theological demonstration, on the basis of which Catholic theology could be presented as a structured body of strictly demonstrated conclusions. This lead was followed in particular by the Dominican theologians of the early part of the century.

By about 1230 the Latins had at their disposal the complete body of Aristotelian teaching together with Averroës's commentaries. The Aristotelian paradigm for science was established institutionally in the year 1255, when Aristotle's works were prescribed for the lectures in the Paris arts faculty. Working within this paradigm, the Latins made, in the course of the next two centuries, enormous progress not only in mathematics and the physical sciences, but also in the Aristotelian practical philosophy, following new translations of the Ethics and Politics. Albert the Great (c. 12001280) was among the first to turn his attention to the complete Aristotelian encyclopedia. His paraphrases of all of the fundamental works in Aristotle's encyclopedia prepared the way for the vast commentatory literature through which the Middle Ages assimilated Aristotelian science.

The Aristotelian paradigm was also taken up by the theologians, most prominently by Thomas Aquinas (12251274). At this period the theologians were faced with the same problem as that which confronted the masters of artsthe systematic presentation of a body of traditional knowledge. In Thomas's view, theology should present the teaching of Scripture and the church fathers deductively, taking its departure from the indemonstrable, but to the Christian evident, articles of faith. Thomas sought to establish a concord between Aristotle's conclusions and revealed doctrine. While Christian doctrines could not be proved, their acceptance was thought to be able to be shown at least reasonable because congruent with basic philosophical conclusions that Aristotle was thought to have demonstrated.

Anomalies in this paradigm appeared even in the thirteenth century. About the year 1250, as Averroës's real position on the immortality of the human soul became known, the Latins came increasingly to distinguish between the teaching of Aristotle and that of Averroës. But in the year 1277 the bishop of Paris condemned 219 propositionsof which the majority represented Aristotelian positionsbecause they entailed consequences contrary to revealed doctrine. In the light of the condemnation, John Duns Scotus (1266?1308) proposed a new conception of the theoretical sciences. His claim that the first object of the intellect is not sensible reality, but, rather, being as such, made it possible to study corporeal reality in a metaphysical way in contradistinction to the corporeal reality studied by the Aristotelian physics. The fact that many of Aristotle's doctrines were in apparent conflict with Christian teaching helped the philosophers to adjust the metaphysical assumptions that lay behind many of his positions, especially in astronomy. Aided by the Aristotelian idea that the individual sciences are autonomous in their own realm, philosophers like John Buridan (c. 1295c. 1358) were able to develop theories in physics that were independent of Aristotle's treatment, while mathematicians like Nicole d'Oresme (c. 13251382) turned to areas that Aristotle had neglected.

Renaissance Aristotelianisms

During the third and final stage in the evolution of Latin Aristotelianism, the traditional conception of the Aristotelian encyclopedia of the sciences became increasingly untenable. This period began in the year 1438 with the arrival of the Greeks at the Council of Florence. The aged philosopher George Gemistus Plethon (c. 13551450 or 1455) charged the Latins not only with being unacquainted with Platonic philosophy, but also with misunderstanding Aristotle's teaching. These misunderstandings arose because the Latins had been misled by Averroës to believe that the philosopher's works contained a demonstrative summary of scientific truth. Nevertheless, the Renaissance witnessed a vast increase in the literature of commentary on Aristotle's works. But at the same time Aristotelianism became but one among many philosophies, with Platonism, Stoicism, and Epicureanism also claiming attention. And the hierarchically unified worldview offered by Scholastic Aristotelianism had by the sixteenth century broken down, so that we must speak, in this period, not of one, but of several Aristotelianisms.

Catholic Aristotelianism.

The encounter of the Christian Aristotelianism adumbrated by Thomas Aquinas with a secular Aristotelianism that had arisen in the Italian medical faculties resulted in the radical transformation of the Aristotelian speculative sciences in the sixteenth century. The Scholastic understanding of Aristotle's science of human nature was challenged in particular by Pietro Pomponazzi (14621525), who maintained that according to Aristotle the doctrine of the soul belongs to physics as a part of the doctrine dealing with corpus animatum (animated physical bodies). Because the soul is a material form, it is impossible to prove its immortality. The proponents of Christian Aristotelianism took up this challenge. They sought to retain Aristotle's deductive theory of science but were forced to modify radically Aristotle's ideas of the subject matter of natural philosophy. Their efforts were based on the search for metaphysical rather than physical proofs for the soul's immortality. Dominicans like Tommaso de Vio (Cajetan, 14691534) and Crisostomo Javelli (d. c. 1538) and Jesuits like Benito Perera (c. 15351610) and Francisco Suárez (15481617) constructed a new science of metaphysics based on the revealed idea of creation. The high point of this development was reached with the publication of Suárez's Disputationes metaphysicae (Metaphysical disputations) at Salamanca in 1597. Suárez retained the AristotelianScholastic understanding of science and used the Scotist distinction of reality into ens infinitum, ens creatum immateriale, and ens creatum materiale (infinite being, immaterial created being, and material created being) to render the growing crisis of the Aristotelian physics as the science of corpus mobile (changeable physical bodies) irrelevant to Scholastics.

Italian secular Aristotelianism.

Constrained by the immense amount of scientific material that the Renaissance had recovered, Aristotelian authors in Italy wrote increasingly during the sixteenth century about the teaching of this new body of doctrine and sought to situate Aristotle's theory of science within a broader context. Jacopo Zabarella (15331589), professor at Padua, was the author who brought these developments together most successfully in his tract De methodis (On method) of 1578. He distinguished scientific "method" from "orders" of presentation. There are two "methods" of discovery: (1) the compositive or synthetic method, which is the demonstrative method of "science," as Aristotle had conceived it; and (2) the resolutive or analytic method belonging to the operative disciplines or "arts," which begin with the end of an action and seek to discover the means and principles by which this end may be attained. "Orders" of presentation are simply ways of presenting the available material clearly. There are two "orders" corresponding to the two "methods" described above.

Lutheran Aristotelianism.

Despite Luther's rejection of Aristotle, the Aristotelian conception of science gained a central place in Protestant universities. Lutheran authors of the late sixteenth century tended to regard theology as a practical science and, following Zabarella, came to think that theological doctrine should be presented according to the analytic "order." In his Epitome theologiae (Epitome of theology) of 1619, Georg Calixt (15861656) first applied Zabarella's idea of the analytic method to theology. But the Formula concordiae (Formula of concord) of 1577 established a Lutheran orthodoxy, and philosophical textbooks, like the Exercitationes metaphysicae (16031604; Metaphysical exercises) of the Wittenberg professor Jacob Martini (15701649) and the Metaphysica commentatio (1605; A metaphysical commentary) of Cornelius Martini (15681621) of Helmstedt, turned to the metaphysics proposed by Suárez, which all those who admitted the idea of creation could accept. Their understanding of the relationship between philosophy and theology opened the way for the free development in Lutheranism of a natural theology as a theoretical science, presented in accordance with Zabarella's synthetic order. The first independent treatise on Theologia naturalis (Natural theology) was published by Christoph Scheibler (15891653) at Giessen in 1621.

Calvinist Aristotelianism.

Reformed theologians of the early seventeenth century regarded their science as essentially theoretical. In the works of authors like Bartholomew Keckermann (1571/731609) of Heidelberg and Danzig, Clemens Timpler (15671624) of Heidelberg and Steinfurt, and Johann Heinrich Alsted (15881638) of Herborn, the idea of a synthetic presentation of doctrine was maintained, but the encyclopedia of the disciplines was enlarged and transformed by a theory of the arts, a "technology." Reformed theologians began to use the term "system" for ordered compilations of Christian teaching. For the Marburg professor Rudolph Goclenius (15471628), who used the word for the first time in his Lexicon philosophicum (1613; A philosophical lexicon), "ontology" has the role of assigning to each of the scientific disciplines its proper place in this new encyclopedia of the practical, productive disciplines.


The last edition of the Latin text of Aristotle's works was published by the Jesuit Silvester Maurus (16191687) in the year 1668. After the Thirty Years' War, Protestant Aristotelianism generally disappeared. But Catholic Scholasticism continued to enjoy a shadowy existence in the seminaries decreed by the Council of Trent (15451563). A new literary form appeared, the cursus philosophicus, a summary of Scholastic teaching in philosophy, generally written in the form of disputations on the works of Aristotle. The purpose of the cursus was to provide the basic philosophical knowledge necessary for the study of Catholic theology, and it tended increasingly to return to the teaching of one of the great thirteenth-century doctors, like Thomas Aquinas (Thomism) and Duns Scotus (Scotism).

Modern Study of Aristotle

The Neo-Scholasticism of the nineteenth century thought of Aristotle's philosophy as a response to the Enlightenment's rejection of a worldview in which revelation appeared necessary and its acceptance reasonable. The cursus found the support of the Catholic Church in Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris of 1879 and various pieces of legislation concerning the instruction in seminaries. The Dominican and Jesuit orders followed the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas, while the Franciscan order followed that of Duns Scotus, both emphasizing Aristotle's metaphysics, even for cosmological and psychological questions.

The publication by the Berlin Academy of the Aristotelis opera between 1831 and 1870 and of the Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca between 1882 and 1909 has supplied the basis for the modern study of Aristotle and the Greek tradition of his philosophy. The Aristoteles latinus, undertaken by the Union Académique Internationale in 1939 for the edition of the medieval Latin translations, two collections of the Latin translations of the Greek commentaries, as well as a series of English translations of them, have contributed to a new understanding of Aristotelianism in the twentieth century.

See also Greek Science ; Islamic Science ; Logic ; Metaphysics ; Natural History ; Natural Law ; Natural Theology ; Philosophy and Religion in Western Thought ; Platonism ; Scholasticism .


Gottschalk, Hans B. "Aristotelian Philosophy in the Roman World from the Time of Cicero to the End of the Second Century AD." In Aufstieg und Niedergang der rö mischen Welt, edited by W. Haase. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987.

Lohr, Charles H. Latin Aristotle Commentaries: II. Renaissance Authors. Florence, Italy: Olschki, 1988.

. "Medieval Latin Aristotle Commentaries." Traditio 2330 (19671974).

. "Metaphysics." In The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, edited by C. B. Schmitt et al., 535638. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

, ed. Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca: Versiones latinae temporis resuscitatarum litterarum. 12 vols. Frankfurt, Germany: Minerva, and Stuttgart, Germany: Frommann-Holzboog, 1978.

Mikkeli, Heikki. An Aristotelian Response to Renaissance Humanism: Jacopo Zabarella on the Nature of Arts and Sciences. Helsinki: Finnish Historical Society, 1992.

Peters, F. E. Aristoteles arabus: The Oriental Translations and Commentaries on the Aristotelian Corpus. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1968.

Schmitt, Charles B. Aristotle and the Renaissance. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Sorabji, Richard, ed. The Ancient Commentators on Aristotle: A Series of English Translations. London and Ithaca, N.Y.: Duckworth, 1987.

. Aristotle Transformed: The Ancient Commentators and Their Influence. London: Duckworth, 1990.

Verbeke, Gerard, et al., eds. Corpus latinum commentariorum in Aristotelem graecorum. 12 vols. Louvain, Belgium: University of Louvain, 1957; Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 19731981.

Charles H. Lohr

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ARISTOTELIANISM. Aristotelianism in the early modern period was the philosophy taught in the schools, typically in the collegiate years preparatory to a bachelor's degree. Thus Aristotelianism and Scholasticism were synonymous at the time, and one cannot talk about Aristotelianism without referring to the important changes in pedagogy that were initiated then. Many colleges and universities reorganized and standardized their curriculum; new teaching orders, such as the Oratory in France (founded 1564; established in France 1613) and the Doctrinaires in France and Italy (founded 1592), were instituted; and the Society of Jesus, which became a very powerful force in education, was established (in 1534), with the aim of using education to counter the effects of the Reformation.

Education during the first half of the seventeenth century became fairly uniform. Students took four or five years of humanities (French, Latin, and Greek language and literature) followed by a year of rhetoric and then the collegiate curriculum, that is, two years of philosophy. The latter was an Aristotelian-based program of logic, ethics, physics, and metaphysics; it was thought necessary as preparation for the higher faculties of medicine, law, and theology. Jesuits covered the same collegiate curriculum in three years with the addition of a course in mathematics. Oratorians followed that pattern and taught a broadly Aristotelian set of philosophy courses. Perhaps because of the propensity of their founder, Pierre de Bérulle, for Platonic thought, the Aristotelianism of the Oratory differed slightly from that of the Jesuits and Doctrinaires. The Jesuits officially leaned toward Thomism, the version of Aristotelian philosophy propounded by St. Thomas Aquinas (1224 or 12251274) and his followers, though in practice they mixed their Thomism with other kinds of Scholastic thought, while the Doctrinaires seem to have taught Thomism exclusively.

In the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius of Loyola (14911556), founder of the Society, recommended that Jesuits follow the doctrines of Saint Thomas in theology and those of Aristotle in logic, natural philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics. After Loyola, the official position of the Society was further specified; Jesuits were supposed to teach "Aristotle and the true philosophy," interpreted as Thomism. With the succession of Claudio Aquaviva as the fifth general of the Society (15811615), these issues took on a new vigor. The Society standardized its curriculum during this time. The Jesuits undertook extraordinary pedagogical discussions, ultimately leading to their ratio studiorum (uniform course of studies). The aim of this standardization was to enable Jesuits to propound a single philosophy that would maintain the Catholic faith; as Aquaviva said: "The primary goal in teaching should be to strengthen the faith and to develop piety. Therefore, no one shall teach anything not in conformity with the Church and received traditions, or that can diminish the vigor of the faith or the ardor of a solid piety."

Together with these pedagogical innovations there was an explosion of Scholastic manuals. Among the widely read textbook authors at the time were the Coimbrans and Francisco Toletus. The Coimbrans (the Conimbricenses) were professors at the Jesuit College at Coimbra (Portugal), who issued a series of encyclopedic commentaries on Aristotle's works. Chief among them was Pedro da Fonseca, who wrote his own commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics. Toletus was a professor at the Jesuit Collegio Romano who also published commentaries on Aristotle's works. The Coimbrans wrote volumes by committee, presenting the works of Aristotle that were taught in the curriculum; they followed the model of the great medieval commentaries, each volume treating a specific text (Physics, On the Soul, On the Heavens, etc.), but with an elaborate (post-Renaissance) scholarly apparatus, giving both Aristotle's Greek text and its Latin translation, as well as Latin paraphrases and quaestiones, the resolution of questions relevant to the text under discussion. Other textbook writers generally followed this pattern, although textbooks like those of Toletus omitted the Greek versions of Aristotle. Ultimately, the Scholastic textbook even omitted Aristotle's text itself. Eustachius a Sancto Paulo, in his Summa Philosophiae Quadripartita (Sum of philosophy in four parts, 1609), simply arranged the quaestiones in the order in which the curriculum would have presented them, doing so for all the Aristotelian sciences within the frame of the whole philosophy curriculum in a single volume. As their names generally indicated, these works were usually divided into four parts: ethics and logic, physics and metaphysics. However, the Philosophy (1644) by the Protestant Pierre du Moulin (whose logic text was also translated into English), was a three-part textbook, metaphysics having been omitted, while the Philosophy (1642) of Léonard Marandé added a fifth part: theology.

While the form of Scholastic teaching was fairly stable, its content was not. Aristotle's philosophy dominated the schools in name, but the early modern era also witnessed a growing dissatisfaction with Aristotelian concepts. In fact, the differences among Aristotelians became so widespread that it is difficult to categorize thinkers as Aristotelians based on their doctrines alone. Scholars often regarded themselves as Aristotelians even when they departed from properly Aristotelian thought. One need only consider the case of Théophraste Bouju, whose 1614 textbook was subtitled: "All of it by demonstration and Aristotle's authority, with explanations of his doctrine by Aristotle himself." Despite the subtitle, Bouju denied in his textbook that there is a sphere of fire and an absolute division between the sublunary and superlunary world. These, most would agree, were essential Aristotelian doctrines; dispensing with them would require one to rework substantially the Aristotelian theory of the four elements, of natural and violent motion, and of the heterogeneity of the sublunary and superlunary world. Many other theses that became canonical with later Aristotelians, such as the doctrine of substantial forms, also found early modern Scholastic critics. There were even textbook writers who proclaimed the compatibility of Aristotelian philosophy and atomism. Certainly, late Scholasticism was not "monolithic," although such pejorative labels have been applied to it from the beginning.

Of course, not everyone thought that the differences among Aristotelians were significant. For example, René Descartes (15961650) asserted: "As for scholastic philosophy, I do not hold it as difficult to refute on account of the diversity of the scholastics' opinions, for one can easily upset all the foundations about which they are in agreement among themselves; and that accomplished, all their particular disputes would appear inept." For the Schoolmen, departures from properly Aristotelian doctrines were generally presented as elaborations of Aristotle's intentions; outside the Schools they were often cited as objections to them. The situation naturally lent itself to rhetorical excesses on both sides. By the middle of the seventeenth century, accusations of in-fighting and philosophical inconsistency among the Schoolmen were near routine. Coinciding with this rising criticism, rival systems, such as those of Descartes, Pierre Gassendi (15921655), and Thomas Hobbes (15881679), were consciously developed as alternatives to traditional interpretations of Aristotelian physics and metaphysics. As a result, there were also thinkers who set out to mitigate the differences between the rival systems and others who self-consciously resolved to be eclectic, that is, to pick out what is best from the new and old philosophies. Naturally, the new philosophies also remained indebted, in varying degrees, to the tradition from which they attempted to break.

See also Descartes, René ; Education ; Gassendi, Pierre ; Hobbes, Thomas ; Jesuits ; Philosophy ; Scholasticism.


Ariew, Roger. Descartes and the Last Scholastics. Ithaca, N.Y., 1999.

Brockliss, L. W. B. French Higher Education in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: A Cultural History. Oxford and New York, 1987.

Dear, Peter. Mersenne and the Learning of the Schools. Ithaca, N.Y., 1988.

Des Chene, Dennis. Physiologia: Natural Philosophy in Late Aristotelian and Cartesian Thought. Ithaca, N.Y., 1996.

Feingold, Mordechai, ed. Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters. Cambridge, Mass., 2003.

Roger Ariew

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Aristotelianism is the philosophy inspired by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was born in Stagira, a town of the Chalcidice region of northern Greece, in 384 b.c. A student of Plato, he founded the Lyceum, a school modeled after Platos' Academy in Athens. At the Lyceum, Aristotle instructed students in science, rhetoric, and natural philosophy. His most famous pupil was Alexander of Macedon, who established Greek lyceums in the many cities of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa that he conquered or founded. Medieval scholars began studying Aristotle's system of thought in the twelfth century, when his works were translated into Latin. Modern translations and the newfound interest in classical authors made the Aristotelian system a major branch of scholarship during the Renaissance.

Most of the writings of Aristotle that survived into the Middle Ages, and to modern times, were composed of teaching notes. They were written on scrolls that survived centuries of war, political chaos, and neglect to be preserved in European monasteries, where they were then transcribed and collected into editions, including Nicomachean Ethics, Physics, Politics, and Poetics. Aristotle's teachings were also preserved and studied by Islamic scholars, including Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Averroes, whose commentaries spurred a revival of Aristotelian studies in Europe.

Aristotle attempted to encompass the entire natural world and all phenomena in his philosophy known as Aristotelianism, which included the studies of logic, rhetoric, poetics, natural science, politics, mathematics, and ethics. He classified all knowledge into a threefold system of science (episteme ), conduct (praxis ), and created works (poesis ). Logic was the most important discipline as it provided a means of understanding science and the analytical processes through inductive reasoning.

Renaissance scholars throughout Europe presented Aristotle's theories as a foundation for studying the natural world and human conduct through the theoretical, practical, and productive sciences. Theoretical science (theoria ) combined natural philosophy, or things that can be seen and are made up of matter, with the study of theology, mathematics, astronomy, and thought processes. Practical sciences analyzed ethics, politics, and human conduct. The practical sciences attempted to advance the cause of moral virtues, such as courage and moderation, by instilling such virtues in the young through education and then carrying them out through a well-reasoned system of laws and justice. According to Aristotle's teachings, the proper conduct and exercise of virtues will bring true happiness to society as well as the individual. The productive sciences included poetics, rhetoric, architecture, and medicine.

Aristotelianism further spread after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, when Greek exiles began arriving in western Europe. For the first time, many of Aristotle's works were being studied in the original ancient Greek language that was slowly spreading with the revival of classical texts. In addition, translations were made into common languages such as Italian and French. New branches of Aristotelian studies were also forming, along with various schools of thought on how to organize Aristotle's texts and present his system of knowledge. Many of Europe's leading university lecturers devoted themselves exclusively to the study of Aristotle, with some strictly following the texts, and others applying the Aristotelian system to the ever-changing natural and social worlds they experienced. For example, Leonardo Bruni, an important translator of Aristotle's works, replaced the word-for-word translations of the medieval era with a freer translation more fit for study in Latin. Galileo Galilei and Philipp Melanchthon also incorporated Aristotelianism into their works. While some writers were content to simply annotate Aristotle's works, others probed deeper, posing questions and problems in an attempt to extract deeper universal meaning to their new systems of natural philosophy.

As the organizer of philosophical and scientific thought, Aristotle was the most important figure of the classical world for all Renaissance scholars, and his works provided the basic framework of all university studies. Aristotle's works were read in lecture halls in the three stages of lectio (lecture), repetio (repetition), and disputatio (disputation, or argument). The invention of printing in the mid-fifteenth century allowed Aristotle's works to be widely distributed to a literate public. Lavish print editions, with commentaries, indexes, and summaries along with questions for argument and examination, were the precursors to the modern school textbook.

See Also: Bruni, Leonardo; classical literature

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