Alexander of Aphrodisias and the Doctrine of the Analogy of Being

Alexander of Aphrodisias and the Doctrine of the Analogy of Being
22 October 2021, 5.00pm - 6.30pm

Giovanni Gambi, Università degli Studi di Padova

This Postgraduate-work-in-progress seminar will be held online via Zoom.

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Alexander of Aphrodisias, the most prominent peripatetic author of late antiquity, is universally known because of his remarkable work of commenting on the whole Aristotelian corpus. As recent critical studies have shown, though, he cannot be considered simply as a commentator who merely repeated or reformulated Aristotelian thesis. He was an authentic philosopher who developed original doctrines and gave a decisive impulse to Aristotelianism through late antiquity and the Middle Ages. His writings strongly influenced neo-platonic commentators such as Simplicius and Islamic philosophers like Al-Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes. Among his exegetical works, he wrote the first extant commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics (which is genuine only for the first five books). One of the aims of my research is to understand whether Alexander’s interpretation of Aristotelian philosophy, and especially metaphysical thought, somehow contributed to the development of the medieval doctrine of the analogy of being, held in particular by Thomas Aquinas. Indeed, this doctrine is the result of a long exegetical tradition of Aristotelian thought, led above all by neo-platonic and Islamic philosophers, which could be traced back to the first centuries of Aristotelianism. Analogy of being is a two-folded doctrine, ontological and theological, since it deals both with being qua being, and with the hierarchical division of reality into different levels: e.g., sensible substances, separate substances, and God. I mean to present and discuss some texts which seem to confirm the importance of Alexander’s contribution to the subsequent development of this doctrine. Some of them focus on the ontological issue of the unity of being, starting from the exposition given by Aristotle in the fourth book of his Metaphysics. Others show the importance of the notion of homoiosis theo (assimilation to God), by which Alexander articulates his idea of the hierarchical structure of reality.


Valerie James
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