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Averroes' Use of Examples in his Middle Commentary on the Prior Analytics, and Some Remarks on his Role as Commentator

  • Steven Harvey (a1)

Averroes wrote three kinds of commentaries on the books of Aristotle - epitomes, middle commentaries, and long commentaries - and each kind had its own purposes. His aims may have also differed from text to text. That is, it seems reasonable to assume that he would stick closer to Aristotle in the logical works than, for example, in the metaphysical works. The present study investigates what may be called the “theological aspects” of Averroes' commentaries, and explores the commentary of Averroes that appears least likely to contain such elements, the Middle Commentary on the Prior Analytics. The Prior Analytics is perhaps the most straightforward, even pedantic, of all of Aristotle's writings, and of Averroes' three kinds of commentaries, it is the middle commentaries which are least likely to diverge or digress from the text of Aristotle. The only trace of a religious hand in the commentary is Averroes' use of examples, and, in particular, examples that conclude that “the world is created” and the like. It is argued that Averroes chose these examples to show the traditionalist reading public the falsity of the theologians claims against the logic of the philosophers. The Appendix to the article shows that medieval commentators on Averroes' commentaries were also struck by his “creation of the world” examples.

Averroès a écrit trois genres de commentaires sur les livres d'Aristote - épitomés, commentaires moyens et grands commentaires - et dans chaque genre il poursuivait un dessein différent. Ses buts ont pu aussi différer d'un texte à un autre. Ainsi, il semble raisonnable de supposer qu'il se rapproche plus d'Aristote dans les œuvres logiques que, par exemple, dans les œuvres métaphysiques. Cette étude se propose d'examiner ce que l'on peut appeler les “aspects théologiques” des commentaires d'Averroès, et d'explorer le commentaire qui semble le moins probablement contenir de tels éléments, à savoir le Commentaire moyen aux Premiers Analytiques. Les Premiers Analytiques sont peut-être le plus technique, voire le plus pédant, de tous les 'Aristote, et des trois genres de commentaires d'Averroès, ce sont les commentaires moyens qui semblent diverger le moins des textes d'Aristote ou s'en écarter. La seule trace de préoccupation religieuse dans le commentaire d'Averroès est constitué par le type d'exemples qu'Averroès met enœuvre et, en particulier, ceux qui sont relatifs à la création du monde. On suggère qu'Averroes a choisi ces exemples pour montrer aux lecteurs traditionalistes la fausseté des arguments des théologiens contre la logique des philosophes. L'Appendice à l'article montre que les commentateurs médievaux des commentaires d'Averroes ont été, aussi, frappés par ses exemplesé relatifs à la création du monde.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

A. Elamrani-Jamal , “Ibn Rusd et les Premiers Analytiques d'Aristote: aperçu sur un problème de syllogistique modale,” Arabie Sciences and Philosophy, 5 (1995): 5174.

A.I. Sabra , “A twelfth century defence of the fourth figure of the syllogism,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 28 (1965): 1428, esp. pp. 16–20. Other instances of Averroes' divergences from Aristotle are presented below. See also Elamrani-Jamal's discussion of Averroes' treatment of modal syllogisms in “Ibn Rusd et les Premiers Analytiques.” Mention must also be made of Averroes' replies to earlier commentators. These can be readily located through Butterworth's ‘Index of Names’ at the end of his edition, p. 382. See, e.g., Averroes' response to Alfarabi's treatment of induction (p. 366, sec. 373). On Alfarabi's divergence from Aristotle on this matter,

Kwame Gyekye , “Al-Fārābī on the logic of the arguments of the Muslim philosophical theologians,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 27 (1989): 135–44, on p. 139.

Charles E. Butterworth , “Rhetoric and Islamic political philosophy,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 3 (1972): 187–98, on p. 188. For the reference to the comparison between the rulership exercised by the Islamic caliph and that exercised by the Roman emperor, see id., Talhīs kitāb al-gadal, Editor's Introduction, p. 34.

Seymour Feldman , “The end of the universe in medieval Jewish philosophy”, AJS Review, 11 (1986): 5377.

Charles Manekin , “Logical writings of Gersonides,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 52 (1985): 85113, esp. pp. 86–96, and id.,

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Arabic Sciences and Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0957-4239
  • EISSN: 1474-0524
  • URL: /core/journals/arabic-sciences-and-philosophy
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