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Anagnostopoulos, Georgios. (Ed.). (2009) A Companion To Aristotle. Wiley-Blackwell.

Title A Companion To Aristotle
Resource Type collection
Author(s) Georgios Anagnostopoulos
Year 2009
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell
ISBN 978-1-4051-2223-8


The present volume does not provide a survey of all of Aristotle’s thought, and it was not intended to do so. Its aim is to treat some central topics of his philosophy in as much depth as is possible within the space of a short chapter. Ancient and later biographers and historians of philosophy attribute to Aristotle a large number of works, two-thirds of which have not survived. Even what has survived is an astounding achievement, both in its size and scope. Aristotle’s extant works add up to more than two thousand printed pages and range over an astonishingly large number of topics – from the highly abstract problems of being, substance, essence, form, and matter to those relating solely to the natural world, and especially to living things (e.g., nutrition and the other faculties of the soul, generation, sleep, memory, dreaming, movement, and so on), the human good and excellences, the political association and types of constitutions, rhetoric, tragedy, and so on.

Clearly, not all the topics Aristotle examines in his works could be discussed in a single volume, and choices had to be made as to which ones to include. The choices were guided by an intuitive consideration – e.g., the centrality a topic has in the totality of the Aristotelian corpus (e.g., substance, essence, cause, teleology) or in a single, major work (e.g., the categories, the soul, and the generation of animals are the central topics in three different Aristotelian treatises). These considerations produced a first list. Still, the list was too long for a single volume, and had to be shortened. The topics that made the final list seemed to the editor to be the ones that any volume with the objectives of this one has to include. Others might have come up with different lists, but they would not be radically different from this. The overwhelming majority of the topics discussed below would be on every list that was aiming to achieve the objectives of this volume. Individually, each one of these topics receives an extensive treatment in Aristotle’s works, and the views he articulates on them, when put together, give a good sense of the kinds of problems that exercised Aristotle’s mind and the immense and lasting contributions he made in his investigations of them.

The contents of the volume are divided into five parts, with part I covering Aristotle’s life and certain issues about the number, edition, and chronology of his works. The division of the remaining chapters is based on the way Aristotle frequently characterizes groups of inquiries in terms of their goals. Thus, part II consists of a number of chapters discussing topics from the treatises that have been traditionally called Organon,i.e., those studying the instruments or tools for reasoning, demonstrating and, in general, attaining knowledge and truth. Aristotle does not label these works (Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics, On Sophistical Refutations) Organon, but in several passages in his extant works he indicates that he views them as the instruments of inquiry and knowledge. The division of the remaining chapters into three parts – Theoretical, Practical, and Productive Knowledge – is, of course, based on the way Aristotle himself frequently divides the various inquiries on the basis of their ultimate goals – knowledge, action, and production. The chapters included in each one of these parts are further subdivided into groups on the basis of the subfield of Aristotelian philosophy to which a topic or the work(s) treating it belong – Metaphysics (seven chapters), Physics (three), Psychology (three), Biology (three) in part III (theoretical knowledge); Ethics (eight) and Politics (five) in part IV (practical knowledge); and Rhetoric (two) and Art (two) in part V (productive knowledge). Of course, several topics (e.g., cause, teleology, substance) are discussed in many different Aristotelian treatises, with some of them falling into different groups with respect to their ultimate goals – e.g., substance is explored in both the Categories (Organon) and the Metaphysics (theoretical knowledge).

The contributors to the volume are many, and no attempt was made to impose a uniform style with respect to writing, presentation, or argumentation. Each contributor was left free to use her/his favoured approach, except in the way references to Aristotle’s works or citations of specific passages in them are made – a uniform system has been adopted. Although in some instances the whole title of a work (e.g., Politics) is given, most frequently an abbreviation is used (e.g., Pol: see list of abbreviations). Citations of passages in the Aristotelian corpus are made by giving: (1) the title of the specific work, (e.g., Pol or An for de Anima); (2) the Book for those Aristotelian treatises that are divided into Books in Roman numerals (e.g., I, II) – except for Met where Books are identified by uppercase Greek letters (e.g., Γ, Θ) and lowercase alpha (α) for the second Book; (3) the chapter within the Book or treatise in Arabic numerals; (4) and the Bekker page and line number – e.g., An II.1 412a3, or Met Γ.4 1008b15. Each chapter includes a short bibliography listing the sources cited in it and in some cases additional works on the topic discussed that might be of interest to the reader. Space limitations did not permit the inclusion of a comprehensive bibliography on Aristotle.

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