Aristotle's Theology: A Commentary on Book Λ of the Metaphysics (review) [Book Review]

Journal of the History of Philosophy 12 (4):523-525 (1974)
  Copy   BIBTEX


In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:BOOK REVIEWS 523 Aristotle's Theology: A Commentary on Book A of the Metaphysics. By Leo Elders. (Assen, The Netherlands: Royal VanGorcum Ltd., 1972) In 1961 Leo Elders published a book under the title Aristotle's Theory o] the One with the subtitle "A Commentary on Book X of the Metaphysics." Five years later he published Aristotle's Cosmology, subtitled "A Commentary on the De Caelo." Continuing his "commentary " approach to Aristotle's works, he returns in the present work to the Metaphysics, restricting himself in this case to an examination of Book Lambda. The author is convinced that the "central doctrine of the Book is the conception of an unmoved Mover, who is unchangeable and eternal; his being is subsistent thinking; he is the final cause of all movement and the Good desired by the cosmos" (p. 1). In addition to a detailed commentary on each of the ten chapters of Book Lambda, the book contains seven introductory chapters which discuss the relation of Aristotle's theology to that of his Greek predecessors, particularly Plato, and attempts to solve such problems as the date and structure of Metaphysics Lambda and its place in the Aristotelian corpus. The author believes Metaphysics Lambda to be a collection of short studies which belong to mature Aristotelianism but do not form a coherent treatise. Because the eighth chapter asserts a multiplicity of Unmoved Movers, which runs counter to the position taken in the rest of the book, Elders takes the position that the eighth chapter is a short essay by one of Aristotle's collaborators or students which was inserted into the book by a later editor. One of the significant difficulties with the book is that the author reads a number of anachronistic ideas back into Greek philosophy. He assumes that we all know, especially the author himself, what "theology" means to the Greeks and that whatever its meaning it is not only continuous with the Christian conception of theology but can best be understood with the aid of the Christian approach to theology. Is it not best to regard the Unmoved Mover simply as the Perfect Scientist or Perfect Knower, the final cause of those who desire knowledge? Of course, it is true that Aristotle refers to the Unmoved Mover as divine (theos)----what,after all, deserves the designation "divine" except that which is perfect and eternal, and the final goal of man's intellectual activity? As the author states in the Preface that "one of the leading thoughts of the commentary is that there is a real continuity between Academic theories and Aristotle's doctrine of the Unmoved Mover" he devotes considerable attention to various aspects of Plato's thought. Here he frequently succumbs to the temptation to read a number of Neoplatonic, Pythagorean, and even Christian ideas into the Greek philosopher, and fails to distinguish Plato from "the Platonists" mentioned by Aristotle (el. pp. 276, 291, and 292). Such passages as Metaphysics 1090b20-24 and 1090b31 ft. do not necessarily refer to Plato himself but could easily mean some unidentified members of his school. In the introductory chapters especially, Elders attributes to Plato a number of theories which derive from other sources, frequently with little or no direct textual justification for so doing. For instance, he says that "a great number of texts indicate that Plato made the One a principle beyond being, and thus beyond thinking" (p. 16). His only corroborating evidence is that this is "implicitly contained in the famous text of Rep. 509B" (footnote 7, p. 16). Earlier he has said that "Plato developed a theory of principles according to which all essences are connected with the supreme principle, which, in his later years, Plato called the One" (pp. 8-9). Again, the only textual evidence he mentions is several passages from the Republic, which have at best a tenuous connection with such a theory and which were certainly not written during Plato's "later years." The book also suffers from a number of organizational problems. In an attempt to bring together the opinions of other scholars on the issues at hand, the author continually mixes up secondary literature and interpretations with the problems he poses...



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,102

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles


Added to PP

4 (#1,487,397)

6 months
4 (#477,225)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references