The Hellenistic and Roman Foundations of the Tradition of Aristotle in the West

Review of Metaphysics 32 (4):677 - 715 (1979)
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Abstract

Changes in the nature and conception of philosophy reflect changes in the modes in which philosophy was pursued during the first thousand years of the formation and influence of Aristotle’s philosophy. In the Hellenic period, philosophy consisted of inquiry and discussion, oral or written, in expositions or dialogues. Recording other positions, past or present, that is, history, was part of both modes of philosophizing. In the Hellenistic period, philosophy moved into schools and libraries and became scholastic and scholarly. The schools interpreted doctrines and methods, and the libraries edited books and classified the branches of knowledge and letters. The history of philosophy became records of the opinions of philosophers and the successions of schools, or histories of sciences and arts. Aristotelianism was formed among the Hellenistic schools of philosophy, and members of the Peripatetic school wrote the first histories of science. Aristotle’s works were not needed in either enterprise. His books were preserved, lost, forgotten, and emended, and editors determined their authenticity, contents, structure, and order. In the period of the Roman Empire, philosophy was rejoined to rhetoric, dialectic, and sophistic. It was the period of the Second Sophistic, during which political and forensic rhetoric declined, the Platonic dialectic of dialogues and Ideas was transformed into the Neoplatonic dialectic of hierarchies and the One, and Sophistic assumed therapeutic functions in conjunction with medicine, and theatrical and mass-educational functions as epideictic rhetoric. The works of Aristotle were epitomized and interpreted, and Aristotelian words and ideas entered into the formation of a new organization of the liberal arts, a new transcendental theology, and new forms of literature and literary criticism.

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