Alexander's Metaphysics commentary and some scholastic understandings of automata Cover Image

Alexander's Metaphysics commentary and some scholastic understandings of automata
Alexander's Metaphysics commentary and some scholastic understandings of automata

Author(s): Geoffrey S. Bowe
Subject(s): Metaphysics, Ancient Philosphy, Philosophy of Science
Published by: Новосибирский государственный университет
Keywords: Aristotle; Alexander of Aphrodisias; Aquinas; Albertus Magnus; Metaphysics; Automata; Wonder;

Summary/Abstract: In this article, I argue that Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas read a certain passage of Aristotle's Metaphysics on the nature of metaphysical curiosity in a way that is inconsistent with the earlier reading of the same passage by Alexander of Aphrodisias. The passage has to do with Aristotle's use of mechanical automata as a metaphor for kinetic mimesis in his metaphysics. The result of the variant reading of the passage in question is that these Scholastic readings emphasize universal causality as a vehicle of “wonder banishment” in metaphysics at the expense of recognizing the key metaphysical principle that Aristotle is suggesting. Such readings actually turn out to be difficult to maintain with the example of mechanical automata that Aristotle employs. I argue that the absence of the availability of Alexander's commentary to Albert and Aquinas contributes to their variant and inconsistent reading. There are three main parts and a conclusion. Part I discusses the passage from Aristotle's Metaphysics in question, which I call the thaumata passage, as well as Alexander's commentary on it. Part II discusses the unavailability of Alexander's commentary to Albert, Aquinas and their predecessors. Part III discusses the variant scholastic readings of the thaumata passage and how these readings, which take Aristotle's mechanical automata as chance occurrences result in an emphasis on wonder banishment through universal causal reasoning that is inconsistent with the example Aristotle uses in the thaumata passage. By way of conclusion I suggest that even had Alexander's commentary been available to Aquinas, he would have understood the passage as more akin to remarks on magic than to metaphysics.

  • Issue Year: XIV/2020
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 7-25
  • Page Count: 19
  • Language: English