Philosophy and History Workshop: “Alexander of Aphrodisias and the Place of the Commentary Tradition in the Study of Philosophy”


Location: 339 O'Shaughnessy Hall

The third meeting of the Philosophy and History Workshop will offer a paper by Michele Anik Stanbury (Medieval Institute Ph.D. candidate): Alexander of Aphrodisias and the Place of the Commentary Tradition in the Study of Philosophy.

Refreshments will be provided, along with ample opportunity for discussion.

For an abstract, please see below.

The history of philosophy is generally thought of in terms of the ‘greats’, and not without reason.  Theophrastus and Simplicius are interesting in their own right, but where would they have been, intellectually speaking, without Plato and Aristotle?  In this talk I will address the question of the value of historical commentaries for our understanding of the primary sources, considering in particular the example of Alexander of Aphrodisias.  Dubbed ‘the commentator’, he was for several hundred years considered the secondary source on Aristotle.  Though this fact makes him historically interesting, it obviously does not make him an unquestionable authority on Aristotle; it is not impossible that for several hundred years scholars were led astray in their understanding of Peripatetic doctrine.  Moreover, in principle a good interpretation of Aristotle should look first and foremost to Aristotle’s own writings rather than to commentaries, whether ancient or modern.  What reason do we have to think that Alexander has something to offer us as students of Aristotle, or students of philosophy generally?

Address any questions about the paper or the workshop to Anik Stanbury (