Arabic Sciences and Philosophy

Research Article

Alexander of Aphrodisias in the Kindī-Cricle and in Al-Kindī' Cosmology*

Silvia Fazzoa1 and Hillary Wiesinera2

a1 University of London, The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1H OAB, UK

a2 Department of Religion, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachussets, USA

Abstract

How do the heavenly bodies physically affect the sublunary world? On this topic, the few fragmentary statements by Aristotle were refined and expanded by his Greek commentator Alexander of Aphrodisias. In the Kindī-circle, particular attention was paid to Alexander's treatises on this very topic. They were not simply translated but were rather reworked in terms of an astrological interpretation. Typically, such reworking was attributed directly to Aristotle by the addition of a number of references and pseudo-references to Aristotle's genuine and spurious works. The article demonstrates this phenomenon, and examines the circular relationship between the Kindī-circle adaptations of Alexander and al-Kindī's own works. The Kindī-circle's Alexander was closely followed by al-Kindī on certain points, while al-Kindī himself exerted a reciprocal influence on the Arabic Alexander, who was largely the product of his own group of translators. The appendix contains English translations from Arabic of two adapted Alexander's treatises.

Résumé

Quelle action les corps célestes exercent-ils sur le monde sublunaire? Sur ce thème, quelques remarques fragmentaires que l'on trouve chez Aristote ont été développées par son commentateur grec, Alexandre d'Aphrodise. Le cercle d'al-Kindī a voué une attention spéciale aux textes d'Alexandre concernant ce problème. Ils ne furent pas simplement traduits, mais de surcroît adaptés selon une interprétation à fort caractère astrologique. De façgon caractéristique, de tels développements astrologiques étaient attributés directement à Aristote, au moyen de l'addition de références nombreuses, le plus souvent inventées, à ses œuvres authentiques et non authentiques. Se situant dans cette perspective, l'article met au jour la relation de réciprocité entre le travail des traducteurs-adaptateurs et les ouvrages d'al-Kindī: les adaptations arabes d'Alexandre produites par le cercle d'al-Kindī ont été suivies de très près sur certains points par al-Kindī, qui lui-même exerça son influence sur l'Alexandre arabe. L'Appendice contient la traduction anglaise de deux adaptations arabes des traités d'Alexandre.

Footnotes

* This article arises from research we did together at the Warburg Institute of the University of London during the spring of 1992. We discussed every point together; nevertheless, S. F. is more responsible for the section on Greek sources and on the transformed Kindī-circle Alexander, whereas H. W. is more so for the section on al-Kindī, and translations and quotations from Arabic are hers, including the Kindī-circle versions of Quaestiones 2.3 and 2.19 from MS Istanbul, Millet Library, Carullah 1279, 32 ff. which we give here as an Appendix (pp. 149-53). We have been generously helped by M. Aouad, Ch. Burnett, R.W. Sharples, N. Webb, and F.W. Zimmermann. To them and to the whole Warburg Institute and its director Nicholas Mann we are enormously grateful.

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