Where would be a more likely place to begin than in Thomas's sustained engagement with Aristotle as authority, that is, with his so-called Aristotelian "commentaries"? No choice of starting-place is more liable to mislead. Thomas's expositions of Aristotle are the one group of texts in which the Aristotelian authorities are systematically isolated. The expositions attend just to Aristotle and traditions of commentary on him. They can in principle offer little help in understanding how Aristotelian authorities enter into larger structures of argument. In fact, contemporary readers are better off setting the expositions aside if they want to understand Thomas's relation to Aristotle. I recognize that the suggestion will sound merely provoking without further justification.16
The isolation of authorities within Thomas's expositions of Aristotle can be appreciated by looking to the kinds of works they are. Their kind can be inferred, in turn, from several types of evidence. There is the evidence of circumstance. With each new critical edition, there is more evidence that Thomas subordinated the expositions to more important works. All of the expositions, except perhaps that on the Metaphysics, followed the exposition of On the Soul, which was written between December 1267 and September 1268.17 In other words, at least 11 of the 12 expositions were undertaken
16 The suggestion has provoked my readers in the past. Some of them have been kind enough to reply in detail. See especially Christopher Kaczor, "Thomas Aquinas's Commentary on the Ethics: Merely an Interpretation of Aristotle?," American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 78 (2004): 353-378.
17 On Sent. De anima, see the prefatory remarks by Gauthier in Leonine Opera omnia, 45/1: 283*-288*. According to the Leonine editors, other expositions would be dated as follows: Sent. De sensu, 1268-1269 at Paris (45/2:128*); Expos. Pery, in the first half of 1271 at Paris (1*/1:85*-87*); Sent. Ethic., 1271-1272 at Paris (48:B55); Sent. Politic., during the second Parisian regency (48:A8); Expos. Post., 1271-1272 at Paris and Naples (1*/2:73*-76*). Torrell would insert Sent. Phys. and the exposition of the Meteors early in the list, at Paris before 1270. Sent. Metaph. poses other problems, but it was completed before Sent. De caelo, that is, before 1272-1273. Sent. De gener. is probably the last of the series to be undertaken, in Naples at the end of Thomas's writing. See Torrell, Initiation, pp. 498-503.
during the last six years of Thomas's active authorship, the time in which he composed the Summa. Five of the expositions were left unfinished by Thomas.18 It seems unlikely that he was working on the five texts simultaneously at the moment he stopped writing, so I conclude that Thomas had already set aside some of them with no intention of finishing any time soon.19 The dates of the expositions and, in many cases, their unfinished state suggest that Thomas considered them less important than the Summa and perhaps preparatory to it.
One may dismiss circumstantial arguments about the relative importance of the expositions, but the evidence of the corpus remains. Taken together, Thomas's expositions of Aristotle make up something just over a tenth of his finished writings.20 The whole lot of them is significantly shorter than either the Scriptum on Peter Lombard's Sentences or what was finished of the Summa. Thomas composed twice as much by way of commenting on Scripture and did so over a much longer period of time. By contrast, Albert the Great's enormous project of explaining Aristotle to Latin readers spanned two decades - that is, almost four times as long as Thomas's expository writing, while Albert's finished commentaries and paraphrases fill up one-third of his corpus - that is, about three times the percentage in Thomas.21 The exposition of Aristotle was a large and long portion of Albert's authorship, but not of Thomas's. Nor can the mere fact that Thomas decided to expound Aristotle count as an argument for some unique doctrinal affinity. If writing commentaries on Aristotle makes one an Aristotelian, then the great neo-Platonists Porphyry, Ammonius, and Simplicius are Aristotelians of the first rank - not to speak of Ezra Pound.
The character of Thomas's expositions can also be inferred from their style. Thomas did not learn this style from Albert, who wrote either commentaries with questions or else paraphrases, never merely expositions.
18 I follow the traditional enumeration of commentaries. If the exposition of On Memory and Reminiscence is included in Sent. De sensu (see, for example, Leonine 45/2:127*), then the total of expositions drops to 11, or which four are incomplete.
19 Indeed, Thomas's preface to the exposition of the Peri hermenias refers to the body of the text in the past tense ("expositionem adhibere curaui"). This suggests, as Weisheipl concludes, that the work was sent along to Louvain incomplete. See Weisheipl, Friar Thomas, p. 374, no. 36; compare Gauthier's assessment in Leonine Opera omnia, 1*/1:87*. If Thomas were willing to dedicate the text in such condition, he did not count himself in the middle of writing it. He must have decided that the text would never be finished - or that he had finished with it.
20 I use the word counts of the Index Thomisticus. The Aristotle commentaries, including that on the first book of De anima, come to 1,165,000 words or just over 13% of the corpus.
21 The calculation for Albert is very inexact, being based on the relative number of pages in Borgnet's edition of the Opera omnia.
Albert does provide careful divisions of the Aristotelian texts and does raise exegetical difficulties about them, but he is always on the way to or from ampler inquiries. Thomas's models in the genre come immediately from styles of reading in university faculties of the Arts, more remotely from the "great commentaries" of Averroes. Averroes's stylistic influence was particularly strong on literal expositions. His magna commentaria,22 as they were known to the Latins, fix many standards for close reading.23 Among these are the regular alternation of short quotation and exposition, each part introduced by a stereotyped formula, all parts held together by exact textual divisions meant to disclose logical order. More broadly, the Latins learned from the "great commentaries" that one could write an exposition of Aristotle within the horizon of the Aristotelian tradition, that is, by invoking materials consonant with a pagan philosophy and engaging commentators who stand within its tradition. If Averroes's epitomes contain allusions to the ordinary experience of Islamic readers, his "great commentaries" exclude such mentions and confine themselves almost entirely to Aristotle's texts and their posterity.24 So Averroes speaks, through the Latin of the proemium to the Physics, of "glossing" the text precisely because no one has yet composed "a continuous gloss on the single words of Aristotle."25
Thomas's expositions share many of these features, whatever their differences and however much they depend on other models from the Arts
22 In asserting a remote dependence on Averroes, I do not mean to make his magna commentaria the only or the closest forerunners to Thomas. This was Ernest Renan's claim in Averroes et l'averroisme: Essai historique (1852; 4th rev. edn., Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1925), p. 237, repeated by Léon Gauthier, Ibn Rochd (Averroes) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1948), p. 16. The claim has been rejected by René-Antoine Gauthier in L'Éthique à Nicomaque, ed. and tr. Jean-Yves Jolif, 2 vols. in 3 (Louvain: Publications universitaires; Paris: Béatrice-Nauwelaerts, 1958), 1:82*—83*, n. 247, and Clemens Vansteenkiste, "San Tommaso d'Aquino ed Averroes," in Scritti in onore di Giuseppe Furlani = Rivista degli studi orientali 32 (Rome: G. Bardi, 1957), 585—623, at p. 622. If it is extravagant to claim that Thomas could have learned the procedure only from Averroes, it is unconvincing to assert that Averroes's procedure had no influence on Thomas, especially since the available Arts commentaries are less clear about procedure than Averroes.
23 There was some confusion in the Latin texts over the names of the levels of Averroes's commentaries. So, for example, there is a confusion between paraphrasis and commentarium medium. See George Lacombe's remarks in Aristoteles Latinus, 1: Codices (Rome: La Libreria dello Stato, 1939), p. 100. There seems to have been less confusion over the highest level, that of the "great commentaries."
24 Abdurrahman Badawi, "Averroes face au texte qu'il commente," in Multiple Averroes: Actes du colloque international organisé à l'occasion du 850e anniversaire de la naissance d'Averroés (Paris, 2-3 decembre 1976), ed.Jean Jolivet (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1978), 59-89, at p. 60.
25 In the version of the "antiqua translatio" printed in Aristotelis de physico auditu libri octo cum Averrois Cordubensis variis in eosdem commentaris (Venice: Iunctas, 1572), fols. 1r-BC.
faculty. He takes up the program of "glossing" the "single words of Aristotle" at a time when many other masters were turning to more intrusive commentaries, with sprawling sets of tangential questions.26 Thomas's expositions are old fashioned so far as they respect the Aristotelian text's concerns and borders.27 Thomas insists that his readers build up a sense for the habits of delimitation in Aristotle's authorship.28 He requires equally that they do not distort the natural meaning of the text, and so he provides any number of detailed contextual arguments at points of difficulty.29 Where Thomas's procedure differs from that of Averroes, it does so under the influence of alternate models of literal commentary. So, for example, the exposition of De caelo has an unusual pattern of objections and replies under each of the lemmata. The reason for this is Thomas's borrowing from Simplicius.30 In the exposition of the Ethics, again, there is an abundance of philological and
26 The lesson about the literal motive of Thomas's expositions is an old one — so old that it ought by now to have been received universally. See, among others, Charles Jourdain, La Philosophie de saint Thomas d'Aquin (Paris: Hachette, 1858), pp. 81—96; Matthias Schneid, Aristoteles in der Scholastik: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Philosophie im Mittelalter (Eichstätt: Krüll'sche Buchhandlung, 1875), pp. 72—73; Mandonnet, Siger de Brabant, 1:42; Martin Grabmann, "Les Commentaires de saint Thomas d'Aquin sur les ouvrages d'Aristote," Annales de l'Institut Supérieur de Philosophie 3 (1914):231—281, at pp. 248—254; Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, "Saint Thomas, commentateur d'Aristote" , in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (Paris: Librairie Letouzey et Ané, 1908—1951), 15:641—651, cols. 642 and 650; M.-D. Chenu, Introduction à l'étude de saint Thomas d'Aquin (Montreal: L'Institut d'Études Médiévales; Paris: J. Vrin, 1950), pp. 177-178, 188-190; Daniel A. Callus, "Les Sources de saint Thomas: État de la question," in Aristote et saint Thomas d'Aquin, Chaire Cardinal Mercier 1955 (Louvain: Publications universitaires; Paris: Béatrice-Nauwelaerts, 1957), 93-174, at pp. 98-103, after Grabmann; Joseph Owens, "Aquinas as Aristotelian Commentator," in St Thomas Aquinas, 1274-1974, 1:213-238, at pp. 216, 228, 234; F. Edward Cranz, "The Publishing History of the Aristotle Commentaries of Thomas Aquinas," Traditio 34 (1978): 157-192, at pp. 157-158. To say that Thomas intended mainly to discover Aristotle's sense is not to say that he succeeded everywhere in excluding his own philosophical reoccupations. See, for example, Georges Ducoin, "Saint Thomas commentateur d'Aristote: Étude sur le commentaire thomiste du livre A des Métaphysiques d'Aristote," Archives de Philosophie (new ser.) vol. 20 (1957): 78-117, 240-271, and 392-445; Simon Decloux, Temps, Dieu, liberté dans les "Commentaires aristotéliciens" de saint Thomas d'Aquin: Essaie sur la pensée grecque et la pensée chrétienne (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1967), and Owens, "Aquinas as Aristotelian Commentator."
27 Respect for Aristotle's boundaries can take many forms. Sometimes Thomas insists on the scope of an Aristotelian inquiry, as in holding that the Ethics is concerned only with the natural happiness of the present life. Sometimes Thomas wants to keep within the measure of an Aristotelian discussion, rejecting digressions.
28 Sent. De caelo proem., 1.2, 1.7. Thomas is also much concerned to understand the kinds of writing in ancient philosophy; see, for example, Sent. De caelo 1.21 and Sent. Phys. 1.1.
30 D. J. Allan, "Medieval Versions of Aristotle, De caelo, and of the Commentary of Simplicius," Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies [London] 2 (1950): 82-120, at pp. 84-85.
historical material. The source is a body of Greek commentary and annotation made available by Robert Grosseteste.31
If Thomas had wanted to lay out an Aristotelian philosophy, or to declare one of his own, he could have quoted a slice of Aristotelian text, tersely divided it or glossed it, and then headed off to determine issues suggested by it, using a full range of authorities and elaborating or refuting positions far beyond those in the letter. Thomas did not do that in his expositions. He chose instead to compose clarifying explications of the Aristotelian text in which he restrained his full teacher's voice. The dedicatory epistle to the exposition of the Peri hermeneias is in most respects a slim selection of commonplaces, but Thomas does twice refer to the work that follows as an "exposition."32 His usage is exact. He has written an expositio - not a "paraphrase" or "abbreviation" or "summa," not a commentary with introjected disputations, not a table or a concordance. Thomas's exposition is a close reading of the Aristotelian text - nothing less, nothing more - and thus much like Averroes's continuous glosses, so far as any works of such diverse genius can be alike.33
Literal exposition is always liable to be misunderstood in the way that diffident teaching is. Which is the voice of the original, which of the expositor? The uncertainty is increased when Thomas changes expository position. It is obvious that in any given section or lectio Thomas will have some paragraphs of division, some of exposition, and some of amplification. I mean something more. It is not easy, for example, to tell what audience Thomas means to address. Perhaps there are different audiences for different expositions or multiple audiences for each one of them. He seems to assume different levels of learning and different capacities for attending to technical argument.34 Again, the self-identification of the voice, of Thomas's expository "we,"
31 See H. Paul F. Mercken's introductory remarks in The Greek Commentaries on the Nico-machaen Ethics of Aristotle in the Latin Translation of Robert Grosseteste . . . (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973), 1:30*-60*.
32 Expos. Pery epist. dedic., "expositionem adhibere curaui," "expositionis munus exiguum." Compare Sent. De caelo proem., "apud antiquos expositores Aristotelis," and 1.29, "Sed quantum pertinet ad expositionem huius libri .. ."
33 It is important to remember that Aristotle's meaning, his intentio, had been and would remain heatedly controversial on important points. See, for example, Luca Bianchi, L'errore di Aristotele: La polemica contro l'eternita del mondo nel XIIIsecolo (Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1984), pp. 19-39.
34 One way of tracing the different expectations is to notice the kinds of identifications that Thomas provides for his readers. At times, he seems to explain things repeatedly that require little explanation - for example, that the Iliad is a book about Troy: see Sent. Metaph. 7.3, 7.4, and 8.5. What kind of reader would require such repeated glosses? Is it the same reader who would be able to follow the more technical arguments of the Aristotelian corpus?
sometimes refers differently even within a single section. It is variously "we interlocutors of Aristotle," "we remote descendants of Aristotle," "we embodied intellects experiencing the world," and (most rarely) "we Christian believers."35 Such rhetorical complexities require a scrupulous discernment that is not possible when reading the expositions in bits. It is a vice to consult Thomas's works as if they were statistical tables, plucking out one discrete datum after another. The accomplishment of Thomas's expositions of Aristotle is that they read Aristotle continuously. Shifts of audience or of voice are notable in view both of that continuity and of Thomas's presumption that Aristotle wrote unified works.36
Continuity and unity are reinforced by a set of exclusions in the expositions. Thomas excludes for the most part Christian references, even such as might arguably be just philosophical or historical.37 He then puts aside textual authorities and disputed topics outside the Aristotelian texts and traditions of commentary on them. Here we can repeat the contrast with Albert. Albert's paraphrases of Aristotle deploy the full range of available authorities, and they cover the entire corpus of Aristotelian science, even where no Aristotelian treatise is extant. So, for example, Albert inserts in its proper place a treatise On the Intellect and the Intelligible, even though the Aristotelian original is lacking, and he composes his insertion from materials much later than Aristotle and quite different from
35 For examples of "we" taken directly from Aristotle, see Sent. Politic. 2.6, "As we now see happen in cities," but the "now" and the observation are in the original; 3.2, "as we see in those who sing songs in choruses," with reference to ancient comedies. For the "we" in agreement with Aristotle's (false) starting points, see Sent. Metaph. 12.7: "since we suppose that motion is eternal." For the "we" of Christian believers, see Sent. Politic. 2.12, "So that we do not believe that man can be made naturally from earth, but only by divine power," and "just as we assert that Noah was saved in the ark during the time of the general downpour"; compare Sent. De caelo 1.29.
36 Thomas is quite insistent that the Aristotelian texts as he receives them are well-crafted wholes. See, for example, Sent. Phys. 8.1.
37 There are some Christian references, of course. Scriptural citations, especially to the Wisdom books, are sometimes adduced in illustration of a point: 1 Corinthians 14:11 and Ecclesi-astes 10:7 cited at Sent. Politic. 1.1a; Proverbs 11:29 cited at 1.3; Proverbs 12:24 and 1 Kings 2:30 cited at 1.4; Ecclesiastes 10:19 cited at 1.8; and Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 30:11 and 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 cited at 1.10. Christian authors do occasionally appear, though they are not theological authorities so much as speculative thinkers or historiographers: Augustine at Sent. De anima 1.3; Boethius at Sent. De anima 1.7 and 2.17 and at Sent. De caelo 2.1; PseudoDionysius at Sent. Ethic. 2.7; Isidore at 5.12 (47/2: 304.16-17); and "Bede"at Sent. Politic. 1.1a, although the citation seems spurious. Figures of Scriptural or ecclesiastical history are introduced to explain or replace pagan examples: St Lawrence at Sent. Ethic. 3.2; the Israelite judges at Sent. Metaph. 1.4; Christmas and Epiphany at 2.3; John the Baptist and Anthony the Great at Sent. Politic. 1.1b. Other references seem casual, as if by spontaneous association; see, for example, the mention of angels at Sent. Politic. 1.3 and of duels at 2.12.
him.38 To find that kind of comprehensive consideration in Thomas, a reader must go to Against the Gentiles, the disputed questions, or the Summa. When he exposits Aristotle, Thomas attends only to a given text and controversies he knows to have arisen among its readers.39 He trims even these controversies with an eye to pedagogy, asking that his readers notice only the most important ones.40 Thus no section of Thomas's expositions, including the amplifying remarks introduced by such phrases as "Note that . . ." or "Know that . . ." can be taken as the full explanation that Thomas would offer in his own voice.41
Sometimes in the expositions Thomas will demur in his own voice.42 It is well known that he dissents from Aristotle's assumption of the eternity of the world.43 Just as regularly, he corrects mentions of gods or divinities, as he
38 Albert the Great De intellectu et intelligibili 1.1.1 (Borgnet Opera omnia 9:478a). The authorities explicitly invoked in the text include Alfarabi, Algazel, Apuleius, Pseudo-Dionysius, Hermes, Isaac Israeli, John Damascene, and Ptolemy. More importantly, the topics in large sections derive from Avicenna and Averroes on prophecy.
39 As with the mentions of Christian material, Thomas will sometimes adduce a classical Latin author in the Arts. So, for example, Cicero and Virgil at Sent. De sensu 2.1; Cicero at 2.2 and 2.6; Vegetius at Sent. Ethic. 3.16; Cicero on Caesar at 4.10; and Cicero at 5.12; Palladius at Sent. Politic. 1.9, but the source is Albert's commentary; and Vegetius at 2.13. Thomas will also supply Latin examples. Thus, he uses Cicero in an example of nominal definition in Sent. Metaph. 7.15 and adds the Romans to the Heraclids as an example of a race at 10.10.
40 In this respect, the Aristotelian commentaries also share in the pedagogical project of the Summa, namely, as caring for what beginners must learn from among the disordered masses of traditions.
41 I say this even of such paragraphs as those in Sent. Metaph. 11.2 where Thomas announces several times "the truth is." So I must disagree with those who hold that such locutions show that Thomas meant in the Aristotle commentaries to demonstrate a number of final conclusions. See, recently and among many others, the methodological assumptions in Guy-François Delaporte, Lecture du commentaire de Thomas d'Aquin sur le Traité de l'âme d'Aristote: L'âme, souffle de vie (Paris and Montreal: L'Harmattan, 1999), p. 9.
42 I distinguish demurrals both from technical corrections and from friendly additions. Thomas does note possible corrections ofAristotle in technical matters, as in the postulation of epicycles and the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes. See, for example, Sent. De caelo 1.1; Sent. Metaph. 12.9, 12.10. Thomas also makes a number of verbal additions so that Aristotle's conclusions become friendlier to Christian readers. See, for example, Sent. De caelo 2.4 on divine will over celestial motion; Sent. Metaph. 9.9 on divine will; 10.2 on divine knowledge as causative; 10.12 on miraculous preservation of corruptible substances; 12.7 on divine will.
43 Sent. De caelo 1.6, 1.26, 1.29, 2.1; Sent. Metaph. 9.9, 12.5. Thomas held different views on the exact intention behind Aristotle's demonstrations of eternity and some traces of ambivalence can be detected in the passages cited. For the larger changes in Thomas's views, see John F. Wippel, "Did Thomas Aquinas Defend the Possibility of an Eternally Created World? (The De aeternitate mundi Revisited)," Journal of History of Philosophy 19 (1981): 21-37; Weisheipl, "The Date and Context of Aquinas' De aeternitate mundi" in Graceful Reason: Essays in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Presented to Joseph Owens, CSSR, ed. Lloyd P. Gerson (Toronto: PIMS, 1983), 239-271.
does references to an animated celestial sphere.44 Other objections are more particular. When Aristotle seems to deny providence, Thomas rehabilitates it and points to the limitation of Aristotle's purview.45 Aristotle mentions the endowing of civic cult as an instance of magnificence. Thomas says: "The Philosopher speaks here according to the custom of the Gentiles, which has been abrogated by truth made manifest. So that if someone were now to spend something on the cult of demons, it would not be magnificent, but sacrilegious."46
Still there are surprising silences by which Thomas appears to acquiesce in an objectionable teaching. When reviewing Cretan legislation that encouraged same-sex acts as a means of population control, Thomas cannot stop himself from inserting the adjective "wicked" (turpis) in naming the acts, but he then agrees to Aristotle's postponement of the question, whether the legislative provision for them was well or ill made.47 Rehearsing Aristotle's arguments against an actual infinite, he does not mention the important sense of intensive infinity that he himself will apply to God.48 Contrasting the Platonists with Aristotle on the corruptibility of forms, Thomas elides one respect in which the Platonists were right — namely, that there are incorruptible patterns for creatures in the divine Ideas.49 There are silences even in small things. For example, Thomas explains what the Areopagus was, but does not remind his Christian readers that they have heard of it in the Acts of the Apostles.50 Again, he notes that some pagans attributed the number three to God as a perfection, but makes no allusion to the Trinity.51
What did Thomas hope to achieve by writing literal expositions of central works in the Aristotelian corpus? The question may mislead so far as
44 For general corrections or diagnoses of pagan views: Sent. De anima 1.13, 3.2; Sent. De caelo 2.1; Sent. Ethic. 1.14, 3.13, 5.12, 10.12; Sent. Metaph. 12.4, 12.8. For deprecations of Olympian deities: Jove, Juno, and Ixion at Sent. De caelo 2.1; Vulcan and Jove at Sent. Politic. 1.2, 1.10 respectively; and Mars and Venus at 2.13. At Sent. De caelo 2.1, however, Thomas allows the myth of Atlas holding up the world to be allegorized to the point that it contains "something divine." On the Gentiles' "error" of calling great rulers or heroes "gods," see Sent. Ethic. 7.1, Sent. Politic. 1.4. On Aristotle's sometimes speaking "in the manner of the Platonists" or "of the gentiles," see Sent. De caelo 2.4, Sent. Ethic. 8.7, Sent. Politic. 1.1a.
45 Sent. Metaph. 6.3. I take the backwards reference at 11.8 as a way of recalling these demur-rals without repeating them.
46 Sent. Ethic. 4.7. For other mentions of errors about cult, see Sent. Ethic. 5.12 and Sent. Politic. 2.10.
48 Sent. Metaph. 11.10; compare the deliberate expansion of the term in Contra gent. 1.43 and even its "negative"use in Sent. Metaph. 12.8.
49 Sent. Metaph. 8.3, to which compare Contra gent. 1.54, Summa theol. 1.15.1, especially ad 1.
it assumes that there is one intention. Thomas's expositions on Aristotle accomplish different tasks depending both on the subject-matter of the underlying text and the received interpretations of it. The purview, procedure, and detail of the expositions vary with the sources at Thomas's disposal, the history of the work's reception, and the theological importance of its doctrines. Any generalizing remarks about the intention of all of the expositions risk false abstraction. Still, if the question about intention is posed to the expositions in general, three general answers are ready at hand. The first, which dates back in modern interpretation at least to Mandonnet, is that Thomas meant to combat false readings of Aristotle arising in university circles from the baneful influence of the "Latin Averroists" or heterodox Aristotelians.52 This view of intention has the merit of explaining why most of the expositions were written during Thomas's second regency at Paris and why many of them engage Averroistic readings. Unfortunately, the view contradicts at least one chronological fact. The exposition of On the Soul was begun and finished before Thomas returned to Paris, that is, before he would have been thrown back into the intellectual turbulence of the controversies. Thomas's return to Paris may have had as much to do with the defense of his own teaching as with troubles over Aristotle.53 If these circumstantial claims should be discredited, engagement with heterodox "Aristotelianism" would not be a sufficient explanation for the writing of the Aristotle expositions as we have them.
Thomas had begun refuting incorrect readings of Aristotle long before he took up continuous exposition. His habit in controversy is to provide both exegetical and dialectical arguments. Thus, in the latter part of Against the Gentiles 2, he devotes six dense chapters to refuting Averroistic and Avicen-nistic errors about possible and agent intellects.54 Exegetical arguments are mixed with dialectical ones throughout, and the last chapter is a line-by-line reading of Aristotle's On the Soul 3.5.55 The same mixture of dialectic and
52 Pierre Mandonnet, Siger de Brabant et l'Averroisme latin au XlIIme siècle (rev. ed., Louvain: Institut supérieur, 1911), 1:39; compare Weisheipl, Friar Thomas, pp. 280—285. The view that the commentaries of Albert and Thomas were motivated or commanded by the desire to combat Averroism can be found in I. F. Bernardus de Rubeis, Dissertationes criticae et apologeti-cae (Venice, 1750), diss. 30, cap. 7, as in Leonine Opera omnia 1:cccxxiv—cccxxv.
53 Simon Tugwell, Albert and Thomas: Selected Writings (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), pp. 226-227.
55 Contra gent. 2.78. The procedure is different from that of the Aristotle commentaries. Here, Thomas quotes the whole Aristotelian lemmatum, interpolating glosses or explanations (nos. 1,586, 1,592a, 1,593a, and 1,594a). He then provides a series of arguments drawn from the text to establish its meaning, often collating it with other passages or refuting probable misreadings (nos. 1,587-1,591, 1,592b-d, 1,593b-e, and 1,594b).
exegesis is found in On the Unity of the Intellect and On the Eternity of the World, both of them works written during Thomas's second period of Parisian teaching with the explicit intention of correcting misreadings of Aristotle.56 Thomas would have engaged prevalent misreadings, then, more characteristically and perhaps more effectively by concentrating on controverted passages. Indeed, he cites his own free-standing arguments and exegeses about them at particularly controversial points in the Aristotelian expositions.57 There was no call to write a set of literal commentaries on whole Aristotelian books in order to combat misreading.
A second account, proposed by Gauthier in view of the chronology, holds that Thomas wrote the Aristotle commentaries "in the margin" of the Summa, as preparation or supplement for it.58 This view has the merit of explaining the chronological coincidence of the undertaking of the Summa and of the expositions: both were begun in Rome during the two academic years from 1266 to 1268. There are also close parallels between some parts of the Aristotle commentaries and parts of the Summa. The exposition of On the Soul clearly treats questions central to the account of human nature in Summa 1, for example, while the exposition of the Ethics speaks to the account of the elements of moral life in Summa 1-2. It is easy to imagine, then, that Thomas wrote the commentaries in order to explore issues important for the Summa or even to master Aristotelian texts useful for its grand construction. Gauthier's account might further explain why certain expositions were broken off in the middle - that is, at a point beyond which the Aristotelian text might no longer be so useful.
What remains unexplained on Gauthier's account is, again, the detail and extent of the expositions. It is difficult to imagine that Thomas would have had to go through the meticulous work of complete division and explication in order to garner what he needed for the Summa. Especially during years when he was immensely preoccupied by other composition - the Summa itself, disputed questions, polemical tracts, occasional works - it seems unlikely that he would have wasted time polishing preparatory notes.
56 See Weisheipl, Friar Thomas, p. 385, nos. 55-56, with the corrections on pp. 483-484.
57 For example, Sent.De Anima 3.1. Compare the self-reference on the question of survival of death, Sent. Ethic. 1.17.
58 See Gauthier's remarks in the Leonine Opera omnia, 45:288*-289*. Gauthier also holds that the project of the expositions arose from Thomas's understanding of the obligations of wisdom (289*-294*). One objection against subordinating the writing of the expositions entirely to the writing of the Summa is that Thomas continued expounding certain Aristotelian texts long after he had passed the point of the Summa where they would have been immediately useful. Thus Sent. De caelo was written after 1271, by which time Thomas was presumably well out of Summa theol. 1.
There would be no point to Thomas's detailed pedagogy unless pedagogy were part of his point. I conclude that the expositions may indeed have been undertaken in conjunction with the project of the Summa, but they cannot be viewed solely as instrumental to the Summa.
There remains a third account, on which the writing of the expositions on Aristotle was somehow required by Thomas's understanding of his office as teacher of wisdom.59 The account is promising if it can be specified. How might the expositions fit within the larger pedagogical project given expression by the Summa? As preliminary exercises in the reading of authoritative texts that are propaedeutic to theology. The expositions are works both of Dominican formation and of university instruction, just as the Summa is a work of mixed genre, indebted at least as much to the Dominican tradition of casuistry as to the university traditions of dogmatic theology. While the Summa undertakes an integral pedagogy suitable for beginners in "Christian religion," which is as much the religious life as the study of theology, the expositions offer exemplary studies of magisterial texts from outside Christian wisdom. It is a sign of the hierarchical supremacy of theology that these texts have become more and more important in the preparation for theology, within both Dominican houses of study and the universities.
Choosing to write expositions of Aristotle, Thomas chose not to write a companion Summa of Philosophy. Nor was he merely making public more or less polished versions of his classroom teaching. The manuscript evidence shows, for some cases at least, that he dictated the expositions to his team of assistants in his ordinary manner of composition.60 Thomas was offering, instead and in middle place, carefully constructed readings of texts that were important as preparation for theology. This does not mean that the Aristotelian texts are identical with philosophy. On the contrary, it is imperative to construe Thomas's stance in the expositions cautiously, especially at such points where he might seem to distance himself from Aristotelian doctrine. Otherwise one risks confusing both the role of authority in philosophy and the necessarily limited place of any philosophical authority in Christian study.
From these various features of Thomas's expositions of Aristotle — their circumstances, voices, exclusions, silences — I draw the conclusion that I proposed before so outrageously. If we intend to ask about Thomas's inheritance of Aristotle, we should not start with the evidence of the expositions. The expositions will show what Thomas takes Aristotle to be saying. They will
59 Compare Gauthier in the Leonine Opera omnia, 45:290*—294*.
60 J. Cos, "Evidences of St Thomas' Dictating Activity in the Naples Manuscript of His Scrip-tum in Metaphysicam (Naples, BN VIII.F.16)," Scriptorium 38 (1984):231—253.
not tell you how he judges Aristotle in relation to alternate authorities, philosophical or theological. The actual inheritance of Aristotle must be studied topic by topic, passage by passage, in works written for Thomas's own voice.
I can illustrate that kind of reading here by looking at how Thomas rereads a single Aristotelian work, the Nicomachean Ethics, in two different projects. Thomas belongs to the first generation of readers who were able to make use of the exegetical aids provided alongside Robert Grosseteste's Latin version of the Nicomachean Ethics, which became available in 1246—1247.61 The "Lincoln translation" (so called after Grosseteste's diocese) was a revision of an earlier version, now largely lost, done with the aid of at least two Greek texts.62 Its supplements comprised a Latin corpus of Greek commentators and a set of notes (notulae) by Grosseteste himself.63 When Grosseteste's anthology began to circulate, Thomas was only 20 or 21, newly arrived in Paris and under the tutelage of Albert the Great.64 In Paris, or earlier in Italy, Thomas probably learned something of the older translations of the Ethics and of the styles of commentary on it current in faculties of the Arts.65 Whatever the extent of this early acquaintance, Thomas would soon share in one of the first systematic studies of the Ethics to make use of Grosseteste's work. After Thomas moved with Albert to Cologne in 1248, Albert turned from his commentaries on Pseudo-Dionysius to expound the Nicomachean Ethics in Grosseteste's translation, already somewhat corrupted, and with the aid of his supplements, already somewhat curtailed. Thomas was set to edit Albert's public explication (lectura) of the Ethics, though his exact editorial role remains uncertain.66
Albert's explication would have given even an ordinary student a thor
61 D. A. Callus, "The Date of Grosseteste's Translation and Commentaries on PseudoDionysius and the Nicomachean Ethics," Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 14 (1947): 200—209; confirmed by René-Antoine Gauthier in the introduction to his edition of the Ethics, Aristoteles latinus, 26:cci.
62 René Antoine Gauthier in L'Éthique à Nicomaque, eds. Gauthier and Jean Yves Jolif, 2nd edn. (Louvain: Publications universitaires, and Paris: Béatrice-Nauwelaerts, 1970), 1/1:121. Compare his introduction to the Tabula libri Ethicorum, in the Leonine Opera omnia, 48:B33.
63 Gauthier, Éthique à Nicomaque, 1/1:121—122; and Mercken, Greek Commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics, 1:30*—66*.
64 Weisheipl, Friar Thomas, pp. 36—38; Tugwell, Albert and Thomas, p. 208.
65 Gauthier thinks that Thomas first learned the Ethics as a student of Arts at Paris; see Leonine Opera omnia, 47:246* and 48:xvi—xvii. His evidence shows no more than that Thomas has some acquaintance with the Ethica vetus and a few details in the Arts commentaries. The materials for constructing Thomas's biography are not continuous enough to support Gauthier's argument that Thomas could only have learned these at Paris.
66 See the remarks by Wilhelm Kübel in Albert the Great, Super Ethica, as in Cologne Opera omnia 14/1:v—vi.
ough and laudably philological familiarity with the Aristotelian text. Thomas was no ordinary student. The impression made on him was remarkably deep. Thomas seems to remember details of the reading well enough after 20 years to cite it from memory.67 Still Thomas's major works provide the more striking evidence of Albert's instruction. In the Scriptum on the Sentences, Against the Gentiles, and the Summa of Theology, four Aristotelian texts account for more than 80 percent of Thomas's citations to Aristotle. These are Physics, On the Soul, Metaphysics, and Nicomachean Ethics. In Against the Gentiles, On the Soul is the most frequently cited text, in large part because of the extended treatments of the human soul in Book 2. In both the Scriptum and the Summa, it is the Ethics that is cited most often - and by a wide margin. Citations to the Ethics make up exactly half of all the citations to Aristotle in the Summa. To say this in another way: the Ethics is cited in the Summa four times for every one citation of the next most frequent text, the Metaphysics. The figures for the Scriptum would be comparable. Thomas's early and thorough acquaintance with the Ethics is put to special use throughout his authorship.
It would be odd, however, for a reader of Thomas's gifts to construe so important a book once, at age 25, and then learn nothing more from it or about it. I note this without any desire to authorize the making of psychological fables or the postulation of Hegelian "developments." There are some small signs of changed readings - points on which Thomas moves further away from Albert, say. Still the more interesting changes in Thomas's reading of the Ethics reconfigure his relation to the whole Aristotelian text. Watching Thomas read and reread Aristotle, we learn something of how he understands relations to the texts of authoritative teachers.
Was this article helpful?