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6278A Pythagorean homily on the Posterior Analytics

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  • Tzvi Langermann
    Apr 21, 2014

      I have been asked by a colleague to have a look at the opening chapter of Isaac Israeli’s book on fevers. The chapter deals with epistemology, based mainly on Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, to which specific reference is made. The author is the same person about whom Alexander Altmann and S.M. Stern published a book under the title “Isaac Israeli: A Neoplatonic Philosopher of the Early Tenth Century”, and his interpretation of some passages from Aristotle, which I can only describe as odd, may come from a neoplatonic or neopythagorean tradition, which is why I am posting this query.

      Aristotle opens book II with his famous list of four inquiries that are made in science. He begins with a statement that the number of inquiries is equal in number to the things to be learned. It is important to emphasize that Aristotle says “equal in number” (isa ton arithmon), because Israeli’s disquisition is built upon “number”, more specifically in his reading, “an equivalent number” (al-‘adad al-mustawiy, which likely is based on some variant in the Greek or maybe Syriac text), “equivalent” meaning here “square”, that is, the product of two numbers which are equal to each other. This then explains why there are four inquiries. Israeli then responds to a hypothetical objection, that one could have said there are nine or sixteen inquiries; the answer is that four is the first square number.

      Israeli’s direct quote of Aristotle’s opening sentence is unlike any of the known translations or recensions, now conveniently laid out for us by Riccardo Strobino in Oriens 40 (2012), pp. 367-368 (the paper can be downloaded from PhilPapers) ; only Averroes, in his middle commentary, reproduces Aristotle’s arithmon (Arabic ‘adad). Is this a Pythagorean homily on Aristotle? Or have I completely misunderstood?


      Thanks in advance,


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