1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alexander of Aphrodisias

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ALEXANDER OF APHRODISIAS, pupil of Aristocles of Messene, the most celebrated of the Greek commentators on the writings of Aristotle, and styled, by way of pre-eminence, ὁ ἐξηγητής (“the expositor”), was a native of Aphrodisias in Caria. He came to Athens towards the end of the 2nd century A.D., became head of the Lyceum and lectured on peripatetic philosophy. The object of his work was to free the doctrine from the syncretism of Ammonius and to reproduce the pure doctrine of Aristotle. Commentaries by Alexander on the following works of Aristotle are still extant:—the Analytica, Priora, i.; the Topica; the Meteorologica; the De Sensu; and the Metaphysica, i.-v., together with an abridgment of what he wrote on the remaining books of the Metaphysica. His commentaries were greatly esteemed among the Arabians, who translated many of them. There are also several original writings by Alexander still extant. The most important of these are a work On Fate, in which he argues against the Stoic doctrine of necessity; and one On the Soul, in which he contends that the undeveloped reason in man is material (νοῦς ὑλικός) and inseparable from the body. He argued strongly against the doctrine of immortality. He identified the active intellect (νοῦς ποιητικός), through whose agency the potential intellect in man becomes actual, with God. Several of Alexander’s works were published in the Aldine edition of Aristotle, Venice, 1495–1498; his De Fato and De Anima were printed along with the works of Themistius at Venice (1534); the former work, which has been translated into Latin by Grotius and also by Schulthess, was edited by J. C. Orelli, Zürich, 1824; and his commentaries on the Metaphysica by H. Bonitz, Berlin, 1847. J. Nourisson has treated of his doctrine of fate (De la liberté et du hazard, Paris, 1870). In the early Renaissance his doctrine of the soul’s mortality was adopted by P. Pomponazzi against the Thomists and the Averroists.

See Peripatetics (ad fin.); Alexandrists; Pomponazzi, Pietro; also A. Apelt, “Die schrift d. Alex. v. Aphr.,” Philologus, xlv., 1886; C. Ruelle, “Alex. d’Aphr. et le prétendu Alex. d’Alexandrie," Rev. des études grecques, v., 1892; E. Zeller’s Outlines of Gk. Phil. (Eng. trans., ed. 1905, p.296).