Saturday, September 29, 2007

Book Wheels

Although not a scientific article, here is a very interesting post on XVI-th century book wheels. At the end of the post, the blogger published a picture of Prof. Anthony Grafton in his office. Prof. Grafton is one of the most authoritative scholar in Renaissance studies.

Ancient Commentators of Aristotle at OCLA

A cross-post on neoplatonism@ group captured my attention. The post was about the launching of Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity (OCLA), a new research body served by over 50 fellows from Oxford University plus graduate students, all interested in Late Antiquity, i.e., "the period between approximately 250 and 750 CE".

The Centre brought under its roof several research projects that were scattered among Oxford faculties. In one of these projects, I have a particular interest: Ancient Commentators of Aristotle, directed by Richard Sorabji, with the help of John Sellars.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Biblioteca Vaticana - closed for 3 years

Today, looking for some information on the website of the famous Biblioteca Vaticana, I learnt that it will be closed for three (yes, 3) years -- I would say three long years -- "for important renovations". The starting date was July 14, 2007.

Now, for all of you in need of manuscripts from the Biblioteca Vaticana there is one more chance to get the materials -- the Library of St. Louis University holds an important Vatican manuscripts repository gathered together under Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library.

Oh, I've almost forgot to mentioned that the prices are the same as for the Biblioteca Apostolica copies.

Teapa la Universitatea Spiru Haret

Citesc cu stupoare in "Evenimentul Zilei" de astazi ca, in anul de gratie 2007, o universitatea particulara din Romania continua sa dea tepe celor care doresc sa obtina o diploma universitara prin intermediul programelor de studiu la distanta (asa-numitele programe "ID"). Nu ma mira ca aceasta practica nu a fost eradicata din cel putin trei motive: primul, ca la noi universitatile particulare sunt in continuare fieful unor fosti tovarasi, tarlale de facut bani pentru cativa "profesorasi de carton". Imi aduc aminte de unul, Tudosescu, de la fosta Facultate de Filosofie si Jurnalistica a Univ. Spiru Haret, alaturi de care statea in permanenta "Asistentul" - un altul, pe numele sau Berghea (ajuns lector universitar fara sa fi scris in viata lui un articol). Din compania celor doi nu lipseau niciodata Gh. Cazan si I. Rosca, doi compilatori de asa-zise istorii ale filosofie antice sau moderne.

In al doilea rand, nu se poate sa nu se remarce lipsa totala de responsabilitate a celor care fac parte din aceste institutii fata de studenti si sistemul de invatamant universitar. Adoptarea unui cod de conduita si a cartei universitare s-a facut doar de ochii lumii, nimic din ce sta inscris in ele nu este aplicabil sau se aplica. In continuare se pastreaza principiul: cati mai multi bani face prestigiul unei universitati. Asa se face ca nu le pasa ce se intampla cu studentii lor dupa ce termina ciclul, atata vreme cat au platit la zi taxa si nu si-o pot recupera in nici un fel fiindca nu exista nici o lege care sa reglementeze aceasta chestiune. Asadar, studentii sunt la mana lor iar nimeni nu ii poate apara/proteja de hotii.

In al treilea rand, exista o totala indiferenta fata de intreg sistemul universitar. Atatea discursuri ne-au auzit urechile de la cei care s-au perindat pe la sefia Ministerului Educatiei, Cercetarii si Tineretului, dar nimic nu s-a facut efectiv. Toti ministrii fie si-au vazut de propriul lor interes, fie au fost atat de incompetenti incat nu aveau cum sa miste in front.

'Intentio Aristotelis' or just a bunch of unsubstantiated claims

The Italian Renaissance brought us closer to the writings attributed to Aristotle, no doubt about that, but was the claim of the Italian Renaissance scholars that we should look for 'intentio Aristotelis' true? They went so far by saying that becoming acquintated to the Attic Greek of Aristotle we could understand his opinions in a new light, one that has nothing to do with the tradition formed during the High Middle Ages around them. So they studied Aristotle in Greek.

Now, I have read Daniel Dennett's The Interpretation of Texts, People and Other Artifacts, published in "Philosophy and Phenomenology Research" (vol. 50, 1990, pp. 177-184), and some doubts poped-up in my head. The most important of them: can we really know what Aristotle's intention was in the Nicomachean Ethics?

If we accept Dennett's arguments -- and we don't have any reason not to -- we will be in big trouble not only when thinking about the Renassaince claim, but also when we account the contemporary claim that we should step aside from any tradition and read Aristotle "nude" (Pierre Aubenque, see his preface to Le Probleme de l'etre chez Aristote). In other words, we will never be able to uncover "Aristotle's intention" because there is nothing like that. We are in the same position as a medieval or Renaissance scholar was: we have some texts, transmitted in various forms (directly or indirectly; in Greek, Latin or Arabic; along with some commentaries or paraphrases), written down for a certain audience (which we cannot fully understand) almost 2.5 millenia ago.

But I will challenge Dennett's arguments by simply saying that we do have a privileged epistemic position. Just as we know today what the purpose of the Antikythera mechanism was, we also know what Aristotle may have thought about eudaimonia by bring as much information as possible into account. We might use direct information from other writings or indirect pieces/testimonies about his beliefs.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Coming Closer to Aquinas' Writings

In the last twenty years, or since the introduction of Internet, scholars from all over the world had the chance to get closer and closer to Aquinas' writings. Manuscript repositories from various European and American parts opened their pages via virtual libraries to almost anyone interested. HMML's Vivarium is making no exception. The Vivarium is hosting an on-line selection of folios from two 14th cent. manuscripts containing Aquinas' Catena Aurea (Arca Artium; aap2094) and Expositio in Job (Codex Campililiensis 10).

Other mss. of Aquinas' work:

Why is it important to come closer to Aquinas' writings in manuscript? I think at least two answers can be offered to this question: first, the paleographical scholarship may help restore an original text reflecting the ideas intended by Thomas Aquinas himself and not those introduced by his editors or copyists.

Weisheipl ([1974] p. 222) wrote that the Summa Theologiae “was the most widely circulated work [of all the writings of Thomas Aquinas] both in manuscript and in print”. But we are still far from appreciating at full extent its circulation and influence. As I have tried to explain in my PhD thesis, which I hope will be printed in fall 2008, the Thomist tradition has had a great influence on our current moral traditions and especially on the modern interpretations of Aristotle's moral thought. But also the modern Thomists influenced Aquinas' reading. So, by unfolding the layers of tradition, contrary to the principle exploited by the bee allegory, we will be able to uncover not only Aquinas' thinking, but also that of Aristotle.

Other useful links:
Aquinas' works on-line:
PS: I agree with those that say that not everything on the Internet can be useful for research, but there are some reliable sources that any scholar cannot overlook. For example, some respectable researchers have decided to post on the Internet their pre- and post- printed materials. Why not use them if the references are in a standard form?

Revue des Sciences philosophiques et theologiques. 1907-2007

Institute Catholique de Paris - Le Saulchoir is hosting the celebration events marking 100 years since the first issue of Revues des Sciences philosophiques et theologiques. The conferences will take place at Paris between 20th and 22nd November 2007. The inaugural lecture will be delivered by Professor Alain de Libera. Only one particular conference attracted my attention: "Cent ans d'etudes medievales: lire Thomas d'Aquin en historien et en philosophie", with Emmanuel Falque, Ruedi Imbach, Fergus Kerr and Adriano Oliva as keynote speakers.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Despre profesori si elita

Intamplator am dat peste un articol publicat de Costica Bradatan in 2006 intr-o revista romaneasca obscura care mi-a placut foarte mult si care vine in completare cu un videoblog postat la sfarsitul lunii iulie de Cristian Vasilescu pe site-ul propriu. Va invit si pe voi sa lecturati-vizionati:
Am revenit la acest comentariu fiindca am gasit pe un text incitant intitulat "Despartirea de Patapievici" si semnat de Ninel Ganea. Intr-adevar, dupa cum sustine si dl Ganea, exista astazi in Romania o complicitate a auto-proclamatelor elite cu politicienii corupti si incompetenti care ne conduc. Mai mult, ceea ce lipseste intregii societati romanesti este o structura institutionala (in sensul larg al termenului "institutie) coerenta, competitiva si transparenta. In lipsa acesteia, orice incercare de a penetra carapacea din jurul lumii acadamice, de exemplu, si de a participa in mod democratic la competitia academica este sortita esecului sau transformarii intr-o slugarnicie identica in natura sa cu cea care domnea in regimul ceausist. Iar cei care au strigat "Traiasca elitele!" si au sustinut implicarea politica a intelectualilor nu au facut altceva decat sa promoveze un sistem discretionar si anti-democratic in care elitele sunt 'niste zei mai mici', care, pentru ca ei stiu mai bine, ajung sa aleaga in locul majoritatii. Asa ca prefer oricand sa ma supun domniei majoritatii, decat sa ingurgitez tot ceea ce hotarasc X sau Y ca e mai bine pentru mine. Un argument ar fi ca majoritatea, fiind formata din mai multi indivizi si independenti, pot intelege nevoile proprii, in timp ce X sau Y, prin contactul limitat cu comunitatea pe care se presupune ca o reprezinta nu reusesc sa inteleaga mare lucru din ce ii este necesar acesteia.

Exista o scoala romaneasca de studii aristotelice?

In 2006, Alexandru Surdu a publicat la editura Olms, , in colectia "Zur modernen Deutung der aristotelischen Logik", un volum intitulat Aristotelian Theory of Prejudicative Forms ( ISBN13: 978-3-487-13209-9). Pana la ora cand scriu aceste randuri nu am avut ocazia sa pun mana pe cartea respectiva, dar nu despre ea vreau sa vorbesc acum. Chiar daca stiu la ce ma pot astepta de la o carte semnata de ilustrul academician, ce m-a frapat a fost un paragraf din descrierea care insoteste cartea (cel putin pe site-ul editurii). Redau aici paragraful cu pricina:

"Alexandru Surdu is an outstanding representative of the Romanian school of Aristotle research. The special characteristic of this school is that its members have not based their research solely on the An. pr. and the De int. but have also paid particular attention to the Categories. This volume contains a thorough modern interpretation of the Categories in which the author takes into account commentators in the Greek, Latin and modern traditions, for example A. Trendelenburg." (sursa citat)

Toti cei care citesc aceste randuri si stiu cate ceva despre cercetarile filosofice de la noi se vor intreba pe buna dreptate care sunt reprezentantii acestei scoli romanesti de studii aristotelice si care sunt lucrarile cele mai reprezentative pe care le-a dat ea.