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La Metafisica: vol. 23, 24, 25.

These volumes are the much augmented and heavily revised commentary and text by Giovanni Reale of Aristotle's Metaphysics, which was originally issued in two volumes in the series Collana di Filosofi Antichi from the Centro di Studi Filosofici di Gallarate, published by Luigi Loffredo Editore, Naples. The volumes are part of the collection entitled "Temi metafisici e problemi del pensiero antico. Studi e testi," published by the Centro di Ricerche di Metafisica of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan. The two volume set was published in 1968 and much has transpired since, including the publication of Reale's major work, A History of Ancient Philosophy, in five volumes, of which four volumes have been translated into English (SUNY Press, Albany). The second volume of the series, Plato and Aristotle, was the vehicle of a profound change in Reale's views on Plato and subsequently on Aristotle. Reale came to the attention of the Anglophone world through his work The Concept of First Philosophy and the Unity of the Metaphysics (SUNY Press, 1980), which elegantly undermined the Jaegerian thesis on the development of Aristotle's metaphysical thought by showing that the four dimensions, or strands, of Aristotle's thought on metaphysics (ousiology, aitiology, ontology, and theology), although conceptually distinct, interpenetrated one another in a fruitful manner which gave length, breadth, and depth to his treatment of metaphysics, or first philosophy.

The sea-change in his view on Plato resulted from his discussions with Konrad Gaiser and Hans Kramer, the founders of the so-called Tubingen Plato school. Their exegetical reading of Plato attempted to take into account the so-called Unwritten Doctrines of Plato on the Protology or Theory of the Principles without neglecting the dialogues themselves. The movement has gained some ground among Continental scholars of ancient philosophy, but, except for a totally unrelated agreement in the work of Findlay, this hermeneutic approach has not had a particularly successful career in the English speaking world. I leave to others the inquiry into the whys of this state of affairs. The second volume of the series A History of Ancient Philosophy was heavily revised after its first Italian edition and it is this revision (the fourth Italian edition, 1984) which was translated into English. Reale's views are further exposed in a monograph entitled Towards a New Interpretation of Plato (Vita e Pensiero, 1991), translated into English and to be published next year by Catholic University of America Press. Earlier Reale had published a small monograph entitled Introduzione a Aristotele (Bari, 1977). These volumes of the text and commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle are the best expressions of Reale's thinking on this much discussed and commented work of Aristotle's.

The first volume consists of an introductory monograph, which concerns the problematic of metaphysics taken in itself as well as in relation to Plato and within the Academy in which it was developed and in opposition to which it was involved in lively discussions. In the second volume, Reale presents the translation in Italian appropriately articulated with titles for each section so that the internal structure of the philosophical arguments is made perspicuous. The Greek text is presented in a handsome format on facing pages and is taken from Ross's edition, but takes into account Jaeger's edition where necessary, the explanation of which is given in the commentary. In the third volume, Reale explains various concepts and their development both from the perspective of the whole work in summary and in detail following the text analytically point by point, many times with the help of the great modern and ancient commentators. In doing this "greatly revised edition," the bibliography was updated. The so-called index in the first volume of 267 items is only concerned with those works expressly cited in the volume and is not a complete bibliography. Reale explains in the preface that in the last ten years the bibliography on the Metaphysics has been greatly enlarged. At the moment, the titles in the twentieth century number 2,500. Reale therefore promises that a systematic and annotated bibliography will be forthcoming under the direction of Roberto Radice, who has previously produced with David T. Runia an exhaustive annotated bibliography (1937-86) of Philo of Alexandria, published originally by E. J. Brill (Leiden in 1992 and again by Bibliopolis in 1993).

Reale roots his treatment of the Metaphysics securely within the dimensions of his new reading of Plato and, as is well known, he has become the outstanding proponent of the Tubingen Plato School in addition to Szlezak (who succeeded Galser after his untimely death) and, of course, one of its founders, Hans Kramer. So it comes as no surprise to have Reale devote time and attention in volume one (introductory essay) to Aristotle's testimony in regard to the Unwritten Doctrines as found in the Metaphysics.

It is obviously impossible to even sample the richness of Reale's treatment of Aristotle and his connection to Plato in the compass of this short notice. However, Reale's account of the distinction of the sciences in the sixth book of the Metaphysics (pp. 288-93) is an especially satisfying piece of work which incorporates the contributions of Merlan about the paradoxical issue of "mathematical realism" in the division of the theoretical sciences. There is one section of the first volume (pp. 146-50) which caused me some puzzlement: the section on the unicity of God, or the first and supreme Mover. Is the concern of this section an Aristotelian issue or is it something that flows from the use of Aristotle by Christian thinkers? There is some indication in Reale's question about the issue of "monotheism" or, as he puts it: "E, questa, una forma di 'politeismo'?" ("Is this [viz., the Aristotelian doctrine] a form of polytheism"?). But the plurality of the things designated as divine does not seem to be an issue for Aristotle (p. 148). It seems to be a question of fact, that is, how many irreducible sphere movements there are, and even here, as Reale points out (p. 147), they number 55 or 47, according to the astronomers. Reale's measured response to the issue is carefully nuanced in language with appropriate cautious, but one is still left with a vague sense that it is not an issue for Aristotle no matter how important for later thinkers. On another point, the notion that the "immobile Movers" form an "gerachicamente inferiori" ("hierarchically inferior") (p. 148) series might suggest a reference to Merlan's treatment of the same issue where he establishes the notion of a number series without any reference to subordination (that is, the numbers are not ordinals). In that sense, Merlan gives substance to the notion of the relation of the "first" immobile Mover to the other immobile Movers as conceivable according to the notion that the series is a number series and thus the "first" immobile Mover is a "first among equals," in this way eliminating any notion of subordination or "inferiority." One wonders whether or not cultural understandings did not influence Reale's reading of Aristotle on this point. Reale also has a penchant for using ontologia which seems to be anachronistic (its first use dates from the seventeenth century in France). The common translation in English for the Italian "ontologia" is the term ontology, which in the current antimetaphysical climate is easily misunderstood for a general treatment of being and thus metaphysics is dismissed as a science without an object or subject matter, although in his discussion of the universal nature of the cause within a metaphysical context, Reale correctly disassociates it from the epistemological or logical sense of universal (pp. 131-4).

None of these minor cautions, however, can detract from the magnificent achievement of Reale in producing this scholarly and erudite commentary. Anyone who can read Italian will find in this relatively inexpensive edition a treasure-trove of insight into Aristotle's perennially fascinating Metaphysics. - John R. Catan, State University of New York, College at Brockport
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Author:Catan, John R.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1995
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