Plato and Aristotle, Contest and Temporary Reconciliation

  • František Novotný


Aristotle’s philosophy with its logic, metaphysics and its doctrine of nature formed an important part of that general view of the world, which Thomas Aquinas expounded in didactic form and Dante in the verses of his poetry, and contributed thus to the cohesion of the Christian system. This general view also included Plato’s philosophy, although its influence was more of a negative kind, as a factor which was independent on Aristotle’s authority and at times opposed it, and had thus a liberating effect from the cult of Aristotle’s philosophy which was at times even despotic. It might have seemed that the old controversy about Plato and Aristotle had been solved and that it was finally settled that it was Aristotle who approached more nearly to the Christian truth. This might have appeared to be tbe case at least in the Western world. Aristotle in view of his systematisation was also better fitted for the teaching of philosophy in schools. The syllabus of studies could easily decree for instance “docetur Ethica Aristotelis”. Against this it was hardly possible to put the reading of some of Plato’s dialogues.


Christian Religion Latin Translation Latin Version Didactic Form Common Beginning 
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  1. 1.
    A truthful account of Pletho’s activity and subsequent recollections about him is presented by Börje Knös in the study Gémiste Pléthon et son souvenir (Association Guillaume Budé, “Lettres d’humanité”, tome IX, Paris 1950), p. 97–184. On p. 140 seq. there is a list of the monographic literature on Pletho.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Georg Voigt, Die Wiederbelebung des dassischen Alterthums (Berlin I, 1880, II, 1881), II, p. 122.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Pletho’s philosophic system was explained by Fritz Schultze, Georgios Gemistos Plethon und seine reformatorischen Bestrebungen (Jena 1874). I could not procure the monograph by J. W. Taylor, Georgius Gemistus Pletho’s Criticism of Plato and Aristoteles (Chicago 1921).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    This essay was printed for the first time in Venice in 1532 with its Latin paraphrase by Bernardion Donatus. It is printed, with the Latin translation, in Migne, Patr. Gr. 160. 889–932.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For the first time it was published from the manuscript Berber. cod. gr. 179 of the Vatican library by Bohdan Kieszkowski in his book Platonizm renesansowy (Warszawa 1935), p. 123; ibid., p. 116–121, the text of the “Chaldean oracle” is printed with its Latin translation.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Only fragments are extant from this work (Migne, Patr. Gr. 160, 957/8–973/4); a collection of these fragments was published by C. Alexandre with a French translation in Paris in 1858 entitled Πλήϑωνος Nόμων συγ γραϕñς τά σωζόμενα — Pléthon, Traité des lois. The incompleteness of this work was caused by the fact that it was not published during Pletho’s life-time, and after his death it came into the hands of the rulers of the Peloponnesus, who did not permit it to be copied, and finally it was burnt by the patriarch Gennadius with the exception of a few remnants. See further p. 341.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    They are listed and discussed by Martin Jugie in the article La polémique de Georges Scholarios contre Pléthon (Byzantion 10, 1935) based on the 4th volume of the newly published collection of Scholarios’ works, which was arranged by L. Petit, X. A. Siderides and Martin lugie (Ιενναδίου ∑χολαρίου ãπαν τα τά εύρισχόμενα) (= Oeuvres completes de Gennade Scholarios, tome IV, Paris 1935). I was in possession only of the older edition of Gennadius’ writings in Migne, Patr. Gr., vol. 160 (1866) and 161 (1866).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    It is printed in Migne, Patr. Gr. 160, col. 979–1020.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Gennadius got somehow to know this introduction before he became acquainted with the whole Laws.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    It seems, however, that he never wrote this promised reply.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gennadius’ letter to Demetrius’ wife Theodora concerning this matter is extant.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bessarion, In calumniatorem Platonis (Latin translation) IV, 17, 2.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    This writing was printed in Venice in 1523. It was published by “Augustinus Claravallis Montifelconius, eremita Augustinianus, Theologiae doctor”. The publication is. dedicated to “Francisco II Sfortiae Vicecomiti Duci Mediolani meritissimo”.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    This house was after its reconstruction in 1933 opened to visitors, who are interested in its former learned owner.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    In a letter to Pletho’s sons (Migne, Patr. Gr. 160, 696 seq.) he writes that Hellas had not produced after Plato and Aristotle a man superior to Pletho in wisdom. Were it possible to accept the Pythagorean and Platonic doctrine of the transmigration of souls, he would have had no hesitation in holding that Plato’s soul was destined by fate to descend to earth and to choose the body and life of Gemistus’. In another letter to Nicolas Secundinus (ibid. 697) he praises Pletho as a philosopher — not one of those who limit themselves to specialised sciences and to theory, though he knew them well, but a cultivator of that philosophy which deals with questions of practical life, and which adorns the morals and manners of men.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    The Greek text with the Latin translation was published in modern times by Ludwig Mohler (Paderborn 1927). Before that only the Latin translation was printed, for the first time in 1469. Even before this, edition Mohler published the monograph Der Kardinal Bessarion als Theologe. Humanist und Staatsmann (Paderborn 1923).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    These corrections are printed in the Vth book of the work In calumniatorem Platonis in the Venetian edition of Aldus in 1516 with the book De natura et arte ad-versus eundem Trapezuntium et Plethonem pro Theodoro Gaza.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    This Aristotolean concept is explained by A. Kříž in his comments on the translation of Aristotle’s treatise On the Soul, ibid., p. 230.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Osias Schwarz quotes in the article De Laurentii Corvini studiis Platonicis (Eos 34, 1932/3, p. 154).Google Scholar

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© František Novotný — Ludvík Svoboda 1977

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  • František Novotný

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