From the Publisher
This is the only book we're aware of that traces Aristotle's works on logic through a variety of cultures to the time of the Renaissance.
The books other claim to fame is its user-friendliness. We were surprised by how clearly Mr. Laughlin communicated often difficult historical and philosophical concepts. His use of summary sidebars is especially helpful.
The Aristotle Adventure is beginning to be used in college-level Western Civilization courses.
From the Author
What The Aristotle Adventure Is:
First and foremost, The Aristotle Adventure is a guidebook -- that is, it is a guide to the individuals who brought Aristotle's greatest achievement, his logic, from his time to the Renaissance and, thus, the modern world. Ideas pass over land and through time in one of two forms -- either recorded, especially in books, or retained in the minds of the people who understand those ideas. For this story, modern scholars don't know much about the individual manuscripts, at least up to around AD1200. But modern scholars do know something about some of the individuals who carried along Aristotle's work on logic -- and his philosophy of reason -- from one generation to the next, from one place to another, and from one culture to another. Most of those individuals were courageous; a few were not. Most were good men and women; a few were not. But each one -- copyist, teacher, or philosopher -- played a role. Intentionally or not, each one passed the baton of Aristotle's logic to the next runner in this 2,000 year saga. In that long succession, the most famous were Galen, Boethius, Ibn Rushd, and Aquinas. There were many others. What The Aristotle Adventure does, in less than 200 pages of main text, is briefly profile over 90 of those individuals, major and minor. The book, however, isn't simply a string of profiles. There is a story line -- the dramatic conflict of reason and unreason -- and there is a colorful backdrop for that drama: the rise and fall of nations, states and cultures.
How It Is Organized:
Part 1 is about Aristotle and his logic. It shows the fundamental value of his six treatises on logic, and explains that logic is the tool not only of philosophers, but of all of us. Because the book is aimed at students primarily, I start with a brief explanation of what philosophy is and why it's important.
After Part 1, which is less than 20 pages, the remainder of the book is historical. Part 2 covers that philosophically disheartening 300 year period -- basically the Hellenistic Age -- after Aristotle died. Continuing chronologically, in Part 3, I take the reader through the Greek-Pagan mainstream, roughly from Augustus Caesar's time to the fall of Alexandria. It was this period -- when Neo-Platonist teachers preserved Aristotle's logic in their curriculum -- that shaped the study of Aristotle for a thousand years.
Parts 4, 5 and 6 consider each of the three branch streams that flowed from the Greek-Pagan mainstream: Greek-Christian, Arabic-Islamic, and Latin-Christian. The last pages of the book include endnotes and bibliography. They also include a combined mini-lexicon and index designed to help readers review key concepts. At the end of the book, simple charts summarize the course of each branch.
Within each of the three branches, I followed the action chronologically, one scholar after another, though sometimes the scenery changes radically. For example, in the Arabic-Islamic branch, as the philosophical study of Aristotle's logic fell in Baghdad, it rose in Cordoba and other cities of Islamic Spain.
I presented the Latin-Christian branch last, partly because it was the longest -- from Varro c. 50 BC to Galileo c. 1600 AD -- and partly because it was the only branch where anyone succeeded in again applying Aristotle's logic to life on earth, specifically in the form of a scientific method, a study that I am sure Aristotle would have loved to have continued for himself.
Why I Called It An "Adventure":
Well, it's not Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it is an intellectual adventure. The book is partly a saga -- a straightforward account of a sequence of people and events. It is partly a drama -- an account of fundamental values in conflict. It is also an adventure in the sense of a bold, risky enterprise whose outcome was uncertain and hazardous.
I don't mean by 'enterprise' that there was a conscious, deliberate, multi-generational plan to pass Aristotle's logic to the future. But I do believe many individuals in this story valued their own future and their students' future. Proof of valuing something is taking some action to gain that value. What many of these people wanted to gain was respect for logic as the tool of rational people. The cumulative result of each individual's efforts was a sort of philosophical bucket-brigade that passed Aristotle's logic onward until finally someone had the courage, intelligence, rationality -- and freedom of speech -- to apply it to worldly disputes.
Also, if one characteristic of an adventure is facing hazards, then this is certainly an adventure, at least in part. Though not directly because of their role in passing Aristotle's logic to the future, some of the participants were victims of violent illogic. Cicero was assassinated; John Italos was chased by a mob in 11th century Constantinople; Ibn Rushd (Averroes) was banished from Cordova and his writings seized; and, for his insistence on the logical certainty of his conclusions, Galileo was almost silenced by the Church."
Why The Aristotle Adventure Is Suitable For Students:
Actually, it is designed for students -- of one sort or another. I believe this book will work well as a supplementary text in lower-level history of philosophy classes, as well as in classes for Western Civilization, cultural history, intellectual history, and history of science. The Aristotle Adventure covers 2000 years, which might neatly parallel a large part of a Western Civilization course, for example.
Not all students of the history of philosophy are in classes. There are also many serious, intelligent, adult readers in the world outside the campuses. Some of them have enough interest in the subject -- Culturally, how did we get where we are? -- to read a clearly written history. I wrote The Aristotle Adventure to both kinds of students. I took pains to speak clearly, to define my terms (for example, distinguishing reason from rationalism), and to illustrate the story with simple maps, charts, and diagrams.
The challenge of writing a book like this, for students, was to provide just enough explanation of the philosophical concepts to help the reader make sense of the conflicts, and just enough background information to understand the setting.
Some scholars may also find value in this book. There is no place else to go if you want an overview of this wide-ranging story. In fact, I hope that someday soon, someone will write a similar story about Plato's writings -- not only in the Latin-Christian, medieval tradition, but in the Greek-Christian and Arabic-Islamic branches too.
Why I Wrote A Book Like The Aristotle Adventure:
I was doing research for an historical novel set in the Renaissance. The lead character was a printer who was attempting to preserve -- through his printing -- the writings of the scientific geniuses of the ancient Greek past, such as Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen. The theme was persistence. In one scene, I wanted to show readers that persistent effort over many generations brought those books to the Renaissance. Aristotle was among the greatest of those scientists, so I looked for a book that would show me how his treatises passed through those 20 centuries. I found bits and pieces of the story in widely scattered sources, but I couldn't find the book I was looking for. So, I wrote it.
My purpose as a writer is to tell success stories. The Aristotle Adventure is a success story. It starts with Aristotle's manuscripts apparently lost not long after his death. It ends with Galileo, the father of modern science. In logic, Galileo was an Aristotelian all his life. As Renaissance scholar William W. Wallace has shown, Galileo began his scientific career with a detailed study of Aristotle's theory of demonstration (scientific proof). Aristotle wrote about that theory in Posterior Analytics, the keystone treatise of his six treatises on logic.
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