Category: Works of Plato

Liber de Causis (The Book of Causes)

Anonymous work, written in Arabic entitled/under the title Liber de Bonitate PuraThe Book of Pure Goodness (9th c.) and translated into Latin as The Book of the causes. It is a compilation of proposals of Proclus. It was considered Aristotelian (up to the 13th century) and is a key component of the (neo) Platonic tradition in medieval Arabic and especially/in particular Latin philosophy and metaphysics.

1. Author and chronology

The short anonymous work was written in the 9th century in Arabic and became known by various titles such as The Book of Pure Goodness (Kitāb Īdāh al-hayr al-mahd). It is the result of a process of translated passages from the Theological Stoicheiosin of Proclus, that were scattered in the so called Procliana Arabica. It was written by members of the Al-Kindī circle, influenced by the reception of Plotinus, passages of whose works were mixed in the final text. However, it was early found, perhaps by mistake, into an Arabic list of Aristotle's works, and then it was attributed to him and spread in the Arab world under the title The book of Aristotle's explanation of the pure good.

As part of the Aristotelian corpus, and so with the authority of the Philosopher, it was translated into Latin, probably by Gerardo of Kremona (1114-1187) and was given the title Liber de causis (The book of causes), under which it became known in the history of philosophy. From Latin it was afterwards translated into Hebrew. When Thomas Aquinas read the recent (1268) translation of the Theological Stoicheiosis, he concluded and proved in detail in his analytical memorandum that Liber is based on Proclus and is not Aristotelian.

2. Philosophical ideas

The work contains thirty-one chapters (and a total of 219 sentences) corresponding to themes of a lot of sentences of the Theological Stoicheioses and constitutes a kind of its summary. Since the writing of the project is part of the effort made by al-Kindī circle to diffuse the Greek philosophy to Muslim scholars, the selection of Proclus sentences was made in order to obtain a new coherent whole, with the central positions of metaphysics of the One. In the ontological and cosmological hierarchy the One is defined as the first, only and true principle of the universe, as pure and transcendental being, and epistemologically inaccessible• and at the same time as creator and προνοιακός God. Mind is the first creation of the One and a universal mediator between the One and the creation. It rules the soul, which is the "horizon" that unites and divides eternity and time, and nature through soul. All perishable beings, who have the lowest position in the hierarchy, refer to and ultimately depend on the first principle. Without the pagan elements of Theological Stoicheioses, Liber is the epitome of a monotheistic (Christian and Islamic ) Neoplatonism.

3. The work’s impact

Liber, along/together with the Theology of Aristotle (Theologia Aristotelis), both derived from the circle of al-Kindī, and consisted the main sources of eclectic Arabic and Jewish metaphysics. More important was the influence of Liber as the main source of neoplatonic ideas in the medieval West, because it bore the name of Aristotle and at the same time its axioms relate to/refer to central monotheistic positions/opinions on creation and πρόνοια. It is worth mentioning that/notably there are 237 manuscripts of the Latin translation, which is usually included in Aristoteles latinus and placed immediately after Metaphysics. They are also recorded twenty-nine Latin (13th-16th c.) and three Hebrew (13th-14th century) memorandums on it• its importance is demonstrated by the names of some authors of its memorandums: Roger Bacon (1241-1245), Henry of Ghent , Albert the Great (1264-1268), Thomas Aquinas (1272), Peter of Auvergne, Sigiros of Brabant (1274 to 1276).

Most Scholastics have adopted many of Libers sentences. Thomas Aquinas interpreted Aristotle and formed the so-called Aristotelianism also through/by the reading of Liber- an Aristotelianism, therefore, and not an unfortunate Platonism. Despite the fact that he has demonstrated that the project is falsified, he supported the harmony between Aristotle, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Liber and Christian faith.

Author: Matina-Ioanna Kyriazopoulou
  • Taylor, R.C. ed. The Liber de Causis (Kalām fī mahd al-hayr): A Study of Medieval Neoplatonism. Toronto, 1981.
  • Pattin, A. ed. Le Liber de causis. Louvain, 1966.
  • Magnard, P. La demeure de l'être. Autour d'un anonyme. Etude et traduction du Liber de Causis. Paris, 1990, 2002.
  • Saffrey,, H.-D. ed. Θωμάς Ακινάτης: Super Librum de Causis Expositio. Louvain, 1954.
  • D'Ancona Costa, C. Tommaso D'Aquino: Commento al Libro delle cause. Milanο, 1986.
  • Guagliardo, V. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Book of Causes. Washington, D.C., 1996.
  • D'Ancona Costa, C. Recherches sur le Liber de Causis. Paris, 1995, 2002.
  • Taylor, R.C., D'Ancona Costa, C. Dictionnaire des Philosophes Antiques Supplément. 2003.
  • Megías, P.L. Liber de Causis: Indice y Concordancia. Florence, 2004.
  • Bächli-Hinz, A. Monotheismus und neuplatonische Philosophie: Eine Untersuchung zum pseudo-aristotelischen Liber de causis und dessen Rezeption durch Albert den Großen. St. Augustin, 2002.
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