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Form, matter, and definition in the medieval reception of Aristotle: Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus

Abstract

The present research is part of a wider investigation on the reception of Aristotle's account of the nature of a good definition by authors of the 13th and 14th centuries. The analyses of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and John Buridan (ca. 1300-1362) on definition set respectively the termini post quem and ante quem of the study. With such an investigation we sought broadly to contribute to the clarifica-tion of a central topic in classical philosophy, a topic whose importance lies in its ability to link several important logical, epistemological and metaphysical issues of Aristotle's thought and his medieval interpreters.The project's specific activities to be carried out in the University of São Paulo con-cern the reception by two major medieval authors of one question outlined in the account Aristotle offers of the topic of definition in the central books of his Meta-physics. The question has to do with the relationship between the parts of the sen-sible things and the parts of their definitions and consists namely in deciding whether the matter or the material parts of sensible, i.e. material substances enter into their definition. Such a problem, explicitly formulated in the beginning of Z 10 (1034b20), remains a matter of interest by medieval authors because Aristotle's text seems to present conflicting lines of thought on the problem at issue. During our time at the USP we would like to reconstruct and analyze the detailed treatment Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus (ca. 1260-1308) provide of that question in their commentaries on Aristotle's Metaphysics Z 10-11. It is our goal to clarify the main interpretative decisions they make when confronted with Aristotle's text, to evaluate the patterns of explanation they use in order to justify their readings, as well as to elucidate the similarities and differences between their accounts. (AU)

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