Phase One, Part One:

Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’. The Early Period. The Commentary on the Sentences.


The Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ Project

Aquinas and the Arabic Philosophical Tradition:

The Commentary on the Sentences

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Phase One, Part One: (In progress)

Aquinas and the Arabic Philosophical Tradition: The Commentary on the Sentences.

Selected Translations with Commentary, vol. 1 God, vol. 2 Creation

Publication contracted with Cambridge University Press

Sixty texts have been identified for our analysis, study and translation. (However, we expect in the course of our work we may make discoveries which will modestly in crease the number of texts translated and commented.) These texts draw on all four books of Aquinas’s Commentary on the Sentences and are gathered under six headings. The first volume begins with collections of text articles under the heading “Metaphysical and theological principles guiding Aquinas’s theology in the Commentary on the Sentences” and continues with the topic God, with subtopics existence, essence, divine knowledge, divine action, and divine power. The second volume concerns creatures and has the following topics: creation, angels, humans, and morality. This last topic has as subtopics action theory, virtues, and the ultimate end of human life.  The total constitutes ca. 121,000 words. At present there is only a critical edition of the Prologue to the Commentary on the Sentences. However, the Commissio Leonina has unpublished provisional texts for Books 2-4 and some texts of Book 1. These will be provided for our work by the Commissio Leonina through its president, Dr Adriano Oliva, O.P. Variations from the printed editions of Mandonnet (1929) and Moos (1933, 1947) will be identified in notes to the translation, as will source citations. The only complete modern translation of this work is an Italian version (1999) which used an inferior edition of the Latin; some modest selections have been translated into English (Baldner and Carroll, 1997; Macierowski, 1998), again from inferior texts.  A Spanish translation by Juan Cruz Cruz, Comentario a las sentencias de Pedro Lombardo, has been underway since 2002 but this is not done in collaboration with the Commissio Leonina nor does it provide extensive notes to Arabic sources. Volume two will contain the glossary of terms and also the bibliography for both volumes of translations with commentaries.  A volume of philosophical and theological studies gleaned from a selection of presentations at conferences in Milwaukee, Paris, Houston and Mexico City will be published elsewhere.

The significance of the texts translated and commented

Among the most significant philosophical teachings of Thomas Aquinas are his doctrines on metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical psychology and morality. And it is precisely in these areas that he draws most heavily upon the philosophical teachings of the Arabic / Islamic philosophical tradition as found in Avicenna, Averroes, the Liber de causis and some other works translated from Arabic. In the Commentary on the Sentences Aquinas drew directly from the translation of the Metaphysics of Avicenna for his reasoning on the distinction of essence and existence in creatures and his conception of the nature of God as the First Cause of all necessarily existing in its own right as unmixed existence. This he supplemented with the teaching of the translations of the Liber de causis in which God is characterized as esse tantum (only being) and esse purum (pure being) while all other things are said to be composites of esse (being) and forma (delimiting form). In the Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle by Averroes (in Book Lam) Aquinas saw God again characterized as esse purum (pure being) and also found the model for his own treatment of the nature of God’s knowledge (scientia dei). Moreover, it was in the translated De Anima (Psychology) of Avicenna that Aquinas drew part of his teaching on the mechanism and nature of intellectual abstraction, though it was from Averroes's Long Commentary on the De Anima that he drew extensively for the history of teachings on the intellect by Theophrastus, Themistius, Alexander, al-Farabi, Ibn Bâjjah (Avempace), and Averroes himself. Precisely speaking, however, it was in the Long Commentary on the De Anima that Aquinas found clearly presented the doctrine of the intellectual abstraction of intelligibles he took for his own, although he modified it to reject those parts of it he found lacking sufficient cogency.

The significance of the texts selected for translation and detailed analysis lies both in their centrality to the philosophical and theological teachings of Aquinas and in their foundation in the translated teachings of philosophers of the Arabic / Islamic tradition. In the notes to the translations and the accompanying analytical commentaries we will identify the Arabic sources in detail to establish with precision the Arabic / Islamic sources of Aquinas, explicate the reasoning in the Arabic originals, compare the reasoning of Aquinas and that of the Arabic / Islamic sources to determine the manner in which Aquinas read his Arabic / Islamic sources and incorporated insights from these into his own philosophical and theological thinking, evaluate the cogency of the critique brought to bear by Aquinas, and more. (See below on commentaries.)

The conceptual organization of the selected texts

For volume 1: God, we have selected for translation and detailed commentary texts on principles and method in philosophical and theological study (texts 1-2 theological principles, 3-4 philosophical principles; click on Links to translations and essays above links to the detailed list of texts translated) and on the nature and action of God. For the latter, we have selected texts on the existence of God (text 5), the essence of God (texts 6-16), divine knowledge, (texts 17-22), divine action (texts 23-26), and divine power (texts 27-28). For volume 2: Creation, the selection of texts for translation and commentary is divided into four major sections. The first section, creation, is on the principles and nature of creation (texts 29-34). The second section is on the nature and ontological constitution of angels as immaterial entities (texts 35-37). The third section is on human beings, the ontological composition of human being, the nature and immortality of the human soul, and the generation of human beings (texts 38-43). The fourth and final section on morality is subdivided into three parts: action theory (texts 44-52), virtues (texts 53-55), and the ultimate end of human life (texts 56-60), the last of which concern happiness and the vision of God.

The status of the texts: criteria for selection of editions and pre-publication texts to be utilized

We take some guidance in our selection of texts from our collaborators at the Commissio Leonina in Paris who have also agreed to provide us with pre-publication texts from their work on the volumes of the critical edition of the Commentary on the Sentences. The bases for our Latin texts are for the most part the published editions of Mandonnet (1929) and Moos (1933, 1947). These are checked against the 1570 printed edition of Piana, something recommended by Dr. Oliva on the basis of the many years of work of the Commissio Leonina with the manuscripts and editions of the works of Aquinas. Where the Commissio Leonina is able to provide us with pre-publication edited versions superior to Mandonnet and Moos and to Piana 1570, we use these provisional pre-publication texts for our translations and commentaries indicating in the notes where thie texts vary from the editions of Mandonnet and Moos. For the Arabic original text editions we use, see Establishing the historical and intellectual contexts of the texts and sources below.

Translations, notes, commentaries, introductions, and glossary

For the most part we intend to provide rather literal translations while not burdening the reader with Latinisms or Arabicisms except where necessary because of use by Aquinas. Oftentimes technical terms need to be employed with special meanings since Aquinas frequently adopts the language of the Latin translations he uses. This is important in our analyses of the Arabic originals and of the Latin translations used by Aquinas for the sake of understanding the philosophical issues at stake in their own argumentative contexts. The Latin translations were for the most part very literal and as a result generated many new terms that denote important notions that came to have a lasting impact on vocabulary in medieval philosophy in Latin and beyond. (Quidditas from the Arabic mahiyyah and intentio from maʿnà are just two examples of such terms.). To the extent possible, our translations work to render the text in ways that do not disrupt the argument or hinder its analysis. That method of rendering Latin texts into English can also be found in Prof. Taylor’s translation of Averroes’s Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle (Yale 2009) and in his collaborative translation of Aquinas’s Commentary on the Book of Causes (Catholic University of America 1996). However, it must be remembered that the Commentary on the Sentences is an insightful but still youthful work by Aquinas which contains challenging phraseology as well as challenging forms of argumentation that later will be refined and amended by the mature Aquinas.

The notes consist of variants from the editions of Mandonnet, Moos or Parma and of references and essential remarks. The careful reader of these notes will be able to reconstruct the pre-publication provisional texts provided by the Commissio Leonina thereby having access to a Latin text considered superior to any printed edition. The notes also include precise source references for the philosophers of the Arabic / Islamic tradition and their teachings which Aquinas draws upon explicitly or implicitly as well as brief explanatory notes essential for the reader of the text because of the complexity of the reasoning. However, detailed discussion and comparison with the reasoning in the Arabic originals is to be found in the commentaries.

The texts translated will be accompanied by rich commentaries taking up approximately 40-50% of each of the volumes of translations. Research for the preparation of the commentary will begin with the text of Aquinas and the analysis of the issues at stake, proceed to identification of the Latin translation in which the issues are discussed, and reach to the original Arabic where that is available. The purpose of the commentary on each translated text is twofold: first, to display the debt of Aquinas to the Arabic / Islamic tradition and, second, to analyze and explain in detail his use of that philosophical tradition. The commentary on each text will contain sections on: (i) the issues at stake in the text of Aquinas; (ii) the identification of the Arabic / Islamic sources of Aquinas in Latin and Arabic; (iii) the explication of the issues and teachings in the Arabic / Islamic sources together with remarks on the accuracy of the Latin translation to convey those issues and teachings; (iv) an analytical study and comparison of the reasoning and conclusions found in the Arabic / Islamic sources and in the text of Aquinas employing relevant modern secondary sources; and (v) a list of references to selected later works of Aquinas where the issues at stake are discussed.

As indicated earlier, each of the two volumes of translations will contain an introductory overview of the texts studied in the volume in approximately 25-30 pp. at the front of the volume. Each of the texts translated will be preceded by a 1-2 page description of the issues treated in the text. Volume One will also contain a general introduction and overview of the entire two-volume set of translations. Volume Two of the translations will also contain (i) a glossary of Latin-Arabic-English formed on the basis of use by Aquinas in the Commentary on the Sentences as well as (ii) the indices for the two volumes. In constructing the glossary we will be significantly aided by the glossaries in the editions of Avicenna by Van Riet, in Bouyges's edition of the Commentary on the Metaphysics by Averroes, the Arabic fragments of Averroes's Long Commentary on the De Anima reproduced in the notes to Taylor's translation of that work, and other available resources.

In addition to the two volumes of translations and commentary, we intend to publish selected research papers culled from studies presented at the annual Project conferences (North America in the Fall, Paris in the Spring) which have taken place since 2008. These articles will be selected from papers presented from Fall 2008 through Fall 2013. Publication with be in selected professional journals.

The manuscripts of the two volumes of translation and commentary on the texts selected from the Commentary on the Sentences will be delivered to Cambridge University Press on October 1, 2014. We may be interested in discussing the possibility of publishing the entire series with CUP.

This Project as a whole constitutes a novel and innovative approach and model for future studies of the influence of Arabic texts on philosophy and theology in the 13th century and beyond. While it is a commonplace notion that the Arabic / Islamic tradition influenced the Latin West, what has been insufficiently explored and made known with study and analysis is the depth of the positive and telling influence of philosophy from the Arabic / Islamic tradition in the early philosophical and theological works of Aquinas, an influence that becomes evident only through very detailed study of his massive theological Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard (1252 - 1255/6).  The study described here will reveal a very deep Arabic/ Islamic influence on Aquinas in the development of his philosophical and theological thought, an influence found in other forms in various other thinkers of the Thirteenth century, among them Albert the Great, Bonaventure, Henry of Ghent, William of Ockham, and many more, and beyond well into the Renaissance when interest in philosophy in the Arabic / Islamic tradition took on a new prominence in philosophy for its rationalist approach to issues of significant theological and philosophical import such as the eternity of the world, the nature of the human soul, and much more.

Proposed Timetable

Part One, The Commentary on the Sentences. Three years: September 1, 2010 - October 1, 2014.

Participants: Professors Richard C. Taylor, Marquette University, R. E. Houser, University of St. Thomas (Houston), and Luis Xavier López-Farjeat, Universidad Panamericana (Mexico City), with Dr. Adriano Oliva, O.P., Commissio Leonina.

   September 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011:

Collections of text materials from the Commissio Leonina; preparation of draft translations of selected texts of Aquinas; initiation of detailed source study research in Latin translations and Arabic original texts; set in place procedures for online document sharing, video conferencing, collaborative techniques for sharing glossaries of Arabic and Latin terms and English terms; some analytical and comparative research for commentaries; consultations and conferences at the University of St Thomas, Houston (Fall 2010), the Commissio Leonina, Paris (Spring 2011), and the annual meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association in Baltimore (Fall 2010). More: pre-submission edition of selected research conference papers for submission to The Thomist for a series of articles across several issues.

   July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2012:

Complete initial drafts of translated Latin texts and commentaries for vol. 1 & 2; online sharing of glossaries of terms used for translations from Latin and Arabic; consultations and conferences at the Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City (Fall 2011), the Commissio Leonina, Paris (Spring 2012), and at the annual meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (Fall 2011).

   July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013:

Comprehensive review and critique of vol. 1 & 2; completion of translations and commentaries for vol. 1; work on glossaries of Latin, Arabic and English terms; edition of some selected research conference papers; consultations and conferences at the Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City and at the Commissio Leonina, Paris; presentation of vol. 1 & 2 materials to members of the Commissio Leonina for critique. More: Edition of papers to be published in a special issue of the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly on Thomas Aquinas and the Arabic Philosophical Tradition to appear in Winter 2014.

  July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2014:

Comprehensive final revisions of vol. 1 & 2. Completion of glossaries of Latin, Arabic and English terms and incorporation into vol. 2; completion of introductions to vol. 1 & 2 and introductions to individual translated selections; final presentation of vol. 1 & 2 to members of the Commissio Leonina for critique; complete final review and proofreading of the two volumes of translations and commentary for publication; submission of these three volumes for publication October 1, 2014.

Summary Table of Proposed Volumes

· Vol. 1: General introduction to two volumes; introduction to topics in vol. 1; translations of individual texts each preceded by an introduction of 2 pp. and accompanied by notes and commentary.

· Vol. 2: Introduction to topics in vol. 1; translations of individual texts each preceded by an introduction of 2 pp. and accompanied by notes and commentary; glossary; bibliography; indices.

Some of the volumes of selected conference papers:

· Most of the first set of these has been submitted to The Thomist for consideration.

· The second set will be published in a special issue of the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly to appear in Winter 2014.

· Several other European journals are suitable for placement of publications.

(Updated 6 May 2011)