Alexander of Aphrodisias
in Caria, who flourished about A.D. 200, and is known as Exegetes, or "the expounder," for his exposition of the commentaries of Aristotle. He wrote also original works on Fate, Free Will, and the Soul, which, translated into Latin, were much read and studied in the Middle Ages. See Aristoteles.
Alexander of Aphrodisias (fl. late 2nd early 3rd century CE) was a Peripatetic philosopher and the most celebrated of the Ancient Greek commentators on the writings of Aristotle. He was styled, by way of pre-eminence, "the expositor" (ὁ ἐξηγητής).
Life and career
Alexander was a native of Aphrodisias in Caria and came to Athens towards the end of the second century. He was a student of the two Stoic, or possibly Peripatetic, philosophers Sosigenes and Herminus, and perhaps of Aristotle of Mytilene. At Athens he became head of the Lyceum and lectured on Peripatetic philosophy. Alexander's dedication of On Fate to Septimius Severus and Caracalla, in gratitude for his position at Athens, indicates a date between 198 and 209. A recently published inscription from Aphrodisias confirms that he was head of one of the Schools at Athens and gives his full name as Titus Aurelius Alexander. His full nomenclature shows that his grandfather or other ancestor was probably given Roman citizenship by the emperor Antoninus Pius, while proconsul of Asia. The inscription honours his father, also called Alexander and also a philosopher. This fact makes it plausible that some of the suspect works that form part of Alexander's corpus should be ascribed to his father.
Alexander composed several commentaries on the works of Aristotle, in which he sought to escape a syncretistic tendency and to recover the pure doctrines of Aristotle. His commentaries are still extant on Prior Analytics (Book 1), Topics, Meteorology, Sense and Sensibilia, and Metaphysics (Books 1-5, together with an abridgment of his commentary on the remaining books).
Simplicius of Cilicia mentions that Alexander provided commentary on the quadrature of the lunes, and the corresponding problem of squaring the circle.
In April 2007, it was reported that imaging analysis had discovered an early commentary on Aristotle's Categories in the Archimedes Palimpsest, and Professor Robert Sharples suggested Alexander as the most likely author.
There are also several original writings by Alexander still extant. The most important of these are a work On Fate, in which he argues against the Stoic doctrine of necessity; and one On the Soul, in which he contends that the undeveloped reason in man is material (nous hulikos) and inseparable from the body. He argued strongly against the doctrine of the soul's immortality. He identified the active intellect (nous poietikos), through whose agency the potential intellect in man becomes actual, with God.
On Necessity, Chance, and Human Freedom
In On Fate Alexander denied three things - necessity (ἀνάγκη), the foreknowledge of fated events that was part of the Stoic identification of God and Nature, and determinism in the sense of a sequence of causes that was laid down beforehand (προκαταβεβλημένος) or predetermined by antecedents (προηγουμένος). He defended a view of moral responsibility we would call libertarianism today.
His commentaries were greatly esteemed among the Arabs, who translated many of them, and he is heavily quoted by Maimonides.
In 1210, the Church Council of Paris issued a condemnation, which probably targeted the writings of Alexander among others.
In the early Renaissance his doctrine of the soul's mortality was adopted by Pietro Pomponazzi (against the Thomists and the Averroists), and by his successor Cesare Cremonini. This school is known as Alexandrists.
Alexander's band, an optical phenomenon, is named after him.
Several of Alexander's works were published in the Aldine edition of Aristotle, Venice, 1495–1498; his De Fato and De Anima were printed along with the works of Themistius at Venice (1534); the former work, which has been translated into Latin by Grotius and also by Schulthess, was edited by J. C. Orelli, Zürich, 1824; and his commentaries on the Metaphysica by H. Bonitz, Berlin, 1847. In 1989 the first part of his On Aristotle Metaphysics was published as part of the Ancient commentators project. Since then, other works of his have been translated into English, including his commentary On Aristotle Prior Analytics.