Aristotelization of the World

Aristotelization of the World

Other involved Scholars: 

Gunthild Storeck, Johanna Biank, Paul Stefan Trzeciok


Miniature of Aristotle teaching his pupil Alexander the Great. Netherlands (Bruges). Courtesy of British Library


The ancient world and the societies that inherited part of its cultural patrimony witnessed the spread of a comprehensive, secular system of knowledge, which had long-term effects on the history of science: Aristotelianism. Aristotelianism eventually spread from Greece to the Hellenistic world, later across the islamicate societies, and, through colonialism, all over the world. In many places of the world, Aristotelianism played a significant role in creating and institutionalizing knowledge practices that sooner or later also affected the practice of science. Aristotelian knowledge in fact became a point of reference in the context of several traditions of scientific practice such as physics, biology, astronomy, and natural philosophy from antiquity to the end of the Renaissance.Because the Aristotelian system of knowledge was continuously reshaped by many cross-cultural and cross-period transmission processes, it offers an appropriate historical domain for further developing the theoretical framework of the globalization project. What accounted for the virtually global spread of Aristotelianism? To what extent was Aristotelianism merely a fellow traveler of other diffusion processes, for instance, of Christianity, Islam, or colonialism, and to what extent did intrinsic features such as its systematic character and its self-reflexivity play a role in this global success?These questions are at the center of the study of the project “Aristotelization of the World." The aim of this investigation is to retrace the contexts and the structures of the knowledge that was eventually systematized in the Aristotelian doctrines when the first corpus aristotelicus was compiled by Andronicus of Rhodes in the first century BCE.Research in this area proceeds with a step-by-step examination of the different states of development, that is, period by period. For each period, a workshop is organized which involves the relevant experts and draws, in particular, on Berlin’s rich research tradition on Aristotelianism. The first workshop, held in 2012, was devoted to a reexamination of the Aristotelian doctrines and, specifically, to those characteristics which may have played a role in their transmission and appropriation in different cultural settings of the ancient world. The second workshop was dedicated to the spread and transformation of Aristotelianism in late antiquity and the early Islamicate world, in particular, in the context of medicine. The third workshop will focus on the Aristotelian traditions in Syriac and Arab translations from the seventh to the tenth centuries.