Byzantine Philosophy and Its Ancient Sources

By Katerina Ierodiakonou | Go to book overview

11

Plethon and Scholarios on
Aristotle

GEORGE KARAMANOLIS


Introduction

The final phase of Byzantine philosophy is marked by the onset of a great controversy over the primacy of the two main ancient authorities in philosophy, namely Plato and Aristotle. The whole controversy, which soon spread widely among Greek intellectuals of the time, marks a clear revival of Byzantine philosophical thought in many senses. In terms of quantity, for instance, we witness a significant rise in the number of philosophical treatises, which are concerned in one way or another with this debate which started in 1439. This is the date when George Gemistos Plethon (1355/60-C.1453) published his short work

(henceforth mentioned as De differentiis) in which he strongly criticized Aristotle’s philosophy as being much inferior to Plato’s.1 Four or five years later George Scholarios (1400/5–1472) will respond to Plethon with a long and carefully argued work defending Aristotle against Plethon’s criticisms (; henceforth mentioned as Contra Plethonem).2 Plethon will reply to Scholarios five or six years later (i.e. 1448/9) now advocating his views in a much more scholarly manner and criticizing further Aristotle’s philosophy ( henceforth mentioned as Contra

In writing this article I have benefited much from discussions I had with Chris Deliso and from
his own work on Plethon. I am most grateful to Dr Katerina Ierodiakonou and Prof. Michael
Frede who commented on earlier versions of this paper and suggested numerous improvements.
Helena Thomaides improved significantly the style of my penultimate draft.

1 I use the edn. of B. Lagarde, ‘Le De Differentiis de Plethon d’apres l’autographe de la Marcienne’, Byzantion, 43 (1973), 312–43. An English tr. of Plethon’s treatise is provided in Woodhouse (1986: 192–214).

2 Scholarios wrote his work in the last half of 1443 or the first half of 1444; see Woodhouse (1986: 216). I use the edn. of L. Petit, M. Jugie, and X. A. Siderides, (Euvres completes de Gennade Scholarios, iv (Paris, 1935), 1–118.

-253-

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