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11 - Natural Perfection or Divine Fiat

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2022

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Summary

As a reader of Averroes's Commentary on Plato's “Republic,” one is struck from the beginning by how much he omits from his commentary. Typically, this would be taken to indicate that Averroes does not comprehend Plato's intention. Indeed, the author can seem at times to confirm what many readers assume—namely, that he would rather have commented on a work by Aristotle. We will try to show that his major omissions—that is, of books 1, (most of ) 6, and 10, and especially what he substitutes for these omissions—form a coherent pattern and ultimately reveal a profound commentary on the omitted passages. That coherent pattern is already set within the first few pages of the work. From the beginning he seems to focus on the place of the Republic in relation to practical science and theoretical science. This comes as little surprise in a commentary on a work devoted to what I would like to call the philosopher-king conceit. The Republic is at least in part Plato's consideration of the relation between theoretical and practical science, as encapsulated in the person of the philosopher-king. Although Socrates does not get around to the centrality of this theme until Republic book 5, Averroes is on it from the beginning. He does so in part in order to place his discussion of the Republic in relation to his commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics—putatively the more theoretical of the two works. Be that as it may, we are most interested in what ties together the omissions of books 1, 6, and 10—and especially what Averroes substitutes for those omissions. We hope to show that the golden thread running through what Averroes substitutes is the theme of human perfection, in at least two senses: the philosopher-king and immortality. In each case, there is some element in Plato's original that Averroes needs to take into another register (from conventionalism in book 1 to fiat transplanted into the Second Treatise; from separate forms in book 6 to the active intellect in the Second Treatise; and from immortality of the soul in book 10 to conjunction with the active intellect in the Second Treatise). In effect, all these omissions are drawn together in the Second Treatise. For that reason, eventually, we will comment more closely on the most relevant section of the Second Treatise (60.17–74.12).

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Plato's Republic in the Islamic Context
New Perspectives on Averroes's <i>Commentary</i>
, pp. 233 - 252
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2022

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