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The introduction presents the nature and scope of De mundo and explains the objectives of the present volume. De mundo is a protreptic work aiming to present philosophy as a study of the universe and its relation to God. For that reason, it sets out to explain the world in terms of what makes it an orderly arrangement, a kosmos. The work’s central thesis is that the orderly arrangement of the universe is due to God and that it is hence crucial to have a proper conception of God and his causal relation to the universe in order to fully appreciate the universe, its structure and the phenomena that occur in it. Unlike most scholarly work done on this text, the present volume does not focus on the question of authenticity and dating, but on its content and philosophy. However, the introduction does explain at some length why De mundo should not be ascribed to Aristotle, although the author clearly aimed to present a picture of the world and God that is essentially Aristotelian. The introduction is accompanied by an overview of the argument presented in De mundo.
The first chapter of De mundo sets the tone and object of the treatise and aims to capture the reader’s attention with highly polished rhetoric, admittedly worthy of an address to Aristotle’s most famous pupil, Alexander. It advances the claim that philosophy is a divine matter because it deals with eternal, divine truths. Unlike specialised sciences, which study one or more parts of the universe in isolation, philosophy seeks to appreciate the universe as a harmonious, well-ordered whole. However, without understanding God and the way he is related to the world, the essential features of the world – its order, unity, eternity, beauty and goodness – cannot be appreciated. For this reason, the author of De mundo urges his addressee – Alexander, ‘the best of leaders’ – to pursue philosophy, which amounts to studying the universe as an effect of God and, in this sense, to theologise. This is a conception of philosophy that the author of De mundo seeks to ascribe to Aristotle.
De mundo is a protreptic to philosophy in the form of a letter to Alexander the Great and is traditionally ascribed to Aristotle. It offers a unique view of the cosmos, God and their relationship, which was inspired by Aristotle but written by a later author. The author provides an outline of cosmology, geography and meteorology, only to argue that a full understanding of the cosmos cannot be achieved without a proper grasp of God as its ultimate cause. To ensure such a grasp, the author provides a series of twelve carefully chosen interlocking analogies, building a complex picture in the reader's mind. The work develops a distinctly Aristotelian picture of God and the cosmos while paying tribute to pre-Aristotelian philosophers and avoiding open criticism of rival schools of philosophy. De mundo exercised considerable influence in late antiquity and then in the Renaissance and Early Modern times.