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By the latter half of the fourteenth century, Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (N.E.) had assumed its rightful place in the arts curriculum of most medieval European universities, though it seems only M.A. students were required to attend lectures on it. But there had in fact been much interest in the work since Albert the Great first commented on the entire text in the previous century, so that by the time it appeared in the university statute books, there was already a tradition of commentary on it going back several generations.
In commenting on the works of Aristotle, most arts masters saw their task as twofold, viz., that of explaining the littera or literal meaning of Aristotle's text, and then (usually in a separate work) of identifying and trying to resolve the philosophical questions raised by it. In the case of N.E., the latter task provided ample opportunity for the master to address conflicts between Aristotle and other authors whose works were regarded as authoritative in ethics. This would have included not just philosophers from Greek and Roman antiquity available in Latin translation, but also the Bible, Church Fathers, and earlier medieval commentators on N.E. such as Albert and Thomas Aquinas. In the Latin West there had always been a tension, or perhaps uneasy alliance, between Christian ethics and its pagan forbears, but most commentators regarded Aristotle as having important things to say in moral philosophy, and the belief that Aristotle's views, and especially his arguments for them, should be seen as complementing Christian doctrine was widespread.
Two late Hellenistic authors display detailed knowledge of Aristotle's ethics. In Stobaeus' compendium of ancient philosophical schools, Eclogae II, one can find a summary of "The Ethics of Aristotle and the Other Peripatetics". Arius' presentation of Peripatetic ethics draws heavily on Stoic terminology. After the death of Theophrastus, his associate Neleus of Scepsis, incidentally, the son of Aristotle's "everyman" Coriscus, inherited all the books in Theophrastus' possession, thereby cutting off later Peripatetics from Aristotle's and Theophrastus' most important work. According to Kenny, the ten-book Nicomachean Ethics (N.E.) that we know was most likely created by the Aristotle commentator Aspasius in the second century AD through an inventive act of cut-and-paste. This chapter follows Irwin's lead and examines the relationship between Zeno's eudaimonism and the account of happiness defended by Aristotle in N.E. It revisits Long's arguments for supposing that Aristotle exerted a profound influence on early Stoic ethics.
Stoicism remains one of the most significant minority reports in the history of Western philosophy. Unfortunately, however, the precise nature of its impact on later thinkers is far from clear. The essays in this volume are intended to bring this picture into sharper focus by exploring how Stoicism actually influenced philosophers from antiquity through the modern period in fields ranging from logic and ethics to politics and theology. The contributing authors have expertise in different periods in the history of philosophy, but all have sought to demonstrate the continuity of Stoic themes over time, looking at the ways in which Stoic ideas were appropriated (often unconsciously) and transformed by later philosophers for their own purposes and under widely varying circumstances. The story they tell shows that Stoicism had many faces beyond antiquity, and that its doctrines have continued to appeal to philosophers of many different backgrounds and temperaments.
In tracing the influence of Stoicism on Western thought, one can take either the high road or the low road. The high road would insist on determining the ancient provenance of Stoic and apparently Stoic ideas in the work of medieval and modern thinkers, using the writings of the ancient Stoics to grade their proximity to the genuine article; this would require paying close attention to the particular questions that exercised thinkers such as Zeno and Chrysippus, in order to determine the extent to which later figures contributed to their solutions.
Stoicism is now widely recognised as one of the most important philosophical schools of ancient Greece and Rome. But how did it influence Western thought after Greek and Roman antiquity? The question is a difficult one to answer because the most important Stoic texts have been lost since the end of the classical period, though not before early Christian thinkers had borrowed their ideas and applied them to discussions ranging from dialectic to moral theology. Later philosophers became familiar with Stoic teachings only indirectly, often without knowing that an idea came from the Stoics. The contributors recruited for this volume, first published in 2004, include some of the leading international scholars of Stoicism as well as experts in later periods of philosophy. They trace the impact of Stoicism and Stoic ideas from late antiquity through the medieval and modern periods.