Guest lecture by Frédérique Woerther: Averroes and Aristotelian Ethics
The Middle Commentary on Aristotleʼs Nicomachean Ethics was written by the Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd, in the west known as Averroes, in 1177. The original Arabic text is lost, but Frédérique Woerther has studied the extant Hebrew and Latin translations and will give a lecture on Averroes' modification of Aristotleʼs text, his motives and whom he addresses in this text.
Statue of Averroes (Ibn Rushd) in Córdoba, Spain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Middle Commentary on Aristotleʼs Nicomachean Ethics was written by Averroes in 1177. Its original Arabic version is now lost apart from thirty small fragments preserved in the margins of the unicum of Fez. Two medieval translations, Latin and Hebrew, still exist today. The Latin version was made by Hermann the German in Toledo in 1240 ; the Hebrew version, completed by Samuel of Marseille nearly a century later in 1321, is available today in a modern critical edition by Berman.
Following an exegetical method similar to the one used in his Middle Commentary on Aristotleʼs Rhetoric in 1175, Averroes usually stays close to the Arabic version of the Nicomachean Ethics. Most of the time he copies the Aristotelian text, reformulating it occasionally by suppressing or developing some passages, adding examples or substituting some terms for others.
A major modification from Aristotleʼs text is the new relation that Averroes introduces between ethics and politics. Studying the structure of the practical science proposed by Averroes in his Commentary will allow us to understand his goals, and to identify more precisely whom he addresses in this text.
About the lecturer
Frédérique Woerther is an international expert in medieval Arabic and classical rhetorical studies, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). She is also a fellow at the Norwegian Institute of Philology (PHI) and is currently on a short stay in Oslo to work on a project to edit the Arabic and Latin versions of Aristotle's Rhetoric.