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Reading about scholasticism, medieval natural philosophy, liberal arts, it appears to me that, of all the Ancient Greece philosophers, only Aristotle was studied.

For instance, this passage (Blair 2006):

Rather than singling out the Renaissance as a time of decadent or eclectic Aristotelianism, recent scholarship has emphasized the vitality and variety of Aristotelian philosophy throughout the nearly 500 years of its dominance (c. 1200- 1690).

Why was Aristotle almost like the only Greek philosopher studied during the Middle Ages?

References:

Blair, Ann. "Natural Philosophy." In The Cambridge History of Science: Volume 3, Early Modern Science, edited by Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston, 365-405. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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  • 1
    Not "the only"; see Medieval Philosophy; but "between the eighth and the early tenth century, much of the treasury of Greek scientific and philosophical texts it left was put into Arabic, often by Syriac speaking Christians and sometimes through the intermediary of Syriac. Almost the whole of Aristotle was translated, along with commentaries from the Platonic schools and works by the Aristotelian commentators." Feb 1 at 13:56
  • And see also Aristotelianism, medieval: "The thirteenth century witnesses some of the most important and energetic efforts at understanding Aristotle [...] interest in Aristotle continued to grow, fuelled first by the translation of Averroes’ detailed commentaries, then by new translations from Greek. At the same time, some of the most powerful Christian theologians were engaged in large-scale efforts to appropriate Aristotle in ways that would be both intelligible and congenial to Christian readers." Feb 1 at 13:58
  • 1. Πλάτων - Μερικά από τα έργα του, όπως το "Τίμαιος", ήταν γνωστά στη Δύση, και η επιρροή του ήταν σημαντική, ιδιαίτερα μέσω της νεοπλατωνικής παράδοσης. 2. Αριστοτέλης - Τα έργα του, ιδίως στη λογική, τη φυσική φιλοσοφία, τη μεταφυσική και την ηθική, ήταν κεντρικά στη μεσαιωνική μόρφωση,ιδιαίτερα αφού επανεισήχθησαν και σχολιάστηκαν από ισλαμικούς μελετητές. 3. Ευκλείδης - Γνωστός κυρίως για το έργο του στη γεωμετρία, τα "Στοιχεία", το οποίο ήταν βασικό κείμενο στη μεσαιωνική εκπαίδευση. 4. Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαίος - Τα αστρονομικά και γεωγραφικά του συγγράμματα,ιδιαίτερα το "Αλμα Feb 2 at 7:38
  • Plato was studied more.
    – user71009
    Feb 2 at 9:16
  • @ChristosPloutarchou What does this list of Greek philosophers, mathematicians and other scholars show? How does your list relate to the OP's question about the "Why"?
    – Jo Wehler
    Feb 2 at 14:07

4 Answers 4

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The question contains a false assumption. Aristotle was not the only Greek philosopher studied during the Middle Ages. They studied whatever works they had available after Muslim invasions resulted in cutting off the supply of papyrus to Europe, which made most works unobtainable for most scholars. However, they did have Plato, Euclid, Archimedes, and fragments of various other writers, and they did study and discuss those writers. Aristotle took a special place due to the work of Thomas Aquinas, which tried to meld Christianity with Aristotelian science. After that, Aristotle came to have a position as almost-scripture, which is why he got so much attention from scholars since most scholars of the Middle Ages were churchmen. However, the other Greek writers were always there and were widely discussed, along with Islamic authors who were in turn inspired by Greek authors.

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  • +1, but I think this answer could be improved by adding Galen to the list of they-did-have's or emphasizing his place among the fragments of other writers, given his outsized impact on medieval scholarship.
    – g s
    Feb 1 at 19:21
  • @gs I didn't include him in part because I thought he was Roman (though I just checked and Wikipedia says he had a Greek father) and in part because I believe that Greek medical knowledge was mostly lost in the west with the fall of Rome and not recovered until the Renaissance. Feb 1 at 21:58
  • "They studied whatever works they had available after Muslim invasions resulted in cutting off the supply of papyrus to Europe, which made most works unobtainable for most scholars." Could you develop on that? The wikipedia on Papyrus says:
    – Starckman
    Feb 2 at 9:07
  • (1) "Papyrus was replaced in Europe by the cheaper, locally produced products parchment and vellum, of significantly higher durability in moist climates, though Henri Pirenne's connection of its disappearance with the Muslim conquest of Egypt between 639 and 646 CE is contested.[9] Its last appearance in the Merovingian chancery is with a document of 692, though it was known in Gaul until the middle of the following century."
    – Starckman
    Feb 2 at 9:07
  • (2) The latest certain dates for the use of papyrus are 1057 for a papal decree (typically conservative, all papal bulls were on papyrus until 1022), under Pope Victor II,[10] and 1087 for an Arabic document."
    – Starckman
    Feb 2 at 9:07
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IMO the main reason was in the 13th century the translation into Latin - the scholary language in Western Europe - of nearly the full corpus of Aristotle’s writings. Aristotle presented a singular, systematic approach to nearly all domains of knowledge.

It was Thomas Aquinas who discovered the metaphysics of Aristotle as a suitable frame with useful concepts to express the fundamental theological statements of the Christian doctrine in a rational manner. In addition, the frame was flexible enough to cover revelation and rationality without mixing up the two, see his "textbook for beginners" Summa theologiae.

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I see this as: Aristotle was the only one who explained everything scientifically. Since, the idealism of Greek philosophy is well known; Aristotle inclined his thoughts to realism. Meanwhile, these scientific explanations served the religious philosophies better in Middle ages. His philosophy influenced Islamic and other Abrahamic religions. For reference, you can read this: https://www.gu.se/en/news/the-reception-of-aristotles-work-in-the-middle-ages#:~:text=Aristotle's%20comprehensive%20body%20of%20work,Christian%20theology%20to%20this%20day.

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Most of the Greco-Roman philosophical tradition was initially lost to Europe during the Middle Ages--it certainly wasn't in wide circulation. It was kept alive, however, in the Islamic world by great philosophers including Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) who were largely within the Aristotelian tradition (although, in the case of Avicenna, with a pronounced neo-Platonic influence).

When Greco-Roman philosophy was reintroduced to Europe, it was initially secondhand, through the work of these figures (many of the first Medieval European translations of the Greek philosophers were actually secondary translations, from Arabic). In particular, Ibn Rushd was a huge influence on Thomas Aquinas, who went on to play the major role in repopularizing Aristotelian thought in Europe.

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