- 1. τἐχνη ῾Ρητορική: Ars rhetorica: On the art of oratory.
- 2. † Ῥητορικὴ πρὸς: Ἀλέξανδρον: Rhetorica ad Alexandrum: On the same subject. [Ascribed to Anaximenes of Lampsacus (fl. 365, Diodorus xv. 76) by Petrus Victorius, and Spengel, but possibly an earlier rhetoric by Aristotle.]
- 3. περὶ Ποιητικῆς: De poetica: On the art of poetry [fragmentary].
The Difficulty.—The genuineness of the Aristotelian works, as Leibnitz truly said (De Stilo Phil. Nizolii, xxx.), is ascertained by the conspicuous harmony of their theories, and by their uniform method of swift subtlety. Nevertheless difficulties lurk beneath their general unity of thought and style. In style they are not quite the same: now they are brief and now diffuse: sometimes they are carelessly written, sometimes so carefully as to avoid hiatus, e.g. the Metaphysics Α, and parts of the De Coelo and Parva Naturalia, which in this respect resemble the fragment quoted by Plutarch from the early dialogue Eudemus (Fragm. 44). They also appear to contain displacements, interpolations, prefaces such as that to the Meteorologica, and appendices such as that to the Sophistical Elenchi, which may have been added. An Aristotelian work often goes on continuously at first, and then becomes disappointing by suddenly introducing discussions which break the connexion or are even inconsistent with the beginning; as in the Posterior Analytics, which, after developing a theory of demonstration from necessary principles, suddenly makes the admission, which is also the main theory of science in the Metaphysics, that demonstration is about either the necessary or the contingent, from principles either necessary or contingent, only not accidental. At times order is followed by disorder, as in the Politics. Again, there are repetitions and double versions, e.g. those of the Physics, vii., and those of the De Anima, ii., discovered by Torstrik; or two discussions of the same subject, e.g. of pleasure in the Nicomachean Ethics, vii. and x.; or several treatises on the same subject very like one another, viz. the Nicomachean Ethics, the Eudemian Ethics and the Magna Moralia; or, strangest of all, a consecutive treatise and other discourses amalgamated, e.g. in the Metaphysics, where a systematic theory of being running through several books (Β, Γ, Ε, Ζ, Η, Θ) is preceded, interrupted and followed by other discussions of the subject. Further, there are frequently several titles of the same work or of different parts of it. Sometimes diagrams (διαγραφαί or ὑπογραφαί) are mentioned, and sometimes given (e.g. in De Interp. 13, 22 a 22; Nicomachean Ethics, ii. 7; Eudemian Ethics, ii. 3), but sometimes only implied (e.g. in Hist. An. i. 17, 497 a 32; iii. 1, 510 a 30; iv. 1, 525 a 9). The different works are more or less connected by a system of references, which give rise to difficulties, especially when they are cross-references: for example, the Analytics and Topics quote one another: so do the Physics and the Metaphysics; the De Vita and De Respiratione and the De Partibus Animalium; this latter treatise and the De Animalium Incessu; the De Interpretatione and the De Anima. A late work may quote an earlier; but how, it may be asked, can the earlier reciprocally quote the later?
Besides these difficulties in and between the works there are others beyond them. On the one hand, there is the curious story given partly by Strabo (608–609) and partly in Plutarch’s Sulla (c. 26), that Aristotle’s successor Theophrastus left the books of both to their joint pupil, Neleus of Scepsis, where they were hidden in a cellar, till in Sulla’s time they were sold to Apellicon, who made new copies, transferred after Apellicon’s death by Sulla to Rome, and there edited and published by Tyrannio and Andronicus. On the other hand, there are the curious and puzzling catalogues of Aristotelian books, one given by Diogenes Laertius, another by an anonymous commentator (perhaps Hesychius of Miletus) quoted in the notes of Gilles Ménage on Diogenes Laertius, and known as “Anonymus Menagii,” and a third copied by two Arabian writers from Ptolemy, perhaps King Ptolemy Philadelphus, son of the founder of the library at Alexandria. (See Rose, Fragm. pp. 1-22.) But the extraordinary thing is that, without exactly agreeing among themselves, the catalogues give titles which do not agree well with the Aristotelian works as we have them. A title in some cases suits a given work or a part of it; but in other cases there are no titles for works which exist, or titles for works which do not exist.
These difficulties are complicated by various hypotheses concerning the composition of the Aristotelian works. Zeller supposes that, though Aristotle may have made preparations for his philosophical system beforehand, still the properly didactic treatises composing it almost all belong to the last period of his life, i.e. from 335–334 to 322; and from the references of one work to another Zeller has further suggested a chronological order of composition during this period of twelve years, beginning with the treatises on Logic and Physics, and ending with that on Metaphysics. There is a further hypothesis that the Aristotelian works were not originally treatises, but notes of lectures either for or by his pupils. This easily passes into the further and still more sceptical hypothesis that the works, as we have them, under Aristotle’s name, are rather the works of the Peripatetic school, from Aristotle, Theophrastus and Eudemus downwards. “We cannot assert with certainty,” says R. Shute in his History of the Aristotelian Writings (p. 176), “that we have even got throughout a treatise in the exact words of Aristotle, though we may be pretty clear that we have a fair representation of his thought. The unity of style observable may belong quite as much to the school and the method as to the individual.” This sceptical conclusion, the contrary of that drawn by Leibnitz from the harmony of thought and style pervading the works, shows us that the Homeric question has been followed by the Aristotelian question.
The Solution.—Such hypotheses attend to Aristotle’s philosophy to the neglect of his life. He was really, as we have seen, a prolific writer from the time when he was a young man under Plato’s guidance at Athens; beginning with dialogues in the manner of his master, but afterwards preferring to write didactic works during the prime of his own life between thirty-eight and fifty (347–335-334), and with the further advantage of leisure at Atarneus and Mitylene, in Macedonia and at home in Stagira. When at fifty he returned to Athens, as head of the Peripatetic school, he no doubt wrote much of his extant philosophy during the twelve remaining years of his life (335–322). But he was then a busy teacher, was growing old, and suffered from a disease in the stomach for a considerable time before it proved fatal at the age of sixty-three. It is therefore improbable that he could between fifty and sixty-three have written almost the whole of the many books on many subjects constituting that grand philosophical system which is one of the most wonderful works of man. It is far more probable that he was previously composing them at his leisure and in the vigour of manhood, precisely as his contemporary Demosthenes composed all his great speeches except the De Corona before he was fifty.
Turning to Aristotle’s own works, we immediately light upon a surprise: Aristotle began his extant scientific works during Plato’s lifetime. By a curious coincidence, in two different works he mentions two different events as contemporary with the time of writing, one in 357 and the other in 356. In the Politics (Ε 10, 1312 b 10), he mentions as now (νῦν) Dion’s expedition to Sicily which occurred in 357. In the Meteorologica (iii. 1, 371 a 30), he mentions as now (νῦν) the burning of the temple at Ephesus, which occurred in 356. To save his hypothesis of late composition, Zeller resorts to the vagueness of the word “now” (νῦν). But Aristotle is graphically describing isolated events, and could hardly speak of events of 357 and 356 as happening “now” in or near 335. Moreover, these two works contain further proofs that they were both begun earlier than this