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What if all I want is Aristotle?

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What if all I want is Aristotle?

Postby shcromlet » Thu Jan 27, 2011 9:29 pm

Hello folks,

I'm a couple years along into my Latin studies, and I'm considering beginning with Greek. I was wondering if my studies could be eased at all by the fact that the only Greek author I wish to read is Aristotle. Is he known as a particularly difficult author? Does limiting my studies to him greatly ease the amount of vocab I will have to learn? Are there any tools out there to generate a list of this vocab? In general, do you have any advice for someone on as narrowly focused a path as this?

Thank you!
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Re: What if all I want is Aristotle?

Postby cb » Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:53 pm

hi, to be able to properly begin reading aristotle, I think you should study:

- attic grk in the normal way (there are no chapters in particular of a normal attic textbook that you can skip simply because you will focus only on aristotle), plus

- in my opinion, if you plan to read the more theoretical works such as the texts of the organon, the physics, the metaphysics etc., a uni degree in classical philosophy (or have studied outside of uni the equivalent content of such a degree) – this might sound extreme, but in my opinion, just like any other field of study, understanding classical philosophy requires a fair amount of background knowledge and carefully reading aristotle without this would be like carefully reading a computer program without having a working knowledge of computer programming (which i definitely don't and wouldn't attempt to read a computer program) or carefully reading a law or legal judgment line-by-line without having a working knowledge of the legal system in which that law operates. i'm sure that others would disagree with me here and would say that a good commentary on aristotle will give you enough background knowledge to understand the text.

you can generate vocab lists for some of aristotle's texts using perseus' vocabulary tool (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu), but the dictionary entries this produces will not really give you enough detail to understand the concepts, e.g. the LSJ article "ἐντελέχεια, ἡ, (ἐντελής, ἔχειν) full, complete reality, opp. δύναμις… distd. fr. ἐνέργεια, actuality, opp. activity" does not really give you enough detail to understand the underlying concept; furthermore such an automatically generated list would leave out important multi-word expressions such as τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι. instead i think you should track down aristotle-specific dictionaries which discuss in detail the concepts reflected in aristotle's vocab.

once you have a grasp on the concepts, aristotle's style in his extant texts is dense but is generally easier to read compared with the styles of many of the other major attic authors. cheers, chad :)
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Re: What if all I want is Aristotle?

Postby shcromlet » Fri Jan 28, 2011 6:50 pm

Thank you for your advice! I figured it would be the case that I couldn't skip part of a standard attic textbook, but I thought I'd check.

As for the degree, I think your advice is sound. I'm a student of philosophy, and I've already been studying Aristotle in particular for about a year in translation.

I wasn't aware of the Perseus vocab tool, so thanks!

I take it you don't have a particular Aristotelian dictionary in mind?
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Re: What if all I want is Aristotle?

Postby cb » Fri Jan 28, 2011 7:51 pm

hi, the aristotle dictionary i have (from paris' main philosophy bookstore, vrin) is pellegrin's dictionnaire aristote (2007), but you should be able to find a dictionary explaining aristotle's vocab in the library or bookstore of the institution where you're taking philosophy, the ones i've seen all tend to cover roughly the same ground.

in addition, when you're studying a particular text you can often find some good glossaries of the vocab in that specific text with detailed explanations, e.g. if you're studying the categories there's a good glossary (about 170 pages) of aristotle's terminology in the edition of the categories by ildefonse and lallot (2002); if you're studying the prior analytics then in barnes et al. alexander of aphrodisias on aristotle's prior analytics 1.1-7 (1991) pages 17 and ff, there's a good systematic description of the syllogistic vocab that alexander uses in his commentary on the prior analytics (and this description also contains lots of references to aristotle's own syllogistic vocab in the prior analytics) - this description is definitely worth a read.

as i said above, once you've got a good background knowledge of aristotle's concepts and vocab, he is easier to read than other attic authors, e.g. he does not go out of his way to vary his sentence structure and so you can get repetitive structures which become easier and easier to read the more times you come across the same patterns - e.g. see this list (starting on pg 4) that i put together a few yrs ago of repetitive sentence structures that i spotted in the categories (in sentences containing the word λέγεται): http://mhninaeide.webs.com/DraftAristotlecategories.pdf

cheers, chad :)
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Re: What if all I want is Aristotle?

Postby IreneY » Mon Feb 14, 2011 3:55 pm

Moderator's note: The discussion has moved away from the opening post's question. Therefore I've moved into a separate thread, called "Methods for learning Greek".
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