Aristotle’s Problemata-Style and Aural Textuality

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Abstract

According to Posterior Analytics II 1, scientific inquiry proceeds by grasping and resolving problemata of various kinds (τὸ ὄτι, τὸ διότι, εἰ ἔστι, τί ἐστι), the causal ones are its heart and focus. According to APo. II 14–18, part of the organization of the scientific inquiry (and hence of the construction of Aristotle’s scientific treatises) consists of procedures aimed at grasping, unifying, and connecting problemata. The distinction between problemata of various kinds and the procedures aimed at grasping, unifying, and connecting them have a rhetorical, an explanatory, and a heuristic function. Arguably they lie at the root of the composition of logoi such as History of Animals, Parts of Animals, Generation of Animals, Parva Naturalis.

The goal of the paper is to investigate the modes of this composition (i.e., of the progressive construction of a text or inquiry) by means of an analysis of the Aristotelian notion of problema and an inquiry into the relations between the textuality of the Problemata physica (where the problemata occur in their “basic” form) and that of other logoi of the corpus. The working hypothesis is that these relations may help us to uncover (some aspects of) the process of the text construction from minimal units to extended pragmateiai. Moreover, since the problema format arises from the Socratic world of question and inquiry and, arguably, the more ancient Pythagorean akousmata, the paper is aimed at suggesting that the Aristotelian textuality documents a particular intermediate phase between the forms of expression characteristic of an oral culture and those proper of a world which is getting more and more alphabetized, and hence at suggesting a different image of Aristotle from the standard one: of an aural thinker, who should be read accordingly.

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