Hylomorphism versus the Theory of Elements in Late Aristotelianism: Péter Pázmány and the Sixteenth-Century Exegesis of Meteorologica IV

In: Vivarium


This paper investigates Péter Pázmány’s theory of mixtures from his exegesis of Meteorologica IV, in the context of sixteenth-century scholarship on Aristotle’s Meteorologica. It aims to contribute to a discussion of Anneliese Maier’s thesis concerning the incompatibility between hylomorphism and the theory of elements in the Aristotelian tradition. It presents two problems: (1) the placement of Meteorologica IV in the Jesuit cursus on physics and (2) the conceptualization of putrefaction as a type of substantial mutation. Through an analysis of these issues, it shows (1) how sixteenth-century exegesis imposes the hylomorphic thesis onto the subject matter of meteorology and (2) how the hylomorphic theory of substantial change can be adapted in order to accommodate the theory of elements. The case being made is that Meteorologica is a privileged place where hylomorphism and the theory of elements meet and that the late Aristotelian theory of mixtures sought to accommodate both theories of material substance.

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    C. Lüthy, ‘An Aristotelian Watchdog as Avant-Garde Physicist: Julius Cæsar Scaliger’, The Monist 84 (2001), 542-561; W.R. Newman, ‘Corpuscular Alchemy and the Tradition of Aristotle’s Meteorology, with Special Reference to Daniel Sennert’, International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 15 (2001), 145-153; C. Viano, ed., Aristoteles chemicus. Il IV libro dei ‘Meteorologica’ nella tradizione antica e medievale (Sankt Augustin, 2002). The first to express doubt over the authenticity of the book was Francesco Patrizzi, Discussiones peripateticæ (Basel, 1581), 291-292. For an overview of the literature in the Renaissance, see C. Martin, Renaissance Meteorology. Pomponazzi to Descartes (Baltimore, 2011). For the Jesuit literature, see F. de Dainville, La Géographie des humanistes (Paris, 1940). The authenticity of Meteorologica IV was strongly questioned at the beginning of the twentieth century on grounds that it was too “mechanistic.” An overview of the debate can be found in C. Baffioni, Il IV libro dei “Meteorologica” di Aristotele (Naples, 1981), 34-44 and E. Lewis, ‘Introduction’ to Alexander of Aphrodisias, On Aristotle’s Meteorology 4 (Ithaca, NY, 1996), 3-15.

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    See C. Martin, ‘Francisco Vallés and the Renaissance Reinterpretation of Aristotle’s “Meteorologica” IV as a Medical Text’, Early Science and Medicine 7 (2002), 1-30, for details on the career of Meteorologica IV in the sixteenth century and references to sources.

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    Blum, ‘The Cardinal’s Philosophy’, 55.

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