Aristotle's Concept of Happiness in the 13th Century

Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada) (1980)

Anthony J. Celano
Stonehill College
The work of the medieval commentators did not cease with the two commentaries of the great Dominican masters. To the contrary, a fresh and invigorating spirit of inquiry can be seen in later commentaries. The post-1277 commentators turn from a literal explanation of Aristotle's words in order to concentrate on more specific problems raised by Aristotle's notion of happiness. A major concern of these men is to determine the role of the separate substances in the human good. . . . UMI ;Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas are the first to benefit from Grosseteste's translation of Eustratius' investigations into the nature and the cause of the human good. As a result, they have produced the two most important commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics of the Middle Ages. Albert examines carefully the Aristotelian definition of happiness and furnishes a response to the question of its cause, which undergoes little change in the second half of the thirteenth century. Thomas' commentary on the text of Aristotle is a masterpiece of precision and clarity and renders an accurate explanation of the Aristotelian concept of happiness. ;The first attempts at understanding Aristotle's great work in Ethics are failures because the earliest commentators do not differentiate between Aristotle's notion of happiness and the Christian ideal of beatitude. Only Robert Kilwardby is able to distinguish between earthly and other-worldly perfection without the aid of Robert Grosseteste's translation of the Nicomachean Ethics and the accompanying Greek commentaries. ;In this dissertation I have studied Aristotle's concept of the human good, happiness, throughout the course of the thirteenth century. The main source for Aristotle's teachings on human happiness is the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics, where Aristotle considers the nature and cause of human perfection. His definition of happiness as an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue and his assertion that the human good is within the capabilities of every living person provided some difficult problems for the thirteenth century commentators on the Nicomachean Ethics. The major portion of my study examines in detail the responses of these men to the questions concerning happiness, which arose from their reading of the Aristotelian work
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