Saturday, September 21, 2019

On John Herman Randall’s Atheistic Aristotelianism

John Herman Randall, Jr.’s book Aristotle can be seen as an atheistic presentation of Aristotelian philosophy; he rejects the theistic way of looking at Aristotle that was developed during the medieval period by Thomas Aquinas. In the book’s Introduction, Randall declares that he is not a medievalist and that his interpretation of Aristotle carries no trace of the work on Aristotle done during the medieval period. In the book's first chapter, “Aristotelian Approach to Understanding,” he frowns on Aquinas’s religious background:  “But I am not sure of Thomas; about him there can be doubts, for after all he was a Christian saint, even if, like a good follower of Saint Dominic, he was a cherub filled with the knowledge of God, rather than like Saint Francis, a seraph inspired wholly with the love of God.” Randall says that Aristotle cannot survive translation into Latin and since Aquinas could read only Latin, the Aristotelianism of Aquinas cannot be held as a true representation of Aristotelian thought. Randall is impressed by Spinoza’s rejection of all religious institutions and notes that other than Aristotle, Spinoza is the only philosopher in the Western tradition who has tried to understand the world. He views Spinoza as the only important philosopher in the modern times.

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