Before Aristotle became Aristotle. Pseudo-Aristotelian aphorisms in Ādāb al-falāsifa

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Before Aristotle became Aristotle. Pseudo-Aristotelian aphorisms in Ādāb al-falāsifa

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  Islamic Thought in the Middle Ages Studies in Text, Transmission and Translation,in Honour of Hans Daiber  Edited by Anna Akasoy and Wim Raven LEIDEN • BOSTON2008 AKASOY_f1_i xxvi.indd iii AKASOY_f1_i-xxvi.indd iii 5/26/2008 8:43:33 PM 5/26/2008 8:43:33 PM  BEFORE ARISTOTLE BECAME ARISTOTLE:PSEUDO-ARISTOTELIAN APHORISMS IN  Ā   D   Ā   B AL-FAL   Ā  SIFA Mohsen Zakeri  Much has been said about the srcin, content and authorship of  Ā  d  ā  b al-fal  ā  sifa  (= Ā  F), one of oldest available collections of gnomologia in Arabic. 1  Since the early decades of the nineteenth century this book is wrongly assumed to be an abridgement of an srcinal written or trans-lated by  unayn ibn Is ā q (d. 260/873). Elsewhere I believe to have shown that Ā  F is neither a work of  unayn ibn Is ā q nor a shorter recension of a previously existing text. Rather, it is an independent book which the fourth–  fi fth/tenth–eleventh-century author Mu  ammad ibn  Al  ī   ibn Ibr ā h  ī  m al-An ā r  ī   prepared by using several smaller tracts of a number of earlier authors, among them  Al  ī   ibn  Ubayda al-Ray ā n  ī   (d. 219/834), al-Kind  ī   (d. after 252/865),  unayn ibn Is ā q, Is ā q ibn  unayn (d. 296/908) and others. 2  At this stage it is not possible to ascertain whether anybody else prior to al-An ā r  ī   had compiled a book of similar content in the beginning of the fourth/tenth century. However, the anonymous Istanbul manuscript Köprülü 1608, a com-parable but much larger collection, offers itself remotely as a possible model for al-An ā r  ī  . 3 1   Ā  F, cf. Lo (the abbreviations are explained at the end of the article), and A. Loewenthal,  Honein Ibn Ishak, Sinnsprüche der Philosophen. Nach der hebräischen Übersetzung Charisi’s ins Deutsche übertragen und erläutert   (Berlin, 1896). For studies of this book con-sult A. Müller, ‘Über einige arabische Sentenzensammlungen,’ ZDMG   31 (1877), pp. 506–28; A. Baumstark, Syrisch-Arabische Biographien des Aristoteles  (Leipzig, 1898); K. Merkle,  Die Sittensprüche der Philosophen: Kit  ā  b  Ā  d  ā  b al-Fal  ā  sifa  (Leipzig, 1921); and D. Gutas, Greek Wisdom Literature in Arabic Translation. A Study of the Graeco-Arabic Gnomologia  (New Haven, 1975). For a new synopsis of the structure and contents of Ā  F, see now O. Overwien, ‘  unayn ibn Is ā q, Ā  d ā b al-fal ā sifa. Griechische Inhalte in einer ara-bischen Spruchsammlung,’ in R.M. Piccione and M. Perkams (eds.), Selecta colligere, i.  Akten des Kolloquiums, Jena, 21–23. November 2002  (Alessandria, 2003), pp. 95–115; and D. Gutas, ‘The Spurious and the Authentic in Arabic Lives of Aristotle,’ in J. Kraye (ed.),  Pseudo-Aristotle in the Middle Ages  (London, 1986), pp. 15–43. 2  M. Zakeri, ‘  Al  ī   ibn  Ubaida ar-Rai ā n  ī  : a Forgotten Belletrist ( ad  ī  b  ) and Pahlavi Translator,’ Oriens  34 (1994), pp. 76–102; idem, ‘ Ā  d ā b al-fal ā sifa: the Persian Content of an Arabic Collection of Aphorisms,’  MUSJ   57 (2004), pp. 173–90. 3  Zakeri, ‘ Ā  d ā b al-fal ā sifa,’ pp. 185–90; Z i, pp. 59–73. AKASOY_f35 649 696.indd 649 AKASOY_f35-649-696.indd 649 5/26/2008 8:37:17 PM 5/26/2008 8:37:17 PM  650 mohsen zakeri  Ā  d  ā  b al-fal  ā  sifa  is clearly a composite work consisting of several distinct texts, of Greek, Persian, and early Islamic srcin, the most conspicuous among them  Ā  d  ā  b al-faylas ū   f Mah ā  dharj  ī  s al-mu   allim . 4  Here as a token of my gratitude to Hans Daiber, who fi rst encouraged me to work on the Arabic gnomologia many years ago, and always readily and cordially placed his vast erudition at my disposal, I offer a new edition and translation of another distinct unit in the Ā  F, namely the so-called    ikmat Aris ūā  l  ī  s , ‘Aristotle’s Wisdom’, the legendary circumstances of its creation I have discussed in detail at another occasion. 5  The content of this piece is nicely framed in a fabulous story related to the legendary ‘gatherings of philosophers’ in which the orphan Aristotle is to serve Plato who is teaching a good-for-nothing prince in one of the Houses of Wisdom ( buy ū  t al-  ikma  ). On the day of examination in the presence of the learned and the dignitaries of the empire, as the prince fails to demonstrate the fruits of Plato’s teachings, Aristotle, who has secretly learned everything by heart, steps on the podium and with a brilliant public oration displays the Teacher’s fruitful lessons and so rescues him. Deeply impressed by the ingenuity of the young boy, Plato now adopts him as his pupil to teach him all the sciences.The framework story of ‘Aristotle’s Wisdom’ does not properly fi t Overwien’s proposal of a preconceived methodical structure of the Ā  F, though it could be taken as an example for illustrating the educational procedure in the houses of wisdom described in earlier chapters of the book. 6  Overwien interprets this story as part of the attempts by Alexandrian biographers of Aristotle in late antiquity to harmonize between the two great ancient philosophers. 7 In the printed text the dicta of the delivered oration are not num-bered and the divisions among the items are not always sharp and clear. Sometimes the sentences are attached to one another with a simple conjunctive ‘and’ without an apparent or inherent relationship between them. Consequently they have been divided differently in different edi-tions. They are numbered here from 1 to 75 for the purpose of easy reference (Loewenthal has done the same in his German translation 4  Mah ā dharj  ī  s = Mihr Ā  dharjushnas. Consult Zakeri, ‘  Al  ī   ibn  Ubaida ar-Rai ā n  ī  ,’ pp. 97–102; and see a new edition and translation of Mihr Ā  dhar’s  Ā  d  ā  b  in Z, pp. 1010–28. 5  Zakeri, ‘ Ā  d ā b al-fal ā sifa,’ pp. 185–90. 6  Overwien, ‘  unayn ibn Is ā q,’ pp. 102, 110. 7  Overwien, ‘  unayn ibn Is ā q,’ p. 110. AKASOY_f35 649 696.indd 650 AKASOY_f35-649-696.indd 650 5/26/2008 8:37:17 PM 5/26/2008 8:37:17 PM    before aristotle became aristotle 651of the Hebrew version, but his division is slightly different from mine). No alphabetic or any other ordering principle is detectable in the text. However, sentences ns. 4, 7–25, 29, 30, 32 all start with the preposition bi  , ‘With . . .’, and ns. 28, 54–5, 58–65, 68, 71, 74 all start with man , ‘He who . . .’. The fi rst four in praise of God and Wisdom are introductory comments by Aristotle himself, and the rest what he had purportedly learned secretly from Plato’s lectures.In addition to al-An ā r  ī  ’s Ā  F, the following sources have the ser-mon more or less completely: the anonymous Köprülü 1608 (K folios 14v–15v), 8  al-Mubashshir ibn F ā tik,  Mukht  ā  r al-  ikam  (Mb, pp. 199–201), al-Shahr ā z ū r  ī  ,  Nuzhat al-arw ā  (Sh i, 201–2), Ibn Ab  ī   U  aybi  a,   Uy ū  n al-anb ā   (IAU, pp. 97–8), al- Ā  mil  ī  , al-Mikhl  ā  t   ( Ā  M, pp. 158–9), the Old Spanish version of Ā  F,  El libro de los buenos proverbios  (  Libro , pp. 58–61), and the Hebrew-German translations of Ā  F by Loewenthal (Lo, pp. 64–8). Although these all reproduce the same srcinal text, they are not fully identical with one another. Some lack several sayings (K has the frame story but misses ns. 30, 34, 36, 47–8, 50, 56, 59–60, 63, 66, 68–72, 74; the  Libro  includes the frame story but has left out a few apparently corrupt pieces in its srcinal: ns. 28, 31, 34, 36, 63), or have additional ones (i.e. Mb); others contain divergent readings for certain words or phrases. Clusters of several sentences together have found their way into many works including Ibn Durayd, al-Mujtan ā   (p. 47; = MJ), al-Shar  ī  f al-Ra ī  , al-Nahj al-bal  ā   gha  (p. 398; = NB), Miskawayh,  J  ā  w ī  d  ā  n khirad   (p. 12; = J), al-  ur ū sh  ī  , Sir  ā   j al-mul  ū  k   (pp. 50–51), al- Ā  mil  ī  , al-Mikhl  ā  t   (p. 69), al-Ibsh  ī  h  ī  , al-Musta   raf   (p. 53), and others. The text without the frame story is taken over fully by al-Mubashshir, but he reproduces about one-third of it again among Socrates’ sayings (p. 118) without noticing their repetition, and some others independently and anonymously throughout his work (ns. 8, 15, 41, 67, 73).All the sources just outlined are posthumous to  unayn ibn Is ā q. Another author who seems to have been familiar with our text even prior to the time of  unayn is  Al  ī   ibn  Ubayda al-Ray ā n  ī  , who lived and worked at the court of Caliph al-Ma  m ū n (d. 218/833) and died not long after the caliph. 9  Al-Ray ā n  ī  ’s  Jaw ā  hir al-kilam  (= Z), now edited and translated, is a large compendium of over 2000 ancient proverbs and proverbial phrases alphabetically arranged as  ikam  and without 8  See Gutas, Greek Wisdom Literature , pp. 42–7; Z, pp. 59–73. 9  See Zakeri, ‘  Al  ī   ibn  Ubaida ar-Rai ā n  ī  ,’ pp. 76–102. AKASOY_f35 649 696.indd 651 AKASOY_f35-649-696.indd 651 5/26/2008 8:37:18 PM 5/26/2008 8:37:18 PM  652 mohsen zakeri any attribution to persons. This has at least half of the content of our text, some identical (cf. ns. 1, 4, 12–15, 17, 19–22, 27, 38–41, 55, 57, 62, 64–6, 72–4), some with editorial modi fi cations (cf. ns. 9, 18, 24, 31, 44–5, 49–51, 54, 58, 67). The existence of these sentences already in the  Jaw ā  hir al-kilam  is a good index to the fact that our sermon had been available to the Arabic reading public prior to the time of its alleged translation or composition by  unayn ibn Is ā q. In the stud-ies already mentioned, I have shown that several other chapters in the Ā  F have close af  fi nity with al-Ray ā n  ī  ’s work. Whether the text under review here had been one of this author’s own previous compilations or translations from Middle Persian, which he also exploited for his  Jaw ā  hir al-kilam , remains still to be decided.The works of the above-mentioned anthologists and the further documentation of the variants and parallels of the sayings offered in the following pages present a good testimony to the tremendous popular-ity of these dicta in the annals of classical Arabic literature. However, the reason for this great success is hard to perceive for a modern day reader. In accordance with its supposed srcin, this short tract consists of didactic precepts of a universal nature. The contents and the message they convey are rather ordinary common sense without any surprising turn of thought or delightful ambiguity of formulation and cannot claim any uniqueness or exceptionality. They are not real proverbs with general applicability, but are certainly proverbial, mostly consisting of terse statements of a truth or dogma, hence true aphorisms. Their conciseness and melodious composition should in fact explain their success to some extent.Nothing in the sayings can be taken speci fi cally as Arab-Islamic, Per-sian or Greek. The presence of a semi-reference to the famous Socratic saying, ‘I know that I do not know,’ (cf. n. 40) cannot be—because it is so common and widespread in classical Arab literature—evaluated as a piece of evidence in determining its srcin. This tendency may be contrasted with maxims having parallels in Pahlavi sources (cf. ns. 4, 37, 49). These aphorisms are as notorious as all other of their kinds in constantly being attributed to different authorities in accordance with the attitude of the source where we fi nd them. Those educated in the Greek tradition of  paideia  had no dif  fi culty to assign them to the renowned philosophers of the past; those coming from the Iranian background of  farhanq  saw them fi t to be spoken only by their ancient great kings and sages; the more orthodox Muslims claimed to have heard them from the Prophet himself; and the Shiites had naturally Im ā m  Al  ī   and his successors as their srcinal composers. Since they AKASOY_f35 649 696.indd 652 AKASOY_f35-649-696.indd 652 5/26/2008 8:37:18 PM 5/26/2008 8:37:18 PM
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