The Zoon Politikon: Medieval Aristotelian Interpretations – Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia – article

The Zoon Politikon: Medieval Aristotelian Interpretations

António R. Martins | Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia


The aim of the present paper is to recall, in light of the newest research, the originality and the innovation of Albert the Great’s, Thomas Aquinas’ and Giles of Rome’s interpretations of the definition of man as a “political animal”, in the frame of the rediscovery of Aristotle by the Latin West, the historic-philosophic outlines of which are still not entirely transparent. Is it legitimate to state that through this school of thought in the Late Middle Ages there was a transformation of the traditional subject of politics, even if effacing the corruption that originates from human nature itself? In addition, is it true that the well-known position of “transformation” of the political animal into a social animal, while being suggestive and exact, omits the character of both novelty and rupture when juxtaposed to the usual framework at the time? My considerations will be divided into five parts. First, I will convey a short sketch of Aristotle’s notion of man as a political animal. In the second part, I will look at the political implications of the conception of power stemming from the original sin, a prevailing notion in the Latin Middle Ages and one that very much endured until the knowledge of the peripatetic political approach resurfaced. In the last three parts, I will attempt to explore the interpretations framed in the works of Albert the Great (III), Thomas Aquinas (IV) and Giles of Rome (V). And finally, in my concluding remarks, I will attempt to emphasize the problematic core condensed in the concepts which preside over the present paper.


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