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Themistius’ Paraphrase of Aristotle’s Metaphysics XII - Challenges and Innovations

Thursday, February 4, 2016, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Themistius' Paraphrase of Aristotle's Metaphysics XII received little attention from historians of ancient philosophy, despite its being the only complete treatment of Book XII that has come down to us from antiquity. The main reason for this is the fact that the work survives in its entirety only in a Medieval Hebrew translation (from which a subsequent Latin translation was made). Furthermore, having no noticeable influence in Late Antiquity but rather in medieval Arabic (and Hebrew) philosophy, where it was quite popular, the study of this work lies beyond the scope of most classically orientated scholars.


My presentation will consist of two parts. In the first part I'll outline the history of the various translations and sources of Themistius' paraphrase, and underscore some of the challenges it poses for the scholar, as a text dissociated from its original language and context, along with a few examples. In the second part I'll present three novel features that I believe can be found in Themistius' approach to Aristotle's text: cosmogony, spontaneous generation, and the politicization of the cosmos. I will discuss each of them separately according to the available source material, and then conclude with an overall assessment of Themistius' paraphrase, goals, and philosophical orientation.


Yoav Meyrav is a doctoral candidate in the School of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University, where he also teaches philosophy of religion. Mr. Meyrav's fields of interest are the transmission of Greek philosophy to the Medieval Arabic and Hebrew worlds, Hebrew philology and translations, and Medieval Jewish philosophy. He is currently working on an English translation of his critical Hebrew/Arabic edition of Themistius' Paraphrase of Metaphysics XII.