Saturday, 21 September 2019

On John Herman Randall’s Atheistic Aristotelianism

It is noteworthy that John Herman Randall, Jr.’s book Aristotle is an atheistic presentation of Aristotelian philosophy. Randall rejects the theistic way of looking at Aristotle that was developed during the medieval period, by Thomas Aquinas and the scholastic scholars. In the book’s Introduction, he proudly declares that he is not a medievalist. His interpretation of Aristotelian philosophy carries no trace of the work on Aristotle done during the medieval period.

In the 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 is convinced that Aristotle cannot survive translation into Latin and since Aquinas could only read Latin, there is bound to be some issues in his Aristotelianism.

He 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 asserts that Spinoza is the only really important philosopher to the modern times. There are several other instances in the book where Randall criticizes the scholastics for trying to develop a theistic interpretation of Aristotle.


Randall’s Doubts About Aquinas

Aristotle’s Philosophy Is Not Closed, But Open

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