Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.09.09 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.09.09

Maurizio Migliori (ed.), Aristotele, Organon: categorie, de interpretatione, analitici primi, analitici secondi, topici, confutazioni sofistiche. Testo greco a fronte. Il pensiero occidentale.   Milano:  Bompiani, 2016.  Pp. lxii, 2290.  ISBN 9788845281648.  €60.00.  

Reviewed by Adrian Mihai, Université Laval (

The new Italian translation, with facing Greek text, of all the logical treatises of Aristotle, known as the Organon, was published under the supervision of the renowned Plato scholar Maurizio Migliori.1 Like the other books published by Bompiani in the series ‘Il pensiero occidentale’, it is a weighty tome. Each treatise has an introduction (quite large in some cases), and is followed by a translation, accompanied by copious footnotes. In the Appendices, we find a bibliography for all the treatises (pp. 1829–1946), an excellent three-hundred page analytical index of key concepts (pp. 1947–2255), a glossary (pp. 2257–2269) and an index of ancient names (pp. 2271–2273).

The whole enterprise, and its justification, is guided by a specific interpretative paradigm: the “multifocal approach” (see pp. lvii–lxii, 47–52, 1095–1096, 1668–1670). I will focus first on the translations, and afterwards I will talk about the pertinence of this interpretative model to Aristotle’s texts.

The contents of the Organon are too well known to require an introduction. Suffice it to say that in the translations a description of the traditionally transmitted title appears in brackets: Categoriae or Gli elementi della predicazione (The Elements of Predication); De Interpretatione or Il vero e il falso nelle forme del linguaggio (True and False in the Forms of Language); Analytica Priora or Sul sillogismo (On the Syllogism); Analytica Posteriora or Ricerche sull’argomentazione scientifica (Investigations on Scientific Argumentation); Topica or Gli schemi della communicazione (Patterns of Communication); and finally De Sophisticis Elenchis or Smascheramento delle tecniche di communicazione ingannatrici (Uncovering of Deceptive Communication Techniques).

The Categories (pp. 53–157) are translated by Marina Bernardini, On Interpretation (pp. 208–271) by Lucia Palpacelli, Prior Analytics (pp. 372–791) by Milena Bontempi, Posterior Analytics (pp. 842–1077) by Roberto Medda, and Topics (pp. 1168–1643) and Sophistical Refutations (pp. 1685–1825) by Arianna Fermani. Though the translators do not mention which critical editions were used for the translations, after some checking it seems that the following texts have been followed: the editions of Lorenzo Minio-Paluello (1949) of the Categories and On Interpretation; the editions of Sir William David Ross (1964) of Prior Analytics and Posterior Analytics, and again Ross (1958) for Topics and Sophistical Refutations.2 It is evident that Richard Bodéüs’ 2001 edition of the Categories and Jacques Brunschwig’s edition of the Topics have also been consulted, though most of their conjectures have been omitted.3 This being said, the overall sense of the text on which these translations are based is rarely altered by these new Budé editions to any radical extent. All in all, the translations are classical, intelligent and prudent, and the clarity and richness of the commentaries (placed in the footnotes) deserve our deepest respect.

A word now about the philosophical justification of this enterprise (philologically, a new translation of Aristotle, with facing Greek text, is always welcomed, given the difficulties that have hampered translators and commentators of the Aristotelian Corpus). In his substantial introduction (pp. vii-lxii), Maurizio Migliori, as in his latest study of Plato’s philosophy,4 emphasises the ‘complex unity’ of reality as expressed in Aristotle’s philosophy. As Ariana Fermani writes in her introduction to the Topics, the multifocal approach, well expressed by Aristotle’s expression πολλαχῶς λεγόμενον (indicating that the real can be ‘expressed in many ways') represents the key (cifra) to Aristotelian thought (p. 1160). Migliori’s contention is that only through the dialectical method can we grasp the polyvalent or multiform character of reality (p. lvii–lviii). Although ‘dialectic’ does not have the same significance in Aristotle as in Plato — while in Plato “dialectic” is synonym of philosophy as the only true science, and is dialogical, in Aristotle, following Rhetoric 1354a3, dialectic becomes an art of constructing and using arguments, and is unscientific (pp. lv–lvii) — Migliori emphasises the character of dialectical inquiry of Aristotle’s thought, which tries not so much to construct a system of clear and distinct ideas as to understand the world. Thus the ‘multifocal approach’ is not worried at all about the seemingly contradictory statements found in Aristotle’s philosophy. On the contrary, these show Aristotle as a thinker in search of the truth rather than as one claiming to own it. Statements that seem to be at odds with one another do not give rise necessarily to a real contradiction and do not entail a relativistic viewpoint.5

As I understand it, this approach should not be assimilated to the ‘aporetic’ reading, which sees Aristotle as a protagonist of an essentially inconclusive, aporetic, provisional and thus open inquiry Such a reading was advocated not so long ago by Werner Jaeger, Jean-Marie Le Blond, Gwilym E. L. Owen, and Pierre Aubenque, for whom the aporia presents itself as a method, so that the dialectical method ought to be conceived as an aporetic method.6 On the contrary, continuing in the footsteps of Giovanni Reale, Professor Migliori and the translators consider Aristotelian discourse as structurally or formally polyhedric (i.e. multiform), the same problem being proposed from multiple angles, giving rise to manifold solutions, but always with reference to a dialectical unity.7

Regarding the individual treatises: to the question whether the categories concern classes of beings or just significant words, Marina Bernardini answers not either or, but both. The categories concern words that signify beings as significant — this is the same answer given by the Late Neoplatonist Simplicius (In Cat. 16, 19–21). Moreover, for Bernardini, the Categories are a sort of didactic manual (p. 13), like Metaphysics 5 (Delta). In this, she is close to Richard Bodéüs’ opinion, according to which the Categories are an introduction to certain dialectical issues. As for the Topics and its treatment of dialectic, Fermani denotes Aristotle’s theory of dialectic as dialogical (p. 1125), being a “borderline” science (p. 1129), since it has relations with sophistry and the eristic methods on one side and philosophy on the other.

All in all, this edition is a welcome and useful supplement not only to the study of Aristotle’s logic, but to his philosophy as a whole.


1.   There are two other complete Italian translations of the Organon: Giorgio Colli, Organon, Torino: Einaudi, 1955 and Marcello Zanatta, Organon, 2 vols., Torino: UTET, 1996.
2.   L. Minio-Paluello, Aristotelis Categoriae et Liber De Interpretatione, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949; W. D. Ross (ed), Analytica Priora et Posteriora, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964; W. D. Ross (ed), Aristotelis Topica et Sophistici Elenchi, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958 (19867).
3.   R. Bodéüs (ed. and trans.), Aristote, Catégories, Paris: Belles Lettres, 2001; J. Brunschwig (ed. and trans.), Aristote, Topiques. Tome I. Livres I–IV, Paris: Belles Lettres, 1967 and Aristote, Topiques. Tome II. Livres V–VIII, Paris: Belles Lettres, 2007.
4.   Maurizio Migliori, Il Disordine ordinato: la filosofia dialettica di Platone. Vol. I: Dialettica, metafisica e cosmologia. Vol. II: Dall’anima alla prassi etica e politica. Brescia:  Editrice Morcelliana, 2013. BMCR 2014.08.40.
5.   See now the studies in E. Cattanei, A. Fermani, M. Migliori (eds.), By the Sophists to Aristotle Through Plato. The Necessity and Utility of a Multifocal Approach (Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2016).
6.   See, for example, the refutations of the ‘aporetic’ thesis, especially regarding the inquiries in Metaphysics, by Terence H. Irwin (Aristotle’s First Principles, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988) and Giovanni Reale (Il concetto di «filosofia prima» e l’unità della Metafisica di Aristotele, Milano: Vita & Pensiero, 1994 [1961]). It must be mentioned that Aubenque does not suggest that all aporiai are unresolvable, but especially the ones regarding the question of being.
7.   See G. Reale, Introduzione, traduzione e commentario della Metafisica di Aristotele, Milano: Bompiani, 2004, p. xcv.

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