376G Melanchthon, Philipp. 1497-1560 Philippi Melanchthonis Philosophiae moralis epitomae libri duo emendati & aucti : nam tres virtutes additae, quintus Aristotelis totus immutatus : accessit etiam tractatus De autoritate principum & alter De arbore consanguinitatis & affinitatis, & index copiosus.
Argentorati [Strasburg] : Crato Mylius,1540 $3,500
Octavo, 16.5 x 10.5 cm.. First Edition (before the text there is a leaf full of contemporary notes see images) [A]8
B-Z8 a8.(7 & 8 blank one present Blind stamped pigskin with Muse , center plate cupids with oak leaves . Monogrammed “FD” and the year 1540. One leaf has the bottom margin trimmed neatly and not touching the text.
First issue of Melanchthon’s moral philosophy with his De arbore consanguinitatis , which was published in the same year with Joseph Klug of Wittenberg as a single issue . Further contributions are by Melchior Folst This edition Includes selections of Aristotle’s Nicomachean ethics translated into Latin.
As a scholar Melanchthon embodied the entire spiritual culture of his age. At the same time he found the simplest, clearest, and most suitable form for his knowledge; therefore his manuals, even if they were not always original, were quickly introduced into schools and kept their place for more than a century.
Knowledge had for him no purpose of its own; it existed only for the service of moral and religious education, and so the teacher of Germany prepared the way for the religious thoughts of the Reformation. He is the father of Christian humanism, which has exerted a lasting influence upon scientific life in Germany. [But it is Erasmus who is called, “The Prince of the Humanists.]
His works were not always new and original, but they were clear, intelligible, and answered their purpose. His style is natural and plain, better, however, in Latin and Greek than in German. He was not without natural eloquence, although his voice was weak. He started from scholasticism; but with the contempt of an enthusiastic Humanist he turned away from it and came to Wittenberg with the plan of editing the complete works of Aristotle. Under the dominating religious influence of Luther his interest abated for a time, but in 1519 he edited the “Rhetoric” and in 1520 the “Dialectic.”
The relation of philosophy to theology is characterized, according to him, by the distinction between law and Gospel. The former, as a light of nature, is innate; it also contains the elements of the natural knowledge of God which, however, have been obscured and weakened by sin. Therefore, renewed promulgation of the law by revelation became necessary and was furnished in the Decalogue; and all law, including that in the scientific form of philosophy, contains only demands, shadowings; its fulfilment is given only in the Gospel, the object of certainty in theology, by which also the philosophical elements of knowledge—experience, principles of reason, and syllogism—receive only their final confirmation. As the law is a divinely ordered pedagogue that leads to Christ, philosophy, its interpreter, is subject to revealed truth as the principal standard of opinions and life.
Besides Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” and “Dialectic” he published De dialecta libri iv (1528); Erotemata dialectices (1547); Liber de anima (1540); Initia doctrinae physicae (1549); and Ethicae doctrinae elementa (1550).
.”Melanchthon declared dialectics, as in Aristotelian dialectics—as the basic methodology for all branches of knowledge. He later produced commentaries on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.
Melanchthon’s relation to Aristotle can be described and understood by a strict separation of these areas and a clear use for reason and philosophy in theology. In his commentary to Aristotle’s Politics, he provided a guide for distinguishing theology and philosophy. The Gospel did not serve the establishment of a Christian state but revealed the spiritual and eternal righteousness of the human being. Politics, in contrast, taught about property, contracts and laws, which all take on different forms in different nations. Thus, Aristotle can and ought speak only about these things, which are areas subject to reason. Melanchthon highlighted the difference between politics and the Gospel for the secular realm and thus stayed away from militant revolutionary movements.
Melanchthon was not a wishy-washy and pussy footing diplomat as he is often made out to be. He treasured greatly the Aristotelian virtue of the golden mean, but this was not to be confused with indecisiveness and faulty attempts at reconciliation, as happened in Regensburg. To him, what is needful in the church in the face of unsolved disputes and endless wars of words is not more instruction in overly erudite disputation about the formulation of concepts and also not in overblown, quarrelsome and dazzling speech. Instead, what is needed is a language that loves the truth, and for this purpose there is dialectics, on which Melanchthon held a high regard for. For him dialectic in the church is the bond of unity.
We can indeed learn much from Melanchthon how to handle philosophy and theology in a non exclusive way but also not diluting or distorting the Gospel proclamation.
Lutheran Quarterly Vol XXV(2011) entitled, “Philip Melanchthon and Aristotle” first written by Nicole Kuropka in German and translated into English by Timothy Wengert.
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