What survives of Aristotle’s work?

Aristotle Read more from
Chapter Ancient Philosophy

After Aristotle left the Lyceum, many of his books and dialogues were never seen again, and other works of his were hidden in a vault for two centuries. Indeed, until the European Renaissance, Aristotle’s writings suffered a pattern of loss and rediscovery. A good part of Aristotle’s existing corpus may have been reconstructed by his students from lecture notes they took, or compiled years later by Aristotelians consulting secondary sources. Some of it may have been written by Aristotle or other members of the Lyceum as lecture preparation.

Scholars now agree that the following works of Aristotle have been lost: dialogues in the same style as Plato; a vast collection of natural observations; popular publications; lectures on the good and Plato’s forms; as many as 158 constitutions for Greek states, of which only the one for Athens survives.

In the first century C.E., Andronicus of Rhodes organized the existing Aristotelian corpus into its present form, but the earliest transcriptions of this are from the ninth century. The first critical edition of Aristotle’s works was published by the Berlin Academy in 1831. It is estimated to represent as little as a fifth of Aristotle’s total output, but in amounting to about 1,500 pages of small print in typical translations of Aristotle’s “collected works,” it provides a substantial basis for scholarly reference today.


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