Aristotle and the Theology of the Living Immortals

By Richard Bodeus
Translated by Jan Garrett

Subjects: Ancient Greek Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791447284, 375 pages, September 2000
Hardcover : 9780791447277, 375 pages, September 2000

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Table of contents

Translator's Preface

1. Toward Reconsideration of the Prevailing View
Reasonable opinions about the gods
Texts on the margin of Lambda
The separate substance of Lambda
The notion of natural theology
So-called theological science

2. The Celestial Gods and the Divine Objects of Philosophy
Visible and invisible celestial natures
On the proper use of opinion in the celestial physics
The testimony of received beliefs regarding the celestial gods
The evidence of language
The authority of Plato

3. The Gods of the City in the Stories of the Wise
Theology and Science
The mythical addition of theology
The historical testimony of myths
The reason for theology and the discovery of the gods of the city

4. An Appropriation of the Tradition about the Gods
The existence of the gods: defense of the tradition against the naturalists
The logic of received beliefs about the gods
The beneficence of the gods: reasonable arguments
The gods as paradigm of the macrocosm

5. The Gods as Benefactors: A Reasonable Tenet
From deference to piety
The foundatins of piety
The mutual love of gods and humans
The gods and fortune
The gods as objects of imitation

General Conclusions

Theology and Ways of Speaking



Index of Ancient Authors

Index of Modern Authors

Subject Index

Argues that Aristotle used the most traditional Greek ideas about the gods to develop and defend his physical, metaphysical, and ethical teachings.


This book argues that Aristotle used "the most traditional Greek ideas about the gods" to develop and defend his physical, metaphysical, and ethical teachings. This revolutionary thesis stands in stark contrast to studies of Aristotle's texts that normally portray him as a "natural theologian" using rational tools to elaborate his own conception of God or the gods. Bodeus argues that Aristotle is more closely aligned with popular Greek religion than is usually thought, and attention to the ethical and political writings reveals more about Aristotle's resources for conceiving the gods than study of his theoretical works.

For Bodeus, Aristotle was a refined polytheist who held that the gods were living immortals and that one could attribute to them wisdom, goodness, and benevolent concern for human beings. The author's approach is at odds with the dominant interpretation, which holds that Aristotle's unmoved mover presents his true view of God. This leads to the argument that the philosopher's apparent endorsements of popular religious ideas should be taken seriously and that his inquiries about the unmoved mover belong strictly to theoretical philosophy, which is unable to study the gods. From this novel perspective, many of Aristotle's texts appear in a new light.

Richard Bodeus is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Montreal, and author of The Political Dimensions of Aristotle's Ethics, also published by SUNY Press.


"This book is rich and provocative--indeed iconoclastic by any measure. Bodéüs demonstrates, quite successfully in my view, that traditional theology greatly influenced Aristotle's own conception of theology. Moreover, he argues that theology is not a science for Aristotle, for what we generally associate with Aristotelian theology--the unmoved mover--is not actually a part of theology. " -- Gerard Naddaf, coauthor of Plato the Myth Maker