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Filopono / Philoponos / Philoponus / João Filopono / Ἰωάννης ὁ Φιλόπονος / Joannes Philoponos / John Philoponus

João Filopono, Ἰωάννης ὁ Φιλόπονος, Joannes Philoponos, John Philoponus (490-570 dC)


Philoponus was a Christian and philosophically the most brilliant of all the commentators. He increasingly used Neoplatonist doctrine, in which he was steeped, to make the case for Christianity against the pagan Neoplatonists. In 529 AD he published what I would regard as another of the most interesting philosophical works of Late Antiquity. His Against Proclus   On the Eternity of the World proves that pagan principles support the Christian belief in the beginning of the universe. This text is also being included in the series Ancient Commentators on Aristotle  . Philoponus introduces the argument, sometimes wrongly credited to St Bonaventure   in the thirteenth century, that even the pagans must admit that Christianity is right that the universe had a beginning, because they cannot afford to allow that past years, and a fortiori past days, reach and will exceed infinity. His Christian ideas are reflected also in his commentaries on Aristotle  , and the writings add up to a Christian alternative to Aristotelian science (Richard Sorabji  , ed., Philoponus and the Rejection of Aristotelian Science). As regards the Aristotelian idea of prime matter as the ultimate subject of qualities, Philoponus substitutes the idea of featureless extension which serves as a field for the qualities. This three-dimensional extension acts not only as the basic matter of bodies, but also as the form by which body is defined.

Philoponus also made major contributions to dynamics. He can be regarded as the inventor of the force called impetus, which Thomas Kuhn   treated as a scientific revolution of the fourteenth century. He is praised by Galileo for his very effective arguments for the possibility of motion in a vacuum, which would not, as Aristotle   alleged, call for infinite speed. And he reports experiments with the speed of fall of bodies of different weights. [SorabjiPC3  :10]