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This is a draft of a translation. The original is held by the Universitätsbibliothek Tübingen. Digital images of it can be found at © 2013 Kevin Tracy

Some Abbreviations B. Celeb. D. or Dn. M. Max. Rev.

Beatus Celeberrimus Dominus Magister Maxime Reverendus

“blessed”, used for deceased person “most famous” for recipient of master’s degree “most”, used in Maxime Reverendus “reverend”

Inquiry whether a

PAGAN MORAL PHILOSOPHER is a proper guide of Christian Youth or Whether a Christian Young Man is a suitable Student of Aristotelian Ethics, Which by the kind agreement of the MOST SPLENDID

FACULTY OF PHILOSOPHY the following offer for public evaluation:

M. J O H A N N E S K E L P I U S Transylvanian Saxon of Denndorf


ALTDORF Press of HENRICUS MEYERUS, Universit. Typogr. 1690


P R O OE M I U M. Not long ago, on a night devoted to contemplation of the stars, I pondered for some time, and more closely than usual, the measureless device of the infinite Craftsman. The more freely I chanced to travel in thought out into that vastest expanse, the universe, the narrower seemed the boundaries by which each body was contained. In the end, this sphere of ours vanished as a tiny point within it. So true it is that the Sage has seen all the works that are done under the Sun and, behold, all is vanity! (a) Straightaway I marvelled at the human Mind. Having no share in matter, it retains so much the image of its infinite Creator that it is virtually measureless and inscrutable, so much indeed that its subjection to its bit of dust, by which it is bound as captive, is like slavery. Nonetheless it buries itself under the burden of attending to this alone. In this it takes delight as a beetle does in dung. Granted, it seems to take flight toward things a bit loftier; nonetheless, since it is preoccupied by things bodily and external, it takes delight principally in those Sciences that still tickle our senses, though with a taste more refined. (Sometimes with the Mathematicians it investigates the dimensions of bodies,


(a) Ecclesiastes 1, 14.



or their qualities with the Physicists. Sometimes with the Physicians it attends to how one must heal human beings; soon after, with the Soldiers, how one must destroy them.) It is through the Moral Philosophy of Christians that present tranquility of the soul and future happiness for eternity are acquired. But [the human Mind] does not wish for it in the same way, before it is discovered, nor tend to it in the same way, after if it is known. It neglects it as a thing utterly foreign and unpleasant. Surely from this fact, if other sources had not made me aware, with the greatest possible mortification, of our meagreness, impotence, corruption, I would have drawn clear and indisputable evidence of it. But that glowing chorus of the heavenly bodies also set for me another matter to consider. I observed that, however thickly the sky had been strewn with stars, by so many lights the shadows still were not removed from the earth. The light, scattered among a thousand stars, did not suffice to drive the night away. Collected into one Sun, however, it would have brought out brightest day. As I had thoughts like that, I noticed a comparable state of affairs in my Mind. Had not so many Stars, the renowned Philosophers, sent their rays into my intellect by that time? Yet none so far had sufficed to enlighten my mind. None had cast light into the very thick shadows of my ignorance. None, finally, had driven the filthy blackness of the vices out from the hidden depths of the cave. No further, therefore, could I delude myself about the murkiness of my Mind. My thoughts turned to a Sun who, having collected in himself light without ray,

P R O OE M I U M.  


could provide light and serenity to my Mind, so that I could look on that Divine light without squinting. Or, to speak without riddling, I wanted a Physician who knew the errors and disorders of my Mind, and who could not at all deceive or be deceived. He might heal my wretched Mind, tame my passions, soften my temperament, gain me for virtue and God for me. He might lead me, seasick from all my wanderings, into a stronghold of rest and tranquility, from where I could nobly disdain all the joys that are lower than heaven and briefer than eternity. And, behold, the author dearest to me at that time, Aristotle. Of him some said that this great Philosopher had been a Precursor of Christ in the natural order, as John the Baptist had been in the order of grace. Indeed, if it should happen that the Gospel writings be lost, they could be recovered from his books, the Ethics. And if they were not Christians, they would embrace his doctrine in all details and on all matters. (b) These splendid encomia made my mouth water. But I, taught by the misfortune of others, had decided not to entrust myself to anyone’s care unless I were sure that by his skill he had saved others from ruin,


(b) As cited by B. Thomasius, Oration in Defense of Aristotle added to the Summary of his Ethics, p. 75; Max. Rev. Dn. M. Heldius, in the Dedication of his Aristotelian Ethics; D. Michael Waltherus, Dissertation on the Supposed Salvation of Pagans, p. 79; Henricus Ernstius, σοφός ἄσοφος, p. 182, 200.



and that he had not offered hemlock as medicine, or drunk thirstily that poison which he himself had learnedly demonstrated to others, not long ago, to be lethal. I approached the Stagirite on my own. But poor me! with regard to this subject there was no place in his audience for young men; for so did he say to me: A young man is not a suitable student of Political Science, for he has no experience of the actions of this life. The arguments are developed from these and about these. Besides, since he is subservient to his passions, he will study it in vain and uselessly because its aim is not only knowledge but action. (c) But if, therefore, you have not already been reared to virtue with the highest degree of diligence from childhood onward, in vain would you hope that my or any other philosopher’s lecture will benefit you at all. (d) “So then,” I said, “funeral-ready and decrepit old men are the ones you want, Pagan? But what if those men have been awash in desires from swaddling clothes onward? What if, from a habit of sinning, they matured not to a hope of improvement but to perdition, the result of their disgraceful deeds? Is not their senile old age going to be all the more childish because they have strengthened the propensities—more readily corrected at another time of life—of youth, a time of less capacity, by keeping them up, so that they are now full grown and powerful passions? Will you really win them back for virtue with your Ethics?”


(c) I Nic. III, 11–15 of Rachel’s edition; chapter I, C–D, p. 4 of Casaubon’s edition. These are the two that will be cited in most cases. (d) X Nic. IX, 19 ff.

P R O OE M I U M.  


But, but! my reflections needed more restraint and subtlety. By no means did I want to produce a basis for excusing ignorance or rashness so easily. From the explanation of those who had more success than others in figuring out what lay deeply hidden here, I concluded that I had undoubtedly not understood the Philosopher. Of course in this case the Stagirite opened his school only during the mornings, and it was reserved for those most private hours. He let in none but men of characters that were exceptional and most strictly tested by his standard, those whom maturity of judgment, experience, and self-control, practiced over some time, had fitted for deciding what must be learned and exercising good judgment. Yes, for he maintained against Plato that virtue perfect in all ways is not obtained by a gift from the Divine Power, but by practice alone, with very exact definitions and divisions of the virtues at its core; therefore, so that his case would not suffer weakening, he barred the folly of youth and the motley crowd from the sacred mysteries of his morning subtleties, and so on. But I could have attended his public readings, like an evening Peripatos, with the motley crowd. (e) These words gave me great pain;


(e) So, roughly, say in part Thomasius, in part Celeb. Placcius in Dissert. suis Inaugur. Conf. and Johannes Christophorus Becmanus, Reflections on Politics, chapter I, §XI, p. 15.



for I had given the name Physician to CHRIST with the following saying of His in mind: not the healthy but the unwell are in need of a physician. (f) I saw that this Stagirite Physician, however, forbade the sick entrance to his house and wished to care for none but the well. I suspected, therefore, that he could hardly take men of bad character and render them better. I thought, moreover, that one had to admire the humility with which my φιλάνθρωπος [philanthrôpos] God had spent time with the vain and ignorant rabble, the most extreme sinners, indeed the little children too, with the greatest love, good cheer, and familiarity. He had chosen for his students, the Disciples, not the Pharisees and Legal Experts, not people whose characters were exceptional and most strictly tested by some standard of his, but shortsighted, but simple fishermen—whose knowledge hardly went beyond nets and creels—that they might win over the Philosophers. He chose stutterers that they might surpass eloquence, simpletons that they might instruct Sophists. At the same time, that saying of His, without me you can do nothing (g), that of the Apostle, that we are not fit of ourselves to think or do any good from ourselves as from ourselves, but it is from GOD that we are fit (h), as well as that of the Church, without Your Power, there is nothing in humanity, there is nothing without harm, had set deep roots in my mind. I figured, therefore, that there was no virtue perfect, true, and living but that which is drawn through Faith in GOD from the living GOD and from his living oracles.                                                                                                                

(f) Matthaeus 9, 12. (g) Johannes 15, 5. (h) 2 Corinthii 3, 5.

Works Cited by Kelpius in Text or in Notes

Aristoteles. Opera Omnia Quae Extant. Ed. Isaacus Casaubonus. Lutetitiæ Parisiorum: Societas Græcarum Editionum, 1629. ——. Ethicorum ad Nicomachum Libri Decem. Ed. Samuel Rachelius. Helmæstadii: Henningus Mullerus, 1660. Becmanus, Johannes Christophorus. Meditationes Politicae. not yet located. Ernstius, Henricus. σοφός ἄσοφος [Sophos Asophos]. Hamburgi: Naumannus, 1665. Heldius, Johannes. “Epistola Dedicatoria,” Principia Ethicae ex Aristotele. Norimbergæ: Michael Endterus, 1660. Placcius. not yet located. Thomasius, Jacobus. “Oratio pro Aristotele,” Breviarium Ethicorum Aristotelis ad Nicomachum. Lipsiæ: Philippus Fuhrmannus, 1668.  

Waltherus, Michael. “Dissertatio de praetensa Gentilium salute,� not yet located.

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