On Sunday, Aristotle was reviewed by Harry Jaffa in the New York Times Book Review. The Nicomachean Ethics has been "in print" for 2500 years. Surely this is a world's record for delayed reviewing.
I thought perhaps the review is of the new translation. But the only remark that the translation gets in the review is decidedly goofy: "Many Greek words cannot be easily translated into single English equivalents — for example, the Greek word techne, which appears in the first sentence of the “Ethics.” It is here translated as “art,” as it usually is." Jaffa's right: it is virtually the standard translation: only lately has 'craft' become trendy.
If the translation isn't what attracted the attention of the Book Review, then what? Perhaps, it is the light shed on that great contemporary philosopher, Winston Churchill? Perhaps, for he is discussed three different times. First, we are told that when he was sent the book for the first time, Churchill returned it, saying he'd already figured it all out himself. A little later, we are told that Leo Strauss claimed first to have figured out what Aristotle meant by megalopsychia when he (Strauss) contemplated Winston as the great-souled man. That's ludicrous: Churchill wasn't rich enough, or (consequently) philanthropic enough. And he was the ultimate consequentialist in his conduct of the war. (Think of his dealings with Stalin re the massacre of Polish officers at Katyn. No virtue ethicist, he.)
Jaffa tells us: "The vitality of Western civilization results from the interplay of [classical philosophy and biblical revelation]." This "thought", once again, is traced to an obscure reference by Churchill to the "authority" of Athens and Jerusalem. Jaffa is not the first to speculate about the vitality of Western civilization (think of Fernand Braudel and Jared Diamond), but his analysis must be one of the most random. Classics and the Bible? Why not Newton and chocolate sauce?
What possessed the editor? I'll leave that question to you, dear reader.