Teleology and Embryogenesis in Aristotle's <i>Generation of Animals</i> II.6

Allan Gotthelf

in Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199287956
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191738296 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Aristotle Studies Series

Teleology and Embryogenesis in Aristotle's Generation of Animals II.6

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This chapter takes a close look at the account across Generation of Animals I–II of the efficient cause of animal generation. The aim is to understand better the relationship of material‐efficient causation to the teleological causation Aristotle insists is central to the coming to be of animals. Special attention is given to Aristotle's actual account of embryogenesis — the sequential development of the parts of the embryo — in GA II.6. This examination shows that there is no evidence that Aristotle thought material necessity by itself was causally sufficient for embryogenesis; rather material‐efficient causation does the bulk of its work as a ‘tool’ that the budding organism's formal nature — its ‘irreducible potential for form’ — makes use of in achieving its inherent ends. In the process the chapter provides significant insight into the essential flow of argument across GA I–II, for those unfamiliar with the treatise.

Keywords: Aristotle; Generation of Animals; embryogenesis; formal natures; material necessity; irreducibility

Chapter.  16188 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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