First Principles in Aristotle's <i>Parts of Animals</i>

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

First Principles in Aristotle's Parts of Animals

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Contrary to the views prevalent prior to this chapter's original publication, it is argued here that the explanatory practice in Parts of Animals (PA)is in fundamental harmony with the theory of the structure of a science presented in Posterior Analytics (APo.) I (and II). A close examination of the organization of and progressive explanatory structure across PA II–IV shows the theory presented in these books to have an implicit axiomatic structure. Three sorts of first principles are identified — (i) principles drawn from the natures of the constituent materials of animal parts, (ii) principles asserting the existence, as ends, of the kinds of animals there are, and (iii) (partial) definitions of these animal kinds. The chapter closes with a suggestion that the theory in APo. calls not for science to put in explicit axiomatic form but for it to be puttable in that form, which PA II–IV to a large extent is.

Keywords: Aristotle; biology; explanation; axiomatic structure; definition; teleology; material necessity; Parts of Animals

Chapter.  19104 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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