<i>History of Animals</i> I.6 490b7‐491a6: Aristotle's <i>megista genē</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

History of Animals I.6 490b7‐491a6: Aristotle's megista genē

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This chapter offers a close reading of what is perhaps the most difficult passage in all of HA. The passage introduces seven megista genê (‘very large kinds’) of animals that Aristotle apparently considers to have been correctly marked off for scientific study, then considers whether there are any other such groups yet to be identified, and how they should be studied. On the reading offered here, Aristotle rejects as a candidate for a ‘very large kind’, ‘wingless four‐footed animals’, but accepts two large kinds not previously recognized as unitary kinds at all: the four‐footed egg‐bearing animals and the four‐footed live‐bearing animals. This enterprise of identifying very large kinds seems not to be part of a taxonomic enterprise; its role is rather to facilitate the establishing of the correlations of animal differences that will facilitate the discovery of the causes of those differences.

Keywords: Aristotle; History of Animals; kinds; megista genê; very large kinds

Chapter.  7974 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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