The Complexity of Aristotle's Study of Animals

James G. Lennox

in The Oxford Handbook of Aristotle

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780195187489
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Complexity of Aristotle's Study of Animals

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  • Classical Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science



Aristotle is the first person in the history of science to see the study of nature as an articulated complex of interrelated, yet somewhat autonomous, investigations. Understanding why goes to the heart of what is philosophically distinctive about him. Why does Aristotle present the investigation of “the common cause of animal motion” (as Aristotle characterizes the subject of De motu animalium) as distinct and independent from a study of the causes of the different forms of animal locomotion, the announced project of De incessu animalium? This article examines the puzzling complexity of Aristotle's investigations of animals, which can offer insights into his metaphysics and epistemology. It first briefly considers the range of Aristotle's writings related to animals, including Historia animalium, Dissections, De partibus animalium, De motu animalium, De incessu animalium, De Anima, and Meteorologica IV. The article then looks at his views on the limits of teleology in biology.

Keywords: Aristotle; animals; nature; teleology; biology; animal locomotion; metaphysics; epistemology; De motu animalium; Historia animalium

Article.  10211 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science

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