The Imitation of Life in Ancient Greek Philosophy

Sylvia Berryman

in Genesis Redux

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780226720807
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226720838 | DOI:
The Imitation of Life in Ancient Greek Philosophy

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This chapter explores some ancient automata representing certain principal functions of soul as described by Aristotle: the nutritive capacity, common to plants, animals, and people; the capacities for locomotion, perception, and desire, shared by animals and humans; and, finally, the capacity for thought, specific to humans. Aristotle summarily dismisses the idea that artifacts could do what animals do, drawing a programmatic distinction between natural and artificial. He also compares the capacities of animals to the operation of devices, “automatic puppets.” Self-motion is one of the cases where Aristotle explicitly compares animals to devices. Hydraulic devices seem to have a particular appeal as models for the internal mechanisms governing animal action. There is not much evidence that the technology of the ancient world inspired ancient natural philosophers to investigate the natural world in the ways that seventeenth-century mechanical philosophers did.

Keywords: soul; Aristotle; locomotion; perception; desire; animals; humans; self-motion; hydraulic devices

Chapter.  4243 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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