How is the reading going for Aristotle? Quick reply?

Hey folks,

How’s Aristotle going?

I must say I love the discussion at the beginning of “On the parts of Animals” (pages 643 – 645) about what is education, the scientific method and so on.

His answers are not always welcome (for example, the stuff that seems to be critical of evolution and of the notion of “incidental occurences”*) but I love the dialogue.

And talking about “incidental occurences”, I almost lept out of my seat when I read that. Holy moly, this guy Emedocles seems to have partly anticipated Darwin…

“Empedocles, then, was in error when he said that many of the characters presented by animals were merely the results of incidental occurrences…” (page 645 – section 15)

Of course, Empedocles goes on to say some what look to be hilarious things (i.e. “backbone was divided as it is into vertebrae, because it happened to be broken owing to the contorted position of the foetus in the womb.”) And yes Empedocles was not saying that evolution over time – the evolutionary history of the species – was the issue (what biologists call “philogeny”). Rather, he seems to have been saying that the development in the womb – what biologists call “ontogeny – and incidental occurrences there – were the issue.

No matter – he brought up the important idea of randomness. It makes me wonder if Darwin read this very passage and experienced a kind of “light-bulk” moment.

Anyway, how’s it going?


07. January 2009 by Arrian
Categories: Aristotle, Commentary | Tags: | 1 comment

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