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An introduction to aristotles and charles darwins teleological methods

By then he had developed his own distinctive philosophical ideas, including his passion for the study of nature.

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He joined a philosophical circle in Assos on the coast of Asia Minor, but soon moved to the nearby island of Lesbos where he met Theophrastus, a young man with similar interests in natural science.

Between the two of them they originated the science of biology, Aristotle carrying out a systematic investigation of animals, Theophrastus doing the same for plants. By 335 he had returned to Athens, now under the control of his former student Alexander. He headed the Lyceum until the death of Alexander the Great in 323.

He died there in 322BCE. The surviving corpus of Aristotle derives from medieval manuscripts based on a 1st century BCE edition. There were no commentaries on the biological works written until they were collectively translated into Arabic.

In the 13th century William of Moerbeke produced a Latin translation directly from the Greek. The first printed editions and translations date to the late 15th century, the most widely circulated being that of Theodorus Gaza. On animal motion, On animal locomotion, On respiration, On life and death, On youth and old age, On length and shortness of life, On sleeping and waking, On the senses and their objects the last six being included in the so-called Parva naturalia.

Whether one should consider De Anima On the soul part of this project or not is a difficult question. What is certainly clear, however, is that there are important connections between the theoretical approach to the relationship between body and soul defended in that work and the distinctive way that Aristotle approaches the investigation of animals. How does one progress from the superficial and unorganized state of everyday experience toward organized scientific understanding?

To answer this question, you need a concept of the goal to be achieved, and Aristotle developed such a concept in his Prior and Posterior Analytics henceforth abbreviated as APr. The goal of inquiry, he argued, was a system of concepts and propositions organized hierarchically, ultimately resting on knowledge of the essential natures of the objects of study and certain other necessary first principles. These definitions and principles form the basis of causal explanations of all the other universal truths within the domain of study.

The example he uses when he introduces his account of demonstration to illustrate such propositions is from geometry: This attribute belongs to all equilateral triangles as well—not, however, because they are equilateral, but because they are triangles. Thus a scientific understanding of such a proposition, an understanding that displays the reason an introduction to aristotles and charles darwins teleological methods any triangle has this property, must explain why this property belongs to triangles as such.

The explanation, of course, will appeal to the essential character of three-sided rectilinear plane figures, i. The second book of the Posterior Analytics discusses how to achieve this goal of scientific knowledge, one central concern being how knowledge of essences, expressed in definitions, is related to explanations expressed in the form of demonstrations.

Plato had formulated a famous paradox of inquiry in his dialogue Meno: Aristotle reminds us of this paradox in the first chapter of the Posterior Analytics, but his full solution only emerges in book II.

There, he argues that perceptual experience gives us a grasp of the target of inquiry that, though it does not count as scientific knowledge, does serve to direct further inquiry. He begins the discussion by presenting us with a claim about how objects of inquiry are linked to objects of scientific understanding. The things about which we inquire are equal in number to the things we understand. We inquire about four an introduction to aristotles and charles darwins teleological methods II 1, 89b23—25 Aristotle conceives of these four inquiries as paired, and there is a natural sequence in each pair.

Knowing that some state of affairs is the case, we can inquire into the reason why it is the case. When we know the fact we inquire about the reason why e. II 1, 89b29—31 Similarly, if we conclude an inquiry into whether something exists, we can go on to investigate its nature, what it is.

And having come to know that it is, we inquire what it is e. Then what is a god? Or what is a man? II 1, 89b34—35 The examples reveal a distinction that structures much of the discussion for the next ten chapters. However, the distinction is not, it turns out, so clear-cut. Thus it results that in all our research we seek either if there is a middle term or what the middle term is.

For the middle term is the cause, and this is in every case what is sought. II 2, 90a7—9 That is, in any valid syllogistic inference, the middle term shared by the premises is the warrant for the conclusion.

In scientific explanation, however, the middle term must also identify the cause of the fact given in the conclusion—what that term identifies is the causal link between the subject and attribute. To use another of his common examples, if we seek to explain the periodic sound of noise in the clouds, the middle term must identify the cause of the connection between that noise and those clouds.

There is a difference between saying why it thunders and what thunder is. In the one case you will say: Because the fire is extinguished in the clouds.

Hence the same account is given in different ways: II 10, 94a4—8 In the APo. Chapter 17 picks up the example, in the context of arguing that basic scientific inquiry seeks, wherever possible, co-extensive predications, which those between leaf loss and fig trees, or leaf loss and grape vines, are not. The cause of broad-leafed trees losing their leaves will, then, be something more fundamental about broad-leafed trees, here identified as the solidification of moisture at the leaf juncture, which can thus serve as the middle term in a causal explanation of this fact.

But it will also serve as part of a definition of leaf loss. The middle is the account of the first major term [i. II 17, 99a22—23 That is, we will have, if our research goes well, an account of what loss of leaves is. Along the way a process of identifying the kind, all and only the members of which will lose their leaves due to sap coagulation, is assumed. Yet the Analytics provides no systematic discussion about whether there are general criteria for identifying these basic scientific kinds.

As we will see, this is the topic of one of the most interesting sections of On the Parts of Animals, book I. The remainder of this entry will be organized around these two questions. Caveat lector First some preliminary remarks are in order about what we are—and are not—discussing.

It seems obvious, once stated, that the actual activity of studying animals is different from the activity of writing or teaching about animals based on that study. Nor an introduction to aristotles and charles darwins teleological methods anyone else report observing Aristotle carrying out his studies.

There are reasonable inferences we can make from his writings, for example that he consulted with bee-keepers, fishermen and sponge divers, that he performed a great many dissections on a wide variety of animals, that there were at least some diagrams based on these dissections, and so on. Moreover, on the question of how he reasoned to specific explanations we can make some reasonable inferences from things he says about proper methods of biological inquiry.

But it is important to keep in mind that we are studying texts that present, in a highly structured and theoretical manner, the results of an actual investigation, the details of which we know very little.

It is also unclear what is the intent of the texts we do have that report on these investigations. That seems pretty clearly wrong; they are too carefully written and structured. But it does seem clear, from cross-references, that some of them were to be studied in a certain order, and this order may conform to a course of study in the Lyceum. These three caveats place constraints on what I can reasonably claim to be doing.

I will assume that texts that have been passed down to us reflect what he wrote on this subject, and that the cross-references in those texts are his and reflect his own views about how these various studies are related to each other.

Philosophy of Biology On the Parts of Animals, book I PA I begins by outlining its purpose, which is to establish a set of standards for judging natural investigations 639a15. Its five chapters pursue this purpose, discussing the appropriate level of generality for such studies, the modes of causality and of necessity to be used in biological explanations, the relation of form to matter in living things, the proper method of division for this subject matter, the means of identifying kinds and their activities at the proper level of abstraction, and much more.

Two sorts of evidence support the conclusion that this book is intended to deal with problems and questions that arise in the application of the general philosophy of science found in the Posterior Analytics to the theoretical investigation of living nature. The following passage from the History of Animals a better though less familiar translation would be Animal Inquiries suggests that the entire biological project is organized in accordance with the theory of inquiry developed in APo.

This passage comes near the end of chapter six in the first book of HA. After five chapters in which Aristotle lays out the kinds of similarities and differences among animals to be studied and sketches the ways in which these differences are to be investigated, he makes the following sweeping programmatic statement about the investigation to come, and where it fits in the entire scientific study of animals.

These things, then, have now been said by way of outline to provide a taste of what things need to be studied, and what it is about them that needs to be studied, in order that we may first grasp the differences and the attributes belonging to all animals.

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After we do this, we must attempt to discover the causes. HA I 6, 491a7—14 The natural way to proceed, then, is to begin with inquiry historiawith the aim of grasping the differences between, and attributes of, all the animals; and then to attempt to discover their causes. This statement echoes the summary, in APo.

I 10, of the components of demonstrative knowledge: Nevertheless there are by nature these three [components of demonstrative knowledge]: Indeed, he appears to suggest that a successful historia or factual inquiry will prepare us to grasp the difference between those facts that need to be explained and those that will be invoked in our explanations.

Aristotle's Biology

In the language of the Posterior Analytics: HA establishes the fact, e. Works such as Parts of Animals or Generation of Animals, on the other hand, seek to establish the reason why—the cause—of the fact. If Aristotle is following the method described in the Analytics, these causal explanations should at the same time point us to essential definitions of what it is to be a windpipe or to be viviparous.

It is a question currently much debated whether definition was, in fact, an explicit goal of HA or simply a consequence of the explanatory goal clearly identified in the above passage from HA I 6; and if so, whether definitions of animal kinds were sought, or only definitions of their attributes. As we will see, there are a number of chapter summaries in the explanatory treatises that make a point of claiming that both an explanation of why a part is found in those animals that have it, and an account of what that part is, have been provided; but one must work very hard to reconstruct any definitions of animal kinds in those treatises.

Two explicit statements to that effect follow, one from the beginning of his study of the causes of the differences in animal locomotion, one from the beginning of his study of the causes of the differences among the parts of animals. Animal historiai are a kind of hoti inquiry—that is, the History of Animals presents the facts to be explained organized so as to be prepared for causal demonstration.

In both cases Aristotle emphasizes the distinction on which we are focused, making it all but certain that he is reminding us of his philosophy of scientific research. There is a second line of evidence, quite independent of these programmatic statements, which leads to the same conclusion. The topics covered in PA I take the form of specifications of the central topics of the Posterior Analytics.

These specifications are required because animals are [a] complex unities of matter body and form soul ; [b] arise by a complex process of development; [c] the end—that for the sake of which the development occurs— is both causally and definitionally prior to that process; [d] a distinctive kind of necessity, conditional necessity, is operative; and [e] a special method of multi-differentiae division is required.

Such a discussion is required by the fact that although the Posterior Analytics intends its epistemic standards to be applicable to natural science — as is clear from the many examples drawn from natural science in book II — it provides no details as to how this application is to be accomplished.

What, then, does PA I tell us about the proper way to investigate animals? Aristotle begins by posing a problem about how to identify the proper objects of investigation. Aristotle deals with this question, so reminiscent of APo. I 4—5, in PA I 4, but only after he has introduced a new way of thinking about differentiae and division.

After discussing his recommendations regarding the use of division in biology, we will return to look at his answer. Animals are complex structures organized so as to be able to perform an integrated set of functions and activities; yet the Posterior Analytics provides one with very little guidance as to how to apply its norms to such things.

  • For even in the study of animals disagreeable to perception, the nature that crafted them likewise provides extraordinary pleasures to those able to know their causes and who are by nature philosophers;
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  • After five chapters in which Aristotle lays out the kinds of similarities and differences among animals to be studied and sketches the ways in which these differences are to be investigated, he makes the following sweeping programmatic statement about the investigation to come, and where it fits in the entire scientific study of animals;
  • A recurring aspect of his argument, here as in PA, is to refer us for descriptive details to the histories presumably the basis of our HA and to a collection of representations of dissections tragically not preserved;
  • The second book of the Posterior Analytics discusses how to achieve this goal of scientific knowledge, one central concern being how knowledge of essences, expressed in definitions, is related to explanations expressed in the form of demonstrations.