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?

Phil

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One Response to How is the reading going for Aristotle? Quick reply?

  1. January 08, 2009 at 09:06 AM says:

    <p>Have to say that is one of the things I enjoy so much about this group. I do like to form my own opinions and thoughts first (which is why I’m glad we are reading Aristotle’s text and not commentary – someone else’s thoughts and opinions), but I find that then hearing other’s thoughts and opinions, some of which are radically different from my own, provide me with a more holistic viewpoint and the opportunity to modify my original perceptions. I find that allowing myself to crystallize my viewpoints before hearing others gives me great insight into my own biases and prejudices, some of which I wasn’t previously aware of. Of course, we all hold biases and prejudices, but becoming aware of them allows us to (hopefully) take them into account as we continue our journey.</p>

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