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Two of them contributed more than the others to the shaping of a new conception of the Posterior Analytics, which, according to the author, is still alive and active, namely the papers by Jonathan Barnes and Jacques Brunschwig. Aristotle first developed his doctrine on demonstration in the Posterior Analytics before he built up a 'general syllogistic' in the Prior Analytics. Barnes considers two of the requirements for the premises that make, in Aristotle's view, a demonstration scientific: immediacy and universality. These requirements seem to be taken from the developments in syllogistic in the Prior Analytics, but Barnes shows that even in the case of universality, apodeictic can fly with its own wings, without any help from syllogistic. The paper by Brunschwig shares with that by Barnes the same chronological perspective, but Brunschwig insists much more on the gaps that are internal to the Posterior Analytics.
Sextus Empiricus, who surely lived in the second and third centuries CE, is one of those rare Greek philosophers whose works we have more or less complete in the form in which he wrote them. Before the great commentaries and treatises of the Neo-Platonists at the end of antiquity, this is hardly the case except for Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Plotinus. But should we place Sextus in such illustrious company? If his work had not been preserved, our knowledge of ancient scepticism would be much more limited; but, leaving aside the fact that he is an irreplaceable source, is Sextus “an obscure and unoriginal Hellenistic writer,” as Richard Popkin says? Or, on the contrary, did he introduce original elements into the philosophical debate of his time?
Of the life of Sextus Empiricus we know virtually nothing. We know that he was a doctor (he tells us himself, M 1.260, PH 2.238) and Diogenes Laertius lists him as the penultimate head of the sceptical school. It seems that Sextus wrote some works that are now lost. He refers to his own Medical Treatises (M 7.202); one wonders whether or not this is the same work as the Empiric Treatises cited in M 1.62. The other books of his that Sextus himself appears to cite are probably ways of referring to passages from the works that have survived. But that leaves us three works of his that seem (more or less) complete.
1. In my book, Aristotle's Classification of Animals I tried to show that there is no room at all for any animal taxonomy in the Aristotelian biological project. The various orderings of animals which we find in Aristotle are always relative to the point of view and the immediate objective of the inquiry at hand. Thus Aristotle can at one time order animals according to the growing complexity of their reproductive organs, at another according to the form and disposition of their nutritive organs. Certainly it seems obvious to us that such studies presuppose a distribution of animals into stable and recognized families. That is not how it is for Aristotle, and I tried to present the status, in the biological works, of his various classifications, relative to his different inquiries, none of which is able to claim priority over the others; these are purely empirical procedures, meant to facilitate the work of the biologist, but they remain outside properly epistemic research. I claim that the retrospective projection of the theoretical presuppositions of ‘classical’ natural history onto Aristotelian biology has prevented the best interpreters, and a fortiori the lesser, from grasping the exact functioning of these concepts in that biology. That is true of the notions of genos and eidos and of the relationships which, so to say, follow these two concepts, in particular the relation of analogy.
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