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2 - Biology and metaphysics in Aristotle

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 December 2010

James G. Lennox
Affiliation:
University of Pittsburgh
Robert Bolton
Affiliation:
Rutgers University, New Jersey
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Summary

THE AUTONOMY OF THE SCIENCES IN ARISTOTLE

Biology, for Aristotle, is an autonomous theoretical science. Or rather, to be more precise, biology is a proper part of physics or natural science (phusikē), which is itself wholly autonomous and separate from the other theoretical sciences. This means not only that biology is autonomous and separate from each of the mathematical sciences such as geometry or astronomy or optics. It is also autonomous and separate from the primary theoretical science, namely theology. Since, for Aristotle, the study of what is qua being, or general metaphysics, is either identical with or belongs exclusively to the same science as theology, it follows that biology is separate from and autonomous with respect to metaphysics in general. Since this relation of autonomy and separateness is symmetrical, if biology is separate from and autonomous with respect to metaphysics, for Aristotle, then metaphysics is equally autonomous and separate from biology.

Now one might think that these things are, or should be, quite uncontroversial, and hardly in need of saying, since Aristotle sets them out very plainly himself both in the Posterior Analytics and in Metaphysics Γ and Ε. According to APo. 1.10 there are just three types of ingredients that make up each science. As Aristotle says:

Each demonstrative science restricts its concern to three things: (1) the entities whose existence it posits (tithetai) which fix the kind (genos) whose proper attributes it is its job to study; also (2) the so-called common axioms which are a primary basis for demonstrations; and thirdly the [proper] attributes [of the genos], of which it grasps what each signifies. […]

Type
Chapter
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Being, Nature, and Life in Aristotle
Essays in Honor of Allan Gotthelf
, pp. 30 - 55
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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