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27 mars 2012 2 27 /03 /mars /2012 04:09

Aristotle's classification of living things contains some elements which still existed in the 19th century. What the modern zoologist would call vertebrates and invertebrates, Aristotle called 'animals with blood' and 'animals without blood' (he was not to know that complex invertebrates do make use of haemoglobin, but of a different kind from vertebrates). Sony VGN-AW41JF/H Battery

Animals with blood were divided into live-bearing (humans and mammals), and egg-bearing (birds and fish). Invertebrates ('animals without blood') are insects, crustacea (divided into non-shelled – cephalopods – and shelled) and testacea (molluscs). In some respects, this incomplete classification is better than that of Linnaeus, who crowded the invertebrata together into two groups, Insecta and Vermes (worms). Sony VGN-AW41JF Battery

 For Charles Singer, "Nothing is more remarkable than [Aristotle's] efforts to [exhibit] the relationships of living things as a scala naturae"[31] Aristotle's History of Animals classified organisms in relation to a hierarchical "Ladder of Life" (scala naturae), placing them according to complexity of structure and function so that higher organisms showed greater vitality and ability to move.[33]Sony VGN-AW41MF/H Battery

 Aristotle believed that intellectual purposes, i.e., final causes, guided all natural processes. Such a teleological view gave Aristotle cause to justify his observed data as an expression of formal design. Noting that "no animal has, at the same time, both tusks and horns," and "a single-hooved animal with two horns I have never seen," Sony VGN-AW41MF Battery

Aristotle suggested that Nature, giving no animal both horns and tusks, was staving off vanity, and giving creatures faculties only to such a degree as they are necessary. Noting that ruminants had multiple stomachs and weak teeth, he supposed the first was to compensate for the latter, with Nature trying to preserve a type of balance.[34]Sony VGN-AW41XH/Q Battery

In a similar fashion, Aristotle believed that creatures were arranged in a graded scale of perfection rising from plants on up to man, the scala naturae or Great Chain of Being.[35]His system had eleven grades, arranged according "to the degree to which they are infected with potentiality", expressed in their form at birth. The highest animals laid warm and wet creatures alive, the lowest bore theirs cold, dry, and in thick eggs. Sony VGN-AW41XH Battery

 Aristotle also held that the level of a creature's perfection was reflected in its form, but not preordained by that form. Ideas like this, and his ideas about souls, are not regarded as science at all in modern times. Sony VGN-AW41ZF/B Battery

 He placed emphasis on the type(s) of soul an organism possessed, asserting that plants possess a vegetative soul, responsible for reproduction and growth, animals a vegetative and a sensitive soul, responsible for mobility and sensation, and humans a vegetative, a sensitive, and a rational soul, capable of thought and reflection.[36]Sony VGN-AW41ZF Battery

 Aristotle, in contrast to earlier philosophers, but in accordance with the Egyptians, placed the rational soul in the heart, rather than the brain.[37] Notable is Aristotle's division of sensation and thought, which generally went against previous philosophers, with the exception of Alcmaeon.[38]Sony VGN-AW50DB/H Battery


Aristotle's successor at the Lyceum, Theophrastus, wrote a series of books on botany—the History of Plants—which survived as the most important contribution of antiquity to botany, even into the Middle Ages. Many of Theophrastus' names survive into modern times, such as carpos for fruit, and pericarpion for seed vessel. Sony VGN-AW51JGB Battery

 Rather than focus on formal causes, as Aristotle did, Theophrastus suggested a mechanistic scheme, drawing analogies between natural and artificial processes, and relying on Aristotle's concept of the efficient cause. Theophrastus also recognized the role of sex in the reproduction of some higher plants, though this last discovery was lost in later ages.[39]Sony VGN-AW52JGB Battery


After Theophrastus, the Lyceum failed to produce any original work. Though interest in Aristotle's ideas survived, they were generally taken unquestioningly.[40] It is not until the age of Alexandria under the Ptolemies that advances in biology can be again found. Sony VGN-AW53FB Battery

 The first medical teacher at Alexandria, Herophilus of Chalcedon, corrected Aristotle, placing intelligence in the brain, and connected the nervous system to motion and sensation. Herophilus also distinguished between veins and arteries, noting that the latterpulse while the former do not.[41] Sony VGN-AW70B/Q Battery

Though a few ancient atomists such as Lucretiuschallenged the teleological viewpoint of Aristotelian ideas about life, teleology (and after the rise of Christianity, natural theology) would remain central to biological thought essentially until the 18th and 19th centuries. Sony VGN-AW71JB Battery

Ernst Mayr claimed that there was "nothing of any real consequence in biology after Lucretius and Galen until the Renaissance."[42] Aristotle's ideas of natural history and medicine survived, but they were generally taken unquestioningly.[43]Sony VGN-AW72JB Battery


Aristotle's psychology, given in his treatise On the Soul (peri psyche, often known by itsLatin title De Anima), posits three souls ("psyches") in humans: the vegetative soul, the sensitive soul, and the rational soul. Humans share the vegetative soul with all living things, and the sensitive soul with all animals, but only humans of all beings in the world have a rational soul. Sony VGN-AW73FB Battery

For Aristotle, the soul (psyche) was a simpler concept than it is for us today. By soul he simply meant the form of a living being. Since all beings are composites of form and matter, the form of living beings is that which endows them with what is specific to living beings, e.g. the ability to initiate movement (or in the case of plants, growth and chemical transformations, which Aristotle considers types of movement).[44]Sony VGN-AW80NS Battery


Aristotle considered ethics to be a practical rather than theoretical study, i.e., one aimed at becoming good and doing good rather than knowing for its own sake. He wrote several treatises on ethics, including most notably, the Nicomachean Ethics. Sony VGN-AW80S Battery

 Aristotle taught that virtue has to do with the proper function (ergon) of a thing. An eye is only a good eye in so much as it can see, because the proper function of an eye is sight. Aristotle reasoned that humans must have a function specific to humans, and that this function must be an activity of the psuchē (normally translated as soul) in accordance with reason (logos). Sony VGN-AW80US BatteryAristotle identified such an optimum activity of the soul as the aim of all human deliberate action, eudaimonia, generally translated as "happiness" or sometimes "well being". To have the potential of ever being happy in this way necessarily requires a good character (ēthikē aretē), often translated as moral (or ethical) virtue (or excellence).[45]Sony VGN-AW81DS Battery

Aristotle taught that to achieve a virtuous and potentially happy character requires a first stage of having the fortune to be habituated not deliberately, but by teachers, and experience, leading to a later stage in which one consciously chooses to do the best things. Sony VGN-AW81JS Battery

When the best people come to live life this way their practical wisdom (phronesis) and their intellect (nous) can develop with each other towards the highest possible human virtue, the wisdom of an accomplished theoretical or speculative thinker, or in other words, a philosopher.[46]Sony VGN-AW81YS Battery

 In addition to his works on ethics, which address the individual, Aristotle addressed the city in his work titled Politics. Aristotle considered the city to be a natural community. Moreover, he considered the city to be prior in importance to the family which in turn is prior to the individual, "for the whole must of necessity be prior to the part".[48] Sony VGN-AW82DS Battery

He also famously stated that "man is by nature a political animal." Aristotle conceived of politics as being like an organism rather than like a machine, and as a collection of parts none of which can exist without the others. Aristotle's conception of the city is organic, and he is considered one of the first to conceive of the city in this manner.[49]Sony VGN-AW82JS Battery

 The common modern understanding of a political community as a modern state is quite different to Aristotle's understanding. Although he was aware of the existence and potential of larger empires, the natural community according to Aristotle was the city (polis) which functions as a political "community" or "partnership" (koinōnia). Sony VGN-AW82YS Battery

The aim of the city is not just to avoid injustice or for economic stability, but rather to allow at least some citizens the possibility to live a good life, and to perform beautiful acts: "The political partnership must be regarded, therefore, as being for the sake of noble actions, not for the sake of living together." Sony VGN-AW83GS Battery

This is distinguished from modern approaches, beginning with social contract theory, according to which individuals leave the state of nature because of "fear of violent death" or its "inconveniences."[50]Sony VGN-AW83FS Battery


Aristotle considered epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry and music to beimitative, each varying in imitation by medium, object, and manner.[51] For example, music imitates with the media of rhythm and harmony, whereas dance imitates with rhythm alone, and poetry with language. The forms also differ in their object of imitation. Comedy, for instance, Sony VGN-AW83HS Battery

is a dramatic imitation of men worse than average; whereas tragedy imitates men slightly better than average. Lastly, the forms differ in their manner of imitation – through narrative or character, through change or no change, and through drama or no drama.[52] Aristotle believed that imitation is natural to mankind and constitutes one of mankind's advantages over animals.[53]Sony VGN-AW90NS Battery


While it is believed that Aristotle's Poetics comprised two books – one on comedy and one on tragedy – only the portion that focuses on tragedy has survived. Aristotle taught that tragedy is composed of six elements: plot-structure, character, style, spectacle, and lyric poetry.[54] The characters in a tragedy are merely a means of driving the story; and the plot, Sony VGN-AW90S Battery

not the characters, is the chief focus of tragedy. Tragedy is the imitation of action arousing pity and fear, and is meant to effect the catharsis of those same emotions. Aristotle concludes Poetics with a discussion on which, if either, is superior: epic or tragicmimesis. Sony VGN-AW90US Battery

He suggests that because tragedy possesses all the attributes of an epic, possibly possesses additional attributes such as spectacle and music, is more unified, and achieves the aim of its mimesis in shorter scope, it can be considered superior to epic.[55]Sony VGN-AW91CDS Battery

 Aristotle was a keen systematic collector of riddles, folklore, and proverbs; he and his school had a special interest in the riddles of the Delphic Oracle and studied the fables ofAesop.[56]Sony VGN-AW91CJS Battery

 Modern scholarship reveals that Aristotle's "lost" works stray considerably in characterization[59] from the surviving Aristotelian corpus. Whereas the lost works appear to have been originally written with an intent for subsequent publication, the surviving works do not appear to have been so.[59] Rather the surviving works mostly resemble lecture notes unintended for publication.[59] Sony VGN-AW91CYS Battery

The authenticity of a portion of the surviving works as originally Aristotelian is also today held suspect, with some books duplicating or summarizing each other, the authorship of one book questioned and another book considered to be unlikely Aristotle's at all.[59]Sony VGN-AW91DS Battery

 Some of the individual works within the corpus, including the Constitution of Athens, are regarded by most scholars as products of Aristotle's "school," perhaps compiled under his direction or supervision. Others, such as On Colors, may have been produced by Aristotle's successors at the Lyceum, e.g., Theophrastus and Straton. Sony VGN-AW91JS Battery

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