Aristotle’s Biology Assignment

Posted by on July 11, 2011

Applying Aristotle’s four causes to living creatures/nature:

Example of a human being:

  1. Human being is made through a fully developed human being.
  2. A rational, two legged animal is the form which is the cause of human beings.
  3. The parents of a human being would be the cause of a human being.
  4. A fully developed human being is the cause of human beings.

Reading through the notes by Dr. Freeland on Aristotle’s Biological works, there are a few thoughts that come to my mind on the example of human beings.  When looking at it through Aristotle’s perspective, rather than a rational, two legged animal being the form I think it would be the father who is the form that is the cause of a human being.  The matter seems to be the mother because of his male vs. female prejudice and the hierarchy he creates in form > matter.  A revised version of how Aristotle looks at it would probably be something like this:

Example of human being (revised):

  1. Mother is the matter that is the cause of a human being.
  2. Father is the form of a human being because human beings are supposed to resemble men in their family lineage.
  3. The parents would be the immediate/moving cause of a human being.
  4. A fully developed human being is the cause, a human being is the end of a human being.

Example of a tree:

  1. An acorn is the matter that is the cause because it turns into a tree.
  2. A tree itself is the form that is the cause, as that is what it is going to become.
  3. The process of creation/development of an acorn would be the immediate/moving cause of a tree.
  4. A fully developed tree would be the cause of a tree, in the same way as a fully developed human being is the end of a human being.

Aristotle seems to give teleological accounts for nature, such that everything has its own unique end/purpose.  Thinking in modern terms, maybe the purpose/end of algae would be to absorb the CO2 in the environment.

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