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Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology$
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Allan Gotthelf

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199287956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199287956.001.0001

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Teleology and Spontaneous Generation in Aristotle

Teleology and Spontaneous Generation in Aristotle

A Discussion

(p.142) 6 Teleology and Spontaneous Generation in Aristotle
Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology

Allan Gotthelf

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers a close reading and translation of the relevant passages on spontaneous generation in Generation of Animals III.11, showing that the ‘vital heat’ picked up from the water or moisture in which most spontaneously generated organisms are formed is not species‐specific, but carries an undifferentiated (irreducible) potential for life; the specific type of organism produced is a function of the particular material on which the vital heat acts. There is thus no directiveness upon the form of the kind of organism produced, and so no teleology. It is shown that, contrary to the view of some scholars, Aristotle's actual account of spontaneous generation sheds no light itself on the basic character of his teleological theory, and that there is no evidence that Aristotle reflected on the broader metaphysical implications of the new theory of spontaneous generation he presents in GA III.11.

Keywords:   Aristotle, spontaneous generation, teleology, vital heat, Generation of Animals

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