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Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 58$
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Victor Caston

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198858997

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198858997.001.0001

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Aristotle on Spontaneous Generation, Spontaneity, and Natural Processes

Aristotle on Spontaneous Generation, Spontaneity, and Natural Processes

Chapter:
(p.157) Aristotle on Spontaneous Generation, Spontaneity, and Natural Processes
Source:
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 58
Author(s):

Emily Kress

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198858997.003.0005

Aristotle contrasts standard animal generation with ‘spontaneous generation’, which happens when some material putrefies and gives rise to a new organism. This paper addresses two interrelated puzzles about spontaneous generation. First, is it of the same ‘fundamental kind’ of causal process as standard generation? Second, is it ‘spontaneous’, as understood in Physics 2.4–6: rare, accidentally caused, and among things that are for the sake of something? I argue that both puzzles turn on the same questions about the process types involved. I show that the type putrefaction plays a more important role in spontaneous generation than has been recognized so far. Because putrefaction does not play this role in standard generation, the two processes are of different ‘fundamental’ kinds. Moreover, spontaneous generation happens rarely in that it is rare for processes of putrefaction to happen in such a way that they can also be described in terms of concoction.

Keywords:   Aristotle, spontaneous generation, spontaneity, generation, chance, teleology, testacea, nature, causation, processes

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