Four-Eighths Hephaistos: Artifacts and Living Things in Aristotle

History of Philosophy Quarterly 14 (1):77 - 98 (1997)
There is considerable dispute in the literature as to how much, in Aristotle's universe, living things and artifacts really have in common. To what extent is the relation between form and matter in living things comparable to the relation between form and matter in artifacts? Aristotle no doubt employs artifact-analogies rather frequently in describing the workings of living things. But where does the usefulness of these analogies reach its limits? In this paper, I argue that Aristotle's artifact-analogies are frequently over-extended in such a way that important asymmetries between living things and artifacts are lost in the process. One such asymmetry of crucial importance is the relation between form and matter. Although form and matter in living organisms and artifacts alike are related via hypothetical necessity, it does not apply to both in the same way. I consider particular examples of body-parts and argue that, in each case, a particular kind of matter is picked out by hypothetical necessity. In this way, living things contrast with artifacts which are related via hypothetical necessity only to a disjunction of suitable material; each member of the disjunction is related to the form in question only contingently. In the case of living things, on the other hand, Aristotle is not committed to Multiple Realizability, in contrast to what the functionalist interpretation of Aristotle has claimed.
Keywords Aristotle  Matter  Form  Living things  Artifacts  Multiple Realizability  Functionalism  Four elements  Hypothetical necessity
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,217
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Lynne Rudder Baker (2004). The Ontology of Artifacts. Philosophical Explorations 7 (2):99 – 111.
Christopher V. Mirus (2012). Aristotle on Beauty and Goodness in Nature. International Philosophical Quarterly 52 (1):79-97.
M. Losonsky (2001). Aristotle on Artifacts: A Metaphysical Puzzle. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (3):445.
Steven Vogel (2003). The Nature of Artifacts. Environmental Ethics 25 (2):149-168.
Michael Hector Storck (2011). Cogs, Dogs, and Robot Frogs. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 85:253-264.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

19 ( #242,907 of 1,932,483 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #332,993 of 1,932,483 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.