Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||In thinking about Aristotle in relation to the idea of natural kinds it is useful to begin with his definition of nature or what is natural, and then to consider his discussion of biological kinds or ?????. In recent philosophy, there is a tendency to contrast natural kinds with linguistic or conventional kinds, but we do not find that contrast in Aristotle. Instead, he distinguishes natural beings from artifacts, and that contrast, in turn, draws upon his theory of causation or explanation. Natural beings, animals and plants for example, have an internal origin of motion and change whereas the origin of motion and change of artifacts is external. (Phys. ii, 1 192b 8-23) The origin of motion, or efficient cause, is one of Aristotle’s four causes; it is grouped by Aristotle with the formal and final causes and contrasted with the material cause. To call something natural in Aristotle’s parlance, then, is to locate its causal or explanatory principles within the thing itself. In the Parts of Animals, Aristotle emphasizes and explains the importance of the final cause in relation to understanding animals, although the material cause also plays a secondary role. Animal parts, like other instruments, are “for the sake of” a goal or end, and Aristotle identifies that end with an action or activity that is central to the life of the animal. Aristotle illustrates this point with an artifact: “For sawing is not for the sake of the saw, but the saw for sawing; for sawing is a certain use. So the body too is in a way for the sake of the soul, and the parts are for the sake of the functions in relation to which each of them has naturally developed.” (P.A. 645b 17-20) For example, eyes naturally develop for the sake of seeing, and it is for the sake of that activity that Aristotle thinks we should explain the development of eyes in animals. Unlike the artifact (the saw), however, the parts of animals have an internal teleological principle because the activity of seeing (the final cause) is just one of the life activities of the animal itself. In contrast, the shaping of the saw’s parts for the sake of sawing is accomplished by an external agent, who must be mentioned in an explanation of its creation and its purpose. Combining Aristotle’s notion of a natural being with his understanding of the “for the sake of which”, or final cause, a picture of animals (and their functional parts) emerges..|
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