Aristotle’s New Clothes: Mechanistic Readings of the Master Teleologist

Apeiron 55 (4):537-555 (2022)
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Abstract

Aristotle has traditionally been cast as the arch-enemy of all things mechanistic. Given the dichotomy long thought to exist between mechanistic and teleological schools of thought, there is a satisfying irony in discovering veins of apparently ‘mechanistic’ thought within the work of the definitive teleologist. Several waves of scholarship in the past century have argued, from different angles, for mechanistic interpretations of Aristotle’s natural philosophy. The present generation is no exception: in the last decade, Jean De Groot, Monte Johnson, and Tiberiu Popa have variously argued that a mechanistic vein can be found in Aristotle’s work, despite his undeniable teleological credentials. This paper explores the assumptions—some of them open to question—that accompany such advocacy. It will urge some terminological refinements, and turn a skeptical lens on some aspects of these projects. Nonetheless, it will stress that they open promising lines of inquiry, avoiding some of the limitations of earlier ventures into this territory.

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Sylvia Berryman
University of British Columbia

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References found in this work

Aristotle's De motu animalium.Martha Craven Nussbaum - 1978 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 43 (2):378-378.
Aristotle's De Motu Animalium.Martha Craven Nussbaum - 1978 - Journal of the History of Biology 13 (2):351-356.

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