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Aristotle's Classification of Animals. Biology and the Conceptual Unity of the Aristotelian Corpus (review)

From: Journal of the History of Philosophy
Volume 27, Number 2, April 1989
pp. 300-302 | 10.1353/hph.1989.0036

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300 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 27:2 APRIL 198 9 edition of Plat. theol. III, lxv). But I think that it must be wrong. The flower of Intellect is the henad of Intellect, as many passages confirm; and it is all the other henads which derive from it, as at Timaeus comm. III, 72, 11.28-3o. (I doubt too if hyparxis can mean 'cause of existence': it is more likely to be the first term of the triad, and anyway belongs grammatically like "the 'flower' "to "this Intellect." In his final example (lo47) Proclus describes the principle of knowledge as "the one which belongs to Intellect." The Greek at 1.2 allows Dillon's translation, "the One, which generates Intellect and all the knowledge," but surely the rest of the page does not. The god that is both one and intellect is said to have the functions of providing coherence, generation and providence -- all functions of henads, not of the One. I am aware that all this is open to dispute, but have thought it worth suggesting because, if it is right, it exemplifies how Proclus permits the One much less contact with anything below it than is often realised -- he tends to replace the One of earlier Neoplatonists by henads, especially the henad of Intellect. It is to be hoped and expected that many who are not specialists in Proclus will use this book. Let them be assured, by the way, that there are even some specialists who will not go along with Dillon's low assessment of his originality. A. C. LLOYD Hove, E. Sussex, England Pierre Pellegrin. Aristotle's Classification of Animals. Biology and the Conceptual Unity of the Aristotelian Corpus. Translated by Anthony Preus. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Uni- versity of California Press, 1986. Pp. xiv + 235. NP. Modern biologists tend to have a low opinion of Aristotle. They have usually internal- ized the notion, crucial to the formation of the modern scientific movement in the aftermath of scholasticism, that Aristotle's texts are a ragbag of mis-observation, pseudo-explanation and obscurantist metaphysics. Even more sophisticated and forgiv- ing commentators identify "Aristotelianism" with doctrines still enormously influential in lay circles: that living things differ from the non-living because there is present in them a subtle stuff, "life" or "spirit" or (originally) "pneuma"; that moral values have a real influence on what properties such living things have; that there are real and distinct species each with its own essential nature. It comes as a surprise to most such sophisticates that even the first two principles only make a sporadic appearance in the Aristotelian texts, and that the third is, almost certainly, wholly un-Aristotelian. Pellegrin's book, ably translated by (and partly revised under the influence of) Anthony Preus, should come as no surprise to Aristotelian scholars. What he shows is that the classes of animal described by Aristotle were not contributions to a systematic taxonomy of the kind that is typified in the Linnaean classification. "Genos" and "eidos" do not mean genus and species. It is not even true that "genos" always denotes a larger taxon than "eidos." There is some reason to think that "genos" connotes kinship, and "eidos" mere resemblance, but Aristotle does not always iden- BOOK REVIEWS 301 tify the same groups as of one genos or eidos. Animals belonging to one genos differ by "the more and less," and their organs are homologous; animals of different gene have merely analogical resemblances: birds' wings differ by degree; bats' wings, or butterflies', are another kind of thing. But cuttlefish shell, fish bone and spine (which must at first sight identify their bearers as of different gene) may still be seen as having a single nature (Posterior Analytics 98a~of.), and their bearers correspondingly of one great unnamed genos. Pellegrin's original insight is that Aristotle speaks more often of differing gene and eide of organs than of whole animals: his intention is not to uncover "real" taxonomic groupings but to identify different sorts of organ and behavior. So what was Aristotle's object in describing and classifying the parts of animals? Are anti-Aristotelians correct to see the biological...



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