Article ID: CBB588890568

The Axes of Symmetry. Morphology in Aristotle’s Biology (2016)


My aim in this paper is to outline and discuss the role played in Aristotle’s inquiry into living things by his extensive comparative account of the body plan of different kinds of animals, and of the shapes and figures of their bodily parts, which we may call his morphology. In tackling this question, I begin with Aristotle’s statement that the diagrammatical representation of the body’s organization based on the axes of symmetry is the second most important principle of the inquiry on living things, after the teleology principle. I discuss, in turn, his concern about the applicability of the mathematical approach to the living shapes; his analysis of the ways in which form is related to limit; and his criticism of Democritus’ and Empedocles’ treatment of form and shape. Through exploring the ways in which Aristotle recurs to the morphology principle in the practice of biology, I point out that morphology provides a key methodological framework for the two most important tasks of the research program of the inquiry on living things – the definition of the kinds and the explanation of the causes.

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Authors & Contributors
Cramer, Friedrich
Booth, Nathaniel
Gurkin, V. A.
Dougherty, Frank W. P.
Bodson, Liliane M.
Short, T. L.
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Klasse
Hermes: Zeitschrift für Klassische Philologie
VIET: Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki
Biology and Philosophy
University of California Press
Oxford University Press
University of California, Los Angeles
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Animal morphology
Empedocles of Agrigentum
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von
Darwin, Charles Robert
Democritos of Abdera
19th century
18th century
10th century

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