The nature of the organic. On the scientific significance of Aristotelian biology
Die Natur des Organischen
Zur wissenschaftlichen Bedeutung der Aristotelischen Biologie
Abstract:The core thesis of the paper is that the constitution of biological science begins with a conceptual innovation with far-reaching consequences with effect up to the present: by conceiving the parts of living beings as organs (that is, as tools), Aristotle laid the foundation stone for a functional explanation of animate nature. Comparative anatomy is thus transformed from a merely descriptive to an explanatory theory. The point of the discussion is above all that a functional explanation must not be confused with the sort of teleology according to which the function of an organ is understood as the cause of its existence. The first section outlines the theoretical motives that Aristotle adduces in arguing for biology (against contemporary contempt for biological research). The second step addresses the significance of the parts of animals in Aristotle's larger collection of zoological material, the Historia animalium. The third section demonstrates how in the major explanatory work De partibus animalium the term organon takes on the status of a key methodological concept. Finally, the fourth section discusses the significance of the Aristotelian determination of the organic with respect to current discourses in natural science.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2008-12-01