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British Journal for the History of Philosophy 18(3) 2010: 363–377

ARTICLE

ARISTOTLE ON GOD AS PRINCIPLE OF GENESIS
Abraham P. Bos

ARISTOTLE ON DIFFERENCES IN QUALITY OF LIFE How does Aristotle explain differences in level and quality of life? The answer seems obvious. Aristotle divides the realm of (sublunary) living creatures into three sub-realms, plants, animals and human beings. To each sub-realm he assigns a different soul-principle.1 Plants have a vegetative or nutritive soul. Animals have a sensitive soul. Human beings have a rational soul (Anim. II 3, 414a32–b19). For Aristotle there is a difference in ‘value and lack of value’ between these levels of life.2 On this view, the soul-principle is the basis for difference in level of life. However, this signally fails to do justice to the great variation within each of the subrealms. It also fails to explain why a sensitive soul never manifests itself in a plant or tree. There is another side to the problem. The soul is always ‘the first entelechy of a natural body that potentially possesses life3 and that is ‘‘organikon’’’ (Anim. II 1, 412a27–8) and it is never ‘without soˆma’, says Aristotle.4 Therefore, it is relevant to pay attention to ‘the body that receives the soul’, for ‘a craft must use its instruments, and a soul its body’ (I 3, 407b25–6).5 A famous passage in his great work Generation of animals (II 3, 736b29– 35) shows that, according to Aristotle, it is necessary that the soul-principle

C. Shields, Aristotle (London: Routledge, 2007) 274 notes that Aristotle holds to the view of the non-univocity of life. 2 Aristotle, De generatione animalium I 23, 731a25–b4. Cf. A. Coles, ‘Animal and Childhood Cognition in Aristotle’s Biology and the Scala Naturae’, in Aristotelische Biologie. Intentionen, Methoden, Ergebnisse, edited by W. Kullmann and S. Follinger (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, ¨ 1997) 287–323, esp. 297. 3 A visible body is never ‘a body that potentially possesses life’, but is already alive. A ‘natural body that potentially possesses life’ is semen or a fruit (De anima II 1, 412b25–7; Gener. anim. II 1, 735a4–9; 3, 736a32–5). 4 Anim. II 2, 414a19–21. Cf. Gener. anim. II 4, 738b26–7. 5 Cf. A. P. Bos, ‘Why the Soul Needs an Instrumental Body According to Aristotle (Anim. I 3, 407b13–26)’, Hermes, 128 (2000): 20–31; id., ‘The Instrumental Body of the Soul in Aristotle’s Ethics and Biology’, Elenchos, 26 (2006): 35–72.

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British Journal for the History of Philosophy ISSN 0960-8788 print/ISSN 1469-3526 online ª 2010 BSHP http://www.informaworld.com DOI: 10.1080/09608781003779750

729b33–30a23. Coles.Enzyclopaedie 47 Halbbd. II 3. it is the active substance which is in pneuma. Metaphysics A 1. Pneuma is an equivalent (analogon) of the astral element inasmuch as both function as ‘instrumental body’ and as bearer of life-generating power. Ferwerda. For ‘dynamis of the soul’. Anim.. II 6. Cf. Bos. Aristoteles. esp. III 11. esp. For Aristotle. Pellegrin (Paris: CNRS edns. Real. and the differences in value or lack of value between souls correspond with the differences in this substance (physis). De Respiratione 13. See also Gener. Nicomachean Ethics X 7. Historische Uitgeverij. II 4. anim. BOS and the body that receives the soul are in agreement. by the menstrual fluid of the female partner. 414b15–19. Preus. Phronesis. P. Over voortplanting (Groningen. a16–21. 1996) 81–8. (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann. anim. For the semen of everything contains within itself its cause of being fertile. 8 Contra P. anim. Moraux.6 This text talks explicitly about difference in ‘value or lack of value’ of souls and difference in value and lack of value7 of the corporeal principle with which these souls are connected.364 ABRAHAM P. in Corps et a Vrin. in Biologie. Aristotle’s main criticism of Plato’s psychology involved his rejection of the idea that the soul is a ‘self-mover’ (Anim. Cf. See A. 521a2. ou corps celeste? Une interrogation d’Aristote’. Viano (Paris: J. VIII 1. 51 ff. I 3. 980a27– 1a7. 729a9–11. Devereux and P. Anim. The male specimen supplies the principle of generation. 478–84. 588b8.8 This material substance of the male seed is matched. which is not identical with the visible body of the fully grown 6 See now also the Dutch translation by R. which is an analogue of the astral element. Aristotle says there: The dynamis of every soul seems to have something of a body different from and more divine than the so-called elements. 1990) 471–90.9 Aristotle speaks about the soul’s close connection with a very special substance. edited by D. viz. I 20. 414a25–7 Aristotle had also said that the entelechy of every living body manifests itself in that which has the potentiality for it and in the matter appropriate to it. e. 21. 7 On this theme. 412a9. 405b31– ˆ ´ ¨ 6b25).. movement is a matter of natural bodies. II 2. ‘Ame du monde ´ ˆme. The Soul and its Instrumental Body. logique et me´taphysique chez Aristote. A. ‘Quinta essentia’. edited by C. cf. 477a16. which is discussed below. In Anim. Cf. Gener. in the sublunary sphere an analogue of the astral ether. 1177b30–4. Historia ani malium III 19. II 1. ‘Man and Cosmos in Aristotle’s Metaphysics L and the Biological Works’. . Pauly-Wissowa. 9 The embryo (kyeˆma) contains nothing of the material mass of the male semen (Gener. which in any case contains vital heat (pneuma). cf. A Reinterpretation of Aristotle’s Philosophy of Living Nature (Leiden: Brill. anim. 46 (1995): 48–88. esp. Gener. Bodeus. Aristotle’s definition of ‘the soul’ also applies to the Ether as natural. 648a3. A. 744a27–31. which bears the soul-principle from the moment of fertilization. 1206. 762a24–6. so-called vital heat. 2003) 157–72. 1963) 1171–263. 737a11). This vital heat is not fire or any such power but the pneuma which is enclosed in the semen and in the foam-like stuff. II 3. R. 2005) 86.g. and that this agreement already exists in the semen phase. The soul-principle in the seed of the male specimen of a particular kind of living creature is therefore both connected with and suited to the material substance of the seed. ensouled body. in turn. Cf. ‘Biomedical Models of Reproduction in the Fifth Century BC and Aristotle’s Generation of Animals’. for the kyeˆma or embryo). De partibus ani malium II 2. The female specimen supplies ‘the matter’ (viz. 738b20–7.

A. Nussbaum and A. It must still be produced by the soul in close cooperation with its ‘instrumental body’. 485b6–7 and b16 show that the ‘body which receives the soul’ is not just an instrument but also ‘matter’. Cf. ‘Living Bodies’. That is how ‘so and see A. II 3.ARISTOTLE ON GOD AS PRINCIPLE OF GENESIS 10 365 living creature. Spir. such as earth. C. Aristotle makes it clear what the crucial point is. Ackrill. Oksenberg Rorty (Oxford. A Philosophical Commentary on Aristotle’s De Spiritu (Ph. On the Life-bearing Spirit (De spiritu). 73 (1972–3): 119–33 and discussed by J. Anim. pneuma cannot display its highest degree of purity and therefore can no longer be the bearer of a soul-principle that is high in value. Whiting.11 DIFFERENCES IN COMPOSITION OF ‘THE BODY THAT RECEIVES THE SOUL’ This ‘instrumental body’ which ‘receives the soul’ and which is ‘suitable matter’ for the soul-principle is composed of the four elements plus vital heat. MacFarlane. In animals which produce semen or menstrual fluid it contains at any rate an aquatic component (Gener. . can therefore be put aside. who also argues for the authenticity of De Spiritu. translation and commentary (Leiden: Brill. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. C. Aristotle and Other Platonists (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. The differences in quality of pneuma. 2007). II 1. Differences in kinds of living creature are determined by ‘the value or lack of value’ of that which ‘is enclosed’ in the soul-principle. also 412a28. A Discussion with Plato and his Predecessors on Pneuma as the Instrumental Body of the Soul. III 11. This is not or much less the case in plants. Anim. Aristotle assigns a role not only to the ‘vital heat’. 1992) 75–91. for pneuma is ‘hot air’ (II 2. edited by M. There it becomes evident that the ‘instrumental body’ (co)determines a living creature’s quality of life. 9. P. 60 (2007): 565–88 and Aristotle. P. as can be concluded from grains of corn or beech nuts. Bos and R. 735b8–6a1). Bos. At the stage of fertilization there is no sign yet of the visible body. but also to the basic elements. ‘Aristotle’s De Spiritu as a Critique of the Doctrine of Pneuma of Plato and his Predecessors’. The Soul and its Instrumental Body (2003) 85–94. In an ‘instrumental body’ which incorporates a relatively large amount of earthy matter. Semen also contains air. 2008). can only be explained by the ‘mixture’ of pneuma with other bodies. which is an analogue of the celestial element. See also P. in Essays on Aristotle’s De anima. which must in any case be operative in it.D. but in the sense of air which is a bearer of vital heat. 2005) 136. P. 11 ˆma organikon’ in Anim. Shields (2007) 284 continues to compare body and soul in Aristotle’s view with ‘the bricks of the house’ and ‘the form of the house’. but not in the sense of air heated by fire. Ferwerda. anim. Cf. 736b31–3 talks about. Introduction. II 3. This involves the physical substances which are enclosed by the soul-principle. which Gener. Mnemosyne. L. water and air. This 10 The notorious problems in the traditional view as formulated by J. Gerson. thesis. L. In his famous discussion of ‘spontaneous generation’ in Gener. Cf. ‘Aristotle’s Definitions of Psyche’. 412b5–6 should be translated. 737a11–12). Duquesne University.

Fire. anim. aquatic animals and four-footed animals Aristotle continues that it is natural to assume that there must be a fourth category of living creatures. also Metaph. and A. Earth occupies the lowest position. ‘Since the Gener. 477a30–1. whereas dryness and ensouled entities are at opposite poles’. II 3. aquatic creatures to water. 668b33–9a7. L 10. III 6.14 He says that this category should be sought ‘not in the regions here’. 13. 391b11 ‘kosmos’ is defined as ‘the ordering (taxis) and arrangement (diakosme`sis) of all parts. II 1.12 Aristotle is saying here that the vital principle or the vegetative soul-part of plants consists mainly of Earth or dryness. 2005) 274–5. In De Mundo 2. that the vital principle of aquatic animals. DIFFERENCES IN QUALITY BETWEEN ELEMENTARY BODIES There we find: ‘We may say that plants belong to earth. 13. anim. Gener. because it contains (more) Water or moisture. Aristotle on Teleology (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 336b12 reads: ‘all things have their own taxis’. 12 . because their vital principle also contains the element Air. 339b6 and 340a19 (tetaktai). 477a29.13 Water the lowest but one and Air one level higher. least valuable life form. Preus (1990) 487–90. II 4. but he assigns all vegetation to the element Earth. corr. where should we seek it? His answer is: on the Moon. A. elementary bodies are ‘instruments’ of the soul (Anim. These are living creatures which have high vital heat and therefore require respiration. 736b29–7a1 is present in the instrumental body of every soul! As in Resp. Ransome Johnson. Quadrupeds are assigned to the element Air. Aristotle is familiar with plants and trees that grow in water. not to ‘pneuma’. and that quadrupeds have a still higher form of life. Cf. Cf. Though all natural. Therefore. but which is most certainly in keeping with Aristotle’s overall conception (III 11. BOS becomes clear in a passage which has posed many problems to modern interpreters. Gener. LIVING CREATURES CONNECTED WITH FIRE Right after mentioning plants. anim. anim. because in his view. Meteorologica I 3. 761b13–14. ‘animals (and human beings) with feet’. 761a32–b23). In this passage Aristotle also explains that some aquatic animals have lungs and some quadrupeds live in water. 13 Cf. and four-footed animals to air (ae`r)’. which according to Gener. 415b18). or the sensitive soul-part. there is an increase in quality of life in accordance with the quality of the soul’s ‘instrumental body’. M. vegetative life is the lowest. II 10. Platt (1912) hears a ‘a military metaphor’ in this. Cf. De iuventute 19 / Resp. III 11. 14 In 761b17 Aristotle talks about ‘the order (of rank) (taxis) of Fire’. 1075a11–23 on ‘the general’ and his army. Part. Aristotle talks here about ‘peza’.366 ABRAHAM P. possesses a higher quality. related to the fourth sublunary element. maintained by and through God’. 733a11: ‘fluid matter is conducive to life.

anim. ´ repr. ‘Au temps o Franz u Cumont s’interrogeait sur Aristote’. F. 644b22–5a23 we find the famous exhortation not to despise the earthly practice of studying biology on account of the higher value of beings that possess the quality of eternity. Ferwerda (2005) 143 n. in Traditions of Theology. 4. which we will discuss further on. 287 ff.L. Studies in Hellenistic Theology. Coles (1997) 304 dismisses our text as ‘a whimsical association of fire with moon-dwellers’. 1978) 314–15 sticks up for Aristotle by talking about ‘for purpose of the argument’ and ‘Aristotle speculates that if there are any ‘‘fireanimals’’ they are most likely to be found on the moon. because he sees a contrast between this text and that of Anim. as it appears. Aristotle speaks freely here about living creatures on the Moon. Laks (Leiden: Brill. 269a30–1 where he speaks about the astral element as ‘more divine and superior’ to ‘the material substances ‘here’ in the sublunary sphere. On the position of the Moon. R. W. Its Background and Aftermath. 27 W. By comparison Aristotle can talk about Ether as the ‘first element’ (De caelo I 3. M. Peck (1942) 351 remarks in note e: ‘It is difficult to attach any meaning to this statement. W. 1966) 177–252: ‘La lune sejour des morts’. there is no longer a sound basis for W.’ R. 279a28–30 he had also talked about the ‘dependence’ of all life on the highest principle. However. in degrees from articulate to feeble levels of life. Frede and A. 699b19. 15 Gener. 2002) 1–40. anim.’ A. C. Lameere. cf. Platt (1912) had already commented: ‘I confess I cannot attach any definite meaning to the words. III 11. 411a7– 111. 761b22. Ross). Sharples.’17 He uses the same scheme in De caelo I 2. De motu animalium (Princeton: Princeton University Press. Aristotle has started his count with the plants (and the element Earth) and arrives for the fourth kind at the ‘fourth degree of remove’ in relation to the centre of the cosmos. but see W. has a share in the fourth degree of remove’. III 11. D. as he does in De motu animalium. In De caelo I 9. A. I 5. 393a1–3. Paris: Librairie Orientaliste. 18 (1949): 279–1324.18 In De partibus animalium I 5. 2. but are not invisible in an absolute sense. because he takes the line that the position of greatest distance to the Origin of all life is occupied by plants. Nussbaum. 761b14–15. esp. . anim. III 11 with a text from an earlier period of Aristotle’s activity. 16 Motu anim. Aristotle. 51 notes: ‘De passage is duister’ [‘The passage is obscure’].ARISTOTLE ON GOD AS PRINCIPLE OF GENESIS 15 367 Moon.’ A. 18 Cf. Jaeger’s theory of a three-phase development in Aristotle’s philosophy. esp. esp. 182 ff. Lameere (1949) 288 ff. De philosophia fr. Aristotle notes there that these beings are beyond our field of vision. 17 Gener. ‘Aristotelian Theology after Aristotle’. Recherches sur le symbolisme fune´raire des Romains (1942.16 He assigns a higher quality of life to them. quoted above. 6–7. He underlined that the non-physical beings outside the cosmos possess eternally the best and most self-sufficient life (279a21–2). Cumont. L’Antiquite´ classique. 270b11). DIFFERENCES IN QUALITY OF ELEMENTARY BODIES RELATED TO DIFFERENCES IN DISTANCE Aristotle underpins his thesis in De generatione animalium III 11 by means of a striking statement: ‘But more and less and nearer and further make a surprisingly great difference. edited by D. but also as ‘the fifth’ (Mu. suggests that we are dealing in Gener.

H. but not all things can always possess being ‘since they are too far removed from the Principle’. 1072b3–30 uses the same basic idea that all forms of life in the cosmos ‘depend’ on an Origin (Arche`) which is an Unmoved Mover.368 ABRAHAM P. The discussion has been radically affected by the conclusion of . being at the farthest remove from the help of God. Cf. 46 (1993) 52. Aristotle had presented this fundamental Unmoved Principle of movement as the deeper meaning of Homer’s famous text on the ‘golden chain’ in Zeus’ speech to the gods in Iliad 8. Holwerda. 2. Motu anim. À 2. anim. 17 calls this an allusion to the divine ´ ˆ Monarchia. Iliadem H. Mnemosyne. 1003b16–17. Aristotle’s De motu animalium (Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. Comm. Une e´tude sur l’alle´gorie grecque (Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Lovejoy. 1987) 1132–9. 397b27–8a4. Reale. Italian edition: L’Aristotelismo presso i Greci. de Gruyter. II 1. 22 Cf. A. 15–88. So earth and the things that are on earth. 336b30–2 clearly expresses the same principle: all things naturally strive after the better. Cf. De generatione et corruptione II 10. 21 Cf. Cf. for the greatest possible coherence would thus be secured to existence. C. II (Berlin: W. P. Nussbaum. BOS Perishable living creatures are ‘closer to us’ but we can learn much more about them. 2000) vol. 731b24–2a1. van der Valk (Leiden: Brill. Aristotle clarifies this ‘dependence’ with the image of the power of ‘attraction’ exercised by Eros. ‘Aristotelian Philosophy in the Roman World from the Time of Cicero to the End of the Second Century’. and being is better than non-being.19 In his work De motu animalium. in that it is the nature of the Divine to penetrate to everything.’21 The author of On the cosmos had set out the same idea more explicitly in 6. Metaph. vol. Aurea catena Homeri. and fulfilled the perfection of the universe by making comingto-be uninterrupted. 1976) vol. B. A. M. 1984) 5–82. where he says: His (God’s) power (dynamis) is experienced most of all by the body that is closest to him. what is also fitting and most appropriate to God. 1936) could have anchored his theme of the ‘chain of being’ much more firmly in Aristotle’s work than he actually does. 1995) 321–4 and D. MA: Harvard University Press. less by the next. each having a greater or smaller share of God’s help in proportion to its distance to him. but nevertheless. 4. also Gener. edited by M. Bos. 1959) 53–4. seem to be feeble and discordant and full of confusion and diversity. Moraux. II 36. Gottschalk. as Intellect. Leveque. The authorship of On the cosmos has always been hotly contested. Der Aristotelismus bei den Griechen von Andronikos bis Alexander von Aphrodisias vol. So it is better to suppose. P.1–2820 and as the foundation for certainty that the cosmic system cannot disintegrate. The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge. 1978) 320–1. ‘God therefore adopted the remaining alternative.22 19 20 Cf. 699b32–700a6. Il trattato Sul cosmo per Alessandro attribuito ad Aristotele (Milano: Vita e Pensiero. G. 3 vols (Milano: Vita e Pensiero. 515. part 2 (Berlin: W. the things around us occur in correspondence to the things above us. in Hom. and so on down to the regions inhabited by us. de Gruyter. Eustathius. that the power (dynamis) which is based on the heavens is also the cause of preservation in the most remote things. Aufstieg und Niedergang der Ro ¨mischen Welt. P. Metaphysics L 7. I.

the author of On the cosmos identifies this Principle as the Origin of all life by calling it the ‘Begetter’ of all that lives (6. 4. Nowadays. Schenkeveld. Aristotle and the Theology of the Living Immortals (Albany. but his dating of the work between 350 and 200 BC on the basis of language and style raises a problem: which anonymous and highly skilled author in this period would want to present his own ideas as Aristotelian in this way and why? For a complete survey of the modern debate. Trattato Sul cosmo per Alessandro (Napoli. 12 (1991) 221–55 argued for a date between 350–200 BC. NY: SUNY. but he believes that vocabulary and style do invalidate it. Pellegrin (Oxford: Blackwell. by means of his pneumacontaining semen. So also. ‘Locomotive Soul: The Parts of Soul in Aristotle’s Scientific Works’. edited by M. can exist apart from all other things. 6. Barnes in his review of G. A. and in fact views On the Cosmos. 399a31). Just as a human father. Aristotele. there are more scholars who accept it as Aristotelian. esp. ‘First Philosophy in Aristotle’. L. too. Barnes considers the work’s likely date to be before 250 BC. and that in the Corpus as a whole. See L. Bodeus. esp. 397b21. . Gill. M. 24 Mu. On this point there is a basic error in R.ARISTOTLE ON GOD AS PRINCIPLE OF GENESIS 369 There is a clear connection in this passage between the soundly Aristotelian themes of (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) the ‘dependence’ of all cosmic reality. which Aristotle had cited in Motu anim. P. NY: SUNY. 27 (1977): 440–3 that there are no intrinsic arguments left for denying Aristotle’s authorship. ‘Language and Style of the Aristotelian De Mundo in Relation to the Question of its Inauthenticity’. Gerson (2005) 50. Reale. L. n. Moreover. by means of his Power (dynamis) the archeˆ geneseoˆs of all levels of being in the cosmos. This connection becomes even clearer if we recognize that Aristotle regarded pneuma as the bearer of the divine vital power (dynamis) in the sublunary sphere. in A Companion to Ancient Philosophy. 2006) ´ ¨ 347–73. Bos (1995) 369–411. 25 I am well aware of the fact that my interpretation is on a head-on collision course with the one ´ ¨ of R. 1974) in Classical Review. M. Ransome Johnson (2005) 81. 2000) who denies any transcendent theology in Aristotle. 22 (2002): 141–200.25 In this way we can J. 144: ‘The prime mover . Aristotle and the Theology of the Living Immortals (Albany. 2000) and in M. (f) (g) The agreement of the conception of On the cosmos with Aristotle’s biological works and in particular with his De generatione animalium warrants the conclusion that the theological view of the treatise On the cosmos is truly Aristotelian. and the differences in linkage with this Principle in accordance with the distance to it. D. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy. Reale. P. that he. in .23 on a Prime Unmoved Principle of movement. through the Power proceeding from this Principle. 9. 397b24–6 also alludes to the motif of Homer’s ‘golden chain’. none of which can exist apart from it’. so God as archeˆ kineˆseoˆs is. supplies the principle of movement for the menstrual fluid of the mother. Whiting. Aristotle takes God as the principle of movement (archeˆ kineˆseoˆs) that is active via ether and pneuma. Gill and P. 11 and M. 369. 23 See J. via a ‘golden chain’24 of levels of vitality. . Ransome Johnson (2005) ch. Elenchos. Bodeus. see G.

reprinted in id. Preus. II 8. will tend to see a continuous series of increasing complication. hence the problem of defining what ‘life’ and ‘soul’ are. 26 This problem was already noted in Anim.370 ABRAHAM P. ‘Zur Methodologie von Aristoteles.j. II 3.. possess this vegetative soul-function as the most basic and primary function (Anim. This leads to the question: was Aristotle perhaps prompted by this recognition to claim that sublunary living creatures always possess a soulbody that is more or less ‘compound’? On the one hand he connects the vegetative function of life with the element Earth. E. G. Aristotle was the first to see that ‘life’ does not just occur in all kinds of totally separate variants. See. 1996) ch. step by step. . as having caused the attribution of a transcendent theology to Aristotle. ‘De An. Bijdragen. UNITY OF LIFE AS A SUCCESSIVE CONTINUOUS SERIES The fact that the author of On the cosmos says here that a body close to God profits most from his Power. but in De anima II 3. but ‘in degrees’. in Prudentia (suppl. ‘Man and Cosmos in Aristotle: Metaphysics L and the Biological Works’. inasmuch as the sensitive soul contains the vegetative soul-part. 27 (2006): 123–39. a definition of ‘soul’. In De anima II 1–2 Aristotle developed. line with P. ‘On Greek Biology.. but not specifically to any individual soul!26 Aristotle has discovered that souls display a succession in the sense of a continuous series. 334b30–5a14). too. 5. This important insight seems to underlie Aristotle’s proposition in De anima II 4. A1: L’Aporia sulle ‘‘parti’’ dell’anima e la struttura dialettica del trattato De anima’. Man. Cf.) (1985): 27–47. in Biologie. Essays in Ancient Thought from Plato to Dionysius (Aldershot: Variorum. De anima B 1–3’. looking through Darwin’s evolutionist glasses. A. edited by Devereux and Pellegrin (1990) 471–90 and J. Greek Cosmology and Some Sources of Theological Pneuma’. 432a22– b5. II 3. Feola. and the rational soul necessarily contains both the sensitive and the vegetative soul-part (Anim. vol. 59 (1998): 391–405. Souls overlap. esp. 414b19–28 he challenges the entire preceding argument by saying that the definition of ‘soul’ in De anima II 1 applies to all souls. Where modern readers. 415b18–19 that ‘all natural bodies are instruments of the soul’ and his rejection of the idea that living creatures in the sublunary sphere can possess only one elementary body as their instrumental body (Gener. on the other hand he emphasizes that animals and human beings. Bastit (1996) 14–15 and F. See also J. Rist. M. Soul and Body. Ricken s. anim. BOS discover the bridge that Aristotle built between his biology and his metaphysics. Moraux. 736a33–b5). Gener. III 9. dates in the beginning of the Christian era. I 1. allows us to involve another important point in our discussion. Whiting (2002) 141–200. 414b29–32). Elenchos. 133 ff. however. 402b1–9. and talks about a dependence of the lower levels ‘in a continuous series’ (ephexeˆs). Aristotle recognizes here a continuous series of decreasing quality. corr.

337a21–2. 983b22. and it is perhaps for that reason that Thales came to the opinion that all things are full of gods’. Cael. corresponding to the element Fire. A 3.’ This forms a remarkable contrast with the passage in De anima I 5. cf. and pneuma in water. 30 Cf. as A. Hutchinson. corr. Metaph. while it does so when it resides in mixtures of the elements?’32 It is striking here that Aristotle mentions the ancient natural philosopher Thales. ‘full of soul’. S. 28 27 . Cf.’27 He does not answer this question in the same chapter.. Metaph. 31 Cf. he accepts the proposition that all things are. Barbotin (1968) 37. There. n. 37 (1987): 373–81.ARISTOTLE ON GOD AS PRINCIPLE OF GENESIS 371 Intriguingly. because Thales’ statement also plays a part in De generatione animalium III 11. C. IV 4. anim.29 We can conclude of ‘life’ that ‘it can be said in many ways’. R. À 2. corr. Aristotle asks after this discussion ‘for what reason they (the different levels of life) form such a successive continuous series. Ross (1961) 224. II 10. Aristotle rejected the doctrine of a World Soul which pervades the cosmos. 29 Cf. 1072b13–30. Classical Quarterly.28 However. II 8. E. D. Gener. D.33 This is interesting. 2.30 There is a ‘unity’ of ‘life’. 762a19–21. 414b33–5a1. Shields (2007) 273 qualifies this as a case of ‘core-dependent homonymy’. 279a28–30. I 5. ‘Restoring the Order of Aristotle’s De Anima’. 334b30–5a14. 33 Anim. L 7. and in all pneuma is vital heat. Modern interpreters believe that the answer is deferred until De anima III 11–13. 32 Aristotle holds that bodies of perishable creatures always contain at least portions of earth and water: Meteor. He states that ‘certain thinkers say that the soul is intermingled in the whole universe. II 3. 411a7–11 Aristotle urges the same objection in criticizing the Platonic doctrine of a World Soul: ‘why does the soul when it resides in air or fire not form an animal. cannot refer to ‘a class of animals living in fire’. 413a22. THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF THE ELEMENT FIRE The fourth class of living creature. Hicks (1907) 337. but it is not a comprehensive unity of ‘concept’ but a unity of ‘Origin’. Platt (1912) thought. I 9. Here. 411a7–8. II 3. 737a1–3). in a certain sense. On these chapters of Anim. also Metaph. In De anima I 5. Aristotle states categorically in De generatione animalium that Fire does not generate any living being and that no life is formed in solids or liquids under the influence of fire (Gener. D. perhaps we should conclude that On the cosmos 6 offers a more comprehensive outlook on the cause of this successive continuous series: the Origin of all life shows forth a vital power which causes all levels of life from the highest vital activity to the lowest. Gener.31 a unity of the vital ‘fullness’ of the Origin and of a decrease in vital power in accordance with the distance to the Origin. so that in a sense all things are full of soul. 1003a33–4. II 2. where Aristotle says that ‘there is water in earth. Anim. because pneuma is present Anim. W. 382a3–8.

Anim. A. Reale. D. 284a11–35. as the life-generating power of the omnipresent pneuma. Aristotle disputes Plato’s doctrine of the World Soul by saying that if it were the motive principle of the celestial bodies. Holwerda. ‘L’argument du sectionnement des vivants dans le Parva naturalia: le cas des insectes’. See also Motu anim. too. 405b31–7a2 against the Timaeus (and the Phaedrus) that the soul cannot be the principle of movement as self-mover. In this sense Aristotle can endorse Heraclitus’ saying: ‘Even here are gods’ (Part. 36 In Cael. (1993): 50. by means of which he controls even things that seem a great way off. this Power. Mnemosyne. 20 (2002): 5–34 and A. Revue de philosophie ancienne.37 In Aristotle’s view. cf.35 Unlike De generatione animalium III 11. 397b16–24 refers to Thales directly. Bos (1995) 194–5 and 285–8. On the cosmos 6.34 The proposition in On the cosmos 5. but he does not take upon himself the toil of a creature that works and labours for itself. This passage remarks: ‘Some of the ancients were led to say that all the things of this world are full of gods. A. 397a18–19 that ‘all living things breathe and have their souls’ from the celestial and planetary spheres should be taken in the same vein. 394b9–11). also. this 34 Cf. 701b1–12.36 It also shows very clearly what Aristotle’s alternative was: the doctrine of God’s Power. For that reason On the cosmos was often taken to be influenced by the Stoa. For God is indeed the preserver of all things and the begetter (genetoˆr) of everything in this cosmos however it is brought to fruition. 9. where it brings about spontaneous generation. Lefebvre. Bos. . the condition of the World Soul would be worse than that of toiling mortals and comparable with the fate of the wheel-bound Ixion. also explains why cuttings can generate a new (ensouled) plant and why parts of some insects that are cut in two can live on (for a time). Mu. De spiritu ch. The same work says that pneuma is also used in the sense of ‘the vital and generative substance which is found in plants and living creatures and permeates all things’ (4. P. I 5. II 1. by means of semen. Just so Aristotle talked in De generatione animalium II 1. 734b14–19 about the power that. 645a21).38 For the standard view of Aristotle’s psychology. 7. 38 On this problem. Gods life-generating power is even present in regions furthest removed from the divine Origin. D. which is passed on from level to level and which is life-generating. 6.’ 35 Cf. Preus (1990) 480–2. G. This tallies with his argument in Anim. BOS everywhere. analogous to the successive actions of a winding mechanism. plainly targets Plato’s doctrine of the divine Demiurge and leaves no room for an all-pervasive World Soul. This passage. which by nature are earthy and heavy. even in the waters of the sea. becomes generative in the embryo in the womb of a female and in this process initiates a series of new functions. (Movement is a matter of bodies!) 37 Cf. The author concludes there: ‘Aristotle has taken a direction that gives him an explanation of the generation of sea animals at the cost of part of his hylomorphism. P. I 3.’ The author continues: In saying this they used terms suitable to the power (dynamis) of God but not to his essence. but uses an indefatigable power. 398b13–16.372 ABRAHAM P.

Water. where it says: Perhaps nature actually has a liking for opposites. . which should be translated ‘in all that exists’. Metaph. A 3. Air and Fire the expression ‘the bodies that function as matter’. 987a7. and not each of them to another of the same sex. 27 (2007): 95–106. J. Such a passage only becomes truly transparent when we consider that Aristotle thus characterizes the sublunary elements in the cosmos together as the female part of the cosmos. I 2. Drossaart Lulofs corrected this to ‘en ‘Aristotle on the Dissection of Plants and Animals.ARISTOTLE ON GOD AS PRINCIPLE OF GENESIS 373 phenomenon defies explanation. On the cosmos 5. and not from similar things. I 2. Ancient Philosophy. and Ether as the male semen. 985a32. Aristotle sometimes uses for the elements Earth. 986b6. 731b18!). 983b7. 396b7 also assigns a cosmic meaning to ‘the male and the female’. H. but even more broadly on a cosmic scale. not only in the animal world. That is to say. Aristotle says this explicitly in II 1. 5. See also the opposite expression ‘heˆ kata to eidos archeˆ’ in Phys. I 3. Gener. and since the principle (archeˆ) of these is ‘the male’ and ‘the female’ (cf. thus making the first harmonious community not of similar but of opposite things. 984a18. of which he explains in Chapter 6 that it is the unremitting Power of God. which passes on a power (dynamis) to the female contribution to the process of generation. 39 Cf. in just the same way as she has joined the male to the female. The author again explains the work of nature there on the basis of ‘the single power which interpenetrates all things’ (396b28). The Greek text of the manuscripts has ‘en tois ousin’ here. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MALE AND THE FEMALE AS A COSMIC GIVEN This allows us to integrate another part of Aristotle’s cosmology with his overall conception. corr. it will surely be for the sake of generation that ‘the male’ and ‘the female’ are present in all that exists.39 Against these he sets the astral element as the element which through its power (dynamis) is the principle of movement for the sublunary elements (Meteor. and his Concept of the Instrumental SoulBody’. because it seems to imply that the immaterial entelechy of a plant can be cut in two. 339a29–33). 318a9. 192a34. of plants. perhaps it is from them that she creates harmony. of animals. 4. 339a29. In his great work Generation of animals Aristotle had presented ‘the male’ and ‘the female’ as the fundamental principles ‘in all that exists’. Meteor. I 9. 731b35–732a3: That is why there is always a class of men.

43 The fact that Aristotle talks about ‘all that exists’ means not only that he takes the nonsexual generatio spontanea as the result of a male and a female principle.41 In the end Aristotle assumed only two principles. in A Companion. Drossaart Lulofs OCT (1965. J. J. Phys. III 11.45 DEGREES OF ‘HIGHER AND LOWER IN VALUE’. P. cf. De philosophia fr. 44 He makes this very explicit in Gener.44 but also that he sees the Origin (as the principle of eidos) and matter (as the passive principle) in the relation of male and female.42 He presented God as the formal principle. L. 2005) 47. 1009 Gigon. edited by Gill and Pellegrin. Metaph. he proposes to read: ‘in all kinds of living creatures which have sexual differentiation’. Over against Plato’s ‘Maker’ – God Aristotle posits his ‘Father’ – God. Ether is operative as a life-generating principle for the sublunary sphere. Peck (1942) 131 read with ms Z: ‘are present in the individuals which are male and female’. when he speaks about ‘the material principle’ in processes of spontaneous generation! 45 Cf. 991b3–5. Bos. II 9. 335b7. M. whom he blames for assuming only two principles (Ideas and Matter). while the sky and sun or such others are called begetters and fathers’. Phys. Aristotle insists that God’s power guides a natural body which functions as an instrument or ‘efficient cause’. 42 Cf. ‘Aristotle’s Biology and Aristotle’s Philosophy’. 24 (2003): 311–32. De Iside et Osiridi 370c ¼ Aristotle. and Aristotle. Likewise P. BOS tois 5ech4 ousin’. ‘MORE OR LESS DIVINE’ AND ‘MORE OR LESS PURE’ Living creatures who must be assigned to the element Fire are therefore living creatures that possess a soul-principle and a matching instrumental soul-body that guarantees a higher quality of life than that of plants with their nutritive soul and their earthy soul-body. D. In its turn. Cf. that is to say. the principle of Form and the principle of Matter. corr. 6c Ross. that of fishes with their H. 41 On the question of the relation of biology to metaphysics. ‘God as ‘‘Father’’ and ‘‘Maker’’ in Philo of Alexandria and its Background in Aristotelian Thought’. Balme (1972) 58 has: ‘male and female exist in those that have them’. anim.40 However. I 2. Against Plato. anim. 198a22–7. which through his Power (dynamis) generates life in matter of the purest kind. A.374 ABRAHAM P. II 7. repr. the divine Ether. 43 Cf. just as the female partner ‘supplies the material principle’ for a new specimen that is generated by the power (dynamis) which passes on the soul-principle and formal principle through the semen of the father specimen. Lennox. 762a35–b1. 292–315. translated by D. A 9. G. there is no sound basis for Drossaart Lulofs’ textual change. Gener. 716a15–17: ‘That is why in the universe as a whole the earth’s nature is thought of as female and mother. ‘BETTER OR LESS GOOD’. A. I 9. See also Plutarch. Elenchos. It then becomes easier to see that Aristotle’s entire cosmology and theology are set up on the basis of his overall biologist framework. Balme (1972) 23. Louis (1961) 47. which ‘supplies the material principle’ for all that is born and perishes. Gener. We should assume that Aristotle deliberately wrote ‘in all that exists’. M. 40 . which will be discussed below.

in all fourfooted mammals (732a13–22). Aristotle’s Philosophy of Biology: Studies in the Origins of Life Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. A. . i. G. There must be a ‘first and 46 Cf. Cael. ‘more or less pure (katharos)’ and more or less divine (theion)’. but it is deriving from Ether and enclosed in semen. cf.47 The next step is crucial. which take part in what is ‘more and less’. This pneuma can there also be called an equivalent (analogon) of the astral element. Coles (1997) 293 observed: ‘This conspicuous application of the more-and-less to faculties or functional capacities . De generatione et corruptione II 9. 336b28–34. they can share in eternity (viz. 3. etc. The male and the female are the principles of all ‘generation’. Cael. the Good and the Divine. witness Generation of animals III 11. This male principle occurs ‘separately’ from the female in all living creatures which are ‘higher in value’ and ‘more self-sufficient’. for the non-sexual generation of testaceans. 269a30. According to Aristotle. is a relatively neglected feature of Aristotle’s biological thought. The basic distinction there is between ‘the eternal and divine entities among beings’ and all the rest. This ‘divine’ is then designated as the cause of all that is ‘more good’ in non-eternal matters. ‘better and less good (agathon)’.ARISTOTLE ON GOD AS PRINCIPLE OF GENESIS 375 sensitive soul and their water-containing soul-body. 47 Gener. and the more and the less in Aristotle’s biology’ (160–81). For these perishable creatures ‘generation’ is positive to the extent that. vital heat is responsible for all processes of sexual reproduction and even. in which a ‘male’ and a ‘female’ side can nevertheless be distinguished. . existence ‘better’ than non-existence and life ‘better’ than non-life. For its being ‘higher in value’. 2001) ch. for the principle of movement brings about the structure (logos) and the form (eidos). 731b18–30 Aristotle also seems to place his entire cosmology in a scheme of ‘more and less good’ and ‘more and less divine’. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE GOOD AND THE DIVINE The entire scheme of ‘more and less good’ and ‘more and less divine’ implies that there is a standard. anim.e. 270a12–b11.46 At the beginning of Generation of animals II 1. I 2. I 2. in the way of perishable creatures. 731b31–2a1. J. According to the passage in Generation of animals II 3. namely vital heat. 269b15–17. Lennox. and that of four-footed mammals with their soul-body that contains air. .48 This vital heat is not identical with Ether. 7: ‘Kinds. 48 For the divinity of Ether. The principle of movement is ‘better’ and ‘more divine’ than matter. In many crucial places in Aristotle’s writings we encounter the same scheme of ‘higher and lower in value (timeˆ)’.’ See also. Soul is said there to be ‘better’ than body and on account of the soul the ensouled is ‘better’ than the non-ensouled. because. 296 ff.. forms of kinds. then. II 1. of the kind). 736b29–35 discussed above. like Ether. This ‘better’ and ‘more divine’ principle is the male (732a1– 9). that which makes reproduction possible is something of the ‘more divine’ (astral) element. it is an ‘instrumental body’ of the soul.

L 10.376 ABRAHAM P. ARISTOTLE’S CONCEPTION IN CONTRAST TO PLATO’S We have now seen that the essentially new element in Aristotle’s analysis of living nature is his insight that the levels of life are connected to each other in a very structural way.53 The motif of God as ‘highest in value’ is impressively elaborated in the comparison of the cosmic order established by the administrative apparatus serving the Persian Great King (On the cosmos 6. L 6. 396a6–b6). Metaph. 6. the transcendent. corr. Mu.52 Again. 397b12: kyrio 50 Physics I 9. . Dependent on the Origin of all life. is the vital level of the divine celestial beings. A. who are not subject to generation and decay.49 It is important that he talks about it in his study ‘On the principles’ in Physics I and there clearly demarcates his position from the logicist position of Plato. BOS highest’. as the conclusion of an inquiry regarding ‘the Good’ of the cosmos. 1988) 5: ‘Aristotle’s metaphysical inquiries . 192a20–3.50 and he compares the relation of the Good to matter there with the relation between the male and the female: the female pursues and desires the formal principle. Aristotle’s alternative is the distinction between the Good and the negation of the Good. Cael. M. but in between he situates matter. Substance. just as menstrual fluid must be dynamized by semen (Metaph. the author of On the cosmos 6. I 9. II 10. Aristotle disliked anarchy. By the same token. Aristotle rejects the position that the Good is comparable to ‘order’. That is also the reason for his rejection of Plato’s cosmic theology of the Phaedrus myth. 279a32 (pro ˆtaton. however. II 9. which it cannot produce itself. 397b21. 51 Phys. like the order in an army. Cf. Aristotle there refers to ‘enkyklioi logoi’. Aristotle observes that two contradictory principles do not admit of mediation. the biologist slant of Aristotle’s systematic philosophy is in evidence here. Plato had set the Good against the not Good (in the form of ‘the Great and Small’). ‘There should be one leader’ is his final statement in Metaphysics L 10. 399a26: archegonos aitia. 335b7–6a15.’ 54 ´ ¨ These divine celestial beings cannot represent the whole of Aristotle’s theology as R. 336b27–8. 53 Cf. 399a31 calls God the ‘begetter’ (genetoˆr) of all that lives. 192a11–19. Ether. ‘separate’ Intellect. as that which by nature pursues and desires the Good. 1075a25–b1. were (or came to be) motivated in an extremely concrete and specific way by his theoretical preoccupations in biology. Form and Psyche: an Aristotelean Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ‘First . Gill. 1071b29–31). . Preus (1990) 488: ‘Aristotle supposes the unification of the universe to be essentially formal and final’. but are ‘bound’ to a ‘natural body’. Bodeus wants us to believe. Gener. 52 Plato’s ‘Maker’ metaphor is no longer viable for Aristotle. matter must be set in motion by the Origin. I 9.54 49 ˆton kai akrotaton). which perpetually moves in a circular course. The Good causes this movement as object of desire and by power of attraction (Metaph. Cf. L 6. Furth. Gener. There must be a principle of that order (like a general). L. 1072a20–b6). corr. and M.51 To achieve being.

His starting-point was that the highest living creatures display all vital functions and the lowest lack the higher ones. This view of vital levels may suggest that Aristotle considered his conception related to that of Anaxagoras.56 His alternative to Plato’s doctrine of soul. animals and plants. different segments of the World Soul. as a ‘cosmic seed’. 411a9–23. is a theory in which the unity of all life resides in the power of the vitalizing principle. 402b3–5. I 5. occurs in an instrumental body of Air. It also prompts him to dismiss. connected with Fire or Air. Anim. in the cosmos as a whole. Vrije Universiteit. from which all levels of life are developed through the effect of the vitalizing Power proceeding from the Origin of all life on the female. Life of higher quality manifests itself where a vital principle of higher quality is operative. Water and Earth. passive principle. in the development of the human embryo. 1071b26–2a7. this does not apply to animals. also M. Metaph.ARISTOTLE ON GOD AS PRINCIPLE OF GENESIS 377 Dependent on Ether are all levels of life in the sphere of generation and decay. with a high degree of vital heat. edited by Gill and Pellegrin. in A Companion. Water and Earth. 55 Plato also explains animal souls as failed human souls. Arist. See. 56 Anim. Aristotle’s new insight into the structural unity of vital manifestations gives him a decisive reason to reject Plato’s conception of ‘parts’ of the soul which are situated in different parts of the body. Amsterdam philosophy in Aristotle’. Aristotle followed a different line of thought. in which the earthy element predominates. This leads him to conclude that all life in the sublunary world exists thanks to soul-principles which guide instrumental bodies that are more or less compound. however.55 and paid scant attention to differentiation in the bodies where these souls ended up. the vegetative function develops first. including the World Soul. 347–73. . 369. much less to plants. Where Plato explained these differences in levels and quality of life by speaking about degeneration of (originally perfect) souls. Human life is possible when a high-quality soulprinciple. L 6. but whereas human beings can realize all vital functions. corresponding to the predominance of ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ natural bodies in the instrumental body of the soul. The most knowable of these are the levels of human beings. In this sense the theology of On the cosmos 6 about the Power proceeding from God as the ‘begetter’ of all life is essentially Aristotelian. Fish have a soulprinciple with an even lower degree of vital heat and an instrumental body of Water and Earth. The animal life of birds and four-footed mammals is the result of a soul-principle with a lower degree of vital heat and an instrumental body of Air. 57 Cf. He even emphasizes that. esp.57 in the sense that he presented the four sublunary elements as ‘matter’. I 1. Cf. Ransome Johnson (2005) 271–86.

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