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Meteorology as a Prefiguration of Life in Aristotle

Malcolm Wilson

(University of Oregon)

Scholarly neglect of Aristotle's Meteorologica has marred our understanding of Aristotle's entire natural philosophy and obscured the pivotal role this treatise plays between the macrocosm, laid out in de Caelo and de Generatione et Corruptione, and the microcosms first introduced in the de Partibus Animalium.

This pivotal role of the Meteorologica is a large story. This paper will focus more narrowly on the treatise's relationship with the biological works. I shall briefly recapitulate some of my earlier findings regarding the Meteorologica, the scala naturae and spontaneous generation, and then go on to outline two of my more recent investigations.

First, I shall examine evidence for an alternative and unconventional order of the biological treatises themselves, according to which the de Anima is to be postponed till after the PA-GA complex. According to this order, the soul is not the indispensable first principle needed to explain the nature and modifications of the organic parts of animals. Rather, the PA is the immediate successor to the Meteorologica in the investigation of natural body. This new order in turn explains the restricted role of soul in the PA and many of the otherwise strange similarities in method common to the Meteorologica and the biological works.

My second point concerns the concept of bios, or "way of life" in the PA, which Charles and Lennox have portrayed as dependent on the concept of soul. I shall argue instead that bios is a low-level theoretical concept, methodologically prior to and independent of the soul of the DA.

These two arguments support the methodological continuity between the Meteorologica and PA-GA complex and allow us to see more clearly how Aristotle organized his treatises and placed the Meteorologica in the central position between the macrocosmic and microcosmic studies of natural body.

watch the recorded talk: click the image

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