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Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 48$
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Brad Inwood

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198735540

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198735540.001.0001

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Aristotle on Essence and Habitat

Aristotle on Essence and Habitat

Chapter:
(p.267) Aristotle on Essence and Habitat
Source:
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Volume 48
Author(s):

Jessica Gelber

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198735540.003.0007

Aristotle was aware that living organisms tend to have parts and organs that are particularly well suited for exercising their psychic capacities in certain kinds of environments. Despite that awareness, however, Aristotle never tries to explain this. This chapter argues that the reason we do not find Aristotle addressing the ‘fit’ between organisms and their habitats is that his conception of the essence of a living being already includes those features of the habitat that are implicated in the kind's essential activities and functions. Just as understanding what vision is involves understanding that it is of colour and that it takes place in a transparent medium, all of the vital capacities that comprise the soul or essence of a kind are ones that can only be understood in light of the objects that they are capacities upon which to act and by which to be affected. Consequently, the coordination between a kind of organism and its habitat is no surprise, given that the what-it-is-to-be for any kind of organism is partially constituted by the habitat in which its life is carried out.

Keywords:   Aristotle's biology, teleology, essence, natural science, psychic capacities

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