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Dumb Beasts and Dead PhilosophersHumanity and the Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature$
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Catherine Osborne

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199282067

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282067.001.0001

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On the Disadvantages of Being a Complex Organism: Aristotle and the scala naturae

On the Disadvantages of Being a Complex Organism: Aristotle and the scala naturae

Chapter:
(p.98) 5 On the Disadvantages of Being a Complex Organism: Aristotle and the scala naturae
Source:
Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers
Author(s):

Catherine Osborne (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282067.003.0005

Does Aristotle have a scala naturae in which humans are ranked higher than the other animals? Is it better to be human than to be something else? This chapter shows that Aristotle's sequence of functions of the soul is not ordered in terms of honour but in terms of distribution. Greater complexity is not a mark of superiority. The animals' lack of what Aristotle called eudaimonia does not mean that they are lacking in happiness or success in their own pursuits. Rather, simplicity is an ideal; psychological complexity is (for Aristotle) a mark of things that fall short of perfection, as is evident from his discussion of the complex motions of the planets. Texts discussed include Metaphysics A, De anima, Nicomachean Ethics X, De partibus animalium, De Caelo, De incessu animalium, and Aristotle's discussion of slaves and women in Politics.

Keywords:   soul, slaves, women, planets, eudaimonia, happiness, complexity, simplicity, hierarchy, perfection

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