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Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology$
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Allan Gotthelf

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199287956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199287956.001.0001

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Darwin on Aristotle

Darwin on Aristotle

Chapter:
(p.345) 15 Darwin on Aristotle
Source:
Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology
Author(s):

Allan Gotthelf

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199287956.003.0015

Charles Darwin's famous 1882 letter, in which he remarks that his ‘two gods’, Linnaeus and Cuvier, were ‘mere school‐boys to old Aristotle’, has been thought to be only an extravagantly worded gesture of politeness. However, a close examination of this and other Darwin letters, and of references to Aristotle in Darwin's earlier work, shows that the famous letter was written several weeks after a first, polite letter of thanks, and was carefully formulated and literally meant. Indeed, it reflected an authentic, and substantial, increase in Darwin's already high respect for Aristotle, as certain documents show. It may also have reflected some real insight on Darwin's part into the teleological aspect of Aristotle's thought, more insight than Ogle himself had achieved, as a portion of their correspondence reveals.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Darwin, W. Ogle, Linnaeus, Cuvier, teleology, classification, functional explanation

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