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Flora UnveiledThe Discovery and Denial of Sex in Plants$
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Lincoln Taiz and Lee Taiz

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190490263

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190490263.001.0001

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Plant Sex from Empedocles to Theophrastus

Plant Sex from Empedocles to Theophrastus

(p.210) 8 Plant Sex from Empedocles to Theophrastus
Flora Unveiled

Lincoln Taiz

Lee Taiz

Oxford University Press

“Plant Sex from Empedocles to Theophrastus” investigates Greek philosophies concerning plants. The Pythagoreans and pre-Socratic philosophers taught that the universe was governed by a divine order that could be understood through mathematical or physical laws, and that “natural laws” were discoverable by observation and logic. This tradition eventually gave rise to modern science. Unlike Plato, who viewed the physical world as “shadows,” knowable only through mathematics and abstract philosophy, Aristotle and Theophrastus regarded everything in the natural world that could be perceived by the senses as both real and knowable, and believed direct observation combined with reason and logic were the most reliable guides to truth. They systematized a prodigious amount of biological information, but were unable to elucidate the problem of plant sex. Theophrastus’ failed to understand the so-called “degeneration” of trees grown from seed because it couldn’t be understood without a two-sex model. Biblical theorists fared no better.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Degeneration of trees, Divine order, Empedocles, Natural laws, Plato, Pre-Socratic philosophers, Pythagoreans, Theophrastus, “Two-sex” model

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