The paradigm of organic unity: On Aristotle's ""De Partibus Animalium""
In the last fifty years or so there has been a tremendous renewal of interest in Aristotle's biological writings. As I understand it, this interest was motivated by at least two different sorts of researchers who had different assumptions and motivations. On the one hand there are the biologists, and chief among them, D'Arcy Thompson. On the other hand there are those who, in their study of Aristotle's philosophic work, have been forced to recognize that a significant portion of the corpus---more than one quarter of the total by most accounts---is devoted to these biological subjects and wish to make sense of how these musings are to be understood in light of the canonical works, e.g. the Metaphysics, Physics, De Anima, Nichomachean Ethics . Many point to David Balme as one of the principle sources of this interest in putting the biological works within a philosophical framework. The point is to understand better why Aristotle repeatedly turns to biological examples to clarify questions encountered in the study of physics or metaphysics; for 'plants and animals are substances (ousiai) most of all' (Meta. Z.8). One must understand Aristotle's philosophical biology at the same time as trying to understand his biological philosophy The sign of this renewed interest is the recent appearance of numerous books and articles devoted to the study of Aristotle's biological writings. The study I am undertaking of Aristotle's Parts of Animals (PA) aims to contribute to this growing body of scholarship. Perhaps the easiest, yet the most significant, way to distinguish the contribution I think I can make is this. Most scholars believe that the PA is not really a book, that it does not form a whole that is coherent; hence, among the numbers of books and articles, there is not a treatment of the argument of the PA as a whole, as its arguments unfold. To understand the general sentiment regarding the status of the PA we do not have to look far; David Balme and others hold that PA I is a 'string of papers' and that PA II--IV is largely independent from the argument of PA I. (see also Pellegrin 1986, pp 146 ff.). In contrast to this position, I suggest that the argument of the PA can be seen as a whole, that the topics first touched upon in PA I are picked up, expanded, modified, and examined in greater detail in the course of the argument of the PA as a whole