Volume 87, 2013
Aristotle Now and Then
Christopher O. Blum
The Prospect of an Aristotelian Biology
In recent decades, a growing number of biologists has testified to the priority of the whole organism with respect to its parts and protested against the dominance of mechanist and reductionist accounts of the organism in biological science. To see disinterested inquiry thus shaped “by constraint of facts” (Parts of Animals 1.1.642a28) will delight, but cannot surprise, an Aristotelian. Taking this rediscovery of nature by biologists as an occasion for reflection, this essay considers, first, what is presupposed by any healthy biological inquiry, second, the prospects of renewal for the science itself, and, finally, a good that could follow from such a renewal. Aristotelian biology is an invitation to consider the forms of living things. Since “philosophy claims to know” (Metaphysics 4.2.1004b25), philosophers are called to bear witness to the primacy of form and, like biologists, to be models of attentiveness to form.