Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 93, 2019

Ignacio De Ribera-Martin
Pages 227-238

Generation and Homonymy in Aristotle’s Generation of Animals

Discussions on Aristotle’s account of homonymy in natural philosophy have not paid attention to its distinct use in the Generation of animals. I show that Aristotle’s use of homonymy in this treatise is relevant to the question of how to name living substances in the process of generation. In the GA, Aristotle uses homonymy to argue that embryos must have soul. These embryos, when the heart has been distinctly set apart, satisfy the criterion set in Metaph. IX.7 to be an animal in dunamis. In the GA, Aristotle refers to this embryo as an animal—albeit incomplete, because it cannot yet carry out all the functions signified by the name—and not as a homonym. The phenomenon of generation thus calls for a refinement of the principle of Functional Determination, according to which something is what its names signifies only if it can carry out the functions signified by the name.