Method and Metaphor in Aristotle's Science of Nature

Dissertation, University of Western Ontario (2013)
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This dissertation is a collection of essays exploring the role of metaphor in Aristotle’s scientific method. Aristotle often appeals to metaphors in his scientific practice; but in the Posterior Analytics, he suggests that their use is inimical to science. Why, then, does he use them in natural science? And what does his use of metaphor in science reveal about the nature of his scientific investigations? I approach these questions by investigating the epistemic status of metaphor in Aristotelian science. In the first essay, I defend an interpretation of metaphor as a type of heuristic reasoning: I claim that Aristotle uses metaphor to express conditions an explanation in natural science must meet if it is to explain regular, ordered change. These conditions specify the kinds of causes—particularly unmoved efficient causes—which the inquirer into nature is seeking. In the second essay, I look to Aristotle’s use of certain endoxa or common beliefs as explanatory principles in science, and show that his use of these principles is similar to his use of metaphor. In the final essay, I present a historical study of the analogy of art and nature, and I suggest that by looking to how the Greeks understood the role of inquiry in the arts, we can shed some light on Aristotle’s views concerning the method of inquiry he thinks the natural scientist should adopt.
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