Colloquium 4: The Medical Background of Aristotle’s Theory of Nature and Spontaneity

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An appreciation of the "more philosophical" aspects of ancient medical writings casts considerable light on Aristotle's concept of nature, and how he understands nature to differ from art, on the one hand, and spontaneity or luck, on the other. The account of nature, and its comparison with art and spontaneity in Physics II is developed with continual reference to the medical art. The notion of spontaneous remission of disease (without the aid of the medical art) was a controversial subject in the medical literature, and Aristotle's aporia about the notion of spontaneous generation of natural things runs parallel to this controversy. Aristotle's account of spontaneous generation in the Metaphysics and in the Generation of Animals can also be profitably illuminated by looking at the comparison with medicine in detail. The result, hopefully, is a clearer and more consistent picture not only of Aristotle's concepts of nature, art, and spontaneity, but also of the influence of medical writings and concepts on his natural philosophy.
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