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Purposiveness In Nature Essay

1599 words - 6 pages

Early on in the Physics, Aristotle uses language to explain chance and spontaneity and the roles they play in nature. He feels that since chance and spontaneity are posterior to mind and nature, they will never be as important as actual causes as they are as hints that nature has purpose. Aristotle only entertains Empedocles’ proto-Darwinian theory because his philosophical method is based on systematically analyzing the views of other philosophers. He eventually rejects Empedocles’ view because it relies on chance as the driving force, and Aristotle believes that nothing based on chance can thrive in a world that has purpose. He replaces the theories of philosophers like Empedocles and other Pre-Socratic materialists with the idea that nature, like art, has purpose. Aristotle sets out with the question of what force was driving nature and answered with the idea of purposiveness. Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution both partially undermined his answer, but neither of them have really answered his question. He may have been immoderately concerned with finding purposiveness in nature and he may have used a faulty tool to do so, but Aristotle’s fundamental question has yet to be answered. Until we can fully answer his question, we can not completely dismiss Aristotle’s arguments.
Chance is when a choice yields a result that is different from the usual or expected result. Spontaneity is simply any occurrence that happens outside of the usual pattern. Chance requires reasoning and choice, while spontaneity does not. For this reason, spontaneity can be applied to a wider range of occurrences like the actions of babies, inanimate objects, animals, etc. All that happens by chance happens spontaneously, but not all that happens spontaneously happens by chance.(Ch.6) Aristotle’s example of chance was a man going into a place-the market for example- and meeting a debtor of his. If he had known the debtor was going to be at the market he would have went there to collect his money, but he didn’t. He may have went to the market to get some olives like he always does, but this time his trip served the purpose of collecting money. An example of spontaneity is a horse leaving a barn to chew some grass, and the barn burning down shortly afterward. The horse was unconsciously going toward grass like it always does, but this time the move saved it’s life. Many ancient philosophers either said chance and spontaneity did not exist or simply ignored it, but in Chapter 4 of the Physics Aristotle shows the hypocrisy in their choice by reminding us that they used these concepts. Empedocles, for example, says that air moves in whatever direction it chances to. He also suggested that animal parts came into being by chance-a view Aristotle would also criticize later on. Aristotle tells us that many other ancient philosophers adhered to the idea that the heavens came into being spontaneously.
Aristotle didn’t make these points for the sake of picking on...

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