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‘Most Natural Among the Functions of Living Things’

Puzzles about Reproduction as a Nutritive Function

From the book Nutrition and Nutritive Soul in Aristotle and Aristotelianism

  • James G. Lennox


Just before beginning his discussion of the nutritive soul, Aristotle asserts his Double Priority Principle (DPP): the objective correlate of each activity of the soul is prior to that activity, and each activity is prior to its corresponding capacity. This principle gives rise to a number of general puzzles (e. g., what sort of priority is being discussed, and is it the same priority in the two cases). But it also gives rise to a number of puzzles specific to the nutritive soul, resulting from Aristotle’s claim that the nutritive and reproductive functions are both functions of the same capacity of the soul, and indeed, that nutrition and reproduction are one and the same capacity. In this paper, intended as propaedeutic to the other essays in this volume, I lay out the puzzles arising from tensions between the DDP and Aristotle’s account of the nutritive soul, and in particular his claim that reproduction is a nutritive function.

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