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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 7, 2015

Compositional & Functional Matter: Aristotle on the Material Cause of Biological Organisms

Christopher Byrne
From the journal Apeiron


Aristotle uses two kinds of material cause in his analysis of biological organisms: compositional matter, which persists through their birth and death; and functional matter, which consists of the organs and functional parts out of which biological organisms are made while they are alive. These two kinds of material cause, it has been argued, have quite different explanatory roles: functional matter is required by biological organisms to perform their essential functions, but compositional matter contributes nothing necessary to them and is only responsible for their accidental properties. Against this view, I argue that biological organisms are systematically dependent upon their compositional matter and the latter is responsible for many of their necessary attributes.

Published Online: 2015-10-7
Published in Print: 2015-10-1

© 2015 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston

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