Classics Notes – Feb.14/12
Pre-socratics (600-450 BC)
Socrates (469-399 BC) – concerned more with ethics (what is good) than nature.
Plato (424-347 BC) – interested in what is good, what is reality, and interested in senses as a guide to reality.
- Aristotle (384-322 BC) was born in Stageira, Northern Greece. He was a student of Plato and was
educated at Plato’s Academy in Athens from 366-347 BC. He studied biology in Assos (Asia Minor)
from 347-344 BC. From 343-340 BC, he was a tutor of Alexander (356-323 BC). The foundation of his
own philosophical school (Lyceum) in Athens occurred in 335 BC. He wrote about many subjects,
such as politics, rhetoric, logic, ethics, natural science, and biology. He did not write about human
beings/medicine. His biological works include Parts of Animals, History of Animals, Generation of
Animals, Progression of Animals, and On the Soul. He studied nature in the animal world. In these
books we find some ideas that are important for medicine.
I – Classification
The world contains many things and we must order the things that we see. Aristotle divides things in the
world into things that are inanimate and animate. Animate (plants, animals) are things that move by
themselves, and inanimate things don’t move by themselves. Animal means life principle and means soul or
psyche in Greek. Plants have souls because they grow. Aristotle was the first to perform dissections of
animals. He noticed that some have blood (red-blooded) and some are bloodless (insects). Animals/genera
are divided into bloodless (invertebrates), which include insects and shell-fish, and blood-possessing
(vertebrates), which include mammals, birds, and fish. Viviparous animals are mammals and humans.
Oviparous animals are birds, fish, and insects. There are higher (genus) and lower (species) levels of
classification. For example, bird is a genus and crow and sparrow are species. He tried to order the world to
give the world some kind of classification. This idea is also important for classifying medical books and
II – Hierarchy of life
Plants are the lowest (life principle of growth). The nutritive/vegetative soul is the lowest and includes all
animate beings including plants which undergo growth and reproduction. Then there is the
sentient/locomotive soul which includes most animals in different degrees that have the capacity to feel and
move. Then there is the appetitive soul which includes some animals and animals that feed their young. These
animals have the capacity to feel, fulfil desire, and remember. At the very top is the rational soul which
includes man. Man has the capacity to think and recall the past at will.
III – The body and its parts
We can use the classification system to classify parts of the body. All parts are different from each other.
Different parts of the body can be further subdivided into different sections. The result of the division is
different from the original source. For example, if you cut up the face, you get different parts. Vessels, cords,
flesh (muscle tissue), bone, neurons (ligament, tendon, nerve in Greek) are found in all parts. Larger parts
(head, hand) are composed of smaller parts (nose, mouth, fingers, palm). Smaller parts are composed of
simple and homogeneous parts, such as flesh and bones. If you cut up bone, you get bone. These parts are called homoiomeres because they are simple and uniform. Homogeneous parts are composed of different
combinations of the four qualities (hot, cold, moist, dry).
IV – Organs and function
Aristotle wondered what the different parts do. The parts have a certain shape, structure, and properties.
Each part serves a function necessary for the survival of a particular body. There is a relationship between
structure and what the part does. Because the lung is like a sponge, it soaks up things. This is how things are
given – due to nature. Aristotle thought that the body works so well that it cannot be due to chance or the fact
that this is just how it is. He thought that each part of the body served a certain purpose. Telos means
purpose, goal, end, or result. Some parts might serve more than one purpose. The whole body