earlymechanisminbiology

earlymechanisminbiology - 9/22/11 Early mechanist ideas in...

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9/22/11 1 Early mechanist ideas in biology: Harvey, Descartes, and Boyle 1. How did biologists come to know what they (think we) know about living organisms? 2. How do appeals to mechanisms figure in biological explanations? Like all other disciplines, biology starts with Aristotle! 384-322 BCE Essentialism 'hylomorphic' view — hylê 'matter', morphê 'form, shape’ – bronze sphere: bronze matter and spherical form – ax: wood and iron (matter) and the shape and organization required for chopping Form: – More than mere shape – What makes an object the sort of thing it is Soul: the form of a living thing Three types of soul Vegetative ( plant ): nutrition, growth and reproduction: botany Animal: add sensation and locomotion: zoology Rational : add 'intellect' or 'thinking of' ( nous ): psychology Soul imposes form on matter—in nutrition: "the active principle of growth lays hold of an acceding food which is potentially flesh and converts it into actual flesh." More precisely: different forms in different species and genera – Separated cetaceans (marine mammals) from fish and identified them as more like mammals • Live birth
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9/22/11 2 Aristotelian classification Animals With blood Without blood Viviparious (live-bearing) quadrupeds (mammals) Birds Oviparous (egg-laying) quadrupeds (reptiles and amphibians) Fishes Whales cephalopods (e.g., octopus) crustaceans insects (including also spiders, scorpions, and centipedes) shelled animals (e.g., molluscs and echinoderms) "zoophytes" or plant-animals (e.g., cnidarians) Aristotle ` s Anatomy and Physiology Digestive system converted food into blood by the action of heat Breathing functioned mainly to cool the body Kidneys cleansed the body of wastes The heart generated the heat required to turn food into blood The heart also represented the location of the human mind, the source of intellect, consciousness, emotions, and motivations The brain contributed to cooling of the body Aristotle ` s Four l Causes z : Aitia Material : that out of which something is, e.g. the bronze of a statue Formal : the structure which the matter realizes and in terms of which the matter comes to be something determinate, e.g., the Hermes shape in virtue of which this quantity of bronze is said to be a statue of Hermes Efficient: the agent responsible for a quantity of matter coming to be informed, e.g. the sculptor who shaped the quantity of bronze into its current Hermes shape Final : the purpose or goal of the compound of form and matter, e.g. the statue was created for the purpose of honoring Hermes
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9/22/11 3 Aristotle ` s teleology Things in the world seem to have purposes or functions in that things seem to be organized so as to do things
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earlymechanisminbiology - 9/22/11 Early mechanist ideas in...

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