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The Medieval Astrologization of Aristotle's Biology: Averroes on the Role of the Celestial Bodies in the Generation of Animate Beings

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2002

Gad Freudenthal
Affiliation:
Centre d'histoire des sciences et des philosophies arabes et médiévales, 7 rue Guy Môquet, B.P. n° 8, 94801 Villejuif Cedex, France

Abstract

How do the variegated forms of sublunar substances (the elements, homoeomerous substances, plants, animals) arise in prime matter? Averroes throughout his life believed that “a principle from without” was involved, but changed his mind over its identity. While in an early period of his life he maintained that all forms emanate from the active intellect, he later discarded that metaphysical notion and sought to develop a more naturalistic, astrologically inspired account, which identified the heavenly bodies as the source of sublunar forms. Comparing different versions of Averroean texts, this paper seeks to spell out how, in Averroes' view, the heavenly bodies generate forms in matter. Averroes claims that this is brought about by means of their “heats,” an answer that is however problematic seeing that in the Aristotelian cosmology the celestial realm is quality-less. The paper examines Averroes' ideas on the relationship between light and heat, concluding that the Commentator was unable to integrate the postulate that the heavenly bodies inform matter within his Aristotelian theory of matter.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2002 Cambridge University Press

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