Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy arrow The fathers of the church


Here begin the questions on the books On Animals.


Whether this book has animals for its subject.

First one asks whether this book has animals for its subject.

1. It seems not, because every science has to do with things that are universal and incorruptible, but every animal is individual and corruptible, and therefore, etc.

2. Moreover, if it were about animals, then it would concern either some or all animals. But it is not more about some than others, and it would therefore be about them all. But this is impossible, since then it would seem to be infinite and the infinite cannot be known by humans.

To this one must say that this book can be said to be about animals because it primarily concerns the animated, movable body as applied to individual species of animals. This is so because such a study [scientia] is related to science [scientia] in the same way a specific subject is related to a [broader] subject. But this study is part of natural science and its subject will therefore be part of the broader subject. But the broader subject is that of the movable body. Therefore, the subject of this study is a specific, movable body.

Thus one must understand that "everything is intelligible to the extent that it is separable from matter." But since sciences are a characteristic [habitus] of the intellect, they have to be distinguished with respect to their objects, and this is why, to the extent that something is separated from its matter in diverse ways, it is naturally destined to pertain to a different science. For this reason, because some things are separated from matter with respect to their being [esse] and definition [ratio], like metaphysical objects, and some are separated with respect to their definition but not their being, like mathematical objects, and some, like natural objects, are separated from matter neither with respect to their being nor their definition, and are not separated in general but only in particular, then these sciences are essentially differentmetaphysics, which concerns the first sort of being, and mathematics, which is about the second, and physics, which is about the third.

And likewise, within the same science the parts are distinguished with respect to a greater or lesser degree of separation from matter. And since that which is more universal is further abstracted from matter, it therefore belongs to a different part of science to make a determination about the subject in general and in particular. This is why the book on Physics,5 in which a determination is made about movable body in general, and the book On Heaven [and Earth],6 in which a determination is made about movable body restricted in terms of place [contracto ad ubi], concern one part of natural science, and consideration of a movable body defined by being animated, consequently, belongs to another part. And because consideration of the soul or of the ensouled is threefold: one way, considered absolutely, and another way as it is formed in the body or parts of the body, and this can still be considered in general, and a third way can be about that soul when applying it and its natures [rationes] to individual species of plants and animals, and because the first is treated in the book On the Soul, and the second in the short books that follow it, this is why it is necessary to treat the third in another part of natural science, and this is treated in the books On Plants and On Animals, which are in our hands.

Thus, properly speaking, the subject of this book is body, animated with a sensitive soul, as applied to individual species of animals. This is why it has to occupy the last place in the order of the books of natural [science].

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that animals can be treated in two ways, either with respect to the being [ esse] they have apart from the soul or with respect to the being they have in the soul, that is, in the intellect. If they are considered in the first way, then each one is individual and corporeal, and then there can be no science of animals. But if in the second way, then there can be a science of animals since there is nothing in the intellect but what is universal and separable from matter.

2. To the second, one must reply that this is a science of all animals, although not as they are considered in and of themselves, because this way they have no fixed number but are rather infinite as far as we are concerned and do not fall under our understanding, but rather as they are reduced to determinate species and are united and come together in a common nature.

3. To the third, one must reply that although there could be a threefold treatment of an animal and each one could be treated in a different fashion in its own book, nevertheless the treatment that is considered here is not treated elsewhere. For here the soul is treated in relation not to each and every body, but only to the body that is bound to a species of animal. The soul is considered absolutely, however, in the book On the Soul, and body is treated without reference to the soul in the Physics, and in the other books of natural science the soul is considered nevertheless as it is formed for a body in general. And therefore this book is not unnecessary.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

Related topics