Rhizomata 7 (1):33-62 (2019)

Daniel Coren
Skidmore College
A lot of scholarly attention has been given to Aristotle’s account of how and why animals are capable of moving themselves. But no one has focused on the question, whether self-change is possible in plants on Aristotle’s account. I first give some context and explain why this topic is worth exploring. I then turn to Aristotle’s conditions for self-change given in Physics VIII.4, where he argues that the natural motion of the elements does not count as self-motion. I apply those conditions to natural change in plants. Then I explore the reasons for and consequences of Aristotle’s argument that plants are incapable of sensation. I argue that for Aristotle plants cannot possess the directing faculties for self-change, namely, desire and phantasia. My goal is to show why growth, metabolism, and reproduction in plants would not count as self-change for Aristotle, despite many of these natural changes appearing as autonomous as the analogous changes in animals. This sheds light on how, for Aristotle, self-change differs from natural change.
Keywords Aristotle  Agency  Ancient science  Plants  Self-change  self-motion  growth  metabolism  animal self-motion  autonomy
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DOI 10.1515/rhiz-2019-0002
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