The Ockham Society (Week 7, TT18)

Ockham Society

"The Difficulty of Aristotle’s ‘Connate Breath'"

The σύμφυτον πνεῦμα, or ‘connate breath’, is posited late in Aristotle’s career with the apparent intention of filling a perceived gap in his theory of animal locomotion. However, σύμφυτον πνεῦμα is nowhere given a full account by Aristotle, and it has been, until recently, understudied by scholars. The purpose of this presentation, then, is to reflect on the question of exactly what σύμφυτον πνεῦμα is, especially as presented in De Motu Animalium 10, where it is most-extensively treated. To this end, in Section I, I first lay out what I take to be the relevant descriptions of σύμφυτον πνεῦμα in Aristotle’s corpus, focusing on passages from De Motu Animalium and compatible texts from De Generatione Animalium, in order to distinguish it from the more mundane uses of πνεῦμα to refer to ‘breath’ or ‘wind’. In Section II, I then proceed to investigate the logical space which the bodily σύμφυτον πνεῦμα could inhabit. In so doing, I find that, of the four degrees of bodies in Aristotle’s system – i.e. (1) elemental (simple) bodies; (2) homoeomers; (3) anhomoeomers; and (4) whole organisms – only options (1) and (2) appear viable for σύμφυτον πνεῦμα. Within (1), I proceed to investigate the three sub-positions which seem to me to be available: (a) considering the σύμφυτον πνεῦμα to be a new fifth sublunary element (and sixth overall element, if the heavenly αἰθήρ is included); (b) considering the σύμφυτον πνεῦμα just to be αἰθήρ; or (c) considering the σύμφυτον πνεῦμα to be one of the four ‘regular’ elements. I systematically present what I take to be insuperable arguments against understanding σύμφυτον πνεῦμα in the manner of any of these three sub-positions before turning to option (2), which, despite having some points in its favour, also appears to have insurmountable difficulties. I then conclude, in Section III, that perhaps the notion of σύμφυτον πνεῦμα is not coherent within Aristotle’s system, and suggest that it may not, after all, be required for his theory of animal locomotion.

"Deriving Basic Equality from Self-Respect"

In this essay I present a novel approach to basic equality. I show that basic normative equality between human beings is necessarily entailed by any human coherently holding themselves with self-respect. I start by developing a heuristic for discovering the properties or capacities that are shared equally by the set of all human beings. After laying this out in some detail, I define carefully the notion of self-respect, and consider the implications of a position of self-respect in light of the results of my heuristic. I find that the set of capacities constitutive of a human being possesses normative value independently of the fact that a human being possesses them; from here, I argue that a position of individual self-respect is coherent if and only if we afford equal moral respect to beings with the same set of capacities (i.e. other human beings). To finish, I consider briefly some implications of the heuristic process and the conclusions it entails.


Chair: Ruby Shao

Ockham Society Convenor: Charlotte Figueroa | Ockham Society Webpage