Colloquium: Nov 14th

Title: Thaumata or Coincidence in Aristotle's Metaphysics A?

Speaker: Dr. Geoff S. BOWE, (İstanbul Teknik Üniversites)

Friday, Nov 14th at 2:30pm in CLE A203

Abstract: This article examines two possible readings of the phrase ton thaumaton t'automata (which can be parsed as either self-moving puppets or coincidences of nature) at Aristotle's Metaphysics 983a and variants in his biological works. A first reading suggests that Aristotle is talking about mechanical puppets as an impetus for metaphysical enquiry, and suggests a fascinating contrast with the thaumata (puppets) outside Plato's cave; a second reading suggests that Aristotle is talking about wondrous coincidences as an impetus for metaphysical enquiry, suggesting a myriad of passages in Aristotles' Physics about chance, as well as Herodotus' ideas about wonders. The first reading, endorsed by Alexander of Aphrodisias, has massive implications for how Aristotle's metaphysics differs from Plato's, and suggests a possible key to how Aristotle approaches metaphysics in general. The second reading, endorsed by Aquinas, is a more natural, if somewhat less inspired reading of the text, one that is consistent with Aquinas' reading of Aristotle's physics. Along the way I discuss mechanical and robotic devices and metaphors in the classical world.