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Aristotle
On the Parts of Animals

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4

It deserves inquiry why a single name denoting a higher group was not invented by mankind, as an appellation to comprehend the two groups of Water animals and Winged animals. For even these have certain attributes in common. However, the present nomenclature is just. Groups that only differ in degree, and in the more or less of an identical element that they possess, are aggregated under a single class; groups whose attributes are not identical but analogous are separated. For instance, bird differs from bird by gradation, or by excess and defect; some birds have long feathers, others short ones, but all are feathered. Bird and Fish are more remote and only agree in having analogous organs; for what in the bird is feather, in the fish is scale. Such analogies can scarcely, however, serve universally as indications for the formation of groups, for almost all animals present analogies in their corresponding parts.

The individuals comprised within a species, such as Socrates and Coriscus, are the real existences; but inasmuch as these individuals possess one common specific form, it will suffice to state the universal attributes of the species, that is, the attributes common to all its individuals, once for all, as otherwise there will be endless reiteration, as has already been pointed out.

But as regards the larger groups-such as Birds-which comprehend many species, there may be a question. For on the one hand it may be urged that as the ultimate species represent the real existences, it will be well, if practicable, to examine these ultimate species separately, just as we examine the species Man separately; to examine, that is, not the whole class Birds collectively, but the Ostrich, the Crane, and the other indivisible groups or species belonging to the class.

On the other hand, however, this course would involve repeated mention of the same attribute, as the same attribute is common to many species, and so far would be somewhat irrational and tedious. Perhaps, then, it will be best to treat generically the universal attributes of the groups that have a common nature and contain closely allied subordinate forms, whether they are groups recognized by a true instinct of mankind, such as Birds and Fishes, or groups not popularly known by a common appellation, but withal composed of closely allied subordinate groups; and only to deal individually with the attributes of a single species, when such species, man, for instance, and any other such, if such there be-stands apart from others, and does not constitute with them a larger natural group.

It is generally similarity in the shape of particular organs, or of the whole body, that has determined the formation of the larger groups. It is in virtue of such a similarity that Birds, Fishes, Cephalopoda, and Testacea have been made to form each a separate class. For within the limits of each such class, the parts do not differ in that they have no nearer resemblance than that of analogy-such as exists between the bone of man and the spine of fish-but differ merely in respect of such corporeal conditions as largeness smallness, softness hardness, smoothness roughness, and other similar oppositions, or, in one word, in respect of degree.

We have now touched upon the canons for criticizing the method of natural science, and have considered what is the most systematic and easy course of investigation; we have also dealt with division, and the mode of conducting it so as best to attain the ends of science, and have shown why dichotomy is either impracticable or inefficacious for its professed purposes.

Having laid this foundation, let us pass on to our next topic.




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