Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Take a pen or pencil or some other small nearby object and slide it across your desk. The object moved from one place to another because you moved it. It wasn’t moved by itself. But what is the cause of your moving from where you were to where you currently are? You appear to move yourself. This dissertation focuses on what Aristotle has to say about self-motion, especially how and why non-human animals are capable of moving themselves (αὐτὰ ἑαυτὰ κινοῦσιν), that is, flying, swimming, running, crawling or slithering from one place to another. I bring out (a) new ways or new interpretations of ways in which, for Aristotle, animal self-motion is independent, autonomous or self-directed (αὐτοκίνητος), (b) new senses or new interpretations of senses in which Aristotle thinks that animal self-motion is dependent, that is, not under the control of the animal, and (c) new ways to understand the compatibilism between the independence and dependence of animal self-motion. I argue that there are compelling, interesting, and unexplored (or at least underexplored) reasons to think that, for Aristotle, the independence of animal self-motion is compatible with many important senses in which whether and how an animal moves is not up to the animal. These excavations shed light not just on Aristotle, ancient philosophy, and the history of science but also on agency, autonomy, and responsibility. In particular, they shed light on ordinary and yet often ignored senses in which we seem to hold that we perform actions as autonomous agents, and we can be held responsible for those actions, despite there being many important senses in which what we do is not up to us.
Coren, Daniel Avi Gilbert, "Aristotle on Animal Self-Motion" (2019). Philosophy Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 71.