Frontiers of Philosophy in China

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The Meaning of “Existence” and the Contingency of Sense
Markus Gabriel
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (1): 109-129.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0007-8
Abstract   PDF (302KB)

In this paper I argue first for a revisionary ontology, that is, for an understanding of “existence” as the property of a field not to be empty. In this context, I distinguish between “metaphysics” (the theory of totality or of fundamental reality) and “ontology” (the systematic investigation into the meaning of “existence”). In the second part, I provide a sketch for a corresponding revisionary theory of the modalities in light of the new ontology proposed.

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Wang Fuzhi’s Interpretation of Spirit/Shen in His Annotation on the Zhuangzi
TAN Mingran
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 239-254.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0018-6
Abstract   PDF (345KB)

This essay systematically explores the concept “spirit” (shen 神) in Wang Fuzhi’s Annotation on the Zhuangzi (Zhuangzi Jie 莊子解). Following Zhuangzi, Wang Fuzhi interprets spirit as a mass of vital force/jingqi, and regards spirit as the master of human life and human body. Through preserving one’s spirit, one will not only be able to preserve one’s body, but also keep all creatures immune from sickness and plague. This can be accomplished, since a well-preserved spirit will contribute harmonious and pure qi to the universe and make the whole universe more harmonious. In an effort to achieve this purpose, Wang Fuzhi proposes “forgetting all external things” and aiming for an empty and detached mind, on one hand, and asks a person to concentrate his spirit with a constant will, one the other hand. Once one’s spirit is well concentrated, one will be a spiritual person (shenren 神人), who will transcend life and death, fortune and misfortune, always living a leisurely and carefree life. One will also forget all cognitive distinctions and fully become one with the transformation of things and Heaven (tian 天). In this way, one’s spirit will achieve eternity, and fully realize the meaning of human life.

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“Bodyheartminding” (Xin 心): Reconceiving the Inner Self and the Outer World in the Language of Holographic Focus and Field
Roger T. Ames
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 167-180.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0013-1
Abstract   PDF (289KB)

In this essay, inspired by the somatic turn in philosophy initiated by Richard Shusterman, I want to invoke the language of classical Confucian philosophy to think through the best efforts of William James and John Dewey to escape the mind-body and nature-nurture dualisms—that is, to offer an alternative vocabulary that might lend further clarity to the revolutionary insights of James and Dewey by appealing to the processual categories of Chinese cosmology. What I will try to do first is to refocus the pragmatist’s explanation of the relationship between mind and body through the lens of a process Confucian cosmology. And then, to make the case for James and Dewey, I will return to the radical, imagistic language they invoke to try and make the argument that this processual, holistic understanding of “vital bodyminding” is in fact what they were trying to say all along.

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Justice and Civic Friendship: An Aristotelian Critique of Modern Citizenry
Rajesh C. Shukla
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (1): 1-20.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0001-6
Abstract   PDF (289KB)

Modern moral and political theorists make a sharp separation between justice and civic friendship, arguing that justice deals with the fair terms of co-operation in the social sphere whereas civic friendship is about an individual’s contingent affections in the political domain. In addition, they also argue that the principles of justice must determine the nature and function of civic friendship in modern liberal society. Even though the historical origin of the above view can be traced to the writings of Immanuel Kant (2007), John Rawls provides us with its most cogent formulation in recent times. In his book A Theory of Justice (1971), Rawls argues that the considerations of right are prior to the considerations of good; therefore the principles of justice must determine the limits of civic friendship. Against Rawls, I argue that justice and civic friendship are intrinsically connected and that they cannot be separated in experience. I draw upon Aristotle’s theory of virtue to strengthen my arguments. Following Aristotle, I show that both justice and friendship are virtues and that all virtues hold together. The Aristotelian coherence of virtues, I argue, can be useful in redefining the obligations of justice and civic friendship in contemporary liberal democracies.

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Russell’s Paradox of Predicates
Bernard Linsky
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (1): 149-165.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0009-2
Abstract   PDF (359KB)

Russell’s letter to Frege of June 16, 1902 contains the famous paradox of the class of all classes which are not members of themselves as well as a second paradox of the predicates that cannot be predicated of themselves. The latter paradox arises out of Russell’s theory of classes and class concepts in Principles of Mathematics.

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Moral Psychology of Shame in Early Confucian Philosophy
Bongrae Seok
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 21-57.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0003-4
Abstract   PDF (443KB)

In Western philosophy and psychology, shame is characterized as a self-critical emotion that is often contrasted with the similarly self-critical but morally active emotion of guilt. If shame is negative concern over endangered or threatened self-image (usually in front of others), guilt is autonomous moral awareness of one’s wrongdoings and reparative motivation to correct one’s moral misconduct. Recently, many psychologists have begun to discuss the moral significance of shame in their comparative studies of non-Western cultures. In this new approach, shame is characterized as a positive moral emotion and active motivation for self-reflection and self-cultivation. If shame is a positive and active moral emotion, what is its moral psychological nature? In this paper, I will analyze shame from the perspective of cultural psychology and early Confucian philosophy. Unlike many Western philosophers, Confucius and Mencius discuss shame as a form of moral excellence. In early Confucian texts, shame is not a reactive emotion of an endangered self but a moral disposition that supports a self-critical and self-transformative process of moral development.

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The Next American Revolution? Reflections on Gar Alperovitz, What Then Must We Do?
David Schweickart
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 350-357.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0030-0
Abstract   PDF (257KB)

Marx is concerned with theory that not only interprets but also changes the world. A central issue is thus the transition from capitalism to communism, a topic rarely considered by critics of capitalism today. An important exception is Gar Alperovitz, who, although eschewing the word “communism,” argues that we need “a new system” and sketches a transition strategy for moving “beyond capitalism.” This paper elaborates and evaluates this strategy

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Beyond a Theory of Human Nature: Towards an Alternative Interpretation of Mencius’ Ethics
Hektor K. T. Yan
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 396-416.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0034-8
Abstract   PDF (342KB)

By following the Wittgensteinian view that the sense of an ethical term such as “nature” (xing 性) should be understood through an examination of its function in its actual philosophical context, this article takes a look at the notion of xing in the Mencius from an alternative perspective. Proceeding from this perspective, it re-examines the view that xing in the Mencius should be understood in biological terms. A discussion of xing in relation to the “Why be moral?” question follows. I then offer an alternative interpretation of Mencius’ ethics by focusing on the meaning of the ethical particulars. Contrary to common perception, I argue that Mencius’ theory of human nature (renxing 人 性) need not occupy a central place in his moral philosophy; the ultimate foundation of Mencius’ moral philosophy lies in the meaning or sense of morality. Through participating in concrete, ethical thinking and by paying attention to the ethical particulars, human beings develop their grasp of moral and ethical meaning.

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Marx and the Transition Problem
Tom Rockmore
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 342-349.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0029-6
Abstract   PDF (219KB)

Marx is concerned with theory that not only interprets but also changes the world. His central concern lies in the transition from capitalism to communism. This paper examines three ways that he might understand this transition as concerns economic crisis, politics, or the proletariat.

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An Eco-Ethical Interpretation of Confucian Tianren Heyi
YAO Xinzhong
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (4): 570-585.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0047-6
Abstract   PDF (310KB)

Opposed to a commonly held interpretation that Confucian discourse regarding tianren heyi (天人合一) is simply a human-centred philosophical fusion of humanity and nature, this article argues that the Confucian discourse is in fact composed of two contradictory orientations, one ren-centred (roughly equivalent to “anthropocentric”) and the other tian-centred (“nature-centric” in a specific sense), which generally correspond to the two major camps of environmental philosophy in the West in the twentieth century. It will be further argued that the two orientations of the Confucian view have different yet related functions with regard to environmental protection and conservation: the tian-centred understanding establishes a metaphysical and religious framework for Confucian eco-ethical norms, in which ecological prohibitions and policies are built into the political and religious infrastructure, while the ren-centred orientation adds practical values and meanings to the ontological care of the human relation to the environment. In modern times, the two orientations of Confucian eco-ethics are under further development, moving away from being dualistic philosophies and converging on the eco-ethical way of life. Contemporary Confucians are investigating how the two traditional “orientations” can be unified as one holistic perspective which could provide theoretical and practical guidance for our understanding of the human position in the universe, the harmony between humans and nature, and the value of environmental protection and conservation.

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Leibniz and Clarke in Conflict: The Role of “Force” and the Nature of God’s Providence
WANG Xiaona
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 287-297.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0021-4
Abstract   PDF (223KB)

The intellectual background of the concept of force in the dispute between Leibniz and Clarke has not received enough scholarly attention. Vailati’s monograph, which is the most important study of the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, focuses on a non-theological dimension in terms of the concept of force in this debate. Based on this perspective, Vailati’s conclusion is that Clarke’s understanding of force was totally different from that of Newton. However, the historical context shows that this is not the case. Clarke’s concept of motive force bore a strong resemblance to that of Newton, according to which force was an active principle that had been endowed upon matter at the beginning of God’s creation. Furthermore, the close link between force, matter and God’s providence had a long tradition of debate between Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers since early modern times. The different concepts of force dividing Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers were actually related to, and conditioned by, their underlying fundamental theological differences. The concept of force in the Leibniz-Clarke controversy, accordingly, could be regarded as along the lines of the earlier disputes between Cartesian and Gassendian philosophers.

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The Origin and Differentiation of the Theories of Human Nature in Pre-Qin China
GUO Yi
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 212-238.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0017-9
Abstract   PDF (422KB)

In early China, views concerning human nature underwent significant development, with philosophers moving from seeing it as desire or instinct to seeing it as virtue or essence. Before Confucius’s time, human beings’ xing, or nature, was construed as desire and instinct, i.e., as a physical nature. The key problem faced by theorists of human nature at that time was how to manage nature with virtue, i.e., how to use virtue to both control and enrich nature. A later, wide-reaching development was the use of qi to explain human nature. Laozi began, taking de or virtue to be the internal essence of the human being; Confucius took de or virtue to be xing or nature. Following this development, the main current of the theory of human nature in the pre-Qin period divided into two branches. One, created by the later Confucius, inherited in part by Zisi, and developed by Mencius, took virtue as nature and insisted on the a priority of internal morality. The other branch, inherited in part by Zisi and developed by the author of Xing Zi Ming Chu and Xunzi, featured the development of the old tradition which took yu, or desire, as nature.

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Marx on Nature
James Swindal
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 358-369.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0031-7
Abstract   PDF (233KB)

Ecological Marxists argue that Marx forged a view of nature compatible with more recent models of environmentalism. John Bellamy Foster argues that Marx ascribed an ecological value to nature by asserting a co-evolution between man and nature. James O’Connor presents a more nuanced view in which Marx at best defended a conservationist defense of nature. I argue that such ecological views of Marx tend to overlook his abandonment of an ontology of nature as a totality of relations among physical objects with respect to their interactions and mutual preservation and order. He followed Kant in reducing nature, or the physical world, effectively to a regulative notion, thus reducing its value to a simply a heuristic one for judgments about and actions towards objects. But he also radicalized this reduction by envisaging nature only as a material field of fungible and consumable things, such that each thing is a mere locus of energy or force that human labor cannot substantively perfect but only change to a function. Labor in this view creates new arrangements of natural things for a singular ultimate purpose: the formation of associations of free labor. I conclude that Marx’s thinking thus cannot be utilized to support an environmental philosophy, such as deep ecology or eco-socialism, that would posit any intrinsic value to nature.

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The De of Levinas: Cultivating the Heart-Mind of Radical Passivity
Leah Kalmanson,Sarah Mattice
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 113-129.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0007-2
Abstract   PDF (292KB)

This essay explores the early Chinese text Guanzi to address the question of ethical responsibility in the work of Emmanuel Levinas. We begin with the premise that being responsive to the other, feeling the impossibility of renouncing ethical obligation, and experiencing the basic moral asymmetry at the heart of Levinas’s project all rely on the welcome openness of the subject that Levinas describes as the subject’s “radical passivity.” However, his emphasis on infinite responsibility, coupled with the theme of radical passivity, gives the problematic impression that ethics amounts to a never-ending to-do list for the other, and certainly this is not what Levinas means. We turn to the Guanzi, which recommends that the ethically efficacious sage-prince must cultivate a state of passive stillness and inner vacuity. Only because the sage-prince maintains this deferential heart-mind is he freely open and responsive to others. Here the sage-prince looks strikingly like a good Levinasian: He is deferential, sensitive to context, and hyper-aware of the limits of his own knowledge. The Guanzi goes on to describe specific practices the sage-prince can employ to cultivate his ethical prowess, including practices of meditation and gentle physical exercises. Taking this insight into Levinas’s context, we suggest that such practices of self-regulation are necessary to enable effective responsiveness to the other. From this perspective, responsibility is “infinite” not because I am perpetually beholden to the other’s whims, but because I am perpetually accountable for calming and clearing my own mind of the unstable emotions, selfish desires, and intellectual machinations that prevent the welcome openness of radical passivity.

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Shendu and Qingdu: Reading the Recovered Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts
Shirley Chan,Daniel Lee
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 4-20.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0002-7
Abstract   PDF (503KB)

The terms du (獨) and shendu (慎獨) frequently appear in transmitted texts, notably, among others, the Xunzi and Liji. Drawing reference from the poetry of “Shijiu” (鳲鳩) (Ode 152) and “Yanyan” (燕燕) (Ode 28) in the Book of Odes (詩經), the recovered texts of “Wuxing Commentary” (五行 說) and “Confucian Poetics” (孔子詩論) have provided new material for re-shaping our current understanding of the concepts of du and shendu. This study will briefly survey the semantic ranges of these terms within the exegetical tradition and explore their meaning with regard to the poetry from which they are contextualized. In the final analysis du can be understood as the ontic quality of the heart-mind within the broad sense of cheng (誠 sincerity), or devout love, whereas shendu can be regarded as a process of moral cultivation. To some extent the re-interpretation of these terms finds commonality with, rather than subverts, the semantic ranges established by traditional glosses. The recovered texts have enhanced our understanding of these terms, in particular the concepts of heart-mind and emotion in early China.

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Edmund Husserl’s Political Praxis and Theoretical Reflections during World War I
NI Liangkang
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 241-253.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0020-3
Abstract   PDF (237KB)

Husserl the philosopher personally experienced World War I breaking out 100 years ago. Like most German and Austrian commoners, at the initial stage of the war, Husserl was extremely passionate for it. After undergoing the cruelty of war and losing many relatives and friends, he was once enmeshed in extreme confusion and disappointment, albeit he still made every effort to offer spiritual and ethical support to the soldiers at the front. Along with the proceeding of the war, he soon changed his views with respect to this war and confessed that more and deeper reflections were needed to address issues about problems of nationality, super-national ethics and about problems of wars relevant to them. He made philosophical theoretical reflections with regard to this war after it ended, and presented, eventually, requirements for himself: to be satisfied with taking the possibility of the practical activities of philosophy as the topic of philosophical theoretical study and to give up, in drastic fashion, the intention in such philosophical practices as providing political proposals and exerting political influences, “living purely as a scientific philosopher.”

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Somaesthetics and Chinese Philosophy: Between Unity and Pragmatist Pluralism
Richard Shusterman
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 201-211.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0016-2
Abstract   PDF (264KB)

Responding to three articles in a symposium dedicated to my research in somaesthetics, this paper explores a variety of themes connecting my theories with classical Chinese philosophy. The symposium topics discussed here range from the ontology of body-mind and world to the ethics of somaesthetic self-cultivation, and then to the somaesthetic meanings of our practices of erotics and of eating. The paper shows how the pragmatist orientation of somaesthetics reconciles values of unity with those of difference and how key ideas of somaesthetics intersect, in different ways, with both Confucian and Daoist thought.

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Numeral Classifiers and the White Horse Paradox
Byeong-uk Yi
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (4): 498-522.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0043-8
Abstract   PDF (337KB)

This paper presents an interpretation of Gongsun Long’s white horse paradox. The Chinese sentence he uses to state his main thesis (Bai ma fei ma) has two potential readings: (a) The white horses are not horses. (b) The white horses are not the horses. Although (a) gives the usual and correct reading of the sentence, according to the interpretation, Gongsun Long takes it to state (b). He gives good arguments for (b) while taking them to establish (a) as well, for he fails to distinguish between the two different theses. In presenting this interpretation, the paper gives an account of the function of numeral classifiers and discusses the semantics of count nouns in languages with no grammatical number system, including classical Chinese and classifier languages (e.g., contemporary Chinese).

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Aristotle, the Intellect, and Cognition
Thomas M. Robinson
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 229-240.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0019-9
Abstract   PDF (243KB)

It is argued in this paper that the famous “Active Intellect” of De Anima 3.5 is not God, as Alexander of Aphrodisias held, but rather an unchanging, eternally cognizing Intellect which serves as the indispensable condition for the operation of human intellect. It is “at the door” for each individual, ready to flow in as a stream of light—a light which renders potential objects of cognition knowable, just as visible light makes potentially visible objects visible—from outside that door (thyrathen) any time it is opened. Its existence cannot serve, however, as a proof of the immortality of human intellect, since, being unchanging, it can never possess a feature of human intellect which is characterized by nothing if not change, and that is memory.

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The Principle of Production and a Critique of Metaphysics: From the Perspective of Theory of Baudrillard Contractual Approach Based on Rawls’ Device of the “Original Position”
XIA Ying
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 181-193.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0016-8
Abstract   PDF (248KB)

In this article, I discuss Baudrillard’s critique of metaphysics based on his work The Mirror of Production, in which he stresses the principle of production—i.e., dichotomy and derivation. In the development of classical German philosophy, the principle of production was speculatively established, first as Descartes’ cogito, then as Fichte’s Tathandlung, and finally as Hegel’s labor, and grew to be a major principle of modern metaphysics. At the article’s conclusion, the meaning of Symbolic Exchange—Baudrillard’s utopian condition lying beyond the principle of production—will be discussed.

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On the Double-Reference Character of “Hexagram” Names in the Yijing: Engaging Fregean&Kripkean Approaches to the Issue of How Reference Is Possible
MOU Bo
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (4): 523-537.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0044-5
Abstract   PDF (326KB)

This paper aims to examine the general issue of how reference is possible in philosophy of language through a case analysis of the “double reference” semantic-syntactic structure of ideographic hexagram (guaxiang 卦象) names in the Yijing text. I regard the case of the “hexagram” names as being quite representative of the “double-reference” semantic-syntactic structure of referring names. I thus explore how the general morals drawn from this account of “hexagram” names can engage two representative approaches, the Fregean and Kripkean ones, and contribute to our understanding and treatment of the issue of reference.

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Conceiving Possibility: Kierkegaard and Zhuangzi
XIE Wenyu
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (3): 381-395.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0033-1
Abstract   PDF (264KB)

This paper examines two notions of possibility conceived by Kierkegaard and Zhuangzi respectively. Kierkegaard conceives of it with appeals to the feeling of anxiety, while Zhuangzi deals with it in terms of a type of aesthetic feeling. Based on these distinctions, the paper goes further to explore two types of human existence as fostered by these two corresponding concepts of possibility. According to Kierkegaard, in order to maintain a connection with possibility, which would provide freedom to human existence, one must have faith in the redeemer bringing back possibility so that an individual human being might renew his or her choice ceaselessly. Zhuangzi, on the other hand, advises staying in the realm of nothingness and letting go of all things to avoid being trapped by the struggle of discerning between good and evil.

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Water, Plant, Light, and Mirror: On the Root Metaphors of the Heart-Mind in Wang Yangming’s Thought
BAO Yongling
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (1): 95-112.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0006-5
Abstract   PDF (311KB)

Clarifying Wang Yangming’s thought through a study of his root metaphors of heart-mind is an important step toward explaining his further concepts of the human world. Along with the root metaphors of water and mirror, the metaphors of plant and light work together for Wang to form a coherent theoretical and practical system of xin (heart-mind). This method is also a good way to unravel the various theories of the “three teachings” that are intermingled in his thinking. By using this methodology Wang’s attempts to harmonize several ancient traditions of heart-mind that appear as possibly polarized to modern readers, are illuminated (though they did not appear contradictory to the Neo-Confucians).

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A Philosophical Analysis of the Concept of Crisis
WANG Tangjia
Front. Philos. China    2014, 9 (2): 254-267.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-003-014-0021-0
Abstract   PDF (282KB)

In our times, philosophy has been suffering from a spiritual crisis that takes the forms of the crisis of culture, the crisis of meaning, and the crisis of way of life. As the soul of culture, philosophy should contribute valuable responses to the problems of our times. Thus understood, this paper intends to analyze the concept of crisis in a phenomenological approach. The concept of crisis is concerned with the philosophical themes of time and death, and the crises of our times are primarily the crises of life-meaning and the life-world. Drawing sources from Husserl and other phenomenologists, as well as experiences from Chinese culture, I argue that a philosophy of crisis should find its point of departure from the crisis of philosophy.

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Aristotle’s Immovable Movers: A Sketch
André Laks
Front. Philos. China    2015, 10 (2): 273-286.   https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-004-015-0020-7
Abstract   PDF (282KB)

In keeping with a view that is explicitly formulated by Aristotle in his Motion of Animals, general kinetic principles must be specified according to the different types of movable entities existing in the universe. At issue, essentially, are the motions of the stars and the motions of animals. Whereas the cosmological immovable mover is the object of two complementary analyses (in Bk. VIII of Physics and in Chs. 6 and 7 of Bk. XII of Metaphysics), information on the immovability of the first mover responsible for animal motion is to be found in the psychological and psycho-physiological treatises (On the Soul, in Bk. I, Chs. 3 and 4, and in Bk. III, Ch. 10 and in Ch. 6 of the Motion of Animals). But it is also found in Ch. 7, Bk. XII of the Metaphysics, in the very context of the argument concerning the absolutely first immovable mover of the world. This suggests that the two types of motion, that of the stars and that of animals, however distinct the arguments about them are, rest on a single scheme, and maybe even on a common principle. This is liable to surprise us, as much as stars and animals appear to us to belong to heterogeneous orders of reality. But the situation is different for Aristotle, who, as attentive as he is to differences, tends nonetheless to conceive the stars as living things of a particular kind. This fact is the source of a series of difficulties that Aristotle generously left for his many commentators to solve. Aim of this text, which was initially directed to a larger audience, is to set some of these complex issues in both simple and up to date terms.

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