Plants Versus Animals in Hellenistic Thought
Greek and Roman philosophers revised and reinterpreted both Plato and Aristotle, fusing their hierarchy of souls (vegetable, animal, and rational) into new systems. They focused on the vegetable/animal divide but favored some form of continuity running through all three categories. Epicureans and Stoics, along with contemporary physicians (e.g., Galen) focused on materialist accounts, while Neoplatonists favored vitalist accounts, built on participation in the life of the cosmos. The latter, recast as participation in the mind of God, proved highly influential for medieval European biology. Philosophers retained Aristotelian language, but began to shift the terms, narrowing final causes to intentional ends.
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