The Use of Aristotle’s Biology in Nemesius’ On Human Nature
Keywords:Nemesius, Galen, Aristotle, body and soul
Towards the end of the fourth century CE Nemesius, bishop of Emesa in Syria, composed his treatise On Human Nature (Περὶ φύσεως ἀνθρώπου). The nature of the soul and its relation to the body are central to Nemesius’ treatment. In developing his argument, he draws not only on Christian authors but on a variety of pagan philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and the great physician-cum-philosopher Galen of Pergamum. This paper examines Nemesius’ references to Aristotle’s biology in particular, focusing on a few passages in the light of Aristotle’s Generation of Animals and History of Animals as well as the doxographic tradition. The themes in question are: the status of the intellect, the scale of nature and the respective roles of the male and female in reproduction. Central questions are: Exactly which impact did Aristotle make on his thinking? Was it mediated or direct? Why does Nemesius cite Aristotle and how? Long used as a source for earlier works now lost, Nemesius’ work may provide intriguing glimpses of the intellectual culture of his time. This paper is designed to contribute to this new approach to his work.
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