Aristotle, On Plants

LCL 307: 144-145

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815 a ἂν τὴν περὶ τούτου ἀμφιβολίαν καὶ μακρὰν ποιήσωμεν 30τὴν ζήτησιν. τὸ δὲ τὰ τοιαῦτα παραλιμπάνειν καὶ μὴ εὐαναλώτοις περὶ τὰ καθ᾿ ἕκαστον ἐρεύναις ἐνδιατρίβειν πρέπον ἐστίν. τινὲς δὲ ἔχειν ψυχὰς τὰ φυτὰ εἶπον, ὅτι γεννᾶσθαι τρέφεσθαι καὶ αὐξάνεσθαι, νεάζειν καὶ χλοάζειν γήρᾳ τε διαλύεσθαι τεθεωρήκασιν, ἐπείπερ οὐδὲν ἄψυχον ταῦτα μετὰ 35τῶν φυτῶν ἔχει κοινά. διότι δὲ ἔχουσι ταῦτα τὰ φυτά, καὶ τὸ ἐπιθυμίᾳ ὡσαύτως κατέχεσθαι ἐπίστευον.

815 b 10Ἀλλὰ πρῶτον τοῖς φανεροῖς, εἶτα καὶ τοῖς κεκρυμμένοις ἀκολουθήσωμεν. λέγομεν τοίνυν ὡς ἐὰν εἴ τι τρέφεται, ἤδη καὶ ἐπιθυμεῖ, καὶ ἡδύνεται μὲν τῷ κόρῳ, λυπεῖται δὲ ὅτε πεινᾷ· καὶ οὐκ ἐμπίπτουσιν αὗται αἱ διαθέσεις εἰ μὴ μετὰ αἰσθήσεως. τούτου ἄρα θαυμάσιος μέν, οὐ μὴν φαῦλος πλανᾶται σκοπός, 15ὃς καὶ τὰ φυτὰ αἰσθάνεσθαι καὶ ἐπιθυμεῖν ἐδόξασεν. ὁ δὲ Ἀναξαγόρας καὶ ὁ Δημόκριτος καὶ ὁ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς καὶ νοῦν καὶ γνῶσιν εἶπον ἔχειν τὰ φυτά. ἡμεῖς δὲ τὰ τοιαῦτα ὡς φαῦλα ἀποτρεπόμενοι τῷ ὑγιεῖ ἐνστῶμεν λόγῳ. λέγομεν οὖν ὅτι τὰ 20φυτὰ οὔτε ἐπιθυμίαν οὔτε αἴσθησιν ἔχουσιν. ἡ γὰρ ἐπιθυμία οὐκ ἔστιν εἰ μὴ ἐξ αἰσθήσεως, καὶ τὸ τοῦ ἡμετέρου δὲ θελήματος τέλος πρὸς τὴν αἴσθησιν ἀποστρέφεται. οὐχ εὑρίσκομεν γοῦν ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις αἴσθησιν οὔτε μέλος αἰσθανόμενον, οὔτε ὁμοιότητα αὐτοῦ, οὔτε εἶδος διωρισμένον, οὔτε τι 25ἀκόλουθον τούτῳ, οὔτε τοπικὴν κίνησιν, οὔτε ὁδὸν πρός τι αἰσθητόν, οὔτε σημεῖόν τι δι᾿ οὗ ἂν κρίνωμεν ταῦτα αἴσθησιν ἔχειν, καθὼς σημεῖα δι᾿ ὧν ἐπιστάμεθα ταῦτα καὶ τρέφεσθαι καὶ αὐξάνεσθαι

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On Plants I

have considerable doubt on the question, and shall have to prosecute a long search. But it will probably be wise to pass over such questions as these, and not to spend time on wasteful inquiries into these details. Some maintain that plants have souls, because they have watched them born, being fed and growing, be young and grow green, and perish through old age, on the ground that no soulless thing shares these experiences with plants. And because plants have these experiences, they believe that on similar grounds they must be influenced by desire.

But let us follow their obvious characteristics first Previous theories. and their hidden ones afterwards. We have quoted the belief (of Plato) that if anything receives food, it also desires and has pleasure in satiety, and suffers pain when it is hungry; moreover these conditions do not occur except in combination with sensation. Plato’s theory is marvellous, though its errors are not slight, I mean the theory in which he supposed that plants could feel and desire. But Anaxagoras, Democritus and Empedocles said that plants have intelligence and can acquire knowledge. Let us dismiss these theories as trivial and abide by sound reasoning. We maintain, then, that plants know neither desire nor sensation. For desire cannot exist apart from sensation, and the accomplishment of our will depends upon sensation. Now in plants we find no sensation, nor any organ which can feel, nor anything in the least like it, nor any differentiated form, nor anything issuing from it, nor any local movement, nor any method of approach to sense apprehension, nor any sign by which we could judge that plants have sensation, corresponding to the signs by which we know that they are nourished and grow. Even this is not

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-plants.1936