The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science

Armand Marie Leroi. Viking, $27.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-670-02674-6
Leroi (Mutants) lovingly rescues the reputation of Aristotle’s alternately meticulous and bizarre studies of animal behavior from the ruins left in the wake of derision during the Scientific Revolution. Leroi brings a modern sensibility to, yet evokes an air of timelessness with, his gorgeous descriptions of the ecology of the fishing villages of Lesbos where Aristotle both carefully dissected fishes and gave credence to the most fantastic of animal folk stories. His Aristotle creates systems of categories in a determined search for the reasons behind the existence of living things in their myriad forms. Leroi smoothly drops readers into Aristotle’s world of concocting elements and vital heat, of formal causes and nutritive, sensitive, and rational souls. He muses on how close Aristotle came to the ideas of Linnaeus and Darwin, having collected so much of the kinds of data they would eventually need despite being constrained by core axioms that saw animal types as diverse but essentially static. Leroi credits Aristotle with the most basic tenet of empirical science—to understand the world, look first and then try to explain what you see—but resists crediting him with textually unsupported prescience, which highlights beautifully the fact that ideas can be self-consistent, elegant, yet entirely wrong. Illus. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/28/2014
Release date: 09/25/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-14-312798-7
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-1-4088-3622-4
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