Definition is one of the most disputed elements of Aristotle’s scientific methodology. In difficult passages of the Posterior Analytics, Aristotle asks if definitions can be proven, how definitions can be found, and how much of the thing defined is expressed in a definition. Definitions are intricately tied to demonstration, and are thus at the core of every Aristotelian science. Indeed, they can be used as a focal point to glance at how a given author of generally Aristotelian persuasion construed demonstrative science.
In my project, I study definitions in action within medieval scholastic zoology. By its nature, zoology relies heavily on classification and taxonomy—methods that are seemingly non-demonstrative. My focus will be on the relationships of these zoological methods to the finding of definitions and the development of demonstration as introduced in Aristotle’s logical writings. My study will trace these issues and their developments in light of internal and external factors in select Latin commentaries on the Historia animalium, De partibus animalium, and De generatione animalium stretching from the early thirteenth to the early seventeenth century.