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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Aristotle ON THE GAIT OF ANIMALS Complete

Translated by A. Farquharson.

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Part 4

Again, the boundaries by which living beings are naturally determined are six in number, superior and inferior, before and behind, right and left. Of these all living beings have a superior and an inferior part; for superior and inferior is in plants too, not only in animals. And this distinction is one of function, not merely of position relatively to our earth and the sky above our heads. The superior is that from which flows in each kind the distribution of nutriment and the process of growth; the inferior is that to which the process flows and in which it ends. One is a starting-point, the other an end, and the starting-point is the superior. And yet it might be thought that in the case of plants at least the inferior is rather the appropriate starting-point, for in them the superior and inferior are in position other than in animals. Still they are similarly situated from the point of view of function, though not in their position relatively to the universe. The roots are the superior part of a plant, for from them the nutriment is distributed to the growing members, and a plant takes it with its roots as an animal does with its mouth.

Things that are not only alive but are animals have both a front and a back, because they all have sense, and front and back are distinguished by reference to sense. The front is the part in which sense is innate, and whence each thing gets its sensations, the opposite parts are the back.

All animals which partake not only in sense, but are able of themselves to make a change of place, have a further distinction of left and right besides those already enumerated; like the former these are distinctions of function and not of position. The right is that from which change of position naturally begins, the opposite which naturally depends upon this is the left.

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