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From Animal Bodies To Human Souls: (Pseudo-)Aristotelian Animals in Della Porta’s Physiognomics

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This article analyses the role that animals play in Della Porta’s method of physiognomics. It claims that Della Porta created his own, original, method by appropriating, and yet selectively adapting Aristotelian and pseudo-Aristotelian sources. This has not been adequately reconstructed before in previous studies on Della Porta. I trace, in two steps, the conceptual trajectory of Della Porta’s physiognomics, from human psychology to animal psychology, and ultimately from psychology to ethics. In the first step, I show how Della Porta substantially adapts the physiognomic principle of the body-soul relationship as found in the pseudo-Aristotelian Physiognomonica. In the second, I demonstrate that the real aim of Della Porta’s physiognomics is a practical one, namely understanding how to live a good life, and I explain why he refers to Aristotle in order to ground this conception.

Affiliations: 1: University of Warwick


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