Encyclopedia of Neuroscience

2009 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Binder, Nobutaka Hirokawa, Uwe Windhorst

Evolution and the Scala Naturae

  • William Hodos
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-29678-2_3118

Synonyms

Scale of nature; Phylogenetic scale; Evolutionary scale

Definition

A hierarchical ranking of animals based on Aristotelian notions of perfection, with humans at the top. It has often been used incorrectly as a model for vertebrate evolution.

Characteristics

In seeking to find order and relationship in the biological world, the Greek scientist and philosopher, Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) devised a classification scheme for animals that came to be known as the scala naturae in its Latin translation from Greek. In Latin, scala means “ladder” or “flight of steps” and naturae means “of nature” or “of the universe”. Aristotle’s idea was that living things could be assigned a hierarchical position on this metaphorical ladder that would represent their degree of perfection [1,2,3]. He placed humans on the top rung and other creatures of the known world on progressively lower rungs. He based his classification system on various biological characteristics that he could observe, such as...

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References

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    Aristotle (1910) Historia Animalium. Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK (Translated by W Ogle)Google Scholar
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    Aristotle (1912) De Generatione Animalium. Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK (Translated by A Platt)Google Scholar
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    Hodos W, Campbell CBG (1969) Scala naturae: why there is no theory in comparative psychology. Psych Rev 76:337–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Hofman MA (2001) Evolution and complexity of the human brain: some organizing principles. In: RothG, Wullimann ME (eds) Brain evolution and cognition. Wiley, New York, pp 501–521Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Hodos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA