Devin Henry 2017-09-06T11:15:36+00:00

Project Description


  • Ancient Philosophy and Science

  • History and Philosophy of Biology


  • Western University
    Stevenson Hall 4150
    London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B8

  • (519) 661-2111 x85876


Associate Professor; 
Department of Philosophy, Western University

Professor Henry received his PhD in 2004 from King’s College, University of London (UK) under the joint supervision of Richard Sorabji and MM McCabe. The Theme of his dissertation was the role of Aristotle’s concept of phusis (“nature”) in his account of substantial generation. He began his career at Western in 2006.

My current research is focused on methodology and inquiry in Ancient philosophy, especially the work of Plato and Aristotle. I have written on Plato’s method of collection and division, Aristotle’s account of natural kinds, as well as more general issues concerning realism about classification. My work on Aristotle’s philosophy of biology dovetails with my other interest in the History and Philosophy of Biology more generally. I have taught several undergraduate and graduate courses in both the history and philosophy of biology, including graduate seminars on Darwin’s Origin of Species and the work of Richard Dawkins. Within the Philosophy of Biology, I am particularly interested in questions about the ontology of species including species realism, classification, and the mechanisms of speciation.


Devin Henry and Karen M. Nielsen (eds.). Bridging the Gap Between Aristotle’s Science and Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2012.

Devin Henry. Aristotle on Substantial Generation. In preparation.


“Teleology and Optimization in Ancient Greek Science” (under review).

“A Sharp Eye for Kinds: Collection and Division in Plato’s Late Dialogues” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy (2011).

“Aristotle’s Pluralistic Realism” The Monist (2011).

“Aristotle’s Generation of Animals” in Georgios Anagnostopoulos (ed.) A Companion to Aristotle. Blackwell Books. February 2009

“Organismal Natures” in Aristotle on Life. John Mouracade (ed.), Kelowna: Academic Printing & Publishing, 2008. 47-74. Special issue of Apeiron: a journal for ancient philosophy and science, XLI.3, September 2008.

“How Sexist is Aristotle’s Developmental Biology?” Phronesis, Vol. 52, No. 3. (2007), pp. 251-269.

“Understanding Aristotle’s Reproductive Hylomorphism” Apeiron. Volume 39 no. 3 (September 2006).

“Aristotle on the mechanisms of inheritance” Journal of the History of Biology. Volume 39 no. 3 (September 2006).

“Embryological Models in Ancient Philosophy” Phronesis, Volume 1, February 2005, 1-42.

“Themistius and Spontaneous Generation in Aristotle’s Metaphysics” Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, 24, Summer 2003, 183-208.

“Pleasure and the Worst Form of Akrasia”, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 5.3, Sept. 2002, 255-270.

Doctoral Thesis:

“How to Build an Animal: the metaphysics of Aristotle’s ontogeny”, Submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, King’s College, University of London, UK, July 2004.

Invited Talks, Conference Presentations:

“Teleology in Ancient Greek Philosophy”. Invited paper for Teleological and Necessitarian Explanation in the Ancient Life Sciences, University of Patras, Greece, June 17-19, 2011.

“Plato’s Teleology”. Invited paper for The West Coast Plato Workshop. Portland, May 21, 2011.

“Teleology and Optimization in Ancient Greek Philosophy”. Invited paper for a panel on Teleology, American Philosophical Association, Boston, December 29, 2010.

“Teleology and Optimization in Ancient Greek Philosophy”. Invited paper. University of Toronto, Classics Department and Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. December 1, 2010.

“Teleology and Optimization in Ancient Greek Philosophy”. Invited paper. McMaster University, Department of Philosophy. November 12, 2010.

“Collection and Division in Plato’s Late Dialogues”. Invited paper. 33rd Annual Ancient Philosophy Workshop. University of Texas at Austin. March 2010.

“Aristotle’s Pluralistic Realism”. (Invited paper) Department of Classics, Cambridge University, UK. February 15, 2010.

“Plato and Aristotle on Classification”. (Invited paper) King’s College, University of London, UK. February 10, 2010.

“Darwin’s contribution to Invasion Biology”, 150 Years of Evolution: Darwin’s impact on the humanities and social sciences, November 2009, San Diego State University (San Diego, CA). (Invited)

“Potential Being”, Third Annual Workshop on Ancient Philosophy, September 2009, University of Alaska at Anchorage (Anchorage AK). (Invited)

Historia non facit sultum: Buffon, Lamarck, and the Vestiges”, February 2009, San Diego State University (San Diego, CA). (Invited)

“Science and Ethics”, University of Pittsburgh, November 20-23, 2008. Aristotle on the Limits of Natural Science. (Invited)

“Anatomy of a Genos”, The University of Western Ontario, October 17-19, 2008. The Western Ontario Colloquium in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy.

“Aristotle on the (Dis)Unity of Nature”, University of Alaska at Anchorage, May 26-30, 2008. (Invited)

“Why does Aristotle begrudge Plato final causes?”, Canadian Philosophical Association, June 5, 2008.

“Commentary on John Thorp’s ‘Aristotle’s Vitalism’”, Canadian Philosophical Association, June 5, 2008.

“Ontological Status of Species”, Trent University, March 27 2008. (Invited)

“Organismal Natures” University of Alaska at Anchorage, August 7-10, 2007. (Refereed)

“Natural Teleology in Aristotle’s Generation of Animal”, Boston Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, Boston University, January 22, 2007. (Invited)

“Natural Teleology in the Generation of Animals” CEU (Central European University) Summer University Programme, Philosophy and Science in the Greco-Roman World, Budapest (Hungary), July 17-28, 2007. (Invited)

Project Title: Aristotle on the Unity and Diversity of Life (SSHRC Standard Research Grant)

Role: Primary Investigator

Brief Description: When it comes to physics, Aristotle’s influence on the development of Western science is well-documented. Yet his role in the development of the life sciences remains under-explored. My goal in this project is to take the first steps towards remedying this by exploring Aristotle’s biology on its own terms with the aim of laying bare its philosophical foundations. My approach is to focus on Aristotle’s solutions to three enduring puzzles in the study of life: its diversity, its unity, and its adaptations. (1) If the world is governed by universal laws of nature operating on homogeneous matter, as physics tells us, why do we find so many different kinds of living thing? What produces this incredible diversity? (2) Despite this immense diversity, life also reflects an underlying unity and order. What explains this order? And what is the best way to organize living things so that it becomes most salient? (3) Living things not only come in a large array of different forms, but each one of those forms is adapted to its particular environment. Fish have fins, gills, and a lateral line for detecting vibrations in water. These features are not very useful on land, but they are indispensable for an animal that must make its entire living underwater. Elephants have loose fitting skin and large ears that aid in cooling, which are necessary for life in the hot sun. Adaptations like these are perhaps the most distinctive feature of life. What is responsible for producing this “good fit” between an organism and its environment? Understanding Aristotle’s answers to these puzzles will result in a more complete picture of the origins of the science and philosophy of biology. This will then open the door to future projects aimed at tracing his influence through the subsequent history of the discipline (e.g. Linnaeus, Cuvier, Harvey).


Philosophy 162G Business Ethics (04/05, 05/06)

Philosophy 143E Philosophy of Religion (04/05)

Philosophy 151F Gender and Sexuality (04/05)

Philosophy 373G Aristotle’s Biology (05/06)

Philosophy 154E Asian Philosophies (05/06)

Media, Information & Technoculture 275F Personal Identity in Film (05/06)

Philosophy 210F Ancient Philosophy (05/06, 07/08)

Philosophy 335F Plato (06/07, 07/08)

Philosophy 473F Teleology (06/07)

Philosophy 378G Aristotle’s Biology (06/07)

Philosophy 327G Philosophical Issues in Contemporary Biology (07/08)

Philosophy 2200F Introduction to Ancient Philosophy (08/09, 10/11)

Philosophy 3006F Aristotle (08/09, 09/10, 10/11)

Philosophy 2001G Architects of Reason: Darwin (08/09)

Philosophy 3340G Philosophy of Biology (09/10)

Philosophy 2350G Introduction to Philosophy of Biology (10/11)


Philosophy 659B Science in the Commentary Tradition (06/07)

Philosophy 9005G Problems in Aristotle’s Philosophy of Science (07/08)

Philosophy 616A Plato’s Epistemology (08/09)

Philosophy 9206F Darwin’s Origin of Species (10/11)

Philosophy 9750G Dawkins and his Critics: Survey of the Philosophy of Biology (11/12)

Independent Reading Courses

“Aristotle’s Politics”, Graduate (Aviva Shiller), Spring 2011

“History of Evolution”, Graduate (Valerie Racine), Spring 2009

“Metaphysics in Aristotle’s biology”, Graduate (Riin Sirkel), Winter 2008

Prospectus Course, Sean Coughlin, 2008-09 (GRADUATE)

“Aristotle”, 4th Year (Aimee McMillian), Winter 2008

“Aristotle’s Biology”, 4th year (Randy McAuley), Winter 2007

Summer Teaching

Greek Language Seminar, 2010, 2007