No other natural kind receives as much abuse in the Aristotelian corpus as the octopus, and an instructive itinerary through that corpus can be constructed by following the manifestations of such abuse. Specifically, the octopus is judged “stupid” and endowed with poor, rudimentary structure; together with fellow cephalopoda and mollusks, it is even regarded as behaving “contrary to nature.” The moral that emerges from following this path is that Aristotle may be expressing here a deep conflict between two different models equally present in his work, though they are assigned very different emphasis. Also, importantly, mollusks are said to be “mutilated,” which aligns the treatment they receive with the one Aristotle famously reserves for women.

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