Was Aristotle the ‘Father’ of the Epigenesis Doctrine?

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (2):28 (2018)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Was Aristotle the ‘father’ and founder of the epigenesis doctrine? Historically, I will argue, this question must be answered with ‘no’. Aristotle did not initiate and had no access to a debate that described itself in terms of ‘epigenesis’ and ‘preformation’, and thus cannot be considered the ‘father’ or founder of the epigenesis-preformation controversy in a literal sense. But many ancient accounts of reproduction and embryological development contain analogies to what early modern scientist called ‘epigenesis’ and ‘preformation’, and, in this analogous sense, Aristotle can be considered a precursor of the epigenesis-preformation controversy. But is Aristotle’s position actually epigenetic, as most of the traditional interpreters hold, or preformationist, as some of the recent scholars believe? I will argue against the one-sidedness of both readings that Aristotle’s account of reproduction and heredity contains mainly epigenetic, but also a few preformationist characteristics. Whereas, for instance, Aristotle’s idea of a successive development of the embryo’s parts is doubtlessly epigenetic, Aristotle’s idea that the development of the embryo is an actualization and enlargement of potential parts, which are simultaneously present in the semen, can be considered a preformationist feature.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 84,108

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Kant’s epigenesis: specificity and developmental constraints.Boris Demarest - 2016 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 39 (1):3.
Epigenesis by experience: Romantic empiricism and non-Kantian biology.Amanda Jo Goldstein - 2017 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (1):13.
The Virtues of Aristotle.D. S. Hutchinson - 1986 - New York: Routledge.
Aristotle on the Akratic's Knowledge.Filip Grgić - 2002 - Phronesis 47 (4):336-358.


Added to PP

48 (#267,026)

6 months
1 (#511,561)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Ina Goy
Beijing Normal University

Citations of this work

Introduction: sketches of a conceptual history of epigenesis.Antonine Nicoglou & Charles T. Wolfe - 2018 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (4):64.

Add more citations