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Plato’s Embryology


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Embryology was a subject that inspired great cross-disciplinary discussion in antiquity, and Plato’s Timaeus made an important contribution to this discussion, though Plato’s precise views have remained a matter of controversy, especially regarding three key questions pertaining to the generation and nature of the seed: whether there is a female seed; what the nature of seed is; and whether the seed contains a preformed human being. In this paper I argue that Plato’s positions on these three issues can be adequately determined, even if some other aspects of his theory cannot. In particular, it is argued that (i) Plato subscribes to the encephalo-myelogenic theory of seed, though he places particular emphasis on the soul being the true seed; (ii) Plato is a two-seed theorist, yet the female seed appears to make no contribution to reproduction; and (iii) Plato cannot be an advocate of preformationism.


Affiliations: 1: Ruhr-Universität Bochum
James.Wilberding@ruhr-uni-bochum.de


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/content/journals/10.1163/15733823-00202p03
2015-06-12
2017-11-20

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