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"Aristote et les théories pangénétiques du Ve siècle : enjeux métaphysiques d'un débat biologique"

Abstract : In the Generation of Animals (GA), Aristotle criticises at length the pangenetic theory (according to which the seed is drawn from the whole body) and leaves aside other positions which are, at first sight, closer to his own. This paper aims to understand why. First, a text from GA I, 18, in which Aristotle invokes Empedocles and Anaxagoras to construct a philosophical debate about this topic, is examined in detail: thus, the prerequisites of a correct inquiry into the origin of the seed are brought out. Aristotle's position is then examined (that seed results from the concoction, by the male, of blood, which is the ultimate nourishment). The seed, conveying the form-bearing motions to the matter provided by the female (menses), happens to be both the principle of movement and of animation. Nevertheless, the female also contributes in her own way. Indeed, the embryo results from the encounter of an agent (male seed) and a patient (menses) both containing in potency the parts of the body, although in different ways. Furthermore, heredity is shared between male and female: one can resemble both father and mother (and also forebears). Can the singular identity of an individual therefore be reduced to a patchwork of traits inherited from father and mother? Here it is maintained that the seed is not only the principle of movement and animation but also, for this very reason, a principle of unity. Thus, it will appear that Aristotle brings into light the metaphysical implications of a biological debate (which he likely is constructing for the occasion), and that, while he sets himself apart from pangeneticism, this is due less to the position in itself (for in fact there are obvious similarities) than to the philosophical consistency of the argument he is contructing.
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Contributor : Claire Louguet <>
Submitted on : Monday, October 26, 2015 - 10:40:43 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - 11:46:49 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-01220341, version 1


Claire Louguet. "Aristote et les théories pangénétiques du Ve siècle : enjeux métaphysiques d'un débat biologique". Victor Gysembergh; Andreas Schwab. Le Travail du Savoir / Wissensbewältigung - Philosophie, sciences exactes et sciences appliquées dans l'Antiquité, WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2015, AKAN-Einzelschriften, 978-3-86821-588-5. ⟨hal-01220341⟩



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