Neoplatonists on ‘spontaneous’ generation

James Wilberding

in Neoplatonism and the Philosophy of Nature

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199693719
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739019 | DOI:
Neoplatonists on ‘spontaneous’ generation

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Ancient philosophers generally accepted that there were many cases of living things coming to exist without having been generated by others of their kind. Aristotle famously labelled this phenomenon ‘spontaneous’ generation—by which he meant that despite appearances there were no teleological principles guiding the process. Neoplatonists too accepted the phenomena, but were troubled by Aristotle’s characterization of them as ‘spontaneous’, because this would seem to imply that both forms and souls could be generated from matter. As an alternative they developed a theory that effectively assimilated these phenomena to cases of normal biological generation: soul (either the soul of the Earth or the soul of the deceased) contains the required form-principles and is responsible for producing the bodies of such creatures, with soul and form being automatically present once a suitable receptacle has been produced.

Keywords: spontaneous generation; abiogenesis; seeds; generative soul; seed; suitability; biology; life

Chapter.  10081 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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