Artificial Life and the Homunculus

in Promethean Ambitions

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2004 | ISBN: 9780226577128
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226577135 | DOI:
Artificial Life and the Homunculus

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This chapter discusses artificial life and the homunculus. The vast literature focusing on alchemy in the debate on art and nature often draws on the spontaneous generation of animals for examples that are relevant to alchemical transmutation. Late antique and medieval theories of artificial life can be broken into two main categories: those predicated on the theory of spontaneous generation, primarily as outlined in the biological works of Aristotle; and those based on the cosmogonyc myths of a creator God, like the golem of medieval Judaism. One of the great pillars in the edifice of artificial life was Aristotle's theory of sexual, as opposed to spontaneous, generation. The concept of the marvelous power of male sperm, like the ability of specific types of matter to generate life spontaneously, opened up a vast field of speculation about the possibilities of artificial life.

Keywords: artificial life; homunculus; alchemical transmutation; cosmogonyc myths; medieval theories

Chapter.  32176 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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