Forms, Souls, and Embryos allows readers coming from different backgrounds to appreciate the depth and originality with which the Neoplatonists engaged with and responded to a number of philosophical questions central to human reproduction, including: What is the causal explanation of the embryo’s formation? How and to what extent are Platonic Forms involved? In what sense is a fetus ‘alive,’ and when does it become a human being? Where does the embryo’s soul come from, and how is it connected to its body? This is the first full-length study in English of this fascinating subject, and is a must-read for anyone interested in Neoplatonism or the history of medicine and embryology.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Embryological Background
General Background: Four Key Issues in Ancient Embryology
Embryology in Plato
Chapter 2: The Metaphysical Background
Metaphysical Models in Embryology
The Biological Development of the Theory of Forms
Chapter 3: Neoplatonic Embryology: The Core Theory
The One-Seed Theory
The Origin and Nature of the Seed
The Maternal Actualization of the Seed
Other External Factors in the Formation of the Offspring
Appendix to Chapter 3: Eclectic Theories
The Commentary on the Hippocratic On the Nature of the Child by John of Alexandria
Theophilus Protospatharius’ On the Construction of the Human Being
Pseudo-Galen’s De Spermate
Pseudo-Iamblichus’ Theology of Arithmetic
Pseudo-Galen’s Whether What is Carried in the Womb is a Living Thing
The Commentary on Aristotle’s On the Generation of Animals by Michael of Ephesus
Michael’s Interpretation of Aristotle’s Embryology
Michael’s Interpretation of Plato’s Embryology
Chapter 4: Formation and Animation of the Embryo
The Order of the Embryo’s Formation
The Animation of the Embryo
Chapter 5: The Problem of Teratogenesis
James Wilberding is Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at Ruhr University, Bochum (Germany). Previously he was a lecturer in Classics at Newcastle University (UK) and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Williams College (USA).
"Wilberding’s Forms, Souls, and Embryos is a pioneering work. It explores the uncharted territory of late ancient philosophy’s growing interest in medicine and biology. Its distinguished achievement lies in discovering a new world for future research – the metaphysical foundation of the key concepts of conception and the origin of life, as presented in Neoplatonism, the school which carried the vitality of ancient thought into the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Wilberding’s conclusion that the Neoplatonic attribution of causal significance to both sexes in biological generation does not constitute as quiet a revolution as it seems originally, is equally valid for the achievement of his book itself."
- Dr. Svetla Slaveva-Griffin, Florida State University, USA
"This is a fascinating book, well worth reading if you have any interest in Platonic philosophy or ancient philosophy more generally ... It is time that we took more notice of philosophical engagement with embryological theory from the earliest thinkers to the early modern period. Wilberding’s book is a major advance in scholarship in this area and will surely open up substantial avenues for further research. The typescript is immaculate; there are comprehensive notes, an excellent bibliography and index locorum. In short, this book in outstanding in content, style and presentation."
- Sophia M. Connell, University of Cambridge, UK, in the Bryn Mawr Classica Review