1st Edition

Forms, Souls, and Embryos
Neoplatonists on Human Reproduction

ISBN 9780367874742
Published December 19, 2019 by Routledge
232 Pages


USD $47.95

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Book Description

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



Index Locorum

Subject Index

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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).