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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Thursday 15 January 2015
4.30pm in Seminar Room 2, Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Rebecca Flemming (Classics, Cambridge)
One-seed, two-seed, three-seed? Reassessing ancient theories of generation

votivesMedical and philosophical theories of generation from the classical world are often classified according to whether the female as well as the male produces 'seed', the substance which does the most important work in procreation. Aristotle is usually identified as the most influential proponent of the 'one-seed model', while Galen champions the 'two-seed' cause, and the debate between them continues, and continues to matter, for centuries. At stake here is not just theoretical efficiency – how well the full complexities of parental resemblance are accounted for by the contending notions, for example – but also, it has been suggested, politics and patriarchy. Two seeds are thus better, more egalitarian, than one, because this model values the female role in generation more positively. The lecture will argue that not only this characterisation, but the division itself, is misleading. Another way must be found to understand the key concepts in these foundational debates.

There will be tea before the lecture, at 4pm in Seminar Room 1, and a drinks reception afterwards, at 6pm in Seminar Room 1.

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