Julius Caesar Scaliger on Plant Generation and the Question of Species Constancy

in Early Science and Medicine
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Abstract

The sixteenth-century physician and philosopher Julius Caesar Scaliger combines the view that living beings are individuated by a single substantial form with the view that the constituents of the organic body retain their identity due to the continued existence and operation of their own substantial forms. This essay investigates the implications of Scaliger's account of subordinate and dominant substantial forms for the question of the constancy of biological species. According to Scaliger, biological mutability involves not only change on the ontological level of accidents but, in some cases, also change on the level of substantial forms. While he shares the received view that substantial forms themselves cannot undergo change, he maintains that relations of domination and subordination between substantial forms can undergo change. He uses his theory of how such changes can occur to explain cases of revertible plant degeneration. Moreover, in his view plants that belong to previously unknown biological species can emerge from changes in the relations between the many forms contained in plant seeds.

Julius Caesar Scaliger on Plant Generation and the Question of Species Constancy

in Early Science and Medicine

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