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Andreas Blank

Biomedical Ontology
and the Metaphysics of Composite Substarrces
in Logic, Ontology and the Philosophy ofLanguage

Ignacio Angelelli - Austin (Texas/ USA)
Joseph M. Bachenski t
Christian Thiel (Erlangen I D)

Hans Burkhardt ( Murrich I D)
Andreas Blank
Biomedical Ontology
and the Metaphysics of Composite

Die Deutsche Bibliothek
Der Titelsatz fr diese Publikation ist bei der Deutschen
Bibliothek erhltlich

ISBN 378-3-88405-098-9
2010 for this compilation by
Philosophia V erlag GmbH Munich

2008 by Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology (MIT) for Juuus CAESAR
20 I 0 by Koninklijke Brill NV Leiden for
2010 by Georg Olms Verlag AG Hildesheim for ]EAN FERNEL ON SIMPLE
2007 by Cambridge University Press for COMPOSITE SUBSTANCES,
2006 by Cambridge University Press for ATOMS, MINDS, AND WALTER
2010 by Massachusetts Institute ofTechnoloy (MIT) for DANIEL SENNERT
2010 by Springer Science & Business Media B.V. Dordrecht for SENNERT
For Kathrin


Acknowledgements 11
Note an Citations and Translations 13
Abbreviations 15

Introduction 17

Chapter 1
Julius Caesar Scaliger on Corpuseies, the Vacuum, and Composite
Substarrces 27
1.1. Introduction 27
1.2. Fracastoro on Corpuseiesand the Vacuum 29
1.3. Scaliger on Corpuseiesand the Vacuum 35
1.4. Corpuseies and Mixture 41
1.5. Coneiusion 45

Chapter 2
Julius Caesar Scaliger on Plant Generation and the Question of Spe-
cies Constancy 53
2.1. Introduction 53
2.2. Concepts ofBiological Mutability 55
2.3. Composite Unities and Subordinate Forms 57
2.4. SubordinateFormsand Species Flexibility 59
2.5. SubordinateFormsand Singular Species Mutability 64
2.6. Coneiusion 69

Chapter 3
Jean Femel on Simple Forms, Composite Substances, and Divine
Immanence 73
3.1. Introduction 73
3.2. Varieties ofDivine Immanence 74
3.3. SimpleFormsand Celestial Causation 76
3.4. SimpleFormsand Divine Immanence 80
3.5. Coneiusion 83

Chapter 4
Material Souls and Imagination in Late Aristotelian
Embryology 89
4.1. Introduction 89
4.2. Liceti on Material Souls and the Union of Soul
and Body 91
4.3. Liceti on Material Soulsand Animal Seeds 96
4.4. Liceti on Material Souls and Imagination 99
4.5. Parisano's Criticism 104
4.6. Conclusion 108

Chapter 5
Composite Substances, Common Nations, and Kenelm Digby's
Theory of Animal Generation 115
5 .1. Introduction 115
5.2. Rarity, Density, and Animal Generation 118
5.3. Animal Generation and Minimal Parts 121
5.4. Mixture and Organic Unities 124
5.5. Animal Generation and the Epistemology ofCommon
Notions 130
5.6. Conclusion 136

Chapter 6
Atoms, Minds, and Walter Charleton's Theory of Animal Genera-
tion 143
6.1. Introduction 143
6.2. The Metaphysics ofGeneration and Corruption 146
6.3. Vital Heat, Vital Spirits, and Animal Generation 150
6.4. Emergent Properties and the Problem of the Origin of
Minds 156
6.5. Conclusion 162

Chapter 7
Daniel Sennerton Poisons, Epilepsy, and Subordinate Forms 167
7.1. Introduction 167
7.2. Poisons, Epilepsy, and Diseases ofthe Whole
Substance 169
7.3. Poisons, Epilepsy, and Chemical Causation 172
7.4. Poisons, Epilepsy, and Species Mutability 177
7.5. Conclusion 182

Chapter 8
Sennert and Leibniz on Animate Atoms 189
8.1. Introduction 189
8.2. Animate Atomsand the Question ofPalingenesis 191
8.3. Sennerton Animate Atomsand Emanative
Causation 196
8.4. Leibniz on Animate Atomsand Emanative
Causation 200
8.5. Concluding Remarks 203

References 211
Index 229

Work on this book began during my time as a Visiting Fellow at the

Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas
during the academic years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, continued
during an extended stay at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfen-
buettel in 2008, and was finished in the summer of 2009 during my
time as a Senior Research Fellow at the Jacques Loeb Center at Ben-
Gurion University in Be'er-Sheva. I would like to express heartfelt
thanks to Leo Corry and Marcelo Dascal for having made my stay in
TelAviv possible, to Gillian Bepler for the warm hospitality in Wol-
fenbttel, and to Ute Deichmann and Tony Travis for having invited
me to Be'er-Sheva. I am also very grateful to the Alexander von
Humboldt Foundation for having granted me a Feodor Lynen Fel-
lowship for the academic year 2005-2006, and to the Herzog Au-
gust Bibliothek for having granted me a research fellowship from
funds ofthe Land Niedersachsen.
Earlier versions of parts of this book have been presented on
various occasions: the 1i11 International Congress of Logic, Metho-
dology and Philosophy of Science in Oviedo, Spain; the Philosophy
Department at Ben-Gurion University, Be'er-Sheva, Israel; the Con-
ference ofthe Israeli Association for the History of Science in Jeru-
salem; the Sixth HOPOS Conference at the ENS in Paris, France; a
conference on 'Nature et surnaturel' at the Uni-versite du Luxem-
bourg; a conference on 'Leibniz et les machines de la nature' at the
ENS in Paris; and finally at the Department of Philosophy at Etvs
Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary. At later stages, I was lucky
to have found some sharp and careful readers. In addition to the
reports from anonymaus referees for the journals to which some of
the chapters have been submitted, chapters 1 and 2 profited greatly
from detailed comments by Y akir Levin, chapters 1 and 6 from
fierce criticism by Stephanie Hrtel, chapter 5 from wise strategic
counsel by Alexandre Metraux, chapter 6 from useful suggestions
by Justin Smith, chapter 7 from long conversations with Silvana
d'Alessio (the only other scholar on the planet known to me who is
interested in early modern views on poisons), and chapter 8 from e-
mail exchanges with Richard Arthur and Hiro Hirai. Hans Burk-

hardt, Volker Peckhaus, and Gereon W alters, the referees for my

Habilitation, commented upon the whole manuscript. And my copy
editor, Miriam Greenfield, did an amazing job in tuming my Ger-
manie English into something readable. I am very grateful to all of
them. Their feedback made working on this book much more fun
than it would otherwise have been and at the same time saved me
from an embarrassing number of obscurities and errors. All remain-
ing blunders are, of course, entirely my own.
Versions of the chapters of this book have been published or
accepted for publication in various places: Chapter 1 is a modified
version of an article that appeared in Perspectives on Science 16
(2008). Chapter 2 appeared in Early Science and Medicine 15
(2010); chapter 3 in Nature et Surnaturel. Metaphysique et philoso-
phies de Ia nature du XV!e aux XVII!e siecles, edited by Vlad Alex-
andrescu and Robert Theis, Hildesheim: Olms, 2010; and chapter 4
in Annals of Science 67 (2010). Chapter 5 is a somewhat expanded
version of an article that appeared in Science in Context 20 (2007);
and chapter 6 a somewhat expanded version of an article that ap-
peared in The Problem of Anima! Generation in Early Modern Phi-
losophy, edited by Justin E. H. Smith, Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press, 2006. Chapter 7 is forthcoming in Perspectives on
Science; and chapter 8 is forthcoming in Machines of Nature and
Composite Substances in Leibniz, edited by Ohad Nachtomy and
Justin E. H. Smith, Dordrecht: Springer. I am grateful to the pub-
lishers and editors for permission to use this material in the present

Note on Citations and Translations

In what follows, citations of passages from early modern works

published in English follow the original orthography. Translations
of passages from Latin works are my own, except where otherwise
noted. The original of translated passages is given in the footnotes
(except for passages from Leibniz, which are easily accessible in the
Academy edition). In transcribing Latin passages, I have normalized
the use of "u", "v", "i", and "j" and omitted the accents used in six-
teenth-century Latin. Also, I use a capitalletter for the first word of
sentence, even where the original sources do not do this. Apart from
these changes, the spelling, use of capital letters, and punctuation
are those of the original texts. All emphases, indicated by italics or
capitalization, are those of the original texts.

A Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Smtliche Schriften und Briefe.

Edited by the German Academy of Sciences. Berlin,
Darmstadt, and Leipzig, 1923-.
ACC Fortunio Liceti, De animarum coextensione corpori libri
duo. Padua, 1616.
AHT Julius Caesar Scaliger, Animadversiones in historias Theo-
phrasti. Paris, 1584.
ARC Jean Ferne! 's On the Hidden Causes of Things. Forms,
Souls and Occult Diseases in Renaissance Medicine. Lei-
den and Boston, 2005.
CA Julius Caesar Scaliger, Commentarii, et animadversiones,
in sex libros De causis plantarum Theophrasti. [Paris],
CAG Daniel Sennert, De chymicorum cum Aristotelicis et
Galenicis consensu ac dissensu. Wittenberg, 1619.
DE W alter Charleton, Dissertatio epistolica, de ortu animae
humanae. In Walter Charleton, Oeconomia Animalis. Third
edition. London, 1666.
DP Julius Caesar Scaliger, In libros duos, qui inscribuntur De
plantis, Aristotele autore, libri duo. Paris, 1556.
EE Julius Caesar Scaliger, Exotericarum exercitationum liber
XV. De subtilitate, ad Hieronymum Cardanum. Paris, 1557.
GP Die philosophischen Schriften von G. W Leibniz, edited by
C. I. Gerhardt, 7 vols. Berlin, 1875-1890.
IHS W alter Charleton, The Immortality of the Human Soul,
Demonstrated by the Light ofNature. London, 1659.
LC Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, The Labyrinth of the Con-
tinuum. Writings on the Continuum Problem, 1672-1686.
Edited and translated by Richard T. W. Arthur. New Haven
and London, 2001.
MC Fortunio Liceti, De monstrarum causis, natura et differ-
rentiis. Padua, 1616.
NES Emilio Parisano, Nobilium exercitationum de subtilitate
pars altera. Venice, 1635.

NHN Wa1ter Char1eton, Natural History of Nutrition, Life, and

Voluntary Motion. London, 1659.
NHP Walter Char1eton, Natural History ofthe Passions. London,
OAH Fortunio Liceti, De ortu animae humanae. Genova, 1602.
00 Danie1 Sennert, Opera omnia. Lyon, 1656.
PCH Fortunio Liceti, De perfecta constitutione hominis in utero.
Padua, 1616.
PDSR Gottfried Wilhe1m Leibniz, De Summa Rerum: Metaphy-
sical Papersand Letters, 1675-1676. Edited and trans1ated
by G. H. R. Parkinson. New Haven and London, 1992.
PEGC Walter Char1eton, Physiologia Epicuro-Gassendo-Charle-
toniana. London, 1654.
PMVI Daniel Sennert, Practicae medicinae liber sextus. De mor-
bis occultis. Wittenberg, 1635.
QM Danie1 Sennert, Quaestionum medicarum controversarum
liber. Wittenberg, 1609.
SAR Giro1amo Fracastoro, Liber I, De sympathia & antipathia
rerum. De contagione & contagionibus, & eorum cura-
tione, libri tres. Lyon, 1550.
TB Daniel Sennert, Thirteen Books of Natural Philosophy.
Trans1ated by A. Co1e and N. Cu1peper. London, 1659.
TT Digby, Sir Kene1m. Two Treatises. Paris, 1644.

This volume brings together a group of essays that explore early

modern theories of composite substances and their relevance to
early modern views on the nature of plants and animals (both human
and non-human). The metaphysics of composite substances was a
unifying topic at the heart of quite diverse issues in early modern
ontologies of living beings. For instance, it was applied in explana-
tions of both the complexity and the unity of a living being, in con-
ceptions of the structure of plant and animal seeds, in considerations
concerning the nature and mutability of biological species, in ex-
ploring the physiological function of imagination in biological re-
production, in characterising the beings and processes responsible
for diseases, and in understanding the relation between living beings
and divine causation. While pre-modern in inspiration, the meta-
physics of composite substances played an intriguing and still not
well-enough understood role in the formation of modern philosophy.
Thus, the present volume focuses on thinkers who are paradigmatic
as transitional figures-figures who serve to understand the complex
process by means of which non-mechanistic medieval conceptions
of the structure of living beings were superseded in the second half
of the seventeenth century by mechanistic conceptions of the struc-
ture of living beings.
Many medieval conceptions of the structure of living beings
were built around the view that one living being possesses a single
substantial form, and that the constituents of a living being lose their
previous substantial forms in the process of the generation of the
living being. By contrast, some prominent early modern conceptions
of living beings were built around the view that a living being is
constituted of corpusdes with purely material and mechanistic prop-
erties, so that the notion of substantial form is not required in the
analysis ofliving beings at all. For the most part, I will be concerned
with sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century thinkers who did not
subscribe to either view, but who rather held positions somewhere in
between. These thinkers combined the view that living beings are
individuated by a single substantial form with the view that the con-
18 Introduction

stituents of the organic body retain their identity during and after the
process of the generation of a living being. This second view came
in two varieties: one variety understood the continued identity of
body constituents to be a result of the continued existence and Op-
eration of the substantial form of these constituents; the other variety
understood the continued identity of body constituents to be a result
of the properties of matter without, however, invoking for this pur-
pose the notion of substantial form. The first four chapters will be
concerned with the first variety, the last two chapters with some
responses to this variety in the work of more canonical early modern
thinkers, and the two intermediate chapters with the second variety.
Theories of a plurality of substantial forms in a single living be-
ing had their roots in medieval Arabic philosophy, but were soon
taken up by some late medieval and early modern European phi-
losophers. Theories of a plurality of substantial forms were by no
means uniform but allowed for a great amount of variation and in-
novation. For example, the substantial forms of constituents of a
living being could be regarded as undergoing a qualitative change in
the process of the generation of this living being or as not undergo-
ing such a change. Also, the relation of domination and Subordina-
tion between the various substantial forms contained in a living be-
ing could be analysed in different ways, involving efficient, final,
and formal causation. Likewise, the relation between a subordinate
substantial form and the portion of matter informed by it allowed for
a variety of different characterisations, e.g., as constituting a living
being or as constituting a composite substance of another nature.
Interestingly, also the nature of substantial forms was a matter of
heated debate, centred on the question of whether they were immate-
rial beings or material beings endowed with some active and even
cognitive properties. Finally, various views were put forward con-
cerning the activity of substantial forms contained in living beings
and the agency and providence of God.
Due to the wide range of philosophical options associated with
theories of a plurality of substantial forms, these theories proved to
be an important step in forming the more canonical positions in
early modern philosophy. While medieval theories of a single sub-
stantial form in each living being affered an explanation for the
unity of the living being, their explanatory capacity remained re-
Introduction 19

stricted when it came to explaining why the constituents of an or-

ganism displayed their former properties when separated agairr from
the organism. Tobe sure, medieval thinkers were quick to stipulate
that the substantial forms of the constituents remairred "potentially"
in the body of a living being. But to many critics a mere potential
existence of a substantial form seemed to be inexplicable-after all,
it is the nature of substantial form to irrform some portion of matter.
Or to put it differently: to many critics, the one-substantial-form
theory seemed to imply the counter-intuitive daim that the genera-
tion of a living being involves the corruption of all its components.
The many-substantial-forms theory, by contrast, had the resources to
explain the persistence and individuality of components of living
beings as well as their capacity to retain their previous properties
when separated from an organism.
On the other hand, theories of a plurality of forms also had ad-
vantages over early versions of the newly ernerging corpuscularian
philosophy. Suppose that living beings are composed of corpusdes
that possess only properties such as extension, impenetrability, and
motion and, hence, can only form purely mechanical systems. Noto-
riously, such theories of the structure of living beings faced prob-
lems when it came to explaining the unity of a living being. If a
living being is just a mechanical aggregate of material components,
it belongs, in late Aristotelian terminology, to the category of aggre-
gates, not of substances. This problern was of great concem for sev-
eral of the thinkers discussed in the present volume. Theories of a
plurality of forms affered ways to explain why living beings are
more than just douds of corpusdes while at the same time could
allow their constituents to retain their identity. Such theories, then,
were intended to account for both the complexity of a living being
and the integration of its parts into a genuine unity.
The issue of unity and individuation of living beings makes the
metaphysics of composite substances central for other ontological
issues relating to early modern medical and biological thought. Ob-
viously, once the structure of living beings was described in a way
such that the dominant substantial form accounts for the unity of a
living being while the subordinate forms account for the individual-
ity of its components, questions of biological reproduction, of spe-
cies mutability, of the nature of diseases, and even of the role of
20 Intraduction

divine causation always involved a clarification of the rale of the

various substantial forms contained in an organism.
Chapter 1 addresses a concept that is fundamental for under-
standing early modern views on the structure of composite sub-
stances: the concept of mixture (mixtio). While the concept of mix-
ture is braader than the concept of the generation of living beings
(since it also includes the theory of the generation of chemical com-
pounds), every case of the generation of living beings was described
as involving mixture. Questions of the nature, change, and persis-
tence of the substantial forms of the constituents of an organism
were discussed in the framework of the theory of mixture. This
chapter investigates the relationship between some corpuscularian
and Aristotelian strands that run thraugh the theory of composite
substances held by the sixteenth-century philosopher and physician
Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484-1558). Scaliger often uses concepts of
corpuscles, pores, and vacuum. At the same time, he also describes
mixture as involving a fusion of particles into a continuous body. I
will explore how Scaliger's combination of corpuscularian and non-
corpuscularian views is shaped, in substantial aspects, by his re-
sponse to the views on corpusdes and the vacuum in the work of his
contemporary, Girolama Fracastara (1478-1553). Fracastara fre-
quently appears in Scaliger's work as an opponent against whom
numeraus objections are directed. However, if one follows up Sca-
liger's references, it soon becomes clear that Scaliger also shares
some of Fracastoro's views. Like Scaliger, Fracastara suggests cor-
puscularian explanations of phenomena such as water rising in lime,
while at the sametimehe ascribes some non-corpuscularian proper-
ties to his natural minima. Like Scaliger, Fracastara maintains that
there is no vacuum devoid of bodies since places cannot exist inde-
pendently of bodies (although their opinions diverge regarding how
exactly the relevant dependency relation might be explicated). Fi-
nally, like Scaliger, Fracastara connects a continuum view of mix-
ture with a theory of natural minima that are understood as the
minimal material unity capable of sustaining a particular substantial
form. It is thesenatural minima that, according to Scaliger's account
of the structure of a composite, are the ultimate bearers of subordi-
nate forms in living beings.
Introduction 21

Chapter 2 investigates the implications of Scaliger's account of

subordinate and dominant substantial forms for the question of the
constancy of biological species. It is well known that the concept of
mutability was one of the core categories of the evolving natural
philosophies of the sixteenth century. The story that led to the view
that celestial bodies aremutable is closely connected with the devel-
opment of new measuring techniques and observational instruments,
and has been documented by commentators in admirable detail.
Much less well known are the details of the story that led to the view
that biological species are mutable. To be sure, the kind of mutabil-
ity involved here is entirely different from the kind involved in the
case of heavenly bodies. The mutability of heavenly bodies relates
to individual objects, and it is conceivable that their change is re-
stricted to the ontologicallevel of properties or "accidents". By con-
trast, the mutability of living beings involves not only accidental
change but, according to late Aristotelian thinkers such as Scaliger,
presupposes a change on the ontological level of substantial forms.
This is why Scaliger's apparatus of dominant and subordinate sub-
stantial forms is central in his answer to the question of species con-
stancy. Scaliger did not subscribe to the later view that all species
can develop into any other species. However, he believed that indi-
vidual living beings can undergo changes that imply changes in
species membership and that, in singular cases, living beings can
arise that do not belong to any previously existing species.
Chapter 3 investigates the notion of simple form and its role in
the medical thought of Jean Femel (1497-1558). Femel believed
that simple forms are the entities that individuate composite sub-
stances such as "seeds" of disease and the living beings affected by
them. He thought that the origin of these forms was connected with
a material medium that closely resembles the Stoic pneuma-a me-
dium that is not only all-pervading but also has a celestial origin and
possesses active properties. In many places Femel characterises this
medium and the simple forms generated by it as "divine". While
some modern commentators have restricted the sense in which
Femel speaks of "the divine" to his views about celestial causation
(thereby adhering to some of his own official pronouncements on
this matter), I will argue that Femel at least in some passages con-
sidered a stronger version of divine immanence in composite sub-
22 Introduction

stances. I will suggest that Femel's views on divine immanence are

highly eclectic and involve a combination of Stoic and Neoplatonic
ideas. In particular, his ideas on the origin of simple forms give a
Neoplatonic interpretation to the Stoic idea of a universal material
medium that makes this medium both immanent in composite sub-
stances and an emanation of the divine essence.
Chapter 4 explores some continuities between Late Aristotelian
and Cartesian embryology. In both traditions one finds the view that
imagination fulfils a causal role in trait acquisition. In the Cartesian
tradition, imagination was understood to be a purely physiological
process that is capable of shaping the outer boundaries of the em-
bryo. The view that animal souls, including the sensitive souls of
humans, are purely material beings is by no means absent in the
Late Aristotelian tradition. In particular, I will argue that there is an
interesting consilience between some accounts of the role of imagi-
nation in trait acquisition in Late Aristotelian and Cartesian embry-
ology. Evidence for this thesis is presented using the biological writ-
ings of the Padua-based philosopher and physician, Fortunio Liceti
(1577-1657). Like the Cartesian physiologists, Liceti believed that
animal souls are material beings and that acts of imagination result
in material images that can be transmitted by means of medical spi-
rits to the embryo. Moreover, while the Cartesian embryologists
accepted such a view in a quite speculative way, one finds penetrat-
ing criticism of imagination theories of trait acquisition in the Late
Aristotelian tradition. Evidence for this thesis is presented using the
biological writings of Liceti's contemporary, Emilio Parisano
(1567-1643). In conclusion, the Late Aristotelian tradition itself
provides the theoretical tools for excising immaterial formative
forces from embryology and at the same time evinces a sense for the
problems inherent in imagination theories of trait acquisition that is
much more acute than the Cartesian tradition.
Chapter 5 examines some aspects of the natural philosophy of
Kenelm Digby (1603-1665). In some respects, Digby's natural phi-
losophy represented an important step towards mechanistic accounts
of (non-human) living beings. In particular, Digby thought that the
individuality of the components of living beings can be characte-
rized independently of the notion of substantial form, and that the
behavior of non-human animals can be explained without positing a
Introduction 23

dominant substantial form such as an animal soul. N evertheless,

Digby's biomedical ontology is highly edectic. In hismatter theory,
he incorporates some elements of Late Aristotelian mixture theory.
Aristotelian conceptions of rarity, density, and homogeneity also
appear in Digby's theory of animal generation. In his methodology,
Digby incorporates the Stoic-Epicurean epistemology of common
notions. According to his view, analyzing common notion demon-
strates the adequacy of the Aristotelian elements in his account of
the structure of living beings. Finally, Digby accepted Aristotelian
theories of composite substances when it came to accounting for the
cognitive capacities of human beings. These capacities, he believed,
are inexplicable by means of the interaction of corpusdes (even if
these corpusdes display some properties characteristic of Aristote-
lian material objects). Therefore, he believed that only the existence
of immaterial rational souls could explain these capacities. Digby's
human beings, thus, have an ontological structure that is midway
between theories of a plurality of substantial forms and mechanistic
corpuscularianism. According to his view, each human being pos-
sesses a single substantial form, while the constituents of the organic
body of this human being retain their properties and identity because
they do not possess substantial forms at all.
Chapter 6 examines a related theory of animal generation de-
veloped by the most prominent advocate of atomism in England,
Walter Charleton (1619-1707). According to Charleton, the consti-
tuents of organic bodies do not possess substantial forms and neither
do they possess the structural properties of Aristotelian rarity and
density. Rather, they are atoms in the sense of the philosophy of
Epicurus and its revival in the thought of Gassendi: perfectly hard,
impenetrable bodies that possess various geometrical shapes and
certain active properties. Charleton argues that the Epicurean-Stoic
theory of common notion speaks not in favor, but agairrst Aristote-
lian matter theory. Accordingly, Charleton tries to push an account
of animal generation in terms of the composition of atoms as far as
possible. But, like Digby, he encounters problems when accounting
for the cognitive capacities of higher animals and human beings. I
will explore his subtle discussion of animal and human conscious-
ness and the implications these discussions have for his views on the
unity of higher animals and human beings. Discussion about the
24 Introduction

cognitive capacities ofhigher animals and human beings leads Char-

leton to a theory of what he calls "emergent" properties-probably
one of the earliest occurrences of the term. Interestingly, for some
emergent properties (such as animal consciousness) Charleton sug-
gests reductionist accounts-accounts that regard the relevant prop-
erties as arising out of complex interactions between atoms. Howev-
er, he comes to the conclusion that other emergent properties (such
as human consciousness) cannot be explained in this way. This is
why Charleton, like Digby, re-admits immaterial rational souls into
his ontology. Charleton's human beings possess a single substantial
form while the individuality of the components of their body is
guaranteed by their perfect hardness and impenetrability.
Chapter 7 explores some connections between the medical con-
ception of poison-induced epilepsy and the ontological conception
of a plurality of substantial forms in living beings in the work of the
Wittenberg physician and philosopher Daniel Sennert (1572-1637).
It does so by taking a developmental approach, tracing Sennert's
responses to some of his predecessors such as Jean Femel, Julius
Caesar Scaliger, and the Danish Royal physician Petrus Severinus
(1540/2-1602). Famously, Femelheld that there is a special cate-
gory of diseases, which he called "diseases ofthe whole substance".
In constrast to diseases that are due to an injury of body parts or an
imbalance of elementary qualities, such diseases, in Femel's view,
are due to an impairment of the working of the simple form that
individuates a composite substance. Sennert's responses to Femel
indicate that Sennert shares with Femel the view that some diseases
are caused by the agency of the simple forms of "seeds" of disease.
But at the same time, they indicate that Sennert does not regard poi-
son-induced epilepsy as a disease that affects the dominant form of a
living being. In his view, subordinate formsanddominant forms can
cause changes in the normal functioning of the body but cannot un-
dergo changes themselves. His responses to Severinus indicate that
he also does not reduce the agency of epilepsy-inducing poisons to
chemical causation. His responses to Scaliger indicate that he as-
signs to subordinate forms in the human body a central role in ex-
plaining the occurrence of auto-generated poisons leading to epilep-
tic fits. At the same time, Sennert goes beyond Scaliger by applying
some of Severinus' insights conceming analogies between species
Introduction 25

degeneration and the generation of disease to the case of epilepsy.

Sevemius held that a living being belanging to one biological spe-
cies can bring forth a living being that belongs to another species
because its seeds are composed of principles that can develop into
individuals belanging to various species. Likewise, he maintained
that diseases are due to immaterial "seeds" that are mixed with other
principles that bring forth living beings. In particular, he claimed
that "seeds" of disease bring forth material components whose
chemical qualities are inimical to the rest of the human body. While
Sennert agreed with Severinus about the importance of chemical
processes for the normal functioning of the human body, he dis-
agreed with him in two important respects: First, Sennert did not
believe that the auto-generated poisons that he held to be responsible
for the occurrence of epileptic fits operate in a purely chemical way.
Second, while Severinus believed that "seeds" of disease are active
because they belong to the principles that constitute human bodies,
Sennert believed that such seeds can only become active once they
cease to belong to the constituents of human bodies. Both points
connect with Sennert's ontology of a plurality of subordinate forms
in the human body. Auto-generated poisons do not operate in a
chemical way, because their active powers are due to their substan-
tial forms. And auto-generated poisons are active only once they are
no Ionger constituents of human bodies because only when their
substantial forms cease to function as subordinate forms dominated
by the substantial form of the human being can they act contrary to
the goals of the dominant form.
Chapter 8 explores some similarities and dissimilarities between
the conceptions of composite substance in Sennert and the early
Leibniz. Richard Arthur has brought to light some striking analo-
gies: both Sennert and the early Leibniz thought that atoms are not
structure-less and perfectly hard and impenetrable but rather possess
irrtemal structure and soul-like substantial forms; and both Sennert
and the early Leibniz thought that living beings constituted by such
animate atoms possess a dominant substantial form plus a plurality
of subordinate forms. While I agree with respect to these analogies,
I would like to suggest some dissimilarities. Both Sennert and Leib-
niz were avid readers of reports conceming the alleged phenomenon
of the resuscitation of plants from their ashes. Leibniz was more
26 Introduction

sanguine about the implications of these reports and believed that in

the ashes a minuscule portion of animate matter survives, such that
only the necessary visible material parts have to be added to get a
complete plant again. By contrast, Sennert holds that it is conceiv-
able that in the ashes of the plant some formal principles survive that
are sufficient to regenerate the external figure of the plant. But he
does not believe that in the ashes there is anything that deserves the
description of a substance itself. According to his view, if the size of
a material body gets too small, this portion of matter can no langer
support the substantial form of a plant. This dissimilarity sheds light
on Sennert's and Leibniz's respective views on the structure of liv-
ing beings. Sennert's theory of composite substances is committed
to minimism-the theory that the ultimate constituents of matter are
natural minima-while Leibniz's theory of composite substances is
committed to the view that there are no such natural minima. This
difference in their theories of composite substances leads to a further
dissimilarity that expresses itself in their different attitudes towards
emanative causation: According to Leibniz, soul-like substantial
forms possess immanent emanative causation by means of which
they produce their activities. Emanative causation, for Leibniz,
therefore is not bound to an organic body of a particular size. By
contrast, emanative causation, for Sennert, is transitive: the substan-
tial form of a living being emanates the vegetative and sensitive
functions of the body. If the body gets too small to perform these
functions, emanative causation breaks down.
Chapter 1

Julius Caesar Scaliger on Corpuscles, the Vacuum,

and Composite Substauces

1.1. Introduction

Due to pioneering studies by Norma Emerton and Christoph Lthy,

the Padua-trained, Agen-based philosopher and physician Julius
Caesar Scaliger (1484-1558) is by now widely recognized as a
seminal figure in the development of early modern corpuscularian
matter theory. Scaliger's matter theory is expounded in the Exoteri-
cae Exercitationes (1557), a work consisting of almost 1000 pages
of polemical remarks on Girolama Cardano's De subtilitate (1550).
As Ian Maclean has pointed out, there is a strongly sceptical strand
to Cardano's and Scaliger's conceptions of subtlety. 1 Cardano de-
votes an entire book to "useless subtleties"? Likewise, Scaliger la-
ments the weakness of the human mind in gaining insight into eter-
nal things. 3 He takes an agnostic stance towards some issues in natu-
ral philosophy and metaphysics, e.g., as to the causes of the motion
ofthe heart4 or as to the nature ofthe union ofsoul and body. 5 Nev-
ertheless, like the twenty other books of Cardano's De subtilitate,
Scaliger's Exercitationes contains a wealth of miscellaneous re-
marks on an exhaustive variety of topics in metaphysics and natural
history and, as many of his marginal notes indicate, Scaliger felt that
he had something subtle to say about these topics. 6
The presence of both Aristotelian and corpuscularian strands in
Scaliger's matter theory explains why recent interpretations of his
metaphysics of nature differ widely. On one side, Emerton empha-
sizes the importance of the concept of minima naturalia in Scalig-
er's thought. She notes that "[ o]fall the distinctions between minim-
ism and atomism, the most important and fundamental was that mi-
nimism was indissolubly tied to the concept of form, which supplied
the basic definition of the scholastic minimum naturale as the unit
material embodiment of the form". 7 According to Emerton, it is
Scaliger who, alongside Agastino Nifo (1473-1538) and Jacopo
28 Chapter 1

Zabarella the e1der (1532-1589), did most to develop minimism in

the sixteenth century. 8 Emerton maintains that minimism is not in-
tended to function as a comprehensive matter theory but rather pro-
vides explanations of a limited range of phenomena, in particu1ar in
chemistry. 9 According to her reading, Scaliger suggests a minimist
definition of mixture, when he coins the slogan often referred to by
other early modern natural philosophers: "mixtion is the motion of
the minimum bodies so that union is achieved". 10
By contrast, Lthy maintains that "much in the Exercitationes is
utterly un-Aristotelian, notably the doctrines of the temporal crea-
tion ex nihilo of the world; of the substantial independence of prime
matter; ofthe vacuum; of space; and ofthe soul." 11 According to his
reading, "[a]lthough Scaliger explicitly condemns atomism, his Ex-
ercitationes contain numerous explanations of natural phenomena
that rely on pores and partides, minima and vacua ... " 12 On this
basis, Lthy daims that there is a "corpuscularian treatment of mat-
ter theory" in Scaliger's work and that it derives from the corpuscu-
larian views in the Fourth Book ofthe Aristotelian Meteorology. 13 In
Lthy's view, the following are examples of such corpuscularian
explanations of natural phenomena: "the structure of the minima
naturalia in an anvil is so dense that it cannot be further condensed
... , fire is stronger or weaker depending on whether its partides are
dose or farther apart ... , the varying density of minimae partes in
substances explains their specific properties ... , [and] some sub-
stances have round or oblong corpuscula." 14 Lthy concedes that in
his official definition of mixture, Scaliger does not regard corpora
minima as atoms, "first, because atoms can only be contiguous to
each other, while mixtures are continuous, and second, because ad-
jacent atoms cannot form a new mixture, whereas 'the form of a
mixture is different from that of the element. "' N evertheless, Lthy
daims that "frequently in his Exercitationes, Scaliger views these
'minimal bodies' as independently existing corpusdes having cer-
tain shapes and as touching each other contiguously, but not conti-
nuously, with small interstitial voids filling the remaining spaces." 15
In what follows, I suggest that Scaliger's numerous references
to Girolamo Fracastoro (ca. 1478-1553) give important dues for
understanding Scaliger's conception of corpusdes and the vacuum.
Fracastoro had an important role in early modern life sciences with
Scaliger on Corpuseies 29

his views on the constitution of matter that laid the foundation for
his medical theories, especially his theory of contagion and disease.
In De contagione (1546), he develops the view that diseases that
traditionally had been ascribed to influences of the air and the recep-
tivity of the organism are in fact caused by minimal partieies (parti-
cula minima). 16 Moreover, in De sympathia et antipathia rerum
(1546), he repeatedly uses the term "atom" to characterize such nat-
ural minima. As Vivian Nutton has brought to light, an atomistic
reading ofFracastoro's theory of contagious seeds was first used for
polemical purposes by the sixteenth-century Paduan professor of
medical theory, Giambattista da Monte. 17 Christoph Meinel holds
that Fracastoro was probably "the first of the humanists to use the
ancient atomic theory in explaining physical and chemical pheno-
mena".18 Nevertheless, Fracastoro maintains that minimal partieies
can be joined tagether such as to form composite substances that are
more than mere aggregates of true, simple unities. He also holds that
in cases of genuine mixture natural minima form a continuum. His
conceptions of the unity of composite substances and of the continu-
ity ofthe constituents of genuine mixtures indicate that Fracastoro's
corpuscularianism is not an unmodified atomistic variety with per-
fectly hard, impenetrable bodies floating in a void. While I will not
be concerned here with his views on contagion and disease, the way
Fracastoro combines corpuscularian and non-corpuscularian intui-
tions turns out to be highly relevant for understanding Scaliger's
views on corpuseies, the vacuum, and the structure of composite

1.2. Fracastoro on Corpuseies and the Vacuum

The following is a passage from Scaliger's Exoteric Exercises,

which Lthy invokes to support his interpretation of Scaliger's no-
tion of a vacuum:

[T]hose who attributed certain shapes to the natural minima as

their principles are necessarily forced-as no body made up of
globules can cohere on a continuous line because of their rotun-
dity-to posit also a vacuum in nature, by means of which all
30 Chapter 1

becomes one by contiguity, not by continuity, as the wise philo-

sophers (Sapientes) know well. 19

For Lthy, Scaliger sides with the Sapientes. 20 Yet, while the choice
of the term "sapientes" obviously suggests an affirmative attitude
towards what the wise philosophers know, it is not so clear what it is
that Scaliger thinks they know. Is it, as Lthy would have it, the
claim that it is necessary to posit a vacuum that prevents different
portions of matter from forming a continuum? Or is it, as an alterna-
tive reading would have it, that the Sapientes know well that it is
necessary to posit such a vacuum if one makes the assumption speci-
fied in the first sentence-namely, the assumption that natural min-
ima are characterised by certain shapes. Of course, that the ultimate
constituents of matter possess immutable geometrical shapes is a
central assumption of classical atomism. And obviously, if they
have the shape of little globes, there necessarily remain unoccupied
spaces between them? 1 However, does Scaliger share the belief in
the immutability of the shapes of the ultimate constituent of matter?
If he would not share this assumption, then the passage just cited
would take on a different significance. In this case, Scaliger would
be discussing the consequences of an assumption that he rejects.
According to such a reading, what the Sapientes know would con-
cern the necessary consequences of an erroneous assumption and,
hence, not something that is necessary taut court.
As Lthy has emphasized, a passage in which Scaliger dis-
cusses the role of pores in the phenomenon of water rising in lime is
crucial for characterizing his views on the vacuum. Fracastoro, too,
discusses this phenomenon in De sympathia et antipathia rerum, 22
and Scaliger mentions him at the beginning of the relevant passage,
where he refutes the opinions of some modern philosophers (Recen-
tiores Philosophi). To be sure, the aim of the explicit reference to
Fracastoro here is to point out a particular error in Fracastoro's ex-
planation of the phenomenon. Moreover, at first glance, Fracastoro
might not seem to be a promising starting point when it comes to
interpreting Scaliger's views. The title of Fracastoro's book sounds
hardly promising in the context of studying the origins of early
modern corpuscularianism. Looking at the title, the reader would
expect a Neo-platonic account of supra-natural causes of the har-
Scaliger on Corpuseies 31

mony or disharmony between things. But such an expectation would

soon be overtumed by the anti-occultist stance that Fracastoro actu-
ally takes. Instead of invoking celestial or divine forces, Fracastoro
develops thoroughly naturalistic accounts of causal interaction be-
tween bodies. However, despite his use of the term "atom" and his
nods towards Epicurus and Lucretius, his matter theory should not
be characterised as atomistic in an unqualified sense.
In discussing the nature of causal interaction between objects,
Fracastoro holds that in nature no action can take place unless by
means of contact. 23 Nevertheless, he observes that similar things are
drawn to each other and dissimilar things move away from each
other even if they don't touch. He is aware of the existence of ato-
mistic explanations of phenomena such as magnetism: "Some of the
ancients such as Empedocles and Epicurus, whom among our philo-
sophers Lucretius followed, regarded effluvia of bodies, which they
called atoms, as the cause of this attraction. These effluvia should by
no means be negated ... but the way in which these authors treated
them was rather rough and unsuitable"? 4 The fact that Fracastoro
regards Lucretius as one of "our" philosophers is striking for it
shows the extent of continuity that sixteenth-century philosophers
perceived between their own intellectual pursuits and Roman times.
Howeover, Fracastoro's nod towards Lucretius is seriously mislead-
ing in two respects.
First, the ancient atomists' denial of composite unities is unac-
ceptable to Fracastoro. In his view, the effluvia connecting two simi-
lar things are such that "a certain whole and unity arises" (totum
quoddam fit atque unum). 25 Maintaining that a composite unity
emerges from two objects connected by effluvia, moreover, requires
a modification with respect to the nature of the effluvia themselves.
Streams of atoms, understood as perfectly hard and indivisible ho-
dies, as in Lucretius' conception of effluvia, certainly would not
suffice to constitute a genuine unity. Second, Fracastoro holds that
effluvia of atoms cannot account for all cases of causal interaction
between two bodies. 26 For example, according to his view the inte-
raction between the needle of a compass and the "magnetic moun-
tains" at the poles of the globe, due to the great distance between
them, cannot be explained by means of an exchange of atoms or
corpuscles. 27 This indicates that a fully Lucretian interpretation of
32 Chapter 1

Fracastoro's view of the causal interaction between distant things

cannot be adequate. To account for all phenomena of mutual attrac-
tion, Fracastoro postulates a kind of entity that differs considerably
from atoms: so-called "spiritual species".
"Spiritiual species" play a role not only in his theory of magnet-
ism but also in his account of sensation and intellection. Obviously,
these entities resemble the sensible and intellectual species that,
according to medieval thought, could multiply and provide the per-
ceiver with a structural analogue of the objects perceived. 28 Fracas-
toro appears to have thought of them as neither fully material nor
fully immaterial, but rather as peculiar entities that share some prop-
erties with both material and immaterial entities, and yet differ from
both in some respects. What distinguishes "spiritual species" from
material objects are two characteristics: (1) They are "thin" (tenuis)
in a metaphorical sense: While ordinary thin objects are still three-
dimensional (with a small extension in one dimension), Fracastoro's
"spritual species" do not possess even a small extension in a third
dimension. They are two-dimensional objects that represent the sur-
faces of the objects from which they originate. 29 (2) They are mo-
mentary entities: they are propagated by waves in a medium such as
air or water in such a way that the medium generates at every mo-
ment a new "spiritual species" in a different location on the trajecto-
ry between one object and the other. 30 At the same time, "spiritual
species" are neither quality-like nor fully immaterial. With respect
to the question of whether they are qualities and immaterial, Fracas-
toro answers that they are substantial and bound to matter, since
"nothing can by itself confer motion which is not either a body or at
least a nature and substance in a body". 31 Although this statement is
far from clear, Fracastoro seems to have held that "spiritual species"
are not fully immaterial because they are substances whose exis-
tence depends on bodies. Ifthey are thought ofas surfaces propagat-
ed in a material medium, there is a clear sense in which they can be
thought of as being incapable of existing independently ofbodies.
"Spiritual species" play a crucial role in Fracastoro's account of
composite substance. He maintains that by means of the exchange of
effluvia of "spiritual species" a composite substance arises which "is
some whole constituted by [the body] a, and [the body] b, and this
spiritual something; in this whole, parts do not simply have their
Scaliger on Corpuseies 33

duty and situation, unless they are mutually constrained in such a

way that a and b go together." 32 For this reason, attraction results
from "a motion of parts in the whole, which are moving towards
their place, and which is produced by a form that is a nature and a
substance."33 Fracastoro's emphasis on the role of substantial form
in the constitution of composite unities becomes also apparent when
he discusses three possible explanations of the phenomenon of water
rising in lime. He regards these explanations as complementary,
even if he gives most weight to the third explanation. According to
the first explanation, dissimilar substances have contrary substantial
forms by means of which they mutually resist each other. 34 Al-
though Fracastoro does not dismiss this explanation, it is clear that it
could explain the phenomenon only partially: it could explain why
water and air do not mix, but not why water should rise in the pores.
According to the second explanation, lime attracts water not insofar
as it is porous but insofar as it is dry er than in its natural state. 35
Following this line of argument, lime belongs to the bodies that "are
by themselves and according to nature humid but accidentally dried
out; and in these their form and nature with all their potencies re-
mains ... to which also the spiritual form belongs, which is destined
to attract what is similar ... " 36 The third explanation, finally, com-
plements the role of the agency of the form of a composite substance
and invokes an Aristotelian theory of natural places, according to
which the air enclosed in the pores strives towards the natural place
of air. While air does not have enough force to do so in large pores
since it would have to move a large amount of water, it does so in
small pores, where it has to draw only a minimal part of water (pars
aquae minima). 37 In this third explanation, Fracastoro combines
corpuscularian and non-corpuscularian modes of thought: water
behaves in a corpuscularian way in the sense that a minimal part of
water is moved more easily than a greater amount; but at the same
time the motion of natural bodies is determined by their striving
towards their natural place.
Fracastoro's distance from Lucretius also becomes clear in his
treatment of place and the vacuum. At the beginning of his book,
Fracastoro embraces a plenist conception of matter: "A vacuum
cannot be in nature, since nature does not sustain or admit anything
that is in vain, and that impedes the order and laws of the un-
34 Chapter 1

iverse". 38 But why should vacuum be thought to be detrimental to

the order and laws of nature? Fracastoro somewhat cryptically re-
marks that in a vacuum "nothing could happen nor could anything
be received. " 39 This remark seems to be ambiguous: Does Fracas-
toro irrtend to claim that, if there were a vacuum, it could not, by its
very essence, be occupied by a body? Or does he irrtend to claim
that, as long as a portion of vacuum is contingently not occupied by
a body, no change could take place and no effect could be received
there? Both readings seem to be possible, and there is nothing in the
immediate context ofFracastoro's remark that helps decide the mat-
ter. In any case, Fracastoro seems to maintain that a vacuum (no
matter whether it essentially or contingently unoccupied by a body)
is contrary to the laws of nature because no change and no causal
interaction can take place there. And it is the absence of change and
causal interaction that would be an instance in which nature would
do something "in vain".
But then, how does nature avoid the occurrence of vacua? Fra-
castoro considers two answers that appear unsatisfactory to him:

[I]f someone is not satisfied with [knowing] the final cause but
wants to know also the active cause, and what it is that resists
separating forces and how it does so, probably he is not that
ready to give a reason for such a connection: since the parts of
the universe do not know this final cause, nor can those parts
strive towards it by nature ... It is also not to be said ... that the
parts ofthe universe, even ifthey do not know their end, are di-
rected by a cognizant being: for here we do not ask about the
universal and first cause, but about the particular and specific
cause ... 40

His own suggestionisthat bodies are preserved "by the mutual con-
nection and contact of their surfaces" (per mutuum nexum & contac-
tum extremorum), since this is how a vacuum is avoided. 41 He ex-

Place brings about that a body is one body with respect to

another, from whence people also rightly say that place pre-
serves the thing that is located in it: which it in fact does in the
Scaliger on Corpuseies 35

highest degree, when it protects it from a vacuum. Hence, sub-

stances and bodies that are in the universe do not know this end,
but nevertheless resist by their nature, suchthat they arenot en-
tirely separated. For it is not necessary that the things that act
for some purposealso know this end; rather, some know it, and
some act by the1r nature. 42

Hence, bodies are dependent on places. Places not only individuate

bodies, they also play a role in the preservation ofbodies. This is so
because being at a place implies that the suface of a body is in touch
and causal interaction with the surfaces of the surrounding bodies.
And, according to Fracastoro's view, this is how the preservation of
a given body comes about. If it were not surrounded by bodies
throughout, but by portians ofvacuum (which, by hypothesis, do not
stand in causal interaction with their surroundings ), the parts of this
body would separate from each other. Due to this essential connec-
tion between place and body, space is not only contingently occu-
pied everywhere by bodies, it is so necessarily since otherwise ho-
dies could not persist As we will presently see, although Scaliger's
views on vacuum, place and the preservation of bodies differ mar-
kedly from Fracastoro's, the view that space is necessarily a plenum
is also found in Scaliger's version of corpuscularianism.

1.3. Scaliger on Corpuseiesand the Vacuum

Like many of his contemporaries, Scaliger uses both the conception

of an actual division of natural bodies into minima and the concep-
tion of a natural minimum not as an actually existing corpuseie but
as an end-point of potential division. To demonstrate the existence
of actual minima, he uses an argument from erosion: The traces that
drops of water leave in the long run on a stone indicate that water
takes with it insensible portians of the stone; these smallest movable
parts of the stone, Scaliger suggests, give a good idea of what a
natural minimum is like. 43 Although this example and others like it
are found in Lucretius, 44 Scaliger refers the reader to a passage of
Aristotle's Physics, where erosion of a stone by drops of water in-
deed is mentioned. 45 As Scaliger puts it, the part of a stone that is
carried away by a drop of water is a minimal part of the stone "be-
36 Chapter 1

cause in it the first motion takes place". 46 Scaliger derives other

corpuscularian explanations from the Aristotelian Meteorology. For
example, Scaliger mentions a passage from the second book of the
Meteorology, according to which hot vapours of water get colder by
getting mixed with cold particles of air. 47 Similarly, he points out
that according to the first book of the Meteorology the parts of the
world are one not by means of continuity but by means of connec-
tion (coaptatione), in the sense that supralunar and sublunar bodies
are in continuity with each other not because of the unity of a form
but because the supralunar bodies are efficient causes the effects of
which are received by the sublunar bodies. 48
Like Fracastoro, Scaliger's proposes a corpuscularian explana-
tion of the phenomenon of water rising in a piece of lime partly im-
mersed in water. To be sure, his explanation of the lime phenome-
non diverges from Fracastoro's. He rejects Fracastoro's suggestion
that lime might be dryer than it would be according to its own nature
such that it attracts water due to the agency of the form of a compo-
site substance. 49 Moreover, he rejects Fracastoro's conjecture that
the air included in lime seeks to reach to the natural place of air. As
Scaliger argues, water rises in lime beyond the level of the water
into which the piece of lime is immersed; hence the air included in
the upper part of lime is already in the sphere of air. 50 N evertheless,
like Fracastoro, he proposes an explanation that is both plenist and
corpuscularian. He also shares Fracastoro's view that recurring to
the agency of an immaterial cognizant being does not provide a sa-
tisfactory answer to the question of why corpuscules behave in a
way such as to avoid a vacuum. 51 However, he criticizes Fracasto-
ro' s own answer to this question:

Others believe the following: There is no vacuum because all

things strive towards their preservation. Conservation, however,
is brought about by the connection and the contiguity of surfac-
es. From this it follows that place provides preservation for
what is in a place. This opinion has some probability but is not
true ... It is not true that bodies are preserved by place, but by
form. 52
Scaliger on Corpuseies 37

Scaliger distinguishes between attraction (attractio) and succession

(subitio ). According to his view, attraction happens by means of an
external force. This, however, is not what happens in cases such as
water rising in lime. What happens there is that a particle of water
succeeds a particle of air in the pores of lime. A body that succeeds
another body

is moved by an internal form of its own ... , namely, a second-

ary one, such that no vacuum occurs. For elements not only
strive towards their own WHERE: but they enjoy themselves
outside their natural place, such that in order to avoid serious
harm for the universe the place at which they are is not occu-
pied by the most terrible enemy. In fact, nothing is more hostile
to being than non-being. But vacuum is a non-being. 53

Hence, bodies are not only preserved by their form, they also move
in a way such that no vacuum occurs due to their form. Yet, Scalig-
er's claim that vacuum is a non-being is puzzling since he also
claims that "[i]n nature a vacuum exists necessarily. For otherwise,
either there would be no motion or one body would penetrate the
other." 54 Clearly, Scaliger is committed to the view that, in some
sense, there is no vacuum, while also being committed to the view
that, in some other sense, there is a vacuum. What exactly does he
have in mind?
Thesensein which vacuum is a non-being is closely connected
with Aristotle's remarks on the vacuum. Aristotle understood the
vacuum as "that in which the presence ofbody, though not actual, is
possible." 55 According to Aristotle, because a void place has size but
not body, and because it fails to quality as one of the four basic
causes, it is not a real entity, i.e. a privation of being. Scaliger ex-
plains the sense in which the vacuum is a non-being in exactly the
same way. 56 But in which sense is the vacuum a being? He does not
seem to have given much thought to the Stoic conception of an
extracosmic void. However, there are two other conceptions that
were much debated in ancient and medieval controversies about the
void, and that could be plausible candidates for a vacuum that, in
some sense, is real-that of small, "interstitial" vacua between par-
38 Chapter 1

ticles, and that of larger, "coacervate" intracosmic vacuao 57 Let us

first consider interstitial vacuao
Like Fracastoro, and pace Lthy, Scaliger rejects the idea that
matter is interspersed with micro-vacuao This becomes clear in his
discussion of the phenomena of rarefaction and condensationo On
the level of elements, Scaliger embraces an Aristotelian conception
of rarity and density according to which rarity and density are con-
trary qualities that, at different times, can be possessed by the same
portion of matter. 58 His view that through rarefaction a natural
minimum of a given element can be transformed into particles of
another element is formulated within the framework of the concep-
tion of natural minima as a lower limit of matter beyond which a
given form cannot be maintainedo 59 Trivially, interstitial voids do
not have a place in such a view of rarefaction and condensation of
eiemental particleso
On the level of composite bodies-ioeo, bodies consisting of
more than one eiemental particle-there is a strongly corpuscularian
strand in Scaliger's conception of rarity and densityo On this level,
the question of the existence of interstitial voids is not trivial. Sca-
liger holds that a body is rare if between its parts there are parts of
another, less solid kind, like air or water in a spongeo 6For example,
he explains the phenomenon of resonance in metals by suggesting
that metals are rare because they contain particles of air. 61 He is also
clear about the view that the particles of a different element con-
tained in a given body can be minima of a given element or close to
the size of such minimao 62 In this sense, natural minima provide a
corpuscularian explanation for the rarity of bodies above the size of
eiemental particleso However, the existence of interstitial voids does
not figure in Scaliger's account of the rarity and density of such
bodieso On the contrary, Scaliger writes: "[N]either thinness nor
thickness is the cause of density, but uniformity 0 For when noth-
0 0

ing intercedes between them, the parts of a body necessarily must be

suitable to each othero For there is no vacuumo In the case of parts of
various forms, however, the mutual cohesion comes about through
humidity 0 0
63 Hence, while in dense bodies particles of the same

kind are packed in a way such that neither particles of another kind
nor empty spaces occur between them, less rare bodies admit parti-
cles of another, but no empty spaces, between their partso
Scaliger on Corpuseies 39

Does coacervate vacuum-vacuum that comes in larger

chunks-fare better than interstitial vacuum? Scaliger rejects the
Aristotelian conception according to which place is the surface of
the external surrounding bodies. 64 He holds that the vacuum is, in
some sense, a being, but makes it clear that he does not want to have
this claim understood "in the way of the Ancients": "For they sup-
posed a vacuum without body. But we maintain a vacuum in which
there is a body. Vacuum and place are the same: and they do not
differ except with respect to the name". 65 Such a conception of va-
cuum is not entirely unprecedented in early modern thought. In his
Examen vanitatis (1520), Gianfrancesco Pico uses Philoponus' criti-
cism of Aristotle's theory of place and space to formulate that
theory of place according to which place as characterized primarily
by its quality of receptivity, i.e., as a container. Pico also follows
Philoponus in identifying place with the vacuum. 66 Moreover,
Charles B. Schmitt ascribes to Philoponus and Pico the view that
place is not only different from but also separable from the things it
contains. 67 Note, however, that Pico also emphazises Philoponus
view that "space is never devoid ofbodies, just as we say that matter
differs from form but is never devoid of form. 68 Andrew Pyle' s ver-
dict about Philoponus's move is unflattering: Given the view that
vacuum is of its own nature independent of matter, claiming that
vacuum cannot exist without being occupied by body "is per-
A similar tension can be observed in Scaliger's account of vac-
uum as place. He maintains that a portion of void without body is a
non-being. Consider the following passage concerning the relation
between God and the world:

[The world] is constituted by parts that are contrary to each oth-

er and develop into each other by means of mutual corruption.
Hence, the eternity of the world [lies] in succession, its unity in
continuation . . . Hence the world must have two kinds of ideas
of forms. One is particular, relating each to its own species, to
generation, motion, preservation in those things by means of
which it exists; which does not have unity. The other is univer-
sal, for the sake ofthe conservation ofunity. This is why [God]
neither from the beginning produced a vacuum, because it is a
40 Chapter 1

non-being; nor can he allow it to exist later. Therefore, in order

that the vacuum does not exist he brought it about that the par-
ticular form, e.g., of fire, by means of which fire ascends, obeys
the universal form: since the world is one ... 70

The argument appears to run as follows: Since the created world

must be prefigured in the ideas in the divine mind, the forms of in-
dividual objects in the world, as well as the world as a totality, must
be represented in the divine mind. As far as individual objects go,
there can exist only ideas of (possible) beings in the divine mind,
but not of non-beings such as portions of vacuum devoid of body.
As far as the world as a totality goes, the idea in the divine mind can
only be one of a totality without such vacua. Hence, the only con-
ceivable unity of the world is one of continuation. However, Scalig-
er's view of the unity of the world does not entail the claim that
matter forms a continuum. Rather, a little earlier in the same section
he holds that the surfaces of neigbouring particles are contiguous,
but not in all cases continuous, since otherwise generation would be
1mposs1 'ble. 71
Since a vacuum without body is a non-being, Scaliger holds that
there is an essential connection between vacuum and the bodies that
occupy it. He writes that place "is in some way a being, and in some
way a non-being. It is a non-being, because a being is contained
there; and it is a being, because it is something that belongs to some-
thing else, namely, a cavity within a body". 72 It is quite possible that
Scaliger would have been better off if he had gone all the way
through to a theory of absolute space. However, he did not go the
entire way. Although he embraces a theory of container space, he
also thinks that portions of space arenot independent ofbeing occu-
pied by some portion of matter or other. At any given point in time,
any portion of container space must be occupied by some portion of
matter since the extension of any given place is a property of the
body occupying it at this moment. Place is an immaterial dimension
and hence different from bodies, But it is a dimension of a body and
hence cannot exist devoid of body. In this sense, Scaliger's vacua
are dependent entities: they can be distinguished from the bodies
that occupy them, but they could not exist without the bodies that
occupy them.
Scaliger on Corpuseies 41

Hence, while Fracastoro maintains that bodies depend for their

persistence on place, Scaliger holds that places depend for the exis-
tence on bodies. On the one hand, Scaliger's critique ofFracastoro's
view that the persistence of bodies is brought about by places leads
to a profoundly different view of the relation between body and
place. On the other hand, however, like Fracastoro he defends a
position according to which space is not only contingently but nec-
essarily a plenum. The view that the world necessarily is a plenum
explains why both Fracastoro's and Scaliger's corpusdes move in
pores so as to avoid a vacuum without body-a vacuum without
body, for Fracastoro and Scaliger alike, would be a non-being. At
the same time, holding that the world necessarily is a plenum im-
plies that, necessarily, there are no micro-vacua without body. As
we will see presently, the view that, necessarily, there are no micro-
vacua gives important clues as to how corpuscularian and non-
corpuscularian strands are connected in Fracastoro's and Scaliger's
accounts of mixture.

1.4. Corpuseies and Mixture

Fracastoro and Scaliger adopt some elements of one of the classical

solutions to the problern of mixture, going back to the Persian philo-
sopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna), according to which the substantial
forms of the elements remain in mixture while their qualities are
weakened. Hence, Fracastoro and Scaliger reject two other classical
solutions, the one going back to the Arabic philosopher Ibn Rushd
(Averroes), according to which both the substantial forms and the
qualities of the elements are weakened, and the one going back to
Thomas Aquinas, according to which the substantial forms are de-
stroyed and only qualities enter into the mixture. 73 In part, however,
Fracastoro and Scaliger opt for a minority opinion. As John Mur-
doch has pointed out, medieval and most Renaissance authors re-
garded the areas of the theory of natural minima and the theory of
mixture as independent areas of inquiry. 74 By contrast, Fracastoro
and Scaliger combine the theory of mixture with minimism. Some
North-Italian background may be helpful for understanding the pe-
culiarity of this move.
42 Chapter 1

What all three classical solutions to the problern of mixture just

mentioned have in common is that they try to explicate Aristole's
enigmatic statement that, while the elements undergo a change and
union in genuine mixture, the "dynamis" of elements is preservedo 75
Hence, all three classical solutions to the problern of mixture defend
the view that, in some sense, there is a genuine unity arises in mix-
tureo However, minimism is a potential threat to this consensus in
the different versions of Aristotelian mixture theoryo In his On Ele-
ments (1505), 76 the Bologna-based Averroist Alessandro Achillini
(1463-1512) mentions the following objection: "The minima of ele-
ments are distinct with respect to their position: for they do not
penetrate each other 0 and they preserve their substantial and acci-
0 0

dental being integrallyo" 77 The objection seems tobethat as soon as

one reaches the level of minimal parts of elements, these are pre-
served with respect to their substance and accidentso Hence, there is
no clear sense in which a union of minimal parts could be producedo
Since minimism in this way can be used to challenge an Aristotelian
account of mixture, Achillini subsequently holds that the division of
components of a mixed body has only to go far enough to the make
a change of the substantial forms and qualities of the components
possibleo 78
Interestingly, however, his Paduan colleague Agostino Nifo, in
a work published in the same year as Achillini's On Elements, sug-
gests a minimist version of an Averroist theory of mixture: 79

It has to be said that the elements come together at a common

place by means of this celestial and divine power; that they also
act on each other and suffer from each other by means of this
power, and that they come together for the purposes of mixture
as agents; and as soon as they are refracted, and, once they are
refracted and conjoined by means ofminima, matter and quanti-
ty form a continuum; andin this moment the form of the mix-
ture is introduced by the celestial power 80
0 0 0

Comparing the passages from Achillini and Nifo one may con-
clude that the question of whether or not minimism should or should
not be connected with the theory of mixture was a clearly defined
issue of scholarly debate by the time that Fracastoro and Scaliger
Scaliger on Corpuseies 43

wrote about mixtureo Both Fracastoro and Scaliger took up the con-
nection between minimism and mixture without, however, embrac-
ing an Averroist theory of the weakening of formso Nevertheless,
they use the idea that in mixture a continuum arises to explicate the
unity of Aristotelian mixtureso Earlier I mentioned that Fracastoro
held that in genuine cases of mixture minima naturalia fuse into
continuum. He describes mixture as follows:

Some liquids are well mixable with each other, others are not.
Those are well mixable, which have one and the same sub-
stance, or which at least can be divided into minimao Water with
water, and wine with wine are mixed optimally, because they
are one, and go tagether into one continuumo Wine 0 is mixed
0 0

well 0 0with water, because even if it is not one with water and

does not make a continuum, but only a contiguity, which differs

with respect to its form and limits, nevertheless it can be di-
vided easily into minimal particles if it is brought tagether with
watero [Water and wine] are divided into minimal parts, because
it is the nature both of elements and of liquids, that their parts
take the best possible positiono The best possible position, how-
ever, is the one in which the parts are away from each other as
little as possible; if this is given, they become continuous with
each other; if it is not given because the forrns are not one, the
parts want and strive nevertheless to be as close and as much
united as they can beo But the closest position is the one in
which they are away from each other only through the interposi-
tion of one minimum, which cannot be divided further. 81

In this passage, Fracastoro combines non-corpuscularian and cor-

puscularian conceptionso Moreover, conceptions of both kinds are
connected with the role of minimal parts in mixtureo The non-
corpuscularian side of his account of mixture has it that natural mi-
nima, in some cases, form a continuumo This happens, according to
his view, in cases of homogenaus substances as well as in cases of
liquids such as water and wineo The corpuscularian side supplements
this view of mixture and analyses other kinds of mixture as involv-
ing minimal parts that come as close to each other as possibleo Does
Fracastoro introduce in these cases a vacuum interstitiale under an-
44 Chapter 1

other name? It does not seem so. To be sure, the concept of minimal
parts approaching each other as closely as possible without forming
a continuum could be expressed in the framework of a theory of
interstitial voids. In such a framework, what would be in between
two minimal parts of a given substance would be a micro-vacuum.
This is, however, not what Fracastoro says. What he suggests isthat
in cases of minima approaching each other as closely as possible
without fusing with each other what comes in between these minima
is a minimum of another natural kind. Hence, his view involves mi-
crospaces between the natural minima of substances that mix with-
out forming a continuum. But there is no indication that he thinks of
these micro-spaces as micro-vacua, orthat his account of mixture is
in tension with his general rej ection of the existence of a vacuum.
Although Fracastoro's account of mixture does not coincide
with Scaliger's, it contains three conceptions that are found in Sca-
liger's as well: 82 the view that the notion of a natural minimum is
relevant for an adequate account of mixture; the view that in some
cases minima behave in a corpuscularian way in mixture; and the
view that some cases of mixture involve the fusion of minimal par-
ticles into a continuum. Note also that the way in which minima of a
given element are distant from each other is described as involving
the interposition of other minima, but not of a vacuum. Fracastoro
distinguishes two cases in which particles can fuse into a continuum:
the first case is when particles have the same form, e.g., different
particles of water; the second case is when particles have been re-
duced to natural minima. Scaliger entirely dissociates the issue of
mixture from the issue of sameness of form and focuses only on the
role of the reduction of particles to minima. As he points out, expe-
riment shows that there are mixtures of heterogeneaus substances
which turn out to be inseparable from each other. 83 His solution is
ingenious: One the one hand, he retains Fracastoro's view that in
mixture minimal parts form a continuum. 84 On the other hand, since
in the case of heterogenaus substances the forms of the minimal
partsaredifferent from each other, he suggests that in the most basic
cases (such as the mixture of water and wirre) the constituents of the
mixture retain their numerical identity since they retain their form,
even if they give up their boundaries. 85 Evidently, Scaliger's mini-
Scaliger on Corpuseies 45

ma, like Fracastoro's, do not behave in a fully corpuscularian way in

such contexts.
It should be clear by now that the above-mentioned passage
about the view of the "wise philosophers" (Sapientes) concerning
the vacuum should be understood not to mean that the Sapientes
knew that it is necessary to assume the existence of a vacuum. Ra-
ther, what Scaliger wants to say is that the Sapientes knew that if
one assumes that natural minima have immutable geometrical
shapes, it is necessary to assume the existence of interstitial vacua.
But since Scaliger rejects the assumption of interstitial vacua, the
passage can be best understood as expressing a reductio ad absur-
dum: Since assuming that natural minima have rigid and immutable
geometrical shapes leads to unacceptable consequences (the assump-
tion of the existence of interstitial vacua), the assumption that mini-
ma cannot change their shape should be rejected. In this way, Sca-
liger's views on the vacuum play a crucial role for his views on the
nature ofnatural minima: rejecting interstitial vacua excludes under-
standing natural minima as Lucretian atoms. Rather, natural minima
are entities that combine corpuscularian and non-corpuscularian
features: they retain their form and boundaries when they move in
pores of other bodies such as in the case of water rising in lime, but
they retain their form and lose their boundaries when they enter into
genuine mixtures.

1.5. Conclusion

The foregoing considerations were not aimed at establishing that

Scaliger's views on corpusdes and the vacuum coincide with Fra-
castoro's in all respects. I have pointed out that there are marked
differences between Fracastoro's and Scaliger's explanations of
phenomena such as water rising in lime. On the level of the motion
of corpusdes in pores Fracastoro invokes the agency of a form of a
composite substance while Scaliger in this respect tries to do with-
out composite substances and their forms. Also, Scaliger's concep-
tion of vacuum as place differs profoundly from Fracastoro's con-
ception ofplace as what guarantees the preservation ofbodies. Nev-
ertheless, various sections of the Exoteric Exercises indicate that
Scaliger was closely acquainted with On the Sympathy and Antipa-
46 Chapter 1

thy ofThings. 86 I have argued that Fracastoro brings tagether aspects

of a corpuscularian matter theory with a continuity conception of
mixture in a way that helps us to understand how the different
strands of Scaliger's matter theory hang together. Both Fracastoro
and Scaliger take the minority view according to which minimism is
essentially connected with mixture theory. Both Fracastoro and Sca-
liger hold that space is necessarily a plenum, thus excluding a con-
ception of natural minima as Lucretian atoms with immutable geo-
metrical shapes. Both Fracastoro's and Scaliger's natural minima
have some corpuscularian characteristics: they do not change their
natures while they are included in the pores of larger bodies, and
they retain their numerical identity in mixture. But Fracastoro's and
Scaliger's natural minima also have some non-corpuscularian cha-
racteristics: because they do not have rigid and immutable geome-
trical shapes, they are capable of fusing with other natural minima
into a continuum. Both their continuum accounts of mixture and
their views concerning a hierarchy of substantial forms within a
composite substance provide strong explanatory tools for both the
persistence of the constituents of a composite substance and its uni-
ty: since the substantial forms of its constituents persist, they retain
their physical identity, even if they lose their boundaries; and since
its constituents form a material continuum in such a way that subor-
dinate forms are directed by a dominant form, composite substances
possess genuine unity.

1 Maclean, "Montaigne, Cardano: The Reading of Subtlety/The Subtlety of

Reading", pp. 146-147; Maclean, "The Interpretation ofNatura1 Signs".

2 Cardano, De subtilitate, pp. 587-592.

3 EE, fol. 2r.

4 EE, fol. 41 7r.
5 EE, fol. 416r.
6 The full title of Scaliger's book implies that it is the fifteenth in a series of

Exoteric Exercises about various other matters-but no trace is left of any

of the fourteen other volumes. Scaliger's son Justus Julius, the world-
renowned philologist and tireless cultivator of family myths, reports that
the hausehold of his father, who died deeply in debts, was sacked by his
Scaliger on Corpuseies 47

creditors who took anything of value, including his manuscripts, with them
(see AHT, p. 81). Maybe, just maybe, the fourteen other volumes did exist,
but probably we will never know. On the origin of Scaliger' s autobiograph-
ical myths, see Billanovich, "Benedetto Bordone e Giulio Cesare Scalige-
7 Emerton, The Scientifzc Reinterpretation of Form, pp. 90-91; see also

Maier, Die Vorlufer Galileis im 14. Jahrhundert, pp. 181-182.

8 Emerton, The Scientijic Reinterpretation ofForm, p. 92.
9 Ibid., pp. 101-102.
10 Ibid., p. 101; see EE, fol. 143v: "Mistio est motus corporum minimarum

ad mutuum contactum, ut fiat unio." On early modern theories of mixture,

see Subow, "Zur Geschichte des Kampfes zwischen dem Atomismus und
dem Aristotelismus in 17. Jahrhundert (Minima naturalia und Mixtio)."
11 Lthy, "An Aristotelian Watchdog as Avant-Garde Physicist", p. 548.

On the creation of the world, see EE, fol. 17r-v; on the substantiality of
prime matter, see EE, fol. 467r-v. By contrast, Raimondi, "Vanini dal pla-
gio alle fonti", maintains that Scaliger's thought is in line with the Scholas-
tic tradition also in a variety of respects such as creationism, providential-
ism, and teleology.
12 Lthy, "An Aristotelian Watchdog as Avant-Garde Physicist", p. 549.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid., p. 550. On the closeness of particles in fire, see EE, fol. 20v. Cleri-

cuzio, too, holds that Scaliger interpreted minima as particles (see Clericu-
zio, Elements, Principles and Corpuscles, pp. 9; 11-13). On the influence
of Scaliger on Gaston DuClo's corpuscularian alchemy, see Principe, "Di-
versity in Alchemy", pp. 189-190.
15 lbid., p. 551.
16 SAR, pp. 218-219; see Hirai, Le concept de semence dans !es theories de

la matiere a la renaissance, pp. 74-80.

17 Nutton, "The Reception ofFracastoro's Theory ofContagion", pp. 208-

18 Meinel, "Early Seventeenth-Century Atomism", p. 71; seealso Clericu-

zio, Elements, Principles and Corpuscles, p. 17, note 35; Lthy, "An Aris-
totelian Watchdog as Avant-Garde Physicist", p. 450.
19 EE, fol. 6v: "[Q]ui minimis naturalibus tanquam principiis constitutis

certas figuras attribuerunt: cum globulis ob rotunditatem cohaerere nequeat

perpetuo tractu corpus ullum: necessario coacti sunt, vacuum altrinsecus
statuere in natura. Quibus omnia fiebant unum per contiguitatem, non per
continuationem: quemadmodum agnovere Sapientes." (Lthy's trans-
20 Lthy, "An Aristotelian Watchdog as Avant-Garde Physicist", p. 551.
48 Chapter 1

21 See Plutarch, De placitis 1, 2.

22 On the history of this work, see Nutton, 'The Reception of Fracastoro's
Theory ofContagion", p. 199, note 7. On Fracastoro's sources, see Nutton,
'The Seeds of Disease"; on Fracastoro's anti-occultism, see Peruzzi, "An-
tioccultismo e filosofia naturale nel De sympathia et antipathia rerum di
Gerolamo Fracastoro", pp. 43-55.
23 SAR, pp. 45-46.
24 SAR, p. 46: "Antiqui quidem ut Empedocles & Epicurus, quos e nostras

Lucretius secutus est, effluxiones corporum quas athomos appellabant,

principium eius attractionis ponebant. Quae quidem effluxiones ne negan-
dae quidem sunt ... modus autem quem ipsi tradebant, sat rudis & ineptus
25 SAR, p. 47.
26 SAR, pp. 48-49.
27 SAR, p. 75.
28 See Spruit, Species intelligibilis. From Perception to Knowledge, vol. 2.
29 SAR, pp. 51-52.
30 Ibid.
31 SAR, p. 50: "[N]ihil per se moveri potest quod non sit aut corpus, aut

saltem natura & substantia in corpore." On the role of "spiritual species" in

Fracastoro's epistemology, see Cassirer, Das Erkenntnisproblem in der
Philosophie und Wissenscha der neueren Zeit, vol. 1, pp. 226-232; Spruit,
Species intelligibilis. From Perception to Knowledge, vol. 2., pp. 46-49;
Leijenhorst, "Hobbes and Fracastoro", pp. 105-106, 112-117; Hoffmann,
"Dimensionen des Erkenntnisproblems bei Girolamo Fracastoro", pp. 157-
32 SAR p. 53: "[S]ubstantia ... totum quoddam sit ex a & b & spirituali illo,

in quo toto partes non plane debitum esse, & situm habent, nisi invicem ita
astringantur ut simul & a & b coeant."
33 lbid.: "Qui motus tandem est partium in toto sese ad suum situm moven-

tium a forma factus, quae natura & substantia est."

34 SAR, p. 87.
35 SAR, p. 88.
36 SAR, pp. 88-89: "Alia vero surrt quae per se quidem & natura humida

surrt, per accidens autem surrt exsiccatae, remanet tarnen in iis forma sua &
natura cum virtutibus omnibus ... inter quas est, & spiritualis species, quae
attrahere nata est quod simile est ... "
37 SAR, pp. 90-93.
38 SAR, pp. 25-26: "[V]acuum in natura esse non potest, quoniam nihil

natura sustinet, nihil admittit quod frustra sit, quodque universi ordinem &
leges impediat ... " On medieval theories of interstitial voids, see Grant,
Scaliger on Corpuseies 49

Much Ado About Nothing. Theories of Space and Vacuum for the Middle
Ages to the Scientifzc Revolution, pp. 70-77.
39 SAR, p. 26: "[Q]uae quidem contingant, si vacuus sit ullus locus, in eo

enim, nec quicquam fieri poterit, nec quicquam recipi."

40 SAR, p. 26: "[S]i quis non solo fine contentus sit, sed & agens quoque

requirat, & quid nam illud sit, quod divellenti resistat, & quomodo, non erit
fortasse ita promptum reddere rationem tanti nexus: quoniam universi
partes neque eum finem agnoscunt, neque per naturam appetere possurrt ...
Neque enim dicendum ... universi partes, tametsi non eum cognoscunt
finem, dirigi tarnen a cognoscente: quoniam hic non universalem & pri-
mam causam quaerimus, sed particularem & propriam ... "
41 SAR, p. 27.
42 SAR, pp. 27-28: "[L]ocus enim fit unum corpus alteri, unde & recte aiunt

locum esse locati conservativum: quod profecto maxime fit, quum a vacuo
praeservet. Non cognoscunt igitur eum finem substantiae, & corpora, quae
in universo surrt, per naturam tarnen resistunt, ne separentur omnino. Non
enim necesse est, quae gratia alicuius agunt, finem etiam cognoscere, sed
alia cognoscunt quidem, alia per naturam agunt."
43 EE fol. 35r; see Murdoch, "The Medieval and Renaissance Tradition of

Minima Naturalia", p. 129, note 114.

44 See Lucretius, De rerum natura 1. 298-299, 305-328.
45 "Quod autem minima dentur naturalia: nemo sanus dubitabit. Finita enim

surrt corpora naturalia: ergo ex finitis. Hoc a praeceptore didicimus veritatis

in libris Physicorum: sed manifestissime, ubi loquitur de lapidis cavatione."
See Aristotle, Phys. VIII, 3, 253b15-23.
46 EE, fol. 35r.
47 EE, fol. 20r; see Aristotle, Meteor. II, 2, 354b24-33.
48 EE, fol. 19r; see Aristotle, Meteor. I, 2, 339a11-24.
49 EE, fol. Sv.
50 EE, fol. 9r. Also his attitude to Fracastoro's account of magnetism is

critical. He repeatedly mentions Fracastoro's hypothesis of magnetic

mountains on the poles of the globe (EE, fol. 62v; fol. 186r). However, he
rejects Fracastoro's suggestion that in cases of magnetic attraction a com-
posite substance with spatially disjoint parts arises (EE, fol. 454r-v).
51 EE, fol. 5v.
52 Ibid.: "[ A]lii ita existimarunt: Non dari vacuum propterea quod appetunt

cuncta sui conservationem. Eam vero per nexum, atque extremorum con-
tinguitatem comparari. Quo fit, ut locati locus sit conservatio. Prohabile
hoc, non verum tarnen ... [N]on est verum, a loco servari corpora, sed a
50 Chapter 1

53 EE, fol. 25r: "[M]ovetur a fonna propria interna ... , videlicet secundaria,

nempe ne vacuum detur. Non solum enim appetunt suum, UBI, elementa:
sed etiam gaudent esse extra ipsum, ne graviore universi iactura spatium
illud a teterrimo hoste occupetur. Nihil profecto hostile magis enti, quam
non ens. Vacuum autem non ens."
54 EE, fol. 6v: "In Natura vacuum dari necesse est. Nempe si non daretur,

aut non esset motus, aut subiret corpus in corpus."

55 Aristotle, De caelo I, 9, 279a14-15; see Grant, Much Ado About Nothing,

pp. 8-9.
56 EE, fol. 6v.
57 See Grant, Much Ado About Nothing, pp. 70-71.
58 See Aristotle, Phys. IV, 9, 217a20-bl9; Degen. et corr. I, 5, 32lal0-29.
59 EE, fol. 28v; EE, fol. 33v.
60 EE, fol. 112r; seealso EE, fol. 154r.
61 EE, fol. 28r.
62 EE, fol. 33v.
63 EE, fol. 356r: "[N]eque tenuitas, neque crassitia, caussa densitatis, sed

uniformitas ... Nam inter quae nihil aliud intercedit, eius partes inter se
aptas esse necesse est. Non enim datur vacuum. In diffonnium vero
partibus, mutua cohaerentia fit per humidum ... " On cohesion by means of
"interstitial humidity" (humidum interpositum), seealso EE, fol. 22v-23r.
64 EE, fol. 7r; see Aristotle, Phys. IV, 4, 212a21. Cardano accepts Ari-

stotle's notion of place; see Cardano, De subtilitate, p. 367. On Cardano's

rejection of the vacuum, see Schmitt "Experimental Evidence for and
agairrst a Void".
65 EE, fol. 6v.
66 Pico, Examen vanitatis, pp. 1187-1188; Schmitt, Gianfranceso Pico

della Mirandola, pp. 138-159.

67 Schmitt, Gianfranceso Pico della Mirandola, p. 142.
68 Pico, Examen vanitatis, p. 1189.
69 Pyle, Atomism and its Critics, p. 76.
70 EE, fol. 6r: "Ex contrariis enim ac mutua corruptione inter se grassan-

tibus partibus [mundus] constitutus est. Eius igitur aeternitas in succes-

sione: unitas in continuatione ... Duas igitur Ideas formarum habere Mun-
dum oportuit. Una est particularis, sua cuiusque speciei, ad generationem,
motum, prorogationem in iis, per quae est, non unus. Alia est universalis ad
conservationem unitatis. Iccirco [Deus] neque a principio fecit vacuum,
quia est non ens: neque postea dari passus est. Ergo ne daretur, effecit, ut
forma particularis, puta ignis, qua ascendit, obediret universali formae: qua
unus est Mundus ... "
71 EE, fol. 5v.
Scaliger on Corpuseies 51

72 EE, fol. 7r: "Est autem quodammodo ens, & quodammodo non ens. Est
enim non ens, quia ens continetur ibi: & est ens, quia est aliquid alicuius:
nempe cavumintra corpus."
73 For an overview of the classical solutions to the theory of mixture, see

Maier, An der Grenze von Scholastik und Naturwissenschaft, pp. 22-35.

74 Murdoch, 'The Medieval and Renaissance Tradition of Minima Natura-

lia'', p. 130.
75 See Aristotle, Degen. et corr. I, 10, 327a30ff.
76 On this work and its place in Achillini's intellectual biography, see

Nardi, "Appunti sull'averroista Bolognese Alessandro Achillini", pp. 78-

77 Achillini, De elementis, fol. 116r: "[M]inima elementorum surrt positione

distincta: non enim se penetrant, & ... suam esse & substantiale & acciden-
tale irrtegram servant."
78 lbid., fol. 116v.
79 For an overview of Nifo's metaphysics of nature and its historical set-

ting, see Mahoney, "Philosophy and Science in Nicoletto Vernia and Agos-
tino Nifo".
80 Nifo, Averroys de mixtione defensio, fol. Sr: "[D]icendum elementa vir-

tute hac celesti, et divina ad locum communem venire: virtute hac etiam
agere et pati inter se, et sie ad mixtionem concurrunt ut agentia; et tarn diu,
quam diu franguntur, quibus fractis et per minima copulatis continuant
materia et quantitas: et in eadem irrstanti virtute celesti forma inducitur
mixti ... "
81 SAR, pp. 99-100: "Liquidorum enim alia bene miscibilia invicem surrt,

alia non bene. Bene quidem quae aut unam & eandem substantiam habent,
aut saltem dividi mutuo ad minimapossurrt Aqua igitur cum aqua, & vi-
num cum vino optime commiscentur, quoniam unum surrt, & unum conti-
nuum conflant. Vinum autem cum aqua bene & ipsum miscetur, quoniam
si forte unum non est cum aqua, nec continuum facit, sed contiguum solum,
quod forma differat & terminis, dividi tarnen cum illa faciliter possit in
particulas minimas. Dividuntur autem ad minimas partes, quoniam natura
turn elementorum turn liquidarum est, ut eorum partes meliorem situm
habeant quo possibile sit. Melior autem situs est ille, quo partes minus
distant inter se quo possurrt & si quidem datur, continuae fiunt inter se, si
vero non datur, quia formae non unum sirrt, propinquiores tarnen & unitae
magis quo possurrt partes esse volunt & quaerunt. Propinquissimus autem
situs est, quo distant solum per interpositionem unius minimi, quod ultra
dividi non potest."
82 Confusingly, there is an earlier discussion of mixture in the Exoteric

Exercises (chapter 16), which is incompatible with the later discussion

52 Chapter 1

(chapter 101). In his first take on mixture, Sca1iger defends the view that in
mixture there is on1y a sing1e substantia1 form of the composite. However,
he seems to have been dissatisfied with his first discussion, and presents his
second discussion-as the chapter heading teils us-as a "more subtle"
take (repetitio subtilior) on mixture. For the purposes ofthe present discus-
sion, I will focus on Sca1iger's second take on mixture.
83 EE, fol. 148v.
84 EE 143v: "Neque enim velut atomi Epicureae sese contingunt: ita cor-

puscula nostra, sed ut continuum corpus atque unum fit. Est enim unum
continuatione terminorum: quae est mistis omnibus communis."
85 EE, fol. 144r-v.
86 In addition to the references to Fracastoro already mentioned, see EE,

fol. 28v-29r and 424v on Fracastoro's views on contrary qualities and con-
trary forms; EE, fol. 60r on his views on serpents; EE, fol. 290v and 455v
on his naturalization of some occult qualities; EE, fol. 417r on his agnostic-
ism regarding the motion of the heart; EE, fol. 455r on his account of sym-
pathies between the parts of the human body; EE, fol. 358v on his account
of the sense of touch; EE, fol. 37lr-v on his account of tastes; EE, fol.
375v-377v, 427v, and 429r-430r on his accounts of pleasure, sadness, and
love; and EE 431 v-432r on his accounts of tickle and laughter.
Chapter 2

Julius Caesar Scaliger on Plant Generation and the

Question of Species Constancy

2.1. Introduction

One of the bedrocks of the Aristotelian conception of biological

reproduction is the view that "like begets like". The notion that the
offspring of any living being belongs to the same biological species
as the living being from which it originated is a Straightforward con-
sequence of two assumptions: (1) the assumption that a particular
biological species is defined by a particular essence common to all
individuals belanging to this species, and (2) the assumption that
essences are immutable. Species constancy, hence, is part and parcel
of an essentialistic metaphysics. Changes through biological repro-
duction, accordingly, were understood as being restricted to charac-
teristics of living beings other than their essence. 1 The view that
living beings and their offspring do not share all characteristics is
commonsensical enough and was held by ancient, medieval and
early modern natural philosophers alike; however, early modern
thinkers began to question ancient and medieval conceptions of the
constancy of biological species. In this chapter, I will examine how
Julius Caesar Scaliger contributed to the ernerging early modern
conception of mutable biological species. His contribution pertains
to an early stage of this story-a stage that is long before any view
that all species are mutable. Nevertheless, it is a significant stage
since it saw the old conception of the constancy of species replaced
by the novel view that some living beings belanging to one species
can develop out of some living beings belanging to a different spe-
Scaliger's answer to the question of species constancy is not
connected with new measuring techniques or with new data ob-
tained by their application. Rather, it is connected with his meta-
physical views, mainly developed in his Exotericae exercitationes.
Moreover, Scaliger touches upon the question of species constancy
54 Chapter 2

in his extensive commentaries on ancient botanical works, such as

Theophrastus' Historia plantarum and De causis plantarum and the
Pseudo-Aristotelian De plantis. On first sight, with the absence of
any new experiental data, Scaliger's mode of thought may appear
strangely outdated even by the standards of his own day. Neverthe-
less, his approach to issues of biological reproduction indicates the
importance of two factors in early modern scientific thought that are
quite independent ofthe development ofnew measuring techniques.
The first of these factors is the role played by the metaphysics
of composite substances. What is crucial, in Scaliger's view, for
understanding the mutability of species is the intemal structure of
composite substances such as living beings. In particular, he shares
the fundamental insight of a tradition within late medieval Aristote-
lianism that is sometimes called "Latin Pluralism". According to this
tradition, within each living being there exists a plurality of substan-
tial forms, in such a way that subordinate forms are dominated by
the substantial form ofthe entire living being. 2 In order to get a clear
grip on the metaphysical presuppositions of Scaliger's views on
biological reproduction, I will explore in section 2.3. Scaliger's
views on how a plurality of substantial forms is constitutive of the
unity of a living being.
The second factor operative in Scaliger's views on biological
reproduction is his metaphysical interpretation of ancient botanical
works. His commentaries on ancient biological works have more
than only historical and philological aims. Rather, in Theophrastus'
biological writings and the Pseudo-Aristotelian De plantis, Scaliger
finds a conception that is closely analogous to his own views on a
plurality of forms within living beings: the theory that "common
principles" are contained in a particular plant and account for how
this plant can develop into a plant belonging to a different species.
Scaliger uses this theory in order to apply his theory of a plurality of
forms for solving two problems: First, how can revertible biological
mutability occur (as when a wild variety of a plant develops into a
cultivar and vice versa)? And second, is it thinkable that biological
mutability leads to species that did not exist before? I will examine
Scaliger's answer to the first question in section 2.4., and hisanswer
to the second question in section 2.5. Before addressing these issues,
Scaliger on Plant Generation 55

however, it will pay to introduce some terminological conventions

that will be followed throughout the chapter.

2.2. Concepts ofBiological Mutability

There are several concepts of biological mutability that can be for-

mulated within a broadly Aristotelian theory of living beings as
endowed with substantial forms. The first concept is one that is most
widely shared by thinkers in the ancient, medieval and early modern
tradition. This concept is fully compatible with the assumptions
mentioned above, namely, that biological species are defined by a
commonly shared essence and that essences are immutable. For
clarity's sake, let me use a slightly anachronistic label for this con-

Aceidental mutability: Differences between a living being and

its offspring are restricted to differences on the level of proper-
ties or accidents (in the philosophical sense).

As we will see, Scaliger applies the concept of accidental mutability

to the kind of changes brought about by influences of time and
place. Hence, in his view there are cases of biological mutability
that can be exhaustively analyzed on the level of properties or acci-
dents. However, in his view some cases of biological mutability also
involve a change on the level of substantial forms. As we will see,
Scaliger understands such changes as involving a change of essence
and, hence, of species membership. Moreover, his analysis of such
cases is closely connected with his interpretation of ancient biologi-
cal works. A prominent topic in Theophrastus' De causis plantarum
is the degeneration of plants-the process by means of which a cul-
tivar reverts back to its corresponding wild variety. Obviously, such
cases are instances of revertible change, since the cultivar in the first
instance developed out ofthe wild variety. It is not so obvious, how-
ever, whether such cases involve a change of species membership.
Evidently, what matters here is not whether modern biologists
would classify wild varieties and cultivars as belanging to different
species. Rather, what matters is how Scaliger describes these cases.
Interestingly, in his descriptions another concept ofbiological muta-
56 Chapter 2

bility plays a role (again, let me use a somewhat anachronistic la-


Revertible formal mutability: Some of the relations of domina-

tion and subordination holding between various substantial
forms within the same plant undergo change, in such a way,
however, that the relations of domination and Subordination can
be reverted.

Once cases of plant degeneration are described along these lines,

these cases become useful clarifying in which respect cases of (puta-
tively) irrevertible changes that occur during plant generation differ
from degeneration. Y et another concept of biological mutability is
relevant here:

lrrevertible formal mutability: Some of the relations of domina-

tion and Subordination holding between various substantial
forms within the same plant can undergo change, in such a way,
however, that the relations of domination and subordination
cannot be reverted.

Both revertible and irrevertible formal mutability have to do with a

change in the hierarchical ordering of substantial forms within living
beings. This is why the senses in which Scaliger believes that
change with respect to species membership can occur depend on his
view conceming changes in the hierarchical ordering within a plu-
rality of substantial forms. Moreover, while Scaliger seems to be
committed to the applicability of all three concepts of biological
mutability mentioned so far, there is a further concept that he unam-
biguously rejects:

Universal (revertible or irrevertible) formal mutability: All of

the relations of domination and Subordination holding between
the various substantial forms within the same plant can undergo
change (either revertible or irrevertible ).

Rejecting universal formal mutability implies rejecting the view that

any biological species could develop into any other species. Let me
Scaliger on Plant Generation 57

label this view which Scaliger rejects "universal species mutability".

Nevertheless, Scaliger does believe that there are singular cases in
which a plant brings forth a plant belanging to a different, but previ-
ously existing species. Let me use the label "species flexibility" for
such cases. Moreover, he also believes in the possibility of singular
cases in which a plant brings forth a plant belanging to a different
species that did not exist before. Let me use the label "singular spe-
cies mutability" for such cases.

2.3. Composite Unities and Subordinate Forms

Obviously, Scaliger's views conceming species flexibility and spe-

cies mutability are closely bound to the metaphysical apparatus of
dominant and subordinate substantial forms. As we have seen in
chapter 1, according to Scaliger in cases of genuine mixture-
including the generation of living beings-there arises a material
continuum in which, nevertheless, natural minima persist due to the
persistence of their substantial forms. In this way, in living beings,
as in all other mixed bodies that are genuine unities, there is a plu-
rality of substantial forms. While this structure is common to all
composite unities, the nature of substantial forms operative in living
beings needs some careful consideration. Disconcertingly, Scaliger's
views as to the material or immaterial nature of vegetative and sen-
sitive souls seem tobe quite ambiguous and underdeveloped. 3 How-
ever, one thing that is more important for present purposes than the
materiality/immateriality issue seems to be fairly clear: Scaliger
describes vegetative and sensitive souls as possessing active powers.
He maintains that form "does not need any assistance in order to
fulfil its goal towards which the whole composite is directed."
Rather, form "changes both itself and the parts of which the body of
a living being consists". 4 In his commentary on Aristotle's Historia
animalium, Scaliger gives a crisp argument for this view: If our soul
moves the body, it does so either by means of an instrument, or im-
mediately. If it moves the body by means of an instrument, it moves
the instrument either by means ofyet another instrument or immedi-
ately. Hence, we either hit upon an immediate action ofthe soul on a
corporeal being, or we encounter an infinite regress of instruments. 5
The upshot of Scaliger argument is that vegetative and sensitive
58 Chapter 2

souls are active beings in the sense that they can induce bodily mo-
tion without being dependent on any entity extemal to them.
How do such active beings relate to the substantial forms of the
parts of organic bodies? The relation does not appear to be one of
formal causation. In a different context, Scaliger rejects the view
that forms can inform other forms. 6 Presumably, he would accord-
ingly reject the idea that the dominant form of a living being informs
the subordinate forms of the parts of its body. Rather, Scaliger's
account of the plurality of forms in a living being invokes the teleo-
logical nature of forms-their being directed towards certain ends.
The teleological nature of subordinate forms becomes evident when
he discusses the view expressed in Jean Femel's De abditis rerum
causis, according to which bones in a carcass are nevertheless true
bones. 7 Scaliger objects that the bones of a living being live, as be-
comes evident by the fact that they grow and are nourished; more-
over, he argues that bones of a living being live by means of the
dominant form of the living being. As he argues, a bone in the car-
cass is not the same because it does not fulfil any of its previous
tasks. 8 Hence, identity conditions of bodily parts are not only con-
nected with the mere presence of their substantial form but also with
the specific teleological function of this substantial form. The sub-
stantial forms of the bone parts in the living body fulfil a teleologi-
cal fimction that differs from that ofbone parts in a dead body.
Teleology also gives a clue as to the sense in which Scaliger be-
lieves that forms "can be mixed and form one being". 9 He explains:

[T]he less noble bodies are made for the sake of the more noble
bodies. In the same way, also forms are made for the sake of
forms. For example, it is certain that the forms of a horse and an
ass mix. Since this is so, all arguments [to the contrary] dis-
solve. Hence, not only the forms of elements, but also of wine,
and of some animals can be mixed in such a way that out of two
or more there anses an actua1per se umty.. 10

This passage indicates that the Subordination relation is to be under-

stood as a relation of final causation. Some material objects and
some forms are less "noble" than others because they are made for
the sake of other material objects and other forms. With respect to
Scaliger on Plant Generation 59

the structure of living beings the picture that is suggested by this

passage would be the view that bodily organs such as a nose or an
eye, as well as their respective forms, are less "noble" than the entire
body of the living being and its soul because they are made for the
sake of the entire body of the living being and its soul. In this sense,
subordinate forms that are all teleogically directed towards the
dominant forms can be said tobe "mixed" and to form a unity. Such
an interpretation is fully consistent with Scaliger's claim that the
forms of the most perfect living beings do not mix because they are
the only ones that are not directed towards any further goal. 11

2.4. SubordinateFormsand Species Flexibility

Now we have in hand two crucial metaphysical presuppositions of

Scaliger's account of species mutation: the view that dominant sub-
stantial forms are active beings that are capable of producing bodily
movements independently of any entity extemal to them, and the
view that subordinate substantial forms constitute a unity because
they are all teleologically directed towards a dominant form. In the
remainder of this chapter, I will try to show how these presupposi-
tions are connected with Scaliger's answer to the question of species
To begin, it is important to note that not all kinds of biological
mutation, in Scaliger's view, relate to the level of substantial forms.
Scaliger points out that trees mutate not only with respect to color
but also with respect to leaves, fruit, and "almost the whole nature of
the tree". Moreover, he notes that mutation can come about in dif-
ferent ways: "By means of nature, as when they become sterile or
bear fruit due to the changes of the sun and the heavens, as when
olive changes into wild olive. By means of art: as in grafting, prun-
ing, dunging, loosening the soil, and finally preparing the ground." 12
Not all of these changes relate to the level of substance: Scaliger
notes that mutation can take place either with respect to substance,
or quantity, or quality. 13 Hence, for Scaliger there are cases of acci-
dental mutability. At the same time, he maintains that while muta-
tions with respect to quantitiy and quality do not constitute differ-
ences in species, a change in substance does. 14 Such a mutation of
the whole species (mutatio totius speciei), in his view, takes place
60 Chapter 2

when water-mint changes into mint. Moreover, he emphasizes that

such changes cannot be induced by art but only take place "by na-
ture only" (a natura sola). 15
In particular, Scaliger's concept of species is bound to the
metaphysical concept of substantial form. This becomes obvious
when he considers the question of whether there are new species in
the potency of nature besides those that exist now. He notes that
Cardano holds that either the forms of living beings are constituted
by the forces of some stars, or that they are varied according to dif-
ferent regions and the flow of time. Scaliger comments that the first
hom of Cardano's answer is evasive, since the question is just
whether a particular number of stars are able to constitute more
forms of living beings than they did previously. 16 The other hom of
Cardano's answer, in Scaliger's view, relates to a variation not of
substance but of accidents: "For if a substance, that was one indi-
vidual, became different through place, place would be the giver of
forms ... The same has to be said to you with respect to time." 17
While Scaliger concedes that place and time can change accidental
features of living beings, his objection seems to be that place and
time cannot change species because they cannot change substantial
By implication, then, the notion of species is connected with the
notion of substantial form. In fact, Scaliger writes about a substan-
tial form that shapes matter for its own purpose that "this is essence
and what we call species." 18 Moreover, due to the connection be-
tween the notions of essence and species, "a species is an essential
whole." 19 While Scaliger does not explicate the notion of an essen-
tial whole, we do find such an explication in Rudolph Goclenius'
Lexicon philosophicum (1613)-a resource that still provides in-
valuable insight into 161h century philosophical usage. Goclenius
writes that such a whole is something "that consists of parts or prin-
ciples that constitute essence. " 20 When Scaliger regards biological
species as such wholes, he seems to suggest that substantial forms
are the principles that constitute essence and, therefore, determine
species membership. Moreover, due to the connection between the
notions of substantial form, essence, and species, he believes that, in
nature, there are some changes on the level of substantial forms that
amount to changes with respect to species membership. Tobe sure,
Scaliger on Plant Generation 61

he does not hold that any species could develop into any other spe-
cies. For one, he believes that there are plants that are determined by
nature not to undergo mutation? 1 Moreover, he maintains that wild
varieties cannot undergo degeneration since he believes that they
already possess the lowest possible degree of perfection. 22 Clearly,
for both reasons he would reject universal species mutability. Never-
theless, there are cases in which he regards it as a matter of natural
necessity that species constancy does not obtain, such as when wild
varieties of plants develop into cultivars and vice versa. 23 He men-
tions two examples that were widely discussed in ancient biological
works: the change of darnel into wheat, and the change of water-
mint into mint. Scaliger points out a thoroughly Anti-Aristotelian
consequence of such examples: It is not true that the seed of a plant
is always produced by nature for the purpose of propagating the
species because this is not the case when the seed is changed in such
a way that "the whole species undergoes mutation". 24 Hence, Sca-
liger is committed to species flexibility.
Elsewhere, he distinguishes two kinds of transmutation (trans-
mutatio ). He describes the first kind as follows: "When mint
changes into water-mint, 25 or vice versa, this happens due to the
affinity of forms; and if the species differs also matter differs." 26
Subsequently, he characterizes the second kind of transmutation as
follows: "[O]ut of the sap of a cut tree, which does not vivify in its
own species, there arises by means of a secondary nature a mush-
room; as from the liver of a human being a worm or a louse." 27 One
of the differences between the two kinds of transmutation is that the
first kind relates to cases in which a cultivar mutates into its wild
variety, or vice versa, while the second kind relates to cases in
which (putatively) a strongly dissimilar plant or even an animal
arises out of a plant. The first kind of transmutation is characterised
as revertible, while the second kind, as we will presently see, in
Scaliger's view, is irrevertible.
For the time being, let us focus on the first kind of transmuta-
tion. Scaliger says that mint and water-mint are connected with each
other through an "affinity of forms". What does he mean? Appar-
ently, he does not believe that mint and water-mint have the same
substantial form and differ only with respect to accidents. W ere this
his considered view, it would not make sense for him to say that
62 Chapter 2

"the whole species undergoes mutation". Apparently, he believes

that mint and water-mint are different, though closely related, spe-
cies. But are we to understand their relation? He explains it as fol-
lows, when he comments on Theophrastus:

At the same time, he shows the mode in which damel arises and
explains the reason by means of which this can take place. The
mode is the following: if the seed is inwardly corrupted, the
form of the plant is not abolished but becomes another form. He
proves that this can take place when he says that the nature of
plants is full of life, and indeed fuller of life than the nature of
animals and therefore productive. 28

Damel is a case in which a plant of one species has its origin in the
corrupted seed of a plant of a different species. The corrupted seed
no Ionger carries the form of the plant from which it originated. But
it is also not altogether different from the form of the plant from
which it originated. Scaliger suggests that this is so because both the
preceding and the subsequent forms, in a way still to be explicated,
are produced by the nature of plants, which is said to be "full of
life". Later in the same work, Scaliger explains:

Only by means of alteration can plants be generated in plants,

out of the common principles pertaining to the already existing
plant, which the wise men call "symbola". In this way, ... in the
follicles of mastic and garlic there grow midges, not out of pu-
trefaction but out of some principles that underwent a process
of alteration ... 29

Hence, plants are "full of life" in the sense that they contain "com-
mon principles" that underlie the development of plants of various
species. Since these "common principles" function as an explanation
for the "affinity of forms" holding between mint and water-mint and
for the way in which the form of a plant can become a different form
in a partially corrupted seed, it seems most plausible to regard them
as belonging to the category of form themselves. In fact, Scaliger
comments on Theophrastus' conception of a "vital principle" con-
tained in "humor"-the acqueous parts of plants:
Scaliger on Plant Generation 63

Above, he said hat the vital principle is contained in the humor:

here he says that the humor is contained in the vital principle.
Rightly so at both places. The humor contains the vital principle
as a vehicle: as matter contains form. The humor is contained
by the vital principle, and hence also by what rules it. For the
vital principle preserves [the humor], suchthat it is now what it
has tobe in the future. 30

The vital principle functions as form with respect to the humor, but
seems to differ from the substantial form of the entire plant because
it fulfils this function only with respect to a part of the plant. In this
sense, it is an example of a subordinate substantial form. If the
common principles relevant for the generation of plants belanging to
various species can be understood in analogy to the vital principle
informing the humor, they most plausibly can be understood as sub-
ardirrate forms contained in the plant. Moreover, with a view to irre-
vertible mutability Scaliger characterizes the secondary natures can-
tairred in the sap of a plant as "rudimentary principles of a future
plant" (rudi plantae futurae principia). 31 They are rudimentary prin-
ciples of a future plant because they can develop into the dominant
substantial form of a plant.
Hence, the change that takes place in cases of revertible trans-
mutation is a change in the relations of domination and Subordina-
tionholding between dominant and subordinate forms. In cases of
revertible transmutation, it seems plausible to assume this process
does not involve the destruction of any previously existing form.
Otherwise it would remain inexplicable how the transmutation could
be revertible. In a partially corrupted seed, the previously dominant
form loses this function, while a previously subordinate form ac-
quires a dominating role. In this sense, the form of the plant arising
out of the partially corrupted seed possesses a form other than the
plant from which the seed originated. Nevertheless, there is an affin-
ity of forms since in the new plant the same plurality of substantial
forms is operative as in the plant from which it originated, albeit in a
different hierarchical ordering. Moreover, the presence of the same
set of substantial forms would explain why this kind of transforma-
tion is revertible: Once the relations of domination and subordina-
64 Chapter 2

tion are restored, a plant with the same kind of substantial form as
the firstplant will be generated. In this way the apparatus of domi-
nant and subordinate forms functions as the metaphysical underpin-
ning for revertible formal mutability.

2.5. SubordinateFormsand Singular Species Mutability

As we have seen, what constitutes a biological species, according to

Scaliger, is not a set of qualities. Qualities (and the quantities in
which they come) may change without a change of biological spe-
cies. Rather, what has to take place for a change of species is a
change with respect to substantial forms. Hence, the question of
"[ w ]hether new species, which never before existed, can be gener-
ated?" boils down to the question "[ c]an a new form come into be-
ing that shapes matter for its own purposes?"32 As Scaliger believes,
if what is reported about the not clearly identified plant designated
by the Latin term "silphium" is true-it was reported that this plant
was newly generated through some extraordinary meteorological
phenomenon-"we are forced to confess that a new form can
arise." 33
Scaliger here regards singular species mutability as something
that exists if certain botanical facts obtain. Characterstically for his
mode of thought, he does not go out of his way to find out more
about these botanical facts. Rather, he tries to think through the
metaphysical implications that ancient botanical sources would have
ifthey would turn outtobe true. Nevertheless, even within his hu-
manist and philosophical frame of mind cases of singular species
mutability seem to face difficulties. It would seem as if the "com-
mon" principles that Scaliger ascribes to plants of different species
are something that exists before they play a role in plant generation.
So, given the close connection between the notions of species and
substantial form, how can Scaliger maintain that previously existing
substantial forms could explain the occurrence of species that did
not previously exist?
The most detailed exposition of these issues is found in Sca-
liger's commentary to the Pseudo-Aristotelian De plantis? 4 On the
level of literary technique, Scaliger's commentary is a relaxed and
loosely organized dialogue between Scaliger and three of his real-
Scaliger on Plant Generation 65

life acquaintances. Kristian Jensen has pointed out that Scaliger, the
figure in the dialogue, takes up astonishingly little space in the text
and often allows the views of his interlocutors to pass without criti-
cal remarks. One of Scaliger's interlocutors is Augier Ferrier, who
declares that Christanity is compatible with Platonism and the Her-
metic tradition but not with Aristotelianism. Another interlocutor is
Johannes Pacuvius Baiulius, a Galenic physician and Platonist and,
like Ferrier, interested in mysticism. The group is completed by
Gabriel Minut, who holds that in some respects Plato and Aristotle
are in agreement. 35 Jensen warns readers that the dialogue does not
lend itself to easy interpretation, and that it is risky to hypothesise
about Scaliger's philosophical stance on the basis of single quota-
tions. Nevertheless, the contributions of Baiulius take up a large
proportion of the dialogue and, as we will presently see, Scaliger
puts some of his views as expressed in the Exotericae exercitationes
into the mouth of Baiulius. Moreover, all the remarks on species
degeneration that are relevant to the present context come from
Baiulius. As far as I can see, these remarks are consistent with what
Scaliger says elsewhere about species degeneration, although they
contain additional matters of detail.
Consider the following passage from De plantis: "[N]ot every
plant produces a seed that is similar to the seed from which it origi-
nated: for some become better, and from some bad seeds there arise
good trees such as from bitter almonds and acid pomegradanes ...
Likewise, some plants transmute into another species ... " 36 Baiulius
(the figurein the dialogue) comments on this passage very much as
Scaliger does when he comments on similar passages in Theophras-
tus: "That plants, once they have lost their own forrns, acquire new
ones, is not miraculous since they share common principles." 37 The
author of De plantis, however, puts forward an account ofthe nature
of these common principles that does not seem agreeable to Sca-
liger. The passage from De plantis with which Scaliger disagrees
runs as follows:

Also in lagoons salt is generated, because freshwater becomes

salty. Hence, the saltiness of the earth emits this saltiness: and
there also remains some air included; and therefore this body
will not be sweet ... In the same way, plants and species are
66 Chapter 2

produced in no other way than by means of composition, not

through a simple nature, as saltiness from seawater and the sub-
stance of sand, because the ascending vapors, when they coagu-
late, can contain those plants? 8

In this passage, plant generation, like the generation of salt, is char-

acterized in terms of a composition of parts. Likewise, the emer-
gence of plants belonging to a new species is explained through the
occurrence of a new compositional structure.
However, Baiuhus (the figure in Scaliger's dialogue) objects:
"[T]here would be a circle in nature. In this way, the efficient cause
would have its own effect as its efficient cause, the form would have
what it informs as its own form, or matter would have the resulting
compound as its own matter." 39 The objection seems tobethat such
a compositional theory of plant generation meets difficulties with
respect to the notions of matter, efficient cause, and form, although
it is not very clear what the difficulties are with respect to matter
and efficient cause. Baiulius' objection is the more puzzling since
Scaliger elsewhere clearly acknowledges the existence of revertible
formal mutability-hence, instances of a "circle in nature". Perhaps
the most serious difficulty with a compositional account of plant
generation is the one concerning form. Presumably, a compositional
account of plant generation implies a compositional notion of form.
Ifthis is in fact an implication ofthe account in De plantis, the form
of a plant would be nothing else but the organization of its parts. But
then, in cases of revertible mutation the form of a plant that devel-
oped out of another plant would in turn be the formal cause of the
specific form from which it originated. In Scaliger's view, such an
account of revertible mutation is impossible because the relation
between form and what is informed by it is asymmetrical. Because
the De plantis account of the emergence of new species leads to
such absurd consequences concerning revertible mutation, Scaliger
believes that it is inadequate.
On the positive side, Scaliger's spokesperson Baiuhus gives the
following account ofthe emergence ofnew species:

That new species can be generated can be understood in two

ways: either things that already exist are mixed: such that they
Scaliger on Plant Generation 67

will not be inwardly and simply new; for they are made out of
those that already exist, as it were, as out of parts: which we see
happen in graftings which did not exist beforeo Or they are in
the potency of an agent 0 0F or a rose can be produced which

did not exist beforeo But there always is something there, be-
cause it is in the potency ofthe rose busho 40

In the first case, a plant belanging to a new species arises out of the
combination of parts of two plants that belong to previously existing
specieso Obviously, there is something new to such a combination of
parts, but as Scaliger is careful to point out, the resulting species
nevertheless is constituted by previously existing specieso In the
second case, things are different. Here, too, something previously
existing is involvedo However, it is not a previously existing specieso
Rather, what exists previously is described as active principles pre-
sent in the rose bush-principles, however, that were previously not
actualizedo Baiulius adds the following comment on Theophrastus:

He assigns this reciprocal change only to elementso The other

kind of change is not revertible but runs only in one directiono
For out of a human being there does not arise a slime, out of
which agairr a human being could ariseo From a calf, bees are
created, but the nature of bees never retuns back into a calf 0 0 0

Rather, out ofthose things that werein the first instance created
together, other things follow on those things that decay at the
same placeo For it is manifest that some kinds ofwood 0have

natural rudiments of another species within themselveso If this

nature persists and remains intact, it does not so much re-
integrate while being in the slime of decayed things; rather, a
new generationout of old principles takes placeo 41

Since the "natural rudiments of species" and "old principles" can-

tairred in a living being develop into the substantial forms of livings
beings belanging to another species, they can most plausibly be
understood as subordinate forms dominated by the substantial form
of the plant. If this is what Scaliger has in mind, this passage indi-
cates that he is committed to the existence of irrevertible formal
mutability: The substantial forms of the newly generated living be-
68 Chapter 2

ing cannot revert back to the substantial forms of the living beings
from which they originated. Note also the theological implications
of this passage: According to Scaliger, all forms have been created
at once in the act of creation. 42 Since then, some forms always func-
tion as subordinate forms, such that no actually existing living being
corresponds to them. However, once the domination relation breaks
down, these subordinate forms become the active principles of liv-
ing beings.
For Scaliger, the occurrence ofnew species does not have to do
with the occurrence of new substantial forms but rather with the
occurrence of new relations of domination and Subordination be-
tween previously existing substantial forms. As long as the domina-
tion relation holds, a subordinate form informs some portion of mat-
ter that is part of a living being but is not a living being itself. It is
not a living being itself, for two reasons: first, according to Sca-
liger's theory ofmixture, the portion ofmatter forms a material con-
tinuum with the rest of the body of the living being; and second, the
operations of the subordinate form are directed towards the goals of
the dominant form. When the hierarchical ordering of substantial
forms breaks down, subordinate forms become themselves dominant
forms with active powers of their own-powers that are not directed
towards the goals of any other dominant form. Moreover, in cases in
which the previously dominant form ceases to exist (as in the death
ofthe living being) or to function properly, it is not transformed into
a subordinate form under the dominion of a previously subordinate
form. This is why such transmutations are irrevertible.
What is more, the portion of matter informed by this form re-
tains boundaries of its own. It is individuated not only physically but
also mathematically. This portion of matter, together with its domi-
nating substantial form, is a living being. While the substantial form
now active in the living being did exist previously (albeit not as a
dominating form), the living being itself did not exist previously.
Moreover, since the composite substance individuated by a subordi-
nate form is not a living being itself, it does not belong to any bio-
logical species, either. Hence, a substantial form determines mem-
bership in a biological species only when it functions as the domi-
nant form of a living being. If a substantial form of this kind never
before functioned as a dominant form, the living being that is now
Scaliger on Plant Generation 69

dominated by this form belongs to a biological species that did not

exist before. In such a case, while the substantial form dominating in
this living being is old-indeed, as old as the universe-the living
being belongs to a species that is new. In this sense, Scaliger is
committed to singular species mutability.

2.6. Conclusion

Somewhat paradoxically, in Scaliger's case quite traditional modes

of thought led to innovative biological conceptions. In his metaphys-
ics of composite substances, Scaliger is thinking through the impli-
cations of an idea already present in medieval philosophy: the idea
of a hierarchically ordered plurality of substantial forms within each
living being. Biological species, according to his view, are mutable
because living beings contain a plurality of substantial forms that
can develop into the dominating forms of new living beings. While
these forms are old, their functional role as dominating forms and,
hence, their role in defining a biological species can be new. Scalig-
er makes use of this idea, and finds further support for it, when in-
terpreting ancient biological works. Doing so leads Scaliger to re-
sults that amount to an upheaval of some of the most firmly en-
trenched tenets of Aristotelian natural philosophy: Where the hierar-
chical ordering of substantial forms breaks down, plants can bring
forth plants that belong to a different species; and it is even possible
that the newly generated plant might belong to a species that never
existed before. Obviously, Scaliger's biological views are oddly out
of touch with the evolving early modern interest in new observa-
tional and experimental techniques. Y et, at the same time-and
maybe partly just for this very reason-they vividly illustrate the
role that metaphysics and textual interpretation played in the emer-
gence of early modern conceptions of mutable biological species.
70 Chapter 2

1 See Hull, 'The Effect of Essentialism on Taxonomy-Two Thousand

Years of Stasis. Part 1". On species constancy in the thought of Scaliger's

contemporary, AndreaCesalpino (1519-1603), see Atran, Cognitive Foun-
dations ofNatural History, pp. 138-142.
2 On theories of the plurality of forms in medieval philosophers such as

Jean of Jandun, John Baconthorpe and Paul ofVenice, see Zavalloni, Rich-
ard de Mediavilla; Michael, "Averroes and the Plurality ofForms".
3 For some relevant passages conceming this issue, see EE, fol. 16r-v; EE,

fol. 151r; DP, p. 181.

4 EE, 13v.
5 Aristotelis historia de animalibus. Iulio Caesare Scaligero interprete, pp.

595-596. On Scaliger's view of vegetative souls as self-moving beings, see

Giglioni, "Girolamo Cardano e Giulio Cesare Scaligero", p. 318. On Sca-
liger's commentary on the Historia animalium, see Jensen, 'The Ms-
tradition of J. C. Scaliger's Historia de animalibus"; Perfetti, Aristotle 's
Zoology and its Renaissance Commentators, pp. 155-181.
6 See EE, fol. 11r.
7 See ARC, p. 195.
8 EE, fol. 16v.
9 EE, fol. 144v.
10 Ibid.: " ... Formarum ... illarum naturam esse dixerimus: ut & misceri, &

seiungi queant. Idque propter imperfectionem. Etenim haec ignobiliora

propter nobiliora corpora facta sunt. Sie & formas propter formas. Que-
madmodum equi, & asini formas misceri certurn est. Quod si ita sit, sol-
vuntur argumenta omnia. Ut non solum elementorum formae, sed & vini, &
quorundam animalium ita commisceri possint: ut ex duabus, aut pluribus
unum fiat actu, & per se."
11 EE, fol. 145r.
12 EE, fol. 232r: "Natura: veluti cum sterilescunt, aut foecundantur, soli,

Caelive mutationibus: ut Olea, Oleastrum. Arte: insitione, amputatione,

stercoratione, ablaqueatione, cultu denique."
13 CA, p. 288.
14 lbid.
15 lbid.
16 EE, fol. 319v.
17 Ibid.: "Si enim substantia, quae una erat, alia fieret, per locum: locus

esset formarum dator ... Idem quoque de tempore tibi dicendum est."
18 CA, p. 16: "Hoc enim essentia est, & quam speciem appellamus."
19 CA, p. 19: "[S]pecies est totum essentiale."
20 Goclenius, Lexicon philosophicum, p. 1132: "quod constat ex partibus

seu principiis essentiam constituentibus."

Scaliger on Plant Generation 71

21 DP, fol. 177r-v: "Quod si natura constant omnes plantae, necessitate

quoque constabunt tales. Tales, inquam, perpetuo, velut eae, quae non
mutantur. Tales non perpetuo: sicut illae, quae mutantur, vel semirre quod
patitur Triticum: vel post sationem, quamadmodum de Menta dicebamus."
22 CA, p. 35.
23 Ibid.
24 Ibid.
25 On sisymbrium, see Plinius, Historia naturalis, 19, 172. For the identifi-

cation of this plant with water-mint, see Cesalpino, De plantis libri XVI, p.
26 EE, fol. 386v: "[U]bi transit in Sisymbrium Menta, aut e contrario, prop-

ter formarum affinitatem: si species aliud est: materia quoque aliud."

27 lbid.: "[E]x recisae arboris succo, qui non amplius sua in specie vivificus

est, secundaria natura oritur fungus: sicut ex hominis iecore vermis, aut
28 CA, p. 230: "Simul ostendit modum quo nascatur Lolium: simul explicat

rationem, qua id fieri possit. Modus est, non corrupto penitus semirre abo-
letur plantae forma, sed fit alia. Quod vero fieri possit, demonstrat, quum
dicit plantarum naturam vivacem esse, ac sane vivaciorem quam naturam
animalium atque iccirco proficere."
29 CA, p. 279: "Sola nanque alteratione produci posse plantas in plantis, ex

subsistentis plantae communibus principiis, quae symbola vocant sapientes.

Sie in Lentisci atque aliorum folliculis culices innasci ... non ex putredine,
sed ex principiis quibusdam alteratis ... "

3 CA, p. 7: "Supra dicebat humore contineri vitale principium: hic dicit,

humorem contineri vitali principio. Recte utrobique. Continet humorvitale

principium tanquam vehiculum: sicuti materia formam. Continetur humor a
vitali principio, perinde atque a rectore. Servat enim: ut sit nunc, quod
futurum debet esse."
31 CA, p. 14.
32 CA, p. 16: "An nova forma fieri potest quae materiae sese aptet?"
33 lbid.: "Iam si quae de Silphio narrat vera surrt, novam exoriri posse

cogimur fateri." On silphium, see Plinius, Historia naturalis, 19, 15.

34 On the textual tradition of De plantis in the Renaissance, see Labowsky,

"Aristoteles De Plantis and Bessarion".

35 On the figures in the dialogue, see Jensen, Rhetorical Philosophy and

Philosophical Grammar: Julius Caesar Scaliger's Theory ofLanguage, pp.

36 De plantis, pp. 535-536: "Et omnis planta non producit semen simile

semini a quo orta est: quedam enim melius faciunt: & a quibusdam malis
72 Chapter 2

seminibus bone arbores proveniunt ut ab amigdalis amaris & granatis acidis

0 Item plantarum quaedam transmutantur in aliam speciem
0 0 0 0 0"

37 DP, 125v: "Herbas vero formis propriis amissis, alias induere non est

mirum, habent enim inter se communia principiao"

38 De plantis, po 545: "Generatur quoque sal in lacunis, quia aqua dulcis fit

salsao Superat ergo salsedo terrae illam salsedinem: remanebitque aer in-
clusus: & non erit ideo illud corpus dulce 0 0Eodem modo herbae et spe-

cies non fient nisi per compositionem, non per naturam simplicem, ut sal-
sedo ab aqua maris et substantia arenarum, quia vapores ascendentes cum
coagulati fuerint poterunt comprehendere has herbaso" Note that the author
of De plantis, in addition to giving such a compositional account of plant
generation, goes on invoking celestial influences that bring about the com-
position of partso
39 DP, fol. 170r: "Esset igitur circulus in naturao Sie efficiens caussa suum

haberet effectum pro caussa efficiente: aut forma formatum a seipsa pro
forma sua: aut materia materiatum pro materiao"
40 EE, fol. 319v: "Species ergo novas gigni posse, duobus modis intelligere

licet. Aut quod ea, quae iam sunt, misceantur: quae sie haud penitus, &
aTIACS - novae erunt; fiunt enim ex iis, quae sunt, tanquam ex partibus: id
quod evenire videmus in insitionibus, quo non extabant modoo Aut quae
sunt in agentis potestate Rosa enim fieri potest, ut aliquando non extet.
0 0 0

Est tarnen aliquid semper, quia est in Rosarii potestateo"

41 DP, fol. 178r: "Eam mutationem reciprocam solis assignat elementiso

Altera non recurrit, sed recta tendit. Non enim ex hornirre fit limus, ex quo
fieri possit homoo Ex vitulo concreantur apes: nunquam retro redit in vitu-
lum apiculae natura 0 0Sed quibus primordiis illis in locis concreabantur

olim iis, qui fuerunt ibi contriti, subnasci alioso Ligna enim quaedam 0 0 0

habere illiusce speciei secum rudimenta naturalia, manifestum est. Qua

natura superstite, atque incolumi permanente, non tarn redintegratur in
contritorum tabo, quam nova ex veteribus principiis substituatur generatioo"
42 With one notable exception: With respect to the origin of human souls,

Scaliger accepts the theological doctrine of separate acts of divine creation

(EE, fol. 16v)o
Chapter 3

Jean Femel on Simple Forms, Composite Substances,

and Divine Immanence

3 .1. Introduction

Talk about "the divine" is ubiquitous in Jean Femel's De abditis

rerum causis (1548). To the things that are said tobe "divine" be-
lang the "simple forms" of living beings, celestial bodies, human
souls, and a particular kind of diseases that Femel calls "diseases of
the total substance". Among prominent commentators, there is a
consensus that Femel uses "divine" in a highly philosophical sense.
For example, Jacques Roger claims that "the dogmatic rationalism
ofFemel ... refrains from confusing the natural and the divine. Cer-
tainly, he allows ... an influence of the stars on human beings, and
he has even devoted a large part of his early mathematical work
Monalosphaerium (1527) to astrological questions. But this is, for
him, a natural influence, comparable to the influence that climate or
nutrition can have on the human body." 1 Vincent Aucante concurs
and suggests understanding Femel's views about the celestial part of
the soul in the sense of an influence of the stars. 2 Most recently,
John Henry and John Farrester have argued that Femel "is not re-
versing the usual academic tendency to maintain disciplinary
boundaries, and to keep medicine and divinity separate." According
to their interpretation, whenever the divine is invoked by Femel, it is
clear that he is not talking about direct intervention by God but
rather "is using the term divine as a shorthand way of referring to
God's use of secondary causes, when those secondary causes are
unknown"? Indeed, one of the interlocutors in the dialogue,
Philiatros, asks at one point, "Please tell us briefly what you wish
the word 'divine' to convey", only to be told: "Anything that Aris-
totle had previously said corresponded to the element ofthe stars". 4
While I agree that the interpretations of Roger, Aucante, Henry
and Farrester capture adequately the stance that Femeltakes towards
the end of De abditis rerum causis, in chapter 18 of the second
74 Chapter 3

book, I would like to suggest that along the way, in various passages
of the intricate dialogue that constitutes the text of the work, Femel
at least considers some more radical suggestions - suggestions
which imply that, in some sense, God is immanent in the forms of
living beings. To be sure, Femel minimizes the extent of direct di-
vine interventions in the world: "What God entrusted to heaven to
carry on its management, as if he were taking time off. And all that
we say comes into being by the laws of nature, did first proceed
from God; God certainly nowadays generates fairly few things di-
rectly without mediation by nature or seed, but regulates everything
through heaven, having established nature's laws". 5 Nevertheless,
this leaves the nature of secondary causes open. Is there a sense in
which, according to Femel, God is immanent in secondary causes?
In section 3.2., I will outline three different senses in which God has
been understood as immanent in nature that are relevant for early
modern metaphysics of nature. In section 3.3., I clarify the sense in
which Femel understands the forms of living beings as "simple
forms" and the reason why he maintains that such forms require
celestial causation for their production. In section 3.4., finally, I
argue that some of Femel's remarks on the origin of simple forms
go beyond his conception of celestial causation and imply one ver-
sion of a theory of divine immanence - a theory according to which
God is immanent in simple forms.

3.2. Varieties ofDivine Immanence

One view of divine immanence influential in Renaissance and Hu-

manist Platonism is based on a theory of emanative causation.
Christia Mercer characterizes the concept of emanation as follows:
"Pagan and non-pagan Platonists differed about the details of their
creation stories, but they were in general agreement about the result:
everything in the created world was understood to be a manifesta-
tion of the divinity. The basic idea was that the diversity in the
world was the essence ofthe Supreme Being variously manifested". 6
As she points out, in the Platonist literature, there are three standard
ways to describe the relation between higher and lower strata in the
ontological hierarchy: (1) The model-image relation, (2) the partici-
pation relation, and (3) the emanation relation? In the emanation
Femel on Simple Forms 75

relation, a more perfect being A possesses an attribute f and causes

this attribute to be instantiated in a less perfect being B in such a
way, however, that A loses nothing while B comes to instantiate f-
ness. As Mercer explains, emanation includes the model-image and
the participation relation: B participates in f-ness, as long as A ema-
nates f-ness; and B is an imperfect image of A, as long as A ema-
nates f-ness. 8 She also mentions the following poignant formulation
of a theory of emanative causation formulated in the Universa de
moribus philosophia by the Paduan philosopher Francesco Piccolo-
mini (1520-1604):

Things are in God as in a fount and first cause, i.e., most emi-
nently; secondly, they are in Mind as Ideas and form; thirdly,
they are in Soul as rationes placed in its essence; fourthly, they
are in Nature as seeds, for nature is the seminal power effused in
universal matter by the soul of the W orld. Fifth, they are in Mat-
ter, although as a shadow, through imitation and participation. 9

According to Platonic emanation theories, the hierarchy of be-

ings is understood as manifestation of the divine essence. W e will
presently see that Femel uses an emanation scheme quite similar to
the one formulated by Piccolomini to characterise the nature of at
leastapart ofthe hierarchy ofbeings.
However, in early modern metaphysics of nature other concep-
tions of divine immanence play a role, as well. According to such
alternative conceptions, God is immanent in a particular aspect of
nature, either in matter or in form. As Albertus Magnus reports, the
li11 century philosopher David of Dinant claimed that prime matter
and God are the same. 10 This view was vehemently opposed by Al-
bertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, but in the 16111 century it still
attracted the attention of natural philosophers. As the Bologna-based
Aristotelian philosopher Alessandro Achillini explains in his Com-
mentary an Physics I (1512), one of the reasons for such a view is
the consideration that both prime matter and God are simple beings,
another reason that both prime matter and God are all that they are
in themselves; and still another reason that both God and prime mat-
ter exist before all generation and corruption of individual objects.
However, Achillini objects that while God is not mixed with any
76 Chapter 3

particular object, matter is mixed into all objects. Moreover, he

points out that matter and efficient cause of objects do not coincide,
while God is the efficient cause of things. 11
Objections such as the ones raised by Achillini make it clear that
equating God with prime matter is problematic from an Aristotelian
point of view, andin fact it is not an option considered by Femel.
However, Femel does consider the view that God is immanent in the
form of material objects, a view that goes back to the Stoic tradition.
Justus Lipsius, in his Physiologia Stoicorum (1604), provides an
impressive collection of relevant source materials. Lipsius mentions
a passage from Lactantius according to which the Stoics "unders-
tood by the name 'nature' two most diverse things, GOD and the
WORLD ... And they say that one cannot be without the other, as if
nature were God mixed with the world". 12 Likewise, Diogenes Laer-
tius writes about the Stoics: "They call nature in one sense what
contains the world; in another sense what it generates and brings
forth on earth". 13 Seneca makes explicit an implication of such a
view of the role of God: "What else is nature than God and divine
reason inserted into the whole world and its parts?" 14 Finally, Lac-
tantius connects the issue of Divine immanence with the origin of
forms: "The Stoics divide nature into two PARTS: one that produc-
es, the other that proves suitable for production: in the former, there
is a sensible force, in the latter there is matter, and neither can be
without the other." 15 This is why Lipsius ascribes to the Stoics the
view that, although God does not have a form himself, he neverthe-
less produces all forms, and shows hirnself in them. 16 It is such a
conception of the divine origin of forms that will prove relevant for
understanding Femel's view of divine immanence in simple forms.

3.3. SimpleFormsand Celestial Causation

In which sense does Femel think the forms of living beings are
"simple", and why does he think that it is necessary to suppose the
existence of such entities? An answer to both questions has much to
do with Femel's account of mixture (mixtio)- the generation of
composite bodies out of elements. Like many of his predecessors,
Femel struggles with Aristotle's enigmatic statement that, while the
elements undergo a change and union in genuine mixture, the "dy-
Femel on Simple Forms 77

namis" of elements is preserved. 17 Femel is clear about the view that

in genuine mixture the ingredients must undergo some kind of
change, since otherwise what would happen is only a putting-
together of parts (appositio). 18 He also holds that the forms of ele-
ments that constitute the matter of a composite remain intact in the
composite since, if these forms were to perish, it would be a case of
destruction but not ofmixture. 19
Other parameters of Femel' s account of mixture are given by his
analysis of the concept of a particular species of mixed bodies,
namely, living beings. He points out that there is a wide agreement
among ancient philosophers that living beings are to be regarded as
substances. But if living beings are substances, their parts must be
substances, too, and this holds for their ultimate constituents, the
elements, as well. But according to the traditional conception of
substance, the substantiality of a material body derives from its
form. For this reason, the form itself must possess substantiality, in
the case of living beings as well as in the case of elements. In
Femel's view this rules out understanding the form of elements as
combinations of elementary qualities. 20 Nevertheless, he maintains
that elementary qualities play a crucial role in genuine mixture since
they are, contrary to forms, what allows for being changed gradu-
ally. Hence, what is going on in mixture, in his view, is a modifica-
tion of elementary qualities and the emergence of a particular pro-
portion (or "temperament") of such modified qualities in the mixed
According to Femel, the form of a given elementary particle is
"simpler" in the sense that it is the origin of the motions of this ele-
mentary particle, while the form of a mixed body is "less simple" in
the sense that it is the origin of the more varied motions of the com-
posite?1 Note, however, that this distinction between more or less
simple forms is one that allows for degrees. By contrast, Femel does
not call the forms of elementary particles "simple" in an absolute
sense. Rather, he uses this term to designate the forms of composite
bodies. On first sight, this usage is puzzling since the motions of
composite bodies are more complex than those of elementary parti-
cles. Femel, however, has a concise argument that, in his view,
shows why the forms of living beings cannot be understood as the
temperament of elementary qualities. Starting from the considera-
78 Chapter 3

tion that the proportion among elementary qualities can be described

as a kind of "harmony", Femel argues with Aristotle agairrst the
view that the soul of a living being can be understood as a "har-

[A] harmony is actually a balancing of voices in concert together.

But this balancing is not a substance; a soul, however, is a sub-
stance. Further, a soul is prior to a body and more excellent, and
as it has pre-eminence and dominance in the body, it controls and
moves it. A harmony, in contrast, is posterior to its instrument
(such as a lyre) and has no power over it; it does not move it nor
control it. In addition, the dissolution of the blending of the con-
cordant voices dissolves the harmony itself too in some way, and
with change in the blending the harmony is intensified or re-
duced. But in the mixing and tempering of parts, it is different; in
fact, on a change of its tempering, a soul neither seems nor is at
once another and yet another. And when occasionally the body is
entirely altered at an impact, the soul nevertheless itself remains
present, even though we observe the harmony spoiled ... 22

Hence, the form of a composite body is not its temperament. The

temperament, understood as a certain proportion or "harmony"
among elementary qualities, is an accident (in the philosophical
sense) not a substance; it is posterior to the qualities of elementary
particles and hence cannot have any active properties characteristic
of forms; and while the temperament of a living being can change in
fundamental ways, the living being remains the same individual
over such changes. 23
But then, where do the forms ofmixed bodies come from? Femel
maintains that "the single Form of the Heaven comprehends in po-
tency all forms, be they already existent or simply possible, of living
beings, plants, stones, and metals, and as if pregnant with innumera-
ble forms, begets and spawns from Herself everything; the one
Force and Faculty of Hirn discloses the forces of every perishable
thing that ever appeared or will appear in the future." 24 Zanier and
Hirai have pointed out that Femel here takes up a traditiondominant
in Renaissance Platonism that regards the heavens as the origin of
subcelestial forms. 25 As Femel holds, mixed bodies such as metals,
Femel on Simple Forms 79

stones, plants, and animals "draw their essence of their form from
heaven". 26 He is explicit about the view that subcelestial bodies
derive their form from the heavens because the motions of subceles-
tial bodies are influenced by the movements of celestial bodies. 27
Since motions presuppose forces that move both heavenly and sub-
celestial bodies, Femel maintains that "there surely must be a single
uninterrupted power of the whole of nature, which is all diffused in
the universe." 28 Taking up a suggestion from the Pseudo-
Aristotelian De mundo (which he takes tobe an authentic work by
Aristotle), Femel holds that the multiplicity of movements of subce-
lestial bodies derives from the fact that the inner heavenly spheres
rotate in a direction opposite to the rotation of the extreme sphere. 29
Indeed, as far as spontaneaus generation goes, Femel maintains that
the form of spontaneously generated living beings derives from a
complex combination of movements of heavenly bodies. 30 In this
sense, his view of celestial causation is combinatorial: the complex
motions of composite bodies on earth are the result of the combina-
tion ofmotions ofheavenly bodies.
However, such a conception of celestial causation leaves two
questions open: first, how is the motion of distant heavenly bodies
communicated to composite bodies on earth and, second, how does
the transmission of motion explain the substantiality of some com-
posite bodies, namely, living beings. Femel's theory of "spiritus"
gives answers to both questions. According to Femel, spiritus is not
only a force that pervades the universe, but also a subtle, material
medium: 31 "The spirit that carries the world along, dispersed by
heaven throughout the universe, endows everything with these
[powers], and at the same time with a form ... " 32 This spiritus not
only transmits celestial motions in a way such that composite bodies
on earth would be purely passive, but also transmits something of
the powers of heavenly bodies to bodies on earth, such that the sim-
ple forms of composite bodies become principles of activity of their
own. Femel maintains that the divine spirit "distributes itself' into
the whole of a composite body and "despatches and instals the sim-
ple form into the prepared matter". 33 Hence, Femel's conception of
spiritus is more complex than might be evident on first sight. It is at
this juncture that Femel considers some suggestions that imply that
God, in some sense, is immanent in simple forms.
80 Chapter 3

3.4. SimpleFormsand Divine Immanence

While the spiritus, according to Femel, works as a material medium

that transmits motions and forces from celestial bodies to subceles-
tial bodies, it is also a constituent of both, celestial and subcelestial
bodies. Femel quotes a passage from De mundo, according to which
"[s]pirit is the name of a substance in both plants and animals, an
animate and fertile substance penetrating everything". 34 In his own
words, he embraces a similar view:

God . . . imparted a procreative power to individual things,

through which the birth and death of things would stay perma-
nent. But how did he impart it? Evidently by scattering the seeds
of his divinity: for he implanted these seeds of generating, gen-
eral ones into the heavens and stars, their own special ones into
individual things. 35

Hence, the spiritus is not only a medium through which the mo-
tion of the heavens is transferred to individual bodies; it is also a
constituent contained in the seeds of individual things and in those
of celestial bodies. Spiritus is a constituent common to the seeds of
celestial and sublunar bodies. Femel comments on Plato's idea that
the world is a single living being which comprises all other living
beings within its boundaries (Timaeus 28d): "So when God (who
exists forever) had founded this universe at first, he placed round it
outside the etemal soul of the world, and extended it [the soul] from
the centre through it all; next, with the very beautiful structure of the
world completed, he implanted into it some seeds of reasoning, and
divinely introduced the starting of life, so that it would heget procre-
ating power too along with the world". 36 Femel suggests that the
soul of the world is "the giver of forms" (datrix formarum). 37 In
addition, he argues that the theory of semina requires a universal
medium which closely resembles the Stoic pneuma:

The world's body is a solid tangible thing, and within the grasp
of the senses, but its soul is utterly pure and simple, devoid of all
bodily mass. Y et these two, I say, being completely different and
Femel on Simple Forms 81

a wide span apart, cannot be linked on any basis except with the
mediation of some nature in between; and this [nature] is the
ethereal divine spirit, common to both and, as it were, linking
both. W e have no doubt that a spirit resides in animals that both
maintains soul in body, and provides itself as an instrument
suited to all its functions; similarly, it is reasonable that there is
one ethereal divine spirit in the world, which unlike the other
one, draws up anything from transient earthly things, but is
wholly ethereal, wholly lucid, and possesses a divine and entirely
heavenly status. 38

Femel presents this passage as a quotation in a series of quota-

tions which he ascribes to Plato's Timaeus and Epinomis but, as the
editors of De rerum abditis causis have noted, none of these quota-
tions is found in these works. Quite possibly, Femel uses entirely
fictitious quotations to sanction his own, idiosyncratic view that
combines a Platonic semina theory with a Stoic pneuma theory.
For Femel, holding a semina-plus-pneuma theory is by no means
incompatible with a theory of emanative causation. In fact, Brutus,
one of the interlocutors in the dialogue that constitutes the text of De
rerum abditis causis argues that the (modified) semina theory pro-
posed by Femel's spokesperson Eudoxus is equivalent to a Platonic
emanation scheme:

By Good [Plato] designates God, the Father and Author of all

things, who in the Parmenides is established as simple and un-
moving, above all the nature and understanding of every being,
and he is overflowing goodness to all things. Mind comes forth
from the Father and the Good, like a blazing radiance from the
light innate in the sun . . . Again, from Mind the Soul of the
W orld emanates, like radiance from a light, and breathes through
everything and sustains everything in life. Around the primary
being who is the father of all, is the simple and indivisible idea of
goodness. Distinctions of ideas without number flow from it, as
if from a vast inexhaustible spring ... The divine mind accepts
these ideas of all things ... ; and that mind lodges in its bosom, so
to speak, the everlasting ideas of all things that are, that have
been, and that will one day come to be. And from them emanate
82 Chapter 3

the pattems of ideas introduced into the soul of the world, and
from the pattems seeds of pattems are dispersed into the heavens
and the stars? 9

Here, the "seeds of pattems" included in celestial bodies are in-

cluded in a Platonic emanation scheme. Like the high er levels of the
hierarchy of being, they are characterised as manifestations of the
essence of God, who is said to "overflow" into the things constitut-
ing this hierarchy. Brutus is explicit about the view that the spiritus
should be included into such an emanation scheme, when he points
out that Plotinus believed that the spiritus "emanated whole from the
soul of the world." 40 Hence, the spiritus contained in celestial bodies
is divine in a sense that is not reduced to its role in celestial causa-
tion. But, as we have seen, the spiritus is a constituent common to
celestial bodies and living beings and their seeds on earth. Hence,
the spiritus contained in the seeds of living beings, too, can be un-
derstood as emanating from God. Moreover, the spiritus is the origin
of simple forms in the sense that it is the "vehicle" (vehiculum) of
the pattems of seeds dispersed into the heavens. 41 Because the por-
tion of spiritus contained in a composite body is the material sub-
stratum of the simple form of this body, the origin of simple forms
not only involves celestial causation but also the agency of an entity
that participates in the divine essence. In this sense, God is imma-
nent in simple forms.
Femel's spokesperson, Eudoxus, repeatedly gives voice to the
notion of divine immanence. He claims that, according to De
mundo, "God ... is divided up by his seeds through all natures, into
plants and animals, whether you consider forms or kinds", and also
mentions that Vergil writes: "For God pervades all things, the land
and the expanses of sea and the deep heaven". 42 As Henry and Far-
rester point out, what the author of De mundo actually says is that
"the whole array of heaven and earth is ... divided up according to
all natures". 43 Nevertheless, Femel's misquotation may be motivated
by another passage from De mundo, which Eudoxus (correctly)
quotes a few lines later: "It is an ancient topic ... that all things had
been established and assembled together both out of God and
through God ... " 44 Moreover, taking up the Platonic metaphor of
"flowing" from God, Eudoxus argues that "as the outstanding heav-
Femel on Simple Forms 83

enly powers of this sort have flowed directly from God, for that
reason we declare that they are genuinely divine". 45 In this sense, he
wants it to be understood that "the ancients said, God is divided
among all natures, and all things are full of Gods". 46
In these passages, Femel certainly does not put forward a theory
of direct divine intervention. God, in the usual course of nature, acts
by means of secondary causes, and the spiritus is one of these sec-
ondary causes. Nevertheless, Femel gives some clues as to the sense
in which the spiritus could be understood as divine, namely, if it is
understood as apart of a hierarchy ofbeings that emanate from God.
At the same time, he restricts the applicability of emanative causa-
tion: while he thinks that the origin of the "seeds of pattems" in
heavenly bodies can be explained in terms of emanative causation,
he holds that elements have forms of their own and, hence, are sub-
stances in their own right. Elements and their forms depend on God
in the sense that they are part of the created world; but they do not
participate in the divine essence. Since they are constituents of all
mixed bodies in the world, including living beings, there is some-
thing about mixed bodies that cannot be understood as emanating
from the divine essence. In Femel's view, with relation to elements
and their forms, God is transcendent. However, he indicates a sense
in which God is immanent with respect to simple forms: According
to the view put forth by Brutus, the spiritus is the material substra-
tum of simple forms and at the same time participates in the divine
essence because it emanates from God.

3.5. Conclusion

Is this Femel's last word on the matter? Probably not since, as I

mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, in his summary of the
origin of simple forms in chapter 18 of the second book of De abdi-
tis rerum causis, Femel does not retum to his considerations con-
ceming divine immanence. Also we must keep in mind that a crucial
aspect of the considerations that suggest a stronger sense of "divine"
is expressed not in the words ofFemel's spokesperson Eudoxus but
rather in the words of Brutus, a figure who earlier in the dialogue
gives voice to theories that are sharply criticised by Eudoxus. At this
later stage of the dialogue, however, Eudoxus does not object to
84 Chapter 3

Brutus' conciliatory views. Quite on the contrary, he thinks that they

include "very reliable and convincing evidence on the nature of the
topic."47 Moreover, Femel puts the remarks about God "being di-
vided" among natural things into the mouth of Eudoxus, even if he
does so by using a distorted quotation from De mundo. Of course,
saying that the author of De mundo maintained that God is divided
among natural things is not the same as saying that God is divided
among natural things. Nevertheless, Femel cannot have been un-
aware of the heterodox implications of the notion that God is "di-
vided" among natures. In the Physiologia Stoicorum, Lipsius com-
ments at the end ofthe chapter on the divine nature ofform: "I con-
fess that here there are many occult and dubious things; and as
Augustine once said: 'it does not hurt if the origin of the soul is hid-
den for us: provided that we do not believe that it is a particle of
God, but rather a creature". 48 Femel's imaginary quotations from De
mundo seem to affirm exactly what Augustine denies. To be sure,
Femel's own position is well hidden behind the literary techniques
of dialogue and quotation. But even if he ultimately may not have
adopted a theory of divine immanence, these literary techniques
allowed him to consider such a theory along the way, and to do so
without incurring the suspicion of impiety. Not everything that the
figures in Femel's long and tumultuous dialogue say fits neatly into
keeping the disciplinary boundaries between natural philosophy and
philosophical theology apart. Even ifFemel may not have ultimately
embraced a theory of divine immanence, along the way he at least
entertained it as a possible option.
Femel on Simple Forms 85

1 Roger, Pour unehisfaire des Seiencesapart entiere, p. 88.

2 Aucante, "La theorie de l'me de Jean Femel", pp. 16-23.
3 Henry and Forrester, "Jean Femel and the Importance of his De Abditis

Rerum Causis", pp. 29-35; see ARC, 119: "Atque ita quantum divinitatis,
id est abditarum causarum, irrest turn naturali philosophiae, turn rei medi-
cae, hoc unum opusculum scrutabitur ... " All translations from ARC are
Forrester's. Unless otherwise noted, other translations are my own.
4 ARC, 495: "PH. Die quaso breviter quid divini appellatione intelligi velis.

EU. Quicquid supra dixerat Aristoteles proportione respondere elemento

stellarum". On Degen. an., II, 3, 736b29-727a7, see Solmsen, "The Vital
Heat, the Irrborn Pneuma, and the Aether", pp. 119-123; Preus, "Science
and Philosophy in Aristotle's Generation ofAnimals", pp. 35-38; Freuden-
thai, Aristotle 's Material Substance, pp. 107-11 0; Lennox, Aristotle 's Phi-
losophy of Biology, pp. 229-249.
5 ARC, 355: "Quae Deus olim propriis operibus inchoavit, eadem nunc

quasi feriatus coelo tanquam administro continuanda credidit. Et

quaecunque naturae legibus existere dicimus, eadem primum processerunt
a Deo: qui certe nunc admodum pauca proxime, nec coelo, nec natura, nec
semirre interveniente ingenerat, sed conditis naturae legibus omnia per
coelum administrat."
6 Mercer, Leibniz's Metaphysics, p. 185.
7 Ibid., p. 188.
8 Ibid., p. 189.
9 lbid., p. 188 (Mercer's translation). See Piccolomini, Universade mori-

bus philosophia, p. 447: "Res ... surrt in Deo, ut in fonte & causa prima,
modo eminentissimo: surrt secundo in mente per ideas, & formam: tertio
surrt in anima per rationes in eius essentia insertas: quarto surrt in naturaper
semine, natura enim est vis seminaria per mundi animam effusa in univer-
sam materiam: quinto surrt in materia tanquam umbrae per imitationem &
10 Albertus Magnus, II sent., dist. 1, a. 5 (Opera omnia XXVII, 17a). On

David ofDinant, see Thery, Autourdu decret de 1210: I. David de Dinant.

Etude sur son pantheisme materialiste; Anzulewicz, "David von Dinant
und die Anfnge der aristotelischen Naturphilosophie im lateinischen Wes-
11 Achillini, Opera omnia, 1545, fol. 88v.
12 Lipsius, Physiologia Stoicorum, 1644 [first ed., 1604], pp. 22-23: "Ita isti

uno Naturae nomine res diversissimas comprehenderunt, DEUM &

MUND UM [ ... ] Dicuntque alterum sine altero nihil posse, tamquam
Natura sit Deus Mundo permistus." See Lactantius, Divinae institutiones,
VII, 3.
86 Chapter 3

13 lbid., p. 23: "Naturam modo dicunt, eam quae Mundum continet; modo
illam quae gignit prodicitque super terram." See Diogenes Laertius, De
vitis philosophorum, VII, I, lxxiii, 148 .
14 lbid.: "Quid aliud est Natura, quam Deus, & Divina Ratio, toti mundo &

partibus eius inserta?" See Seneca, De benefzciis, IV, 7.

15 Ibid., p. 309: "Stoici Naturam in duas PARTES dividunt: unam quae

efficiat, alteram quae se ad faciendum tractabilem praebeat: in illa prima

esse vim sentiendi, in hac materiam, nec alterum sine altero esse posse."
See Lactantius, Divinae institutiones, VII, 3.
16 Ibid., p. 32: "Sed quanquam ipse formam non habeat, non certe ullam

aspectabilem, tarnen omnes formas format, atque in iis se ostendit."

17 Aristotle, Degen. et corr., 327a30ff.
18 ARC, p. 145.
19 ARC, pp. 155-157.
20 ARC, pp. 147-151.
21 ARC, p. 159.
22 ARC, p. 165: "Est enim harmonia consentientium ac consonatium vocum

proportio. At haec ista proportio substantia non est: anima autem est sub-
stantia. Item, Anima corpore prior est et praestantior, in eoque principatum
tenens ac dominatione, ipsummoderatur ac movet. Harmonia autem suo
instrumento, ut cithara, posterior esset, neque habet ullum in eo imperium:
non id movet, non moderator. Quinetiam quovis modo, dissoluto
consonantium rerum concentu, & ipsa dissolvitur harmonia, mutatoque
intenditur aut remittitur: at in partium mistione & temperatura id secus
habet, neque enim eius temperaturae mutatione alia statim atque alia
apparet aut existit anima. Cumque ad offensionem interdum usque mutetur
corpus, ipsa nihilominus tarnen permanet anima, etiamsi cermmus
harmoniam viciatam ... "See Aristotle, De anima, 407b32.
23 ARC, p. 165.
24 ARC, p. 111.
25 Zanier, "Platonic Trends in Renaissance Medicine", p. 514; Hirai, "Hu-

manisme, neoplatonisme et prisca theologia dans le concept de semence de

Jean Femel", p. 56; see Ficino, De triplici vita, III, 1; Giovanni Pico della
Mirandola, Heptaplus, in idem, Opera omnia, vol. 1, pp. 11-12.
26 ARC, p. 315. Femel uses there an imaginary quotation that he ascribes to

27 ARC, p. 307; see Aristotle, Meteorologica I, 2, 339a22 onward.
28 ARC, p. 313: "necesse est profecto, unam esse totius naturae

continuatam vim, quae tota mundo confusa, res omnes complexa teneat ... "
29 ARC, p. 309.
Femel on Simple Forms 87

30 ARC, pp. 317-319. Again, Femel uses an imaginary quotation that he

ascribes to Aristotle.
31 On Femel's theory of"spiritus", see Bono, 'The Languages ofLife: Jean

Femel (1497-1558) and Spiritus in Pre-Harveian Bio-Medical Thought";

Clericuzio, "Spiritus vitalis: Studio sulle teorie fisiologiche da Femel a
Boyle", pp. 36-39; Bono, "Reform and the Languages of Renaissance
Theoretical Medicine: Harvey versus Femel", pp. 356-364; Dessi, "Mar-
silio Ficino, Jean Femel e lo spiritus"; Hirai, Le concept de semence dans
!es theories de la matiere ala Renaissance, pp. 88-96.
32 ARC, p. 359: "Has autem vector mundi spiritus, coelo in totam universi-

tatem diffusus, rebus omnibus impertit, simul et speciem ... " On Stoic
elements in early modern theories of the substance of the heavens, see
Barker, "Stoic contributions to early modern science".
33 ARC, p. 319.
34 ARC, p. 481: "Spiritus dicitur quaedam turn in plantis atque in animali-

bus, turn per omnia commeans, animata foecundaque substantia." See De

mundo, 394b9-11.
35 ARC, p. 335: "Deus ... rebus singulis vim indidit procreatricem, qua

rerum & ortus & interitus perpetui manerent. Sed quomodo harre indidit?
Sparsis nimirum divinitatis suae seminibus: haec enim generandi semina,
generalia quidem in coelos & stellas, peculiaria in res quasque sua
36 ARC, pp. 338-340: "Cum igitur Deus ille qui semper est, universum hoc

primum condidisset, mundi aetemam animam illi extrinsecus circundedit,

& a medio per omne porrexit, deinde absoluta pulcerrima mundi fabrica,
rationum quaedam semina illi indidit, & vitae exordia divinitus induxit, ut
cum mundo vim quoque procreatricem gigneret ... " On Femel's
conception of "seeds of reasoning", see Hirai, "Humanisme, neoplatonisme
et prisca theologia dans le concept de semence de Jean Femel".
37 ARC, p. 368.

38 ARC, p. 369: "Mundi corpus concretum cum sit & tractabile,

sensibusque comprehensibile, illius vero anima simplicissima, purissima,

omnisque corporeae molis expers, haec duo, inquam, cum maxime
dissideant, & longissimo seiuncta sirrt intervallo, non alia ratione conjungi
potuere, nisi mediae cuiusdam naturae interventu: ea aut est spiritus
aethereus & divinus: communis utriusque & amborum seu nexus quidam &
vinculum. Ut enim animantibus spiritum irresse non dubitamus, qui & ani-
mam retinet in corpore, & se ad omnia eius munia accommodatum exhibet
instrumentum, sie & quendam in mundo esse par est, qui non ut ille, quic-
quam e caducis terrenisque hauriat, sed totus aethereus, totus lucidus, divi-
nam coelestemque prorsus naturam obtineat."
88 Chapter 3

39 ARC, p. 365.
40 ARC, p. 369.
41 ARC, p. 371.
42 ARC, p. 349.
43 ARC, 349, note 159; see De mundo 400b31.
44 ARC, 351; see De mundo 397bl3.
45 ARC, 355.
46 Ibid.; see De mundo 397bl3.
47 ARC, p. 373.
48 Lipsius, Physiologia Stoicorum, p. 312: "Multa hic occulta, aut dubia,

fateor: & cum Augustino o1im: 'sine periculo origo Animae latet: hactenus
tarnen, ut non eam particulam Dei esse credamus, sed creaturam." See
Augustine, Epistola 190 1.4. Note that Augustirre has "partem" instead of
Chapter 4

Material Souls and Imagination m Late Aristotelian


4.1. Introduction

In a recent article, Justin Smith examines the effort of Descartes and

Cartesian mechanist physiologists to eliminate Aristotelian forma-
tive virtues from their theories of sexual generation. Smith points
out that "in seeking to explain heredity in terms of congenital acqui-
sition alone, something very much like the Aristotelian notion of a
formative virtue persists under a new guise." 1 Aristotelian formative
virtues are forces that work on the fetus in the course of its devel-
opment in such a way that the traits produced by formative virtues
are not determined by features of the parental seed. 2 As Smith notes,
the idea of forces that work on the fetus in the course of its devel-
opment was reinterpreted within the framework of mechanist em-

In premechanist embryology ... there is an independent forma-

tive power with which the mother's imagination might interfere
... In mechanist embryology ... without any notion of an imma-
terial force working upon the matter contained in the uterus, or
of a teleology toward which this form may conspire with the
matter to move, the only formative power left to appeal to
would be the imagination. 3

As is well known, Descartes invoked the mother's imagination to

explain cases of defective reproduction (such as the occurrence of
birthmarks or elements of"monstrosity"). In particular, he holds that
the matemal imagination has an influence, by way of the umbilical
arteries, on the form ofthe exterior parts ofthe fetus. 4 What is more,
Smith has brought to light the much less appreciated fact that the
Cartesian mechanists invoked the workings of imagination not only
to explain cases of defective reproduction but also to explain cases
90 Chapter 4

of undefective reproduction of animal specieso 5 Malebranche even

went so far as to claim that the specific similarity between parent
and offspring would be inexplicable without the workings of imagi-
nationo6 What makes these explanations part of a specifically
mechanistic natural philosophy is that according to Cartesian mech-
anists, as Smith puts it, "imagination is a bodily process like any
other, capable ofbeing explained in terms ofthe laws that bind all of
mechanical nature 000Images, too, are entirely corporeal thingso" 7
In what follows, I will argue that the relationship between theo-
ries of imagination in mechanist embryology and theories of imagi-
nation in Late Aristotelian embryology is more complex than sug-
gested by Smitho I will present some textual evidence indicating that
imagination theories of trait acquisition became part of early modern
attempts at "mechanizing" Aristotle-attempts, that is, at reformu-
lating certain Aristotelian concepts within a materialist framwork. In
particular, I will examine the views on material souls, their role in
animal generation, and the role of the acts of imagination in material
souls in the formation of the fetus in the thought of the Padua-based
philosopher and physician, Fortunio Liceti (1577-1657)0 8 Nowa-
days, Liceti is best known for his naturalised account of the forma-
tion of monsters, which regards monsters as an appropriate subject
matter of medical inquiry, not of theologyo 9 His work on the forma-
tion of monsters, however, only applies theoretical principles go-
verning sexual reproduction developed in other, much less studied,
biological works of hiso In fact, Liceti was a prolific writer who
published books also in other areas of natural philosophyo Victor
Zoubov has shown in an article published in 1936 that Liceti's the-
ory of light exemplifies such a combination of Aristotelian and
modern viewso 10 Zoubov does not discuss Liceti' s biological views
but suggests that it would be interesting to pursue further the ques-
tion of how Liceti combines Aristotelian and modern views in his
biological and medical writingso 11 Although a long time has passed
since the publication of Zoubov's article, his suggestion does not
seem to have been taken up by other scholarso 12 The first, and main,
aim of the present chapter is to investigate how Liceti' s imagination
theory of trait acquisition exemplifies a conciliatory strategy inte-
grating Aristotelian views with a theory of material images of
Material Souls and Imagination 91

Any materialistic theory ofthe role ofimagination in the forma-

tion of the fetus is clearly an important step in discarding immaterial
formative forces from natural philosophy. But ifmy interpretation of
Liceti is on the right track, such a step has been taken already within
the framework of Late Aristotelian natural philosophy. Even if Des-
cartes and his followers may have been critical of some concepts
that were still in use in Late Aristotelian natural philosophy, their
views concerning the role of imagination in the formation of the
fetus are not so far away from those of Late Aristotelian thinkers
such as Liceti. Obviously, however, even within materialist frame-
works, imagination theories of trait acquisition are highly problem-
atical. In fact, one may wonder why acute thinkers such as Descartes
and Malebranche were attracted to theories as speculative as imagi-
nation theories of trait acquisition. I don't have to offer a good ex-
planation for the Cartesian acceptance ofthe theory. Rather, I would
like to draw attention to some Late Aristotelian criticisms of the
theory. This is the second, and somewhat subordinate, aim of this
chapter. In particular, I will explore detailed criticisms in the work
of Liceti's contemporary, Emilio Parisano (1567-1643). Consider-
ing these criticisms will make clear that already in the early seven-
teenth century the imagination theory of trait acquisition faced seri-
ous empirical problems. Descartes and his followers seem simply to
have overlooked or neglected the problems identified by Parisano.
Hence, not only some elements of mechanist theories of the role of
imagination in animal generation were anticipated in the Late Aris-
totelian tradition. As far as the sense for the problems inherent in
imagination theories of trait acquisition goes, the Late Aristotelian
tradition was also considerably more sophisticated than Cartesian

4.2. Liceti on Material Souls and the Union of Soul and Body

Famously, Gassendi holds that the human soul is composed of two

parts, of which one is immaterial and intellectual, and the other cor-
poreal and sensitive. 13 Some of his commentators have claimed that
Gassendi's approachwas unique because it regarded sensitive souls
of animals, including the sensitive part of human souls, as material
while, as Saul Fisher puts it, "for most generation theorists of Gas-
92 Chapter 4

sendi's era who also held that the parental soul gives rise to the soul
of the offspring and guides its development, the new organism's
soul was immaterial." Fisher includes Liceti among these like-
minded theorists and states that "Gassendi-holding to his Epicure-
an tendencies-was alone among these writers in proposing a ma-
terial soul." 14 I believe that Fisher has overlooked something inter-
esting, namely, the fact that Liceti was hirnself committed to a dual-
ist conception ofthe human soul. Liceti accepts Aristotle's view that
the rational soul is divine and enters from the outside. 15 Moreover,
Liceti brings out an ontological implication of Aristotle's view of
the origin of the rational soul: "The intellect is not the form of the
entire human nature but a part of such a form, which is the human
soul, having a composite nature constituted by intellect, vegetative
soul, and sensitive soul ... " 16 Thus, the substantial form of a human
being is itself a composite entity that possesses parts. These parts
differ with respect to their material or immaterial nature. Liceti
holds that "the more potent, intellective part of the human soul is not
educed from matter but created out of nothing, and is immortal ... " 17
Clearly, then, he is committed to the existence of an immaterial part
of human souls. Nevertheless, he agrees with Aristotle that in the
operation of the vegetative and sensitive parts of human souls-the
parts that human souls share with other animals-nothing immate-
rial or supernatural is involved. He puts it as follows: "For me, a
human being is a natural and material body; hence, it is subject to
natural passions arising out of matter, to generation and death; its
soul, therefore, is generatedout of matter, and is mortal ... " 18
Liceti's conception of material vegetative and sensitive souls
leads to an intriguing solution to the much debated Scholastic ques-
tion ofhow "the entire soul is joined with the entire body". 19 Dennis
Des Chene explains that this question raises two difficulties: "The
first is that the powers of an animal or human do not manifest them-
selves equally in all parts of the body. Moreover, injury to the body
does not equally affect all the powers of the soul . . . The second
difficulty is that something simple, like the soul, cannot be joined
with something complex."20 Liceti's theory of material vegetative
and sensitive souls provides solutions for both difficulties. Accord-
ing to Liceti, material souls are extended beings and, therefore, have
a location in space in a perfectly literal sense. Moreover, they pos-
Material Souls and Imagination 93

sess parts that are extended themselves and have a location in space,
as well. Hence, the relation between material souls and bodies is a
relation between extended beings that possess parts that are ex-
tended, as well. In particular, Liceti claims that material souls and
organic bodies stand in a relation that he calls "co-extension". Let us
consider some passages that reveal both how he wants this claim to
be understood and what reasons, in his view, support it.
The intuitively strongest among Liceti's arguments concem the
co-extension of the vegetative soul and the organic body of a plant.
With respect to the nutrition of plants, he argues that the vegetative
soul is where the operations occur, of which the soul is the primary
efficient cause since according to Aristotle all physical action is by
contact; 21 moreover, according to Aristotle everything that is nou-
rished is nourished with respect to the smallest part of its body. 22
Liceti describes a cause that acts by contact as the "primary efficient
cause" (causa effectrix primaria) 23 and notes that, according to Aris-
totle, the aim of scientific research is to find out about such primary
causes. 24 At the same time, he integrates the Aristotelian view that
nutrition is not only a quantitative process but involves the persis-
tence of an individual substance25 :

[N]utrition in the proper sense is the conversion of the aliment

into the substance of a living and animated being, and because
what is nourished, once the nourishment is added to it and pre-
pared, communicates its own soul as a living form; therefore, if
the single parts of plants are nourished, as is confirmed by Aris-
totle ... ; then it is established that in each single part of plants
there is the soul itself as well as life, which is communicated to
the aliment through nutrition ... 26

Hence, the relation between vegetative souls and organic bodies

consists in transmitting motions through contact, and by transmitting
motions, vegetative souls bring forth life. Because bringing forth life
is the function of vegetative souls, Liceti says, vegetative souls can
communicate their own nature onto the organic body and its parts,
including the parts that are added to the body through nutrition.
Since every part of the living body lives, the soul is present every-
where in the body.
94 Chapter 4

Liceti develops analogous arguments with respect to the role of

vegetative souls in the augmentation of living beings. In his view,
due to their role in augmentation vegetative souls are co-extensive
with organic bodies, for three reasons. First, Liceti argues that aug-
mentation is an operation and natural motion that proceeds from the
vegetative soul as its primary cause, and that no operation takes
place without a primary agent. Moreover, he claims that there is
nowhere any effect where there is no primary agent. And, once
more, he borrows a view from Aristotle, namely, the view that the
smallest part of the living being that grows is augmented. 27 Hence,
the vegetative soul as primary agent has to be "present" (in the sense
explained above) in every part of the living being that grows.
Second, Liceti follows Aristotle in believing that augmentation does
not really differ from nutrition, according to the Aristotelian concept
of augmentation as "the conversion of the last nutriment into the
substance ofthe living body." 28 Hence, everything that follows from
nutrition with respect to the co-extension of soul and body also fol-
lows from augmentation. Third, as in the case of nutrition, Liceti
connects the mechanical properties of vegetative souls with their
character as substantial forms: "[B]ecause Aristotle says that aug-
mentation takes place according to the form of each particle of the
ensouled being, because the pre-existing soul communicates itself
into each part of the living being, once it has conjoyned aliment ...
as a life-giving form, as if it extended itself in all dimensions ... " 29
Liceti applies the view that the soul must be in contact with
each part of the body also to the issue of plant generation. He main-
tains that the generation of a new plant happens by means of the
soul. Moreover, he believes that every single particle of a plant con-
tains the force for procreating a new plant. 30 His argument for the
existence of a procreating power in every single particle of a plant
has unmistakably atomistic overtones:

[T]he thinnest powders of plants that fly through the air in the
form of atoms, if they somewhere are gathered together and
find some suitable material ground, we see that instantly plants
are here and there generated within stones and in the cracks of
houses ... 31
Material Souls and Imagination 95

Liceti's atoms are not the indivisible, structure-less atoms of the

ancient atomists. Rather, they are composites consisting of a mate-
rial soul and a body. Liceti explains that, true to his Aristotelian
leanings, the soul is defined as "the first actuality of the natural in-
strumental body." 32 As he makes clear, this definition applies in
particular to the role of the soul in nutrition, augmentation, and gen-
eration. He writes that "an instrument cannot be operative unless it
is actualised and govemed by the principal agent; but it can be acted
upon and be govemed by it only if it is present and in contact with it

So far, Liceti's arguments concem the co-extension of vegeta-

tive souls and organic bodies. While this is the area where his argu-
ments are most persuasive, he also develops arguments for the Co-
extension of sensitive souls and organic bodies. The most telling
argument for present concems is an argument based on the relation
between the sensitive soul and the vegetative soul of an animal.
Liceti starts from the observation that when the sensitive soul is
occupied with something and applies all its forces of passion to it,
nutrition, augmentation and the functions of sexual reproduction that
are all govemed by the vegetative soul are impaired or interrupted.
Liceti interprets these observations as indicating that in a sensitive
being the vegetative soul is dominated by the sensitive soul. 34 He
comments: "[Y]ou can derive the fact that the dominating sensitive
soul is co-extensive with the dominated vegetative soul from the fact
that all physical domination takes place by means of contact and
contiguity."35 Subsequently, Liceti invokes a passage from the first
book of the Aristotelian Meteorology according to which the mo-
tions of heavenly bodies can only have causal influences on the mo-
tions of bodies on earth if the heavens and the sublunar world are
contiguous. Liceti draws an analogy between a specific theory of
celestial causation and his own view of the workings of material
souls in organic bodies: both the domination of the vegetative soul
by a sensitive soul and the domination of an organic body either by
a sensitive or vegetative soul is a physical relation that works by
means of the transmission of motion through contact.
96 Chapter 4

4.3. Liceti on Material Soulsand Animal Seeds

Liceti's remarks about plant souls make it clear that, in his view,
material vegetative souls play a role in plant generation. Interest-
ingly, he also assigns a function to material sensitive souls in the
generation of animals, including human beings. In his theory of
animal generation, he takes up an idea that goes back to antiquity
and plays a significant role in early modern biological thought, the
idea that the seed derives from all parts of the organic body (an idea
that is sometimes called the theory of pangenesis). 36 In his Degen-
eratione animalium, Aristotle launched a brilliant attack against
early formulations of this idea. 37 In its unmodified version, this idea
faces obvious difficulties. For example, it seems inexplicable how
the sexual organs could receive particles from literally all parts of
the body, i.e., even those that are not connected with the sexual or-
gans through nerves and veins. This difficulty led Cardano to sug-
gest a modification to the theory: According to his view, it is not
necessary that material particles are sent from every part of the
body; all that is needed is that the forms of all bodily parts is com-
municated to the sexual organs. 38 Cardano hirnself did not specify
the mechanism by means of which the form of all bodily parts could
be communicated to the sexual organs. If we turn to Liceti's writ-
ings on animal generation, however, it soon becomes clear that Li-
ceti had some determinate ideas concerning the transmission of
forms to animal seeds.
An important role in Liceti' s account of the formation of animal
seed is played by an entity derived from Arabic medical sources: the
so-called "cambium". As Liceti explains, the cambium is "the ulti-
mate aliment that is redundant in the nutrition of the single parts." 39
He shares the widely held view that foodstuff undergoes a series of
physiological changes in the body until it has the nature suitable to
be integrated into the organism. But not all of it is actually inte-
grated, and this part of the cambium is "redundant". It is this part of
the cambium that Liceti believes is transported to the testicles.
Moreover, cambium is understood as a transmitter of form because
it already has been present to the single body parts into which it
potentially could have been integrated. In Liceti's view, because
portions of the cambium had been present in the various body parts,
Material Souls and Imagination 97

they have acquired "temperaments"-certain proportians of elemen-

tary qualities-similar to the "temperaments" of the various body
partso 40 This is how, according to Liceti, the form of a body part can
be communicated to the seed without any transmission of particles
from the body partso
He describes the activity of the testicles that takes place subse-
quently as follows:

[T]hrough the action of the testicles all those partial tempera-

ments of all members of similar temperament at first are con-
verted by means of suitable mixture into a temperament that is
similar to the temperament of the entire body constituted by
these members, in such a way that those that were previously
many things capable of mixture, which were in the preparatory
veins close to the testicles among each other only confused but
distinct with respect to their nature and still keeping their own
forms and temperaments, 0 now are transformed through the
0 0

power and action of the testicles into one perfect mixed body,
once out of those previous temperaments a new temperament is
produced, which is the temperament ofthe whole seedo 41

Here, Liceti characterises the activity of the testicles as integrating

the temperaments of singular body parts into a unified temperament
of the entire seedo This is why seed souls are characterized as the
outcome of this process: "[B]y means of the ultimate action of the
testicles, the seed receives the ultimate and specific seed form,
namely the vegetative and sensitive soul 0
42 Moreover, Liceti
0 0 "

shares Aristotle's view that animal seeds contain pneuma-a subtle,

but material entity that causes the seed tobe fertileo 43 For Liceti, the
generation of animal souls is related to "spirits" in animal seeds in
the following way: "The adequate agent is constituted out of the
spirituous parts of the each seed, and so the souls of the female and
male seeds arepartial agentso" 44 So, vegetative and sensitive souls of
seeds are to be understood as the "spirituous" parts of seeds, and an
animal soul is composed of the "spirituous" parts of the female and
male seedso Liceti here departs from Aristotle in two respectso First,
in cantrast to Aristotle's one-seed theory of animal generation, he
embraces a two seeds theoryo Second, in cantrast to Aristotle's view
98 Chapter 4

that only the dynamis but not the matter of the seed plays a role in
animal generation,45 he implies that two seed souls are material be-
ings that, when conjoined, constitute an animal soul.
Two points need some elucidation. First, Liceti believes that
vegetative and sensitive souls are communicated from parents to
their seeds almost in the same way as the vegetative soul is commu-
nicated from a plant to a fruit:

[A]s long as twigs are on the tree, they live by the samesoulas
the tree is said to live by; the soul of the tree subsequently is
plurified and divided according to the division ofthe subject ...
Almost in this way, I believe the seed enjoys the same soul as
the father; which I believe is divided and plurified according to
the division of the subject when the seed is separated from the
body ofthe father. 46

Here, Liceti develops an implication of his theory of the Co-

extension of souls and bodies. Plant souls are extended beings that
are divided when the organic body of the plant is divided. The two
parts of a divided plant live by the two parts of a divided plant soul.
Likewise, animal souls are extended beings that are divided when
the organic body of the animal is divided. When the body of the
seed is separated from the body of the parent the seed lives by a part
of the soul of the parent. The material nature of animal souls also
accounts for how the souls of two seeds are conjoined. Liceti puts it
as follows: "The two bodies of the seed conjoin aptly into one piece
of matter; in the just the same way, the souls of the two seeds con-
join without further ado into one soul ... " 47 Moreover, he compares
what happens in the conjunction of female and male seeds to what
happens in the case of grafting. He interprets the process of grafting
as follows: "[I]t is certain that out of the soul of the stem and the
soul of the twig, which are most often of different species, once the
bodies are conjoined, there arises a third soul that has all the facul-
ties of these two ... " 48 Liceti' s comparison suggests that also the
vegetative and sensitive souls of two animal seeds conjoin in such a
way that they form a new material composite that has faculties that
were previously possessed separately by the separate material souls.
Material Souls and Imagination 99

Second, the "spirituous" parts of seeds are more than just tem-
peraments including the temperament of the dissimilar parts of the
organism because they possess certain active properties. Consistent
with his theory of material souls Liceti refrains from characterizing
these active properties as something supra-natural. Rather, their
active properties are "to segregate heterogeneaus things, to congre-
gate homogeneaus things." 49 Here, Liceti alludes to an idea promi-
nent in the development of late medieval and early modern corpus-
cular chemistry, namely the idea that all that happens in the produc-
ing and dissolution of chemical compounds is the composition and
separation of particles-exactly the conception that Aristotle rejects
when he discusses atomism in De generatione et corruptione. 50 Ac-
cording to Liceti, the separating activity of the spirituous parts of
seeds is analogaus to what happens when a mixture of water and oil
separates back into its components. 51 In the case of water and oil,
Liceti thinks that what brings about the separation is the specific
gravity of the components (oil being lighter than water). He also
maintains that the separation of particles in embryo formation is
analogaus to the dissolution of chemical compounds in laboratory
procedures. 52 Consequently, the "spirituous" parts of seeds possess
active properties in the composition and separation of particles just
as chemical substances used in laboratory procedures have the ca-
pacity to produce and dissolve material compounds.

4.4. Liceti on Material Soulsand Imagination

Liceti's version of pangenesis theory plays a major role in his ac-

count of trait acquisition, including cases of deviant reproduction.
He explains hereditary birth defects as follows:

Which cannot come from another fact than because the portion
of matter, from which those determinate parts in the offspring
are generated, had its origin from that aliment that previously
was assimilated to the morbific parts of the same kind in the pa-
temal or matemal body, and overflowed from their aliment; of
whom not only the essential temperament but also the acciden-
tal one or the disposition or morbific habitus is transferred into
the corresponding member of the offspring. 53
100 Chapter 4

Thus, the cambium not only transmits the non-pathological tem-

perament of the body parts of the parent to the seed but also the
pathological temperament. And the temperament transmitted from
the seed to the nascent living being determines the traits displayed
by the offspring. In this way, transmission of temperament is con-
nected with trait acquisition.
Clearly, then, for Liceti not all traits of the offspring are due to
imagination. But imagination does play a significant role in his
views on deviant biological reproduction. By now it should be fairly
obvious that, for Liceti, imagination images produced by sensitive
souls cannot be the result of supra-natural, immaterial potencies. To
be sure, some leading seventeenth-century biological thinkers used
the concept of immaterial formative forces when writing about the
role of imagination in embryo formation. For example, such a non-
mechanical version of the role of imagination in the formation of the
fetus is found in a work by Gassendi' s correspondent, Thomas
Feyens (1567-1631). According to Feyens, imagination does not
have a causal influence on organic parts such as the blood or vital
spirits. 54 Rather, species in the imagination function as exemplars
that guide the "forming potency" (potentia conformatrix), which has
causal powers. 55 Hence, the forming potency, for Feyens, is an im-
material powerthat has both some cognitive capacities (since it can
apprehend the contents of exemplars provided by the imagination)
and some physiological capacities (since it can shape the fetus ac-
cording to the content of the exemplars apprehended). It is with such
immaterial potencies that Liceti does away in his account of the role
ofimagination in the formation ofthe fetus.
Liceti maintains that "monsters" have a dual formal cause: a
remote and a proximate one. 56 As in the case of all other living be-
ings, the "remote" form is the soul, understood as "the first actuality
of a natural organic body. " 57 By contrast, the specific and proximate
form of monsters "is nothing other than the bad constitution of the
body, and the deformed organization of members, and all in all the
corrupted conformation of parts." 58 Of course, the definition of the
concept of "form", as related to monsters, sounds circular since it
uses form-related concepts such as "deformed" and "conformation".
Nevertheless, it is informative since it tells us what kind of form is
Material Souls and Imagination 101

specific to monsters: form in the sense of organization of partso In

fact, Liceti explains:

The error of nature in the production of monsters consists, after

the animation of matter, in its organization; namely, nature gen-
erating animated beings down here on earth in the matter at its
disposal, constructs, in addition to the soul, which plays the role
of substantial form, also some puzzling accidental form, which
is comprised in the multiple structure, connection, figure, and
bulk of various memberso 59

Hence, in addition to affering a materialistic account of vegetative

and sensitive souls, Liceti goes one step further towards what
Norma Emerton has described as "the scientific reinterpretation of
form" in the corpuscularian philosophies of the seventeenth cen-
turyo60 Obviously, Liceti falls short of claiming that the form of liv-
ing beings in general is just the organization of their partso Neverthe-
less, Liceti believes that such a conception of form applies to the
specific forms of the outcomes of deviant biological reproduction,
that is, to the formsthat make a living being a "monstero"
In Liceti's view, it is quite possible that some monstrous de-
formities can be caused by the vehement imagination of the parentso
Consistent with his conception of the specific form of monster, he
maintains that a vivid image of phantasy "distorts the figure of some
member and leads to a detrimental variation that leads away from
the natural constitution, such as increasing the magnitude of some
part, or doubling the number, or changing the spatial arrangement
0 0
61 Liceti is also explicit about the fact that his views conceming
0 "

imagination in embryo formation are in agreement with the received

view in four respects: 62 First, since imagination images are not in-
volved in every case of embryo formation, the influence of the
imagination on the embryo is not an essential feature of animal gen-
eration, but takes place accidentallyo Second, acts ofthe imagination
that are able to impress figures on the fetus must possess certain
properties: they must be "vehement either due to the fixation or due
to the duration, or botho" Third, imagination images are transferred
to the embryo by means of medical spirits-some subtle but mate-
rial substance derived from the most volatile parts of the blood and
102 Chapter 4

supposedly contained in nerves and veins. Fourth, phantasy im-

presses images of things on the body of the embryo rather than on
the bodies of the parents since it is easier to impress images on soft
rather than hard matter. Thus, it is the mechanical properties of the
embryo's body that explains the efficacy of images transported by
medical spirits: because the embryo's body is softer than the par-
ents' bodies, the images can leave traces on the embryo where they
fail to leave traces on the parents' bodies.
Liceti adds some comments of his own. He remarks that, while
the imagination of the parent is an accidental cause in the formation
of the fetus since the image that it impresses on the fetus does not
pertain to the embryo except by accident; nevertheless, the imagina-
tion of the parent is by itself, and necessarily, the cause of this im-
age since the presence or absence of such an imagination by itself
confers, or does not confer, such a figure to the fetus. 63 In this sense,
he regards imagination as a not entirely accidental cause in trait
acquisition. He also takes issue with the widely held view that only
the matemal imagination is relevant in embryo formation. He claims
that also the patemal imagination can communicate images of things
imagined to the spirituous part ofthe seed and by means ofthe spiri-
tuous part ofthe seed to the fetus. In his view, an analogous process
can take place when the matemal imagination shapes the spiritous
part of the female seed. What distinguishes patemal from matemal
imagination is only the fact that matemal imagination can be opera-
tive also after conception. Moreover, patemal imagination can shape
the seed only while the father is awake, while matemal imagination
can shape the already formed embryo by means of imagination im-
ages produced during sleep. 64
Most importantly for present concems, Liceti characterizes
imagination images as fully material. In fact, he likens them to
Scholastic sensible species, which he, in turn, understands as fully
material. According to the materialistic account of sensible species
accepted by Liceti, a colored object impresses its own color and
figure onto some medium such as the air; this medium, according to
the theory accepted by him, transports such "visible species" (spe-
cies visibiles) from one place (e.g., the portion of air adjacent to the
colored object) to another place (e.g., the portion of air adjacent to
the eye), without changing the qualities of the species. 65 Liceti also
Material Souls and Imagination 103

accepts the materialistic view that sensation can be explained in an

analogaus way: as sensible species are transported by a material
medium outside the human body, they are transported by medical
spirits inside the human bodyo In his view, something analogaus
holds for the propagation of imagination images:

[T]he instruments of imagination are transferred by the vehicle

of the spirits in the same way as the external sense by means of
the impressed image of the object recognized; by it it creates a
similar image in that part of the spirits which is contiguous to it,
and this successively in another part up to the organ of the in-
ternal sense 66
0 0 0

As Liceti makes clear, consistent with the assumption he shares with

the received view, these images extend themselves in all directions:
they are created "in the whole substance the spirits, which permeate
their whole body in each of its parts 0 0
67 But even if they are not
0 "

directed towards one particular region of the body, at least they also
reach the seed or the embryo, respectivelyo In particular, the notable
effect in the offspring is explained by the fact that the transmission
of images in the sprits is continued "until the spirituous substance of
the seed and the embryo is reachedo" 68
The analogies that Liceti draws between the propagation of
sound, color, and imagination images are tellingo He understands
sounds as motions in sounding bodies that subsequently cause simi-
lar motions in material mediao Accordingly, the motions constituting
sound are in the sounding body, in the portians of air transmitting
the sound to the sensory organs, and in the portians of medical spir-
its transporting the sound from the sensory organs to other bodily
organso In this sense, there remains something identical in the object
represented and the images doing the work of representationo More-
over, since Liceti compares representations of sound to representa-
tion of colors, it seems plausible to apply his analysis of how sounds
are represented to how colors are represented by sensible specieso In
this case, Liceti would be committed to the view that images repre-
senting objects of certain color and figure themselves have certain
color and figure that are sufficiently similar to the properties of the
represented object. What is more, by comparing the transmission of
104 Chapter 4

sensible species to the transmission of imagination images, he trans-

fers a theory that was originally intended to answer the question of
how sensory impressions represent objects to the question of how
imagination images represent objects. Plausibly, Liceti is also com-
mitted to the view that imagination images have some ofthe proper-
ties of the objects that they are meant to represent. If this is what he
had in mind, as is supported by the fact that he characterizes the
activity of imagination as "picturing", it is easy to understand how
he came to the beliefthat imagination images can transmit the prop-
erties that they represent to the embryo: Imagination images are
material images that possess some of the represented properties.
Because they possess these properties, they can transmit them from
one part of a material medium to an adjacent part of the medium,
and finally to the surface of the body of the embryo.

4.5. Parisano's Criticism

Even if Liceti' s account of material animal souls and material

imagination images does not invoke any immaterial formative pow-
ers, it makes assumptions that are problematic in other respects. The
view that imagination images share some properties with the objects
that they represent was one of the ideas that were targeted in the
work of Liceti's contemporary, Emilio Parisano. Strangely enough,
Liceti never seems to have made any reference to Parisano's exten-
sive biological writings, nor Parisano to Liceti's no less extensive
work in natural philosophy. Clearly, however, Parisano was very
much aware of recent developments in theories of animal genera-
tion, and many of the objections that he raises agairrst the relevance
ofimagination in embryology can be applied to Liceti's views.
Parisano opens his criticism of imagination theories in embry-
ology with the following problem: Consider a case in which a dog
gives birth to puppies that differ from each other with respect to
color. He questions the assumption that during conception different
imagination images of dogs of different color were simultaneously
in the dog's soul. Parisano comments jokingly that he couldn't even
imagine such an act of imagination. But he also gives a concise ar-
gument for his bewilderment:
Material Souls and Imagination 105

[W]e believe that a human being can hardly imagine during the
sexual act two different persans in the required fixed way, so
that it seems even less plausible to assume that animals, having
a less developed imagination and being more dedicated to the
sexual act, are capable of such acts of imagination. 69

Here, Parisano takes up a criterion for acts of imagination with the

required causal powers (a criterion also accepted by Liceti), namely
that these acts are stable enough. Parisano questions the reality of
psychological states simultaneously representing two living beings
with different properties in the required stable way. If such states
cannot be found in the experience we have of the activities of the
human soul, it is implausible that animals have such psychological
states. But Parisano goes on to make the following suggestion:
Imagine that, contrary to what is actually the case, during the sexual
act a dog is imagining two or more dogs of different color in the
required fixed way. Then, Parisano argues, the following problern
arises: During coitus, the sperm is ejected, but it is not instantly
present in the uterus; rather, it is drawn there only after the end of
coitus. By contrast, the act of imagination ends when the pleasure of
coitus vanishes. So, the act of imagination is no Ionger present in the
soul of the animal when the actual process of conception-the inter-
action of male and female seed-takes place. 70 Hence, there is a
temporal gap between the occurrence of the act of imagination and
the occurrence ofthe conjunction affemale and male seeds. Forthis
reason, it remains inexplicable how the imagination could act on
anything that could be identified as an embryo.
A further objection concems the transitive nature of the sup-
posed activity of the imagination, i.e., its supposed capacity of act-
ing not only on the matemal body but also on the body of the seed.
Again, this is a capacity that Parisano feels he cannot imagine. He
offers the following argument: "[I]mpressions take place in already
formed parts that are well organized and truly existing as such." 71
Thus, supposing that imagination could work on the seed, as Liceti
supposes both with respect to matemal and patemal imagination,
would amount to the assumption that imagination is at work already
at an implausibly early point in the development of a living being.
106 Chapter 4

Parisano also develops an objection against the idea that the

imagination "paints" anything in the sense that the imagination im-
age has the same colors and shapes as the object depicted: "Does
this pictorial imagination have the colors ready there in a bag or a
pitch?"72 The implication ofParisano's rhetorical question obviously
is that there are no colors in bodily parts-not the colors, that is, that
are represented by the imagination images. He takes up this line of
argument later in the text, where he argues that acts of imagination
belong to the category of concepts. Because they are concepts they
are capable of representing non-existing things. In the latter case,
these concepts also represent non-existing colors, figure, forms and
properties. Evidently, the contents of such concepts cannot have
been caused by these properties since, by hypothesis, these proper-
ties do not exist. If the contents are not caused by the properties that
they represent, it does not make sense to assume that the concepts
have the properties that they represent. But if they do not have the
properties that they represent, they also cannot transmit these prop-
erties to the seed. 73 Moreover, while Parisano develops this line of
argument only with respect to properties of the seed, it could easily
be applied to the properties of the already formed fetus: If imagina-
tion images do not possess the properties that they represent, they
are also not capable of transmitting their properties to the already
formed fetus.
Finally, Parisano also argues that physiological considerations
speak against imagination theories in embryology. One considera-
tion concems the path that imagination images could take in medical
spirits or "vapours". He notes that vapour

moves through the optical nerve to the brain, and from there
through the nerve of the sixth conjugation to the liver. But the
nerve of the sixth conjugation reaches not to the intemal parts
of the liver but only to the membrane that surrounds it and
ceases there. Hence, how does the vapour that got there con-
tinue to the skin of the fetus? Maybe you say that the vapour
moves from the eyes through the arteries and veins ... But if the
vapour moves either from the sense of smell or the sense of
sight and the liver by means of the spirits and the blood, why to
the liverandnot to the heart and the brain? 74
Material Souls and Imagination 107

The objection seems tobethat if we consider the anatomical details

of the nervaus system, we do not get any plausible pathway that
imagination images could take from the brain to the fetus; but if we
assume that imagination images are transported through arteries and
veins such images would get everywhere in the organism. Liceti
could counter this objection by affirming the second hom of the
alternative posited by Parisano. Liceti could argue that, according to
the elements of the received view accepted by him, imagination
images indeed are transmitted into any region of the body reached
by medical spirits and that the fact that visible traces are left on the
body of the embryo but not on the body of the parent is an outcome
of the softer nature of the embryo's body. Nevertheless, Parisano
has one more physiological consideration to add. In Parisano's view,
vapours or spirits are generally not the right kind of entity to trans-
mit imagination images, such as from the brain to the fetus. This is
the reason why: "Even if they could receive them, because they are
altered on their itinerary ... most of these species would perish. Add
to this that these vapors, preserving themselves, retain only their
forms, qualities, and properties, not foreign ones." 75 Parisano's ob-
jection seems tobethat it is misleading tothink about medical spir-
its and vapors as media in the same way as the air functions as a
medium. According to Scholastic theories of sensible species shared
by Liceti, the air is capable of taking on properties of obj ects repre-
sented without undergoing any other change. Parisano is attentive to
the fact that medical spirits, like any other part of an organic body,
are subject to perpetual change caused by the organic functions
(such as nutrition, growth, and sensation). Even if some imagination
images might be impressed on medical spirits, medical spirits are
not the right kind of entity to preserve such images. While we might
appreciate materialistic accounts of the transmission of imagination
images as a significant step in naturalizing embryology, Parisano
believed that his arguments demonstrate that imagination theories
should be simply eliminated from embryology. As he puts it, "it is
pure nonsense to suppose that the matemal imagination has any
influence in the empty spaces of uterus." 76
108 Chapter 4

4.6. Conclusion

Obviously, Descartes' and Malebrache's views on the role ofimagi-

nation in embryo formation do not coincide with Liceti's. Tobegin
with, the Cartesian mechanists do not accept some Aristotelian con-
cepts that Liceti believed he could reformulate within a theory of
material souls. For example, none of the Cartesian mechanists
would think of the body as an "instrument" of the soul. Likewise,
none of the Cartesian mechanists would believe that in nutrition the
soul expands its own "substance" into a larger portion of matter. In
fact, it goes against the central tenets of Cartesianism to assume that
the soul is capable of defining the substance of an organic body at
all. Moreover, Smith is certainly right in pointing out that the Carte-
sian mechanists extended the range of cases where imagination was
thought to play an explanatory role from cases of deviant reproduc-
tion to cases of non-deviant reproduction. Since Liceti believed that
imagination is only an accidental, non-substantial factor in biologi-
cal reproduction, he restricted the applicability of such an explana-
tion to cases which involve, according to his view, a disturbance of
accidental, not of substantial form, i.e., to cases of deviant reproduc-
tion. Thus, the Cartesian mechanists went beyond Late Aristotelian
natural philosophy in two respects: (1) they achieved much greater
independence from Aristotelian notions; and (2) they assigned to
imagination a greater explanatory role in embryo formation. Never-
theless, it should be clear by now that the rupture between Cartesian
and Late Aristotelian imagination theories of trait acquisition was
less radical than suggested by Smith. In particular, the work of Li-
ceti demonstrates that imagination was regarded as something that
could be included in a version of mechanised Aristotelianism. His
imagination theory of trait acquisition provides a vivid example of
how the Late Aristotelian tradition proved to be surprisingly innova-
tive. Somewhat paradoxically, Liceti's imagination theory of trait
acquisition is an instance in which the Late Aristotelian tradition
itself provided the theoretical tools for excising immaterial forma-
tive forces. Moreover, the work of Parisano also indicates another
aspect of Late Aristotelian thinking about imagination and embryol-
ogy: While Descartes and his followers quite speculatively seized
upon mechanical imagination images as a hypothetical explanatory
Material Souls and Imagination 109

tool, Late Aristotelian thinkers developed an acute sense for the

problems involved in invoking imagination in embryology. The
Cartesian mechanists seem to have been unaware of the existence of
the set of objections developed by Parisano. However, taking Pa-
risano's objections seriously could have contributed to the strength
of Cartesian embryology.

1 Justin E. H. Smith, "Imagination and the Problem of Heredity in Mech-

anist Embryology", p. 81.
2 F or overviews of the history of this idea, see Angelini, "11 potere plastico

dell'immaginazione nelle gestanti tra XVI e XVIII secolo. La fortuna di

un'idea"; Angelini, "Voglie mateme e teratogenesi: la storia di un'idea".
On the influence of the idea on popular culture, see Pancino, Voglie ma-
terne; Pancino, "La croyance aux envies matemelles entre culture savante
et culture populaire"; Pennuto, Simpatia,fantasia e contagio, pp. 368-378.
3 Smith, "Imagination and the Problem of Heredity in Mechanist Embryo-

logy", p. 86.
4 Descartes, Primae cogitationes circa generationem animalium, p. 11.

5 Smith, "Imagination and the Problem ofHeredity in Mechanist Embryol-

ogy", pp. 93-96. See See Descartes, La dioptrique, Sixth Dis-course; Desc-
cartes, L 'homme, pp. 152ff.; Regis, Philosophia naturalis, p. 300; Male-
branche, De la recherce de la verite, bk. II, pt. I, eh. 7.
6 Malebranche, De la recherce de la verite, p. 243.
7 Smith, "Imagination and the Problem of Heredity in Mechanist Embryo-

logy", p. 91.
8 For bio-bibliographical informations on Liceti, see Lohr, "Renaissance

Latin Aristotle Commentaries: Authors L-M", pp. 540-541. Some ofLice-

ti's still extant manuscripts have been studied by Rossetti, "L'ultima opera
di Fortunio Liceti in un manoscritto irredito della biblioteca del Seminario
Vescovile di Padova"; Bruzzone, "Sei lettere di Fortunio Liceti al P. Ange-
lico Aprosio (1646-1653)".
9 On the role of Liceti 's views in the development of early modern concep-

tions of monsters, see Jean Ceard, La nature et !es prodiges. L 'insolite au

XV!e siecle, en France, pp. 443-454; Bitbol-Hesperies, "Monsters, Nature,
and Generation from the Renaissance to the Early Modem Period. The
Emergence ofMedical Thought", pp. 56-57.
10 Zoubov, "Une theorie aristotelicienne de la lumiere du XVIIe siecle".
110 Chapter 4

11 lbid., p. 347.
12 However, an overview of Liceti's biological writings is given in Ongaro,
"La generazione eil 'moto' del sangue nel pensiero di F. Liceti". Ongaro
writes: 'The commitment of Liceti to the Aristotelian theory of generation
and development is almost unconditional and total" (p. 80). Apparently,
Ongaro seems to have been unanware of Liceti's conciliatory approach to
natural philosophy.
13 Gassendi to Thomas Feyens, June 6, 1629, in Gassendi, Opera omnia,

vol. 6, p. 19. On Gassendi's dualist conception ofthe human soul, see Mi-
chael and Michael, "Gassendi on Sensation and Reflection: A Non-
Cartesian Dualism"; Fisher, "The Soulas Vehicle for Genetic Information.
Gassendi' s Account of Inheritance".
14 Fisher, "Gassendi's Atomist Account of Generation and Heredity in

Plants and Animals ', p. 498, note 31. Similar views as to the novelty of
Gassendi's conception of the soul are expressed in Roger, Les sciences de
la vie dans la penseefancaise au XVIII siecle, pp. 126-131, and Bowler,
"Preformation and Pre-existence in the Seventeenth Century: A Brief
Analysis', p. 228.
15 See Degen. an. II, 3, 736b27-29.
16 OAH, p. 300: "Intellectus non est forma totius naturae humanae, sed pars

talis formae, quae est anima humana, compositam naturam habens ex Intel-
lectu, vegetali anima, & sentiente ... "
17 OAH, p. 301: "potior humanae animae pars intellectiva sit non educta de

sinu materiae, sed creata ex nihilo, & immortalis ... "

18 lbid.: "Mihi autem homo est corpus naturale, ac materiale; naturalibus

proinde ex materia passionibus, generationi, mortique obnoxius; eiusdem

anima ideo ex materia genita, & mortalis ... " For Aristotle's account ofthe
role of vegetative and sensitve souls in biological reproducation, see De
gen. an. II, 2-5.
19 Des Chene, Life 's Form. Late Aristotelian Conceptions of the Soul, p.

191. The slogan goes at least back to Augustine, De immortalitate 1c 16.

20 Des Chene, Life 's Form. Late Aristotelian Conceptions of the Soul, p.

21 Liceti refers the reader to Aristotle, Phys., 7, 10-12; 8, 33; De an., 2, 3; 2,

24; 2, 47.
22 ACC, p. 12. See De an. II, 4.
23 ACC, p. 24.
24 ACC, p. 56. Liceti refers the reader to Aristotle, Phys. II, 27 and 38. The

only context in which Liceti's biological writings make use of the concept
of final causes is the view that the final cause of biological reproduction is
Material Souls and Imagination 111

the perpetuation ofbiologieal speeies and genera; see PCH, p. 117; MC, p.
25 See De an. II, 4, 416b9-20.
26 ACC, pp. 12-13: "[N]utrieatio proprie eonversio est alimenti in substan-

tiam viventis, atque animati [De an. II, 4], eo quia quod alitur adiuneto sibi
alimento disposito propriam animam eommunieat in formam vivifieam; si
ergo singulae plantarum partes aluntur, ut sanxit Aristoteles [De gen. et
corr. I, 35] ... ; eonstare euique debet in singulis plantarum partibus ani-
mam reipsa, & vitam inesse, quae alimento per nutrieationem eommuniea-
tur ... "
27 ACC, pp. 13-14.
28 ACC, p. 14: "versio maioris alimenti in substantiam eorporis animati."

See Aristotle, De an. II, 4; Aristotle, PA II, 4.

29 ACC, p. 14: "Deineeps quum augmentum Aristoteli sie fieri dieatur

seeundum formam euiuseumque partieulae animantis, quia praeexistens

anima in quantulameumque partem eorporis viventis adiuneto sibi alimen-
to, quatenus est substantia quanta, & molis amplioris, quam haetenus ef-
fluxa e eorpore, seu ab intemo ealore, seu ab extemis eaussis, eonsumpta,
semetipsam eommunieat in formam vivifieam, quasi se se extendens in
omnem dimensionem." See Aristotle, Degen. et. corr. I, 35.
30 ACC, pp. 14-15.
31 ACC, p. 15: "[T]enuissimi stirpium pulveres sub atomorum formaper

aera volitantes, si alieubi plures in unum eogantur, & subditam materiam

aptam naneiseantur, nullo negoeio plantas passim vel intra lapidum, do-
morumque rimas generare visuntur ... "
32 ACC, p. 16: "anima definiatur esse aetus primus eorporis naturalis in-

strumentalis." See Aristotle, De an. II, 7.

33 ACC, p. 16: "Aristoteleo monitu sunt instrumenta deservientia vegetali

animae ad nutrieationem, augmentum, generationem, aliasque funetiones

vitae obeundas [De an. II, 6]; at instrumenturn nihil operari potest nisi
aetum, reetumque ab agente prineipali; agi autem, regique ab eo non valet
nisi praesente atque attingente ... "
34 ACC, p. 36.
35 ACC, p. 36: "[S]ensitrieem gubemantem eoextensam esse vegetali ani-

mae gubematae inde apertissime eolligas, quia gubematio physiea fit per
eontaetum, & eontiguitatem: Aristoteles enim alieubi sanxit neeessarium
esse mundum hune inferiorem eontiguum extare supemis lationibus, ut
omnis huius mundi virtus gubemetur inde [Aristotle, Meteor. I, 2]."
36 See Hippoerates, Liber de foetuum formatione, eh. 1; De morbis, IV;

Avieenna, F en 21, traet 1, eh. 8.

37 See Degen. an. I, 15-16.
112 Chapter 4

38 See Girolama Cardano, Contradicentia Medicorum, in idem, Opera

omnia, vol. 6, 644.

39 PCH, p. 19: "alimenti ultimi redundantis nutricatui singularum partium."

The theory of cambium, in turn, derives from Aristotle, De gen. an. I, 17-
40 PCH, p. 19.
41 Ibid.: "[I]bi enim primum actione testium omnia illa temperamenta parti-

alia cunctorum membrarum temperaturis similes in unam temperiem sim-

ilem temperaturae totius corporis ex illis membris constituti apta mistione
adeo convertuntur, ut quae prius multa miscibilia erant in vasis praeparan-
tibus ante testes degentibus invicem solummodo confusas, sed natura dis-
tinctas adhuc proprias formas, atque temperies obtinentia, veluti grana
triticea, & hordeacea in acervo, virtute, actioneque testium in unum perfec-
tum mistum commutentur, novo ex illis prioribus simul coniunctis facto &
uno totius seminis temperamento."
42 lbid.: "[U]lteriori testium actione semen ita dispositum formam seminis

ultimam, & speciticam adipiscitur; animam nempe vegetalem, ac sensi-

tricem ... "
43 See Degen. an. II, 3.
44 PCH, pp. 71-72: "[A]gens adaequatum est ex utriusque semm1s parte

spirituosa constitutum, sie agentia partialia sunt feminei seminis anima, &
masculei ... "
45 See Degen. an. I, 17-21.
46 OAH, pp. 329: "[F]ructus, dum arbori haerent, eiusdem animae beneficio

vivunt, qua & arbor ipsa vivere dicitur, quae arboris anima postmodum
plurificatur, dividiturque ad subiecti divisionem . . . Ita prorsum arbitror
semen in corpore patris eadem anima potiri, quae & pater ipse fruitur;
quam dividi, ac plurificari censeo ad subiecti divisionem, dum semen a
patris corpore seiungitur ... "
47 PCH, pp. 35: "[U]triusque seminis ut duo corpora in unam materiam apte

coniungunt; ita plane duae materiales animae in unam animam nullo nego-
tio coeunt ... "
48 PCH, pp. 35-36: "At vero compertissimum id habemus in arborum insi-

tione; qua constat ex anima trunci, & anima taleae plerumque diversae
speciei, coniunctis corporibus, tertiam animam consurgere onmium illarum
in se facultates habentern ... "
49 PCH, p. 38: "heterogenea disgregare, ac vicissim homogenea congre-

50 315b7-10; 317a13-14.
51 PCH, p. 39.
52 lbid.
Material Souls and Imagination 113

53 PCH, p. 24: "[Q]uod aliunde pravenire nequit nisi quia portio materiei,

ex qua illae partes determinatae in filiis generantur, ortum habuit ex eo

alimento, quod prius assimilatum morbosis membris eiusdem generis in
corpore paterno, maternove, illorum nutricatui superabundavit; quorumnon
solum temperaturam essentialem, sed etiam accidentalem seu disposi-
tionem, seu habitum morbosum transtulit in filiorum membra consimilia."
54 Feyens, De viribus imaginationis tractatus, pp. 124-125.
55 Ibid., 144-145. On Feyens' biological views and their context, see Ra-

ther, "Thomas Fienus' (1567-1631) Dialectical Investigation ofthe Imagi-

nation as Cause and Cure of Bodily Disease"; Papy, "The Attitude towards
Aristotelian Biological Thought in the Louvain Medical Treatises during
the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Century: The Case ofEmbryology".
56 MC, p. 16.
57 lbid.
58 lbid.: "Caeterum specifica, & praxima monstrarum forma ... nulla est

alia quam mala corporis constitutio, deformisque membrarum organizatio,

& omnino vitiata partium conformatio."
59 MC, pp. 16-17: "[E]rror naturae in monstri procreatione consistit post

animationem materiae in eius organizatione; siquidem natura generans

animantia nostratia in subditum sibi materiam, praeter animam, quae sub-
stantialis forma nuncupatur, miram accidentalem construit formam, quae
multiplicem membrarum variorum structuram, nexu, figuram, molemque
60 See Emerton, The Scientific Reinterpretation ofForm.
61 MC, p. 79: "alicuius membri figuram distorquere, atque a naturali consti-

tutione turpiter variare, quam partis alicuius aut magnitudinem adaugere,

aut numerum geminare, aut situm permutare ... "
62 PCH, p. 96.
63 MC, p. 97.
64 lbid.
65 On Renaissance of theories of sensible and intelligible species, see Leen

Spruit, Species intelligibilis. From Perception to Knowledge. Val. 2.

66 PCH, pp. 97-98: "[P]hantasiae instrumenta vehiculo spirituum ea ratione

transferuntur, ut sensus exterior medianie imagine obiecti a se cogniti sibi

impressa consimilem pracreet in ea spirituum parte, quam contingit, &
haec in aliam successive usque ad organum sensus interioris ... "
67 PCH, p. 99: "Sie penitus a parentum phantasia vehementem rei alicuius

imaginem obtinente in tota sprituum substantia, quae universum illorum

corpus omniquaeque permeat, consimilis procreatur imago ... "
68 PCH, p. 98: "quousque perventum sit ad spirituosam seminis substan-

tiam, atque ad embryonem."

114 Chapter 4

69 NES, p. 68: "Etenim vix hominem tarn brevi illo temporis spatio in quo

bestiae illa voluptas a se amotam ad se se allicit ac rapit consulto & omni

dedita opera duos viros fixe ... imaginari posse credimus, nedum bestias
imminutae imaginationis & brutino illo furori prorsus deditas."
70 NES, p. 69.

71 lbid.: "[I]mpressiones fiunt in partibus efformatis, bene dispositis, atque

actu talibus bene existentibus ... "

72 NES, p. 68: "An pictrix ista imaginatio istos colores in promptu illico in

pera, in pixide habet?"

73 NES, p. 281: "Quod ipsi in capite, rerum non existentium conceptus,

earumque colores tune non existentes, figuram, formam, proprietates ac-

cipient, in uterum, in semenque deferant, nec mente assequor, nec capiam
74 NES, p. 285: "[P]er opticum ad cerebrum tendet, illinc per nervum sex-

tae coniugationis ad iecur. At nervus sextae coniugationis non ad internam

partem iecoris, sed ad membranam ipsum ambientis tendit & ibi desinit.
Quo modo ergo vapor illuc perventus ad cutim faetus tendet? . . . Dices
tendet vapor ab oculis per arterias & venas ... Sed vapor sive ab olfactu,
sive a visu ad iecur tendat mediante spiritu & sanguine, cur ad iecur, non ad
cor & cerebrum?"
75 Ibid.: "[E]tiamsi suscipere possunt, quia in itinere alterentur absumerun-

tur ... species illae pluries perirent. Praeterquam quod vapores se se con-
servantes sua, formam, qualitates, proprietatesque suas retinerent non
alienas ... "
76 NES, p. 280: "Purae nugae sunt, quod matris imaginatrix in uteri vacuum

descendat ... "

Chapter 5

Composite Substances, Common Notions, and

Kenelm Digby's Theory of Animal Generation

5 .1. Introduction

While Kenelm Digby's matter theory and his research in experimen-

tal alchemy are, thanks to the ground-breaking studies of Betty Jo
Dobbs, 1 well known today, other aspects of his natural philosophy,
in particular his views on the life sciences, have received little atten-
tion? Nevertheless, the generation of living beings, in particular the
generation of animals, plays a significant role in Digby's Two Trea-
tises, which were published in Paris in 1644 when Digby was newly
appointed Lord Chancellorat the court-in-exile of Charles I. At this
time, Digby divided his considerable energies between preparing
negotiations with Pope Innocent X concerning Catholic funds for
the King' party, 3 meeting leading French philosophers such as Des-
cartes and Gassendi in the Mersenne circle, 4 and exchanging news
about experimental alchemy. 5 His theory of animal generation de-
serves attention (at least) for two interconnected reasons, both of
which are related, in a direct or indirect way, to his political, philo-
sophical, and alchemical associations.
The first reason is the role that his theory of animal generation
plays within the framework of a conciliatory approach to natural
philosophy. His contemporaries perceived his natural philosophy as
an attempt to reconcile aspects of Aristotelian natural philosophy
with aspects of modern corpuscularianism. Digby hirnself is keen to
create such an understanding of his philosophical project, when, in
the Conclusion to the first part of Two Treatises, he emphasizes that,
for the most part, he has been following Aristotle in his account of
the nature of body, but that at the same time what he has been say-
ing does not differ from Democritus, Hippocrates, and Galen, from
the natural philosophy of the "moderns," nor from the tradition of
corpuscularian Alchemy, in particular the anonymaus thirteenth-
century author of one of the main alchemical writings of the Middle
116 Chapter 5

Ag es, the Summa perfectionis, known under the pseudonym "Ge-

Although there are recent studies on corpuscularian Aristote-
lianism in philosophers such as Scaliger, Sennert, and the early
Leibniz, 7 it seems fair to say that it is still not well understood how
such a conciliatory approach to natural philosophy was supposed to
work in other sixteenth- and seventeenth-century authors. Obvious-
ly, the project of bringing Aristotelian and corpuscularian intuitions
together is threatened by inconsistency. For example, the following
question arises: how is it possible to hold that the generation of
composite bodies reduces to the combination of corpusdes that do
not change their nature in the process of composition and at the
same time hold the Aristotelian view that composite substances are
true unities. Indeed, Digby does hold both that biological reproduc-
tion involves the composition of minimal particles and also that
animals are true unities. Looking into Digby's strategy of reconcil-
ing such claims may give some interesting clues as to how early
modern corpuscularian Aristotelianism sought to achieve its conci-
liatory goal. In section 5.3., I explore Digby's conciliatory strategy
in the context of similar strategies developed by authors such as
Scaliger and Sennert.
The second reason why Digby's theory on animal generation
deserves some attention derives from the fact that his theory is part
of an ecumenical strategy. Digby uses natural philosophy in order to
reconcile different Christian denominations on a central doctrinal
point, the immortality of the human soul. During the latter part of
his life, Digby was engaged in the ecumenical politics of a group of
English Catholics, the Blackloists. 8 John Henry holds that Digby
adopted elements of Aristotelian matter theory as interpreted by the
scholastic tradition for a particular religious and political objective. 9
As Henry argues, choosing an Aristotelian framework for his matter
theory should be understood from the perspective of the ecumenical
religious-political program of a group of English Catholics led by
Digby's mentor, Thomas White (and called, after one of White's
pseudonyms, "Blackloists"). According to Henry, Digby's Two
Treatises contribute to this program by providing an answer to the
question of whether the human soul is naturally immortal-a ques-
tion that divides Catholic dogma from the theology of the Church of
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 117

England. Catholic dogma holds that human beings-composed of

body and soul-are naturally immortal, while theologians of the
Church of England tend to ascribe the immortality of both human
bodies and human souls to a supernatural divine intervention. 10
Indeed, Digby describes the question of the immortality of the
soul as the "main and great question" of his work. 11 At the same
time, he understands an account of the actions of inanimate and
living bodies as the "main hinge, upon which hangeth and moveth"
this question. 12 In particular, he characterizes the goal of the first
part of the Two Treatises as giving an account of the actions that
bodies are capable of, thereby also indicating what actions bodies
are not capable of. 13 The task of the second part of the Two Treatis-
es, then, is to show that the actions that are specific to rational souls
cannot be reduced to the principles goveming the bodily world. 14
Delineating the precise extent of the powers of material bodies, thus,
is embedded in a project that has the aim of formulating an escha-
tology that is acceptable for members of both churches. Neverthe-
less, why did Digby think he could achieve this goal in a situation
that was characterized by fundamental disagreements over central
issues of Christian doctrine? I will argue that he does not choose
components of Aristotelian matter theory in a merely hypothetical
way. Rather, he employs the Epicurean-Stoic theory of common
notions to limit the range of acceptable Aristotelian concepts. Ac-
cording to his view, the Aristotelian concepts of rarity and density
are in accordance with the commonly shared concepts of quantity
and substance. Using the concepts of rarity and density, Digby of-
fers a matter theory that is resourceful enough to explain complex
phenomena such as biological reproduction and animal behavior,
but not resourceful enough to explain operations specific to rational
souls. Since these concepts are in accordance with concepts shared
by all rational beings, he takes them to be acceptable to members of
different philosophical traditions and different Christian denomina-
tions. Moreover, since they imply that the operations of rational
souls cannot be explained by the interaction and configuration of
material particles, they lead to the conclusion that rational souls are
immaterial and, therefore, naturally immortal. In this way, both
Digby's conciliatory approach to natural philosophy and his ecu-
menical program are founded on a theory of common notions. In
118 Chapter 5

section 5.4., I will examine this dual ftmction ofhis epistemology of

common notions and its historical context in the work of one of
Digby's Paris acquaintances, Pierre Gassendi.

5.2. Rarity, Density, and Animal Generation

Digby's theory of animal generation is embedded in an account of

the constitution of matter based on the Aristotelian notions of rarity
and density. Explicitly, he proposes using these notions as an hypo-
thesis, following the example ofthe use ofhypotheses in astronomy.
His starting points are the phenomena concerning rare and dense
bodies, and the suggested use of the Aristotelian notions of rarity
and density is "an hypothesis, or supposition (if it be possible) that
may agree with them all". 15 One of the phenomena that have to be
accounted for is that "dense bodies have theire partes more close and
compacted, then others have, that are more rare and subtile. Second-
ly they are more heavy, then rare ones. Againe, the rare are more
easily divided then the dense bodies". 16 At this juncture, Digby uses
a thesis which I will come back to in section 5.3., namely the thesis
that quantity is divisibility. U sing the observation that rare bodies
are more easily divided-and in this sense "more divisible"-Digby
holds that "we must needes acknowledge that the nature of Quantity
is some way more perfectly in thinges that are rare, then in those
that are dense." 17 This connection between rarity and divisibility
motivates the following account of rarity and density:

[R]emembering how wee determined that Quantity is Divisibili-

ty: it followeth, that if besides Quantity there be a substance or
thing which is divisible; that thing, if it be condistinguished
from its Quantity or Divisibility, must of it seife be irrdivisible
... This then being so, wee have the ground of more or lesse
. between sub stance an d quantlty
proportlon . ... 18

Digby claims that this argument yields the same account of rarity
and density as that given by Aristotle: "hee telleth us, that that body
is rare whose quantity is more, and its substance lesse; that, contra-
riwise dense, where the substance is more and the quantity lesse." 19
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 119

In the remainder of the bulky first treatise, Digby attempts to

explain a vast number of natural phenomena starting from the as-
sumption that, at the basic level of reality, particles of matter display
various proportians of rarity and density, understood in the Aristote-
lian sense just defined. As Digby puts it: "[W]e deemed it a kind of
necessity to straine ourselves to prosecute most of such effects, even
to their notionall connexions with rarity and density". 20 His program
involves the maxim to explain phenomena that, at first sight, might
invite an explanation using the notion of a "vertue spirituall" instead
by means of "rarity and density, working by locall motion". 21 In
particular, he applies this program to the question of animal genera-
tion. Digby shares with other Aristotelian natural philosophers the
view that animal seeds arise from the superfluous maisture of the
parent. However, he disagrees with the widely held view that this
fluid is composed of parts derived from the different parts of the
parent's body in a way that the parts of the seed display the same
structure as the parts of the living organism from which they arise. 22
In Digby's view, such an account of animal generation faces several
difficulties. If it is claimed that the superfluous maisture passes
through every particle of the parent's body, Digby objects that, for
physiological reasons, it seems to be impossible for some fluid to
circulate in this way. If it is claimed that the superfluous maisture
receives something only "from all similar and great parts"-i.e., if it
receives something by means of the chemical process of assimila-
tion-Digby objects that there is no reason why a given portion of
maisture should chemically react in a uniform way with all relevant
similar parts of an organism, and no reason why each similar part of
an organism entering into such a chemical reaction should confer as
much of its matter to a given portion of maisture as all the other
parts of the organism do. As Digby suggests, only under such an
assumption of uniformity could a chemical explanation of the pro-
duction of a seed explain the proportion in the collection of the parts
of seminal fluid necessary for the generation of an animal. 23
In his solution to the question of how the right proportion of
parts in seminal matter comes about, Digby makes use of an analogy
between nourishment and generation. He argues:
120 Chapter 5

[T]he juice which serveth for nourishment of the animal, being

more then is requisite for that service; the superfluous part of it,
is drained from the rest, and is served in a place fitt for it: where
by little and little through digestion, it gaineth strength ... to it
selfe, and becometh an homogeneall body, such as other simple
compoundes are; which by other degrees of heate and moisture,
is changed into another kind of substance: and that againe; by
other temperaments, mto . an other ... ~

Whereas in the theory criticized by Digby, the seed displays the

same irrtemal structure as a living organism, in his own theory the
seed is a homogenaus body in the sense of a "simple compound."
Moreover, whereas in the criticized account, the development of a
seed into a living being involves only the unfolding of a given struc-
ture into a larger scale, such that in each step of this development
there is substance of the same irrtemal structure, in his own theory
the development from a seed to a living being involves a sequence
of different substances. Digby maintains that the structure of such
"simple compounds" results from "the pure and single mixture of
rarity and density". 25 Thus, the structure of simple compounds is due
to the proportion of rare and dense parts constituting them. In this
way, the proportion between rarity and density irrtemal to the seed
accounts for how extemal factors such as heat and humidity get the
chain of transformations started which ultimately results in a living
being. Digby describes this chain of transformations as follows:

In every one of which the thing that was, becometh absolutely a

new thing; and is endewed with new properties and qualities
different from those it had before, as from their certaine expe-
rience, do assure us. And yet every change is such, as in the or-
dinary and generaU course of nature (wherein nothing is to be
considered, but the necessary effects following out of such
Agents working upon such patients, in such circumstances) it is
impossible that any other thing should be made of the
precedent, butthat which is immediately, subsequent to it. 26

Thus, thinking about the structure of the seed in terms of rarity and
density (rather than in terms of a structural isomorphism between
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 121

the seed and the parent's organism) implies that the seed is a sub-
stance entirely different from each being produced in the course of
this chain of transformations. The seed is not an animal in con-
tracted form, nor are any of the substances forming the intermediary
members in the chain of transformations. An animal is formed from
substances that are not animals, and is formed out of these sub-
stances in a chain of steps govemed by necessary causal Connec-
In this way, Digby defends two claims: (1) the generation of an-
imals is a matter of causal influences on particles displaying a cer-
tain proportion of rarity and density, and (2) the generation of ani-
mals involves the transformation of composite substances. The first
claim places Digby close to corpuscularian matter theories develop-
ing in England since the beginning of the seventeenth century. The
second claim, however, places Digby close to Aristotelian theories
of living beings. How do both claims go together? And how does
combining both claims contribute to Digby's ecumenical program? I
will try to give answers to these questions by placing Digby's views
on animal generation in the wider context of sixteenth- and early
seventeenth-century metaphysics of composite substance (section
5.3.) and the context of early seventeenth-century reception of the
Stoic-Epicurean epistemology of common notions (section 5.4.).

5.3. Animal Generation and Minimal Parts

According to Newman, Digby adopted his metaphysics of the gen-

eration of composite bodies from the tradition of corpuscularian
alchemy. 27 A well-known passage from the Summa perfectionis
suggests that the generation of metals can be analyzed in terms of
composition and separation of the smallest parts-"per minima". 28
Moreover, Newman argues that Geber's view of generationalso has
a theoretical background in the tradition of Latin commentaries on
the Fourth book ofthe Aristotelian Meteorology? 9
In De generatione et corruptione, Aristotle holds that genuine
mixture, in cantrast to mere composition, occurs when the ingredi-
ents of mixture act upon each other to produce a uniform, "ho-
moeomerous" substance, such that every part of the substance is the
same as the whole. 30 By contrast, the Meteorology gives a corpuscu-
122 Chapter 5

lar account of matter expressed in terms of pores within macro-

scopic bodies and corpusdes constituting these bodies and capable
of passing through their pores. Meteorology IV gives an account of
the corruption of composite substances in terms of separation
(diakrisis) of particles, 31 thereby suggesting an account of the gen-
eration of composite substances in terms of composition (synkrisis)
of particles-exactly the conception Aristotle rejects when he dis-
cusses atomism in De generatione et corruptione. 32
Digby alludes to Geber's formulation "by means of minimal
parts" when he writes in the Two Treatises: "Let any man read his
[Aristotle's] books of Generation and Corruption, and say whether
he doth not expressly teach, that mixtion (which he delivereth to be
the generation or making of a mixt body) is done per minima; that is
in our language and in one word, by atomes ... " 33 He claims that
this is what Hippocrates, Galen, and Democritus had in mind, as
well as the "Alchymists, with their master Geber, whose maxime to
this purpose, we cited above: the same do all naturall Philosophers,
eyther auncient commentatours of Aristotle, or else modern inquir-
ers into naturall effects, in a sensible and understandable way". 34 As
Newman suggests, even if Digby understands "atom" not as desig-
nating a perfectly indivisible body but only as "the least sort of natu-
rall bodies", 35 Digby's emphasis on minimal parts in interpreting
Aristotle' s views on mixture amounts to an acceptance of the ac-
count of mixture given by corpuscularian alchemy.
Things, however, are more complicated than Newman suggests.
Geber's corpuscularian alchemy is mentioned earlier in the Two
Treatises, when Digby counters an objection against his critique of
chemical theories of animal generation:

But peradventure the Reader will tell us, that such a specificall
vertue can not be gotten by concoction of the bloud, or by any
pretended impression in it; uniesse some little particles of the
nourished part do remaine in the bloud, and returne backe with
it according to that maxime of Geber: Quod non ingreditur, non
immutat; 36 no body can change an other, uniesse it enter into it,
and mixing it selfe with it do become one with it. 37
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 123

The objection addressed here is that by ascribing to the circulation

of blood a constitutive role in the formation of seed, Digby is ex-
plaining the structural isomorphism between the seed and the par-
ent's organism by means of the chemical theory he previously re-
jected. According to such a theory, the process of assimilation in-
volves the transmission of particles from the parent's organism into
the superfluous moisture, which eventually forms the seed. In this
sense, particles of the parent's organism would become ingredients
of the seed. Digby emphasizes the differences between the chemical
account of the formation of the seed and his own account. First, the
supporters of the chemical account "affirme that a living creature is
made merely by the assembling tagether of similar partes, which
were hidden in those bodies from whence they are extracted in gen-
eration: whereas we say that bloud coming to a part to irrigate it, is
by its passage through it, and some little stay in it ... transmuted into
the nature ofthat part." 38 Secondly, the supporters of the chemical
account "say that the embryon is actually formed in the seede,
though in such little partes as it can not be discerned ... But we say,
that there is one homogeneall substance ... though it have in it the
vertues of all the partes it hath often runne through." 39 Digby expli-
cates his conception of a "specifike vertue" as follows: "[I]t is such
degrees and such numbers, of rare and dense partes mingled togeth-
er, as constitute a mixed body of such a temper and nature: which
degrees and proportians of rare and dense partes and their mixture
together, and incorporating into one homogeneall substance." 40 Ho-
mogeneity, for Digby, does not imply the absence of internal struc-
ture. Rather, it implies that internal structure-the proportion of
rarity and density-is realized in homogenaus matter, such that
structure is not explained by means of the presence of different ma-
terial principles. He holds that seeds display structured but homo-
genous matter, which then is transformed into a chain of dissimilar
and less homogeneaus substances.
However, why does he hold that the generation of a living being
is not only a matter of assembling particles of various rarity and
density? And how does this view fit with his claim that mixture "is
done per minima"?41 To be sure, it is possible that Digby simply
held inconsistent views. Nevertheless, there is a reading that makes
sense of what Digby says about Geber. As Newman points out, al-
124 Chapter 5

ready in the Summa perfectionis the passage conceming mixture by

means of minimal parts is far from being unambiguous. The passage
runs as follows:

[E]ach of these [principles of metals, i.e. sulfur and mercury] is

of very strong composition and uniform substance. This is so
because the particles of earth are united through the smallest
particles [per minima] to the aerial, watery, and fiery particles
in such a way that none ofthem can separate from the other dur-
ing their resolution. But each is resolved with the other on ac-
count of the strong union that they mutually have received
through the smallest [per minima]. 42

Lasswitz ascribes to Geber the view that, in mixture, minimal parts

are conjoined suchthat their surfaces touch each other. 43 According
to such a reading, Geber does not have strong concept of the union
of minimal parts. However, Newman convincingly argues that Ge-
ber might also have in mind a quite different view of the nature of
mixture, a view according to which mixture requires minimal parts
but, under this condition, produces Aristotelian compound unities. 44
Thus, there are two plausible interpretations of Geber's view of the
role of minimal parts: an atomistic interpretation and an Aristotelian
interpretation. Which of the two interpretations provides the relevant
background of Digby's view of the generation of composite sub-
stances? In what follows, I will suggest that it is the Aristotelian
rather than the atomistic reading of Geber that gives the clue as to
Digby' s characterization of the role of minimal parts in mixture.

5.4. Mixture and Organic Unities

Indeed, an Aristotelian interpretation of Geber's notion of minimal

parts can be found in the work of the influential early seventeenth-
century physician and philosopher Daniel Sennert. Newman holds
that, under the influence of alchemical corpuscular theory, Sennert
explicitly promoted the Aristotelianism of Meteorology IV in favor
of the more abstract works of Aristotle. 45 Recent commentators
agree that in his earliest work, the 1600 version of the Epitome natu-
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 125

ralis scientiae, Sennert is an uncompromising defender of Aristote-

lian matter theory. 46 However, as Newman has pointed out, in sub-
sequent years, Sennert became closely acquainted with the Summa
perfectionis and other alchemical writings, as documented by nu-
merous quotes from Geber and other "chymists" in the discussion of
pharmacy in Sennert's Institutiones medicinae (1611). 47
Y et, can Sennert' s later view of the generation of composite en-
tities be reduced to his account of laboratory processes? In De
chymicorum, Sennert draws heavily on Julius Caesar Scaliger's de-
finition of mixture as the "motion of minimal bodies towards mutual
contact, such that a union arises". As we have seen in chapter 1,
although the notion of union, taken in isolation, could be understood
as a relation between discontinuous minimal bodies, Scaliger ex-
plains that what he has in mind involves the generation of a unitary,
continuous body. 48 Sennert explicitly refers to this way of explicat-
ing Scaliger's slogan and accepts the reading that, in genuine mix-
ture, there arises a continuous body and a unity with a form of its
own (a "unum ens formaliter"). 49 Moreover, he holds that this view,
as applied to minimal parts, coincides with "the opinion of the most
ancient philosophers about mixture, and even that of Democritus,
who stated that all things are composed of atoms & that generation
is nothing but composition (synkrisis) and separation (diakrisis)." 50
Some commentators have taken this statement as indicating a radical
change in Sennert's view of matter-something that, as Emily Mi-
chael has suggested, could be described as a "sea change". 51 Indeed,
Sennert points out that a passage from the First book of the Meteor-
ology favors an account of mixture in terms of associating and dis-
sociating particles. 52 Moreover, he describes laboratory processes in
terms of the association and separation of minimal parts. 53 In par-
ticular, he takes these laboratory processes to provide evidence for
the existence of mixture without a change of the constituents. He
puts it thus: "[T]he corpusdes that are reduced to minimal parts ...
do not always lose their previous form (which someone may usurp
as the opinion of Democritus when saying that atoms do not suffer
anything), as we see in the chymical operations ... " 54
His views about formal unities suggest that Sennert holds an ac-
count of mixture in terms of synkrisis and diakrisis to be compatible
with the Aristotelian view that, in mixture, a formal unity is pro-
126 Chapter 5

duced. According to Sennert, Democritus does not exclude mixture

but only wants "either that elements do not penetrate each other or
that in mixture one does not always have to recur to elements &
prime matter." 55 Thinking about mixture in terms of a formal unity
that allows for the persistence of parts fits well with Sennert's hie-
rarchical account of the relation between subordinate forms of parts
and the dominant form of composite substances. Sennert writes:

I hold it to be more plausible that, in mixture, the ingredients

are reduced to their minimal parts, and that they act on each
other by means of contrary qualities: but that they do not loose
their forms entirely (otherwise, if forms would be entirely anni-
hilated, it would not be the mixture of mutable ingredients but
rather the corruption of ingredients ), but from all of them arises
a single form, or rather all mixed &, as it were, brought together
into one, remain under the domination of some higher form,
from which a specific unity arises. 56

This dominating form accounts for the formal unity of a mixed sub-
stance, while allowing for the persistence of the forms of the ingre-
dients. On the level of the parts, Sennert can describe mixture in
terms of synkrisis and diakrisis, while on the level of the composite
substance there is one specific form common to each part. In this
way, Sennert's conciliatory approach to mixture is based on the idea
of the compatibility of the chymists' view of mixture with the Aris-
totelian intuition that the form of a mixed body is everywhere the
Sennert's views on the role of minimal parts in mixture may
give a clue as to what Digby may have had in mind when he claims
that the views of Aristotle and the Atomists on mixture are equiva-
lent and when he relates them both to the work of Geber. Two as-
pects of the way Digby uses the quotation from Geber deserve no-
tice here. First, he mentions it as a maxim that could be invoked by
the supporters of an alternative view of the role of homogeneity in
animal generation. The fact that he rejects this alternative view of
homogeneity does not imply that he rejects the maxim of Geber.
Thus, using the quotation in this way is compatible with the affirma-
tive attitude taken towards the end of the Two Treatises. Second,
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 127

Digby explicates the quotation in a particular way. He says that it

means not only that "no body can change an other, unlesse it enter
into it" but adds: "and mixing it selfe with it do become one with
it". 57 Thus, rejecting one reading of the quotation-a reading asso-
ciated with an atomistic conception of homogeneity-is compatible
with a different reading-the reading that allows for Aristotelian
compound unities arising from the mixture of minimal parts. If this
is indeed Digby's view, his reference to Geber should not be unders-
tood as expressing a commitment to a corpuscularian theory ofmix-
ture. Rather, it can plausibly be understood as expressing the view,
similar to Sennert' s, that some aspects of experimental alchemical
theory are compatible with an Aristotelian theory of composite sub-
Digby embraces a theory of composite substances, according to
which a nascent organism is a true, individual unity and not only an
aggregate of particles of varying rarity and density. He holds that
parts of an organism are subordinated under other parts and that,
moreover, the parts of the organism are mutually dependent on each
other, such that they are destroyed by their separation. 58 Due to the
existential dependence between the parts, the "compound of all
these severall partes must needes be one individuall thing". 59 More-
over, Digby characterizes sensible living creatures as follows:

[I]n them, though every part and member, be as it were a com-

plete thing of it selfe, yet every one, requireth to be directed and
putt on in its motion by an other; and they must all of them
(though of very different natures and kindes of motion) conspire
tagether to effect any thing that may be, for the use and service
of the whole. And thus we find in them perfectly the nature of a
mover and a moveable ... And now because these partes (the
movers, and the moved) are partes of one whole; we call the en-
tire thing Automatum or se movens; or a living creature. 60

According to the view of living beings articulated in this passage,

the effect in one part of the organism is caused by another part of the
same organism; thus, the effect is brought about by a cause that is
external to the part where the effect occurs. Nevertheless, the effect
is brought about by a cause that, due to the mutual dependence of
128 Chapter 5

the parts of the organism, is internal to a composite substance form-

ing a genuine individual. In this way, the mutual dependence be-
tween the parts of an animal provides Digby with an account of
animal self-motion without invoking an immaterial principle of
agency. In his view, animal self-motion reduces to causal relations
between mutually dependent parts of an organic whole.
Samething analogaus holds for the question of internal and ex-
ternal causes in animal generation. On the one hand, Digby is clear
about his view that internal causes cannot be a matter of an imma-
terial vital principle, "a specificall worker within." Rather, he holds
that at the initial stages of the generation of an animal, circums-
tances external to the seed are sufficient to transform the seed into a
different substance. 61 On the other hand, he acknowledge that the
structure of composite substances become more complex at a later
stage in the chain of transformations. The appearance of a punctum
saliens-a pulsating red spot on the membrane ofthe yolk ofa ferti-
lized egg-during the development of a chick provides an example:

[T]he part in which heate doth most abound; and which is the
interiour fountaine of it, from whence ... all the other partes de-
rive theirs; must be formed first and the others successively af-
ter it, according as they partake more or lesse, of this heate;
which is the Architect that mouldeth and frameth them all. Un-
doubtedly this can be none other, but the hart: whose motion
and manner of working, evidently appeareth in the twinckling
of the first red spotte ... Y et I do not intend to say, that the hart
is perfectly framed ... with all its partes and instruments, before
any other part be begunne to be made: but only the most vir-
tuous part; . . . which serveth as a shoppe or a hoat forge, to
mould spirits in: from whence they are dispersed abroad to
forme and nourish other parts that stand in neede of them to that
effect. 62

Tobe sure, this passage is opaque. Nevertheless, it seems to suggest

the view that after the development of the punctum saliens, the for-
mation of an embryo is no Ionger only the effect of external heat
(e.g., the heat of the hen breeding over the egg). Rather, it displays a
structure analogaus to the structure of the action of one part of a
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 129

developed organism on another part of the same organism. The ac-

tion of the punctum saliens is a cause that is extemal to other parts
of the developing embryo. However, because other parts of the de-
veloping embryo could not exist without the agency of the punctum
saliens, the parts ofthe embryoform a composite whole. This com-
posite whole is not yet an animal; however, it displays the hierar-
chical structure and existential dependency between parts constitu-
tive of individual things. This is why, in Digby's view, the interac-
tion between the parts of an organism are not interactions between
the parts of a mere aggregate. Understanding an organism as an
aggregate (or as a mere mereological sum ofparts) would make the
distinction between intemal and extemal causes meaningless. There
would be no individual relative to which causation could be de-
scribed as intemal. Things are different if nascent organisms are
understood as true unities. In this case, the causal interaction be-
tween parts or such an organic unity can be described as intemal
relative to an individual. According to Digby, the agency of the
punctum saliens in the process of the formation of a chick is intemal
to a composite substance in the sense that the punctum saliens is part
of an organic individual.
One might conclude that Digby's theory of animal generation is
indeed part of a conciliatory approach to natural philosophy. As far
as his conception of rarity and density and of the development of
compound unities is concemed, Digby's theory of animal generation
incorporates Aristotelian components. 63 However, it also departs
markedly from the biological views of other Aristotelians in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries because it does not invoke the
agency of a vegetative and sensitive soul in the generation of ani-
mals. Instead of an immaterial principle of activity, Digby explains
animal generation and animal self-motion as the interaction of mu-
tually dependent parts of an organic individual. According to his
view, this interaction in the last analysis reduces to the interaction of
particles displaying various proportians of rarity and density. Al-
though the composite substance of which they are a part changes as
a whole, the minimal particles can remain unchanged during the
process of animal generation. This is how Digby combines an Aris-
totelian theory of composite substances with a corpuscularian ac-
count of the ultimate constituents of organic bodies.
130 Chapter 5

Moreover, embedding his theory of animal generation in such a

conciliatory approach to the metaphysics of composite substance
serves Digby's overall ecumenical goal. On the one hand, it pro-
vides rich explanatory resources for the complexity of the phenome-
na involved in animal generation and animal behavior. In explanato-
ry power it is thus superior to a purely corpuscularian account of
animal generation and animal behavior. At the same time, it allows
Digby to exclude the phenomena characteristic of the intellective
soul from the realm of what can be explained by means of the com-
plex interaction of material particles. In particular, his theory of
animal generation involves a conception of animal self-motion that
is independent of the supposition of an immaterial principle of agen-
cy in animals, such as vegetative or sensitive souls. Because Digby's
theory of animal generation involves such a "thin" conception of
animal self-motion, it fulfils the aim of the first part of the Two
Treatises: to delineate the powers of matter in way such that the
intellectual capacities of the human beings discussed in the second
part of the work necessarily come out as being inexplicable by
means of the powers of matter, thereby presupposing an immaterial,
and hence naturally immortal soul.

5.5. Animal Generation and the Epistemology ofCommon Notions

Nevertheless, characterizing Digby's strategy in this way leaves us

with the question why he thought exactly this way of combining
elements from different philosophical traditions to be a convincing
one and, in particular, a convincing one for the opponents caught in
religious dispute. As I pointed out in section 5.2., Digby regards the
concepts of rarity and density as part of a hypothetical strategy. To
be sure, explanatory power may play a role in evaluating such a
hypothesis. Nevertheless, Digby held a stronger view conceming the
evaluation of hypotheses. Indeed, in the Conclusion to the first part
of the Two Treatises he writes: "I have not yet seene any piece upon
this subject, made up with this methode; beginning from the sirn-
plest and plainest notions, and composing them orderly: till all the
principal variety which their nature is capable of, be gone
through". 64 He goes on to make it clear that he is aware of the
sketchy nature of his work. But he thinks that, in principle, it should
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 131

be possible to fill out the framework outlined in the first part of the
Two Treatises, so as to reach a full demonstration of the phenomena
of the bodily world. As he thinks, out of these demonstrations "do
spring much higher and nobler effects, for mans use and life, then
out of any Mathematical ones; especially when they extend them-
selves to the government of Man as he is Man: which is an art, as
fare beyond all the rules of Physicke, or other government of our
body, or temporaU goodes". 65 As he believes, the following speaks
in favor ofhis method:

In our proceeding, we have the precedency of nature: for laying

for our ground, the naturall conceptions which mankind maketh
of quantity; we find that a body is a meere passive thing, con-
sisting of divers partes, which by motion may be diversely or-
dered; and consequently, that it is capable of no other change or
operatwn, then such a motwn
. may pro duce. 66

More technically, his views on the evaluation of hypotheses

employ the Stoic-Epicurean epistemology of common notions. Inte-
restingly, this epistemology was also championed by one ofDigby's
Paris acquaintances, the French Philosopher Pierre Gassendi. As
John Henry has pointed out, Digby discusses an atomist argument of
Gassendi's, which was unpublished at the time. 67 Likewise, it seems
plausible to assume that Digby's view of the role of common no-
tions is influenced by the role of common notions in Gassendi's
epistemology, also unpublished at the time ofthe Two Treatises.
In the Animadversiones in decimum librum Diogenis Laertii
(1649), Gassendi writes about the nature of common notions or "an-
ticipations": "[A ]n anticipation is at first some singular thing, or, so
to speak, the idea of a singular thing, in so far as it is impressed by a
singular thing and represents the singular thing by which it is
created; but subsequently it is a universal, insofar as not only the
thing by which it is created but also by means of its imitation several
similar ones are imagined by the mind." 68 Moreover, he gives to his
view of the nature of anticipations the following canonical formula-
tion: "All anticipation or precognition, which is in the mind, de-
pends on the senses, and this either by means of incursion, or pro-
portion, or similitude, or composition." 69 Interestingly, he deals with
132 Chapter 5

the issue of anticipations under the general heading of criteria of

truth, and he explains that a criterion is "an organon or an instru-
ment of judging". 70 Moreover, he explicitly identifies the Epicurean
prolepsis with the Stoic "common notions," with Aristotle's "pre-
existent cognition," and with Cicero's "presumption" and "informa-
tion anticipated in the mind". 71 That Gassendi uses the juridical term
"presumption" to characterize the nature of anticipations makes it
clear that what he has in mind is not something like an empirical
justification of common notions. Presumptions are not justified by
evidence; rather, they are assumptions taken to be true unless and
until contrary evidence becomes available. 72 Accordingly, Gassendi
sees the relation of sense perception to common notions as initially a
purely causal one. Nevertheless, these concepts subsequently ac-
quire a new function as criteria for judgments about the truth of
Digby, too, uses common notions as a criterion for the evalua-
tion of hypotheses of natural philosophy. In particular, he argues
that our common notions speak in favor of the Aristotelian concep-
tion of rarity and density. He suggests that "we should acquiesce and
be content with that naturall and plaine notion, which springeth im-
mediately and primarily from the thing it selfe: which when we do
not, the more we seeme to excel in subtility, the further we goe from
reality and truth". 73 Common concepts belong to the natural impres-
sions the thing makes on us, and for this reason are as close to the
nature of the thing as we can get. Of course, Digby faces the diffi-
culty of how to make such natural notions relevant to philosophy.
Indeed, he distinguishes between two kinds of languages. The one
"belongeth in generaU to all mankind, and the simplest person, that
can but apprehend and speake sense, is as much judge of it"; the
other language "is understood onely by those that in a particular and
expresse manner have beene trained up unto it." 74 Digby associates
this second kind of language in particular with the "Doctours of the
Schoole" as well as with "Geometricians, Astronomers, Carpenters,
Masons, and such persons as converse familiarly and frequently
with those thinges." 75 However, in a move typical of early modern
Aristotelianism, 76 he dissociates Aristotle's conception of the cate-
gories from the realm oftechnical and scholarly languages:
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 133

Of the first kind, are those tenne generaU heads, which Aristotle
calleth Praedicaments: under which he (who was the most judi-
cious orderer of notions, and directour of mens conceptions that
ever lived) hath comprised whatsoever hath, or can have a being
in nature ... Of the second sort, are the particular wordes of art
by which leamed men use to expresse what they meane in sci-
ences ... 77

Thus, according to Digby, categorial concepts such as "quantity" do

not belong to the technical vocabulary of specialists but rather are
part of ordinary language. And, as he points out, "to understand the
other kind of plaine language, we must observe how the wordes that
compose it are apprehended, used, and applied by mankind in gen-
erall. " 78
He illustrates this conception of common concepts with the
concept of being in a place. As he claims, this concept is "the same
in all men living". 79 "[A] ske any simple artisan; Where such a man,
such a howse ... is; ... he will tell you, the man you aske for, is in
such a church, sitting in such piew, andin such a comer of it; that
the howse you enquire after, is in such a streete, and next to such
two buildings on each side of it." 80 Digby takes these answers to
indicate that the concept of being in a place, for all human beings,
naturally is the concept of "a bodies being environed and enclosed
by some one, or severall others that are immediate unto it." 81 To put
it differently: according to Digby, a relational concept of place is the
natural concept common to all human beings. And, as he points out,
deviating in the construction of philosophical theories from the
original sense of concepts in which all mankind agrees is "the cause
of greate errors in discourse". 82
Because categorial concepts can be understood by means of an
analysis of the use of everyday language, they can, according to
Digby, function as criteria in the evaluation ofhypotheses in natural
philosophy. As I mentioned in section 5.2., Digby uses a particular
conception of quantity-the conception of quantity as divisibility-
to argue for the adequacy of the Aristotelian concepts of rarity and
density. 83 Conceming quantity, he writes that "if we ayme at right
understanding the true nature of it, we must examine, what appre-
hension all kindes ofpeople (that is mankind in generall) maketh of
134 Chapter 5

it." 84 As he qualifies, the aim of applying common notions is not to

make people without a scientific background judge physical princi-
ples conceming quantity, such as the principle ofthe conservation of
quantityo Rather, the aim is to make them judge "the naturall notion
which serveth leamed men for a basis and foundation to build scien-
tificall superstructures upono" 85 Digby formulates the assertion that
common notions function as a basis for scientific theories as a claim
about how scientific concepts acquire content. According to his
view, "[i]t is the indisciplined multitude that must fumish leamed
men with naturall apprehensions and notions to exercise theire wit-
tes about." 86 Because they confer content to theoretical concepts,
common notions also function as criteria for adequate theory forma-
tion-as Digby points out, they function as the "norm of discourse"
(norma loquendi)o 87 Digby applies this strategy from the very begin-
ning of the Two Treatises, when he opens the first chapter as fol-
lows: "In delivering any science; the cleerest and smoothest meth-
ode, and most agreeable to nature; is to begirr with the consideration
of those things that are most common and obviouso" 88 In particular,
he points out that when thinking about body, "the first thing which
occurreth to our sense in the perusal of it, is its Quantity, bulke, or
magnitude: and this seemeth by all mankind, to be conceived 0 0 0

inseparable from a bodyo" 89 Moreover, Digby ascribes an analogaus

methodological outlook to Lucretius, "who studying nature in a
familiar and rationaH manner telleth us" that except for bodies no
other things are capable of touching and being touchedo 90 Subse-
quently, Digby applies his normative conception of common notions
to the concept of quantity:

If then any one be asked; what Quantity there is in such a thing,

or how greate it is; he will presently in his understanding com-
pare it with some other thing, (equally known by both parties)
that may serve for a measure unto it; and the answere, that it is
as bigge as it, or twice as bigge, or not half so bigge, or the like
0 Which answere, every man living will at the instant, without
0 0

study, make to this question; and with it every man that shall
aske, will be fully appayed and satisfyed: so that it is most evi-
dent, it fully expresseth the notions of them both, and of all
mankind, in this particular. 91
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 135

Digby holds that the common notion of quantity is nothing but the
extension of a thing, "expressed by a determinate number of lesser
extensions of the same nature," such that "the whole by compre-
hending those partes, is a meere capacity to be divided into them." 92
He concludes that quantity is nothing but divisibility. 93 In this sense,
the conception of quantity as divisibility is meant as an explication
of our everyday concept of quantity. Moreover, Digby argues that
the distinction between substance and quantity is also present in our
"familiar discourse," when we, e.g., say that Socrates was bigger as
a man than as a boy, orthat boiling milk runs over the pot it is in. 94
Finally, Digby argues that quantity may be changed while sub-
stance remains unchanged. The cases of boiling milk or boiling wa-
ter provide him with striking examples of a change of quantity in an
unchanged substance. 95 Thus, in Digby's view, not only the concept
of quantity as divisibility belongs to the realm of common notions,
but also the distinction between substance and quantity as well as
the independent variability of substance and quantity. This concep-
tual framework leads Digby to the view that using the Aristotelian
concepts of rarity and density amounts to a good hypothesis. It is a
hypothesis that is compatible with what he regards as the common
conceptual equipment of rational beings. Rarity and density can be
used as starting points in an account of the nature of matter and the
generation of living beings because they are compatible with com-
mon notions-notions which every rational being should be able to
agree with.
In this way, using the concepts of rarity and density as starting
points in forming hypotheses about the material world and the gen-
eration of living beings is part of an epistemologically grounded
conciliatory approach to natural philosophy. At the same time, it is
part of an epistemologically grounded ecumenical program. For if
matter is characterised using the concepts ofrarity and density, there
are, as Digby argues at length in the first part of the Two Treatises,
physical explanations for the generation of inanimate and animate
bodies as well as for animal behavior. But, as he aims to show in the
second of the Two Treatises, there is no physical explanation for
many operations of rational souls. And, as he holds, if souls are im-
material, they are naturally immortal-a view to which, according to
136 Chapter 5

him, all rational beings sharing the same common notions are com-
pelled to concur.

5.6. Conclusion

In his account of animal generation, Digby uses the Aristotelian

conception of rarity and density to explain how, by means of the
agency of extemal causes on animal seeds, and subsequently by the
joint agency of extemal and intemal causes on the parts of an organ-
ic whole, the homogenaus matter of the seed gradually gets trans-
formed into a living being. According to his view, this transforma-
tion involves a large number of very small transformations. In the
first step, the proportion of rarity and density in the matter of the
seed accounts for the less homogenaus structure of a composite
substance produced by environmental factors. Moreover, each step
in the chain of gradual transformations is described as a new com-
posite substance rather than as an aggregate of particles. To be sure,
Digby claims that his account of composite substance is both Aristo-
telian and compatible with corpuscularian conceptions of minimal
particles. Nevertheless, his claims about substantial change in the
process of the generation of living beings indicate his adherence to
the view that, in genuine mixture, a new substantial unity is pro-
duced. As I suggested, Digby's attitude towards the tradition of cor-
puscularian alchemy should be seen from the perspective of the role
of minimal parts in early modern Aristotelian theories of mixture, as
exemplified in the work of Scaliger and Sennert. Having the role of
true composite entities in Digby's theory of animal generation in
mind makes it clear why his philosophy of nature cannot be reduced
to his corpuscularian views. Rather, it is part of a strategy that is
genuinely conciliatory.
Moreover, Digby does not choose Aristotelian concepts simply
on the grounds that he expects them to be acceptable to all parties in
the ongoing religious-political conflict between Catholics and mem-
bers of the Church of England. Rather, he bases his choice on a
theory of common notions as applied to categorial concepts such as
"quantity" and "substance." In this way, the very concepts upon
which Digby's theory of animal generation is built-the concepts of
rarity and density-are part of a hypothetical strategy, the adequacy
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 137

of which is demonstrated by means of its agreement with concepts

generally accepted by all rational users of everyday language. His
account of animal generation is meant to demonstrate the explanato-
ry power of the concepts of rarity and density with respect to the
phenomena of life. At the same time, it forms part of a strategy that
aims at limiting the range of phenomena that can be explained phys-
ically. Although Digby holds that complex phenomena such as the
generation of living beings and animal behavior can be explained by
means of the interaction and arrangement of particles of various
rarity and density, he thinks that this is not the case for the opera-
tions of rational souls. His account of animal generation fulfills a
dual function: first, to show that there is no need for postulating
occult vital forces for the explanation of the phenomena of life; and
second, to make clear that the interaction and arrangement of par-
ticles of various rarity and density does not go further than explain-
ing the phenomena of life. As he argues, embracing a conception of
matter that is in accordance with the common notions of quantity
and substance entails that the operations of the intellect can only be
explained by means of an immaterial, and hence naturally immortal
rational soul. And this is what he describes as the "main, and great
question" ofthe Two Treatises. 96

1 Dobbs, "Studies in the Natural Philosophy of Sir Kenelm Digby. Part I";

"Studies in the Natural Philosophy of Sir Kenelm Digby. Part II"; "Studies
in the Natural Philosophy ofSir Kenelm Digby. Part III".
2 To the best of my knowledge, the projected fourth part of Dobbs' "Stu-

dies," about Digby's biological work, has not appeared in print. On the
genre of books of secrets, see Eamon, Science and the Secreis of Nature:
Books ofSecrets in Medival and Early Modern Culture.
3 On Digby's missions to Rome, see Gabrieli, "La missione di Sir Kenelm

Digby alla corte di Innocenzo X (1645-1648)". For biographical informa-

tions, see Fulton, "Sir Kenelm Digby, F.R.S. (1603-1665)".
4 For Digby's contact with the Mersenne circle, see the index to Mersenne

1955-1977. On Digby's personal relations with Descartes, see Macdonald,

"Descartes: The Lost Episodes", pp. 455-456.
138 Chapter 5

5 On the exchange of alchemical ideas and substances during Digby's Paris

years, see Dobbs 1973, pp. 150-151.

6 See TT, p. 343.
7 See Lthy, "An Aristotelian Watchdog as Avant-Garde Physicist"; Mi-

chael, "Daniel Sennert on Matter and Form"; Newman, "Experimental

Corpuscular Theory in Aristotelian Alchemy"; Mercer, Leibniz 's Meta-
physics; Blank, Leibniz: Metaphilosophy and Metaphysics, 1666-1686, eh.
8 On the ecumenical program of the Blackloists, see Henry, "Atomism and

Eschatology", pp. 215-223. Henry acknowledges his debt to two unpub-

lished dissertations: Bradley, "Blacklo: An Essay in Counter-Reform" and
Lewis 1976. On Thomas White's ecumenical program, see Southgate,
Covetous of Truth. On Digby's response to the Religio Medici of Sir Tho-
mas Browne, see Samuel Glenn W ong, "Constructing a Critical Subject in
Religio Medici"; Ronald Huebert, "Sir Thomas Browne's Private Opin-
ions", pp. 118-121. On Digby's Cultural Context, see John Henry, "Sir
Kenelm Digby, Recusant Philosopher".
9 Moreover, Krook has pointed out that throughout the Two Treatises, Dig-

by invokes a variety of other Aristotelian themes, such as the principle of

identity and nominalism about general terms (see Krook, John Sergeant
and his Circle, eh. 3).
10 See Henry, "Atomism and Eschatology", pp. 223-227.

II TT, p. 342.
12 lbid. On Digby's account of the activity of living beings, see Cheung,

Res vivens, pp. 17-40.

13 See TT, pp. 341-342.
14 See TT, p. 342.
15 TT, p. 16.
16 TT, p. 17.
17 lbid.
18 TT, p. 22.
19 TT, p. 23; see Aristotle, Phys., 217a29-31.
20 TT, p. 203.
21 TT, p. 204.
22 See TT, pp. 213-214. For example, one of Digby's critics, Nathaniel

Highmore, held such a view. According to Highmore, the complete struc-

ture of the animal already is contained in the seed, and only has to be "un-
folded," in analogy to the "unfolding" of the leaf-like formation found in
seeds of plants (see Highmore, The History of Generation, especially eh.
3). On Highmore's theory of animal generation, see Clericuzio, Elements,
Principles and Corpuscles, pp. 88-89.
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 139

23 See TT, pp. 214-215.

24 TT, pp. 215-216.
25 TT, p. 217.
26 TT, p. 218.
27 Newman, "Corpuscular Alchemy and the Tradition of Aristotle's Meteo-

rology", pp. 305-306.

28 Newman, The Summa Perfectionis ofPseudo-Geber, pp. 321-323; 663-

29 Newman, "Corpuscular Alchemy and the Tradition of Aristotle's Meteo-

rology", pp. 294-299.

30 Aristotle, Degen. et corr., 328a10-b22.
31 Ibid.; see Meteorology, 381a4-12.
32 Aristotle, Degen. et corr. 315b7-10; 317al3-14.
33 TT, p. 343.
34 lbid.
35 See TT, p. 48.
36 See Newman, The Summa Perfectionis ofPseudo-Geber, p. 317.
37 TT, p. 222.
38 Ibid.
39 TT, p. 223.
40 Ibid.
41 See TT, p. 343.
42 Newman's revised translation; see Newman, "Corpuscular Alchemy and

the Tradition of Aristotle's Meteorology", p. 294.

43 Lasswitz, Geschichte der Atomistik vom Mittelalter bis Newton, vol. 1,

pp. 224-228. Similarly, Lasswitz understands Digby's philosophy of mat-

ter as a version of atomism (see Lasswitz, Geschichte der Atomistik vom
Mittelalter bis Newton, vol. 2, pp. 188-207). On atomism in English
thought before Charleton, see Kargon, Atomism in England from Hariot to
Newton; Clucas, '"The Infinite Variety ofFarmes and Magnitudes'".
44 Newman, The Summa Perfectionis ofPseudo-Geber, pp. 147-148.
45 Newman, "Experimental Corpuscular Theory in Aristotelian Alchemy",

pp. 150-152. On Sennert's corpuscularianism, see also Gregory, "Studi

sull'atomismo del seicento, II".
46 See Michael, "Daniel Sennerton Matterand Form", pp. 275-286; New-

man, "Corpuscular Alchemy and the Tradition of Aristotle's Meteo-

rology", pp. 317-319.
47 Newman, "Corpuscular Alchemy and the Tradition of Aristotle's Meteo-

rology", 320-321.
48 See above, chapter 1.
140 Chapter 5

49 CGA, po 3570 On Sennert's diverging earlier v1ews on mixture, see

Newman, Atomsand Alchemy, ppo 90-950

5 CGA, po 358: "antiquissimorum Philosophorum de mistione opinio, &

ipsius Democriti, qui ex Atomis res omnes componi, & generationem nihil
aliud, nisi auvKptmv & taKptmv, esse statuit"
51 Michael, "Sennert's Sea Change", ppo 348-350; seealso Newman, "Cor-

puscular Alchemy and the Tradition of Aristotle's Meteorology", ppo 321-

52 CGA, ppo 360-361; see Aristotle, Meteorology I, 346b21-220
53 CGA, ppo 361-3650
54 Ibido, ppo 361-362: "Neque enim corpuscula illa minima resoluta

semper pristinam formam amittunt (quod aliquis pro opinione Democriti,

dicentis; Atomos esse impassibiles, usurpare posset) sicut in operationibus
Chymicis videmus 000"
55 Ibido, ppo 359-360: "non negat mistionem, sed saltem hoc vult, vel non

penetrare se Elementa, vel in mistione non semper ad elementa & materiam

primam usque recurrendum esse"
56 Ibido, po 357: "Vero magis consentaneum existimo, in mistione miscibilia

in minimas partes redigi, atque ita sibi per minimas partes unita, per contra-
rias qualitates mutuo agere & pati: non tarnen formas suas plane amittere
(alias enim, & si formae plane abolerentur, non esset miscibilium alterato-
rum unio, sed miscibilium omnium corruptio) sed ex omnibus unam con-
flari, aut potius omnes mistas & in unum quasi redactas sub superioris
alicuius formae, a qua fiat unum specie, dominio manereo" At this place,
Sennert leaves it open whether forms remain in a modified, "refracted" way
(the view he takes in the 1618 edition ofthe Epitome naturalis scientiae) or
integrally (the view he takes in the 1633 edition of the Epitome and the
Hypomnemata physica of 1636)0 On this change in Sennert's view of the
nature of subordinate forms, see Michael, "Daniel Sennert on Matter and
Form", ppo 289-2900
57 TT, po 2220
58 See TT, ppo 204-2050
59 TT, po 2050
60 TT, po 2080
61 See TT, po 2190
62 TT, ppo 225-2260
63 Indeed, the central role of rarity and density in the explanation of natural

phenomena rendered Digby's philosophy ofnature sufficiently Aristotelian

for Thomas White's putting his more accessible exposition ofthe doctrines
of the Two Treatises und er the heading of a textbook in Peripatetic philos-
Digby's Theory of Animal Generation 141

ophy. See White, Institutiones peripateticae ad mentem ... Kenelmi Equitis

64 TT, p. 341.
65 lbid.
66 TT, p. 342.
67 Henry, "Atomism and Eschatology", p. 215, note 22; see TT, pp. 154-

68 Gassendi, Animadversiones, vol 1, p. 80. On Epicurus' theory of "prolep-

tical" notions and Gassendi's adaptation of this theory, see Detel, Scientia
rerum natura occultarum. Methodologische Studien zur Physik Pierre
Gassendis, pp. 33-38; 52-55; Glidden, "Hellenistic Background for Gas-
sendi's Theory of Ideas". On the Stoic theory of common notions, see
Sandbach, "Ennoia and Prolepsis in the Stoic Theory of Knowledge". On
the reception of the theory of common notions in the work of Digby's con-
temporary, W alter Charleton, see below, chapter 6.
69 Gassendi, Animadversiones, vol. 1, p. 90.
70 lbid., vol. 1, p. 71.

71 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 79. Gassendi refers the reader to Aristotle, An. post. 1, 1,

and to Cicero, De divin. 2.

72 On early modern theories of presumptions, see Andrea Alciato, Prae-

sumptionum tractatus; Jacopo Menocchio, De praesumptionibus, coniectu-

ris, signis et indiciis.
73 TT, pp. 4-5.
74 TT, p. 5.
75 TT, pp. 5-6.
76 On this strategy, see Mercer, 'The Vitality and Importance of Early

Modem Aristotelianism".
77 Ibid.
78 TT, p. 6.
79 lbid.

80 lbid.
81 lbid.
82 lbid.
83 See TT, p. 17.
84 TT, p. 8.
85 Ibid.
86 Ibid.
87 Ibid. Digby quotes (with a slight variation) a verse from Horace, De Arte

Poetica, 70: "usus, quem penes arbitrium est, et vis et norma loquendi."
On Leibniz's use of the same verse, see Mogens L~rke, "The Problem of
142 Chapter 5

88 TT, p. 1.
89 lbid.
90 lbid.
91 TT, p. 9.
92 lbid.
93 lbid.
94 TT, p. 25.
95 Ibid.
96 TT, p. 342.
Chapter 6

Atoms, Minds, and Walter Charleton's Theory of

Animal Generation

6.1. Introduction

The generation of animals, and especially the generation of human

beings, is a recurrent theme in the work of the British physician and
philosopher Walter Charleton (1619-1707). 1 Based an atomistic
analysis of generation and corruption in his Physiologia Epicuro-
Gassendo-Charletoniana (1654), he develops a mechanistic theory
of animal generation in the Natural History of Nutrition, Life, and
Voluntary Motion (1659). In later writings such as the Natural His-
tory of the Passions (1674), he expands the basic out1ines of his
views on animal generation into an atomistic account of emergent
properties of higher animals. In addition, in works such as the Dis-
sertatio Epistolica de Ortu Animae Humanae (1659) and The Im-
mortality of the Human Soul, Demonstrated by the Light of Nature
(1659), he attempts to reconcile an atomistic view of the generation
of the human organism with the Christian doctrine of an immortal
human soul.
In recent years, two interpretations of the methodology behind
Charleton's theory of animal generation have been influential. The
first interpretation, put forth by Margaret Osler, ascribes to Charle-
ton an empirieist methodology that, according to her view, is due to
theological views that emphasize the role of God's will rather than
the role of God's intellect. 2 According to Osler, Charleton's volun-
tarist theology leads to an empirieist theory of knowledge. For ex-
ample, she ascribes to him the view that some of the primary quali-
ties of atoms can be known only by empirical methods. Therefore,
she thinks that according to Charleton primary qualities of atoms
can be known at best with a good degree of probability. In fact, such
an interpretation seems to be supported by the following passage
from the Physiologia:
144 Chapter 6

Of the existence of Ba dies in the W orld, no man can doubt, but

He who dares indubitate the testimony of that first and grand
Criterion, SENSE, in regard that all Natural Concretions fall
under the perception of some of the Senses: and to stagger the
Certitude of Sense, is to cause an Earthquake of the Mind, and
upon consequences to subvert the Fundamentals of all Physical
Science. Nor is Physiology, indeed, more then the larger Des-
cant of Reason upon the short Text of Sense: or all our Meta-
physical speculation (those only excluded, which concem the
Existence and Attributes of the Supreme Being, the Rational
Soul of man, and Spirits: the Cognition of the two former being
desumed impressions implantate, or coessential to our mind;
and the beliefs of the last being founded upon Revelation su-
pematural) other then Commentaries upon the Hints given by
some one of our Extemal senses. 3

By contrast, the second interpretation reads Charleton's philosophy

of nature as an example of early modern eclecticism. Michael Al-
brecht and Eric Lewis characterize this form of eclecticism as the
attempt to select what is true in the work of ancient philosophers
such as Empedocles, Platon, Aristoteles, Anaxagoras, and Democri-
tus, and to combine this with what is true in modern mechanical
philosophy. 4 In fact, when writing about the philosophical "sect" he
calls the "Electing," Charleton in the Physiologia confesses "[h]ere
to declare ourselves of this Order." 5 Interestingly, Charleton claims
also Femel and Sennert as fellow members of this "sect"/ thus
aligning hirnself with the conciliatory approach to the metaphysics
of nature that I investigated in the previous chapters. However, as
Albrecht points out, applying the notion of eclecticism to the Physi-
ologia is problematic because this work is an expanded and re-
worked translation of passages from Pierre Gassendi's Animadver-
siones in Decimum Librum Diagenes Laertii. As Albrecht argues,
Charleton in the Physiologia does not select elements from various
sources but rather adopts Gassendi's atomism as a whole. 7
Although these interpretations shed light on interesting features
of Charleton's thought, they do not adequately represent the extent
to which Charleton's views on animal generation are rooted in a
kind of methodological pluralism, which goes beyond empiricism
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 145

and eclecticism. Already the Physiologia applies a range of argu-

mentative strategies that, in Charleton's own view, do not have the
status of proofs but rather are designed to show the "verisimility" 8 of
the doctrines he defends. Thus, it is important to emphasize that
these argumentative strategies do not amount to an aprioristic, axi-
omatic-deductive methodology. Nevertheless, he applies a variety of
argumentative techniques that purport to provide rational grounds to
prefer a version of an atomistic doctrine of animal generation to
various alternative accounts. At various places, Charleton uses the
Epicurean-Stoic theory of "common notions" for this purpose. 9 In
the Physiologia, he modifies Gassendi's views on the nature of
common notions by interpreting these notions as something ex-
pressed in our everyday language. In Charleton's later writings,
analogical arguments play a role in the explication of animal genera-
tion by means of its analogy with nutrition, thus filling in the con-
ceptual framework provided by common notions. In particular, he
uses this analogy to capture the role of vital heat and "vital spi-
rits"-subtle parts ofmatter-in the process of embryo formation.
Moreover, as the passage from the Physiologia just cited indi-
cates, Charleton already at this early stage makes two important
restrictions to an empirieist program: according to his view, there
are cognitive contents that can be known only by revelation, and,
more significantly for the present context, there are cognitive con-
tents that are in some sense innate. One of the aims of the present
chapter is to spell out in which sense, according to Charleton, there
is a realm of innate ideas, and how this bears on his views on the
origin of minds. In the lmmortality of the Human Soul, he denies
that common notions are all caused by sense perception and claims
that some of them are known by mean of reflection of the mind on
its own operations. Contrary to Gassendi, he holds the view that
through reflection these notions are not formed but rather made ex-
plicit. In this sense, he regards innate common notions as implicit
knowledge always structuring our thought about the mind. Interes-
tingly, throughout his work Charleton does not regard common no-
tions as something that could be justified. Rather, like Gassendi he
interprets them as criteria for judging the truth of given propositions.
Whereas in the Physiologia common notions still are seen as some-
thing caused by sense perception, and therefore as something revis-
146 Chapter 6

able, in later writings common notions based on reflective know-

ledge are seen as something having certainty. Nevertheless, they are
not introduced as an aprioristic starting point of deductive argu-
ments; rather the process of transforming implicit knowledge of
innate common notions into explicit knowledge is characterized as a
process of analysis starting with a description of aspects of mental

6.2. The Metaphysics of Generation and Corruption

Not only Charleton's version of atomism but also some of his most
interesting methodological ideas are rooted in the philosophy of
Gassendi. Thus, describing in which sense Charleton's methodology
involves more than an early version of empiricism cannot be sepa-
rated from the question in which sense Gassendi's methodology
goes beyond empiricism. Much of what Charleton in the Physiolo-
gia says about the role of common notions in assessing the rational
acceptability of various theories of animal generation can be seen as
a modification of Gassendi' s view of the nature of common notions.
As in Gassendi, the connection between experience and common
notions is not one of justification, and as in Gassendi, common no-
tions are used as instruments of judgment. The modification Charle-
ton introduces is twofold: First, he shifts the emphasis from the role
of common notions as criteria of truth to their role as criteria of what
he calls "verisimility". This concept clearly differs from an empirie-
ist conception of inductive support and rather has to do with assess-
ing the degree of rational acceptability as an indicator of closeness
to truth. Second, he interprets common notions as something that is
expressed in, and therefore accessible through the analysis of every-
day language. Thus, the conception of, e.g. generation and corrup-
tion implicitly contained in our everyday language is seen as a crite-
rion for judging the closeness to the truth of different metaphysical
accounts of generation and corruption.
One of the applications of common notions can be found in
Charleton's discussion of the question in the framework of which
metaphysical theory of mixing parts the generation of complex ob-
jects (including animals) can bebest understood. He formulates the
following alternatives:
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 147

[T]here are Two different kinds of Commistion, whereof the

one is, by Aristotle (de Generato 1 capo 10) termed LUV8ccns,
Composition, and by others, napa8ccns, Apposition: the other
is called, in the Dialect of the Stoicks, Luyxucns Confusion,
and in that of Galen, npacns, Coalition, or Temperationo The
Former is when those things, whether Elements, or others, that
are mixed together, do not interchangeably penetrate each oth-
ers parts, so as to be conjoined by means of minima; but either
themselves in the whole, or their parts, onely tauch each other
superficially The Latter, when the things commixed, are so
0 0 0

seemingly united, and concorporated, as that they may be con-

ceived mutually and totally to pervade and penetrate each other,
by means ofminimal parts, so asthat there is no one insensible
particle of the whole mixture, which hath not a share of every
mgre do1ent


Subsequently, he begins arguing for the adequacy of the first view

of the nature of mixing parts and agairrst the adequacy of the second
view by using an ordinary language argument:

If we look no further than the Common Nation, or what every

man understand by the Terme, Mistion; it is most evident, that
the things commixed ought to Remain in the Mistum; for if they
do not remain, but Perish, both according to substance and
Qualities, as Aristotle and the Stoicks hold, then is it no Mistion
but a Destruction: and since the propriety ofthis Notion cannot
be solved by any other reason, butthat of the Atomists, that the
particles of things are in commistion onely apposed each to oth-
er, without amission of their proper natures; what Consequence
can be more naturall and clear than this, than that their opinion
is most worthy our Assent and Assertion? 11

This line of argument is developed further in the direction that not

only a single common notion should be used as a criterion of judg-
ing the adequacy of a theory of mixing but a whole net of common
notions involving not only the relation between the parts and a com-
posite entity but also the structure of space and extensiono This be-
148 Chapter 6

comes clear in his discussion of an attempt he ascribes to Chrysip-

pus to save the common notion by claiming that the particles of
things mixed keep their substance and qualities but penetrate each
other. Charleton objects: "[F]rom that his Position it necessary fol-
lows. (1) That two Bodies are at once in one and the same place,
both mutually penetrating each others dimensions, or without reci-
procall expulsion (2) That a pint ofWater, and a pint ofWine com-
mixed, must not fill a quart ... (3) That a very small Body may be
Coextensive, or Coequate to a very great one ... " 12 Thus, in Charle-
ton's view Chrysippus' attempt to save the common notion ofmix-
ture violates other common notions concerning the location and
extension of bodies. A similar strategy that uses a sorites argument
to bring out everyday intuitions as a rational criterion for the ade-
quacy of theoretical claims is expressed in a passage directly derived
from Gassendi's Animadversiones:

Nor, indeed, hath Aristotle Hirnself been more happy than

Chrysippus, in his invention of a way, to remove or palliate the
gross repugnancy of his opinion, to the proper importance of the
term, Commistion, as may easily be evinced by a short adduc-
tion of it to the test of reason. . .. [W]e should only demand of
him, if after the instillation of one single drop of Wine into
10000 Gallons ofWater, a second drop should be superinfused,
and after that a third, a fourth, and so more and more succes-
sively, till the mass of W ater were augmented to ten, a hundred,
thousandfold: of what Nature would the whole mixture of Wine
and Water be? 13

Charleton goes on again to invoke common notions. He argues that

if Aristotle had in mind that the resulting middle thing arises from
the destruction of both ingredients, the original parts would not re-
main, which, in Charleton's view, contradicts both Aristotle's own
assumptions and our common notion. Alternatively, if Aristotle had
in mind that the resulting middle thing participates in the properties
of the ingredients, then the question Charleton (using the unusual
term "mistile" for an ingredient of a mixture) poses is: "How, and in
what respect, that Middle and Common thing comes to be partici-
pant of the Extremes of each Mistile?" 14 Following Gassendi, he
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 149

claims that all answers that are possible from an Aristotelian view-
point are contrary to common notions. In case the middle thing par-
ticipates in the matter of the ingredients, Aristotle must admit that
the whole matter of the parts is cantairred in the composite entity;
and if, as the common notion demands, these portians of matter
occupy different places in space, the parts can tauch each other only
at their surfaces. In case the middle thing participates in the forms of
the ingredients, as Charleton believes, Aristotle would have to admit
that the forms of the parts survive in the composite entities, because
otherwise, contrary to the common notion, it would be a case of
corruption ofthe ingredients. Finally, in Charleton's view something
similar holds for the qualities of the ingredients: "neither ought Aris-
totle to deny the permanence of them: for, since in them consiteth
the chief Capacity or Power of recovering the last Forms: if they
perish, how can they be inservient to the recovery ofthe Forms?" 15
Thus, the view that a theory of the generation of composite
entities in terms of composition of minimal parts that tauch each
other superficially but do not change their intrinsic qualities is seen
as rationally preferable to the view Charleton ascribes to Aristotle
and Galen. That the ingredients of composite entities have these
structural properties and not those associated with the theory of the
confusion of minimal parts is not presented as something capable of
inductive support. At the same time, these concepts and intuitions
also are not characterized as something providing support for logi-
cally conclusive arguments. Rather, thinking of composite entities in
terms of a composition of unchangeable natural minima is described
as something implied in our everyday concepts and intuitions used
as rational criteria of judging the "verisimility" of theories. Charle-
ton does not claim that an atomistic theory of the composition of
minimal parts is the only possible account of generation and corrup-
tion that is able to meet these criteria. Nevertheless, his use of com-
mon notions shows that an atomistic metaphysics of generation and
corruption is compatible with the demands ofreason, whereas exist-
ing alternative accounts are not.
150 Chapter 6

6.3. Vital Heat, Vital Spirits, and Animal Generation

To fill out the framework of generation as combination of minimal

parts, Charleton in the Natural History of Nutrition, Life, and Volun-
tary Motion makes use of an analysis of the process of nutrition in
order to arrive at a description of some more specific aspects of the
process of animal generation by means of analogical reasoning. That
an informative analogy between animal generation and nutrition
holds is made plausible by the following argument:

To forme, and nourish, are not only acts of one and the same
soul; but so alike, that it is no easie matter to distinguish betwixt
them. For, Generation and Accretion arenot performed without
Nutrition; nor Nutrition, or Augmentation, without Generation.
To nourish, is to substitute such and so much of matter, as was
decay'd in the parts ... In like manner, Accretion is not effected
without Generation; for all natural bodies, upon the accession of
new parts are augmented, and those new partsaresuch ofwhich
these bodies were first composed: and this is done, according to
all the dimensions; so that, to speak properly, the parts of an
Animal are encreased, distinguished, and organized all at
once. 16

In particular, the analogy between generation and nutrition adds to

the general metaphysical theory of generation two features characte-
ristic of animal generation. The first one concerns the idea of the
homogeneity of parts entering into an organic body during the
process of generation with those already being components of the

Nature doth nourish and amplify all parts of an Animal with the
same matter, or humour (not with a diverse) out of which she
constituted or framed them at the first. Because, whatsoever is
superadded to the parts, during their growth, ought to be of the
same substance, with what was praeexistent, and so must con-
sist of matter of the same genus: their Renovation as well as
first Corporation being effected by Epigenesis, Aggeneration, or
superstruction. So that we may well conclude, that Nutrition is
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 151

nothing else but continual Generation: and as necessary to the

Conservation of every individual nature, as Generation itself is
to the conservation ofthe Universe. 17

The second feature of animal generation illuminated by means of the

analogy with nutrition is the role and nature of vital heat. In Charle-
ton's view, the vital heat at work bothin nutrition and animal gener-
ation can be compared to a flame constantly requiring some fuel:

That since the chief principle of life in every Animal, is a cer-

tain indigenary Heat (analogaus to pure flame, such as the most
rectified Spirit ofWine yields, upon accension) which by conti-
nuall motion and activity agitates the minute and exsoluble par-
ticles of the body, doth dissolve, and consume, or disperse
them; of necessity, the whole Fabrick would soon be destroy' d,
unlesse there were a continuall renovation or reparation of those
decayes, by a substitution and assimilation of equivalent par-
ticles, in the room of those dispersed and absumed. 18

This naturalistic conception of vital heat explicitly is seen as an al-

ternative to Aristotelian accounts of vital heat involving a kind of
celestial influence on the sublunary world: "[A]ll Fire whatever (that
Elementary Fire, which the Aristotelians conceive to be so pure, as
to need no pabulum or aliment, being a meer Chimera) doth con-
serve it selfe onely by the destruction of the matter, in which it is
generated, So that, indeed, we have one and the same Cause both of
our Life, and of our Death; or (to speak more properly) our Life is
nothing but a continuall Death, and we live because we dye." 19 In
fact, an Aristotelian such as William Harvey holds the view that the
conception of innate heat cannot be explicated without interpreting
innate heat as a "celestial substance." In this sense, Harvey characte-
rizes innate heat as the "instrument of God". 20 By contrast, Charle-
ton uses the framework of an atomistic ontology to formulate a tho-
roughly naturalistic theory of innate heat. Nevertheless, this natura-
listic conception is not the outcome of an inductive methodology.
Rather, the mode of the operation of innate heat is characterized by
means ofan analysis ofthe concept offire:
152 Chapter 6

Flame (as reason defineth it) is a substance luminous and heat-

ing, consisting in a perpetuall Fieri, i.e., an indesinent accen-
sion of the particles of its pabulum, or combustible matter, and
perishing as fast as it is generated: so that fire is made fire, and
again ceaseth to be fire, in every, the shortest moment of time
. . . Continual Dispersion, therefore, being the proper effect of
Fire; the matter or fewell, whereon it subsisteth, cannot but be
in perpetuall flux or decay. In like manner ... the Lamp of life
consisting in a continuall accension of vital spirits in the blood,
as that passeth through the heart; those vital spirits, transmitted
by the arteries to the habit of the body, no sooner arrive there,
but as they warme and vivifie the parts, so do they immediately
fly away, and are dispersed into the air ... 21

The Stoic theory of common notions again comes into play, this
time in the form of invoking a "common axiom", when Charleton
considers the causes of the renovation of parts in nutrition:

The Material, or Constitutive principle, we take to be a certain

sweet, mild and balsamical Liquor, analogous to the white of an
egge, out ofwhich the chicken is formed. For since all Animals
are nourished with the same, out of which they were at first fa-
bricated, according to that common Axiom, we nourish our-
selves of the same stuff we consist of; ... and since they have
their origine out of the Colliquamentum: we may well conclude,
that the Nutritive Juice is in all qualities correspondent to the
Colliquamentum of the white of an Egge. 22

He distinguishes three stages in the process of nutrition. 23 At the

first stage, which he calls "apposition", parts of the nourishment are
brought into contiguity with parts of the body. At the second stage,
"agglutination", parts of the nourishment enter into a continuum
with parts of the body. Given his general views about the nature of
generation as the combination of minimal parts touching each other
on their surfaces without internal change, such a process can take
place only the level of complex constituents of food and the organ-
ism. At the third stage, "assimilation" or "transmutation", parts of
the nourishment are "made of the same substance with" parts of the
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 153

bodyo Again, given the general account of generation and corrup-

tion, as well as the more specific view that food and the organism
are built of parts of the same kind, the process Charleton may have
had in mind here seems not to have been so much a change of the
irrtemal nature of the constituents of food but rather their acquiring a
causal role within the organismo
In subsequent chapters of the Natural History of Nutrition, Life,
and Voluntary Motion, he uses the analogy between animal genera-
tion and nutrition as the general framework of a physiological ac-
count of embryo formationo To develop this account, Charleton dis-
cusses whether there are "milky veins" (venae lacteae) connecting
the stomach, the uterus, and the breasts, transporting nutritive juice
or a substance analogaus to it. As he points out, no anatomist ever
has been able to discover these passageso Nevertheless, he thinks
that the view that they exist is "highly probableo" 24 In a first step, he
argues for the claim that milk and the nutritive juice are "one and
the same thing"o In his view, this is apparent from the fact that milk
and nutritive juice agree in "all their qualities" and, moreover, that
they are convertible into each other. Among the qualitative resem-
blances, he lists the following: "(1) They both have a fatty sub-
stance: otherwise neither could be fit either to sustain the Lamp of
life, or to instaurate the parts; nor can the bloud contain any such
fatty substance in it, but what is derived from the Chyleo (2) As Milk
doth consist of two parts, the serum and crassamentum; so likewise
doth Chyle 0 (3) As Milk, if kept over-long, especially in a warm
0 0

place, or corrupted by any Acid juice, doth turn sowr; so also doth
the Chyleo"25 Moreover, he thinks that nursing a child proves that, in
the nurse, the nutritive juice is converted into milk and that, in the
starnach of the infant, the milk agairr is converted into nutritive
juiceo As he claims, considering these resemblances we can con-
clude that "they have much more of reason on their side, who con-
ceive Milke to be nothing but meer Chyle brought from the starnach
to the Paps, by peculiar passages; and therein promoted to somewhat
more ofperfection: than they, who think it tobe made ofbloud whi-
tened in the glandules of the papso"26
In a second step, he argues for the "verisimilitude" of the claim
that the nutritive juice plays a role in the formation of the embryoo
To substantiate this claim, he invokes the authority of Hippocrates
154 Chapter 6

as well as the observations of Harvey. As he points out, according to

Hippocrates, "[t]he foetus attracts what is most sweet in the blood,
and at the same time benefits from a small portion of milk. Where
He hinteth the true cause, why it is unwholesome and dangeraus for
Irrfants to suck women with child, viz. because the best of the milk is
attracted by the Foetus, in the womb, and the worst is carried to the
paps."27 Moreover, he quotes Harvey's description of cavities (cory-
ledones or acetabula) found in the bellies of pregnant animals: "into
each of them penetrate deeply the most fine branches of the vessels
of the umbilical cord: for in them the ailment of the foetus is con-
tained, viz. not a bloody but a mucous one, of a very similar texture
as the white substance in fat people. From which it is also manifest
that the foetus of split-footed animals (as also all others) is not nou-
rished by the mother's blood." 28 To this, Charleton suggests to add
"the consideration of that great Sympathy or consent betwixt the
womb and paps, so frequently observed in women":

Which Consent cannot be caused by nerves, nor by veins, nor

by arteries, nor by similitude of substance ... ; and therefore
most probably, by mediation of these presupposed Chyliferous
vessels tending from the paps to the womb. (1) Not by Nerves;
because the paps derive their nerves from the fourth intercostal
pair, or the fifth pair of the thorax: and the womb is supplied
with sense from the nerves of the os sacrum, and also from the
sixth conjugation of the brain. (2) Not by veins or arteries; be-
cause they are, both, destitute of sense ... (3) Not by Similitude
of Substance; because the paps consist mostly of Glandules, and
the body ofthe womb is membraneous." 29

Thus, in the two argumentative steps just considered empirical ob-

servations are not used for giving a certain physiological claim in-
ductive support. In this sense, the "verisimilitude" Charleton has in
mind here is not one of a degree of inductive justification. Rather,
observations are used to exclude alternative physiological views
according to which both the production of milk and the formation of
an embryo are due to the causal role ofblood.
The view that animal generation can be understood through its
analogy with nutrition also stands behind Charleton' s account of the
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 155

formation of blood. As is in the case of the integration of material

parts into the organism of an existing animal, he claims that blood is
formed by the activity of vital spirits. Referring the reader to Har-
vey's description of the early stages of the development of the
chicken in the egg, he remarks about the transformation of the white
of the egg into blood:

Certain it is, this cannot be effected by any thing that was red
before; because there is no part of the Egge of, or inclining to,
that colour; and the yelk remains intire a good while after there
is bloud tobe seen in the punctum saliens. Nor is it the Fleshy
parts, that communicate this vermillion tincture to the bloud,
because they remain white after the bloud is made out of the
Colliquamentum: and it is much more reasonable, that the
fleshy parts derive their rednesse wholly from the bloud, perpe-
tually irrigating and washing them in its Circulation.... Again,
nothing can have an activity, before it hath a being: and conse-
quently the solid parts cannot give a rednesse to the bloud, be-
cause they are not in being, till after the bloud. Nothing, there-
fore, remains to be the Efficient of the Bloud, but the Vital Spi-
rit, kindled originally in the purest part of the seminal matter, or
Colliquamentum which we may well denominate the Vital Liq-
uor. 30

According to Charleton, this shows that the production of blood in

the process of embryo formation is not the work of already formed
organs. Rather, the production of blood, as the other stages in the
formation of an embryo, is characterized as the activity of vital heat
and vital sprits, which in a purely combinatorial way connect homo-
geneous parts into an organic whole. In this sense, Charleton charac-
terizes the formation of blood as a process of "simple Assimilation"
and consequently the activity of vital spirits as an "Action similar,
not organical." 31 And, in his view, this is the type of action that
takes place both in nutrition and animal generation.
156 Chapter 6

6.40 Emergent Properties and the Problem ofthe Origin ofMinds

His account of the role of vital heat and vital spirits in animal gener-
ation leads Charleton to a purely materialistic view of sensitive
souls, including the sensitive part of human soulso In the Natural
History of the Passions, he characterizes the sensitive soul as "Cor-
poreal, and consequently Divisible, Coextense to the whole Body; of
Substance either Fiery, or merely resembling Fire; of a consistence
most thin and subtile, not much unlike the flame of pure spirit of
Wirre, buming in a paper Lantem"o 32 For the co-extension of the
sensitive soul and the body, he there adduces an argument that
shows that he regards passions as a result of corporeal and divisible
vital spiritso

I am apt to suspect, that not only part of the Vipers Soul, but
Anger and Revenge also survived in the divided heado For, it is
well known, the bite of a Viper is never Venomous, but when
he is enraged: the Chrystalline liquor contained in the two little
Glandules at the roots of his fang teeth, being then by a copious
afflux of Spirits from the Brain, and other brisk motions thereu-
pon impress' d, in anger (of all passions the most violent and
impetuous) so altered, and exalted, as to become highly active
and venenate 00033

But he ascribes to sensitive souls not only passions but also a kind
of consciousnesso In this, he draws on aspects of the theory of ani-
mal cognition developed in Thomas Willis' De Anima Brutorum
(1672) (who in turn derives his atomistic analysis of the nature of
sensitive souls from Charleton's earlier physiological works)o 34 Al-
ready in the case of lower animals, Willis holds that the animal soul
has the capacity "to moderate its own faculties"o In his view, this
capacity explains why the whole animal displays properties that go
beyond the properties of his organic partso Interestingly, he labels
these properties as "emergent"o 35 Moreover, he characterizes the
capacities of higher animals as "the ability to modify and to com-
bine [action] types in their souls"o In particular, he ascribes to ani-
mal souls "the capacity to know about some necessary things & to
be activeo" 36 Nevertheless, he limits this capacity to actions deter-
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 157

mirred by instinct: "Because in all these actions one thing is always

performed without any variation and, what is more, in the same
manner; this indicates that ... it neither is initiated by extemal ob-
jects whose impulse is always varied & diverse, nor by an irrtemal
intention of the soul, which is mutable as the wind, but in fact by a
more certain & fixed principle, which is always determined towards
the same, which can only be natural instinct."37 Explicitly referring
the reader to Willis' work, Charleton tries to understand animal con-
sciousness in the framework of a theory of composite action:

W e are therefore to search for this Power of a Sensitive Soul, by

which she is conscious of her own perception, only in Matter in
a peculiar manner so, or so disposed or modified. But in what
matter? this of the Soul, or that of the Body? Truly, if you shall
distinctly examine either the Soul or the Body of a Brute, as not
conjoyned and united into one Compositum; you will have a
hard task of it, to find in either of them, or indeed in any other
material subject whatever, any thing to which you may reasona-
bly attribute such an Energetic and self-moving Power. But if
you consider the whole Brute, as a Body animated ... then you
may safely conclude, that a Brute is ... so comparated, as that
from Soul and body united, such a confluence of Faculties
should result, as are necessary to the ends and uses for which it
was made. 38

Thus, animal consciousness as the capacity to perform composite

actions and thus to modify action types is analyzed in terms of
emergent properties that are due to the compositional structure of
the organic body of an animal.
N evertheless, in spite of the explanatory resources of an atomis-
tic theory of sensitive souls, Charleton felt that there is something to
human souls that cannot adequately be captured in terms of the
causal role of vital heat and vital spirits. Recall that in the passage
from the Physiologia conceming the role of sense perception in
theory formation cited at the beginning of this chapter, he claims
that knowledge conceming God and the human soul is based on
innate ideas. 39 Moreover, in The lmmortality ofthe Human Soul one
of the interlocutors in an imaginary dialogue, Lucretius, articulates
158 Chapter 6

Charleton's own theological concerns about the immortality of the

soul: "You may remember, Sir: I told you in the beginning, that
though I am an Epicurean, in many things concerning Bodies; yet,
as a Christian, I detest and utterly renounce the doctrine ofthat Sect,
concerning Mens Souls ... " 40 Although Charleton holds on to an
atomistic account of the nature and operation of the sensitive soul
(including the sensitive part of the human soul), he works out argu-
ments for the existence of an immaterial rational soul. Again, he
bases his views about the nature of the rational soul on the doctrine
of common notions, thus connecting some non-empirieist aspects of
his epistemology with his theological concerns:

I presume it will not be accounted paradoxical in me to affirm,

that Immaterial Objects aremostgenuine and natural to the Un-
derstanding; especially since Des Cartes hath irrefutably dem-
onstrated, that the Knowledge we have of the existence of the
Supreme Being, and of our own Souls, is not only Proleptical
and Innate in the Mind of man, but also more certain, clear, and
distinct. 41

Here, Charleton adopts aspects of a Cartesian epistemology to de-

fend the idea of a second kind of common notions, a kind that is not
even causally dependent on sense perception. He uses this kind of
innate common notions to defend the immaterial and, therefore,
immortal nature of the intellectual part of human souls. As some of
Gassendi's arguments for a similar view in a much shorter passage
from the Animadversiones,42 some of Charleton's arguments draw
on an analysis of the structure of reflection. However, he goes
beyond Gassendi's interpretation ofreflective knowledge by defend-
ing an innateness thesis:

[T]he Common Notions, that are as it were engraven on our

Minds, and that are not derived originally from the Observa-
tions of things by our selves, or the Tradition of them by others,
do undeniably attest the contrary. Nor can any thing be more
absurd, than to say, that all those Proleptical and Common No-
tions, which we have in our Mind, do arise only from impres-
sions made upon the Organs of our Senses, by the incurse of
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 159

Extemal Objects, and that they cannot consist without them: In-
somuch as all sensible Impressions are singular, but those No-
tions Universal, having no affinity with, no relation unto Corpo-
real motions or impressionso And 0 what kind of Corporeal
0 0

impression that may be, which formes this one Common Notion
in our Mind, Things that are the same with a third thing, are the
same among themselveso 43

Subsequently, the relation of extemal objects to innate ideas is de-

scribed as one of an occasional causeo Although innate ideas are not
derived from extemal objects, we would not think about them with-
out our interaction with extemal objects: "Not that those Objects
have immited those very Idea's into our Mind, by the Organs ofthe
Senses; but because they have immited somewhat, which hath given
occasion to the mind to form such Idea's, by its own Innate and
proper Faculty, at this time rather than at any other." 44 He explicates
his views about innateness further:

[N]othing comes to the Mind, from Extemal Objects, by the

mediation of the Senses, besides certain Corporeal Impressions;
and yet neither those Impressions, nor the Figures resulting
from them, are such as we conceive in the Mind; as Des Cartes
hath amply proved in his Diopticks: Whence it follows, that the
Idea's of Motions and Figures are innate to the mind; that is,
that the mind hath an essential power to form them: for, when I
say that such an Idea is in the Mind, I irrtend that it is not al-
waies actually there, but Potentially 45 0 0 0

In his view, self-referential mental activity serves as a criterion for

distinguishing innate common concepts from other conceptso Whe-
reas in imagination, the mind is directed towards an image of a par-
ticular thing, in pure intellection, where no image is involved in the
cognitive process, the mind "converteth it self upon it Self'o 46 He
claims that the fact that there are acts of reflection "needs no other
testimony but that of a mans own Experience; it being impossible
for any person living not to know, that he knows what he knows
47 And, as he argues, the intellectual part of human souls must be
0 0 "

immaterial because, whereas no material object can move itself, and

160 Chapter 6

all apparent self-motion of composite objects results from the causal

interaction between their constituent parts, minds genuinely can act
upon themselves. 48 In this way, the analysis of the origin of innate
common notions leads Charleton to a dualistic ontology of human
beings, including a dualistic ontology ofthe human soul.
Naturally, this dualistic conception poses serious difficulties for
Charleton's views about the generation of human beings. Whereas
he thinks about the generation of the human organism in term close-
ly similar to the generation of other higher animals, he would like to
allow for a diverging view as to the origin of the intellectual part of
human souls. What he proposes, however, is not a specific theory
about the origin of minds. Rather, in the Dissertatio Epistolica he
restricts hirnself to criticizing existing theories, thus leaving open
the possibility of divine concurrence in the generation of human
souls. Interestingly, he not only rejects the theory of transference of
souls from parents to their seeds defended by medical authors but
also the Scholastic theory of divine inanimatio. To refute the Scho-
lastic view that the soul is implanted by divine agency into the emb-
ryo at some point of its development, Charleton refers to Harvey's
observations of the early stages of embryo formation in eggs. What
is relevant in his eyes is the fact that Harvey showed that vital func-
tions such as the production of a "nutritive juice" and of blood are
present before a visible organic body is formed. From this he con-

What relates to the FIRST [the theory of divine inanimatio]; we

say that from the most reliable observations of this great inter-
preter of nature, Harvey, ... it is clear that the soul is present to
the foetus from the very beginning of its conception, before any
part of the body is formed, in fact even before the system of the
embryo develops a plastic force of nature: therefore it is disso-
nant to imagine, that the soul is implanted by divine power into
analready formed body. 49

Similarly, the theory of transference is contrasted with Harvey's

famous but misleading observation that in the uterus there cannot be
found anything more after the coitus than before. 50 However, Char-
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 161

leton adds a more convincing discussion of the version of the trans-

ference theory of the origin of souls defended by Daniel Sennert:

Sennert assumes that the soul is the principal efficient

cause of the foetus ... and among others he proposes the follow-
ing axiom; Whatever work or effect produces an effect that is
more noble than itself, or an effect that is dissimilar to it, is not
a principal ejjicient cause but only an instrumental one. 51 But
given that this is true, who would not see that the seed of ani-
mals is not the primary efficient cause in the work of genera-
tion, but only an instrumental cause? Because it is easy to see
that the foetus is an effect that is much nobler than the seed, and
it is plainly dissimilar to it: therefore, the soul cannot be the
offspring of the [male] parent, and it cannot be transmitted to-
gether with the seed into the uterus of the female parent.
That the foetus is an effect that is more perfect than the
seed, is obvious from the fact that art, intellect, judgment, and
highest providence are apparent from its fabric; but the seed is
not of a kind that art, intellect, &c. can rightly be attributed to

Charleton concludes that due to the shortcomings of the transference

theory of the origin of the soul "one has to have recourse to a prior,
higher, and more perfect efficient cause." 53 However, he does not try
to specify further the nature of this prior efficient cause. As he
points out, the requirement of an efficient cause in addition to the
seed is compatible with various theories of secondary causation
discussed in the 161h and 1ih centuries, be it in the framework of
Aristotelian theories ofthe ether, Neo-Stoic hypotheses about an all-
pervading Pneuma, A verroistic conjectures about an universal active
intellect, Neo-platonic accounts of emanative causation, or Christian
ideas about divine concurrent causation. 54 Thus, he obviously, and
intentionally, leaves ends loose at this point. Nevertheless, his ar-
guments irrtend to show that not only observation but also rational
principles concerning the concepts of instrumental and primary
cause require the existence of causal factors external to those inhe-
rent in the seed. And, in his view, this makes a non-naturalistic ac-
162 Chapter 6

count of the origin of minds compatible with an atomistic account of

the generation of animals.

6.5. Conclusion

The interpretive strategy pursued in this chapter has been to disen-

tangle issues conceming the methodological basis of Charleton's
theory of animal generation from issues connected with his volun-
tarist theology. What speaks in favor of such an interpretive ap-
proach isthat it makes visible elements of Charleton's methodology
that are significant but otherwise tend to get weighed down by his
empirieist leanings. Even if there is a voluntarist theology in Charle-
ton's early writing, and even if basic insights of British empiricism
can be found throughout the development of his work on animal
generation, his methodology cannot simply be reduced to an early
version of empiricism. Rather, in his views on animal generation
and the origin of minds a kind of methodological pluralism is at
work, some aspects of which the present chapter tried to describe.
Already in the Physiologia, the interpretation of common notions as
concepts contained in our everyday way of thinking about the world
goes beyond empiricism. As in the philosophy of Gassendi, these
concepts are not seen as something that is justified by experience
but rather as something that first is caused by the world of expe-
rience and afterwards-independently from the initial causal con-
nection-used as a criterion of judging the truth and falseness of
propositions. Although some common notions can be said to "come
from" the senses, their use as criteria of truth belongs to the realm of
reason. Charleton applies this insight to everyday concepts of gener-
ation and corruption, using them as criteria of judging the "verisi-
mility" of certain philosophical accounts of animal generation.
Another non-empirieist mode of reasoning can be found in Charle-
ton's use of analogies. In this perspective, Charleton exploits the
similarities between nutrition and animal generation to fill out the
conceptual framework set up by common notions. As we have seen,
this analogy leads him to a purely mechanistic account of the role of
vital heat and vital spirits in the formation of the compositional
structure of the organism. Finally, although he explains emergent
properties such as emotions and animal cognition through the com-
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 163

positional structure of the organism, Charleton connects the doctrine

of common notions also with a version of a theory of reflection. Due
to the capacity of a substance to act on itself involved in reflection,
the existence of innate common notions that not even causally are
derived from sense perception, in his view, cannot be explained in
the same way as an emergent property of interacting material com-
ponents. His dualistic ontology of human beings, including his dua-
listic view of the nature of human souls, is based on this argumenta-
tive strategy. The presence of these various types of arguments subs-
tantiates the claim that the methodology behind his views on the
generation of animals and human beings could be characterized as
pluralistic. In particular, these argumentative strategies add to the
methodology behind Charleton's theory of animal generation types
of reasoning that-without being an instance of an axiomatic-
deductive method-go beyond empiricism and eclecticism.

1 For bio-bibliographical infonnation on Charleton, see Rogers, "Charleton,

Walter (1620-1707)"; Henry, "Charleton, Walter (1620-1707)"; Osler,
"Charleton, Walter (1620-1707)". Pagel has pointed out that, before adopt-
ing atomism, Charleton was an adherent of Joan Baptista Van Helmont's
animist medicine, as documented in Charleton, Spiritus Gorgonicus; see
Pagel, Joan Baptista Van Helmont. Reformer of science and medicine, p.
2 Osler, "Descartes and Charleton on Nature and God", pp. 453-456. For an

analogaus interpretation of the theological background of Gassendi's phi-

losophy of nature, see Osler, Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy:
Gassendi and Descartes an Contingency and Necessity in the Created
World. Charleton developed his theological views in The Darknes ofAthe-
ism Expelled by the Light ofReason. On this work, see Richard S. Westfall,
Science and Religion in Seventeenth-Century England, pp. 54-57.
3 PEGC, pp. 18-19
4 Albrecht, Eklektik, pp. 276-278; Eric Lewis, "Walter Charleton and Early

Modem Eclecticism". On the concept of eclecticism, see also Ulrich

Schneider, "Eclecticism and the History ofPhilosophy".
5 PEGC, p. 5.
6 PEGC, p. 4.
164 Chapter 6

7 Albrecht, Eklektik, p. 276. On Charleton's view of the nature of atoms

and its relation to Gassendi's, see Henry, "Occult Qualities and the Expe-
rimental Philosophy: Active Principles in Pre-Newtonian Matter Theory",
pp. 340-341. On Gassendi's theory of animal generation, see Duchesneau,
Les modides du vivant de Descartes a Leibniz, eh. 3. On the influcene of
Charleton's matter theory on Boyle's, see Kargon, "Walter Charleton,
Robert Boyle, and the Acceptance of Epicurean Atomism in England";
Clericuzio, "Gassendi, Charleton, and Boyle on Matterand Motion".
8 PEGC, p. 419.
9 On the theory of "common notions" in Charleton and John Wilkins, see

Shapiro, Probability and Certainty in Seventeenth-Cemtury England, pp.

10 PEGC, p. 418. See Gassendi, Animadversiones, vol. 1, p. 207.
11 PEGC, p. 419.
12 PEGC, p. 419.
13 PEGC, p. 420. See Gassendi, Animadversiones, vol. 1, p. 208.
14 PEGC, pp. 420-421. See Gassendi, Animadversiones, vol. 1, p. 208.
15 PEGC, pp. 421-422. See Gassendi, Animadversiones, vol. 1, pp. 209-

210. On the application of Charleton's conception of form to his concep-

tion of the generation of crystals, see Emerton, The Scientific Reinterpreta-
tion ofForm, pp. 140-141.
16 NHN, p. 2. A Latin version was published under the title Oeconomia

animalis, novis in medicina hypothesibus superstructa & mechanid: expli-

cata, London: Daniel & Redmann, 1659. On the physiology ofNHN, see
Booth, 'A Subtle and Mysterious Machine '. The Medical World of Walter
Charteton (1619-1707), pp. 81-108.
17 NHN, pp. 2-3.
18 NHN, pp. 3-4.
19 NHN, pp. 4-5.
20 William Harvey, Exercitationes de generatione animalium, exercitatio

21 NHN, pp. 6-7.
22 NHN, p. 9.
23 NHN, p. 10.
24 NHN, pp. 19-20.
25 NHN, p. 24.
26 NHN, p. 25.
27 NHN, p. 28; See Hippocrates, Liber de natura pueri, 21.
28 NHN, pp. 28-29; See Willam Harvey, Exercitatio de uteri membranis &

29 NHN, pp. 29-30.
Charleton's Theory of Animal Generation 165

30 NHN, pp. 40-42.

31 NHN, p. 33.
32 NHP, pp. 5-6.
33 NHP, pp. 7-8.
34 Willis, De Anima Brutorum, quae hominis vitalis ac sensitiva est, exerci-

tationes duae, pp. 86-90. On Willis's conception ofthe sensitive soul, see
Wright, "Locke, Willis, and the Seventeenth-Century Epicurean Soul", pp.
244-251; Kassler, "Restraining the Passions".
35 Willis, De Anima Brutorum, pp. 95-99.
36 Willis, De Anima Brutorum, pp. 99-100.
37 Willis, De Anima Brutorum, p. 102.
38 NHP, pp. 33-34.
39 See PEGC, pp. 18-19.
40 IHS, p. 185. For an account ofthe contemporary theological responses to

atomistic theories of animal generation, see Goodrum, "Atomism, Atheism,

and the Spontaneaus Generation of Human Beings: The Debate over a
Natural Origin ofthe First Rumans in Seventeenth-Century Britain".
41 IHS, p. 119.
42 See Gassendi, Animadversiones, vol. 1, pp. 291-292.
43 IHS, pp. 92-93.
44 IHS, p. 94.
45 IHS, p. 94.
46 IHS, p. 98.
47 IHS, p. 100.
48 IHS, pp. 100-101.
49 DE, pp. 288-279*: "Quod ad PRIOREM enim attinet; dicimus, quod

evidentissimis magni istius Naturae interpretis, Harvaei, observationibus

... haud obscure constet, Faetus Animam ab ipsomet usque primi Concep-
tus initio, in genitricis utero jam adesse, antequam corporis quidpiam fuerit
formatum, imo vero antequam primum Embryonis systema aggrediatur
Plastica vis Naturae: ideoque dissonum esse imaginari, eandem jam forma-
to corpori divinitus infundi." Charleton gives 1659 as the date of the Dis-
sertatio epistolica; erroneous page numbers in the 1666 edition are marked
with an asterix.
50 DE, pp. 282*-284*.
51 See Sennert, 00, p. 127.
52 OE, p. 285*: "Assumit Sennertus ... Animam faetus esse Efficiens ejus

principale, & ... hocce demum inter alia subnectit Axioma; Quicquid opus,
sive effectus se ipso nobilius ejjicit; aut effectum sibi dissimile producit;
non est causa ejjiciens principalis, sed tantum instrumentalis. Jam vero, si
hoc verum sit, quis non videat, Animalium semen non esse Efficiens prin-
166 Chapter 6

cipale, in opera generationis, est tantum instrumentale? Quippe, pronum est

concipere, Foetum esse effectum semine nedum multo nobilius, est eidem
etiam plane dissimile: Animamque proinde utque progigni a parentibus,
neque una cum semine in uterum genitricis transmitti.
Esse autem Foetum, effectum quoddam semine praestantius, apertis-
simum est ex eo, quod Ars, Intellectus, consilium, ac Providentia summa,
in fabrica ejus clare elucent; semen vero ejusmodi non est, ut illi Ars, Intel-
lectus, &c. merito possint attribui."
53 OE, p. 285*.
54 OE, pp. 287*-288*.
Chapter 7

Daniel Sennert on Poisons, Epilepsy, and

Subordinate Forms

7 .1. Introduction

As Peter Niebyl has documented, one of the issues in which the

Wittenberg-based physician and philosopher Daniel Sennert (1572-
1637) departed from Paracelsus and his followers was the concept of
disease. Paracelsus and some of his followers regarded diseases as
real beings-so-called "disease-entities" (entia morbis) that can
enter into the body of a living being and thereafter possess a clearly
defined location in the affected organism. 1 For Sennert, such a view
is a dangeraus confusion between disease and its causes. According
to him, causes of disease can be present in an organism without ac-
tually causing a disease. 2 Moreover he shares the traditional Chris-
tian doctrine according to which all created substances are intrinsi-
cally good, such that intrinsically bad "disease-entities" could not be
part of creation. 3 To be sure, for many contagious diseases Sennert
invokes the agency of "seeds", to which he ascribed a corporeal
nature. 4 But he categorizes them as causes of disease, not as diseases
themselves. Disease, in his view, is nothing but an impairment ofthe
normal functioning ofthe organism or, as he puts it, "a praeternatur-
al quality induced in the body, on account of which the body is so
disposed that the functions it ought to perform are impaired." 5
At the same time, Sennert has definite views as to what kinds of
beings the causes of disease are and what kinds ofbeings the organ-
isms affected by these causes are. In this essay, I will explore some
of these ontological issues with respect to Sennert's views on poi-
sons and epilepsy. Sennert shares with other early modern thinkers
the view that epilepsy is caused by "an aura or a vapour, or poison-
ous matter" (aura vel vapor, vel materia venenata) which is either
generated in the brain or transmitted there from other parts of the
body. 6 He also shares with other early modern thinkers the view
that, while each living being has a single substantial form, its body
168 Chapter 7

contains a large number of corpusdes that have their own substan-

tial forms. Thanks to pioneering studies by Emily Michael, the intri-
cate details of Sennert's theory of a plurality of hierachically or-
dered substantial forms in living beings are well known by now. 7
However, some connections between his ontology of dominant and
subordinate forms and other issues in his biological and medical
thought have not yet been explored as fully as they deserve to be.
This holds especially for Sennert's responses to predecessors who,
in their biological and medical works, also upheld a plurality of
forms in living beings, such as Julius Caesar Scaliger, Jean Femel,
and the Danish royal physician Petrus Severinus (1540/2-1602).
I shall argue that certain aspects of Sennert's responses to dif-
ferent versions of a theory of a plurality of forms in living beings
sheds light on three issues central to Sennert' s discussion of poisons
and epilepsy. In fact, taken together, these reponses tell an interest-
ing developmental story about how Sennert constructed an account
of posions and epilepsy that is closely connected with the ideas of
his predecessors but nevertheless diverges substantially from some
aspects of the thought of his predecessors. The response to Jean
Femel's theory of "diseases of the whole substance" in Sennert's
Institutiones medicinae (1611) will make clear why Sennert sub-
sumes epilepsy under his concept of disease as an impairment of the
normal functioning of the organism rather than an impairment of the
substantial forms of the parts of the organism (section 7.2.). The
response to Petrus Severinus' theory of chemically operating "seeds
of disease" in Sennert's De chymicorum cum Galenicis et Aristoteli-
cis consensu ac dissensu (1619) will make clear why Sennert as-
sumed that the subordinate forms relevant in causing epilepsy oper-
ate not only in the way in which chemical substances work but in
other ways as well (section 7.3.). The response to Julius Caesar Sca-
liger's discussion ofthe mutability ofbiological species in Sennert's
Practica medicina VI (1635) will make it clear to what extent Sen-
nert's explanation of the origin of auto-generated poisonous vapors
is modelled on early modern theories of biological reproduction
(section 7.4.). Taken together, Sennert's responses to his predeces-
sors illuminate some ways in which his views on poisons and epi-
lepsy are connected with his biomedical ontology.
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 169

7.2. Poisons, Epilepsy, and Diseases ofthe Whole Substance

As William Newman has brought to light, Femel's theory of diseas-

es of the whole substance was the topic of a disputation by Sennert' s
academic teacher, Johann Jessenius, which Sennert undertook to
defend in 1596. 8 While it is elear that Sennert was familiar with this
issue from early on, his Institutiones medicinae (1611) contain de-
tailed discussions of Jean Femel's De rerum abditis causis (1548)
which indicate that Sennert had become highly critical of some as-
pects ofthe theory ofthe whole substance. While many of Sennert's
later Yiews conceming the causes of epilepsy are not yet fully de-
Yeloped in the Institutiones medicinae, the general outlook on epi-
lepsy outlined here remains in place in his later writings, and some
of the features that remain constant throughout the following years
are connected with his early response to Femel.
In the Institutiones medicinae, Sennert adopts Femel's argu-
ments that fayor a Yapor theory of epilepsy oYer a Galenic obstruc-
tion theory. According to the obstruction theory, epilepsy is caused
by some solid and tenacious humour (crassus & viscosus humor)
blocking the Yentrieles (ventricula) and pores (meatus) ofthe brain.
Thereby, epilepsy is likened to apoplexy-the parlayzation of body
parts through the obstruction of the corresponding brain regions. 9
Femel's and Sennert's first objection is: If an obstruction of the
Yentrieles of the brain were the cause of epilepsy, one would expect
that eyery epileptical fit would be followed by apoplexy, or eyery
case of apoplexy be preceded by an epileptical fit, neither of which
is the case. 10 Their second objection uses another observation: Six-
teenth-century dissections, ineluding those performed by Femel, did
not bring to light any perceptible residue in the brains of patients
who had died of epilepsy. 11 Sennert also shares Femel's Yiew that
liYing beings are indiYiduated by substantial forms and that their
parts are indiYiduated by substantial forms of their own, and that
these parts inelude not only elements but also more complex struc-
tures.12 Moreoyer, Sennert agrees with Femel that epilepsy belongs
to those diseases that are due to the agency of substantial forms.
NeYertheless, their Yiews as to the proper subject of such diseases
differ profoundly.
170 Chapter 7

Famously, Femel maintains that there are diseases that are due
to the fact that the substantial form of some substance that is in-
serted into the body is inimical to the substantial forms of some
body parts or the substantial form of the entire organism. These are
the "diseases of the whole substance", among which he counts epi-
lepsy and other neurological disorders that he ascribes to the agency
of poisonous vapors. He gives the following definitions: "The sub-
stance of the whole thing is its perfection and entirety, by means of
which each thing exists. As soon as this is changed and removed
from perfection, the whole thing is continuously split up; and the
impairment of it is the disease of the whole substance." 13 According
to Femel, vitaland animal spiritsareapart ofthe "whole substance"
of a living being. 14 At the same time, he believes that the vital func-
tions have their origin in the substantial form of the living being and
that, in this sense, this substantial form is the highest perfection and
essence of the living being. If we understand the "whole substance"
of a thing as its perfection or essence, the "whole substance" is the
substantial form of the living being. 15 For Femel, the "whole sub-
stance" is a complex entity that is composed of a substantial form,
from which allvital functions flow, and ofvital or animal spirits that
are conjoined with this form. Because vital and animal spirits still
belong to the substance of a living being, when poisons impair the
vital or animal spirits this process amounts to a "splitting up" (dissi-
dium) of the whole substance. 16
Sennert does not agree that substantial forms themselves can be
sick. He comments on Femel:

It is rightly said ... that health and disease belong not to the es-
sential but accidental constitution, which consists in qualities,
and that there is no disease that arises out of the corruption of
substance. For the essence of a thing cannot be increased or di-
minished, and there exists no part of an essence that could be
taken away without taking away the whole essence: for the es-
sence of a thing is like a number, which is either there wholly or
not at all. 17

In Sennert's view, it does not make sense to speak of apart of the

essence of a thing, if by this one would mean that the part could be
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 171

removed while the identity of a thing remains intact. Although Sen-

nert, like Femel, ascribes to vitaland animal spirits a central role in
the physiology of living beings, he does not regard them as a part of
the essence of a living being but rather as instruments of plant or
animal souls. 18 Characterising them as instruments of plant or ani-
mal souls implies that they derive their activity from the activity of
the souls. 19 Sennert agrees with Femel that poisonous humors can
affect the vital and animal spirits. 20 In particular, he argues that
something of this sort happens in epilepsy since without the proper
functioning of animal spirits the brain cannot perform its functions
(junctiones) and actions (actiones). The action of poisonous humors
on vital and animal spirits thus explains why, during epileptic fits,
mental functions and actions such as memory, imagination, and
ratiocination are impaired. 21 Nevertheless, because spirits could be
separated from souls without changing the nature of souls and,
hence, do not form a part of the essence of a living being, this
process, in Sennert's view, does not amount to a "splitting up" of
whole substance of a living being. 22
Samething analogaus holds for subordinate forms. He agrees
with Femel that not only elements contained in the body of a living
being but also single argans such as liver, brain, and heart are indi-
viduated by substantial forms of their own. 23 Nevertheless, he de-
scribes their relation to diseases in another way than Femel: "[F]rom
these [forms] diseases of the form do not arise . . . F or these forms,
too, like the others, cannot be increased and diminished, nor is any
disease generated if they are affected while the essence of the thing
remains intact."24 For Sennert, there are no diseases of the whole
substance because there are no diseases of substantial forms. Alter-
natively, Sennert suggests that from subordinate forms flow non-
elementary qualities that explain the interaction between poisonous
vapors and animal spirits. 25 In this way, even if some diseases are
caused by subordinate forms, their nature still consists in a distur-
bance of the natural qualities of an organic body.
172 Chapter 7

7.3. Poisons, Epilepsy, and Chemical Causation

Sennert's early response to Femel did not provide a clear-cut answer

to the question of what the nature of the qualities flowing from sub-
ordinate forms consists in. In the years following the Institutiones
medicinae, Sennert developed a conciliatory approach that tried to
reconcile insights from the Aristotelian and Galenic traditions with
the newly developing "chymical" thought of the Paracelsians. Pagel
regards Sennert' s views that the forms of components persist in
mixture and that they can be graded as dominant and subordinate
forms as points that support interpreting Sennert as a "moderator"
with respect to Paracelsism. 26 Pagel notes that, in connexion with
this view "corruption and transformation in its wake were appraised
as positive rather than privative in character" by Sennert as well as
by thinkers in the Paracelsian tradition. 27 While the analogies that
Pagel has in mind are those between Sennert and later writings by
the Belgian "chymist" Joan Baptista Van Helmont (1577-1644),
Newman has drawn attention to parallels between Sennert and the
earlier work of the Danish Paracelsian Petrus Severinus. As New-
man suggests, "[t]he immediate inspiration for Sennert's treatment
of species degeneration appears to have been Severinus' s doctrine of
'transplantation' of species." 28 In fact, in his 1619 De chymicorum
cum Aristotelicis et Galenicis consensu ac dissensu Sennert gives a
detailed exposition of Severinus's medical theory, including his
views on subordinate forms and how these relate to questions of
biological reproduction. Nevertheless, Sennert's familiarity with
Severinus's thought and the obvious similarities between Severi-
nus's and Sennert's conceptions of dominant and subordinate forms
allow for subtle differences that are consequential for their respec-
tive understandings of the causes of epilepsy.
In his Institutiones medicinae, Sennert suggests that poisonous
vapors have two characteristics, closely matehing the observations
available at the time: (1) they pervade the entire nervous system,
thus accounting for the speed with which epileptic fits occur while
also explaining the absence of symptoms of apoplexy; (2) they
quickly disappear after an epileptic fit, thus explaining the absence
of symptoms of epilepsy between two fits as well as the absence of
any residue in the brain detectable by means of dissection. 29 At this
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 173

stage of his development, Sennert regards two hypotheses concern-

ing the nature of this vapor as possible candidates without coming
out on either side. One possibility is that it possesses a certain chem-
ical quality such as acidity (acrimonia). The other possibility isthat
it possesses a poisonous quality (qualitas venenata) of another, non-
chemical nature. 30 In subsequent works, the 1619 De chymicorum
and the 1635 Practica medicina VI: De morbis occultis Sennert
returns to the topic. In these works, he discusses the role of chemical
principles of agency in causing epilepsy in the context of a concilia-
tory approach to Paracelsian chemistry, Galenic medicine, and Aris-
totelian natural philosophy.
According to Severinus, seeds (semina) or "principles of
things" (principia rerum) are the foundations (fundamenta) of the
quantities and qualities of bodies and the relations in which bodies
stand to each other. 31 He analyses the foundation relation as a rela-
tion of emanative causation by means of which bodies are produced
out of immaterial principles: "We have often said that in the work-
shop of nature bodies are produced out of spirits ... " 32 Shackelford
has aptly described this process as "reification in which form, soul,
or spirit emanates material being." 33 The reifications of immaterial
principles, in Severinus' view, are characterized by chemical quali-
ties. These, in turn, are operative in causing diseases: "I would say
that out of the encounter with and use of acids acidity is generated,
and acidity impairs actions." 34 Moreover, according to Severinus
there are principles of bodies with health-impairing chemical quali-
ties that are internal to living beings themselves.
To explicate the sense in which such principles can be internal
to living beings, Severinus uses the concept of "transplantation",
which highlights an analogy between the generation of disease and
the transition of a living being from one biological species to anoth-
er species. 35 F or cases of plant degeneration, he offers the following

[B]ecause there is a very high number of semina in plants, in

which the essence and predestined gifts of many individuals are
conjoined, it is no wonder if they change into new families on
. htest occaswn.
th e s11g . 36
174 Chapter 7

According to his view, in the seed of one plant the forms of other
plants are present, but as subordinate or "equivocal" forms. When
external causes are favorable, one of these subordinate forms can
become dominant, such that the whole development of a plant is
guided by it. 37 Such forms are "equivocal" in the sensethat they are
active principles that can inform parts of previously existing plants
belonging to one species as well as subsequently developing plants
belonging to a different species. In this sense, each plant contains
the essence of many other plants.
According to Severinus, something analogous takes place in
disease: there are in nature seeds of disease (whose origin Severinus
ascribes to an act of divine malediction); 38 these seeds enter mix-
tures with other seeds, in such a way that the principles of living
beings undergo transplantation. 39 This is how he describes the origin
of disease:

The seeds and roots of death and disease consist in arsenical,

sulphureous, vitriolic, corrosive, or mercurial impurities, or in
those that act like nettles, thorns, monkshoods, hemlock, or
opium; these impurities are inflammable, unstable, with a ten-
dency towards corruption. 40

Thus, one group of causes of disease has to do with clearly identi-

fied chemical substances. Another cause of disease-the one that
Severinus compares with the action of thorns-seems to have to do
with the capacity of damaging body parts in a mechanical way. Still
other causes of disease are compared with the action of poisons and,
unfortunately, Severinus does not go into greater detail as to the
exact relation between the operation of chemical substances and the
operation of poisons. But it is clear that he believes that the inhe-
rently unstable nature of chemical substances and poisons renders
them noxious to the body. Moreover, such seeds of disease can be
transferred from parents to offspring, thus accounting for the origin
of hereditary diseases. 41 Severinus claims that this is how from non-
epileptic parents epileptic offspring arise. 42 Even if he does not give
any detailed account of epilepsy, it is clear enough that he intre-
grates this disease into his overall framework of transplantation.
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 175

Sennert comments on Severinus's semina that, when regarded

from a general point ofview, Severinus did not introduce a new idea
but rather reformulated the ancient doctrine of forms or souls of
living beings. 43 Certainly, on this level of generality Sennert shares
much with Severinus. However, on a lower level of generality Sen-
nert also has some clear-cut objections. One of them is the follow-

[T]he generation of plants is far different from the generation of

diseases. For the vegetative soul in the seed builds out of at-
tracted nourishment the entire body of the plant, and out of an
egg a chick develops not by means of corruption but of perfec-
tion ... But in the generation of diseases ... the good humors
are changed, inflected and corrupted by the vicious ones as it
were by a ferment; and the qualities of corrupted humors hurt
and change the body parts and induce praetematural qualities in
them: however, among the causes of disease there is no forma-
tive force of the kind found in plant seeds ... 44

Thus, a dissimilarity between vicious humors such as those that

cause epilepsy and plant seeds is the different relation in which their
substantial forms stand to the surrounding bodies: In the case of the
plant soul, some surrounding bodies-those that are suitable as nou-
rishment-are integrated into the body of a composite substance
that, in the end, becomes a living being. In the case of the substantial
form of a vicious humor, some surrounding bodies-those that bring
about the symptoms of a disease-are affected by the poisonous
qualities of the humor.
As we will see in the next section, Sennert's objection by no
means implies that there is no illuminating analogy between the
mechanisms accounting for changes in species membership and the
mechanisms accounting for the generation of diseases. However,
Sennert has a further set objections against Severinus and other
"chymists". Sennert notes that in the writings of the chymists two
explanations of epilepsy prevail: one pattem ascribes epilepsy to the
agency of quicksilver, the other pattem ascribes epilepsy to the
agency of salts. With respect to the first explanatory pattem, he re-
marks in Practica medicina VI:
176 Chapter 7

Some chymists claim that they can explain the thing clearer
than the Galenists, but I doubt that they really succeed. Paracel-
sus and most Paracelsians teach that epilepsy is a quicksilver-
induced disease. But I do not see how they explain this clearly.
For they neither ... sufficiently explain what quicksilver is, nor
how it differs from the remairring principles. Moreover, since
they claim that there are many quicksilver-induced diseases,
they do not show what the determinate and specific nature of
this disease consists in, and how this quicksilver-induced dis-
ease differs from other quicksilver-induced diseases. 45

Hence, Sennert's objection agairrst the Paracelsian explanation of

epilepsy is twofold: first, the Paracelsians fail to specify the nature
of the chemical substance that is supposed to induce epilepsy; and
second, the Paracelsians fail to explain the difference between epi-
lepsy and other diseases that they attribute to the agency of the same
chemical substance. Sennert develops some analogaus objections
agairrst the second explanatory pattern, the one invoking the agency
of salts:

I have doubts concerning the nature of this salt, and whether

they sufficiently dernarrstrate that this salt is vitriolic, and that
no vapor can bring forth epilepsy unless it has vitriolic nature
and properties. For they maintain that an epileptic fit can be in-
duced when malign, pungent, acid, astringent and corrosive an-
imal spirits are mixed: which can take place not only due to vi-
triol, but also due to many other salts, such as alum, sal armo-
niac, and also antimony and arsenic . . . Contraction is also in
alum; and corrosive force in all salts ... And many people expel
corrosive humors in fever and other diseases by vomiting, from
which without doubt vapors of a similar kind are attracted to-
wards the head, but which nevertheless do not induce epilep-
sy. 46

Hence, as is the case with the quicksilver-based explanations, the

salt-based explanations present two difficulties: first, they fail to
clearly identify the chemical nature of the compounds supposed to
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 177

bring forth epilespsy; and second, compounds of the same nature as

those invoked in the explanation of epilepsy are operative in other
diseases without, however, causing epileptic fits. These passages
indicate that Sennert had an acute sense for the shortcomings of the
chemical explanations of epilepsy available at that time.

7.4. Poisons, Epilepsy, and Species Mutability

Subordinate forms, then, in Sennert's view, do not operate only in a

chemical way. But what would an explanation of epilepsy inducing
vapors that does not invoke chemical causation look like? More than
once, Sennert refers the reader back to Julius Caesar Scaliger's
views on subordinate forms. Like Scaliger, he believes that, if such
is true with respect to the bodies of dead animals and plants, there is
no reason why there shold not exist in animals and plants that are
still alive actions and accidents that do not derive from the animal or
plant souls. 47 Moreover, Sennert accepts Scaliger's teleological
analysis ofthe subordination relation. 48 According to Scaliger, some
material objects and some forms are less "noble" than others be-
cause they are made for the sake of other material objects and other
forms. Bodily argans such as a nose or an eye, as well as their re-
spective forms, are less "noble" than the entire body of the living
being and its soul because these bodily argans are made for the sake
of the entire body of the living being and its soul. 49 And Sennert
shares Scaliger's view that in living beings there are subordinate
forms that are the "seminal matter" (materia seminalis) of sponta-
neously generated animals or "natural rudiments" (rudimenta natu-
rales) of spontaneously generated plants. 50
As we have seen in chapter 2, Scaliger believes that cases of re-
versible plant degeneration can be explained through a change of the
relations between the different "natural rudiments" of plants belang-
ing to different species contained in a plant seed. In such cases, the
substantial forms contained in the seeds of a degenerated plant are
the same as in the plant from which they originated. 51 However,
Scaliger also believes that there are cases in which a previously sub-
ordinate form can develop into a dominant form without belanging
to a seed that contains all the substantial forms contained in the seed
of the plant from which it originated. These cases occur when the
178 Chapter 7

substantial form of a living being ceases to inform a portion of mat-

ter that previously belonged to its organic body. 52 Obviously, in
such cases the previously dominating form cannot be a constituent
of the seed of the newly generated plant. This is why, for Scaliger,
spontaneously generated living beings, in contrast to living beings
arising in species degeneration, are not informed by the same set of
substantial forms as the living being from which they originated.
Sennertapplies this insight in his 1636 Hypomnemata physica when
he maintains that spontaneaus generation (for example of mu-
shrooms out of a tree) only occurs when the soul of the tree has
ceased animating all or part of the tree. 53
Thinking about spontaneaus generation along Scaligerian lines
sets Sennert's conception of the role of subordinate forms in biolog-
ical change apart from Severinus's theory of transplantation. Tobe
sure, in De chymicorum Sennert points out that the theory of trans-
plantation is not to be rejected entirely because Severinus has seen
that in plant and animal seeds there are forms of other living be-
ings. 54 However, Severinus describes the relation between the ele-
ments and principles of bodies relevant for transplantation as "com-
position" (compositio) and the relation between them and the result-
ing seed as "constitution" (constitutio). For example, when he ex-
plains why some animals are incapable of reproduction, he writes:
"The elements . . . and principles of bodies, whose mixture makes
the first composition in their generation are not bound to each other
through a stable law that would allow them to persist for the consti-
tution of a seed ... " 55 Expressing what is lacking in cases of living
beings incapable of producing fertile seeds in this way implies that,
in cases of living beings capable of producing fertile seeds, elements
and principles aretobe regarded as constituents of seeds. For Seve-
rinus, transplantation can be explained through a change of the rela-
tions between such constituents.
Samething analogaus holds with respect to the relation between
subordinate forms and the causes of disease. If Severinus believes
that diseases arise by means of transplantation and that, in transplan-
tation, subordinate forms remain constituents of seeds of the living
being that becomes ill, the formsthat cause diseases are always con-
stituents of the active principle goveming the development of a liv-
ing being. For Severinus, the living being becomes ill because prin-
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 179

ciples of disease belang to the constituents of the seeds from which

it arises. Sennert disagrees with Severinus's view that "seeds of
disease" become causally efficient because they belang to the con-
stituents of the seeds of organic bodies. Already in the Institutiones
medicinae Sennert is unambiguous about the view that "vicious
humors, and similar things in the body, do not constitute our
body." 56 This seems to be a Straightforward consequence of his ac-
count of the production of auto-generated poisons: If this process
involves a change of relations of domination and subordination be-
tween various substantial forms contained in a living being, the
forms informing the poisonous humors are no Ionger subordinate to
the dominant form of the organism. Hence, the living being becomes
ill because poisonous humors or vapors da not belang to its consti-
Y et, while this dissimilarity between Severinus and Sennert is
substantial, it should not obscure another, no less substantial, anal-
ogy. As we have seen, Severinus holds that there is a strong similar-
ity between what is going on in plant degeneration and what is going
on in the generation of diseases. Likewise, Sennert holds that there
is a strong similarity between what is going on in spontaneaus gen-
eration and what is going on in the generation of poisons and epi-
lepsy. In extending some aspects of the structure of biological re-
production to the generation of diseases, he follows the strategy laid
out by Severinus and thereby goes beyond the use made of the the-
ory of spontaneaus generation in Scaliger's published writings.
To be sure, Sennert acknowledges some differences between
spontaneaus generation and the generation of diseases. Most impor-
tantly, he does not ascribe formative virtues to the substantial forms
informing poisons and vapors. In this respect, these substantial
forms differ from the substantial forms informing spontaneously
generated living beings. Nevertheless, he believes that spontaneaus
generation and the generation of humors and vapors that induce
epilepsy have much in common, even though the former typically
takes place outside the body of a previously living being and the
latter typically takes place inside the body of a still-living organism.
This is how in Practica medicina VI he describes the origin of auto-
generated poisonous humors:
180 Chapter 7

I believe that most frequently the poisonous humors are gener-

ated in our body due to its matter. For when in the single con-
coctions new mixtures are produced, neither do all the other
subordinate forms perish when one form is taken away, nor ...
does a resolution up to primary matter take place in every
change and corruption of a thing; rather, when something cor-
rupts, only the form, and the determination of the form that is
said to corrupt, [that is] the temperament or subject with its ac-
cidents perishes; but all the other subordinate forms with their
own accidents can remain intact. It happens that often some
form, that was latent before, manifests itself and begins to be-
come active. 57

Sennert ascribes to such subordinate forms characteristics that he

similarly ascribes to the specific forms of living beings: subordinate
forms were created at the beginning of the world; from that time on,
they informed portions of matter that belong to them; from the be-
ginning, these composite beings mixed with other composite beings;
and like specific forms of living beings, these forms had the capacity
of propagating themselves. 58 Later in the text, Sennert indicates that
the "subject" of forms is the "intemal spirit, and radical humidity,
which taken together is commonly called 'innate heat' ... " 59 And in
the Institutiones medicinae, he characterizes "radical humidity" as
an oily and warm substrate of the more subtle "vital spirits. "60
Thus, in Sennert's view, the causal history of every given sub-
ordinate form and its proper portion of subtle matter reaches back to
creation. 61 Moreover, it may be a causal history in which this form
never before performed the role of a specific form. As long as such
composite beings are constituents of a living being, they are inno-
cuous for the organism because then the goals of the subordinate
forms are directed towards the goals of the dominant form. Things
change, however, as soon as the domination relation breaks down
due to some extemal or intemal factor. Sennert is somewhat evasive
about the exact nature of such factors, but in the Institutiones medi-
cinae he counts extemal factors such as heat and cold as well as
intemal factors such as fatigue and sadness among the "primary
causes" (causae primariae) that activate previously latent "prox-
imate causes" (causae proximae). 62 Moreover, in the Hypomnemata
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 181

physica, he ascribes to extemal heat the function of changing the

structure of the portion of matter informed by a subordinate form.
Before the occurrence of this extemal factor, the structure of this
portion of matter was just sufficient to maintain certain unactualized
potencies of the subordinate form. After the occurrence of this ex-
temal factor, the structure of this portion of matter is changed in
such a way as to be sufficient to realize some of the previously un-
actualized potencies of the subordinate form. 63 Whatever the exact
nature of these mechanisms may be, it seems clear that Sennert be-
lieves that once the previously dominant form ceases to inform the
portion of matter associated with a subordinate form, the subordi-
nate forms can follow goals of their own, and these goals may be
contrary to what is beneficial to the organism.
Samething analogaus holds for poisonous substances taken in
with food and drink and made innocuous in the organism for a cer-
tain period of time. This is so because

[a] human being feeds on animals and plants, and plants attract
a juice by which they are nourished from the earth that is ferti-
lized by the excrements of animals and the rain and the over-
flowing of rivers; and things that are adverse to our body can be
found everywhere in dirt and excrements of animals, in the
earth, in rain, and in water. When these things get with the ali-
ment into our body, they are not always completely expelled but
are often entirely placed into our body tagether with the ali-
ment, and retain their forces ... When [plants and animals] use
these things as food, this poisonous substance ... which is part
of the aliment of plants and animals, even if its is changed by
concoction into various forms, finally happens to be part of the
aliments of humans, and mixed with other substances is often
not hurtful for a long time; but when it is separated from them
and exists in isolation, it begins to hurt humans and becomes
pOlSOll ...

Poisonous substances taken in from outside the organism, hence,

can become innocuous because they undergo mixture. They are
changed "into various forms" most plausibly in the same way as
other constituents of the organic body are changed in mixture: their
182 Chapter 7

substantial forms get under the domination of the substantial form of

the organism. Once the domination relation breaks down, however,
their forms exert their previous causal powers and bring forth poi-
sonous qualities.

7.5. Conclusion

By now it should be clear how closely related Sennert's views on

poisons and epilepsy are with his ontology of dominant and subor-
dinate substantial forms. Because his ontology of dominant and
subordinate forms modifies ideas found in some of his predecessors,
Sennert' s account of poison and epilepsy stands in intricate connec-
tions with the medical and biological thought of Femel, Severinus,
and Scaliger. As is the case with Femel, Severinus, and Scaliger,
Sennert's medical and biological views are shaped by ontological
considerations. Like Femel, Sennert acknowledges a group of dis-
eases that is caused by subordinate forms, but unlike Femel, Sennert
does not regard substantial forms, no matter whether dominant or
subordinate, as the suitable bearers of diseases. Like Scaliger, Sen-
nert uses a teleological account of the Subordination relation, and
applies the apparatus of a plurality of forms in living beings to the
issue of spontaneaus generation. But unlike Scaliger, Sennert fol-
lows Severinus in expanding explanatory pattems from species mu-
tability to the orign of diseases. Tobe sure, in contrast to Severinus,
Sennert believes that living beings do not become sick as long as
seeds of disease are constituents of the living being. As long as they
serve the goals of the dominant form, subordinate forms do not im-
pair the fimctions of a living being. Things change when the subor-
dination relation breaks down: then it can occur that the previously
subordinate forms individuate entities such as poisonous humors and
vapors that are not constituents of a living being even if they are
contained in it. As we have seen, a similar explanatory pattem un-
derlies both Scaliger's and Sennert's accounts of spontaneaus gen-
eration. Thus, even if Sennert' s account of the origin of poisons and
epilepsy diverges from Severinus's, Sennert evidently has leamt
something from Severinus. Like Severinus, Sennert uses an account
of composite unities to explain both biological mutability and the
origin of disease. Even if Sennert's epilepsy inducing vapors do not
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 183

operate only chemically, he has opted for an explanatory unification

that brings tagether late Aristotelian concepts with insights from the
early modern chemical tradition. And the insights drawn from the
tradition of "chymistry" do not reduce to views on the nature and
operation of chemical substances but also include applications of the
metaphysics of composite substances as a tool of explanatory unifi-

1 On entia morbis in Paracelsus, see Pagel, Paracelsus, pp. 134-144. On

entia morbis in the Paracelsian tradition, see Pagel, The Smiling Spleen, pp.
19-23, 46-48. Allen G. Debus has pointed out that some of Paracelsus'
early followers tried to reconcile Paracelsian and Galenic ideas (see Debus,
The French Paracelsians, pp. 19-21). In many respects, ifnot on the issue
of entia morbis, Sennert's 1619 De chymicorum cum Aristotelicis et
Galenicis consensu ac dissensu is another instance of such a conciliatory
2 See DC, p. 253.
3 See DC, p. 259.
4 Sennert follows the theory of contagion developed by Girolamo Fracasto-

ro (1478-1553), when he defines a contagium as "a certain body flowing

from a contagious body and capable of causing a similar disease when
received by another body" (corpus quoddam e corpore contagioso ejjluens,
& in alio receptum similem morbus in eo excitare valens) (00 II, p. 146).
On Fracastoro's theory of contagion, see Nutton, "The Seeds of Disease:
An Explanation of Contagion and Irrfeetion from the Greeks to the Renais-
sance", Nutton, "The Reception of Fracastoro's Theory of Contagion",
Pennuto, Simpatia, fantasia e contagio, eh. 8. On Sennert's relation to
Fracastoro, see Newman, "Boyle's debt to corpuscular alchemy", pp. 143-
5 Niebyl, "Sennert, Van Helmont, and Medical Ontology", p. 127. The

quotation is from CAG, p. 445 (Niebyl's translation). The concept of dis-

ease, of course, is not the only topic on which Sennert disagreed with the
Paracelsians. Pagel has emphasized that "the basic error of Paracelsus ac-
cording to Sennert lies in his rejection of the humors, the very existence of
which he sometimes denied" (Pagel, Paracelsus, p. 341). Sennert also was
critical of the Paracelsian reliance on intuitive insight in medicine (see
184 Chapter 7

Eckert, "Antiparacelsismus, okkulte Qualitten und medizinisch-

wissenschaftliches Erkennen").
6 00 II, p. 302. On early modern theories of vapor-induced epilepsy, see

Temkin, The Falling Sickness. A History of Epilepsyfrom the Greeks to the

Beginnings of Modern Neurology, pp. 198-201.
7 Michael, "Daniel Sennerton Matterand Form: At the Juncture ofthe Old

and the New"; Michael, "Sennert's Sea Change: Atoms and Causes". On
the plurality of forms in Sennert, see also Emerton, The Scientific Reinter-
pretation of Form, pp. 64-65; Arthur, "Composite Substance and Animal
Generation in Sennert and Leibniz".
8 Newman, Atoms and Alchemy, pp. 139-140. See Jessenius, De morbi,

quem aer tota substantia noxius peragit, praeservatione & curatione dispu-
tatio IV. On the very early Sennert, see Lthy and Newman, "Daniel Sen-
nert's Earliest Writings".
9 See ARC, pp. 637-639; Femel refers the reader to Galen, De locis affectis

III, 5.
10 ARC, pp. 639-641; see 00 I, p. 442.
11 ARC, p. 643; see 00 I, p. 443.
12 ARC, pp. 155-157.
13 ARC, p. 291: "Tota rei substantia perfectio est & integritas, qua res un-

aquaeque consistit. Haec quoties immutatur & de perfectione deceit, res

tota continuo perfringitur: ipsaqua illius decessio, morbus est totius subs-
tantiae." On Fernel's theory of diseases of the total substance, see Deer-
Richardson, 'The Generation of Disease: Occult Causes and Diseases of
the Total Substance"; Siraisi, The Clock and the Mirror, pp. 158-161.
14 ARC, pp. 537-539.
15 ARC, p. 675.
16 See ARC, pp. 628-630.
17 00 I, p. 319: "Recte ... dicitur: sanitatem & morbusnon ad essentialem,

sed ad accidentalem constitutionem, quae in qualitatibus consistit, perti-

nere, nullumque ex corruptione substantiae dari morbus posse. Essentia
enim rei intendi atque remitti non potest, & nulla pars essentiae est, qua
perempta & sublata, non ipsa tollatur tota: cum rei essentia sit sicut nume-
rus, quae aut tota est, ubi est, aut nulla est. Ideoque nullus morbus dari
potest, qui, manente re, formam & substantiam corrumpat; sed forma sub-
lata, ipsum totum corrumpitur." See Aristotle, Met., 1043b-1044a.
18 00 I, p. 277.
19 Ibid.
20 00 I, p. 443; 00 li, p. 494.
21 00 I, p. 443.
22 00 I, p. 321.
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 185

23 00 I, p. 319.
24 00 I, pp. 319-320: "[A]b iis morbis formae non fiunt, ve1 dicuntur, quod
hae formae immediate afficiantur. Formae enim hae etiam, ut a1iae, intendi
& remitti non possunt, neque iis affectis, sa1va rei essentia, ulli morbi gene-
25 Ibid. On Sennert's classification of occult qua1ities, see Eckert, "Anti-

paracelsismus, okkulte Qualitten und medizinisch-wissenschaft-liches

Erkennen", pp. 147-152.
26 Pagel, The Smiling Spleen, p. 89. Pagel notes that "this finds its Counter-

part in V an Helmont's later principle of the great necessity ... and the
'middle lives' of entrants which persist in an organic whole" (ibid.). The
other points of consilience between Sennert and the Paracelsians that Pagel
notes are the theory of object-specific corpuscular effluvia (ibid., p. 88) and
the importance of laboratory procedures, in which substances are reduced
to their previous state (ibid., p. 89). On Sennert's account of reductio in
pristinum statum and its influence on Boyle, see Newman, "Boyle's debt to
corpuscular alchemy".
27 Pagel, The Smiling Spleen, p. 89.
28 Newman, Atomsand Alchemy, p. 145, note 47.
29 00 I, p. 442.
30 00 I, p. 443.
31 IMP, p. 214. On Severinus's semina-theory, see Hirai, Le concept de

semence dans !es theories de la matiere a la renaissance, pp. 237-244;

Shackelford, "Seeds with a Mechanical Purpose"; Shackelford, 'The
Chemical Hippocrates"; Shackelford, A Philosophical Path for Paracelsian
Medicine, pp. 160-183.
32 IMP, p. 247: "Saepe enim diximus, in Naturae officina ex spiritibus

corpora produci."
33 Shackelford, A Philosophical Pathfor Paracelsian Medicine, p. 166.
34 IMP, p. 246: "Dicam ego, ex occursu & usu acidarum generari acidita-

tem, ex aciditate actiones laedi."

35 On Severinus' concept oftransplantation, see Shackelford, A Philosophi-

cal Pathfor Paracelsian Medicine, pp. 183-185.

36 IMP, p. 141: "Quapropter in Vegetabilibus cum seminasirrt plurima, in

quibus multorum Individuorum ... Scientiae & praedestinata Dona coniun-

gentur, non mirum est si levi momento in novas familias transeant."
37 Ibid.
38 IMP, p. 216.
39 IMP, p. 215.
40 IMP, p. 217: "Dico igitur mortis & morborum semina radicesque, in

impuritatibus consistere arsenicalibus, sulphureis, vitriolatis, aeruginosis,

186 Chapter 7

mercurialibus, vel in urticosis, spinosis, nappellosis, cicutosis, opiatis, &c

quae impuritates inflammabiles surrt, instabiles, ad corruptionem festi-
nantes ... "
41 IMP, p. 220.
42 IMP, p. 221.
43 DC, p. 87.
44 DC, p. 259: "[L]onge alia est plantarum, alio morborum generatio. Ani-

ma enim vegetans, quae est in semine, ex attracto alimento totum corpus

plantae fabricat, & ex ovo fit pullus, non corruptione, sed per-fectione ...
At in morborum generatione longe aliter se res habet, atque a vitiosis hu-
moribus, quasi a fermento, boni alterentur, inficiuntur & corrum-puntur,
corruptorumque humorum qualitates ipsas partes laedunt, alterant, ipsisque
qualitates praeternaturales inducunt: nulla vero in morborum caussis vis
formatrix est, qualis in seminibus plantarum reperitur ... "
45 PM, p. 493: "Paracelsus & Paracelsi sectatores plerique Epilepsiam mor-

bus Mercurialem esse docent. Quomodo vero id clare explicent, non video.
Neque enim ... satis explicant, quid sit Mercurius, & quomodo a reliquis
principiis differat. Deinde cum multi morbi Mercuriales ex eorum sententia
ponantur, non monstrant, qua in re determinata & specifica huius mali
natura sita sit, & quomodo hic morbus Mercurialis ab aliis morbis Mercu-
rialibus differat." See Paracelsus, Philosophiae ad Athenienses, drei
Bcher. On Paracelsus' theory of epilepsy, see Temkin, The Falling Sick-
ness, pp. 170-177; Pagel, Paracelsus, pp. 165-171.
46 PM, p. 493: "Cuius autem naturae is sit, & an satis demonstrent, salem

istum vitriolatum esse, & nullum vaporem Epilepsiam concitare posse, nisi
proprietatis & naturae vitriolatae sit, dubito. Cum enim ipsi paroxysmum
Epilepticum excitari statuant, cum exhalationes malignae, acres, acidae,
adstringentes & corrosivae spiritibus animalibus miscentur: id non solum
ex vitriolo, sed & aliis pluribus fieri potest, alumine scilicet, & sale Armo-
niaco, ut & antimonio & arsenico ... Adstrictio in alumine quoque est; vis
corrodendi in omnibus salibus ... Et multi in febribus & aliis morbis aeru-
ginosos humores vomitu reiiciunt, a quibus procul dubio etiam vapores
congeneres in caput attolluntur, qui tarnen Epilepsiam non excitant."
47 DC, p. 120: "Non tarnen omnes actiones, quae elementis nobiliores surrt,

ab anima proveniunt, ut etiam Scaliger monuit (EE, exercitatio 101, 8;

exercitatio 102, 5) ... [P]artes animalium emortuae, & plantae vita jam
destitutae, nihilominus eas vires habent, & operationes, quae ad elementa
nullo modo reduci possunt. Quidni ergo & in ipsis viventibus dentur ac-
tiones & accidentia, quae ab animanon proveniant?"
48 00 I, p. 218.
49 EE, fol. 144v.
Sennert on Poison and Epilepsy 187

50 00 I, p. 218; see EE, exercitatio 59, 2.

51 CA, pp. 230, 279; see 00 I, p. 205.
52 EE, fol. 319v; DP, fol. 178r; see 00 I, p. 214.
53 00 I, p. 224.
54 DC, p. 199.
55 IMP, 139: "Elementa ... & corporum Principia, quae permixta primam

compositionem fecerunt in eorum Generatione, non tarn stabili lege ligan-

tur, ut durare possirrt ad seminis constitutionem ... "
56 00 I, p. 342: "humores vitiosi, ac similia in corpore, corpus nostrumnon

constituunt ... "

57 PM, p. 72: "Frequentissime vero venenatos humores in corpore nostro

generari puto materiae ratione. Cum enim in singulis coctionibus novae

mistiones fiant, neque forma una sublata, omnes subordinatae pereant,
neque ... in qualibet rei mutatione & corruptione fiat resolutio ad materiam
primam, verum quando aliquid corrumpitur, forma tantum, determinatum-
que illius formae, quae corrumpi dicitur, temperamentum seu subjectum
cum suis accidentibus pereat; aliae vero formae subordinatae cum propriis
quoque suis accidentibus integrae manere possint: accidit, ut saepe aliqua
forma manifestetur & sese exserere incipiat, quae antea latebat."
58 DC, p. 126: "[F]ormae & animae rerum e prima creatione primam suam

habent originem, & hinc propagantur: ita & hoc corpus & quinta ista essen-
tia. Creator enim rerum generationis fundamenturn posuit seminium cujus-
que rei, per quod generabilia propagantur, ac ipse primitus totum miscuit;
atque ita in rerum generatione hoc, quod ab initio rebus inditum corpus, in
generatione propagatur ... "
59 lbid., p. 530: "Hoc autem in plantis & animalibus nihil aliud videtur esse,

quam spiritus ille insitus, humidumque radicale, quae conjunctim sumta

vulgo Calidi nativi, a recentioribus, Chymicis praesertim, Balsami naturalis
nomine appellantur." On balsamus in Severinus, see Hirai, Le concept de
semence dans !es theories de la mat!re ala renaissance, pp. 228-232.
60 00 I 273
61 On tl~e th~ological aspects of Sennert' s theory of the origin of forms, see

Stolberg, "Particles ofthe Soul".

62 00 I, p. 341.
63 00 I, p. 216.
64 PM, p. 73: "[H]omo vescatur animalibus & plantis, plantae e terra, quae

fimo excrementis animalium & pluvia foecundatur, vel fluviorum inunda-

tionibus, succum, a quo nutriuntur, attrahent; res corpori nostro adversas
ubique reperire in fimo & excrementis animalium, in terra, in pluviis, in
aquis est. Quae quando cum alimento in corpus nostrum veniunt, non sem-
per tota excemuntur, sed cum eo saepe in corpus sese penitus insinuant, &
188 Chapter 7

vires suas retinent ... His ergo omnibus cum rursum cibi loco utatur homo,
venenata illa substantia . . . quae in plantarum & animalium alimentum
subiit, etsi per varias coctiones in varias formas mutata, tandem in hominis
alimentum cedit, & aliis mista saepe longo tempore non nocet: at ubi ab
illis secreta fuerit, & sola extiterit, turn homini nocere incipit, & venenum
evadit ... "
Chapter 8

Sennert and Leibniz on Animate Atoms

8.1. Introduction

Famously, from his early years on Leibniz criticizes ancient atom-

ism for describing atoms as absolutely indivisible. According to his
view, matter is both infinitely divisible and actually infinitely di-
vided.1 Nevertheless, the early Leibniz is committed to entities that
he calls "atoms", 2 and in his later years he continues calling com-
posite substances "atoms of substance". 3 Richard Arthur has re-
cently described this situation as the "enigma of Leibniz's atom-
ism": Leibniz consistently rejects the existence of absolutely indi-
visible atoms, while at the same time he is committed to the exis-
tence of atoms of a different kind. Most occurrences of Leibniz's
early "atoms" and later "atoms of substance" share interesting prop-
erties: they are individuated by an immaterial, soul-like entity, and
they possess a material body that displays intemal complexity. Why
did Leibniz characterize such complex, composite entities as "at-
oms"? Arthur suggests that the answer comes easily once we realize
that in early modern chemical atomism the conception of atoms as
absolutely indivisible was by no means the prevalent one. Rather,
atoms were regarded as entities that are either not further divisible
by means of laboratory processes. Chemical atomism is consistent
with the assumption that atoms have a complex intemal structure.
As Arthur puts it, in the chemical tradition "many authors proposed
atoms that were regarded not only as divisible but also as possessing
a variety of qualities, powers, and inner complexity."4
In particular, Arthur draws attention to the fact that there are
substantial and illuminating parallels between Leibniz's early views
on atoms and the chemical atomism of Daniel Sennert. Arthur is not
claiming that Leibniz was directly influenced by Sennert. Rather, he
is claiming that key features of Leibniz's position "were implicit in
the atomist tradition with which he was certainly familiar." 5 Arthur
has brought to light striking analogies between Sennert and the early
190 Chapter 8

Leibniz: (1) Sennert and the early Leibniz maintain that atoms have
the capacity to fuse into a continuum. Sennert adopts this property
of corpusdes from Julius Caesar Scaliger, who invokes it to explain
mixture. 6 Similarly, the early Leibniz uses the same property to ex-
plain the cohesion of corpusdes in motion. 7 And, like Sennert, the
early Leibniz acknowledges the work of Scaliger as one ofthe major
influences on his own thought. 8 (2) Sennert and the early Leibniz
were committed to the Lutheran doctrine of Traducianism. Accord-
ing to this theological doctrine, souls are propagated through the
medium of parental seeds: souls share the capacity of other substan-
tial forms of "multiplying" themselves, in the sense that they can
produce copies of themselves that are substantial forms of their
own. 9 (3) Sennert and the early Leibniz hold that atoms possess
substantial forms. 10 What is more, they share the view that while a
living being has a substantial form, its body contains a large number
of atoms that have their own substantial forms. 11
I agree with Arthur that in these three respects there is a strong
and illuminating consilience between Sennert and the early Leibniz.
Moreover, as Arthur rightly points out, since Leibniz's early con-
ception of animate atoms is a recognizable predecessor of his later
conception of "atoms of substance", some points of consilience
carry over to Leibniz's later metaphysics, especially his view that
the body of a living being is constituted by "subordinate monads"
that are in some way activated by a "dominant monad". However,
focussing on the analogies identified by Arthur may lead one to
overlook some substantial disanalogies between Sennert and the
early (and later) Leibniz. In what follows I will argue that there are
such disanalogies in two interrelated respects: (1) Sennert and the
early Leibniz develop diverging interpretations of alleged observa-
tions of the regeneration of plants from their ashes (palingenesis).
Leibniz holds that an essential part of the substance of a plant (a part
that he calls "core of substance" or "flower of substance") can be
reduced below observable size, such that numerically the same plant
could be regenerated from its ashes. By contrast, Sennert holds that
it is conceivable that in the ashes of the plant some formal principles
survive that are sufficient to regenerate the external figure of the
plant, but he denies that in the ashes the substantial form of the plant
is able to survive. (2) Sennert and the early Leibniz take different
Sennert and Leibniz 191

stances with respect to the role of emanative causation in animate

atoms. Sennert and Leibniz share the view that Traduction is an
instance of emanation, and that the influence of the substantial form
on its organic body works by means of emanative causation. How-
ever, while for Sennert these are the only two cases of emanative
causation in the created world, Leibniz ascribes to animal souls a
third kind of emanative causation, namely the emanation of activi-
ties that remain immanent to the soul. This difference may explain
why Sennert and Leibniz take opposite views as to the persistence of
plant and animal souls: while Leibniz holds that animate atoms can
continue their intemal activities even if their organic bodies are di-
minished below observable size, Sennert holds that plants and ani-
mal souls require an organic body of a certain minimal size to be
able to act on their bodies and, hence, are destroyed when their bod-
ies are diminished below a given minimal size.

8.2. Animate Atomsand the Question ofPalingenesis

Arthur sees strong analogies between Sennert's views and Leibniz's

early views about the persistence of animate atoms. Referring to
Leibniz's early "flower of substance" doctrine, Arthur maintains
that Leibniz's atoms of 1676 are conceived as "cores" of organic
bodies. 12 According to the early Leibniz, the soul "is implanted as it
were more firmly in certain parts ... " 13 In a short response to
Boyle's Same physico-theological considerations about the possibi-
lity of the resurrection, Leibniz holds that "the flower of substance
is our body, subsisting perennially in all changes", or at least "is
diffused throughout the whole body, and in a way contains only
form." 14 According to Arthur, the conception of "flower of sub-
stance" brings Leibniz "in line with Sennert's view of the way the
soul informs the body: the soul is implanted in the body, which is
invisibly small prior to conception, and it occupies all of the body as
it grows." 15
I agree that Sennert's conception of a soul implanted in invisi-
bly small seeds has close parallels with Leibniz's conception of
visible living beings developing out of invisibly smallliving beings.
However, do Leibniz's and Sennert's views on the persistence of
souls and animate atoms coincide? For Leibniz, the "flower of sub-
192 Chapter 8

stance" doctrine is meant to give a philosophical account of the per-

sistence of numerically the same individual even if the body is di-
vided no matter to what extent. As he puts it, the soul inheres "in a
firm and inseparable flower of substance, which is mobile in a subtle
way in the center of animal spirits, and is united with it substantial-
ly, such that it is not separated from it even by death." 16 Sennert's
views about the persistence of souls have clearly something in
common with Leibniz's. Sennert holds that "the soul itself can re-
main whole in ... minimal bodies and conserve itself ... " 17 This
passage suggests that there are cases in which souls can be pre-
served in bodies of a certain minimal size. 18 However, it is worth
emphasizing some of the implications that understanding atoms as
natural minima has for the question of the immortality of souls and
animated atoms. Recall that a scholastic minimum naturale was
defined as the unit material embodiment of the form. 19 Minimism
implies that, once a given minimum naturale is divided further than
its minimal size, the form that it possessed previously is no Ionger
able to persist (even if the parts of the former body continue to ex-
ist). Hence, minimism implies that animate atoms do not persist
once the body associated with a soul is divided beyond a given mi-
nimal size.
That Sennert's and Leibniz's views conceming the persistence
of animate atoms differ becomes obvious in their different responses
to alleged cases of palingenesis. Both Leibniz and Sennert refer to a
passage from a work by Joseph Du Chesne (Josephus Quercetanus,
1544-1609), a leading propagator of chemical medicine in late l6 1h
century Paris. 20 It will be helpful first to have a look at the passage
from Du Chesne, to which both Sennert and Leibniz refer. In a pas-
sage from his Ad veritatem hermeticae medicinae (1605), Du
Chesne teils the following story about an unnamed physician from

He ... knew to make ashes appear in such an elegant and philo-

sophical way, made out of all parts of a plant, and this with all
the tinctures and impressions of all the parts ofthis plant, and to
conserve their spirits, the producers of all their faculties, in such
a knowledgeable way, that he had more that thirty such plants
that were artfully prepared from ashes, and preserved them in
Sennert and Leibniz 193

various hermetically sealed glass vessels 0 0 [F]rom the bottom


of such a vessel, when brought to the fire of a lamp and heated a

bit, the most thin and ungraspable ashes emitted out of them-
selves an obvious image of the rose, which slowly began to
grow, live, and [first] to express the entire form ofthe stem and
the leaves, then the shadow and figure of the buds, finally to
produce the most developed rose, as was evident to the eyes of
the observer. There was nothing more certain and elegant than
that fact from a shadowy rose the most obvious rose unfolded,
and that it could be seen that it was perfect in all its parts 21
0 0 0

Du Chesne also mentions that the alleged phenomenon was merely

temporary and lasted only as long as the vessel was close to the fire:
"This shadowy figure, however, once the vessel was removed from
the fire, fell back into its ashes, and vanishing regained its former
chaoso"22 Nevertheless, he gives a subtle interpretation ofthe tempo-
rary phenomenon described by the Polish physiciano According to
Du Chesne, one "would have plainly called it corporeal, although it
was merely a spiritual idea that gave itself an appearance, albeit
endowed with a spiritual essence as if nothing would be missing to it
than that it be given to a suitable piece of earth, such that it may
acquire a more solid bodyo" 23 Although far from being crystal clear,
this remark suggests that Du Chesne does not think that in the vessel
a realliving being was emergingo However, it also indicates that he
does not think that what is ernerging is a mere image of the pre-
viously living beingo Rather, according to his view what emerges is
an image that itself could function as the "essence" of a living being
had it only be conjoined with a suitable portion of matter. In fact,
Du Chesne holds that the vital forces of living beings are contained
in an entity that he calls "primary humidity" (humidum primige-
nium)o As Hiro Hirai explains, Du Chesne, like many Renaissance
chymists, took "primary humidity" to be the elementary substrate of
the more subtle "vital spirits" that he regarded as material but non-
elementary entities?4 According to Du Chesne, palingenesis shows
"that by means of fire and calcinations the primary humidity is not
consumedo"25 Moreover, he holds that "all stronger tinctures and
impressions, and properties of things, and the most potent of those
qualities and potencies, such as tastes, odors, colors, and even forms
194 Chapter 8

themselves . . . are enclosed and hidden in this firm, constant and

vital principle."26 In Du Chesne's view, what palingenesis illustrates
is that in the ashes there are qualities, potencies, and possibly even
substantial forms that belonged to a living being.
In his De chymicorum cum Aristotelicis et Galenicis consensu
ac dissensu (1619), Sennert, too, discusses palingenesis in the con-
text of a theory of subtle matter. However, he shifts the focus from
Du Chesne's "primary humidity" to a subtle material "spirit" that he
finds both in the Pseudo-Aristotelian De mundo and in a work by Du
Chesne on medication. Sennert mentions that in De mundo this spirit
is described as an all-pervading substance, thus resembling the Stoic
pneuma. 27 He also mentions that Du Chesne invokes a material spirit
when explaining why nitric acid is capable of penetrating a glass
still, thus giving a chemical meaning to the concept of spirit. 28 Sen-
nert describes this entity as follows: "This spirit and body that is
analogaus to the ether is lighter and faster than any element, and
contains within itself a kind of heat that is able to carry through all
actions that are suitable for its species ... The same body also has
the highest force of penetration."29 While Sennert's spirit shares
with the Stoic pneuma the characteristic of penetrating less subtle
bodies, it also shares with the chemical spirits the characteristic of
being differentiated into various species and to possess certain ac-
tive dispositions according to the species to which it belongs. In this
sense, Sennert's "spirit" comes in the plural. And while his spirits
possess specific active properties, they are clearly characterized as
material entities and, hence, differ from vegetative or sensitive souls
as understood by Sennert.
Sennert regards the alleged cases of palingenesis as useful for
the investigation of the nature of spirits (naturam spirituum investi-
ganda).30 He gives the following, slightly modified account of pa-

Du Chesne . . . reports that he once had seen a certain Polish

physician who knew how to prepare a powder from all of the
parts of any plant so skillfully, that it contained the spirits of the
plant, the producers of faculties and functions: Such that if
someone asked to be shown a rose ... he took a powder of this
plant, contained in a hermetically sealed glass vessel and
Sennert and Leibniz 195

brought it close to a flame, so that it became hot at the bottom.

Once this was done, as he reports, the powder slowly extended
itself and grew, and displayed the plant complete in all its parts,
is such a way that one would have plainly thought it corporeal:
while it nevertheless was only spiritual; and once the vessel be-
came cold again ... it was included again in the ashes or powd-
er; albeit not without providing an image of resurrection and re-
generation foranother life. 31

Note that in this passage Sennert emphasizes Du Chesne's view that

what is produced in the heated glass vessel is merely "spiritual" but
omits Du Chesne's claim that this spiritual image contains the es-
sence of a plant such that only some suitable matter would have to
be added to obtain a complete living plant. While it is not very clear
in which sense "spiritual" is to be understood here, one thing is
striking: Sennert discusses the alleged observation under the heading
of occult phenomena that do not involve the presence of a soul. A
bit earlier in the text he writes: "Not all actions that are nobler than
the elements proceed from the soul." In particular, "[t]he parts of
dead animals and of plants devoid of life nevertheless have those
forces and operations that can by no means be reduced to ele-
ments."32 This makes palingenesis akin to other phenomena (such as
magnetism and contagion) that, in Sennert's view, are inexplicable
by means of the properties of elements but nevertheless do not in-
volve the agency of a soul-like entity. According to Sennert, what
survives in the ashes is some portion of subtle matter that previously
pertained to the plant and now explains some causal powers of the
ashes that go beyond the powers of the elements. But in the ashes
neither the plant soul survives, nor does the plant survive in the
ashes as an invisibly small animate atom.
By contrast, Leibniz believes that Du Chesne's views about pa-
lingenesis are supportive of claims in favor of the possibility of the
resurrection? 3 According to his view, palingenesis supports the pos-
sibility of the resurrection because it indicates that the "core of sub-
stance" in which the soul is implanted "is so subtle that it remains in
the ashes of bumt things and is able, as it were, to contract itself into
an invisible center." 34 Here it becomes evident that Leibniz's subtle
matter remains animated in the ashes. This clearly distinguishes
196 Chapter 8

Leibniz's subtle matter from Sennert's "spirits", which do not re-

main animated in the asheso While for Leibniz the alleged cases of
palingenesis confirm the view that very smallliving beings persist in
the ashes of plants, for Sennert these cases indicate that in the ashes
of plants there are causal principles other than living beingso Ac-
cording to Sennert, vegetative souls and the plants animated by them
are mortal. This sets Sennert' s view of vegetative souls and animate
atoms apart from Leibniz's early "core of substance" conceptiono
And obviously, it also sets them apart from Leibniz's later concep-
tion of the apparent death of a living being as a transformation of an
individual that retains its identityo 35

8030 Sennerton Animate Atomsand Emanative Causation

Sennert's remarks on palingenesis clearly indicate that he was

committed to the mortality of vegetative soulso Arthur notices that
Sennert wishes to uphold the mortality of animal souls, as well. 36
For example, Sennert writes that "[o]n death 0 the dominant form

is extinguished, and the body is reduced to the next lower grade of

forms making up the substances that compose it."37 On first sight, it
may appear as if Sennert's stance is threatened by inconsistencyo As
Arthur points out, a "major reason for positing [atoms] is that 0 0 0

atoms-or rather certain molecules formed from them-are able to

serve as units for the propagation of natural kinds, with their indivi-
sibility ensuring the assumed incorruptibility of forms 0
38 Arthur
0 0 "

notes that for Leibniz "all forms are immortal. This immortality, in
turn, follows from their immateriality"? 9 Moreover, Arthur observes
that "this does not distinguish him from Daniel Sennert, who was
perfectly explicit that forms0 must be immaterial." 40 If immortali-
0 0

ty follows from immateriality, it would seem as if Sennert would

have to give up his stance on the mortality of plant and animal soulso
In fact, his views on the mortality of animal souls triggered an ex-
tensive controversy between Johann Freytag (1581-1641), who
attacked Sennert's views, and Johann Sperling (1603-1658), who
defended themo 41 Freytag argued that the transmission of souls from
the parents per traducem would imply the immortality of the souls
of beastso Interestingly, Arthur takes sides in this controversy when
Sennert and Leibniz 197

he remarks that Sennert's "defence of self-multiplying of the soul

seems only to reinforce Freytag's charges."42
However, minimism has interesting consequences for the con-
sistency of Sennert's stance on the mortality of plant and animal
souls. His animate atoms are divisible physically, in such a way that
in the case of division below a minimal size they are no Ionger ca-
pable of sustaining a vegetative or sensitive soul. In his Hypomne-
mata physica (1636), Sennert mentions the following consequence
of minimism: "[T]here are the smallest parts of Natural Bodies; viz.
which ifthey be further divided they lose their Form and Essence." 43
Thus, division of a natural body beyond its minimal size brings with
it that its previous substantial form no Ionger exists. Specifically
with respect to the animate seeds of plants, Sennert emphasizes:

Nor would I have any Man carp at what I have hitherto said ...
concerning Souls, and the Seminal Virtue in Atomesand smal-
lest bodies, and charge me as if I held that such souls, because
in so many mutations they remain entire, are immortal. For, as
the seeds of non-Spontaneaus Plants do many times remain
long entire, and yet at last die: the same may also happen in the
Spontaneous, viz. ifthey meet with some contrary, or the matter
be too much divided. 44

This passage leaves little doubt about the fact that Sennert regards
the mortality of vegetative souls as a consequence of his minimism.
But why would an immaterial substantial form cease to exist
through the division of the bodies associated with it beyond its mi-
nimal size? After all, immaterial entities are not divisible them-
selves, since they arenot extended. I would like to suggest that Sen-
nert' s view about the activities of plant and animal souls gives a clue
as to why he thinks that their essence depends on the presence of an
organic body of a specific minimal size.
As in the early Leibniz, the Neo-platonic notion of emanation
plays a crucial role in Sennert's conception of the activity of souls.
Some entries in the Lexicon philosophicum (1613) by Rudolph Go-
clenius (154 7-1628), one of the leading figures in Protestant meta-
physics, will be helpful here. Goclenius characterizes emanative
causation as follows:
198 Chapter 8

To emanate is to accompany immediately the essence, albeit

without any respect to existence, and before existence, and
without any respect to an extemal cause. In the proper sense, it
is to flow from another thing, or to exist due to the principles of
the essence of the subject, or to arise out of the essence of
something by means of an irrdissoluble nexus and connection. 45

One of the examples that Goclenius gives is the relation between the
essence of a thing and its real properties. 46 In particular, he applies
the concept of emanation to relation between the soul and its poten-
cies.47 Moreover, he describes the relation between rational souls
and their intellectual potencies as an instance of immanent action:

Immanent action ... in the most proper sense has one and the
same proximate principle that is both active and receptive. It
remains in the same substrate, and in the same potency, from
which it is brought forth, such as thought and appetition. Here
belong the emanations or results of the spiritual properties of
the soul, such that intellect and will arise proximately from the
soul and are in the soul. 48

As Goclenius explains, an action is either immanent (immanens), in

the sensethat it is an action of an agent within the agent itself (actio
... agentis intra se); or it is transitive (transiens), in the sensethat it
is an action of an agent outside of the agent itself ( actio ... agentis
extra se); or it is "in the middle between immanent and transitive"
(media inter immanentem et transeuntem). 49 But in which sense can
an action be "in the middle" between immanent and transitive ac-
tion? A few lines later, Goclenius recognizes an intermediary kind
of action that is immanent and transitive at the same time. This kind
relates to the agency of vegetative and sensitive souls: "Naturallife
remains immanent in the soul, from which it emanates, and is re-
ceived in the body." 50 Goclenius here observes that the potencies of
the souls that convey life to organic bodies involve both immanent
and transitive action. Moreover, he describes both types of action as
instances of emanative causation. In particular, emanative causation
allows him to claim that natural life remains immanent in the soul
Sennert and Leibniz 199

while at the same time also inhering in the body. Goclenius de-
scribes this kind of action as immanent and transitive at the same
time because it is immanent with respect to the soul and transitive
with respect to the body.
Sennert uses the concept of emanative in various contexts. One
is the context of Traducianism, where he holds that souls "emanate"
from the parents. 51 Applying Goclenius' distinctions, this relation
would count as an instance of transitive action since the newly gen-
erated souls are numerically different from the souls of the parents.
Another context is the question of how elements relate to their ma-
nifest qualities (such as warm, cold, humid, dry) and of how com-
pounds relate to their occult qualities. 52 A third context is the rela-
tion between vegetative and sensitive souls and their properties.
Sennert writes: "[T]he faculties ofthe soul are inseparable properties
of the soul, and flow . . . from the essence of the soul by means of
simple emanation; but they are received in the animated body as in a
subject ... " 53 Accordingly, the relation between vegetative and sen-
sitive souls and their properties is an emanation relation that in-
volves immanent action since the properties inhere in the souls;
however, it also involves transitive action, since the properties of the
soul are received in the body, i.e., in a subject other than the soul.
Here one encounters a case of emanative causation that is "in
the middle" between immanent and transitive activity because it is
both, immanent and transitive. If it is essential for the properties of
vegetative and sensitive souls to be received in the body the body
has to be in shape that makes it possible that vegetative and sensitive
processes take place in the body. Otherwise, the properties of veget-
ative and sensitive souls could not be received in the body. If this is
what Sennert has in mind, the emanative operations of vegetative
and sensitive souls are essentially bound to an organic body of a
certain minimal size. Ifthe portions ofmatter associated with veget-
ative and sensitive souls become too small, such operations cannot
be carried out any longer. Due to the transitive aspect of the emana-
tive activity of vegetative and sensitive souls, the size and organiza-
tion of the associated organic body is essential for the persistence of
the soul-like entity and, hence, for the persistence of the animate
atom. In this way, Sennert's combination of minimism with emana-
200 Chapter 8

tive causation implies the mortality of plant and animal souls and,
hence, the mortality of the animate atoms associated with them.

8.4. Leibniz on Animate Atomsand Emanative Causation

As Christia Mercer has emphasized, the concept of emanation plays

a crucial role in Leibniz's early metaphysics, as well. 54 Like Sennert,
the early Leibniz also describes Traduction as an emanation relation:
"[T]he mind is able to multiply itself through Traduction without
new creation, with no loss to the incorporeal [principle] ... " 55 More-
over, he regards the relation between mind-like entities and the or-
ganic bodies that they individuate as an emanation relation. In a
letter to Johann Friedrich of May 1671, Leibniz says that the passive
principle in a corporeal substance "is diffused" by the mind or sub-
stantial form and that the mind acts "without being diminished". 56
To judge from what Goclenius and Sennert say on this issue, the
view that the mind emanates activities into the organic body without
itself being diminished seems to have been an accepted category in
Protestant metaphysics. From this perspective, it seems plausible to
understand Leibniz's early views conceming the relation between
mind-like entities and the organic bodies animated by them as in-
volving both immanent and transitive emanation. 57
Whether or not the early Leibniz is committed to transitive
emanative causation between mind-like entities and organic bodies,
one point is crucial for the present purposes. In Leibniz's view, the
causal role of all mind-like entities-even of those that are not ca-
pable of intellectual activities-involves a kind of activity that is
purely immanent and, hence, does not depend on the presence of a
body of a certain minimal size. It is at this juncture that Leibniz
departs from the framework shared by Goclenius and Sennert.
Clearly, for the early Leibniz the indestructibility of mind-like enti-
ties has to do with their point-like character: since points are not
extended, they cannot be destroyed by means of division. 58 But then,
he still has to explicate the nature ofthe potencies ofmind-like enti-
ties associated with invisibly small portions of matter. Interestingly,
in his notes for a projected work on Elements of the Mind Leibniz
avoids restricting the application of the concept of thought to ration-
al, human souls. Rather, he introduces 'thought' as an indefinable
Sennert and Leibniz 201

concept that characterizes the actlvlty of all mind-like entltles:

"Thinking is being the reason of change, or changing itself. Like-
wise, it is being the reason of itself. Thinking is indefinable, and the
same holds for sensing, or rather actingo" 59 He maintains that "in the
contents of thoughts (cogitabilia) themselves there has to be the
reason why they are sensed but this is not in the thinking of a
0 0 0,

single thing, hence it will be in [the thinking of] many thingso " 60
Accordingly, "Thought is nothing but the sense of comparison, or
shorter, the sense of many at once or the one in manyo" 61 These
cryptic remarks suggest that, in Leibniz's view, all mind-like entities
are capable of comparing the impressions that they receive by means
of their bodieso In this sense they act upon their own states and,
hence, upon themselveso Hence, they are also the reason for the
change of their stateso This structure corresponds closely to the no-
tion of immanent action: both the origin of the action and the result
of the action are in one and the same beingo
In notes from the Paris years, Leibniz reaffirms his conception
of the structure of mind-like entitieso For example, he remarks that
"we do not act as a simple machine, but out of reflection, ioeo, of
action on ourselveso"62 Even self-consciousness, in Leibniz's view,
does not produce in the first instance reflexive activities but rather
draws our attention to the fact that our previous, unattended mental
activities already instantiated such a reflexive structure:

I have not yet explained satisfactorily how there come about

these different beats of the mind, with that constantly reci-
procated reflection They seem to occur by the distinguishing
0 0 0

awareness of the corporeal intention; but, if you observe care-

fully, that beat only brings it about that you remernher that you
had this-namely, the reflection of a reflection-in the mind a
little before 63
0 0 0

In a note from the 1680, Leibniz makes the connection between

thought and immanent activity explicit when he characterizes a
thinking being (cogitans) as "the one that expresses many with im-
manent actiono" 64 Moreover, Leibniz regards the reflexive structure
of the activity of mind-like entities as a further reason why such
entities are naturally indestructible: "Thought, or the sensation of
202 Chapter 8

oneself, or action on oneself, is necessarily continued." 65 The activ-

ity of a thinking being is necessarily continued because it is an im-
manent action.
One further consequence of immanent action deserves notice.
Due to the immanent character of their activities, mind-like entities
are not only naturally indestructible; they also can be associated
with bodies of no matter what size. In another piece from the 1680s,
Leibniz recalls his conception of mind-like entities as those beings
that are characterized by the "action of the same thing on itself'. 66
According to his view, such entities cannot be produced or extin-
guished by natural means since "the determinate parts of matter do
not belong to its essence." The persistence of mind-like entities, as
Leibniz goes on to argue, lends credibility to the view that the ap-
parent extinction of a living being is nothing but a transformation.
The concept of immanent activity turns out to be what provides an
explication of the activities of the mind-like entities animating such
invisible animate atoms: "[F]rom the evidence of dreams we learn
that the senses are not always needed for perceiving, nor does it
matter in the end whether the change occurring in matter is greater
or less, except to the extent that the earlier perceptions would differ
more or less form the later ones."67 Hence, the activities that remain
in mind-like entities no matter how much the bodies associated with
them are diminished are purely immanent activities.
This is how Leibniz's conception of purely immanent emana-
tion leads to a conception of animate atoms that is not bound to mi-
nimism. Due to the immanent activities of mind-like entities, ani-
mate atoms can persist no matter how far their bodies are divided.
Moreover, Leibniz's later views on the persistence of living beings
carry this idea one step further. Famously, Leibniz's later metaphys-
ics eliminates transitive causal relations between individual sub-
stances altogether-hence also relations of transitive emanative
causation. All activities ofmind-like entities become immanent. One
of the first explicit statements of this conception can be found in a
piece probably written between 1680 and 1684: "No substance is
capable of transitive action, but only of immanent action, except
only God on whom all other substances depend. "68 If no substantial
action involves transitive causation, the persistence of the activities
of mind-like entities and, hence, the persistence of living beings
Sennert and Leibniz 203

constituted by such entities can be as little be bound to minimal

sizes of organic bodies as in Leibniz's early years.

8.5. Concluding Remarks

It should be clear by now that Sennert's and Leibniz's views on

animate atoms are connected by an intricate web of analogies and
disanalogies. Sennert and the early Leibniz share the view that
atoms are complex entities endowed with immaterial forms. In par-
ticular, they share the view that the complexity of atoms not only
involves a multiplicity of material parts but also the presence of
subordinate forms that together with material parts form subordinate
individuals within animate atoms. These analogies are substantial.
At the same time, Sennert and the early Leibniz diverge markedly
over the question of palingenesis and the role of emanative causa-
tion. While Sennert's minimism implied the mortality of plant and
animal souls that are no Ionger united with an organic body of a size
sufficient to emanate vital functions, Leibniz's conception of a kind
of immanent emanative causation common to all substantial forms
led him to the view that both substantial forms and animate atoms
are naturally immortal. Hence also their different conceptions of
what is going on in cases of palingenesis: For Leibniz, the soul of a
plant survives in the ashes, while for Sennert only some subtle mat-
ter containing information ab out the figure of the plant is preserved.
To be sure, palingenesis and emanation may seem rather arcane
topics. However, the different stances that Sennert and Leibniz take
on these issues indicate some profound differences in the structure
that they ascribe to animate atoms-differences, moreover, that
carry over to some aspects ofLeibniz's later metaphysics.
Do these differences make the comparison between Leibniz's
and Sennert's views on composite substances less interesting? By no
means. On the contrary, emphasizing their differences reinforces a
point made some years ago by Mercer under the heading of the "vi-
tality of early modern Aristotelianism". Under this heading, Mercer
discusses the insight that elements of the Aristotelian system contri-
buted to the success and development of the new philosophy. 69 She
points out that among the early atomists "many wanted to forge a
synthesis of atomism and the Aristotelian philosophy" and mentions
204 Chapter 8

Sennert as an example for such attempts. 7Certainly, Leibniz's view

of the structure of animate atoms diverges from Sennert' s. But then,
if one compares Sennert's views with those of some his predeces-
sors, other significant differences become apparent. Both the differ-
ences between Leibniz and Sennert and the differences between
Sennert and his predecessors indicate that, within a shared theoreti-
cal framework, these philosophers found ample occasion for trying
out novel ideas.
Arthur rightly points out that Leibniz could have derived the in-
spiration for his conception of dominant and subordinate forms as
well from Sennert as from other early modern thinkers such as Ju-
lius Caesar Scaliger and Fortunio Liceti. To be sure, there is tight
net of references in Sennert' s work to writings by Scaliger and Lice-
ti. Moreover, Sennert mentions Liceti as a source of inspiration for
the view that souls persist in minimal bodies. 71 However, Liceti's
version ofLatin pluralism differs considerably from Sennert's. Lice-
ti analyses subordinate forms as well as the substantial forms of
plants and non-human animals as configurations of particles. Such
forms can be divided, and substantial forms and their fragments can
be preserved in other material objects without functioning as the
substantial forms of these objects. 72 By contrast, Sennert's subordi-
nate and dominant forms are immaterial entities that cannot be di-
vided and that are not able to exist without functioning as substantial
forms of a material body.
Also Scaliger's version ofLatin pluralism differs strongly from
Sennert's. Scaliger analyses the relation between subordinate and
dominant substantial forms in a living being in terms of teleological
relations. Sennert accepts a teleological analysis of the subordina-
tion relation, but he goes beyond Scaliger when he analyses the Sub-
ordination relation also in terms of formal causation. Sennert main-
tains that, as long as they are dominated by higher-level forms, sub-
ordinate forms "themselves belong to the disposition and determina-
tion of matter". 73 In Sennert's view, belonging to the determination
of matter has two consequences: First, subordinate forms, as long as
they are dominated by higher-level forms, do not inform living be-
ings on their own. As he points out, it would be wrong to conclude
that "this or that living Creature hath W orms or other live Things in
it."74 This is an issue that separates Sennert's view of animate atoms
Sennert and Leibniz 205

from Leibniz's later conception of living beings within living be-

ings. 75 Second, according to Sennert subordinate forms, as long as
they are dominated by higher-level forms, function as the matter to
be informed by the higher-arder forms. 76 As he puts it, a subordinate
form "was already present in other bodies, although not actually, nor
performing the office of a form, but subordinate to the other more
noble forms, and affording to them a matter and fit subject."77 By
contrast, Scaliger explicitly rejects the view that forms could be
informed by other forms. 78
Sennert is far from taking over wholesale a position taken by
other early modern Aristotelians. Rather, he modifies in significant
respects a pattern of thought shared with other philosophers. Not
only do Leibniz's views concerning the irrtemal structure of animate
atoms differ from Sennert's, Sennert's views concerning the irrtemal
structure of animate atoms also differ from those of other early
modern "Latin pluralists". The intricate web of analogies and dis-
analogies that connects the works of Sennert, Leibniz, and their
predecessors thus provides a vivid example of the ways in which
early modern Aristotelianism was more variegated and innovative
than is often recognized.

1 E.g., Pacidius Philalethi [29 October-10 November 1676], A VI, 3, 554-

555; 560-561/LC 185; 199-201; Definitiones cogitationesque metaphysicae

[Summer 1678-Winter 1680-81], A VI, 4, 1399/LC 245; GP II, 250.
2 E.g., Notes on Science and Metaphysics, 18 March 1676, A VI, 3, 393/LC

57; De plenitudine mundi, [March] 1676, A VI, 3, 524-525/LC 61-63.

3 E.g., A VI, 4, 1466; GP IV, 511.
4 Arthur, "The Enigma ofLeibniz's Atomism", p. 203.
5 Arthur, "The Enigma ofLeibniz's Atomism", p. 220.
6 TB: 458; Scaliger 1557: fol. 143v.
7 Arthur, "Cohesion, Division and Harmony", pp. 113-119.
8 A VI, 1, 81; VI, 2, 433.
9 Arthur, "Composite Substance and Animal Generation in Sennert and

Leibniz", pp. 148-151. On the role of Traducianism in Sennert's thought,

see Stolberg, "Particles ofthe Soul".
206 Chapter 8

10 Arthur, "Composite Substance and Animal Generation in Sennert and

Leibniz", p. 151.
11 On the plurality of forms in Sennert, see Emerton, The Scientific Rein-

terpretation of Form, pp. 64-65; Michael, "Daniel Sennert on Matter and

12 Arthur, "Composite Substance and Animal Generation in Sennert and

Leibniz", pp. 163-164.

13 A VI, 1, 91.
14 A VI, 3, 478.
15 Arthur, "Composite Substance and Animal Generation in Sennert and

Leibniz", pp. 163-164.

16 A VI, 1, 533.
17 TB, p. 453.
18 On the combination of atomism with m1mm1sm in Sennert, see

Clericuzio, Elements, Principles and Corpuscles, p. 26; Michael, "Sen-

nert's Sea Change"; Hirai, Le concept de semence dans !es theories de la
matiere a la renaissance, pp. 402-406.
19 Emerton, The Scientific Reinterpretation ofForm, pp. 90-91; see Maier,

Die Vorlufer Galileis im 14. Jahrhundert, pp. 181-182.

20 On the controversies between Du Chesne and his opponents, see Debus,

The French Paracelsians, pp. 57-62; Brocldiss and Jones, The Medical
World ofEarly Modern France, pp. 125-128; Zinguer, "Aubert-Du Chesne
dans le debat paracelsien"; Lthy, "The Fourfold Democritus on the Stage
ofEarly Modem Science", pp. 474-477.
21 Du Chesne, Ad veritatem hermeticae medicinae, pp. 231-232: "Is ...

usque adeo eleganter & Philosophice apparare norat cinerem, ex omnibus

plantae cuiusvis partibus, idque cum omnibus tincturis ac impressionibus
omnium plantae partium, earumque usque adeo scite spiritus conservare,
omnium facultatum autores, ut plures quam triginta eiusmodi artificiose ex
cineribus paratas plantas, easque diversas haberet vasulis suis vitreis con-
tenta, Hermetico sigillo obsignatis ... [E]x cuius vasis fundo, lucemae igni
admoto, aliquantum incalescens, tenuissimus ac impalpabilis ille cinis ex se
apertarn rosae speciem emitteret, quam sensim crescere, vegetari, ac for-
mam penitus, caulis, foliorum, tandemque gemmae floridae rosae, umbram
ac figuram exprimere, & tandem explicatissimam rosam producere, apertis
oculis intueri liceret ... "
22 Ibid., p. 232: "Haec autem umbratilis figura, vase ab igne remoto, rursum

in suos cineres relabebatur, suumque chaos evanescendo sensim repetebat."

23 Ibid.: " ... ut plane corpoream diceres, quae spirituali tantum idea, revera

tarnen spirituali essentia dotata sese intuendam praeberet, cui nihil aliud
restaret, quam congruae terrae mandari, ut solidius corpus assumeret."
Sennert and Leibniz 207

24 Hirai, "Paracelsisme, neoplatonisme et medicine hermetique dans a theo-

rie de la matiere de Joseph Du Chesne", pp. 27-31.
25 Du Chesne, Ad veritatem hermeticae medicinae, p. 230: "Hinc discet

Anonymus, ignis vi & calcinatione non fuisse absorptum humidum primi-

genium ... "
26 lbid.: "[F]usius adhuc demonstraturi sumus ac probaturi, validiores

omnes tincturas ac impressiones, proprietatesque rerum, nec non potentis-

simas illarum qualitates ac potestates, quales sunt sapores, odores, colores,
imo etiam formas ipsas ... in illo firmo, constanti ac vitali principio con-
cludi ac delitescere."
27 See De mundo, 394b9-13.
28 See Du Chesne, Liber de priscorum philosophorum verae medicinae

materia, eh. 4.
29 CGA, pp. 257-258: "Spiritus ille ac corpus aetherei analogum levius &

celerius est omni elemento, & ad omnes actiones suae speciei convenientes
obeundas aptum continet in se calorem . . . I dem etiam corpus summam
penetrandi vim habet."

3 CGA. p. 262.
31 Ibid.: "Refert ... Quercetanus, se aliquando vidisse Medicum quendam

Polonum qui adeo artificiose noverat ex omnibus plantae cujusvis partibus

pulverem parare, qui Spiritus plantae, facultatum & functiones autores,
contineret: Ita ut si quis rogaret sibi rosam ... monstrari, pulverem illius
plantae, vitreo vasculo, Hermetico sigillo obsignato, inclusum, lucemae
admoveret, ut in fondo incalesceret. Quo facto illum pulverem sensim, in
Speciem plantae se extulisse & crevisse refert, plantamque omnibus parti-
bus absolutam exhibuisse, ut plane quis corpoream putarit: Cum tarnen
saltem Spiritualis esset, & vase refrigerato ... iterum in cineres vel pulve-
rem resideret; non sine Resucitationis & regenerationis ad alteram vitam
32 lbid., p. 248: "Non ... omnes actiones, quae elementis nobiliores surrt, ab

anima proveniunt ... Partes animalium emortuae, & plantae vita jam desti-
tutae, nihilominus eas vires habent, & operationes, quae ad elementa nullo
modo reduci possunt."
33 A VI, 3, 479.
34 A II, 1, 108-109.
35 On the biological side ofLeibniz's conception ofimmortality, see Smith,

"Leibniz on Spermatozoa and Immortality".

36 Arthur, "Composite Substance and Animal Generation in Sennert and

Leibniz", p. 153.
37 00, vol. 1, p. 218.
38 Arthur, "The Enigma ofLeibniz's Atomism", p. 207.
208 Chapter 8

39 Arthur, "The Enigma ofLeibniz's Atomism", p. 219.

40 Arthur, 'The Enigma ofLeibniz's Atomism", pp. 219-220.
41 Fora list of contributions to this controversy, see Michael, "Daniel Sen-

nerton Matterand Form", p. 274, note 9.

42 Arthur, "Composite Substance and Animal Generation in Sennert and

43 TB, p. 181 *. The entire fifth book of the Cole and Culpeper translation

of the Hypomnemata physica has an erroneous pagination, marked hence-

forth with "*".
44 Ibid.
45 Goclenius, Lexicon philosophicum, p. 146: "Emanare est immediate

essentiam comitari, tarnen sine respectu existentiae, & ante existentiam, &
sine respectu causae extemae. Proprie est fluere ab alio, seu ex principiis
essentiae subiecti existere[,] ab essentia alicuius indissolubili nexu vincu-
loque proficisci."
46 Ibid.: "Sie emanant reales proprietates."
47 Ibid.: "Sie ex anima emanant potentiae."
48 Ibid., p. 40: "Actio immanens ... maxime propria, habet unum idemque

principium proximum & Activum & Receptivum. Manet in eodem supposi-

to, & in eadem potentia, a qua elicitur, ut Cognitio & Appetitio. Huc perti-
nent emanationes seu resultantiae proprietatum spiritualium animae, ut,
Intellectus & voluntas sunt proxime ab anima & in anima."
49 Ibid.
50 lbid.: "Vita naturalis immanet in anima, a qua manat, & recipitur in cor-

51 TB, pp. 509-510.
52 QM, p. 59.
53 Ibid., p. 90: "[F]acultates animae inseparabiles animae proprietates sint,

& ab animae essentia per emanationem simplicem ... fluant; recipiantur

autem in animato corpore, ut subiecto ... " In his later years, Sennert ex-
presses the same view. See Sennert, Epitome scientiae naturalis (1633), p.
464: "Anima substantia est: [facultates] vero accidentia seu aptitudines &
propensiones quaedam ad operandum; quae ab animae essentia, ut caussa
prima, per solam emanationem fluunt, & pendent, & sine ullo medio in
eodem corpore animato, in quo anima est, recipiuntur."
54 Mercer, Leibniz's Metaphysics, pp. 223-224.
55 A li, 1, 97; translated in Mercer, Leibniz's Metaphysics, p. 224.
56 A li, 1, 113; translated in Mercer, Leibniz's Metaphysics, p. 224.
57 For an alternative interpretation of the emanation relation between mind

and body as an early version of pre-established harmony, see Mercer, Leib-

niz's Metaphysics, pp. 331-340.
Sennert and Leibniz 209

58 See A II, 1, 181.

59 lbid.
60 lbid.
61 A VI, 2, 282.
62 A VI, 3, 480/PDSR 37.
63 A VI, 3, 517/PDSR 73-75.
64 A VI, 4, 745.
65 A VI, 3, 588/PDSR 113.
66 A VI, 4, 1507/LC 285.
67 A VI, 4, 1508/LC 287.
68 A VI, 4, 1458.
69 Mercer, "The Vita1ity and Importance of Ear1y Modem Aristotelianism",

p. 39. Fora similar line of argument with respect to Renaissance Aristote-

lianism, see Schmitt, 'Towards a Reassessment of Renaissance Aristote-
70 Mercer, "The Vitality and lmportance ofEarly Modem Aristotelianism",

pp. 61-62.
71 TB, p. 453.
72 On the role of subordinate forms in Liceti 's theory of spontaneaus gener-

ation, see Hirai, "Ame de la terre, generation spontanee et origine de la vie:

Fortunio Liceti critique de Marsile Ficin"; Hirai, "Atomes vivants, origine
de l'me et generation spon-tanee chez Daniel Sennert", pp. 481-482.
73 TB, p. 176*.
74 lbid.
75 On "nested" individuality in Leibniz's later metaphysics, see Nachtomy,

Possibility, Agency, and Individuality in Leibniz 's Metaphysics, eh. 8-10.

76 TB, p. 180*.
77 TB, p. 202*.
78 EE, fol. 11r.

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Accidents 33, 42, 55, 60, 62, 124, 127, 130, 149, 151,
78, 170, 177, 180, 208 n. 161,172-173,204-205
53 Arthur, R. T. W. 184 n. 7,
Achillini, A. 42-43, 51 n. 76 189-191' 196-197' 204
Activity 34, 57-59, 67-69, 75- Atoms 28-32, 45-46, 95, 122,
76, 78-79, 97, 99, 104- 125-126, 189-192, 195-
105, 130, 139 n. 12, 151, 197,200
155-157, 159, 171, 174, Atomism 27-28, 94-95, 99,
179-180, 191, 194, 197, 122-123, 127, 132, 143-
199-203 149, 151, 156-158, 188-
Aggregates 29, 127, 129, 136 190
Albertus Magnus 7 5 Atran, S. 70 n. 1
Albrecht, M. 144 Aucante, V. 73
Alchemy 115-116, 121-122, Augustine, A. 84
125, 127, 137 Averroism 41-43, 161
Alciato, A. 142 n. 72 Avicenna 41, 112 n.36
Anaxagoras 144
Angelini, M. 109 n. 2 Barker, P. 87 n. 32
Anticipation 132 Billanovich, M. 47 n. 6
Anzulewicz, H. 85 n. 10 Bitbol-Hesperies, A. 110 n. 9
Apoplexy 169 Blackloists 116-117
Aristotle, Blank, A. 138 n. 7
De an. 78, 93, 95 Blood 100, 102, 107, 123,
Degen. an. 73, 92, 96-97 152, 154-155, 160
Degen. et corr. 77, 94, 99, Booth, E. 164 n. 16
122, 147 Bono, J. J. 87 n. 31
Hist. an. 57 Bowler, P. 110 n. 14
Met. 185 n. 17 Boyle, R. 164 n. 7, 185 n. 26,
Meteor. 28, 95, 122, 125 191
PA 94 Bradley, R. I. 138 n .8
Phys. 36-37, 93 Brockliss, L. 206 n. 20
Aristotelianism 27, 33, 39, Browne, T. 138 n. 8
42-43, 53-55, 75-76, 89- Bruzzone, G. L. 110 n. 8
91, 108-109, 115-118,
230 Index

Cardano, G. 47 n. 2, 50 n. 64, Constitution 170, 178-180

96 Contagion 29, 183 n. 4
Cassirer, E. 48 n. 31 Contiguity 30
Causation, Continuum 28-30, 57, 125,
accidental 102, 108 190
celestial 31, 42-43, 72 n. Containment 174, 177-179
38,74-79,95, 151 Core of substance 190-191,
chemical 119, 122-123, 195-196
168, 172-177, 194 Corpuseies 28, 32, 35-37,
divine 31, 40, 42-43, 72 n. 126, 168, 190
42, 74, 117, 160-161, 174 Corpuscularian philosophy
efficient 36, 66, 76, 93, 27-28, 31, 33, 36, 99, 101,
155, 161 115-116, 121-122, 125,
emanative 74-75, 81-83, 127, 130
161, 179, 191, 196-203 Corruption 39, 76, 122, 126,
formal 58, 66, 100-101, 146-149, 170, 172-173,
204-205 175, 180
final 34, 59, 111 n. 24 Cultivar 61
immanent 200-203
transitive 105, 198-200 Da Monte, G. 29
Charles I. 115 David ofDinant 75
Charleton, W. 141 n. 68 Death 68, 80, 92, 151, 192,
Ceard, J. 110 n. 9 196
Cesalpino, A. 70 n. 1, 71 n. Debus, A. G. 183 n. 1, 206 n.
25 20
Cheung, T. 139 n. 12 Deer-Richardson, L. 184 n.
Cicero, M. T. 132 13
Clericuzio, A. 47 n. 14, 48 n. Degeneration 55-56, 61, 65,
18, 139 n. 22, 164 n. 7, 172-173, 177-179
206 n. 18 Democritus 115, 122, 125-
Clucas, S. 140 n. 43 126, 144
Common notions 117-118, De mundo 79-80, 83-84, 194
121, 131-136, 145-149 Density 28-29, 38-39, 118-
Condensation 28, 38 119
Connection 36 De plantis 54, 65-66
Consciousness, Descartes, R. 89, 91, 108, 115
animal156-157 Des Chene, D. 92-93
human 157-160 Dessi, C. 87 n. 31
Index 231

Detel, W. 141 n. 68 Feyens, T. 100, 110 n 13

Diakrisis 122, 125-126 Ficino, M. 86 n. 25
Digby, K. 115-138 Fisher, S. 92
Disease, Form, substantial,
ontological concept of 167 dominant 46, 54, 56-59,
physiological concept of 63-64, 126, 172, 174, 190,
167 196, 204-205
of the whole substance subordinate 46, 54, 57-59,
169-173 63-64, 68, 126-127, 141 n.
Dissection 169 56, 168, 171-172, 174,
Divisibility 118, 134-135, 189 177-182
Dobbs, B. J. 115, 138 n. 5 Form, accidental 101, 108
Du Chesne, J. 192-194 Forrester, J. M. 73
DuClo, G. 47 n. 14 Fracastoro, G. 28-35, 183 n. 4
Duchesneau, F. 164 n. 7 Freudenthal, G. 85 n. 4
Freytag,J. 196-197
Eamon, W. 138 n. 2 Fulton, J. F. 138 n. 3
Eckert, W. U. 184 n. 5, 185 n. Purretion 58, 62-64, 160, 167,
25 170-171, 181-182
Eclecticism 144-145, 163
Ecumenism 116-118, 121, Gabrieli, V. 138 n. 3
130, 136 Galen 115, 122, 147, 149, 184
Effluvia 31, 33, 185 n. 26 n. 9
Elements 147, 151 Galenism 65, 168-169, 172
Emanation, see Causation, Gassendi, P. 91-92, 115, 118,
emanative 131-132, 141 n. 68, 144-
Embryo 99-103, 105, 123, 146, 148-149, 158, 162
129, 145, 153, 155, 160 Generation,
Emerton, N. E. 27-28, 113 n. of composite bodies 40,
60, 164 n. 15, 184 n. 7, 76-77, 146-149
206 n. 11 and 19 ofplants 63-68, 94-96
Empedocles 31, 144 of animals 90-99, 115-
Epilepsy 167-170, 172-177 137, 150-162
Ether 81, 161, 194 spontaneaus 79, 177-179,
182-183, 197, 209 n. 72
Femel, J. 58, 73-84, 144, 168- Giglioni, G. 70 n. 5
171 Glidden, D. K. 141 n. 68
Fetus, see Embryo Goclenius, R. 60
232 Index

Goodrum, Mo Ro 165 no 40 J essenius, J 184 no 8


Grant, Eo 49 no 38, 50 no 57 John ofBaconthorpe 70 no 2

Gregory, T. 140 no 45 J ones, C. 206 no 20

Harvey, Wo 151, 161, 165 no Kargon, Ro Ho 164 no 7

28 Kassler, Jo C. 165 no 34
Henry, Jo 73, 132, 138 no 8, Krook, Do 138 no 9
163 no 1, 164 no 7
Hermetic tradition 65, 193- Lcerke, Mo 142 no 87
194 Labowsky, L. 72 no 34
Highmore, No 139 no 22 Lactantius 86 no 15
Hippocrates 112 no 36, 115, Lasswitz, K. 140 no 43
122, 154, 165 no 27 Latin Pluralism 54, 204
Hirai, Ho 47 no 16, 79, 86 no Leibniz, Go Wo 116, 190-196,
25, 87 no 36, 185 no 31, 200-205
187 no 59, 193, 206 no 18, Leijenhorst, Co 48 no 31
209 no 72 Lennox, Jo Go 85 no 4
Hoffmann, T. So 48 no 31 Lewis, Eo 144
Horace 142 no 87 Lewis, Jo Mo
Huebert, R. 138 no 8 Liceti, F 90-104, 204, 209 no

Hull, Do 70 no 1 72
Humors 63, 169, 171, 175- Lipsius, Jo 76, 84
176, 179-180 Lohr, C. Ho 110 no 8
Lucretius 36, 135, 158
Imagination 89-91, 96-104 Lthy, C. 27-28, 30-31, 48 no
Immanence, divine 74-76, 80- 18, 138 no 7, 184 no 8, 206
83 no20
Immortality 92, 116-117, 130,
136, 145, 158-159, 192, Mechanical philosophy 89-
196-197, 203, 208 no 35 91, 108-109, 143-144, 174
Impenetrability 29 Macdonald, P S 13 8 no 4
0 0

Individuation 35, 68, 169, 171 Maclean, I. 4 7 no 1

Indivisibility 196 Magnetism 31
Innocent X. 115 Mahoney, Eo Po 51 no 79
Intellect, universal 161 Maier, A. 47 no 7, 51 no 73,
206 no 19
Jean of Jandun 70 no 2 Malebranche, No 90-91
Jensen, K. 65, 70 no 5 Menocchio, Jo 142 no 72
Index 233

Meinel, C. 48 n. 18
Mersenne, M. 115 Pagel, W. 163 n. 1, 172, 183
Mercer, C. 74-75, 142 n. 76, n. 1, 184 n. 5, 186 n. 45
200,204 Pancino, C. 109 n. 2
Michael, E. 70 n. 2, 110 n. 13, Papy, J. 113 n. 55
138 n. 7, 140 n. 46 and 51, Paracelsus 167, 176, 186 n.
141 n. 56, 168, 184 n. 7, 45
206 n. 11 and 18 Paracelsism 172-173, 17 6
Michael, F. S. 110 n. 13, 206 Parisano, E. 91, 104-108
n. 11, 208 n. 41 Passivity 79, 131,200
Milk 153-154 Paul ofVenice 70 n. 2
Minima naturalia 27-30, 33, Pennuto, C. 109 n. 2, 183 n. 4
35-36, 38, 42-45, 57, 116, Perfetti, S. 70 n. 5
121,126, 130, 137, 148- Peruzzi, E. 48 n. 22
149, 152-153, 191-192, Pico, Gianfrancesco 39
197' 199-200 Pico, Giovanni 86 n. 25
Mixture 41-45, 57, 68, 77, 97, Piccolomini, F. 75
99, 120, 122-127, 137, Place 33-35, 39
147-149, 172, 174, 178, Plato 65, 80-81, 144
180, 182 Platonism 31, 65, 74-75, 79,
Murdoch, J. E. 49 n. 43, 51 n. 81-83, 161, 197
74 Plinius, 71 n. 25 and 33
Plotinus 82
Nachtomy, 0. 209 n. 75 Pneuma 81, 97, 161, 194
Nardi, B. 51 n. 76 Poison,
Newman, W. R. 121, 138 n. autogenerated 168, 170-
7, 140 n. 49 and 51, 169, 171
172, 183 n. 4, 184 n. 8 extemal181-182
Nieholaus Damascenus Pores 28, 30, 33, 37, 40, 45-
Niebyl, P. 167 46, 122, 169
Nifo, A. 28, 42-43 Presumption 132, 142 n. 72
Nutrition 73, 93-96, 107, 145, Preus, A. 85 n. 4
150-153 Principe, L. M. 47 n. 14
Nutton, V. 47 n. 17, 48 n. 22, Pseudo-Geber 116, 125-127
183 n. 4 Pyle, A. 39

Ongaro, G. 110 n. 12 Quercetanus, J., see Du

Osler, M. 143, 163 n. 1 Chesne, J.
234 Index

Raimondi, Fo Po 47 no 11 Shapiro, Bo Jo 164 no 9

Rarefaction 3 8 Sherrington, Co
Rarity 38, 118-119 Simplicity 29, 66, 74-80, 92,
Rather, Lo Jo 113 no 55 120, 199
Reconciliation 115-116, 143, Siraisi, N 184 no 13

172, 183 no 1 Smith, Jo Eo Ho 89, 208 no 35

Reflection 145, 157-160, 201- Solmsen, Fo 85 no 4
202 Souls,
Regis, Po-So 109 no 5 immaterial 36, 57, 91-92,
Resurrection 191, 195 117, 126, 136, 158, 160,
Roger, Jo 73 189, 194, 196-197
Rogers, Go A. Jo 163 n 1 material 57, 90-96, 156
Rossetti, L. 110 no 8 sensitive 57-58, 91-93, 95-
96, 130, 156-158, 165 no
Sandbach, F Ho 141 no 68
0 34, 194, 197-200
Scaliger, Jo Co 27-29, 35-46, rational 92, 117, 144, 158,
53-70, 177-178, 190, 204 198,201
Schmitt, C. Bo 39, 209 no 69 vegetative 57, 70 no 5, 92-
Schneider, Uo Jo 164 no 4 96, 130, 175, 194, 196,
Seeds, 198-200
of disease 29, 48 no 22, Southgate, Bo 138 no 8
167-168, 173-175, 182, Space 28, 30, 35, 39, 41, 44-
185 no 31 46, 93, 148-149
of animals 89-90, 96-99, Sperling,Jo 196-197
119-121, 160-161, 178- Spirits,
179,190 animal 97, 129, 170-171,
of plants 62-645, 173, 175, 176,192
177-178, 197 chemical 194-195
Semina, see Seeds medical102-103, 106-108
Seminal fluid 120 vital150-153, 180, 193
Seminal matter 120, 155, 177 Species,
Seneca, L. A. 76, 86 no 14 biological 53-56, 168,
Sennert, Do 161, 167-173, 173-175, 177-178, 182
175-183, 194-200 intelligible 114 no 65
Severinus, Po 173-175, 178- sensible 102-104
179 spiritual 32-33
Shackelford, Jo 185 no 31, 33 Spruit, L. 48 no 28 and 31,
and34 144 no 65
Index 235

Stoicism 38, 76, 81, 84, 117, Vacuum,

121, 131-132, 141 n. 68, coacervate 38-39
146-147, 161, 194 extracosmic 3 8
Stolberg, M. 188 n. 61, 206 n. interstitial 28, 38-39, 44-
9 45
Subow, W. 47 n. 10
Synkrisis 122, 125-126 V an Helmont, J. B. 172
Vapors 66, 107, 167, 169-
Temkin, 0. 184 n. 6, 186 n. 173, 176-180, 182
45 Vergil82
Temperament 77-78, 97, 99- Vital heat 145, 150-153
100, 120, 180
Thomas Aquinas 75 Westfall, R. S. 163 n. 2
Theophrastus 54-55, 62-63, White, T. 116, 141 n. 63
65,67 Wilkins, J. 164 n. 9
Thery, G. 85 n. 10 Willis, T. 156-157
Trait acquisition 90-91, 99- Wong, S. G. 138 n. 8
102 Wright, J. P. 165 n. 34
Transcendence, divine 83
Zanier, G. 86 n. 25
Unity 29, 31, 36, 40, 42-43, Zavalloni, R. 70 n. 2
46, 54, 58-59, 125-127, Zinguer, I. 206 n. 20
129, 137 Zoubov, V. 90