Kant’s epigenesis: specificity and developmental constraints

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 39 (1):1-19 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

In this paper, I argue that Kant adopted, throughout his career, a position that is much more akin to classical accounts of epigenesis, although he does reject the more radical forms of epigenesis proposed in his own time, and does make use of preformationist sounding terms. I argue that this is because Kant (1) thinks of what is pre-formed as a species, not an individual or a part of an individual; (2) has no qualm with the idea of a specific, teleological principle or force underlying generation, and conceives of germs and predispositions as specific constraints on such a principle or force. Neither of these conceptions of what is “preformed”, I argue, is in strict opposition to classical epigenesis. I further suggest that Kant’s lingering use of preformationist terminology is due to (1) his belief that this is required to account for the specificity of the specific generative force; (2) his resistance towards the unrestricted plasticity of the generative force in radical epigenesis, which violates species-fixism; and (3) his insistence on the internal, organic basis of developmental plasticity and variation within species. I conclude by suggesting that this terminological and interpretative peculiarity is partly due to a larger shift in the natural philosophical concerns surrounding the debate on epigenesis and preformation. Specifically, it is a sign that the original reasons for resisting epigenesis, namely its use of specific, teleological principles and its commitment to the natural production of biological structure, became less of a concern, whereas unrestricted plasticity and its undermining of fixism became a real issue, thereby also becoming the focal point of the debate.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,127

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Kant’s epigenesis: specificity and developmental constraints.Boris Demarest - 2016 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 39 (1):3.
Kant on epigenesis, monogenesis and human nature: The biological premises of anthropology.Alix A. Cohen - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37 (4):675-693.
Kant on Epigenesis, Monogenesis and Human Nature: The Biological Premises of Anthropology.Alix Cohen - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (4):675-93.
Was Aristotle the ‘Father’ of the Epigenesis Doctrine?Ina Goy - 2018 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (2):28.
Epigenesis and the rationality of nature in William Harvey and Margaret Cavendish.Benjamin Goldberg - 2017 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 39 (2):1-23.
Introduction: sketches of a conceptual history of epigenesis.Antonine Nicoglou & Charles T. Wolfe - 2018 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (4):64.
Epigenesis by experience: Romantic empiricism and non-Kantian biology.Amanda Jo Goldstein - 2017 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 40 (1):13.

Analytics

Added to PP
2023-08-23

Downloads
11 (#1,167,245)

6 months
7 (#491,177)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Boris Demarest
University of Amsterdam

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations