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Title: The role of the female principle in Aristotle's de Generatione Animalium
Author: Elliott, S. M.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1997
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Abstract:
This thesis examines Aristotle's account of the female role in reproduction in his de Generatione Animalium (GA). Aristotle says that the female contributes matter, while the male contributes form and movement to the offspring. In the beginning of the five book treatise, Aristotle concentrates on the role of the male parent and emphasises the importance of form by using numerous comparisons with production in crafts. The male contributes like the carpenter who imposes his idea into inert and passive matter. By reading only Books One and Two, many get the impression that the female contribution is passive, inert and contributes nothing to the type of animal that is to be produced. I argue that this misrepresents Aristotle's theory of generation. Only by reading the treatise in its entirety does the reader understand that matter in animal generation is different from the matter used in crafts. The female matter is poised to become the type of animal it will be because it contributes specific movements and potentialities. The mother's soul has worked up the material to be the type of matter needed for her own life or that of her offspring. My thesis maintains that Aristotle never meant to indicate by his craft analogies that animal generation is similar to craft production in all respects. The first two Books do not emphasise the complexities of biological matter. In this section of the treatise, Aristotle is preoccupied with his refutation of a theory that posits two identical parental seeds. For this particular argument, he need only show that male and female contributions are not identical. Although he thinks that male and female contributions are dissimilar he does not think they are absolutely asymmetrical.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.598815  DOI: Not available
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