Pinto-Correia 1997

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Pinto-Correia, Clara. The Ovary of Eve: Egg and Sperm and Preformation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Prologue: Dare to Know

Descartes; "even the greatest complexities of the animate world could be explained through motion and matter alone" (1)

Harvey: ex ovo omnia

problem w/new mechanical reasoning: "even assuming an equivalence between living and nonliving things, mechanism could not provide satisfactory explanations for the intricate specificities of reproduction, such as the inheritance of traits from parents by children, the continuity of species, or regeneratino" (3)

preformationism: "offered convenient religious and social backing for the status quo. Preformation 'scientifically' established that all men were in fact brothers, since they all came from the same gonad." (4) -- we were all encased in the first sinner

"God was a crucial player in the logic of preformation, since the theory assumed, as a basic tenet, that He programmed the entire world, and the entire sequence of events destined to take place in that world, all at once during Creation" (7)
  • possibility of free will within preformationist theory?

emergence of preformation coincides with invention of microscope (10)

"two main ideas were always present that seemed to reflect a strange recurrent fascination in the quest for a way to oroganize the human mind. One is Smallness, and how small objects can actually be. The other is Encasement, or how much matter you can actually place inside matter. We had long postulated the existence of entities that were visible only to Lynceus's eyes: microscopes turned this postulate into a tentative scientific outcome." (11)

All About Eve

Malebranche, Cartesian philosopher (God as geometer) and father of preformationism (18-19)

  • "the idea of a preordained, prearranged, and forever unchangeable succession of generations, hatching from inside one another, was in all repsected finely tuned to the author's groundbreaking theology. ... God loves order: He seeks the simplest pathways through which to impose His universal laws."
  • God as universal cause of action
"preformation was necessary to counter the threat of atheism made possible by the endorsement of a fully mechanistic epigenetic position" (21)

roots of preformation in antiquity; Seneca

  • Malebranche's contribution was "in organizing a whole theory ... based on sound philosophical concepts"