Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Seed Concept

  • Hiro HiraiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_404-1


In Renaissance and early modern “chymistry” (alchemy/chemistry) and biomedical sciences, ideas derived from “seeds” (semina) were frequently used: “seeds of things” (semina rerum), “seeds of reasons” (semina rationum), “seminal reasons” (rationes seminales), “seminary” (seminarium), and “seminal principle” (principium seminale). These notions can be grouped together under the name of the “concept of seeds.” Widely diffused under the authority of the “Platonists,” this concept aimed to explain the formation and organization of natural bodies and even the origin of their forms in matter. It first took shape in the cosmological metaphysics of Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) and then was developed by physician philosophers such as Jean Fernel (1497–1558), Paracelsus (1593/1594–1541), and Petrus Severinus (1540/1542–1602) during the sixteenth century. It was finally reinterpreted in a corpuscular perspective, culminating in the notion of “molecule” (molecula) as the “seeds of things” (semina rerum) by French atomist Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655). The concept of seeds can be regarded as a missing link in the chain which bridged between the medieval scholastic doctrine of substantial forms and the mechanistic corpuscular theories of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Closely connected to Renaissance chymical philosophy, it played a significant role in the rise of early modern science.


Substantial Form Natural Body Favorite Expression Natural Thing Late Seventeenth 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the History of Philosophy and ScienceRadboud Universiteit NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands