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Rationes seminales (Latin, from the Greek λόγοι σπερματικοὶ or logoi spermatikoi), translated variously as germinal or causal principles, primordial reasons, original factors, seminal reasons or virtues, or seedlike principles, is a theological theory on the origin of species. It is the doctrine that God created the world in seed form, with certain potentialities, which then developed or unfolded accordingly over time; what appears to be change is simply the realization of the preexisting potentialities. The theory is a metaphor of the growth of a plant: much like a planted seed eventually develops into a tree, so when God created the world he planted rationes seminales, from which all life sprung. It is intended to reconcile the belief that God created all things, with the evident fact that new things are constantly developing.
The roots of this idea can be found within the Greek philosophy of the Stoics and Neoplatonism. The idea was incorporated into Christian thought through the writings of authors such as Athenagoras of Athens, Tertullian, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine of Hippo, Bonaventure, Albertus Magnus, and Roger Bacon, until mostly rejected in the modern period. Evolution, though now it is seen to be compatible with evolution theories (cf "Man incarnate spirit" by Ramon Lucas Lucas). The idea of rationes seminales was also used as an explanation for spontaneous generation.
- Christoph Helmig,Forms and Concepts: Concept Formation in the Platonic Tradition, Walter de Gruyter (2012), p. 194)
- Lenn Evan Goodman, Neoplatonism and Jewish Thought, SUNY Press, (1992)
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