História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos
On-line version ISSN 1678-4758
CAPONI, Gustavo. The misery of degeneration: Buffon's materialism and the 'limitations' of his transformism. Hist. cienc. saude-Manguinhos [online]. 2009, vol.16, n.3, pp.683-703. ISSN 1678-4758. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0104-59702009000300007.
In "Of the degeneration of animals" (1766), Buffon espoused a kind of limited transformism. Yet twelve years later, in Epochs of Nature, he supplemented this with a materialist theory on the origin of life that left no room for this alternative: the conditions under which living beings develop could explain how the different species within each animal genus had formed through the degeneration of an originating species. But the formation of these multiple, originating varieties could only be explained by a sudden process of spontaneous generation. A limitation inherent to the very system of ideas that had taken Buffon to limited transformism - the underlying theory of generation and reproduction - preempted the possibility of its radicalization.
Keywords : Buffon; degeneration; generation; materialism; reproduction; transformism.