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Caspar Friedrich Wolffs concept of epigenesis: A problem changing through time



Caspar Friedrich Wolffs concept of epigenesis: A problem changing through time



Biologisches Zentralblatt 114(2): 179-190



The concept of epigenesis in the early work of WOLFF means more than new-development. But WOLFF defined epigenesis as the developing process in the germs of plants and animals in which a vis essentialis forms inorganic material to organic matter. This definition based on the concept of substance by SPINOZA. The later version from 1789 refers to KANTS theory of attraction and repulsion. Whereas in the first period the vis essentialis acts as a general natural force (like gravitation), in the second period WOLFF inclined to a vitalistic interpretation of it. The modern followers utilize both terms preformation and epigenesis to mark the dialectical relation from the internal and external factors in the development of the germs (genetics, physiology of development), or use the term epigenesis to characterize the internal reproduction of expediency in living systems.

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