It took Bonnet's ingenuity to insinuate a notion of recapitulation into preformationism, a system of thought fundamentally opposed to such dynamic ideas. In the last chapter, I defended preformationism as a reasonable theory for its time; yet I do not deny the traditional view that both modern embryology and Darwinian evolution required its downfall. For Bonnet had written amidst his musings on illusory perfectability: "No change; no alteration; perfect identity. Victorious over the elements, time, and the grave, species preserve themselves, and the term of their duration is unknown to us" (1762, p. 123). And Whitman has described Bonnet's system in vivid terms:
"Progress" that discloses nothing but a succession of preformed hierarchies; a "law of continuity" . . . without any bond of connection whatever; ... a "genealogy" of contemporaneous beings; "heredity" that transmits nothing; "births," "evolutions," and "revolutions" that bring nothing new, and so on through all the negations that a fertile genius could invent against the intrusion of epigenesis. (1894, p. 257)
It is a cliché of intellectual history that progressivist, historical thinking replaced cyclic or static views of nature during the late eighteenth century. I have neither the space nor competence to assess the reciprocal roles of science and society in fashioning this change.1 I wish merely to identify it as a precondition for the theories of epigenesis and evolution, and for the common acceptance of recapitulation.
Collingwood distinguishes three sequential views of nature, each based upon a compelling analogy: the Greek comparison between na-