Traducianism (tradux, a shoot or sprout, and more specifically a
vine branch made to take root so as to propagate the vine), in
general the doctrine that, in the process of generation, the human
spiritual soul is transmitted to the offspring by the parents.
When a distinction is made between the terms Traducianism and
Generationism, the former denotes the materialistic doctrine of
the transmission of the soul by the organic process of generation,
while the latter applies to the doctrine according to which the
soul of the offspring originates from the parental soul in some
mysterious way analogous to that in which the organism originates
from the parent's organism. Traducianism is opposed to Creationism
(q.v.) or the doctrine that every soul is created by God. Both,
however, against Emanationism (q.v.) and Evolutionism (q.v.) admit
that the first human soul originated by creation. They differ only
as to the mode of origin of subsequent souls.
In the early centuries of the Christian Church, the Fathers who
touch upon this question defend the immediate creation of the
soul. Tertullian, Apollinaris, and a few other heretics advocate
Traducianism, but the testimony of Saint Jerome (Epist. cxxvi, 1)
that "the majority of Oriental writers think that, as the body is
born of the body, so the soul is born of the soul" seems
exaggerated, as no other writer of prominence is found to advocate
Generationism as certain. Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Macarius,
Rufinus, Nemesius, although their views on this point are not
always clear, seem to prefer Generationism. After the rise of
Pelagianism, some Fathers hesitate between Generationism and
Creationism, thinking that the former offers a better, if not the
only, explanation of the transmission of original sin. Among them
Saint Augustine is the most important. Creationism is held as
certain by the Scholastics, with the exception of Hugh of Saint
Victor and Alexander of Hales, who propose it merely as more
probable. In recent times Generationism has been rejected by all
Catholic theologians. Exceptions are Froschammer who defends
Generationism and gives to the generation of the soul from the
parents the name of secondary creation; Klee and Ubaghs who leave
the question undecided; Hermes who favours Generationism; Gravina
who advocates it- and Rosmini who asserts that the sensitive soul
is generated by the parents, and becomes spiritual when God
illuminates it and manifests to it the idea of being which is the
foundation of the whole intellectual life.
From the philosophical point of view, the reasons alleged in
favour of Generationism have little or no value. The parents are
really generators of their offspring even if the soul comes from
God, for the generative process is the condition of the union of
body and soul which constitutes the human being. A murderer really
kills a man, although he does not destroy his soul. Nor is man
inferior to animals because they generate complete living
organisms, since the difference between man and animals comes from
the superiority of the human soul and from its spiritual nature
which requires that it should be created by God. On the other hand
the reasons against Generationism are cogent. The organic process
of generation cannot give rise to a spiritual substance, and to.
say that the soul is transmitted in the corporeal semen is to make
it intrinsically dependent on matter. The process of spiritual
generation is impossible. since the soul is immaterial and
indivisible, no spiritual germ can be detached from the Parental
soul (cf. St. Thomas, "Contra gent." II, c 86; "Sum. theol."
I:90:2, I:98:2, etc.). As to the power of creation, it is the
prerogative of God alone (see CREATION, VI).
Theologically, corporeal Traducianism is heretical because it goes
directly against the spirituality of the soul. As to
Generationism, it is certainly opposed to the general attitude of
the Church. Froschammer's book, "Ueber den Ursprung der
menschlichen Seelen", was condemned in 1857, and Ubaghs's opinion
expressed in his "Anthropologiae philosophicae elementa" was
reproved in a letter of Cardinal Patrizi written by authority of
Pius IX to the Archbishop of Mechlin (2 March, 1866). Moreover,
Anastasius II in a letter to the bishops of Gaul (498) condemns
Generationism (Thiel, "Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum", 634 sqq.).
In the Symbol to be subscribed to by Bishop Peter of Antioch
(1053), Leo IX declares the soul to be "not a part of God, but
created from nothing" (Denzinger, 348). Among the errors which the
Armenians must reject, Benedict XII mentions the doctrine that the
soul originates from the soul of the father (Denzinger, 533).
Hence, although there are no strict definitions condemning
Generationism as heretical, it is certainly opposed to the
doctrine of the Church, and could not be held without temerity.
C. A. DUBRAY
Transcribed by Tomas Hancil and Joseph P.Thomas
From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the
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