Abstract

The main interpretations of fossils from the XVIth to the XVIIIth century are reviewed. They proceed from two philosophical conceptions that were successful at that time: Aristotelism and Neoplatonicism, that were both making reference to occult influences exerted on living beings and mineral world by planets and, more generally, by the whole universe. The acceptance of the organic origin of fossils, near the end of the XVIIth century, followed an obvious weakening of both schools. Consequently, at the beginning of the XVIIIth century, the diluvialist doctrine appeared as being reinvigorated. Similarly, it would be illusive to believe that modern conceptions relative to fossils are totally devoid of any, even implicit, philosophical influence.

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