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FrankensteinAnnotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds$
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Mary Shelley, David H. Guston, Ed Finn, and Jason Scott Robert

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262533287

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262533287.001.0001

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Changing Conceptions of Human Nature

Changing Conceptions of Human Nature

(p.215) Changing Conceptions of Human Nature

Jane Maienschein

Kate Maccord

The MIT Press

To understand Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in modern terms, it is useful to go back several millennia to Aristotle’s ideas of what it takes to become fully and normally human.  Victor Frankenstein’s creation acts like and is perceived to be a monster.  As Aristotle noted millennia ago, a monster is a being that has not developed normally.  Victor’s creature definitely did not develop normally, resulting in an incomplete being – something with the structure and material of a living, human type but without having gone through the process of emerging gradually and acquiring all the components to become a whole individual.  Perhaps Victor’s own incomplete and imperfect education left him also “monstrous” in some ways and let him create a being and then run away from it before it was complete.  Seeing Victor and his creature this way, we also gain insight into current practical and policy assessments about why a developing embryo or fetus is not a fully normal human.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Fetal development, Epigenesis, Embryo, person

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