AskDefine | Define palingenesis

Dictionary Definition

palingenesis n : emergence during embryonic development of various characters or structures that appeared during the evolutionary history of the strain or species [syn: recapitulation] [ant: cenogenesis] [also: palingeneses (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



From the Greek πάλιν (again) + γένεσις (birth).


/ˌpælɪnˈdʒɛnəsəs/, /%p

Extensive Definition

Palingenesis (from Greek palin-, again, + genesis, becoming, birth) is a term used for analogous concepts in philosophy, theology, politics, geology and biology.

Philosophy and Theology

The word palingenesis or rather palingenesia may be traced back to the Stoics, who used the term for the continual re-creation of the universe by the Demiurgus (Creator) after its absorption into himself. Similarly Philo spoke of Noah and his sons as leaders of a renovation or rebirth of the earth. Plutarch of the transmigration of souls, and Cicero of his own return from exile. In the New Testament the properly theological sense of spiritual regeneration is found, though the word itself occurs only twice; and it is used by the church fathers, e.g. for the rite of baptism or for the state of repentance.
In philosophy it denotes in its broadest sense the theory (e.g. of the Pythagoreans) that the human soul does not die with the body but is born again in new incarnations. It is thus the equivalent of metempsychosis. The term has a narrower and more specific use in the system of Schopenhauer, who applied it to his doctrine that the will does not die but manifests itself afresh in new individuals. He thus repudiates the primitive metempsychosis doctrine which maintains the reincarnation of the particular soul.
Robert Burton in the Anatomy of Melancholy (1628) writes, "The Pythagoreans defend metempsychosis and palingenesia, that souls go from one body to another."


Although Josephus used the term of the national restoration of the Jews, the doctrines which are used to comprise the political ideology of fascism often move to describe it as a "palingenetic ideology", primarily as a result of the notion that fascism itself is the rebirth of a state and/or empire in the image of that which came before it - thus, the ancestral political underpinnings. Specifically academic political theorist Roger Griffin refers to fascism as "palingenetic ultranationalism". The best examples of this can be found with both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany - Italy looking to establish a palingenetic line between the 20th century regime under Benito Mussolini as being the second incarnation of the Roman Empire, while Adolf Hitler's regime was seen as being the third palingenetic incarnation - beginning first with the Holy Roman Empire ("First Reich") then with Bismarck's German Empire ("Second Reich") and then resulting in Nazi Germany ("Third Reich").


In modern biology (e.g. Haeckel and Fritz Müller), palingenesis has been used for the exact reproduction of ancestral features by inheritance, as opposed to kenogenesis, in which the inherited characteristics are modified by environment.


palingenesis in German: Palingenese
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