Justin E. H. Smith refuses to avoid the word “seminal”

Our own J. E. H. Smith in his eponymous blog:

Justin It has recently been brought to my attention that academic philosophers, along with saying 'human beings' instead of 'man' and 'they' instead of 'he', are expected to avoid the word 'seminal' altogether in their published work. This is of particular concern to me (I'm delighted, in contrast, to let 'man' go; as for 'they', I do regret that we were not able to come up with a gender-neutral pronoun that is not at the same time number-ambiguous), since I have just written an entire book on semen (or, more precisely, a book in which one of the central concerns is the variety of explanations given in the 17th century of the role of semen in the generation of animals and in the transmission of specific form), and I am fairly attached to this noun's adjectival form.

Beyond my personal need to go on talking about what I write about, and writing about what I know about, I am also fairly concerned about the way superficial changes, implemented in the name of eliminating bias from academic discourse, inadvertently impoverish that discourse. In the present case, it seems to me that anyone who does not like the word 'seminal' must be a monolingual speaker of English, or at least must not know that, while 'seminal' is the adjectival form of 'semen', 'semen' itself just means 'seed', and the term was likely extended by analogy in the first place from the domain of agriculture to describe the fluid emitted by male animals. When the term is extended by even further analogy to describe abstract principles, e.g., when Augustine speaks of rationes seminales or 'seminal reasons', it is fairly clear that he has in mind plain old seeds –as in the seeds of a pear from which a pear tree might grow, and which are found within the closest thing a pear tree has to ovaries– and not the fluid he so regrets being tempted to eject.

More here.