In aid of understanding mechanistic explanation and its limits in the 17th century, I examine the views of Pierre Sylvain Régis on generation. Régis departs from Descartes' theories on one key point. Living things, though they do not differ in nature from nonliving things, and are, as Descartes said, machines, are directly created by God, who forms the seeds of all living things at creation. Preformationism gives Régis not only a means of accounting for seeds and for specific differences among living things, but also a basis for attributing purposes to them, and thus for defining health and disease in soulless creatures.

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