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. At the more concrete level, well into the 18th century generation theorists regularly referred to a hypothesized 'female semen': for them, as for Augustine, what is seminal is not necessarily male, but simply whatever plays a role in the generation of natural beings, plant or animal (and sometimes also mineral).
Now I take it that it is too much to ask of people, even academic philosophers, that they eliminate all appeal to metaphors of planting and growth in the way they talk about their own ideas and the ideas of others. Strictly speaking, ideas don't grow from seeds, but strictly speaking when we understand something we are not standing under it, and we never really see what other people are saying. Our primary experience of the physical and biological world, and of our physically and biologically embodied existence in it, is the source of many of the linguistic resources we have available to us to describe mental processes, and it is hard to imagine what the language for describing our mental lives would look like without these resources. The growth and development of biological entities is a fairly fundamental process, and thus not surprisingly a source of metaphors, but it is in fact just this sort of metaphor that we are being asked not to use when we are asked not to use the word 'seminal'.
One might reply that de facto 'seminal' has come to connote male animal seed, and thus that when applied to ideas it connotes male ideas (whatever those might be). On this line of thinking, whatever the term may have originally connoted in Latin does not matter, and it is futile to insist on a strict, etymologically based understanding of the term, since actual use determines meaning, and so on. But it seems to me that this very line of thinking brings to light a deeper problem than the one addressed by a cosmetic correction of language: that in our way of thinking, and not only in our way of speaking, generative force, whether of ideas or of offspring, is associated with the male, that it is males who carry the seeds of things. The solution to this problem, however, is not to stop using the word 'seed' and its associated adjectives, of which 'seminal' is one, but rather to seek to revive the full range of possible connotations of these words, to insist that what is seminal is not just the ejaculations, verbal or fluid, of the male of the species. Rather than reducing the number of entries in the lexicon, we should be seeking to increase the number of meanings listed under each entry, especially those with such a rich historical life, and such a basic and deep connection to human experience of the natural world, as 'semen'.