The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

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Hence it is, they say, that the child more frequently resembles the mother than the father, because the mother contributes more towards it. And they think it may be further instanced, from the endeared affection they bear them; for that, besides their contributing seminal matters, they feed and nourish the child with the purest fountain of blood, until its birth. Which opinion Galen affirms, by allowing children to participate most of the mother; and ascribes the difference of sex to the different operations of the menstrual blood; but this reason of the likeness he refers to the power of the seed; for, as the plants receive more nourishment from fruitful ground, than from the industry of the husbandman, so the infant receives more abundance from the mother than the father. For the seed of both is cherished in the womb, and then grows to perfection, being nourished with blood. And for this reason it is, they say, that children, for the most part, love their mothers best, because they receive the most of their substance from their mother; for about nine months she nourishes her child in the womb with the purest blood; then her love towards it newly born, and its likeness, do clearly show that the woman affords seed, and contributes more towards making the child than the man.

But in this all the ancients were very erroneous; for the testicles, so called in women, afford not only seed, but are two eggs, like those of fowls and other creatures; neither have they any office like those of men, but are indeed the ovaria, wherein the eggs are nourished by the sanguinary vessels disposed throughout them; and from thence one or more as they are fecundated by the man's seed is separated and conveyed into the womb by the ovaducts. The truth of this is plain, for if you boil them the liquor will be of the same colour, taste and consistency, with the taste of birds' eggs. If any object that they have no shells, that signifies nothing: for the eggs of fowls while they are on the ovary, nay, after they are fastened into the uterus, have no shell. And though when they are laid, they have one, yet that is no more than a defence with which nature has provided them against any outward injury, while they are hatched without the body; whereas those of women being hatched within the body, need no other fence than the womb, by which they are sufficiently secured. And this is enough, I hope, for the clearing of this point.

As for the third thing proposed, as whence grow the kind, and whether the man or the woman is the cause of the male or female infant—the primary cause we must ascribe to God as is most justly His due, who is the Ruler and Disposer of all things; yet He suffers many things to proceed according to the rules of nature by their inbred motion, according to usual and natural courses, without variation; though indeed by favour from on high, Sarah conceived Isaac; Hannah, Samuel; and Elizabeth, John the Baptist; but these were all extraordinary things, brought to pass by a Divine power, above the course of nature. Nor have such instances been wanting in later days; therefore, I shall wave them, and proceed to speak of things natural.

The ancient physicians and philosophers say that since these two principles out of which the body of man is made, and which renders the child like the parents, and by one or other of the sex, viz., seed common to both sexes and menstrual blood, proper to the woman only; the similitude, say they, must needs consist in the force of virtue of the male or female, so that it proves like the one or the other, according to the quantity afforded by either, but that the difference of sex is not referred to the seed, but to the menstrual blood, which is proper to the woman, is apparent; for, were that force altogether retained in the seed, the male seed being of the hottest quality, male children would abound and few of the female be propagated; wherefore, the sex is attributed to the temperament or to the active qualities, which consists in heat and cold and the nature of the matter under them—that is, the flowing of the menstruous blood. But now, the seed, say they, affords both force to procreate and to form the child, as well as matter for its generation; and in the menstruous blood there is both matter and force, for as the seed most helps the maternal principle, so also does the menstrual blood the potential seed, which is, says Galen, blood well concocted by the vessels which contain it. So that the blood is not only the matter of generating the child, but also seed, it being impossible that menstrual blood has both principles.

The ancients also say that the seed is the stronger efficient, the matter of it being very little in quantity, but the potential quality of it is very strong; wherefore, if these principles of generation, according to which the sex is made were only, say they, in the menstrual blood, then would the children be all mostly females; as were the efficient force in the seed they would be all males; but since both have operation in menstrual blood, matter predominates in quantity and in the seed force and virtue. And, therefore, Galen thinks that the child receives its sex rather from the mother than the father, for though his seed contributes a little to the natural principle, yet it is more weakly. But for likeliness it is referred rather to the father than to the mother. Yet the woman's seed receiving strength from the menstrual blood for the space of nine months, overpowers the man's in that particular, for the menstrual blood rather cherishes the one than the other; from which it is plain the woman affords both matter to make and force and virtue to perfect the conception; though the female's be fit nutriment for the male's by reason of the thinness of it, being more adapted to make up conception thereby. For as of soft wax or moist clay, the artificer can frame what he intends, so, say they, the man's seed mixing with the woman's and also with the menstrual blood, helps to make the form and perfect part of man.

But, with all imaginary deference to the wisdom of our fathers, give me leave to say that their ignorance of the anatomy of man's body have led them into the paths of error and ran them into great mistakes. For their hypothesis of the formation of the embryo from commixture of blood being wholly false, their opinion in this case must of necessity be likewise. I shall therefore conclude this chapter by observing that although a strong imagination of the mother may often determine the sex, yet the main agent in this case is the plastic or formative principle, according to those rules and laws given us by the great Creator, who makes and fashions it, and therein determines the sex, according to the council of his will.


That Man's Soul is not propagated by their parents, but is infused by its Creator, and can neither die nor corrupt. At what time it is infused. Of its immortality and certainty of its resurrection.

Man's soul is of so divine a nature and excellency that man himself cannot comprehend it, being the infused breath of the Almighty, of an immortal nature, and not to be comprehended but by Him that gave it. For Moses, relating the history of man, tells us that "God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul." Now, as for all other creatures, at His word they were made and had life, but the creature that God had set over His works was His peculiar workmanship, formed by Him out of the dust of the earth, and He condescended to breathe into his nostrils the breath of life, which seems to denote both care and, if we may so term it, labour, used about man more than about all other living creatures, he only partaking and participating of the blessed divine nature, bearing God's image in innocence and purity, whilst he stood firm; and when, by his fall, that lively image was defaced, yet such was the love of the Creator towards him that he found out a way to restore him, the only begotten son of the Eternal Father coming into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and to raise up man from that low condition to which sin and his fall had reduced him, to a state above that of the angels.

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