The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

Page 57 of 76

Q. Why is the eye clear and smooth like glass? A. 1. Because the things which may be seen are better beaten back from a smooth thing than otherwise, that thereby the sight should strengthen. 2. Because the eye is moist above all parts of the body, and of a waterish nature; and as the water is clear and smooth, so likewise is the eye.

Q. Why do men and beasts who have their eyes deep in their head best see far off? A. Because the force and power by which we see is dispersed in them, and both go directly to the thing which is seen. Thus, when a man doth stand in a deep ditch or well, he doth see in the daytime the stars of the firmament; because then the power of the night and of the beams are not scattered.

Q. Wherefore do those men who have eyes far out in their head not see far distant? A. Because the beams of the sight which pass from the eye, are scattered on every side, and go not directly unto the thing that is seen, and therefore the sight is weakened.

Q. Why are so many beasts born blind, as lions' whelps and dogs' whelps. A. Because such beasts are not yet of perfect ripeness and maturity, and the course of nutriment doth not work in them. Thus the swallow, whose eyes, if they were taken out when they are young in their nest, would grow in again. And this is the case in many beasts who are brought forth before their time as it were dead, as bear's whelps.

Q. Why do the eyes of a woman that hath her flowers, stain new glass? And why doth a basilisk kill a man with his sight? A. When the flowers do run from a woman, then a most venomous air is distilled from them, which doth ascend into a woman's head; and she, having pain in her head, doth wrap it up with a cloth or handkerchief; and because the eyes are full of insensible holes, which are called pores, there the air seeketh a passage, and infects the eyes, which are full of blood. The eyes also appear dropping and full of tears, by reason of the evil vapour that is in them; and these vapours are incorporated and multiplied till they come to the glass before them; and by reason that such a glass is round, clear and smooth, it doth easily receive that which is unclean. 2. The basilisk is a very venomous and infectious animal, and there pass from his eyes vapours which are multiplied upon the thing which is seen by him, and even unto the eye of man; the which venomous vapours or humours entering into the body, do infect him, and so in the end the man dieth. And this is also the reason why the basilisk, looking upon a shield perfectly well made with fast clammy pitch, or any hard smooth thing, doth kill itself, because the humours are beaten back from the hard smooth thing unto the basilisk, by which beating back he is killed.

Q. Why is the sparkling in cats' eyes and wolves' eyes seen in the dark and not in the light? A. Because that the greater light doth darken the lesser; and therefore, in a greater light the sparkling cannot be seen; but the greater the darkness, the easier it is seen, and is more strong and shining.

Q. Why is the sight recreated and refreshed by a green colour? A. Because green doth merely move the sight, and therefore doth comfort it; but this doth not, in black or white colours, because these colours do vehemently stir and alter the organ and instrument of the sight, and therefore make the greater violence; and by how much the more violent the thing is which is felt or seen the more it doth destroy and weaken the sense.

Of the Nose.

Q. Why doth the nose stand out further than any other part of the body. A. 1. Because the nose is, as it were, the sink of the brain, by which the phlegm of the brain is purged; and therefore it doth stand forth, lest the other parts should be defiled. 2. Because the nose is the beauty of the face, and doth smell.

Q. Why hath a man the worst smell of all creatures? A. Because man hath most brains of all creatures; and, therefore, by exceeding coldness and moisture, the brain wanteth a good disposition, and by consequence, the smelling instrument is not good, yea, some men have no smell.

Q. Why have vultures and cormorants a keen smell? A. Because they have a very dry brain; and, therefore, the air carrying the smell, is not hindered by the humidity of the brain, but doth presently touch its instrument; and, therefore, vultures, tigers and other ravenous beasts, have been known to come five hundred miles after dead bodies.

Q. Why did nature make the nostrils? A. 1. Because the mouth being shut we draw breath in by the nostrils, to refresh the heart. 2. Because the air which proceedeth from the mouth doth savour badly, because of the vapours which rise from the stomach, but that which we breathe from the nose is not noisome. 3. Because the phlegm which doth proceed from the brain is purged by them.

Q. Why do men sneeze? A. That the expulsive virtue and power of the sight should thereby be purged, and the brain also from superfluities; because, as the lungs are purged by coughing, so is the sight and brain by sneezing; and therefore physicians give sneezing medicaments to purge the brain; and thus it is, such sick persons as cannot sneeze, die quickly, because it is a sign their brain is wholly stuffed with evil humours, which cannot be purged.

Q. Why do such as are apoplectic sneeze, that is, such as are subject easily to bleed? A. Because the passages, or ventricles of the brain are stopped, and if they could sneeze, their apoplexy would be loosed.

Q. Why does the heat of the sun provoke sneezing, and not the heat of the fire? A. Because the heat of the sun doth dissolve, but not consume, and therefore the vapour dissolved is expelled by sneezing; but the heat of the fire doth dissolve and consume, and therefore doth rather hinder sneezing than provoke it.

Of the Ears.

Q. Why do beasts move their ears, and not men? A. Because there is a certain muscle near the under jaw which doth cause motion in the ear; and therefore, that muscle being extended and stretched, men do not move their ears, as it hath been seen in divers men; but all beasts do use that muscle or fleshy sinew, and therefore do move their ears.

Q. Why is rain prognosticated by the pricking up of asses' ears? A. Because the ass is of a melancholic constitution, and the approach of rain produceth that effect on such a constitution. In the time of rain all beasts prick up their ears, but the ass before it comes.

Q. Why have some animals no ears? A. Nature giveth unto everything that which is fit for it, but if she had given birds ears, their flying would have been hindered by them. Likewise fish want ears, because they would hinder their swimming, and have only certain little holes through which they hear.

Q. Why have bats ears, although of the bird kind? A. Because they are partly birds in nature, in that they fly, by reason whereof they have wings; and partly they are hairy and seem to be of the nature of mice, therefore nature hath given them ears.

Q. Why have men only round ears? A. Because the shape of the whole and of the parts should be proportionable, and especially in all things of one nature; for as a drop of water is round, so the whole water: and so, because a man's head is round, the ears incline towards the same figure; but the heads of beasts are somewhat long, and so the ears are drawn into length likewise.

Q. Why hath nature given all living creatures ears? A. 1. Because with them they should hear. 2. Because by the ear choleric superfluity is purged; for as the head is purged of phlegmatic superfluity by the nose, so from choleric, by the ears.

Of the Mouth.

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