The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

Page 64 of 76

Q. Why do fat women seldom conceive? A. Because they have a slippery womb, and the seed will not stay in it. Or, because the mouth of the matrix is very strait, and the seed cannot enter it, or, if it does, it is so very slowly that it grows cold and unfit for generation.

Q. Why do those of a hot constitution seldom conceive? A. Because the seed in them is extinguished or put out, as water cast into fire; whereof we find that women who vehemently desire the flesh seldom conceive.

Q. Why are whores never with child? A. By reason of divers seeds, which corrupt and spoil the instruments of conception, for it makes them so slippery, that they cannot retain seed. Or, else, it is because one man's seed destroys another's, so neither is good for generation.

Q. Why do women conceive twins? A. Because there are seven cells or receptacles in the womb; wherefore they may naturally have so many children at once as there falls seed into these cells.

Q. Why are twins but half men, and not so strong as others? A. The seed that should have been for one, is divided into two and therefore they are weakly and seldom live long.

Of Hermaphrodites.

Q. How are hermaphrodites begotten? A. Nature doth always tend to that which is best, and always intendeth to beget the male and not the female, because the female is only for the male's mate. Therefore the male is sometimes begotten in all its principal parts; and, yet, through the indisposition of the womb and object, and inequality of the seeds, when nature cannot perfect the male, she brings forth the female too. And therefore natural philosophers say, that an hermaphrodite is impotent in the privy parts of a man, as appears by experience.

Q. Is an hermaphrodite accounted a man or a woman? A. It is to be considered in which member he is fittest for copulation; if he be fittest in the woman's, then he is a woman; if in a man's, then he is a man.

Q. Should he be baptized in the name of a man or a woman? A. In the name of a man, because names are given ad placitum, and therefore he should be baptized, according to the worthiest name, because every agent is worthier than its patient.

Of Monsters.

Q. Doth nature make any monsters? A. She doth; if she did not, then would she be deprived of her end. For of things possible, she doth always propose to bring forth that which is most perfect and best; but in the end, through the evil disposition of the matter, not being able to bring forth that which she intended, she brings forth that which she can. As it happened in Albertus's time, when in a certain village, a cow brought forth a calf, half a man; then the countrymen suspecting a shepherd, would have burnt him with the cow; but Albertus, being skilled in astronomy, said that this did proceed from a certain constellation, and so delivered the shepherd from their hands.

Q. Are they one or two? A. To find out, you must look into the heart, if there be two hearts, there be two men.

Q. Why are some children like their father, some like their mother, some to both and some to neither? A. If the seed of the father wholly overcome that of the mother the child doth resemble the father; but if the mother's predominate, then it is like the mother; but if he be like neither, that doth sometimes happen through the four qualities, sometimes through the influence of some heavenly constellation.

Q. Why are children oftener like the father than the mother? A. It proceeds from the imagination of the mother in the act of copulation, as appeared in a queen who had her imagination on a blackamoor; and in the Ethiopian queen who brought forth a white child, because her imagination was upon a white colour; as is seen in Jacob's skill in casting rods of divers colours into the water, when his sheep went to ram.

Q. Why do children born in the eighth month for the most part die quickly, and why are they called the children of the moon? A. Because the moon is a cold planet, which has dominion over the child, and therefore doth bind it with coldness, which is the cause of its death.

Q. Why doth a child cry as soon as it is born? A. Because of the sudden change from heat to cold: which cold doth affect its tenderness. Another reason is, because the child's soft and tender body is wringed and put together coming out of the narrow and strait passage of the matrix, and especially, the brain being moist, and the head being pressed and wrinkled together, is the cause that some humours distil by the eyes, which are the cause of tears and weeping.

Q. Why doth the child put its fingers into its mouth as soon as it cometh into the world? A. Because that coming out of the womb it cometh out of a hot bath, and entering into the cold, puts them into its mouth for want of heat.

Of the Child in the Womb.

Q. How is the child engendered in the womb? A. The first six days the seed hath this colour of milk, but in the six following a red colour, which is near unto the disposition of the flesh; and then it is changed into a thick substance of blood. But in the twelve days following, this substance becomes so thick and round that it is capable of receiving shape and form.

Q. Doth the child in the womb void excrements or make water? No. Because it hath not the first digestion which is in the stomach. It receives no food by the mouth, but by the navel; therefore, makes no urine but sweats, which is but little, and is received in a skin in the matrix, which at the birth is cast out.

Of Abortion and Untimely Birth.

Q. Why do women that eat unwholesome meats, easily miscarry? A. Because they breed putrefied seed, which the mind abhorring doth cast it out of the womb as unfit for the shape which is adapted to receive the soul.

Q. Why doth wrestling and leaping cause the casting of the child, as some subtle women do on purpose? A. The vapour is burning, and doth easily hurt the tender substance of the child, entering in at the pores of the matrix.

Q. Why doth much joy cause a woman to miscarry? A. Because in the time of joy, a woman is destitute of heat, and so a miscarriage doth follow.

Q. Why do women easily miscarry when they are first with child, viz., the first, second or third month? A. As apples and pears easily fall at first, because the knots and ligaments are weak, so it is with a child in the womb.

Q. Why is it hard to miscarry in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth month? A. Because the ligaments are stronger and well fortified.

Of Divers Matters.

Q. Why has not a man a tail like a beast? A. Because man is a noble creature, whose property is to sit; which a beast, having a tail, cannot.

Q. Why does hot water freeze sooner than cold? A. Hot water is thinner, and gives better entrance to the frost.

Q. Why is every living creature dull after copulation? A. By reason that the act is filthy and unclean; and so every living creature abhors it. When men do think upon it, they are ashamed and sad.

Q. Why cannot drunken men judge of taste as well as sober men? A. Because the tongue, being full of pores and spongy, receives more moisture into it, and more in drunken men than in sober; therefore, the tongue, through often drinking, is full of bad humours, and so the faculty of tasting is rendered out of order; also, through the thickening of the taste itself, drink taken by drunkards is not presently felt. And by this may also be understood why drunkards have not a perfect speech.

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