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Aristotle
On the Parts of Animals

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3

In natural sequence we have next to treat of solid and fluid. These terms are used in various senses. Sometimes, for instance, they denote things that are potentially, at other times things that are actually, solid or fluid. Ice for example, or any other solidified fluid, is spoken of as being actually and accidentally solid, while potentially and essentially it is fluid. Similarly earth and ashes and the like, when mixed with water, are actually and accidentally fluid, but potentially and essentially are solid. Now separate the constituents in such a mixture and you have on the one hand the watery components to which its fluidity was due, and these are both actually and potentially fluid, and on the other hand the earthy components, and these are in every way solid; and it is to bodies that are solid in this complete manner that the term "solid" is most properly and absolutely applicable. So also the opposite term "fluld" is strictly and absolutely applicable to that only which is both potentially and actually fluid. The same remark applies also to hot bodies and to cold.

These distinctions, then, being laid down, it is plain that blood is essentially hot in so far as that heat is connoted in its name; just as if boiling water were denoted by a single term, boiling would be connoted in that term. But the substratum of blood, that which it is in substance while it is blood in form, is not hot. Blood then in a certain sense is essentially hot, and in another sense is not so. For heat is included in the definition of blood, just as whiteness is included in the definition of a white man, and so far therefore blood is essentially hot. But so far as blood becomes hot from some external influence, it is not hot essentially.

As with hot and cold, so also is it with solid and fluid. We can therefore understand how some substances are hot and fluid so long as they remain in the living body, but become perceptibly cold and coagulate so soon as they are separated from it; while others are hot and consistent while in the body, but when withdrawn under a change to the opposite condition, and become cold and fluid. Of the former blood is an example, of the latter bile; for while blood solidifies when thus separated, yellow bile under the same circumstances becomes more fluid. We must attribute to such substances the possession of opposite properties in a greater or less degree.

In what sense, then, the blood is hot and in what sense fluid, and how far it partakes of the opposite properties, has now been fairly explained. Now since everything that grows must take nourishment, and nutriment in all cases consists of fluid and solid substances, and since it is by the force of heat that these are concocted and changed, it follows that all living things, animals and plants alike, must on this account, if on no other, have a natural source of heat. This natural heat, moreover, must belong to many parts, seeing that the organs by which the various elaborations of the food are effected are many in number. For first of all there is the mouth and the parts inside the mouth, on which the first share in the duty clearly devolves, in such animals at least as live on food which requires disintegration. The mouth, however, does not actually concoct the food, but merely facilitates concoction; for the subdivision of the food into small bits facilitates the action of heat upon it. After the mouth come the upper and the lower abdominal cavities, and here it is that concoction is effected by the aid of natural heat. Again, just as there is a channel for the admission of the unconcocted food into the stomach, namely the mouth, and in some animals the so-called oesophagus, which is continuous with the mouth and reaches to the stomach, so must there also be other and more numerous channels by which the concocted food or nutriment shall pass out of the stomach and intestines into the body at large, and to which these cavities shall serve as a kind of manger. For plants get their food from the earth by means of their roots; and this food is already elaborated when taken in, which is the reason why plants produce no excrement, the earth and its heat serving them in the stead of a stomach. But animals, with scarcely an exception, and conspicuously all such as are capable of locomotion, are provided with a stomachal sac, which is as it were an internal substitute for the earth. They must therefore have some instrument which shall correspond to the roots of plants, with which they may absorb their food from this sac, so that the proper end of the successive stages of concoction may at last be attained. The mouth then, its duty done, passes over the food to the stomach, and there must necessarily be something to receive it in turn from this. This something is furnished by the bloodvessels, which run throughout the whole extent of the mesentery from its lowest part right up to the stomach. A description of these will be found in the treatises on Anatomy and Natural History. Now as there is a receptacle for the entire matter taken as food, and also a receptacle for its excremental residue, and again a third receptacle, namely the vessels, which serve as such for the blood, it is plain that this blood must be the final nutritive material in such animals as have it; while in bloodless animals the same is the case with the fluid which represents the blood. This explains why the blood diminishes in quantity when no food is taken, and increases when much is consumed, and also why it becomes healthy and unhealthy according as the food is of the one or the other character. These facts, then, and others of a like kind, make it plain that the purpose of the blood in sanguineous animals is to subserve the nutrition of the body. They also explain why no more sensation is produced by touching the blood than by touching one of the excretions or the food, whereas when the flesh is touched sensation is produced. For the blood is not continuous nor united by growth with the flesh, but simply lies loose in its receptacle, that is in the heart and vessels. The manner in which the parts grow at the expense of the blood, and indeed the whole question of nutrition, will find a more suitable place for exposition in the treatise on Generation, and in other writings. For our present purpose all that need be said is that the blood exists for the sake of nutrition, that is the nutrition of the parts; and with this much let us therefore content ourselves.




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