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Aristotle
On the Parts of Animals

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7

From the marrow we pass on in natural sequence to the brain. For there are many who think that the brain itself consists of marrow, and that it forms the commencement of that substance, because they see that the spinal marrow is continuous with it. In reality the two may be said to be utterly opposite to each other in character. For of all the parts of the body there is none so cold as the brain; whereas the marrow is of a hot nature, as is plainly shown by its fat and unctuous character. Indeed this is the very reason why the brain and spinal marrow are continuous with each other. For, wherever the action of any part is in excess, nature so contrives as to set by it another part with an excess of contrary action, so that the excesses of the two may counterbalance each other. Now that the marrow is hot is clearly shown by many indications. The coldness of the brain is also manifest enough. For in the first place it is cold even to the touch; and, secondly, of all the fluid parts of the body it is the driest and the one that has the least blood; for in fact it has no blood at all in its proper substance. This brain is not residual matter, nor yet is it one of the parts which are anatomically continuous with each other; but it has a character peculiar to itself, as might indeed be expected. That it has no continuity with the organs of sense is plain from simple inspection, and is still more clearly shown by the fact, that, when it is touched, no sensation is produced; in which respect it resembles the blood of animals and their excrement. The purpose of its presence in animals is no less than the preservation of the whole body. For some writers assert that the soul is fire or some such force. This, however, is but a rough and inaccurate assertion; and it would perhaps be better to say that the soul is incorporate in some substance of a fiery character. The reason for this being so is that of all substances there is none so suitable for ministering to the operations of the soul as that which is possessed of heat. For nutrition and the imparting of motion are offices of the soul, and it is by heat that these are most readily effected. To say then that the soul is fire is much the same thing as to confound the auger or the saw with the carpenter or his craft, simply because the work is wrought by the two in conjunction. So far then this much is plain, that all animals must necessarily have a certain amount of heat. But as all influences require to be counterbalanced, so that they may be reduced to moderation and brought to the mean (for in the mean, and not in either extreme, lies the true and rational position), nature has contrived the brain as a counterpoise to the region of the heart with its contained heat, and has given it to animals to moderate the latter, combining in it the properties of earth and water. For this reason it is, that every sanguineous animal has a brain; whereas no bloodless creature has such an organ, unless indeed it be, as the Poulp, by analogy. For where there is no blood, there in consequence there is but little heat. The brain, then, tempers the heat and seething of the heart. In order, however, that it may not itself be absolutely without heat, but may have a moderate amount, branches run from both blood-vessels, that is to say from the great vessel and from what is called the aorta, and end in the membrane which surrounds the brain; while at the same time, in order to prevent any injury from the heat, these encompassing vessels, instead of being few and large, are numerous and small, and their blood scanty and clear, instead of being abundant and thick. We can now understand why defluxions have their origin in the head, and occur whenever the parts about the brain have more than a due proportion of coldness. For when the nutriment steams upwards through the blood-vessels, its refuse portion is chilled by the influence of this region, and forms defluxions of phlegm and serum. We must suppose, to compare small things with great, that the like happens here as occurs in the production of showers. For when vapour steams up from the earth and is carried by the heat into the upper regions, so soon as it reaches the cold air that is above the earth, it condenses again into water owing to the refrigeration, and falls back to the earth as rain. These, however, are matters which may be suitably considered in the Principles of Diseases, so far as natural philosophy has anything to say to them.

It is the brain again-or, in animals that have no brain, the part analogous to it-which is the cause of sleep. For either by chilling the blood that streams upwards after food, or by some other similar influences, it produces heaviness in the region in which it lies (which is the reason why drowsy persons hang the head), and causes the heat to escape downwards in company with the blood. It is the accumulation of this in excess in the lower region that produces complete sleep, taking away the power of standing upright from those animals to whom that posture is natural, and from the rest the power of holding up the head. These, however, are matters which have been separately considered in the treatises on Sensation and on Sleep.

That the brain is a compound of earth and water is shown by what occurs when it is boiled. For, when so treated, it turns hard and solid, inasmuch as the water is evaporated by the heat, and leaves the earthy part behind. Just the same occurs when pulse and other fruits are boiled. For these also are hardened by the process, because the water which enters into their composition is driven off and leaves the earth, which is their main constituent, behind.

Of all animals, man has the largest brain in proportion to his size; and it is larger in men than in women. This is because the region of the heart and of the lung is hotter and richer in blood in man than in any other animal; and in men than in women. This again explains why man, alone of animals, stands erect. For the heat, overcoming any opposite inclination, makes growth take its own line of direction, which is from the centre of the body upwards. It is then as a counterpoise to his excessive heat that in man’s brain there is this superabundant fluidity and coldness; and it is again owing to this superabundance that the cranial bone, which some call the Bregma, is the last to become solidified; so long does evaporation continue to occur through it under the influence of heat. Man is the only sanguineous animal in which this takes place. Man, again, has more sutures in his skull than any other animal, and the male more than the female. The explanation is again to be found in the greater size of the brain, which demands free ventilation, proportionate to its bulk. For if the brain be either too fluid or too solid, it will not perform its office, but in the one case will freeze the blood, and in the other will not cool it at all; and thus will cause disease, madness, and death. For the cardiac heat and the centre of life is most delicate in its sympathies, and is immediately sensitive to the slightest change or affection of the blood on the outer surface of the brain.

The fluids which are present in the animal body at the time of birth have now nearly all been considered. Amongst those that appear only at a later period are the residua of the food, which include the deposits of the belly and also those of the bladder. Besides these there is the semen and the milk, one or the other of which makes its appearance in appropriate animals. Of these fluids the excremental residua of the food may be suitably discussed by themselves, when we come to examine and consider the subject of nutrition. Then will be the time to explain in what animals they are found, and what are the reasons for their presence. Similarly all questions concerning the semen and the milk may be dealt with in the treatise on Generation, for the former of these fluids is the very starting-point of the generative process, and the latter has no other ground of existence than generative purposes.




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