The Works of Aristotle - Of the Face and Hair

Of the Face and Hair

AMONG all living creatures, why hath man only his countenance lifted up towards heaven? Unto this question there are divers answers. First, It proceeds from the will of the Creator. And although the answer be true, yet In this our purpose It seemeth not to be of force, because that so all questions easily might be resolved.

Secondly, I answer, that for the most part every workman doth make his first work worse, and then his second better: So God, creating all other beasts before man, gave them their face looking down to the earth. And then, secondly, he created man, as it doth appear in Genesis, unto whom he gave an honest shape, lifted unto heaven, because it is drawn from divinity, and doth also derogate from the goodness of God, who maketh all His works perfect and good.

Thirdly, It is answered that man only among all living creatures is ordained to the kingdom of heaven, and therefore hath his face elevated and lifted up to heaven, because that, despising worldly and earthly things, be ought to contemplate on heavenly things.

Fourthly, That the reasonable is like unto angels, and finally ordained towards God; as it appears by Averrois, in the first de Anima; and therefore he hath a figure looking upward.

Fifthly, That a man is a microcosm, that is, a little world, as it pleaseth Aristotle to say in the eighth of this work, and therefore he doth command all other living creatures and they obey him.

Sixthly, It is answered, that naturally there is unto everything and every work that form and figure given which is fit and proper for its motion; as unto the heaven roundness, to the fire a pyramidal form, that is broad beneath and sharp towards the top, which form is most apt to ascend; and so man had his face up to heaven, to behold the wonders of God's works.

Why is the head of beasts hairy?
The answer, according to the opinion of Const is, that the hairs are the ornament of the head and of the brain, and the brain is purged and evacuated of gross humour by the growing of the hair, from the highest unto the lowest parts, which pass through the pores of the exterior flesh and do become dry, and are converted into hairs. This appears to be true, because that in all man's body there is nothing drier than the hairs; for they are drier than the bones, as Albertus Magnus doth affirm, because that some beasts are nourished with bones, as dogs, but no beast can digest feathers or hair, but do avoid them undigested; and they are too hot for nutriment

Secondly, It is answered, that the brain is purged four manner of ways; first, of superfluous watery humours by the eyes, from melancholy by the ears, and of choler by the nose, phlegm by the hair, and that is the intent of the physician.

Why have men longer hair on their heads than other living creatures?
Arist. de Generat. Anim. says, That men have the moistest brain of all living creatures, from which the seed proceedeth, which is converted into the long hair of the head.

Secondly, It is answered, that the humours of man are fat, and do not dry easily, and therefore the hair groweth long in him. In other beasts the humours easily dry, and therefore the hair groweth not so long.

Why doth the hair take deeper root in man's skin than in other living creatures?
Because they have a greater store of nourishment in man, and therefore grow more into the inward parts of man. And this is also the reason why in other creatures the hair doth alter and change with the skin, and not in man, unless it be sometimes a scar or wound.

Why have women longer hair than men?
Because women are moister than men, and phlegmatic, and therefore there is more matter of hair in them, and by consequence the length also of their hair doth follow. And furthermore, this matter is more increased in women than in men from their interior parts, and especially in the time of their monthly terms, because the matter doth then ascend, whereby the humour which breedeth the hair doth increase. And Albertus doth say that if the hair of a woman in the time of her flowers be put into dung, a venomous serpent is engendered of it.

The second answer is, because women want beards, and so the matter of the beard doth go into the matter of the hair.

Why have some men soft hair and some hard?
We answer with Aristotle, that the hair hath proportion with the skin, of which some is hard, some thick, some subtile and soft, and some gross; therefore the hair which groweth out of a thick and gross skin is thick and gross, and that which groweth of a subtile and fine is fine and soft, and when the pores are open then cometh forth much humour, and therefore hard hair is engendered; and when the pores are strait, then there doth grow soft and fine hair. And this doth Aristotle show in men, in whom we have an eminent token, because women have softer hair than they; because that in women the pores are shut, and are strait by reason of their coldness.

Secondly, Because that for the most part choleric men have hard and thicker hair than others, by reason of their heat, and because the pores are for ever open in them, and therefore they have beards sooner than others. Whereupon the philosopher saith, that those beasts which have hard hair are the boldest, because such hair proceedeth of heat and choler, which choler maketh man fight. Aristotle also giveth example in the bear and the boar; and contrariwise, those beasts that have soft are fearful, because they be cold, as the hare and hart. Aristotle doth give another reason of the softness and hardness of the hair, drawn from the climate where a man is born; because that in hot regions hard and gross hair is engendered, as it appears in the Ethiopians; and the contrary is true in the cold country, as towards the North.

Why have some men curled hair and some smooth?
The answer is, That the cause of the curling of the hair is great abundance of heat in a man, then the hair doth curl and grow upward. And a sign of this proved true, because that sometimes a man doth enter into a bath smooth haired, and afterwards by the bath becometh curled. And therefore the keepers of baths have often curled hair, as also the Ethiopians and choleric men. But the cause of the smoothness is the abundance of moist humours which tend downwards and a proof of this is, because they have much humidity in them and small heat.

Why do women show their ripeness by their hair in their privy parts, and not elsewhere, but men in their breasts?
We answer, physician like, because in men and women there is abundance of humidity in that place, but more in women, because men have the mouth of the bladder in that place where the urine is contained, of which the hair in the breasts is engendered, and about the navel. But of women it is that the humidity of the bladder, and of the matrix or womb, is joined, and meeteth in that low secret place; and therefore is dissolved and separated in that place through much vapours and fumes, which are the cause of hair. And the like doth happen In other places where hair is under the arms.

Why have not women beards?
Because they want heat, as appeareth in some effeminate men, who are beardless for the same cause, because they have the complexion of a woman.

Why doth the hair grow in them that are hanged?
Because their bodies are exposed to the sun which through its heat doth dissolve all the moisture into a fume or vapour, of which the hair doth grow and increase.

Why is the hair of the beard thicker and grosser than elsewhere, and the more men are shaven, the harder and thicker it groweth?
Because, according to the rule of the physicians, by how much more the humour or vapour of any liquid is dissolved and taken away, by so much the more humour remaining doth draw to the same; and therefore, by how much the more the hair is shaven, so much the humours gather thicker; and of them hair is engendered, and doth there also wax hard.

Why are women smooth and fair in respect of men?
The answer is, according unto Aristotle de Generat. Animal, because that in women all humidity and superfluity, which are the matter and cause of the hair of the body, is expelled with their monthly terms; the which superfluity remaineth in men, and through vapours do pass into the hair. And a sign of this is, because women having running at the nose, or imposthume or ulcer, no such matter is expelled also. And we see some old women begin to have beards in their old age, that is, after forty of fifty years of age, when their flowers are ceased; as Aristotle doth teach, de Animal, lib. 9.

Why doth man only, above all other creatures, wax hoary and grey, as Pythagoras and Aristotle affirm?
The answer according unto the philosophers is, because man hath the hottest heart of all living creatures; and therefore nature being more wise, lest a man should be suffocated through the heat of his heart, hath placed the heart, which is most hot, under the brain, which is most cold; to the end, that the heat of the heart may be tempered with the coldness of the brain, and contrariwise, that the coldness of the brain may be heated with the heat of the heart, and thereby there might be a temperature in both. A sign to prove this is, because of all living creatures man hath the worst breath if he comes to his full age. Furthermore, man doth consume half his time in sleeping, which doth proceed from the great access of the coldness and moisture of the brain, and by that means doth want natural heat to digest and consume that moistness; the heat which he hath sufficiently in his youth; and therefore the vapours ascending from the stomach remain undigested and unconsumed for want of natural heat, and there putrefies, of which putrefaction of humours the whiteness doth follow, which is called greyness or hoariness. Whereby it doth appear, that hoariness is nothing else but a whiteness of hair caused by the putrefaction of humours about the roots of the hair through want of natural heat in old age. Sometimes also greyness is caused by the naughtiness of the complexion, which may well happen in youth, and sometimes by reason of the moisture undigested, and sometimes through over-great fear and care, as it appeareth in merchants, sailors, thieves: from whence cometh this verse:

"Cura facit canoi, quam vis homo non habet annos."

Why doth red hair grow white sooner than other?
According to the opinion of Aristotle, because redness is an infirmity of the hair, for it is engendered of a weak and infirm matter; that is to say, of matter corrupted with the flowers of the woman, and therefore they wax white sooner than black hair.

Why do wolves grow grisly?
The better to understand this question, note the difference between greyness and grisling; because that greyness is caused through the defect of natural heat, but grisliness through devouring and heating. The wolf being a devouring beast, and an eater, he letteth it down gluttonously without chewing, and that enough at once for three days, by which meat gross vapours are engendered in the wolf's body and by consequence grisliness. Secondly: greyness and grisliness do differ, because greyness is only in the head, and grisliness over all the body.

Why do horses grow grisly and grey?
According to Aristotle, because they are for the most part in the sun; and in his opinion also heat doth accidentally cause putrefaction; and therefore that kind of heat the matter of hair doth putrefy, and by consequence they are quickly pilled.

Why do men become bald, and trees let fall their leaves in the winter?
Aristotle doth give the same reason for both; because that the want of moisture in both is the cause of the want of the hair and of the leaves; and this is proved, because that a man becometh bald through venery, because that is letting forth of natural humidity and heat. And so by that excess in carnal pleasure moisture is consumed which is the nutriment of the hair and therefore baldness doth ensue. And this is evidently proved in eunuchs and women who do not grow bald, because they do not depart from their moistness; and therefore eunuchs are of the complexion of women. But if you ask why eunuchs be not bald, nor have the gout, as Hippocrates saith, the answer is, according to Galen, because the cause of baldness is dryness, the which is not in eunuchs because they want their stones, the which do minister heat unto all parts of the body, and the heat doth open the pores, which being open, the hair doth fall.

Why are not women bald?
Because they are cold and moist, which are the causes that the hair remaineth; for moistness doth give nutriment to the hair, and coldness doth bind the pores.

Why are bald men deceitful, according to the verse:

"Si non vis falli, fugius consertia clavi"?
Because baldness doth witness a choleric complexion, whith is hot and dry; and choleric men are naturally deceitful, according to the verse:

"Hirsutus, fallax, irascens, prodigus, audax."

And therefore it followeth, "a primo ad ultimum," that bald men are deceitful and crafty.

Why are not blind men naturally bald?
Because that, according to Aristotle, the eye hath most moisture in it, and that moisture which should pass through by the substance of the eyes doth become a sufficient nutriment of the

hair, and therefore they are seldom bald.

Why doth hair stand on end when men are afraid?
Because in the time of fear the heat doth go from the outward part of the body into the inward, to the intent to help the heart; and so the pores in which the hair are fastened are shut up: after which stopping and shutting up of the pores the standing up of the hair doth follow, as it is seen in beasts, as dogs, wild boars, and peacocks.

 

Previous Next