The Works of Aristotle - Of Divers Matters.

Of Divers Matters.

Why have some women greater grief than others in child-birth?
For three reasons: first, for the largeness of the child; secondly, the midwife being unskilful; and thirdly, because the child is dead, and cannot be bowed. For the contrary causes some have less pain.

Why has not a man a tail like a beast?
Because a man is a noble creature, whose property is to sit; so a beast cannot that hath a tail.

Why do such as keep hot houses expel the heat of the furnace better with cold water than hot?
By reason they are contrary qualities, which work strongly one against the other, therefore the heat is easier expelled from the stone.

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

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

Why cannot drunken men judge of tastes as well as sober ones?
Because the tongue being full of pores and spungy, it receives great moisture in it, and more in drunken men than in sober; therefore the tongue (though often drinking) is full of bad humours; and because it is so, the faculty of taste is rendered out of order; therefore through the thickening of the mean, i.e., taste itself, drink taken by drunkards is not presently felt, for to a due feeling it is requisite to have a due proportion of the mean. And by this is also understood why drunkards have not a perfect speech then.

Why have melancholy beasts long ears; and why are not those men wise for the most part that have long ears, but those others wise with short ones?
The ears proceed from a cold and dry substance called a gristle which is apt to become a bone; and because melancholy beasts do abound with this kind of substance, they have long ears.

How comes the other to be half witted?
Because the minds and souls follow the bodies, for if the senses of the body be subtile, the soul exercises subtile operation, as well active as speculative, and the contrary is in a gross body.

How is the intellectual soul joined to a child in the womb of the mother; and how does the man who begets it make the matter apt and fit to receive the soul?
Divines say, that into a substance sufficiently disposed and made fit God doth infuse the intellectual soul; and St. Augustine says the like. The soul in creating is infused, and infusing is created.

Why do hares sleep with their eyes open?
Because they have their eyes standing out, and their eyelids short, therefore never quite shut. Another reason is, they are timorous, and, as a safeguard to themselves, sleep with their eyes open.

Why don't crows feed their young till they be nine days old?
Because seeing them of another colour they think they are of another kind; meanwhile God feeds them with heavenly dew, as the Psalmist saith. He who doth give beasts their food and young crows, which call upon him.

Why are sheep and pigeons mild creatures?
Because they want galls, which stir anger.

Why have birds their stones inwards?
Because if they were outward they would hinder their flying and lightness.

How comes it that birds don't piss?
Because that superfluity which would be converted into urine is turned into feathers, for there is much moisture in the feathers. Another reason is they are in continual motion, therefore moisture in them is dried up by air or wind.

How comes long eggs to be a sign and cause of the male; and flat short eggs of the female?
Hippocrates says, it is the property of heat to ascend from the centre to the circumference of cold. Therefore if there be any long eggs, it is a sign they have a great heat, and therefore pass into the substance of the male, for in every kind the male is hotter than the female, as philosophers say. If the eggs be short and flat, it is a sign the heat is small and undispersed, and goeth into the substance of the female.

How do we hear the better by night than by day?
Because (as Aristotle saith) there is a greater quietness in the night than in the day, for the sun doth not exhale the vapours of the night, but it doth in the day, therefore the mean is more fit than ready, and the mean being fit, the motion is better done by it, which is said to be done by a sound. Another reason is, there are motions of the air and sounds in the day more than in the night, which hinders one another; in the night there is silence, which is opposite to sound, and opposites put one against the other show the better.

For what reason doth a man laugh sooner when touched in the arm-pits than in the other parts of the body?
Because there is in that place a meeting of many sinews, and the mean we touch (which is the flesh) is more subtile there than in other parts, and therefore a better feeling. And this is true if that place be not touched too roughly, if you do so, then there is not that delight; when a man is moderately and generally touched there, the spirits that are there dispersed run into the face and thence it causes laughter.

How comes wood burnt to be converted into black coal and a bone burnt into a white substance?
Because the wood before it was burnt was moist, and so after burning getteth heat accidentally; and that heat is not able to consume all the moisture of the wood, and therefore there remaineth some after the burning, which is converted into black substance, because the humidity of the wood was slimy, and could not altogether be consumed by the fire. But a bone of its own nature is cold and dry, having but small moisture in it, which the burning doth wholly consume, and so accidentally, the moisture being consumed, the body waxeth white.

Why do some women love white men and some black?
There are two answers: some women have a weak sight; and such delight in black, because white doth hurt the sight more than black. The second reason is, because like delights in the like but some women are of a hot nature, and such are delighted with black because blackness doth follow heat. And others are of a cold nature, and these are delighted with white, because cold is the mother of whiteness.

Why do men willingly sleep after labour?
Because that through continual moving the heat is dispersed to the external part of the body which after labour is past, is gathered together to the internal parts of digestion, there to digest; and from digestion vapours do rise from the heart to the brain, which do stop the passages, by which the natural heat should be dispersed to the external part; and then the external parts being cold and thick by reason of the coldness of the brain, sleep is easily procured. And by this it appeareth, that such as eat and drink too much do sleep much and long, because there are great store of humours and vapours bred in such persons, which cannot be digested and consumed of the natural heat.

Why are such as sleep much evil disposed and ill coloured?
Because, that in sleep much moisture is gathered together, which cannot be consumed, which is expelled in taking, and so it doth covet to go out through the superficial part of the body, and especially it resorts to the face, and therefore is the cause of a bad colour, as it appeareth in such as be phlegmatic, and who desire more sleep than others.

Why doth it appear unto some in their sleep that they eat and drink sweet things?
Because the phlegm drawn up by the jaws doth distil and drop to the throat, and this phlegm is after a sore sweat, and therefore that seemeth so to them.

Why do some dream in their sleep that they are in the water and drowned, and some that they be in water and not drowned; and this doth happen especially in such as are phlegmatic?
The reason is (as Aristotle saith) because the phlegmatic substance doth burn to the high parts of the body, and then they think they are in the water and drowned; and when that substance draweth unto the internal parts, then they think they escape. Another reason may be, overmuch repletion and drunkenness: and therefore, when a man is overmuch filled with meat, the fumes and vapours ascend and gather together, and therefore they think that they are drowned and strangled; but if they cannot ascend so high, then they seem to escape.

May a man procure a dream by an external cause?
Aristotle holdeth that it may be done, if a man do speak softly at a man's ear, and awake him, then of this stirring of the spirits there are thunderings and buzzings in the head, and so dream of that. And so some men have dreams by divine revelations when it pleaseth God to send any.

How many humours are there in a man's body?
Four, whereof every one hath its proper place in man's body. the first is choler, which physicians call stava bills, as is placed in the liver. The second is melancholy, called atra bilis, whose seat is in the spleen. The third is phlegm, whose place is in the head. The fourth is blood, whose place is in the head.

What condition and quality hath a man of a sanguine complexion?
Re is fair and beautiful, he hath his hair for the most part smooth: he is bold, he retaineth that which he hath conceived; he is shame-faced, given to music, a lover of sciences, liberal, courteous, and desires no revenge.

What properties do follow a phlegmatic complexion?
They are dull of wit, their hair never curls, they are seldom very thirsty, they are much given to sleep, they dream of things belonging to the water, they are fearful, covetous, given to heap up riches, are weak in the act of venery.

What properties do follow the choleric man?
He is furious and angry, quarrelsome, given to war, pale coloured and unquiet; thinks much, sleeps little, and desires much the company of women.

What properties do follow the melancholy man?
He is unquiet, brown in complexion, his veins hidden, he eateth little, and digesteth less; when he dreameth it is of dark, confused things; he is sad, fearful, exceeding covetous and incontinent, unless he bridle his affection.

What dreams do follow these complexions?
Pleasant, merry dreams do follow the sanguine complexion, fearful dreams the melancholy, the choleric dream of children, fighting and fire, and the phlegmatic dream of water. And this is the reason why a man's complexion is said to be known by his dreams.

What is the reason that if you cover an egg aver with salt, and let it lie in it a few days, all the meat within is consumed?
The great dryness of the salt doth consume the substance of the egg: but in sand some say they may be kept as long as the mariners do please.

Why is the melancholy complexion the worst of all?
Because it is the dregs of blood, which is an enemy to mirth, and farthest from the beginning of man's life, and bringeth old age and death, because it is cold and dry.

Why is the phlegmatic for the most part dull of wit?
Because that the vivacity of wit proceedeth of heat, so of cold the contrary, which they are subject unto.

Wherefore doth it proceed that some men die with extreme joy, and some with extreme grief?
Over-great joy doth overmuch heat the internal parts of the body, and overmuch grief doth drown and suffocate the heat, the which failing a man dieth.

Why hath a man so much hair on his head?
The hair of the head proceedeth of the vapours which ariseth from the stomach, and ascend to the head, and also of the superfluities which are in the brain; and those two passing through the pores of the head are converted into hair, by reason of the heat and dryness of the head. And because man's body is full of humours, and hath more brains than other creatures, and also more superfluities in the brains, which the brain expelleth, it followeth that he hath more hair than other living creatures.

How many ways is the brain purged, and other hidden places of the body?
The watery and gross humours are purged by the eyes, melancholy by the ears, choler by the nose, and phlegm by the hair.

What is the reason that such as are very fat in their youth are in danger to die on a sudden?
Such have very small and close veins, by reason of their fatness, for that the air and breath can hardly have free course in them; and thereupon the natural heat wanting some refreshment of the air is put out, and as it were, quenched.

Why doth garlic and onions grow after they are gathered?
It produceth of the great humidity which is in them.

Why do men feel cold sooner than women?
Because that men being more hot than women, have their pores more open, and therefore the cold doth sooner enter into them than women.

Why are not old men so much subject to the plague as young men and children?
They are cold, and therefore the pores are shut up, and not so open as in youth; and therefore the infecting air doth not penetrate so soon as when they are open, as in youth, by reason of heat.

Why do we cast water into a man's face when he swooneth? Because that through the coldness of the water the heat may run to the heart, and so give strength.

Why are those waters best and more delicate which run to wards the sun rising?
Because they are soonest stricken with the sun beams, and made pure and subtile, because the sun hath them long under him, and by that means takes off the coldness and gross vapours which they gather from the ground they run through.

Why have women such weak small voices?
Because their instruments and organs of speaking, by reason they are cold, are small and narrow; and therefore receiving but little air, causeth the voice to be small and effeminate.

Whereof doth it proceed that want of sleep doth weaken the brain and the body?
Much watching doth engender choler, the which being hot, doth dry up and lessen the humours which conserve the brain, the head and other parts of the body.

Whereof doth it proceed that vinegar doth stanch blood?
It proceedeth of its cold virtue, for all cold naturally is binding, and vinegar being cold hath the like property.

Why is the sea water salter in summer than in winter?
It proceedeth from the heat of the sun, seeing by experience that a salt thing being heated becometh more salt.

Why do men live longer in hot regions than in cold?
Because they may be more dry, and by that means the natural heat is better conserved in them than in cold countries, because the cold doth extinguish the heat.

Why is well water seldom or ever good?
All water which standeth still in the spring, and is never heated by the sun beams, is very heavy, and hath much earthy matter in it; and therefore wanting the heat of the sun is naught.

Why do men sleep better and more at case on the right side than on the left?
Because when we lie on the left, the lungs do lie upon and cover the heart, which is on that side under the pap. Now the heart, the fountain of life, being thus occupied and hindered with the lungs, cannot exercise its own proper operation, as being overmuch heated with the lungs lying on it, and therefore wanting the refreshment of the air which the lungs do give it, like the blowing a pair of bellows, choked and suffocated; but by lying on the right side these inconveniences are avoided.

Whereof doth it proceed that the holding of the breath doth cause vexing to cease?
Because the holding the breath doth heat the internal parts of the body. And this heat chafeth away the vexation, being nothing else but a cold air within the body.

What is the reason that old men sneeze with difficulty?
Because that through their coldness their arteries are very narrow and close, and therefore the heat is not of force to the cold; for I think sneezing is like the combat in the air made by thunder, which is caused by heat and cold.

Why doth a drunken man think that all things about him doth turn round?

Because the spirits which serve the sight are mingled with vapours, fumes, and the wine: and then the overmuch heat causeth the eye to be in a continual moving; and the eye being round, causeth all things about it to seem to go round.

Wherefore doth it proceed, that bread which is made with salt is lighter than that which is made without it, considering salt is very heavy of itself?
Although bread is heavy of itself, yet the salt dries it, doth make it light by reason of the heat which it hath, which heat doth dry, and the more heat there is in it the better the bread is, the lighter and more wholesome for the body.

Why is not new bread good for the stomach?
Because it is full of moistness, and thick, and hot vapours, which do corrupt the blood. And hot bread is blacker than cold, because heat is the mother of blackness, and because the vapours are not gone out of it.

Why doth lettuce make man sleep?
Because they engender gross vapours.

Why doth the dregs of wine and oil go to the bottom, and those of honey swim uppermost?
Because the dregs of wine and oil are earthy and not purged before, and therefore being of the nature of earth do go to the bottom; but honey is a liquor, which cometh from the stomach and belly of the bee, and there in some sort purified and made subtile; and by that means that which remains is tight and hot, and therefore goes upwards.

Why do cats' and wolves' eyes shine in the night and not in the day?
The eyes of these beasts are by nature mare crystalline than the eyes of other beasts, and therefore do shine as they do; but the brightness of the sun doth hinder them to be seen in the daytime.

What is the reason that some men when they see others dance do the like with the hands and feet, or by some other gesture of the body?
The answer is, because the sight having carried and represented unto the mind that action, and judging the same to he pleasant and delightful, and therefore (desiring it) the imagination draweth the likeness of it in conceit, and stirs up the body by the gestures.

Why do much sleep causeth some to grow fat and some lean?
Those which are of ill complexion, when they sleep, do consume and digest the superfluities of that they have eaten, and therefore become fat. But such as are of good complexion, when they sleep are much more cold, and so digest less.

How and for what cause do we suffer hunger better than thirst?
When the stomach hath nothing to consume it consumeth phlegm and humours which it findeth most ready and most at hand; and therefore we suffer hunger better than thirst, because the heat hath nothing to refresh it withal.

Why doth the hair fall after a great sickness?
Where the sickness is long, as an ague, the humours of the head are dried up through overmuch heat, and therefore wanting nourishment they fall.

Why doth the hair of the eye-brows grow long in old men?
Because that through their age the bones of the eyelids are thin, by reason of the want of heat, and therefore the hair doth grow there, by reason of the rheums of the eyes. The like doth happen in such as imagine much, because that with their heat they draw up many humours to the fore part of the head, where the imagination is placed.

Whereof proceedeth gapings?
Of gross vapours which occupy the vital spirits of the head, and the senses are cold, making them ready to sleep.

What is the reason that some flowers do open with the sun rising and some with the sun setting?
Cold doth close and shut as hath been said, but the heat of the sun doth open and enlarge; some do compare the sun to the soul of the body; for as the soul giveth life, and when it departeth, death followeth; so the sun doth give life, and vivicate all things; the cold bringeth death, withering and decaying of all things.

Why do grief cause men to grow old and grey?
Age is nothing else but a dryness and want of humours in the body; grief then causeth alteration, and alteration heat, and heat dryness; age followeth immediately, and greyness.

Why are gelded beasts weaker than such as are not gelded?
Because they have lesser heat, and by that means lesser force and strength.

 

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