Marcus Antonius Zimaras Sanctipertia's Problems.
Why is it esteemed in the judgment of the most wise the hardest thing to know a man's self?
It is because nothing can be known; its form and perfection cannot be found; to know the form and perfection of a man's self, as it cometh unto the philosopher, is a matter hard enough, and a man, by the authority of Plato, either is nothing, or if he be any thing, he is nothing but his soul. Or, is it because it cannot be done by a reflected action, and to reflect and look unto himself is a token that he is separated by the flesh: for lie who would know himself should be drawn from sensible affections; and how hard this is no man is ignorant of? Or, is it because a man liveth by understanding? But the understanding of a man cannot conceive himself, but alter the understanding of cases which is very hard.
Why is a man, being endued with reason the most unjust of all living creatures?
It is because man only is desirous of honour, it comes to pass that every one covets to seem good, and yet naturally shun labour, though he attains no virtue by it; or else it is because the nature of a sophister is rather to seem than to be and not seem; but very few do attain to true virtue.
Why doth immoderate copulation do more hurt than immoderate letting of blood?
It is because the seed is fuller of spirit and nutriment, better disposed and prepared for the nature of the body than the blood; for says Galen, the seed is the cause of the substantial parts of the body, and of it the body grows and is nourished. And he who is hungry is hurt more by taking away of bread than flour, so the body is weakened by taking away seed than by evacuating blood.
What is the reason those that have a very long yard cannot beget children?
Whether is it because the seed in going a long distance the spirit doth breathe out, and therefore is cold and unfit for generation.
Why do such as are corpulent cast forth little seed in the act of copulation, and are often barren?
It is because the seed of such goes to nourishing the body: for the same reason corpulent women have but few menses.
How come women prone to venery in the summer time, and men in winter?
It is because at that time his testicles hang down and are feebler than in winter, or else because hot natures become lively; for a man is hot and dry, a woman cold and moist, and therefore in summer the strength of men decays, and that of women increase, and she grows livelier by the benefit of the contrary quality. And for the same reason some beasts of a cold nature lie in dens and holes, and through the frigidity of the air receive little or no nourishment, but revive again when heat comes.
How comes man to be proudest of all living creatures?
Whether it is by reason of his great knowledge, or that (as the philosophers say) all intelligent beings having understanding, no thing remains that escapes man's knowledge in particular: or, it is because he hath rule over all earthly creatures, and all things seem to be brought to his arbitrament? Or, shall I answer, that the pride of man proceeds from his not knowing himself; for truly would he remember that he is but dust and ashes, came naked into the world, born to earn his bread by the sweat of his brows, and after born to die, he would abhor pride.
How comes one man to understand one thing, and do another?
It is because there is in the same science contrary things, or because the office of the mind is to reach at many things, and the appetite tends to only one? and so a man chiefly lives by under standing, and reason, but beasts are governed by appetite, anger, and pleasure.
How comes most women's wits unapt to good things, and most prompt to naughty, as says Euripides?
Because of a privation, which seems to be coupled and joined to her nature: for as a woman is a man's hurt, so the faculty of a privation is always to do mischief.
Why do men say that a woman's first counsel should be chosen?
Because (as we see things that want reason) their actions and motions are guided to their proper ends by a superior power; for I think that is very true which is said, That there's a Providence which puts in a dishonest heart the desire of honesty, and in a poor man the desire of wealth, as far as sufficient. So a woman's understanding, though she knows not the reason of good and evil, is sometimes directed by an infallible truth to take some things in hand; but some things they undertake of themselves are to be let alone, as weak, and subject to many errors.
How comes it that women desire to go fine, and deck themselves rather than men?
It is because by nature they are imperfect, so they endeavour to supply their imperfections by art; or else it is because they want the beauty of the mind, to study to adorn their bodies.
How comes it that a tall man is seldom wise?
By reason the largeness of his body proceeds from excess of heat, and abundance of humidity. Some wise men think the perfection, accomplishment, and goodness of the operation is perfected by dryness, which doth always go and increase till it brings us to our end; for the constitution of the body originally sprung from the last humidity, but the vehemence and excess of heat overflows the judgment, and hinders quietude.
Why is a multitude of princes or rulers naught, as Homer saith?
It is because if the government should dwindle into tyranny it is better to be under the yoke of one than many; or because a multitude of rulers seldom regard the good of the public. Hence it proceeds, that if once they disagree, great loss is like to befall the commonality: it is easier for one man to be well given than many; in the government of many, there wants not strife, debate, and envy. Wherefore is it justly said, that a multitude of rulers are naught: for which reason let there be but one prince at a time.
Why have beasts their hearts in the middle of their breast, and man his inclining towards the left side?
It is because it should moderate the cold on that side: for Aristotle says, man hath only the left side cold. Or it is as physicians say, because it should give place to the liver, which is on the right side.
Why doth a woman love that man best who had her maidenhead?
It is because that the matter doth covet a form or perfection, so doth a woman the male. Or it is by reason of shamefacedness, for as Plato saith, shamefacedness doth follow love. Or is it because the beginning of great pleasure doth bring a great alteration in the whole, whereby the powers of the mind are much delighted, and stick and rest immovable in the same? Hesiod advises to marry a maid.
How comes the night, in full of moon, somewhat warm, since (according to the mathematicians) the moon is cold by night?
Whether it is because the opinion of the peripatetics ought to be preferred, which says, every light heats in that respect it is reflected.
How comes the night in autumn colder than in spring?
It is because the air very thin, and bodies that are rarefied are apt to receive heat or cold, as it is easily seen in water, for water heated doth sooner freeze than cold, because it is rarefied by heat.
How are bodies sooner hurt with cold in autumn than in spring?
It is because the bodies which are accustomed to cold do in spring receive heat, and therefore the moving or mutation is natural, and not surprising. But in autumn they hasten from heat to cold, not being accustomed, and without any mean. Galen says, nature doth not endure sudden things.
How comes hairy people to be more lustful than others?
Because in them is supposed great store of, excrements and seed, as philosophers assert.
What is the cause, as physicians say, that the suffocation of the matrix, which happens to women through strife and contention, is more dangerous than the detaining of the flowers?
Whether it is because that by how much the more an excrement is perfect, so long as it doth continue in its natural disposition, by so much the more it is worse when it is removed from that, and drawn to the contrary quality; as is seen in vinegar, which is the sharpest when it is made of the best wine. And so it happens, that the more men love one another, the more they hate when they fall to variance and discord.
Why doth the land which standeth still seem to move unto such as sail by sea?
It is because the nutriment of the sense of seeing is accidentally moved when the ship is moved, whereby the likeness and similitude of things are perceived and received with the moving.
Why do we love our sight above our senses?
Whether it is (as Aristotle doth say) because it doth show us the difference of things, or because its knowledge is more drawn from material substance: Or is it because the divine force of love is placed in that sense, Plato saith.
Why do we not judge a staff to be broken in the water, seeing it doth so appear in the sense of sight?
Whether is it because we perceive by the sense of seeing and touching that the sight doth err? Or is it because we do not judge with the same power as we do imagine with? An argument of this, because the sun doth seem to be but a foot round. And by a trick and moving of the finger, one finger doth seem two, yet we do not yield that they be two.
Why do we put our hands over our eyes when we would see any thing afar off?
It is because the light should not be dispersed; and so Aristotle saith, that those which have their eyes standing out cannot see far: and contrary, such as have them hollow in their head can see far because the moving of the sight is not scattered.
How do some people discern things near them and not at a distance?
it is through the weakness of the sight, for in such the power of seeing is very weak; therefore they do need a strong moving as it is also in such as have their eyes standing out who cannot see far.
Why do such as would shoot aright wink with one eye?
Because the sight is strenthened and united, and so fitter to perform this action.
Why are such as have been long in the dark, if on a sudden they come into the light, half blind?
It is because nature cannot endure those sudden mutations, or because the spirit of the sight is small and weak, and therefore is, glad of the like, and so dissolves when they come into the light. Or else it is because of the desire of that light they wanted before, which, when they behold too earnestly, their sight is weakened, as it happens in some who have a long time endured famine, and then eaten greedily take more than they can digest, and so perish.
Why can nothing be the cause of its own generation and corruption?
It is because the mover must be before the thing moved, and the engenderer before the thing engendered, or that is impossible to be before itself.
How come women's bodies looser, softer, and lesser than men's? And why do they want hair?
By reason of their menses, for with them their superfluities go away which would produce hair, and where the flesh is filled, consequently their veins are more hid than men's.
What is the reason that when we think upon an horrible thing we are stricken with fear?
It is because the conceit, thinking, and understanding of things have force and virtue. For Plato saith, the reason of things have some affinity with the things themselves; for the image and representation of cold and heat, in such as the nature of things are, as the philosopher had said. Or is it because when we comprehend any dreadful matter, the blood runneth to the internal parts, and therefore the external parts are cold, and shake with fear.
Why doth a reddish root help digestion, and yet itself remaineth undigested?
Whether is it because the substance consisteth of divers parts, for there are some thin parts in it which are fit to digest meat, the which being dissolved, there doth remain some thick and close substance in it, which the heat cannot digest.
Why do such as cleave wood cleave it easier in length than athwart it?
Whether is it because in wood there is a grain, if it be cut in length, whereby in the very cutting one part draweth another fast by?
What is the reason, that if a spear be stricken on the end the sound cometh sooner to one which standeth near than to him which striketh?
Whether is it because (as it hath been said) there is a certain long grain in wood directly forward filled with air, but cross; or one side there is none: and therefore a beam or spear stricken on the end, the air which is hidden receiveth a sound in the aforesaid grain, which serveth for the passage of the air; and therefore, seeing the sound cannot go easily cut, it is carried unto the ear of him who is opposite to him, and those passages do not go from side to side, and therefore a sound cannot be distinctly heard.
Why be not there fatuous men in every faculty in our age?
It is because the nature of man decayeth in our age; and as Salinus saith succession being corrupted, the progeny of our age is worse by birth; or it is because such are not esteemed of princes; for take away the reward due unto virtue, and no man will embrace it; or it is ordained by nature that men do always complain of the present time.
Why are flatterers in great credit with princes?
It is, as Plutarch saith by the authority of Plato, because they love themselves much; immoderate love of themselves causeth them to admit flatterers, and to give them credit; or it is, as I think, because they want the light of reason; for among birds, some through the corruption of their nature delight in stinking meat; and whom the day doth blind the night doth lighten.
Why have philosophers for the most part in thee days evil conditions?
Is it because they are esteemed of princes? or is it because of the philosophy itself they are accused of crimes, and think therefore they are compelled to forsake virtue and follow vice? or else deceived through error, they think they have snatched to themselves some of her rags; and therefore they are by us rather called sophisters than philosophers, for certainly a philosopher should be of a stout courage in all respects and in all fortunes, for they reason badly, and therefore they should give themselves unto philosophy, because they would be honoured of princes; and their desire is not ruled by nature, but by errors, and they are thrust forward with streams of false credulity.
Why do such as are angry wax pale in the beginning, and after wards red?
It is through the desire of revenge for that which grieveth, that the heat and blood are called unto the heart, and therefore of necessity the external parts are pale, when they are determined to put that in execution which they desire, the heat and blood do run into the outward parts, and then they are greatly to be feared and taken heed of.
Why do serpents want a yard and stones?
It is because they want thighs, and therefore do want a yard, and then want stones, because of the length of their body.
Why do serpents turn their heads backwards, and the rest of the body stand still?
It is because (like unto those creatures which are called Infecta) they are made of a winding composition, and have their joints flexible, and made of gristles, and this is the reason in serpents, and also because they may void all those things which hurt them, for having no feet, and being long in body, they cannot easily turn them, whilst they bow against those things which are behind them. It were to no purpose to lift up their head if they could not exercise anger.
Why is a camelion changed into many colours?
Whether is it, as seemeth unto the philosopher, because he is the tenderest of all footed beasts engendered of eggs, and is stark cold for want of blood, the cause is to be referred unto the quality of the mind: through overmuch coldness be is of so many colours or it is the property of fear to bind fast through want of blood and heat.
Why are the thighs and calves of the legs of men fleshy, seeing the legs of beasts are not so?
It is because men only go upright, and therefore nature hath given the lower part corpulency, and hath taken it away from the upper; and therefore she hath made the buttock, the thighs, and calf of the legs fleshy.
Why (as Aristotle doth affirm) are the sensible powers in the heart, yet if the hinder part of the brain be hurt the memory payeth for it; if the forepart, the imagination; if the middle, the cogitative part?
It is because the brain is appointed by nature to cool the heat of the heart wherefore it is, that in divers of its parts it serveth the powers and instruments of their heat, for every action of the soul doth not proceed from one measure of heat.