1. Since feeling and voluntary motion are peculiar to animals, whilst growth and nutrition are common to plants as well, we may look on the former as effects of the soul and the latter as effects of the nature. And if there be anyone who allows a share in soul to plants as well, and separates the two kinds of soul, naming the kind in question vegetative, and the other sensory, this person is not saying anything else, although his language is somewhat unusual. We, however, for our part, are convinced that the chief merit of language is clearness, and we know that nothing detracts so much from this as do unfamiliar terms; accordingly we employ those terms which the bulk of people are accustomed to use, and we say that animals are governed at once by their soul and by their nature, and plants by their nature alone, and that growth and nutrition are the effects of nature, not of soul.
2. Thus we shall enquire, in the course of this treatise, from what faculties these effects themselves, as well as any other effects of nature which there may be, take their origin.
First, however, we must distinguish and explain clearly the various terms which we are going to use in this treatise, and to what things we apply them; and this will prove to be not merely an explanation of terms but at the same time a demonstration of the effects of nature.
When, therefore, such and such a body undergoes no change from its existing state, we say that it is at rest; but, not withstanding, if it departs from this in any respect we then say that in this respect it undergoes motion. Accordingly, when it departs in various ways from its preexisting state, it will be said to undergo various kinds of motion. Thus, if that which is white becomes black, or what is black becomes white, it undergoes motion in respect to colour; or if what was previously sweet now becomes bitter, or, conversely, from being bitter now becomes sweet, it will be said to undergo motion in respect to flavour; to both of these instances, as well as to those previously mentioned, we shall apply the term qualitative motion. And further, it is not only things which are altered in regard to colour and flavour which, we say, undergo motion; when a warm thing becomes cold, and a cold warm, here too we speak of its undergoing motion; similarly also when anything moist becomes dry, or dry moist. Now, the common term which we apply to all these cases is alteration.
This is one kind of motion. But there is another kind which occurs in bodies which change their position, or as we say, pass from one place to another; the name of this is transference.
These two kinds of motion, then, are simple and primary, while compounded from them we have growth and decay, as when a small thing becomes bigger, or a big thing smaller, each retaining at the same time its particular form. And two other kinds of motion are genesis and destruction, genesis being a coming into existence, and destruction being the opposite.
Now, common to all kinds of motion is change from the preexisting state, while common to all conditions of rest is retention of the preexisting state. The Sophists, however, while allowing that bread in turning into blood becomes changed as regards sight, taste, and touch, will not agree that this change occurs in reality. Thus some of them hold that all such phenomena are tricks and illusions of our senses; the senses, they say, are affected now in one way, now in another, whereas the underlying substance does not admit of any of these changes to which the names are given. Others (such as Anaxagoras) will have it that the qualities do exist in it, but that they are unchangeable and immutable from eternity to eternity, and that these apparent alterations are brought about by separation and combination.
Now, if I were to go out of my way to confute these people, my subsidiary task would be greater than my main one. Thus, if they do not know all that has been written, “On Complete Alteration of Substance” by Aristotle, and after him by Chrysippus, I must beg of them to make themselves familiar with these men’s writings. If, however, they know these, and yet willingly prefer the worse views to the better, they will doubtless consider my arguments foolish also. I have shown elsewhere that these opinions were shared by Hippocrates, who lived much earlier than Aristotle. In fact, all those known to us who have been both physicians and philosophers Hippocrates was the first who took in hand to demonstrate that there are, in all, four mutually interacting qualities, and that to the operation of these is due the genesis and destruction of all things that come into and pass out of being. Nay, more; Hippocrates was also the first to recognise that all these qualities undergo an intimate mingling with one another; and at least the beginnings of the proofs to which Aristotle later set his hand are to be found first in the writings of Hippocrates.
As to whether we are to suppose that the substances as well as their qualities undergo this intimate mingling, as Zeno of Citium afterwards declared, I do not think it necessary to go further into this question in the present treatise; for immediate purposes we only need to recognize the complete alteration of substance. In this way, nobody will suppose that bread represents a kind of meeting-place for bone, flesh, nerve, and all the other parts, and that each of these subsequently becomes separated in the body and goes to join its own kind; before any separation takes place, the whole of the bread obviously becomes blood; (at any rate, if a man takes no other food for a prolonged period, he will have blood enclosed in his veins all the same). And clearly this disproves the view of those who consider the elements unchangeable, as also, for that matter, does the oil which is entirely used up in the flame of the lamp, or the faggots which, in a somewhat longer time, turn into fire.
I said, however, that I was not going to enter into an argument with these people, and it was only because the example was drawn from the subject-matter of medicine, and because I need it for the present treatise, that I have mentioned it. We shall then, as I said, renounce our controversy with them, since those who wish may get a good grasp of the views of the ancients from our own personal investigations into these matters.
The discussion which follows we shall devote entirely, as we originally proposed, to an enquiry into the number and character of the faculties of Nature, and what is the effect which each naturally produces. Now, of course, I mean by an effect that which has already come into existence and has been completed by the activity of these faculties — for example, blood, flesh, or nerve. And activity is the name I give to the active change or motion, and the cause of this I call a faculty. Thus, when food turns into blood, the motion of the food is passive, and that of the vein active. Similarly, when the limbs have their position their position altered, it is the muscle which produces, and the bones which undergo the motion. In these cases I call the motion of the vein and of the muscle an activity, and that of the food and the bones a symptom or affection, since the first group undergoes alteration and the second group is merely transported. One might, therefore, also speak of the activity as an effect of Nature — for example, digestion, absorption, blood-production; one could not, however, in every case call the effect an activity; thus flesh is an effect of Nature, but it is, of course, not an activity. It is, therefore, clear that one of these terms is used in two senses, but not the other.
3. It appears to me, then, that the vein, as well as each of the other parts, functions in such and such a way according to the manner in which the four qualities are mixed. There are, however, a considerable number of not undistinguished men — philosophers and physicians — who refer action to the Warm and the Cold, and who subordinate to these, as passive, the Dry and the Moist; Aristotle, in fact, was the first who attempted to bring back the causes of the various special activities to these principles, and he was followed later by the Stoic school. These latter, of course, could logically make active principles of the Warm and Cold, since they refer the change of the elements themselves into one another to certain diffusions and condensations. This does not hold of Aristotle, however; seeing that he employed the four qualities to explain the genesis of the elements, he ought properly to have also referred the causes of all the special activities to these. How is it that he uses the four qualities in his book “On Genesis and Destruction,” whilst in his “Meteorology,” his “Problems,” and many other works he uses the uses the two only? Of course, if anyone were to maintain that in the case of animals and plants the Warm and Cold are more active, the Dry and Moist less so, he might perhaps have even Hippocrates on his side; but if he were to say that this happens in all cases, he would, I imagine, lack support, not merely from Hippocrates, but even from Aristotle himself — if, at least, Aristotle chose to remember what he himself taught us in his work “On Genesis and Destruction,” not as a matter of simple statement, but with an accompanying demonstration. I have, however, also investigated these questions, in so far as they are of value to a physician, in my work “On Temperaments.”
4. The so-called blood-making faculty in the veins, then, as well as all the other faculties, fall within the category of relative concepts; primarily because the faculty is the cause of the activity, but also, accidentally, because it is the cause of the effect. But, if the cause is relative to something — for it is the cause of what results from it, and of nothing else — it is obvious that the faculty also falls into the category of the relative; and so long as we are ignorant of the true essence of the cause which is operating, we call it a faculty. Thus we say that there exists in the veins a blood-making faculty, as also a digestive faculty in the stomach, a pulsatile faculty in the heart, and in each of the other parts a special faculty corresponding to the function or activity of that part. If, therefore, we are to investigate methodically the number and kinds of faculties, we must begin with the effects; for each of these effects comes from a certain activity, and each of these again is preceded by a cause.
5. The effects of Nature, then, while the animal is still being formed in the womb, are all the different parts of its body; and after it has been born, an effect in which all parts share is the progress of each to its full size, and thereafter its maintenance of itself as long as possible.
The activities corresponding to the three effects mentioned are necessarily three — one to each — namely, Genesis, Growth, and Nutrition. Genesis, however, is not a simple activity of Nature, but is compounded of alteration and of shaping. That is to say, in order that bone, nerve, veins, and all other [tissues] may come into existence, the underlying substance from which the animal springs must be altered; and in order that the substance so altered may acquire its appropriate shape and position, its cavities, outgrowths, attachments, and so forth, it has to undergo a shaping or formative process. One would be justified in calling this substance which undergoes alteration the material of the animal, just as wood is the material of a ship, and wax of an image.
Growth is an increase and expansion in length, breadth, and thickness of the solid parts of the animal (those which have been subjected to the moulding or shaping process). Nutrition is an addition to these, without expansion.
6. Let us speak then, in the first place, of Genesis, which, as we have said, results from alteration together with shaping.
The seed having been cast into the womb or into the earth (for there is no difference), then, after a certain definite period, a great number of parts become constituted in the substance which is being generated; these differ as regards moisture, dryness, coldness and warmth, and in all the other qualities which naturally derive therefrom. These derivative qualities, you are acquainted with, if you have given any sort of scientific consideration to the question of genesis and destruction. For, first and foremost after the qualities mentioned come the other so-called tangible distinctions, and after them those which appeal to taste, smell, and sight. Now, tangible distinctions are hardness and softness, viscosity, friability, lightness, heaviness, density, rarity, smoothness, roughness, thickness and thinness; all of these have been duly mentioned by Aristotle. And of course you know those which appeal to taste, smell, and sight. Therefore, if you wish to know which alterative faculties are primary and elementary, they are moisture, dryness, coldness, and warmth, and if you wish to know which ones arise from the combination of these, they will be found to be in each animal of a number corresponding to its sensible elements. The name sensible elements is given to all the homogeneous parts of the body, and these are to be detected not by any system, but by personal observation of dissections.
Now Nature constructs bone, cartilage, nerve, membrane, ligament, vein, and so forth, at the first stage of the animal’s genesis, employing at this task a faculty which is, in general terms, generative and alterative, and, in more detail, warming, chilling, drying, or moistening; or such as spring from the blending of these, for example, the bone-producing, nerve-producing, and cartilage-producing faculties (since for the sake of clearness these names must be used as well).
Now the peculiar flesh of the liver is of this kind as well, also that of the spleen, that of the kidneys, that of the lungs, and that of the heart; so also the proper substance of the brain, stomach, gullet, intestines, and uterus is a sensible element, of similar parts all through, simple, and uncompounded. That is to say, if you remove from each of the organs mentioned its arteries, veins, and nerves, the substance remaining in each organ is, from the point of view of the senses, simple and elementary. As regards those organs consisting of two dissimilar coats, of which each is simple, of these organs the coats are the are the elements — for example, the coats of the stomach, oesophagus, intestines, and arteries; each of these two coats has an alterative faculty peculiar to it, which has engendered it from the menstrual blood of the mother. Thus the special alterative faculties in each animal are of the same number as the elementary parts; and further, the activities must necessarily correspond each to one of the special parts, just as each part has its special use — for example, those ducts which extend from the kidneys into the bladder, and which are called ureters; for these are not arteries, since they do not pulsate nor do they consist of two coats; and they are not veins, since they neither contain blood, nor do their coats in any way resemble those of veins; from nerves they differ still more than from the structures mentioned.
“What, then, are they?” someone asks — as though every part must necessarily be either an artery, a vein, a nerve, or a complex of these, and as though the truth were not what I am now stating, namely, that every one of the various organs has its own particular substance. For in fact the two bladders — that which receives the urine, and that which receives the yellow bile — not only differ from all other organs, but also from one another. Further, the ducts which spring out like kinds of conduits from the gall-bladder and which pass into the liver have no resemblance either to arteries, veins or nerves. But these parts have been treated at a greater length in my work “On the Anatomy of Hippocrates,” as well as elsewhere.
As for the actual substance of the coats of the stomach, intestine, and uterus, each of these has been rendered what it is by a special alterative faculty of Nature; while the bringing of these together, the therewith of the structures which are inserted into them, the outgrowth into the intestine,1 the shape of the inner cavities, and the like, have all been determined by a faculty which we call the shaping or formative faculty; this faculty we also state to be artistic — nay, the best and highest art — doing everything for some purpose, so that there is nothing ineffective or superfluous, or capable of being better disposed. This, however, I shall demonstrate in my work “On the Use of Parts.”
7. Passing now to the faculty of Growth let us first mention that this, too, is present in the foetus in utero as is also the nutritive faculty, but that at that stage these two faculties are, as it were, handmaids to those already mentioned, and do not possess in themselves supreme authority. When, however, the animal has attained its complete size, then, during the whole period following its birth and until the acme is reached, the faculty of growth is predominant, while the alterative and nutritive faculties are accessory — in fact, act as its handmaids. What, then, is the property of this faculty of growth? To extend in every direction that which has already come into existence — that is to say, the solid parts of the body, the arteries, veins, nerves, bones, cartilages, membranes, ligaments, and the various coats which we have just called elementary, homogeneous, and simple. And I shall state in what way they gain this extension in every direction, first giving an illustration for the sake of clearness.
Children take the bladders of pigs, fill them with air, and then rub them on ashes near the fire, so as to warm, but not to injure them. This is a common game in the district of Ionia, and among not a few other nations. As they rub, they sing songs, to a certain measure, time, and rhythm, and all their words are an exhortation to the bladder to increase in size. When it appears to them fairly well distended, they again blow air into it and expand it further; then they rub it again. This they do several times, until the bladder seems to them to have become large enough. Now, clearly, in these doings of the children, the more the interior cavity of the bladder increases in size, the thinner, necessarily, does its substance become. But, if the children were able to bring nourishment to this thin part, then they would make the bladder big in the same way that Nature does. As it is, however, they cannot do what Nature does, for to imitate this is beyond the power not only of children, but of any one soever; it is a property of Nature alone.
It will now, therefore, be clear to you that nutrition is a necessity for growing things. For if such bodies were distended, but not at the same time nourished, they would take on a false appearance of growth, not a true growth. And further, to be distended in all directions belongs only to bodies whose growth is directed by Nature; for those which are distended by us undergo this distension in one direction but grow less in the others; it is impossible to find a body which will remain entire and not be torn through whilst we stretch it in the three dimensions. Thus Nature alone has the power to expand a body in all directions so that it remains unruptured and preserves completely its previous form.
Such then is growth, and it cannot occur without the nutriment which flows to the part and is worked up into it.
8. We have, then, it seems, arrived at the subject of Nutrition, which is the third and remaining consideration which we proposed at the outset. For, when the matter which flows to each part of the body in the form of nutriment is being worked up into it, this activity is nutrition, and its cause is the nutritive faculty. Of course, the kind of activity here involved is also an alteration, but not an alteration like that occurring at the stage of genesis. For in the latter case something comes into existence which did not exist previously, while in nutrition the inflowing material becomes assimilated to that which has already come into existence. Therefore, the former kind of alteration has with reason been termed genesis, and the latter, assimilation.
9. Now, since the three faculties of Nature have been exhaustively dealt with, and the animal would appear not to need any others (being possessed of the means for growing, for attaining completion, and for maintaining itself as long a time as possible), this treatise might seem to be already complete, and to constitute an exposition of all the faculties of Nature. If, however, one considers that it has not yet touched upon any of the parts of the animal (I mean the stomach, intestines, liver, and the like), and that it has not dealt with the faculties resident in these, it will seem as though merely a kind of introduction had been given to the practical parts of our teaching. For the whole matter is as follows: Genesis, growth, and nutrition are the first, and, so to say, the principal effects of Nature; similarly also the faculties which produce these effects — the first faculties — are three in number, and are the most dominating of all. But as has already been shown, these need the service both of each other, and of yet different faculties. Now, these which the faculties of generation and growth require have been stated. I shall now say what ones the nutritive faculty requires.
10. For I believe that I shall prove that the organs which have to do with the disposal of the nutriment, as also their faculties, exist for the sake of this nutritive faculty. For since the action of this faculty is assimilation, and it is impossible for anything to be assimilated by, and to change into anything else unless they already possess a certain community and affinity in their qualities, therefore, in the first place, any animal cannot naturally derive nourishment from any kind of food, and secondly, even in the case of those from which it can do so, it cannot do this at once. Therefore, by reason of this law, every animal needs several organs for altering the nutriment. For in order that the yellow may become red, and the red yellow, one simple process of alteration is required, but in order that the white may become black, and the black white, all the intermediate stages are needed. So also, a thing which is very soft cannot all at once become very hard, nor vice versa; nor, similarly can anything which has a very bad smell suddenly become quite fragrant, nor again, can the converse happen.
How, then, could blood ever turn into bone, without having first become, as far as possible, thickened and white? And how could bread turn into blood without having gradually parted with its whiteness and gradually acquired redness? Thus it is quite easy for blood to become flesh; for, if Nature thicken it to such an extent that it acquires a certain consistency and ceases to be fluid, it thus becomes original newly-formed flesh; but in order that blood may turn into bone, much time is needed and much elaboration and transformation of the blood. Further, it is quite clear that bread, and, more particularly lettuce, beet, and the like, require a great deal of alteration, in order to become blood.
This, then, is one reason why there are so many organs concerned in the alteration of food. A second reason is the nature of the superfluities. For, as we are unable to draw any nourishment from grass, although this is possible for cattle, similarly we can derive nourishment from radishes, albeit not to the same extent as from meat; for almost the whole of the latter is mastered by our natures; it is transformed and altered and constituted useful blood; but, not withstanding, in the radish, what is appropriate and capable of being altered (and that only with difficulty, and with much labour) is the very smallest part; almost the whole of it is surplus matter, and passes through the digestive organs, only a very little being taken up into the veins as blood — nor is this itself entirely utilisable blood. Nature, therefore, had need of a second process of separation for the superfluities in the veins. Moreover, these superfluities need, on the one hand, certain fresh routes to conduct them to the outlets, so that they may not spoil the useful substances, and they also need certain reservoirs, as it were, in which they are collected till they reach a sufficient quantity, and are then discharged.
Thus, then, you have discovered bodily parts of a second kind, consecrated in this case to the [removal of the] superfluities of the food. There is, however, also a third kind, for carrying the pabulum in every direction; these are like a number of roads intersecting the whole body.
Thus there is one entrance — that through the mouth — for all the various articles of food. What receives nourishment, however, is not one single part, but a great many parts, and these widely separated; do not be surprised, therefore, at the abundance of organs which Nature has created for the purpose of nutrition. For those of them which have to do with alteration prepare the nutriment suitable for each part; others separate out the superfluities; some pass these along, others store them up, others excrete them; some, again, are paths for the transit in all directions of the utilisable juices. So, if you wish to gain a thorough acquaintance with all the faculties of Nature, you will have consider each one of these organs.
Now in giving an account of these we must begin with those effects of Nature, together with their corresponding parts and faculties, which are closely connected with the purpose to be achieved.
11. Let us once more, then, recall the actual purpose for which Nature has constructed all these parts. Its name, as previously stated, is nutrition, and the definition corresponding to the name is: an assimilation of that which nourishes to that which receives nourishment. And in order that this may come about, we must assume a preliminary process of adhesion, and for that, again, one of presentation. For whenever the juice which is destined to nourish any of the parts of the animal is emitted from the vessels, it is in the first place dispersed all through this part, next it is presented, and next it adheres, and becomes completely assimilated.
The so-called white [leprosy] shows the difference between assimilation and adhesion, in the same way that the kind of dropsy which some people call anasarca clearly distinguishes presentation from adhesion. For, of course, the genesis of such a dropsy does not come about as do some of the conditions of atrophy and wasting, from an insufficient supply of moisture; the flesh is obviously moist enough — in fact it is thoroughly saturated — and each of the solid parts of the body is in a similar condition. While, however, the nutriment conveyed to the part does undergo presentation, it is still too watery, and is not properly transformed into a juice, nor has it acquired that viscous and agglutinative quality which results from the operation of innate heat; therefore, adhesion cannot come about, since, owing to this abundance of thin, crude liquid, the pabulum runs off and easily slips away from the solid parts of the body. In white [leprosy], again, there is adhesion of the nutriment but no real assimilation. From this it is clear that what I have just said is correct, namely, that in that part which is to be nourished there must first occur presentation, next adhesion, and finally assimilation proper.
Strictly speaking, then, nutriment is that which is actually nourishing, while the quasi-nutriment which is not yet nourishing (e.g. matter which is undergoing adhesion or presentation) is not, strictly speaking, nutriment, but is so called only by an equivocation. Also, that which is still contained in the veins, and still more, that which is in the stomach, from the fact that it is destined to nourish if properly elaborated, has been called “nutriment.” Similarly we call the various kinds of food “nutriment,” not because they are already nourishing the animal, nor because they exist in the same state as the material which actually is nourishing it, but because they are able and destined to nourish it if they be properly elaborated.
This was also what Hippocrates said, viz., “Nutriment is what is engaged in nourishing, as also is quasi-nutriment, and what is destined to be nutriment.” For to that which is already being assimilated he gave the name of nutriment; to the similar material which is being presented or becoming adherent, the name of quasi-nutriment; and to everything else — that is, contained in the stomach and veins — the name of destined nutriment.
12. It is quite clear, therefore, that nutrition must necessarily be a process of assimilation of that which is nourishing to that which is being nourished. Some, however, say that this assimilation does not occur in reality, but is merely apparent; these are the people who think that Nature is not artistic, that she does not show forethought for the animal’s welfare, and that she has absolutely no native powers whereby she alters some substances, attracts others, and discharges others.
Now, speaking generally, there have arisen the following two sects in medicine and philosophy among those who have made any definite pronouncement regarding Nature. I speak, of course, of such of them as know what they are talking about, and who realize the logical sequence of their hypotheses, and stand by them; as for those who cannot understand even this, but who simply talk any nonsense that comes to their tongues, and who do not remain definitely attached either to one sect or the other — such people are not even worth mentioning.
What, then, are these sects, and what are the logical consequences of their hypotheses? The one class supposes that all substance which is subject to genesis and destruction is at once continuous and susceptible of alteration. The other school assumes substance to be unchangeable, unalterable, and subdivided into fine particles, which are separated from one another by empty spaces.
All people, therefore, who can appreciate the logical sequence of an hypothesis hold that, according to the second teaching, there does not exist any substance or faculty peculiar either to Nature or to Soul, but that these result from the way in which the primary corpuscles, which are unaffected by change, come together. According to the first-mentioned teaching, on the other hand, Nature is not posterior to the corpuscles, but is a long way prior to them and older than they; and therefore in their view it is Nature which puts together the bodies both of plants and animals; and this she does by virtue of certain faculties which she possesses — these being, on the one hand, attractive and assimilative of what is appropriate, and, on the other, of what is foreign. Further, she skilfully moulds everything during the stage of genesis; and she also provides for the creatures after birth, employing here other faculties again, namely, one of affection and forethought for offspring, and one of sociability and friendship for kindred. According to the other school, none of these things exist in the natures [of living things], nor is there in the soul any original innate idea, whether of agreement or difference, of separation or synthesis, of justice or injustice, of the beautiful or ugly; all such things, they say, arise in us from sensation and through sensation, and animals are steered by certain images and memories.
Some of these people have even expressly declared that the soul possesses no reasoning faculty, but that we are led like cattle by the impression of our senses, and are unable to refuse or dissent from anything. In their view, obviously, courage, wisdom, temperance, and self-control are all mere nonsense, we do not love either each other or our offspring, nor do the gods care anything for us. This school also despises dreams, birds, omens, and the whole of astrology, subjects with which we have dealt at greater length in another work, in which we discuss the views of Asclepiades the physician. Those who wish to do so may familiarize themselves with these arguments, and they may also consider at this point which of the two roads lying before us is the better one to take. Hippocrates took the first-mentioned. According to this teaching, substance is one and is subject to alteration; there is a consensus in the movements of air and fluid throughout the whole body; Nature acts throughout in an artistic and equitable manner, having certain faculties, by virtue of which each part of the body draws to itself the juice which is proper to it, and, having done so, attaches it to every portion of itself, and completely assimilates it; while such part of the juice as has not been mastered, and is not capable of undergoing complete alteration and being assimilated to the part which is being nourished, is got rid of by yet another (an expulsive) faculty.
13. Now the extent of exactitude and truth in the doctrines of Hippocrates may be gauged, not merely from the way in which his opponents are at variance with obvious facts, but also from the various subjects of natural research themselves — the functions of animals, and the rest. For those people who do not believe that there exists in any part of the animal a faculty for attracting its own special quality are compelled repeatedly to deny obvious facts. For instance, Asclepiades, the physician, did this in the case of the kidneys. That these are organs for secreting [separating out] the urine, was the belief not only of Hippocrates, Diocles, Erasistratus, Praxagoras, and all other physicians of eminence, but practically every butcher is aware of this, from the fact that he daily observes both the position of the kidneys and the duct (termed the ureter) which runs from each kidney into the bladder, and from this arrangement he infers their characteristic use and faculty. But, even leaving the butchers aside, all people who suffer either from frequent dysuria or from retention of urine call themselves “nephritics,” when they feel pain in the loins and pass sandy matter in their water.
I do not suppose that Asclepiades ever saw a stone which had been passed by one of these sufferers, or observed that this was preceded by a sharp pain in the region between kidneys and bladder as the stone traversed the ureter, or that, when the stone was passed, both the pain and the retention at once ceased. It is worth while, then, learning how his theory accounts for the presence of urine in the bladder, and one is forced to marvel at the ingenuity of a man who puts aside these broad, clearly visible routes,2 and postulates others which are narrow, invisible — indeed, entirely imperceptible. His view, in fact, is that the fluid which we drink passes into the bladder by being resolved into vapours, and that, when these have been again condensed, it thus regains its previous form, and turns from vapour into fluid. He simply looks upon the bladder as a sponge or a piece of wool, and not as the perfectly compact and impervious body that it is, with two very strong coats. For if we say that the vapours pass through these coats, why should they not pass through the peritoneum and the diaphragm, thus filling the whole abdominal cavity and thorax with water? “But,” says he, “of course the peritoneal coat is more impervious than the bladder, and this is why it keeps out the vapours, while the bladder admits them.” Yet if he had ever practised anatomy, he might have known that the outer coat of the bladder springs from the peritoneum and is essentially the same as it, and that the inner coat, which is peculiar to the bladder, is more than twice as thick as the former.
Perhaps, however, it is not the thickness or thinness of the coats, but the situation of the bladder, which is the reason for the vapours being carried into it? On the contrary, even if it were probable for every other reason that the vapours accumulate there, yet the situation of the bladder would be enough in itself to prevent this. For the bladder is situated below, whereas vapours have a natural tendency to rise upwards; thus they would fill all the region of the thorax and lungs long before they came to the bladder.
But why do I mention the situation of the bladder, peritoneum, and thorax? For surely, when the vapours have passed through the coats of the stomach and intestines, it is in the space between these and the peritoneum that they will collect and become liquefied (just as in dropsical subjects it is in this region that most of the water gathers). Otherwise the vapours must necessarily pass straight forward through everything which in any way comes in contact with them, and will never come to a standstill. But, if this be assumed, then they will traverse not merely the peritoneum but also the epigastrium, and will become dispersed into the surrounding air; otherwise they will certainly collect under the skin.
Even these considerations, however, our present-day Asclepiadeans attempt to answer, despite the fact that they always get soundly laughed at by all who happen to be present at their disputations on these subjects — so difficult an evil to get rid of is this sectarian partizanship, so excessively resistant to all cleansing processes, harder to heal than any itch!
Thus, one of our Sophists who is a thoroughly hardened disputer and as skilful a master of language as there ever was, once got into a discussion with me on this subject; so far from being put out of countenance by any of the above-mentioned considerations, he even expressed his surprise that I should try to overturn obvious facts by ridiculous arguments! “For,” said he, “one may clearly observe any day in the case of any bladder, that, if one fills it with water or air and then ties up its neck and squeezes it all round, it does not let anything out at any point, but accurately retains all its contents. And surely,” said he, “if there were any large and perceptible channels coming into it from the kidneys the liquid would run out through these when the bladder was squeezed, in the same way that it entered?” Having abruptly made these and similar remarks in precise and clear tones, he concluded by jumping up and departing — leaving me as though I were quite incapable of finding any plausible answer!
The fact is that those who are enslaved to their sects are not merely devoid of all sound knowledge, but they will not even stop to learn! Instead of listening, as they ought, to the reason why liquid can enter the bladder through the ureters, but is unable to go back again the same way — instead of admiring Nature’s artistic skill — they refuse to learn; they even go so far as to scoff, and maintain that the kidneys, as well as many other things, have been made by Nature for no purpose! And some of them who had allowed themselves to be shown the ureters coming from the kidneys and becoming implanted in the bladder, even had the audacity to say that these also existed for no purpose; and others said that they were spermatic ducts, and that this was why they were inserted into the neck of the bladder and not into its cavity. When, therefore, we had demonstrated to them the real spermatic ducts entering the neck of the bladder lower down than the ureters, we supposed that, if we had not done so before, we would now at least draw them away from their false assumptions, and convert them forthwith to the opposite view. But even this they presumed to dispute, and said that it was not to be wondered at that the semen should remain longer in these latter ducts, these being more constricted, and that it should flow quickly down the ducts which came from the kidneys, seeing that these were well dilated. We were, therefore, further compelled to show them in a still living animal, the urine plainly running out through the ureters into the bladder; even thus we hardly hoped to check their nonsensical talk.
Now the method of demonstration is as follows. One has to divide the peritoneum in front of the ureters, then secure these with ligatures, and next, having bandaged up the animal, let him go (for he will not continue to urinate). After this one loosens the external bandages and shows the bladder empty and the ureters quite full and distended — in fact almost on the point of rupturing; on removing the ligature from them, one then plainly sees the bladder becoming filled with urine.
When this has been made quite clear, then, before the animal urinates, one has to tie a ligature round his penis and then to squeeze the bladder all over; still nothing goes back through the ureters to the kidneys. Here, then, it becomes obvious that not only in a dead animal, but in one which is still living, the ureters are prevented from receiving back the urine from the bladder. These observations having been made, one now loosens the ligature from the animal’s penis and allows him to urinate, then again ligatures one of the ureters and leaves the other to discharge into the bladder. Allowing, then, some time to elapse, one now demonstrates that the ureter which was ligatured is obviously full and distended on the side next to the kidneys, while the other one — that from which the ligature had been taken — is itself flaccid, but has filled the bladder with urine. Then, again, one must divide the full ureter, and demonstrate how the urine spurts out of it, like blood in the operation of vene-section; and after this one cuts through the other also, and both being thus divided, one bandages up the animal externally. Then when enough time seems to have elapsed, one takes off the bandages; the bladder will now be found empty, and the whole region between the intestines and the peritoneum full of urine, as if the animal were suffering from dropsy. Now, if anyone will but test this for himself on an animal, I think he will strongly condemn the rashness of Asclepiades, and if he also learns the reason why nothing regurgitates from the bladder into the ureters, I think he will be persuaded by this also of the forethought and art shown by Nature in relation to animals.
Now Hippocrates, who was the first known to us of all those who have been both physicians and philosophers in as much as he was the first to recognize what Nature effects, expresses his admiration of her, and is constantly singing her praises and calling her “just.” Alone, he says, she suffices for the animal in every respect, performing of her own accord and without any teaching all that is required. Being such, she has, as he supposes, certain faculties, one attractive of what is appropriate, and another eliminative of what is foreign, and she nourishes the animal, makes it grow, and expels its diseases by crisis. Therefore he says that there is in our bodies a concordance in the movements of air and fluid, and that everything is in sympathy. According to Asclepiades, however, nothing is naturally in sympathy with anything else, all substance being divided and broken up into inharmonious elements and absurd “molecules.” Necessarily, then, besides making countless other statements in opposition to plain fact, he was ignorant of Nature’s faculties, both that attracting what is appropriate, and that expelling what is foreign. Thus he invented some wretched nonsense to explain blood-production and anadosis, and, being utterly unable to find anything to say regarding the clearing-out of superfluities, he did not hesitate to join issue with obvious facts, and, in this matter of urinary secretion, to deprive both the kidneys and the ureters of their activity, by assuming that there were certain invisible channels opening into the bladder. It was, of course, a grand and impressive thing to do, to mistrust the obvious, and to pin one’s faith in things which could not be seen!
Also, in the matter of the yellow bile, he makes an even grander and more spirited venture; for he says this is actually generated in the bile-ducts, not merely separated out.
How comes it, then, that in cases of jaundice two things happen at the same time — that the dejections contain absolutely no bile, and that the whole body becomes full of it? He is forced here again to talk nonsense, just as he did in regard to the urine. He also talks no less nonsense about the black bile and the spleen, not understanding what was said by Hippocrates; and he attempts in stupid — I might say insane — language, to contradict what he knows nothing about.
And what profit did he derive from these opinions from the point of view of treatment? He neither was able to cure a kidney ailment, nor jaundice, nor a disease of black bile, nor would he agree with the view held not merely by Hippocrates but by all men regarding drugs — that some of them purge away yellow bile, and others black, some again phlegm, and others the thin and watery superfluity; he held that all the substances evacuated were produced by the drugs themselves, just as yellow bile is produced by the biliary passages! It matters nothing, according to this extraordinary man, whether we give a hydragogue or a cholagogue in a case of dropsy, for these all equally purge and dissolve the body, and produce a solution having such and such an appearance, which did not exist as such before!
Must we not, therefore, suppose he was either mad, or entirely unacquainted with practical medicine? For who does not know that if a drug for attracting phlegm be given in a case of jaundice it will not even evacuate four cyathi3 of phlegm? Similarly also if one of the hydragogues be given. A cholagogue, on the other hand, clears away a great quantity of bile, and the skin of patients so treated at once becomes clear. I myself have, in many cases, after treating the liver condition, then removed the disease by means of a single purgation; whereas, if one had employed a drug for removing phlegm one would have done no good.
Nor is Hippocrates the only one who knows this to be so, whilst those who take experience alone as their starting-point know otherwise; they, as well as all physicians who are engaged in the practice of medicine, are of this opinion. Asclepiades, however, is an exception; he would hold it a betrayal of his assumed “elements” to confess the truth about such matters. For if a single drug were to be discovered which attracted such and such a humour only, there would obviously be danger of the opinion gaining ground that there is in every body a faculty which attracts its own particular quality. He therefore says that safflower, the Cnidian berry, and Hippophaes, do not draw phlegm from the body, but actually make it. Moreover, he holds that the flower and scales of bronze, and burnt bronze itself, and germander, and wild mastich dissolve the body into water, and that dropsical patients derive benefit from these substances, not because they are purged by them, but because they are rid of substances which actually help to increase the disease; for, if the medicine does not evacuate the dropsical fluid contained in the body, but generates it, it aggravates the condition further. Moreover, scammony, according to the Asclepiadean argument, not only fails to evacuate the bile from the bodies of jaundiced subjects, but actually turns the useful blood into bile, and dissolves the body; in fact it does all manner of evil and increases the disease.
And yet this drug may be clearly seen to do good to numbers of people! “Yes,” says he, “they derive benefit certainly, but merely in proportion to the evacuation.” . . . But if you give these cases a drug which draws off phlegm they will not be benefited. This is so obvious that even those who make experience alone their starting-point are aware of it; and these people make it a cardinal point of their teaching to trust to no arguments, but only to what can be clearly seen. In this, then, they show good sense; whereas Asclepiades goes far astray in bidding us distrust our senses where obvious facts plainly overturn his hypotheses. Much better would it have been for him not to assail obvious facts, but rather to devote himself entirely to these.
Is it, then, these facts only which are plainly irreconcilable with the views of Asclepiades? Is not also the fact that in summer yellow bile is evacuated in greater quantity by the same drugs, and in winter phlegm, and that in a young man more bile is evacuated, and in an old man more phlegm? Obviously each drug attracts something which already exists, and does not generate something previously non-existent. Thus if you give in the summer season a drug which attracts phlegm to a young man of a lean and warm habit, who has lived neither idly nor too luxuriously, you will with great difficulty evacuate a very small quantity of this humour, and you will do the man the utmost harm. On the other hand, if you give him a cholagogue, you will produce an abundant evacuation and not injure him at all.
Do we still, then, disbelieve that each drug attracts that humour which is proper to it? Possibly the adherents of Asclepiades will assent to this — or rather, they will — not possibly, but certainly — declare that they disbelieve it, lest they should betray their darling prejudices.
14. Let us pass on, then, again to another piece of nonsense; for the sophists do not allow one to engage in enquiries that are of any worth, albeit there are many such; they compel one to spend one’s time in dissipating the fallacious arguments which they bring forward.
What, then, is this piece of nonsense? It has to do with the famous and far-renowned stone which draws iron [the lodestone]. It might be thought that this would draw their minds to a belief that there are in all bodies certain faculties by which they attract their own proper qualities.
Now Epicurus, despite the fact that he employs in his “Physics” elements similar to those of Asclepiades, yet allows that iron is attracted by the lodestone, and chaff by amber. He even tries to give the cause of the phenomenon. His view is that the atoms which flow from the stone are related in shape to those flowing from the iron, and so they become easily interlocked with one another; thus it is that, after colliding with each of the two compact masses (the stone and the iron) they then rebound into the middle and so become entangled with each other, and draw the iron after them. So far, then, as his hypotheses regarding causation go, he is perfectly unconvincing; nevertheless, he does grant that there is an attraction. Further, he says that it is on similar principles that there occur in the bodies of animals the dispersal of nutriment and the discharge of waste matters, as also the actions of cathartic drugs.
Asclepiades, however, who viewed with suspicion the incredible character of the cause mentioned, and who saw no other credible cause on the basis of his supposed elements, shamelessly had recourse to the statement that nothing is in any way attracted by anything else. Now, if he was dissatisfied with what Epicurus said, and had nothing better to say himself, he ought to have refrained from making hypotheses, and should have said that Nature is a constructive artist and that the substance of things is always tending towards unity and also towards alteration because its own parts act upon and are acted upon by one another. For, if he had assumed this, it would not have been difficult to allow that this constructive Nature has powers which attract appropriate and expel alien matter. For in no other way could she be constructive, preservative of the animal, and eliminative of its diseases, unless it be allowed that she conserves what is appropriate and discharges what is foreign.
But in this matter, too, Asclepiades realized the logical sequence of the principles he had assumed; he showed no scruples, however, in opposing plain fact; he joins issue in this matter also, not merely with all physicians, but with everyone else, and maintains that there is no such thing as a crisis, or critical day, and that Nature does absolutely nothing for the preservation of the animal. For his constant aim is to follow out logical consequences and to upset obvious fact, in this respect being opposed to Epicurus; for the latter always stated the observed fact, although he gives an ineffective explanation of it. For, that these small corpuscles belonging to the lodestone rebound, and become entangled with other similar particles of the iron, and that then, by means of this entanglement (which cannot be seen anywhere) such a heavy substance as iron is attracted — I fail to understand how anybody could believe this. Even if we admit this, the same principle will not explain the fact that, when the iron has another piece brought in contact with it, this becomes attached to it.
For what are we to say? That, forsooth, some of the particles that flow from the lodestone collide with the iron and then rebound back, and that it is by these that the iron becomes suspended? that others penetrate into it, and rapidly pass through it by way of its empty channels? that these then collide with the second piece of iron and are not able to penetrate it although they penetrated the first piece? and that they then course back to the first piece, and produce entanglements like the former ones?
The hypothesis here becomes clearly refuted by its absurdity. As a matter of fact, I have seen five writing-stylets of iron attached to one another in a line, only the first one being in contact with the lodestone, and the power being transmitted through it to the others. Moreover, it cannot be said that if you bring a second stylet into contact with the lower end of the first, it becomes held, attached, and suspended, whereas, if you apply it to any other part of the side it does not become attached. For the power of the lodestone is distributed in all directions; it merely needs to be in contact with the first stylet at any point; from this stylet again the power flows, as quick as a thought, all through the second, and from that again to the third. Now, if you imagine a small lodestone hanging in a house, and in contact with it all round a large number of pieces of iron, from them again others, from these others, and so on — all these pieces of iron must surely become filled with the corpuscles which emanate from the stone; therefore, this first little stone is likely to become dissipated by disintegrating into these emanations. Further, even if there be no iron in contact with it, it still disperses into the air, particularly if this be also warm.
“Yes,” says Epicurus, “but these corpuscles must be looked on as exceedingly small, so that some of them are a ten-thousandth part of the size of the very smallest particles carried in the air.” Then do you venture to say that so great a weight of iron can be suspended by such small bodies? If each of them is a ten-thousandth part as large as the dust particles which are borne in the atmosphere, how big must we suppose the hook-like extremities by which they interlock with each other to be? For of course this is quite the smallest portion of the whole particle.
Then, again, when a small body becomes entangled with another small body, or when a body in motion becomes entangled with another also in motion, they do not rebound at once. For, further, there will of course be others which break in upon them from above, from below, from front and rear, from right and left, and which shake and agitate them and never let them rest. Moreover, we must perforce suppose that each of these small bodies has a large number of these hook-like extremities. For by one it attaches itself to its neighbours, by another — the topmost one — to the lodestone, and by the bottom one to the iron. For if it were attached to the stone above and not interlocked with the iron below, this would be of no use. Thus, the upper part of the superior extremity must hang from the lodestone, and the iron must be attached to the lower end of the inferior extremity; and, since they interlock with each other by their sides as well, they must, of course, have hooks there too. Keep in mind also, above everything, what small bodies these are which possess all these different kinds of outgrowths. Still more, remember how, in order that the second piece of iron may become attached to the first, the third to the second, and to that the fourth, these absurd little particles must both penetrate the passages in the first piece of iron and at the same time rebound from the piece coming next in the series, although this second piece is naturally in every way similar to the first.
Such an hypothesis, once again, is certainly not lacking in audacity; in fact, to tell the truth, it is far more shameless than the previous ones; according to it, when five similar pieces of iron are arranged in a line, the particles of the lodestone which easily traverse the first piece of iron rebound from the second, and do not pass readily through it in the same way. Indeed, it is nonsense, whichever alternative is adopted. For, if they do rebound, how then do they pass through into the third piece? And if they do not rebound, how does the second piece become suspended to the first? For Epicurus himself looked on the rebound as the active agent in attraction.
But, as I have said, one is driven to talk nonsense whenever one gets into discussion with such men. Having, therefore, given a concise and summary statement of the matter, I wish to be done with it. For if one diligently familiarizes oneself with the writings of Asclepiades, one will see clearly their logical dependence on his first principles, but also their disagreement with observed facts. Thus, Epicurus, in his desire to adhere to the facts, cuts an awkward figure by aspiring to show that these agree with his principles, whereas Asclepiades safeguards the sequence of principles, but pays no attention to the obvious fact. Whoever, therefore, wishes to expose the absurdity of their hypotheses, must, if the argument be in answer to Asclepiades, keep in mind his disagreement with observed fact; or if in answer to Epicurus, his discordance with his principles. Almost all the other sects depending on similar principles are now entirely extinct, while these alone maintain a respectable existence still. Yet the tenets of Asclepiades have been unanswerably confuted by Menodotus the Empiricist, who draws his attention to their opposition to phenomena and to each other; and, again, those of Epicurus have been confuted by Asclepiades, who adhered always to logical sequence, about which Epicurus evidently cares little.
Now people of the present day do not begin by getting a clear comprehension of these sects, as well as of the better ones, thereafter devoting a long time to judging and testing the true and false in each of them; despite their ignorance, they style themselves, some “physicians” and others “philosophers.” No wonder, then, that they honour the false equally with the true. For everyone becomes like the first teacher that he comes across, without waiting to learn anything from anybody else. And there are some of them, who, even if they meet with more than one teacher, are yet so unintelligent and slow-witted that even by the time they have reached old age they are still incapable of understanding the steps of an argument. . . . In the old days such people used to be set to menial tasks. . . . What will be the end of it God knows!
Now, we usually refrain from arguing with people whose principles are wrong from the outset. Still, having been compelled by the natural course of events to enter into some kind of a discussion with them, we must add this further to what was said — that it is not only cathartic drugs which naturally attract their special qualities, but also those which remove thorns and the points of arrows such as sometimes become deeply embedded in the flesh. Those drugs also which draw out animal poisons or poisons applied to arrows all show the same faculty as does the lodestone. Thus, I myself have seen a thorn which was embedded in a young man’s foot fail to come out when we exerted forcible traction with our fingers, and yet come away painlessly and rapidly on the application of a medicament. Yet even to this some people will object, asserting that when the inflammation is dispersed from the part the thorn comes away of itself, without being pulled out by anything. But these people seem, in the first place, to be unaware that there are certain drugs for drawing out inflammation and different ones for drawing out embedded substances; and surely if it was on the cessation of an inflammation that the abnormal matters were expelled, then all drugs which disperse inflammations ought ipso facto; to possess the power of extracting these substances as well.
And secondly, these people seem to be unaware of a still more surprising fact, namely, that not merely do certain medicaments draw out thorns and others poisons, but that of the latter there are some which attract the poison of the viper, others that of the sting-ray, and others that of some other animal; we can, in fact, plainly observe these poisons deposited on the medicaments. Here, then, we must praise Epicurus for the respect he shows towards obvious facts, but find fault with his views as to causation. For how can it be otherwise than extremely foolish to suppose that a thorn which we failed to remove by digital traction could be drawn out by these minute particles?
Have we now, therefore, convinced ourselves that everything which exists possesses a faculty by which it attracts its proper quality, and that some things do this more, and some less?
Or shall we also furnish our argument with the illustration afforded by corn? For those who refuse to admit that anything is attracted by anything else, will, I imagine, be here proved more ignorant regarding Nature than the very peasants. When, for my own part, I first learned of what happens, I was surprised, and felt anxious to see it with my own eyes. Afterwards, when experience also had confirmed its truth, I sought long among the various sects for an explanation, and, with the exception of that which gave the first place to attraction, I could find none which even approached plausibility, all the others being ridiculous and obviously quite untenable.
What happens, then, is the following. When our peasants are bringing corn from the country into the city in wagons, and wish to filch some away without being detected, they fill earthen jars with water and stand them among the corn; the corn then draws the moisture into itself through the jar and acquires additional bulk and weight, but the fact is never detected by the onlookers unless someone who knew about the trick before makes a more careful inspection. Yet, if you care to set down the same vessel in the very hot sun, you will find the daily loss to be very little indeed. Thus corn has a greater power than extreme solar heat of drawing to itself the moisture in its neighbourhood. Thus the theory that the water is carried towards the rarefied part of the air surrounding us (particularly when that is distinctly warm) is utter nonsense; for although it is much more rarefied there than it is amongst the corn, yet it does not take up a tenth part of the moisture which the corn does.
15. Since, then, we have talked sufficient nonsense — not willingly, but because we were forced, as the proverb says, “to behave madly among madmen”— let us return again to the subject of urinary secretion. Here let us forget the absurdities of Asclepiades, and, in company with those who are persuaded that the urine does pass through the kidneys, let us consider what is the character of this function. For, most assuredly, either the urine is conveyed by its own motion to the kidneys, considering this the better course (as do we when we go off to market!), or, if this be impossible, then some other reason for its conveyance must be found. What, then, is this? If we are not going to grant the kidneys a faculty for attracting this particular quality, as Hippocrates held, we shall discover no other reason. For, surely everyone sees that either the kidneys must attract the urine, or the veins must propel it — if, that is, it does not move of itself. But if the veins did exert a propulsive action when they contract, they would squeeze out into the kidneys not merely the urine, but along with it the whole of the blood which they contain. And if this is impossible, as we shall show, the remaining explanation is that the kidneys do exert traction.
And how is propulsion by the veins impossible? The situation of the kidneys is against it. They do not occupy a position beneath the hollow vein [vena cava] as does the sieve-like [ethmoid] passage in the nose and palate in relation to the surplus matter from the brain; they are situated on both sides of it. Besides, if the kidneys are like sieves, and readily let the thinner serous [whey-like] portion through, and keep out the thicker portion, then the whole of the blood contained in the vena cava must go to them, just as the whole of the wine is thrown into the filters. Further, the example of milk being made into cheese will show clearly what I mean. For this, too, although it is all thrown into the wicker strainers, does not all percolate through; such part of it as is too fine in proportion to the width of the meshes passes downwards, and this is called whey [serum]; the remaining thick portion which is destined to become cheese cannot get down, since the pores of the strainers will not admit it. Thus it is that, if the blood-serum has similarly to percolate through the kidneys, the whole of the blood must come to them, and not merely one part of it.
What, then, is the appearance as found on dissection?
One division of the vena cava is carried upwards to the heart, and the other mounts upon the spine and extends along its whole length as far as the legs; thus one division does not even come near the kidneys, while the other approaches them but is certainly not inserted into them. Now, if the blood were destined to be purified by them as if they were sieves, the whole of it would have to fall into them, the thin part being and the thick part retained above. But, as a matter of fact, this is not so. For the kidneys lie on either side of the vena cava. They therefore do not act like sieves, filtering fluid sent to them by the vena cava, and themselves contributing no force. They obviously exert traction; for this is the only remaining alternative.
How, then, do they exert this traction? If, as Epicurus thinks, all attraction takes place by virtue of the rebounds and entanglements of atoms, it would be certainly better to maintain that the kidneys have no attractive action at all; for his theory, when examined, would be found as it stands to be much more ridiculous even than the theory of the lodestone, mentioned a little while ago. Attraction occurs in the way that Hippocrates laid down; this will be stated more clearly as the discussion proceeds; for the present our task is not to demonstrate this, but to point out that no other cause of the secretion of urine can be given except that of attraction by the kidneys, and that this attraction does not take place in the way imagined by people who do not allow Nature a faculty of her own.
For if it be granted that there is any attractive faculty at all in those things which are governed by Nature, a person who attempted to say anything else about the absorption of nutriment would be considered a fool.
16. Now, while Erasistratus for some reason replied at great length to certain other foolish doctrines, he entirely passed over the view held by Hippocrates, not even thinking it worth while to mention it, as he did in his work “On Deglutition”; in that work, as may be seen, he did go so far as at least to make mention of the word attraction, writing somewhat as follows:
“Now, the stomach does not appear to exercise any attraction.” But when he is dealing with anadosis he does not mention the Hippocratic view even to the extent of a single syllable. Yet we should have been satisfied if he had even merely written this: “Hippocrates lies in saying ‘The flesh4 attracts both from the stomach and from without,’ for it cannot attract either from the stomach or from without.” Or if he had thought it worth while to state that Hippocrates was wrong in criticizing the weakness of the neck of the uterus, “seeing that the orifice of the uterus has no power of attracting semen,” or if he [Erasistratus] had thought proper to write any other similar opinion, then we in our turn would have defended ourselves in the following terms:
“My good sir, do not run us down in this rhetorical fashion without some proof; state some definite objection to our view, in order that either you may convince us by a brilliant refutation of the ancient doctrine, or that, on the other hand, we may convert you from your ignorance.” Yet why do I say “rhetorical”? For we too are not to suppose that when certain rhetoricians pour ridicule upon that which they are quite incapable of refuting, without any attempt at argument, their words are really thereby constituted rhetoric. For rhetoric proceeds by persuasive reasoning; words without reasoning are buffoonery rather than rhetoric. Therefore, the reply of Erasistratus in his treatise “On Deglutition” was neither rhetoric nor logic. For what is it that he says? “Now, the stomach does not appear to exercise any traction.” Let us testify against him in return, and set our argument beside his in the same form. Now, there appears to be no peristalsis of the gullet. “And how does this appear?” one of his adherents may perchance ask. “For is it not indicative of peristalsis that always when the upper parts of the gullet contract the lower parts dilate?” Again, then, we say, “And in what way does the attraction of the stomach not appear? For is it not indicative of attraction that always when the lower parts of the gullet dilate the upper parts contract?” Now, if he would but be sensible and recognize that this phenomenon is not more indicative of the one than of the other view, but that it applies equally to both, we should then show him without further delay the proper way to the discovery of truth.
We will, however, speak about the stomach again. And the dispersal of nutriment [anadosis] need not make us have recourse to the theory regarding the natural tendency of a vacuum to become refilled, when once we have granted the attractive faculty of the kidneys. Now, although Erasistratus knew that this faculty most certainly existed, he neither mentioned it nor denied it, nor did he make any statement as to his views on the secretion of urine.
Why did he give notice at the very beginning of his “General Principles” that he was going to speak about natural activities — firstly what they are, how they take place, and in what situations — and then, in the case of urinary secretion, declared that this took place through the kidneys, but left out its method of occurrence? It must, then, have been for no purpose that he told us how digestion occurs, or spends time upon the secretion of biliary superfluities; for in these cases also it would have been sufficient to have named the parts through which the function takes place, and to have omitted the method. On the contrary, in these cases he was able to tell us not merely through what organs, but also in what way it occurs — as he also did, I think, in the case of anadosis; for he was not satisfied with saying that this took place through the veins, but he also considered fully the method, which he held to be from the tendency of a vacuum to become refilled. Concerning the secretion of urine, however, he writes that this occurs through the kidneys, but does not add in what way it occurs. I do not think he could say that this was from the tendency of matter to fill a vacuum, for, if this were so, nobody would have ever died of retention of urine, since no more can flow into a vacuum than has run out. For, if no other factor comes into operation save only this tendency by which a vacuum becomes refilled, no more could ever flow in than had been evacuated. Nor, could he suggest any other plausible cause, such, for example, as the of nutriment by the stomach which occurs in the process of anadosis; this had been entirely disproved in the case of blood in the vena cava; it is excluded, not merely owing to the long distance, but also from the fact that the overlying heart, at each diastole, robs the vena cava by violence of a considerable quantity of blood.
In relation to the lower part of the vena cava there would still remain, solitary and abandoned, the specious theory concerning the filling of a vacuum. This, however, is deprived of plausibility by the fact that people die of retention of urine, and also, no less, by the situation of the kidneys. For, if the whole of the blood were carried to the kidneys, one might properly maintain that it all undergoes purification there. But, as a matter of fact, the whole of it does not go to them, but only so much as can be contained in the veins going to the kidneys; this portion only, therefore, will be purified. Further, the thin serous part of this will pass through the kidneys as if through a sieve, while the thick sanguineous portion remaining in the veins will obstruct the blood flowing in from behind; this will first, therefore, have to run back to the vena cava, and so to empty the veins going to the kidneys; these veins will no longer be able to conduct a second quantity of unpurified blood to the kidneys — occupied as they are by the blood which had preceded, there is no passage left. What power have we, then, which will draw back the purified blood from the kidneys? And what power,in the next place, will bid this blood retire to the lower part of the vena cava, and will enjoin on another quantity coming from above not to proceed downwards before turning off into the kidneys?
Now Erasistratus realized that all these ideas were open to many objections, and he could only find one idea which held good in all respects — namely, that of attraction. Since, therefore, he did not wish either to get into difficulties or to mention the view of Hippocrates, he deemed it better to say nothing at all as to the manner in which secretion occurs.
But even if he kept silence, I am not going to do so. For I know that if one passes over the Hippocratic view and makes some other pronouncement about the function of the kidneys, one cannot fall to make oneself utterly ridiculous. It was for this reason that Erasistratus kept silence and Asclepiades lied; they are like slaves who have had plenty to say in the early part of their career, and have managed by excessive rascality to escape many and frequent accusations, but who, later, when caught in the act of thieving, cannot find any excuse; the more modest one then keeps silence, as though thunderstruck, whilst the more shameless continues to hide the missing article beneath his arm and denies on oath that he has ever seen it. For it was in this way also that Asclepiades, when all subtle excuses had failed him and there was no longer any room for nonsense about “conveyance towards the rarefied part [of the air],” and when it was impossible without incurring the greatest derision to say that this superfluity [i.e. the urine] is generated by the kidneys as is bile by the canals in the liver — he, then, I say, clearly lied when he swore that the urine does not reach the kidneys, and maintained that it passes, in the form of vapour, straight from the region of the vena cava, to collect in the bladder.
Like slaves, then, caught in the act of stealing, these two are quite bewildered, and while the one says nothing, the other indulges in shameless lying.
17. Now such of the younger men as have dignified themselves with the names of these two authorities by taking the appellations “Erasistrateans” or “Asclepiadeans” are like the Davi and Getae — the slaves introduced by the excellent Menander into his comedies. As these slaves held that they had done nothing fine unless they had cheated their master three times, so also the men I am discussing have taken their time over the construction of impudent sophisms, the one party striving to prevent the lies of Asclepiades from ever being refuted, and the other saying stupidly what Erasistratus had the sense to keep silence about.
But enough about the Asclepiadeans. The Erasistrateans, in attempting to say how the kidneys let the urine through, will do anything or suffer anything or try any shift in order to find some plausible explanation which does not demand the principle of attraction.
Now those near the times of Erasistratus maintain that the parts above the kidneys receive pure blood, whilst the watery residue, being heavy, tends to run downwards; that this, after percolating through the kidneys themselves, is thus rendered serviceable, and is sent, as blood, to all the parts below the kidneys.
For a certain period at least this view also found favour and flourished, and was held to be true; after a time, however, it became suspect to the Erasistrateans themselves, and at last they abandoned it. For apparently the following two points were assumed, neither of which is conceded by anyone, nor is even capable of being proved. The first is the heaviness of the serous fluid, which was said to be produced in the vena cava, and which did not exist, apparently, at the beginning, when this fluid was being carried up from the stomach to the liver. Why, then, did it not at once run downwards when it was in these situations? And if the watery fluid is so heavy, what plausibility can anyone find in the statement that it assists in the process of anadosis?
In the second place there is this absurdity, that even if it be agreed that all the watery fluid does fall downwards, and only when it is in the vena cava, still it is difficult, or, rather, impossible, to say through what means it is going to fall into the kidneys, seeing that these are not situated below, but on either side of the vena cava, and that the vena cava is not inserted into them, but merely sends a branch into each of them, as it also does into all the other parts.
What doctrine, then, took the place of this one when it was condemned? One which to me seems far more foolish than the first, although it also flourished at one time. For they say, that if oil be mixed with water and poured upon the ground, each will take a different route, the one flowing this way and the other that, and that, therefore, it is not surprising that the watery fluid runs into the kidneys, while the blood falls downwards along the vena cava. Now this doctrine also stands already condemned. For why, of the countless veins which spring from the vena cava, should blood flow into all the others, and the serous fluid be diverted to those going to the kidneys? They have not answered the question which was asked; they merely state what happens and imagine they have thereby assigned the reason.
Once again, then (the third cup to the Saviour!),5 let us now speak of the worst doctrine of all, lately invented by Lycus of Macedonia, but which is popular owing to its novelty. This Lycus, then, maintains, as though uttering an oracle from the inner sanctuary, that urine is residual matter from the nutrition of the kidneys! Now, the amount of urine passed every day shows clearly that it is the whole of the fluid drunk which becomes urine, except for that which comes away with the dejections or passes off as sweat or insensible perspiration. This is most easily recognized in winter in those who are doing no work but are carousing, especially if the wine be thin and diffusible; these people rapidly pass almost the same quantity as they drink. And that even Erasistratus was aware of this is known to those who have read the first book of his “General Principles.” Thus Lycus is speaking neither good Erasistratism, nor good Asclepiadism, far less good Hippocratism. He is, therefore, as the saying is, like a white crow, which cannot mix with the genuine crows owing to its colour, nor with the pigeons owing to its size. For all this, however, he is not to be disregarded; he may, perhaps, be stating some wonderful truth, unknown to any of his predecessors.
Now it is agreed that all parts which are undergoing nutrition produce a certain amount of residue, but it is neither agreed nor is it likely, that the kidneys alone, small bodies as they are, could hold four whole congii,6 and sometimes even more, of residual matter. For this surplus must necessarily be greater in quantity in each of the larger viscera; thus, for example, that of the lung, if it corresponds in amount to the size of the viscus, will obviously be many times more than that in the kidneys, and thus the whole of the thorax will become filled, and the animal will be at once suffocated. But if it be said that the residual matter is equal in amount in each of the other parts, where are the bladders, one may ask, through which it is excreted? For, if the kidneys produce in drinkers three and sometimes four congii of superfluous matter, that of each of the other viscera will be much more, and thus an enormous barrel will be needed to contain the waste products of them all. Yet one often urinates practically the same quantity as one has drunk, which would show that the whole of what one drinks goes to the kidneys.
Thus the author of this third piece of trickery would appear to have achieved nothing, but to have been at once detected, and there still remains the original difficulty which was insoluble by Erasistratus and by all others except Hippocrates. I dwell purposely on this topic, knowing well that nobody else has anything to say about the function of the kidneys, but that either we must prove more foolish than the very butchers if we do not agree that the urine passes through the kidneys; or, if one acknowledges this, that then one cannot possibly give any other reason for the secretion than the principle of attraction.
Now, if the movement of urine does not depend on the tendency of a vacuum to become refilled, it is clear that neither does that of the blood nor that of the bile; or if that of these latter does so, then so also does that of the former. For they must all be accomplished in one and the same way, even according to Erasistratus himself.
This matter, however, will be discussed more fully in the book following this.
1. By this is meant the duodenum, considered as an outgrowth or prolongation of the stomach towards the intestines.
2. The ureters.
3. About 4 oz., or one-third of a pint.
4. i.e. the tissues.
5. In a toast, the third cup was drunk to Zeus Soter (the Saviour).
6. About twelve quarts.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50