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On the sheep and its properties.
One makes further inquiry into the Philosopher's progress, specifically and first as to whether the sheep is the stupidest animal.
It seems not. Customs follow complexions. The Philosopher provides proof in the second book of On the Soul: "Those with soft flesh have a sharp mind." But the sheep has the best complexion, because it is warm and moist, and it has a soft flesh, since its flesh is easily digested. Therefore, it is the most compliant animal and has good and wise customs. The Philosopher says the opposite.
Second, one asks whether sheep naturally desire to consume salt.
And it seems not, for nothing naturally desires something contrary to it. But salt, since it is dry, is contrary to the sheep's complexion. Therefore, etc.
The Philosopher says the opposite.
Third, one asks whether consuming salt results in an increase in milk.
It seems not, because milk is generated from the menstrual blood digested in the breasts. But salt absorbs menstrual blood and also other moist things. Therefore, it results in a reduction of milk.
The Philosopher says the opposite.
Fourth, one asks whether its pelt is the best and most suitable for a person.
It seems not, because the animal pelts are necessary for a person as a protection against the cold. But the coat of a fox works better than a sheep's for this purpose; therefore, etc.
Last, one asks why clothes made from sheep's wool are especially conducive to the generation of lice, and especially in the case of a sheep killed by a wolf, because the wool especially does this in such a case.
To the first question one must respond that a sheep, like a goat, is a very stupid animal. If someone picks up one sheep, all the others gaze upon it as if awestruck and stupefied. There is a threefold cause for their stupidity: excessive moisture; excessive fleshiness in its head; and the bending of its head toward the ground. For excessive moisture impedes the natural heat. But sensation does not occur without heat, and as a result too much moisture blunts the senses, as is evident in drunks. In the same way, a great fleshiness in the head results in excessive moisture in the same place, and, as a consequence, a shortage of heat. Third, because its head bends to the ground, moistures flow to its head, and this is why a sheep, more than any other animal, holds its head down to the ground as if it were weighted. For these reasons, it has obtuse senses and is a stupid animal.
Or one can put it another way and say that complexion is spoken of in two ways: temperate and elevated. The sheep, however, is an animal with a temperate complexion, and this is why it is a very gentle animal and sticks close to a person and does the same to all things agreeable to it. Other animals have a more elevated complexion, and this is why they are wrathful or in some other way depart from the mean. Thus, because the sheep is not elevated in its complexion, the Philosopher says that the sheep is a stupid animal, for it is not as clever as other animals, and for this reason the goodness of its complexion is not precluded. In this way a solution to the argument is clear.
To the second, one must respond that the sheep lives on things growing in the earth, which are insipid, and this is why it desires salt as a condiment by a natural instinct and does so more than other animals because it has so much moisture. This is also why they do not drink much.
Salt, however, absorbs moisture, and of all the animals they therefore have a greater natural desire for salt. If they do not have salt, they chew in clay-filled areas and do so especially in places where they urinate, owing to the reasons already mentioned. Other animals do not have so much moisture, and for that reason, etc.
To the third argument one should say that milk can be produced in two ways: either from having tempered the abundance of menstrual blood or owing to the consumption of those things that impede the generation of milk. Salt causes the generation of milk in the second way, but not the first. In this way a solution to the argument is clear.
To the fourth, one must say that a sheep's pelt is best because it naturally conserves and conforms to a person's heat. Now a fox's pelt is more abundant in heat, but a sheep's pelt is more temperately warm, and this is why a sheep's pelt is more temperate and better per se. Whereas right now a fox's pelt may be more necessary or work better because the present season is colder, and it is warmer. This is why, etc.
To the fifth argument one should reply that heat is the agent or father of corruption and moisture is like a mother of corruption. But sheep wool is warm and moist, and this is why it is very close to corruption, and why also vermin are so easily generated in wool. Examples include lice or nits, which are produced out of putrefaction, and this is more the case, or especially so, if a wolf has killed the sheep, because the wolf's bite infects the wool by means of its breathcorrupt, melancholic, or gluttonous and especially prepares it for putrefaction and corruption. And this is why the Philosopher says that a garment made from this wool is most prone to the generation of vermin and lice.
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