Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy arrow The fathers of the church

Whether the deer is an animal possessing judgment.

Whether the deer is a long-lived animal.

Why the wolf eats dracontea at the time when it gives birth.

And why the horse especially loves its own kind.

Further one asks whether the deer is an animal possessing judgment.

And it seems not. Customs follow complexion. But the deer has a bad complexion. Therefore, it has less judgment.

Moreover, the spider and ant are more capable of judgment, since they provide for the future by carrying off food, which the deer does not do. Therefore, etc.

The Philosopher says the opposite.

Second, one asks whether a deer is a long-lived animal.

And it seems not, because a brief lifespan results from a deficiency of warmth and moisture. But this deficiency is present in the deer, and therefore, etc.

Moreover, a melancholic complexion in particular results in a brief lifespan, according to the opinion of the physicians. But the deer is a very melancholy animal, and therefore, etc.

One asks in relation to this why the wolf eats dracontea when it conceals itself or rests at the time of giving birth.

Likewise, why the horse especially loves its own kind.

To the first, one must reply that judgment, that is, industry, can apply to something in two ways: either per se or per accidens. Per se "those with soft flesh have a sharp mind, as is said in book two of On the Soul, and as a result an animal with more blood has more judgment. But it happens per accidens that melancholic animals have better judgment, because melancholic ones have more fear, and, owing to this fear, they guard themselves against more harmful things, and this is part of judgment. Now the deer and the hare, because these are especially timid animals, especially guard themselves from harmful things by taking flight, because this is their defense, since, as is said in the text, when a stag has cast off its horns then it seeks out a very well wooded place. It hides there owing to its fear of predatory animals, since it is unarmed then, and it does this so that it will not be discovered to have lost its defenses. And in like manner when it sheds its horns, it hides them, because if they are found by others it will be apparent to them that the stag is without its defenses, and they may then attack it. And this is why Aristotle says in the text, in the form of a proverb: "Go where the stag has cast off its horns. Thus the stag is an animal with some judgment only per accidens. And in this way a solution is evident to the argument. Likewise, the harebefore it sits down someplacecovers about a mile wandering hither and yon and confusing or overlaying (that is, crossing over) its steps so that it may not easily be found by means of its tracks.

But, to speak briefly, human reason is stunned and unable to investigatenay, what is more, we cannot even relate the many cunning acts, hidden from us, of brute animals who act according to a natural wisdom bestowed upon them by the Creator. For I have found out in a certain secret book so many and such great cunning acts of animals, of which most of the philosophers have been ignorant, which is an amazing thing to say. For now we know "in darkness as if in a mirror" and not completely, as is said at Cor. 13.[1]

To the second argument one should reply that the cause of long life is fourfold. One is the balance of the complexion, and this is why those animals with a more balanced and temperate complexion live longer, and those that stray from this balance have a shorter lifespan. And this is why those with a sanguineous complexion live longer than others, because they approach nearer to a temperate complexion. Another cause is the abundance of heat and natural moisture, and this is why the Philosopher says in his book On the Reason for Shortness or Length of Life [ De causa longitudinis et brevitatis vitae] that large animals have a longer lifespan than small ones, because heat and moisture which are the principles of lifeare more abundant in them. The third cause is the hardness of the parts and the strength of their connection, since ones like these are not easily damaged or weakened. For this reason, both plants and trees have a longer lifespan than animals, and among the plants those that are harder have a longer lifespan than those that are soft. And this is why an oak tree has a longer lifespan than a willow, because owing to its hardness it is less damaged or weakened by something external. The fourth cause is the renewal of the complexion. And this is why serpents can live a long time, since they renew themselves. These latter two causes are present in the stag, but not the first two causes. Whereas the arguments are based on the first [two] causes, the Philosopher nevertheless based his understanding on the second [two] causes. This is why the stag, when it has grown old, eats a viper, attracting it with its nostrils, and swallows it, as is said, and then afterward drinks a large quantity of water; and then its fur and its horns fall off, and in this way it is renewed.[2]

To the third argument one must respond that the wolf is a prized animal and very voracious and great-spirited, and this is why, when it goes into hiding at the time of giving birth and ceases to eat or feed, its teeth are rendered dull and almost without feeling, and this is why it eats dracontea, so that its teeth will be cured of their stupor and in this way they will be sharpened so that it may feed or carry things off with them. Now because this stupor results from a moist cold, and dracontea is warm and dry, they are cured by chewing it, and for that reason, etc.

To the fourth argument one should reply that something is loved more if it is acquired with greater difficulty, as the Philosopher would have it in the Topics. But a horse is infinitely more distressed than other animals when it is pregnant and when giving birth, because it is pregnant for a longer period of timefor an entire yearnot like other animals. This is why a horse naturally loves its own kind more than others, because it acquired it with so much labor.

And besides this, on the forehead of the young when it is born, there is an outgrowth of flesh which is called the hypo-manes, which the Philosopher treated above,[3] with which wizards do marvelous things since, if one gives three ounces of it, dried, with sugar, to a woman, she will immediately follow you and love you, but if it is given while still fresh it kills. Likewise, when mixed with cheese it kills mice, flies, and ones like these. In the same way, if given to a dog, it will make it rabid. Likewise, if put in an apple, it causes sterility and causes many other things which there is no need to mention here. For there is a "wolf in the story."[4] Now that fleshy outgrowth, I say, produces great love in the mare. As a result, when the young is born, the mare immediately licks that fleshy outgrowth and is immediately seized by love for her young. Thus the mare is especially like the human being in its love for its own kind, and this is why women give this fleshy outgrowth to their friends, in order to be loved by them, and this is true. The fact, however, that the horse is greatly injured in coition is evident because after it has had intercourse it cannot work much, as is clear in stallions. This is not the case for other animals.

  • [1] Although Albert's text here recalls the passage at 1 Cor 13.12-13, "We see now in a glass darkly . . ." his Latin textin aenigmate et quasi in speculo departs from the Vulg. per speculum in aenigmate.
  • [2] Cf. Pliny, HN 8.50.118; Isid., Orig. 12.1.18. For an illustration of a stag sniffing a snake, see George and Yapp (1991, 80). The same statement is found in several bestiaries (White, 1954, 38). Note the great age often attributed to
  • [3] Ar., HA 6.18 (572a21); 6.22 (577a9), 8.24 (6o5a2). Cf. A., DA, 7.2.2.115; 22.2.1.53 (SZ 1: 638-39; 2: 1478). Hippomanes was a classic charm sought as an aphrodisiac. Mares were so lascivious they could be impregnated by the wind (Zirkle, 1936, 97-104).
  • [4] This saying is as old as the comedian Terence and is used by Cicero. Its
 
Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

Related topics