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Whether a fetus can be generated from one part of the sperm.

Further one asks whether a fetus can be generated from one part of the sperm.

1. It seems not. Sperm is separated from individual members, and this is why the fetus has individual members. Therefore, if some part were removed from the sperm, then a part like the one that has been removed from the sperm will not exist in the fetus. Therefore, etc.

2. Avicenna makes this clear, saying that one who has been mutilated generates one that is mutilated, and this occurs only because there is no part in the sperm corresponding to the mutilated part.

The Philosopher says the opposite in the text. One should reply that a perfect fetus can be produced easily from part of the semen, which is quite apparent in the case of twins, since neither one of them is produced from the semen in its entirety. And the reason for this is that when the semen flows from individual members to a specific place, that semen is homogeneous [unigeneum], and this is why (provided it is present in the requisite quantity) there is a potency in it for the whole, and similarly there is a potency for the part. This is why the Philosopher says that when there is too much semen, "the womb draws to itself that which is sufficient,"10 and it ejects the residue or casts it out beyond the womb's orifice. And this is why one often believes that a woman is pregnant when she is not pregnant.

1. To the <first> argument one should reply that since the semen is an aggregate, one part is not situated next to another part as it is in the whole animal. And this is why, even if one part is removed from the semen, the part corresponding only to the hand or only to the foot is not removedfor these parts are mixed in with the wholebut a part of the whole is removed, and this is why the fetus is diminished.

2. To the second argument one should reply that it is one thing to remove a part from the semen flowing from a whole body and another thing to cut off semen from a mutilated body, since a potency for the whole can be present in the first semen even if a part is removed, but in the second semen the power that forms that particular member is absent because there is no other power derived or separated off from the mutilated part.

Whether a mole [molyn] can be generated naturally in a woman from semen emitted through pollution in sleep.

Further one asks whether a mole [molyn] can be generated naturally in a woman from semen emitted through pollution in sleep.[1]

1. It seems not. Because nothing is produced naturally unless it is intended by nature, since nature does not act without an intention for an end; but molsn or mole is not intended by nature, and therefore, etc.

2. Moreover, pollution during sleep results from the imagining of something pleasurable, like a beautiful young girl perceived through the senses or imagined in a waking state. But the imaginative power is an animal power, and the cause of a mole is a natural (that is, generative) power. Therefore, a mole will not be able to be generated from semen emitted through pollution.

3. Moreover, such generation occurs only in birds and <not> in a woman, because a hen conceives and produces a wind egg through pollution, as is said in the text. But as often as she experiences a pollution, she produces a wind egg. Therefore, if a mole were produced in this way, as often as she experienced a pollution she would generate a mole. But this is false, and therefore, so too is the premise.

The Philosopher says the opposite.

One should reply that a mole is a certain mass of flesh generated only from the semen of the female without the male's sperm, because while sleeping a woman frequently emits semen as far as the neck of the womb and the womb will sometimes then draw that semen into its depths and deal with that semen with its natural power, to the extent that it can. But because of the absence of the male sperm, in which there is a power that produces the sensitive soul, this mass lacks a sensitive form. Nevertheless it is nourished and increased by the woman's power and her nutriment to the extent that the woman is believed to be pregnant. This often lasts for a year and frequently for two years. We have seen a woman who had it for four years and after this she died, since no physician had the power to apply a cure. And very often this condition lasts until death, since a cure for it is difficult or impossible even for the most accomplished physicians, because it adheres so strongly to the womb, and because it is connatural to it and is deeply rooted at its base. It is, however, commonly cured more effectively by dysentery or by diarrhea than it is by any medication. Thus I have observed skilled physicians treating it [in this way] and it was effective. The reason for this is that in dysentery there is a pronounced movement of the humors to the intestinesespecially of the choleric humorswhich eat away at and penetrate the intestines, and as a result the cotyledons [cottilidones] containing or anchoring the mole or molyn are ruptured or scraped away by the bile as if with a razor, and as a result it flows out. In a like manner a mole can be cured by a menstrual flow, because this mass is nourished by the menstrual blood, and thus when that blood or nourishment is lacking, the mole's cotyledons become attenuated and are made thinner, and, as a result, they are easily ruptured. This explains likewise why a pregnant woman, if she is bled too much or suffers a menstrual flow, often experiences a miscarriage, because, once the blood has been diminished, the fetus is weakened, and the cotyledons by which the fetus is anchored to the womb are weakened, and then, having been destroyed, the fetus comes forth.

The premise, then, is correct.

1. To the first argument one should reply that something can be intended by nature in two ways: in a primary or secondary way. In a primary way, nature does not intend to produce a mole when it holds back the semen, but rather a fetus. This is why the woman emits semen at the neck of her womb, to meet the male's sperm, dreaming that she is having intercourse with a man. But since the male sperm is absent, nature is frustrated with respect to its first intention and thus intends to make what it can, and it is better to make a molethat is, this fleshy massthan nothing at all, or so it seems to nature. And this is why, etc.

2. To the second argument one should reply that pollution sometimes occurs simply from imagining a thing that is especially desired, but nevertheless this pollution only occurs along with the mediation of a natural expulsive power, since then a natural power is obeying an imaginative power. But pollution often occurs when awake, without imagination, as has been found among nuns. Thus one must reply to this argument that the emission of semen does not occur in sleep without the operation of a natural power, like the expulsive power, and this is why, etc.

3. To the third, one should reply that the wombs in birds are always positioned uniformly, namely, next to the diaphragm, and this is why in them any semen emitted through pollution is always directed to one place, whether in sleep or in the waking hours. But the wombs in women are not always positioned so uniformly, since, as physicians are aware, they may rise up at one time and descend at another. This is why they are not always properly disposed to receiving or conceiving a mole, in the way that birds always conceive a wind egg from pollution, etc.

One should know further that a wind egg has a shape and disposition similar to that of a real egg, with the difference that it is not fit for producing a chick. This is not the case for the mole and the true fetus. And the reason for this is that birds are generated through a mediumnamely, through the material of the eggand do not form a fetus in the uterus. Rather, the fetus is formed outside the uterus. This is why the egg is the remote cause of its fetus, and this is why a hen can easily produce an egg like this without the assistance of the cock, but owing to the absence of the cock's semen, which forms the fetus, the egg is not fit for generating a chick. But a woman gives birth without a medium, for her fetus is formed in the womb and not outside of it. This is why, just as a chick is not produced outside the uterus in the case of the wind egg, neither can the mole's material be rendered in the likeness of a true fetus in the uterus. But in some locales, as it is said and as I have heard, a toad is always produced with the mole, since its matter is better suited for the production of a toad. Wherefore, as the story goes, the mole is generated by means of pollution, from sperm sent to the opening of the vulva and then drawn back again and anchored to the base of the womb along with the uncleanliness of the womb, and there it grows.

  • [1] "Molyn" derives from the accusative of the Greek, mylee (literally, "millstone") and was thus translated into Latin as mola, "millstone." The hard formation in a woman's uterus was often called called a "mooncalf" in English, but conventionally the Latin mola has been simply transliterated as "mole." While that convention is followed here, this word is unfortunate in that it conveys to modern ears the sense of a minute, surface blemish. Mole is discussed in DA at and (SZ 1: 839-41; 2: 1321-22). Cf. Ar., HA 10.7 (638a5f.); Avic., Can. med.; DA 11, fol. 44vb; A., DA
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