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Whether parts that have been cut off live after they have been cut off.

One inquires further whether parts that have been cut off live after they have been cut off.

1. It seems not. For "soul is the act of an organic body," etc., and the soul is the principle of life. Therefore, life exists only in an organic body. But the parts of such animals are not organic, and therefore, etc.

2. Moreover, animal parts are preserved by the form of the whole, and this is why an eye that has been plucked out is not an eye. But parts that are cut off are no longer preserved by the whole. Therefore, they do not live longer.

3. Furthermore, if parts that are cut off live, then they must be in some genus of life, and, as a result, especially in the first genus of life, namely, the vegetative. But it is proper to vegetative life to generate one like itself and to grow. But parts that have been cut off do not grow, they are not nourished, and they cannot generate ones like themselves, and therefore, etc.

The Philosopher says the opposite, for he says in the text that the parts of animals such as these that have been cut off live just like the parts of trees.

One must respond that the parts of ones like this do live after they are cut off. And the reason for this is that this is the way it is in lower regions, that the more perfect the form is, the greater diversity it requires in matter, since the more perfect it is, the more operations it has, and when there are diverse operations, there is a corresponding diversity among the parts. And similarly the more imperfect the form is, the less diversity it requires in matter. And this is why in these lower regions the human body is more diverse and the body of an element is more homogenous. Likewise, the more the form of a mixed body approaches the nature of an element, the less diversity it requires in its matter. But among animate things the form of the plant is nearer to the form of an element, and this is why a part is homogenous with the whole in the species or in the particular [in specie vel in re], although not in name, because in the part of a plant the soul is similar in species to the soul of the whole plant, although the plant is not diversified.[1] And because such animals with ringed bodies lack blood, they approach very near to the nature of the elements, and this is why they require only very modest diversity among their parts in comparison to perfect animals. Rather, the kind of soul that is in the whole is the kind that can be in every part, because just as the form of fire does not require great diversity in its parts, so too the form of animals such as these requires only very little diversity in their parts, among the genuses of animals.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must respond that a perfected soul is "the act of an organic body" and all the parts of animals such as these are sufficiently organic if they are divided transversely, because a cuttlebone [sepion] or something in place of a spine is extended along the length of such animals, and the soul is rooted in this just as if in a subject.[2] And this is the reason why, with the part remaining whole, they can live for a time, namely, until the complexion of the part itself is dissolved by the action of its surroundings.

2. To the second argument one must reply that some parts are more uniform with the whole and others are not. The more uniform parts are preserved by the whole when they are united with the whole, and they are preserved by their own form when they are divided because, through the division, that which earlier was common to it now becomes proper to it. But this is not so for parts that are not uniform with the whole, because the form of such a one or of a whole animal demands greater diversity than is found in one part per se. And this is why such parts are preserved in species only while they are united to the whole.

3. To the third, one must respond that such parts live a double kind of life, because parts like these after their division still have motion and fantasy and, as a result, sensation, as the Philosopher proves in the second book of On the Soul, because if they are pricked with a needle they draw themselves in. But they would not do this if they did not perceive, and sensation presupposes a vegetative [soul]. Therefore, they live with vegetative and sensitive life. But because every living thing requires nutriment, and there is a corresponding determinate organ for the reception of nutriment, and because these divided parts have been deprived of such an organ, for this reason they are not nourished, and, as a result, they do not grow and they do not endure in being for very long. Yet plants absorb nutriments from the ground through the root, and the parts of plants are not produced from spermatic matter but only from nutritional matter, and this is why when a part of the plant is put in the ground it can develop roots, because the formative power of the root exists as it were in every part of the plant, and its matter is the nutrimental moisture, and this is why, etc. But this is not the case for animals, owing to their greater perfection, since in one part there is no formative power of another unless it belongs to that which is generated from the nutriment. Thus, when the serpent's tail is cut off, it regenerates because it arises from the nutrimental moisture, but this is not the case for the head, because it arises from sperm, just as is the case for every other animal, and this is why, etc.

  • [1] This is a most difficult passage.
  • [2] For sepion, cf. DA (SZ 2: 952). Note that spinae can also mean small bones or the spines of animals like porcupines.
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