Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy arrow The fathers of the church

Whether sperm is a material part of the fetus [conceptus].

One inquires further whether sperm is a material part of the fetus.

1. It seems so. Because whenever something is generated from a mixture of two things, each is a material part for it, just as is apparent in the generation of a mixture made from the elements. But a fetus is generated from a mixture of sperm and menses, and therefore, etc.

2. In addition, if sperm were not a part of the fetus, then I ask, once the fetus is completed, where does the sperm go? If it still remains, then it is superfluous or it will be able to form a new fetus in the course of time without the joining of the male. If it is corrupted, then it has brought about its own corruption, which is false, since nothing intends its own corruption.

3. In addition, some are generated by conversion and others by propagation. One that generates by conversion only transmutes matter and introduces form. But one that generates by propagation prepares the matter, and, once it has been prepared, it introduces form, because one that generates like this generates by separating off something from itself. Therefore, since a male generates by means of propagation, a part of the fetus will be separated from him.

The Philosopher says the opposite. And it seems from the argument that matter and an agent do not coincide. But the sperm is the agent with respect to the fetus. Therefore, it is not its material part.

Controversy exists between the Philosopher and the physicians over this question. For the Philosopher posits that sperm is not a part of the fetus but is only the agent. He says that sperm is related to the fetus as art or an artist is related to what is produced by art. But the artist is not a material part of an artifact. Therefore, neither will the sperm be a part of the fetus, as a carpenter is not a part of a bench.

The physicians posit that the sperm is a part of the fetus. For they posit that a fetus is made from a mixture of each semen, namely, of the male and the female; otherwise, nothing of the father would be present in the son. Very often, however, a son resembles the father in his bodily disposition, which would not be the case were his matter not received from the father.

Nevertheless, it seems that I ought to say that there are two things in sperm, namely, moisture or a superfluity of the last food and a power of the father's soul existing in a certain frothy spirit. Therefore, as far as the moisture is concerned, the sperm can be a part of the fetus just as the menses is, yet as far as the spirit itself is concerned, it cannot, because the moisture is itself first mixed with the menses just as wine is mixed with water or rennet with milk. It is agreed, though, that the rennet is part of the cheese and the water is part of the wine, etc. But the spirit moves to completion and to the complete digestion of the menses through the power of the father's soul that exists in it. Therefore, because the female's menses is sufficient per se to provide the matter of the fetus, another part from the sperm is not necessarily required for the fetus's substance, but the power of the sperm or the frothy spirit, which is in the sperm, is necessarily required. This is why the Philosopher saysand properly sothat the sperm is not a material part of the fetus because it is not called sperm except to the extent that it has an active and motive power, and something that is moving and acting to this extent is not part of the one generated. This is why, properly speaking, sperm is not part of the fetus.

Nevertheless, nothing prevents some material part of it from passing over into the matter or body of the fetus, so as a result a mixture is made with the menses, and this is how the physicians understand matters. And perhaps the principal and radical members are generated from that one, but the flowing members are generated from the menses. This is the understanding the Philosopher had with respect to the power of the sperm.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that sperm is not properly mixed with menses in terms of its power, just as an agent is not mixed with matter, or if it is mixed, this is only true for its material moisture and not for its moving and acting spirit.

2. To the second argument one must reply that for every natural agent, the more distant it is from its principle and the more continuous its operation, the more it is weakened and the more it approaches defect, because one acting physically is acted on again while acting and it acts again while being acted on, according to the Philosopher. As to the power that has been separated out from the father and resides in the frothy spiritthe more distant it is from the father, and the more it continues in its operation, the more the one operated on or the object approaches perfection, whereas the spirit itself approaches defect. Therefore, in the end the spirit itself is deficient and vanishes, and the moisture joined to it passes over into some superfluity, which it does not need, or it passes over into some members.

Therefore, one must reply to the form of the argument that it does not act per se for its own corruption, but it does act per se for the generation of one like the one from which it is generated. This occurs, however, because it acts for its own corruption. Therefore, for this reason it is not said to act, because nature is said only to act for that which it intends, etc.

3. One must reply to the third argument that one generating by propagation embraces both male and female. Therefore, something is separated off from each of them, because the sperm is separated off from the father with a power capable of making an embryo and with a frothy spirit, and the matter is separated off from the mother, namely, the menses, etc.

Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

Related topics