Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy arrow The fathers of the church

Whether the power of the soul must be in the semen.

Further, one asks whether the power of the soul must be in the semen.

1. It seems not. For that which reduces another to act is nobler than it, and, according to the Philosopher in the third book of On the Soul, a universal agent is nobler than the one undergoing change. But the power that is in the semen reduces the animal to act or introduces the soul. Therefore, this power is nobler than the soul. But the power of the soul is not nobler than the soul any more than potency is nobler than act. Therefore, etc.

2. In addition, the further a power extends from its cause, the more it is weakened. But the more the power in the semen operates, the more the fetus's power is strengthened, because the fetus is nearer to act. But if it were the power of the soul, it would be weakened more. Therefore, etc.

3. In addition, every bodily operation occurs through a bodily power. But the formation of the fetus is a bodily operation. Therefore, it occurs through a bodily power and not through the soul's power.

The Philosopher says the opposite.

One must respond that it is necessary for the soul's power to be in the semen, because according to the Philosopher in the eighth book of the Physics, it belongs to animated beings to move on their own, whereas inanimate things do not move themselves. But the power that is in the semen moves the semen and inclines it toward organization. Therefore, this power is a power of the soul.

Furthermore, whatever operates on another, acting like a craftsman on a crafted product, is not a power of the body but rather a power of the soul. But the power in the semen operates just like a craftsman, according to the Philosopher. Therefore, it is a power of the soul.

Moreover, the generation of animals is univocal, because a horse arises from a horse and an ass from an ass. But this would not be the case if the soul's power were not in the semen.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that an agent is of two types: instrumental and principal. A principal agent is nobler than the one undergoing change, but this is not necessarily so for an instrumental agent. Now, the power of the soul that is in the semen is an instrumental agent whereas one that generates, like a father, is a principal agent. And this is why it is not necessary for the power in the semen to be nobler than the soul.

2. To the second argument one must respond that although the fetus's power grows stronger the more the power of the semen operates, nevertheless the semen's power grows weaker the more it operates. Thus the operating power is one thing, and the power that is introduced is another.

3. To the third argument one must respond that two things are required for the generation of an animal, namely, a power of the body and a power of the soul, because an animal is composed from both. From the body comes heat for the sake of life, and spirit for the sake of the motion of generation. To these there correspond two others with respect to the soul, namely, the vegetative power corresponds to heat and the sensitive power corresponds to spirit.

Whether this power is from the father's soul.

Next one asks whether this power is from the father's soul or not.

1. And it seems not. Because a power does not exist without its proper subject. But the father's soul is not in the semen. Therefore, neither is its power.

2. In addition, according to the Philosopher's text, the soul in the embryo is similar to one who is asleep, and this soul begins to function when something comes to it from outside. But the soul in the embryo similar to one who is asleep is the soul of the fetus and not of the father. Therefore, it will be its power.

3. In addition, as far as it is able, nature always acts through the fewest intermediaries possible. But the power that is in the fetus after it has been first formed can prepare [disponere] the fetus for its further development. Therefore, it can prepare the semen much better for the generation of the fetus.

4. In addition, if the mother's menses prevail over the father's semen, the fetus follows after the mother, and vice versa. But this would not happen unless the mother's power were in the semen. Therefore, this power comes from the mother as much as from the father.

On the contrary. The active power is in the sperm. But the sperm is only from the father, and therefore, etc.

One must respond that the power that is in the semen principally, and acting as an agent, is from the father's soul, and not from the mother's soul or the soul of the fetus, because it is the father who provides form and the woman who provides the matter. But form is introduced by the power of an agent, and matter is prepared to receive form by this same one. Therefore, the power that prepares the semen and introduces the form, that is, the soul, flows from the father's soul in the semen and does not come, however, from the mother's soul because she does not govern the preparation of the nature but only adapts the matter for the reception of form. It is clear that this is not a power of the fetus's soul because that which does not yet exist does not have an operating or operative power. But when the semen goes forth, the soul of the fetus does not yet exist. Therefore, its power is not in the semen. This is clear in both natural and artificial creations, because the power that prepares air to receive the form of fire is not the power of the fire that is about to be generated, but is the power of the fire doing the generating. Thus the premise is correct.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must say that power can relate to something else in two ways: in one way, effectively or formally and with respect to its origin [originaliter], and in another way subjectively and materially, just as the light that is in the air as a medium can be said to be the light of the sun effectively, because it proceeds from it, and can also be said to be the light of the air because it is in the air as in a subject. Thus the power that is in the seed is effectively the power of the father because it derives from him, and nevertheless is a power of the semen as of a subject.

2. To the second argument one must reply that the situations concerning the semen and embryo are quite different. The soul is not present in the semen in the manner of a first act nor in the manner of a second act, but only in potency. But the soul is present in the embryo before it is organized in the manner of a first act, and clearly not in the manner of a second act, because the soul operates through organs. Thus the organs come before the soul's operations just as instruments come before something that moves them. Thus the soul in the embryo before the organs are completed is like one sleeping, who does not operate in act owing to the weakness of his members, which are at rest at the time, etc.

3. To the third argument one must reply that nature acts through the fewest intermediaries, so far as possible. But the power of the fetus's soul cannot operate before it must be a soul, and this is why the power of its soul is in the semen only in potency, whereas after the generation of the fetus it can operate effectively.

4. To the last argument one must respond that the fetus does not follow the mother, as if the mother's power were in the semen regulating and preparing it. But when the heat is weak in the semen and a great deal of moisture obstructs the heat, then the power which comes from the father's soul cannot achieve its intended end, and then it acts according to the disposition of the matter. This is why this power is a principal agent. The fact that the fetus follows the father or the mother stems from the diversity of its power, (that is, whether it is more or less potent) and its material disposition.

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

Related topics