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Whether sterility is a natural affliction [passio].

Further one inquires into sterility. And first, whether sterility is a natural affliction [passio].

1. It seems that it is. What follows natural causes is natural. But sterility comes from natural causes; therefore, it is a natural affliction.

2. In addition, something that is contrary to nature is repugnant to the being of the actual object and does not contribute to its preservation. But sterility contributes to the preservation of life, seeing that its opposite, like pregnancy or fertility (that is, coition), shortens a lifespan. Therefore, sterility is not unnatural.

3. In addition, whatever is contrary to nature is either a sickness or a cause of sickness or an accidental trait of sickness. But sterility is none of these, since these are ordered to corruption and sterility is not. Therefore, etc.

To the contrary. The generative power is a certain natural power. Whatever impedes the generative power is contrary to nature. But sterility is of this sort, and therefore, etc.

Moreover, nature always strives toward the universal and operates with respect to the individual. Therefore, whatever impedes the operation of the individual impedes the operation of nature and, as a result, frustrates nature's intent. But sterility is of this sort, etc.

One must say that nature is spoken of in many ways. In one way nature refers to another type of accidental trait, according to which something is said to be prior to another thing by nature, as a cause is to the thing caused, and in this way nature does not refer to the object [res] but to the mode of the object. In another way, a nature is said to be any object outside the soul.[1] And thus it is said that a chimera does not exist in any nature. In a third way nature is said to be the principle of motion and rest, and this is nature as treated by the Philosopher in natural science. But this nature can further be understood in two ways: either universally or particularly. Universally, as we say, because nature acts for the one and not the many. If particularly, this too can be in many ways: In one way, as it falls under the rule of the vegetative soul, whose works are nutrition, growth, and generation. Thus the nutritive power is therefore called a natural power. In another way, nature falls under the rule of the vegetative and sensitive souls, and this nature is said to be the animal power.

Thus, when one asks whether sterility is a natural affliction, one must respond that to the extent that nature is ascribed to a vegetative potency, sterility is not a natural affliction, because it impedes its natural operation, which is the generation of one like itself. If, however, nature is understood universally, then it can be said that in one sense it is a natural affliction and in another sense not, since one form of sterility is curable, and this one comes about from fat or eating too much, but the other is incurable, like that in a woman who is mannish [virago], even from her first creation. Nevertheless, when speaking in a literal sense, I say that sterility is not a natural affliction, since each one is perfected when it can generate another like itself. But sterility impedes this perfection, and a proper perfection is natural to each and every one, and this is why, speaking universally, sterility is not natural. As a result, the first arguments have to be conceded to the objection.

1. To the first argument one must reply that whatever follows natural causes ordered to the course of nature is itself natural; the other is not.

2. To the second argument one must reply that coition is of two types: ordered and inordinate. Inordinate coition shortens the lifespan, but the ordered does not. Now sterility is opposed not only to ordered coition but also to inordinate coition. And this is why sometimes it causes a shortening of the lifespan, and sometimes it preserves life.

3. To the third argument one must respond that sterility can be both a cause of disease and an accidental trait of disease, and sometimes it leads to corruption and sometimes it merely comes from corruption. This is why, etc.

  • [1] "Soul": a term that includes the intellective power or what we would more commonly call "mind."
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