Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy arrow The fathers of the church

Whether there is a mixture of semen and nutriment in fish eggs.

Further one inquires whether there is a mixture of semen and nutriment in fish eggs just as there is in birds' eggs.

It seems so. For the generative power produces whatever is necessary for an effect. But nutriment (that is, the fetus's nourishment) is required for the completion of generation. Therefore, in fish the informative power for the egg mixes the nutriment with the matter for generation.

In addition, everything that grows is nourished. Since fish eggs grow once they are cast outside the uterus, they must therefore be nourished. But they are not nourished by anything outside them when they are outside the uterus. Therefore, they provide nutriment from themselves.

To the contrary. The nutritive power is distinct from the generative power. Therefore, where they are distinct by nature, then the principles of generation and nutrition do not exist simultaneously. But there is no distinction of parts in fish eggs. Therefore, etc.

To this, one can reply in two ways. The first is that in a fish egg there exist both the material principle of the fetus [conceptus] and a nutriment appropriate for it. Nevertheless, these are not distinct, owing to the weakness of the power. But this indistinctness or confusion does not prove that each principle is not there, because in the beginning birds' eggs are also indistinct and yet each principle exists in them, which becomes clear when they are digested further. And in this way a solution is evident to the argument in the objection.

One can respond in another way that there is no distinct nutriment in fish eggs because fish eggs have only a modest size, since the egg's material stretches just so far as barely to suffice for the generation of the fish. Therefore, just as one can say of a seed that there is material for the one germinated in the seed, and when the seed is cast to the ground it receives nourishment from outside itself and does not have its nutriment joined to it inside itself, so one can reply concerning a fish egg. Thus one can say of the fish egg that when it is emitted on the ground in still water and makes contact with the male's sperm, it receives nutriment from what contains it (that is, from the ground or the water), just as plants or seeds do. And for this reason fish eggs are incomplete, as the Philosopher often says.

With respect to the arguments it is clear that fish eggs do not have nutriment mixed into or joined with them, but receive it instead from outside.

Whether all the elements concur for the generation of an animal generated by putrefaction.

Further one inquires about the generation of animals by means of putrefaction. And first, whether all the elements come together for the generation of an animal generated by putrefaction.

1. It seems not. Nature operates through the fewest things it can. But celestial heat and fiery heat do the same thing. Therefore, fiery heat is not required for the generation of an animal like this.

2. In addition, if fire were to enter into the constitution of an animal like this, either it would descend from its sphere, or not. If it descended, then, when it has descended it will be unnatural, and this animal's generation will be unnatural. If it did not descend, but were generated here below, then the mixables would not be separate before their mixture, which is contrary to what the Philosopher says.

3. In addition, that whose nature is to consume does not cause the generation of anything.[1] But it is fire's very nature to consume, and therefore, etc.

To the contrary. The power of the mixables is preserved in the mixed body. But the power of fire is in every mixed body. Therefore, fire is numbered among the mixables, and as a result it enters into the generation of every mixed body.

One must reply that all the elements come together for the generation of the animal, [present] either in themselves or in their effects. In themselves, as when the four divided elements approach one another in such proportion that no one totally dominates another but in such a way that they are expelled by the mutual action and passion of the form of the individuals, and in such a way that one form having the power of each of the four is introduced into the matter, which earlier existed under four distinct forms, even if it is introduced in some confused manner.

Moreover, the elements enter the animal's constitution in their effects, just as blood is generated from one aliment and semen from the blood. Since, then, an animal like this is a mixed body, the four elements come together for its generation [present] either in themselves or in another. This can be briefly stated. For acts of generation arise from contraries, and earth and water are required for the generation of all mixed bodies; therefore, so too are their contraries. But the proper contrary for earth is air, and for water it is fire. Therefore, etc.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that although a celestial heat is required for generation such as this, nevertheless, because a universal agent only acts particularly, the fire's heat is therefore required in addition to this heat.

2. To the second argument one must reply that fire does not enter a mixture from its own sphere, because then its advent would be unnatural; rather, through the power of a superior body, like the sun, another can be created here below from any element. Therefore, fire can be generated here below, and this fire is adequately suited for generation, and that which is capable of being mixed can be separated. The argument supposes the contrary to this. Or one can say that it is not necessary for the generation of any mixed body that the elements, previously divided, enter into the generation of any mixed body, because something mixed can be made from something mixed.

3. To the third argument one must reply that it is the nature of a disproportional fire to consume, but a fire that is proportional and regulated has [the power] to preserve. Therefore, it does not exist in a mixed body in its ultimate state and excess, but in a somewhat restrained state.

  • [1] Reading the ipsius of T over the printed but vague eius.
Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

Related topics