Desktop version

Home arrow Philosophy arrow The fathers of the church

On teeth.

Further one inquires into the teeth: whether they arise from heat or from cold.

1. And it seems it is from cold. Because whatever heat dissolves, cold coagulates, according to the Philosopher in the fourth book of On Meteorology. But teeth are like this, and therefore, etc.

2. In addition, teeth arise from the spermatic matter, which is moist. But this sort of matter is coagulated by cold. Therefore, etc.

The Philosopher implies the opposite. For he rejects the view of those who propose that nursing causes teeth, saying that nursing is not the cause of the teeth, but rather the milk's heat is. He intends, then, that they are generated from heat.

Second, one inquires whether the front teeth fall out more than the molars.

3. And it seems not. For the larger something is, the more nutriment it needs. Therefore, nutriment for larger things naturally runs out more quickly than for smaller things, and this happens in the same way. Since, then, the molars are larger than the front teeth, the molars run out of nutriment more quickly than the front teeth.

4. In addition, nature preserves more what it needs more. But it needs [teeth for] cutting more than [teeth for] grinding, as is said in the text. Therefore, it preserves these more, etc.

The Philosopher says the opposite.

To the first, one must reply that since teeth and bone have the same nature, teeth are generated from heat. Now bones are generated from heat, which is apparent from their hardness and dryness, and so too, therefore, are teeth. This is also evident from the fact that in the hot age [of man], if some teeth fall out, they grow back. But if they fall out during the cold age, they do not grow back.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that dissolution is of two types: one takes the form of liquefaction, as occurs in lead, tin, metals, and silver, etc., and the other takes the form of grinding, incineration, or cremation. Those which are dissolved by heat in the first manner are coagulated by cold, but those that are dissolved in the second manner are coagulated by heat, and it is in this way that teeth, bones, and plants of this sort are coagulated, etc.[1]

2. To the second argument one must reply that although the spermatic matter is moist, it can nevertheless be evaporated by a moist heat, and, once it has been evaporated, then coagulation occurs. Nevertheless, if this spermatic matter should be coagulated before the exhalation of the moisture, then this will occur due to cold.

To the second question one must reply that the front teeth are more disposed to fall out than the molars because the front teeth are formed in a thin bone, and, because they are fragile and sharp, they are worn down a great deal as they cut up food. Therefore, because they formed in a weak base, they can collapse and fall out more easily than others, and, because they are worn down a lot, it is expedient that new ones grow back. But molars are formed in a broad, strong bone, and this is why they can dry out more slowly and are worn down more slowly, owing to their breadth. Therefore, the front teeth arise from a more fluid matter, and the molars arise from a more solid matter; and this is why the front teeth grow more quickly than the molars, because the molars do not grow until the child's parts begin to consolidate.

3. On to the arguments. To the first, one must reply that although what is larger needs more nutriment, what is larger can nevertheless resist dangerous or harmful causes better, and this is why the things that bind the molars to the gums are worn down or broken with more difficulty than those of the front teeth. And in addition to this, more nutriment can be preserved in what is large and ample than in what is narrow and thin, and the molars are formed in a large and wide bone, and the front teeth are formed in a narrow and fragile bone, and this is why the molars are nourished longer, etc.

4. To the second argument one must reply that during youth the path of generation needs the front teeth earlier than it does the molars, but it is the opposite in old age. And the reason for this is that children are first nourished with milk. Therefore, they do not need teeth then. But afterward they begin to be nourished by some thicker, more moist foods, which require dividing up, but not a lot of masticationthings like bits of meat, eggs, drinks, and things of this sort, and this is why they need the front teeth, which are made for dividing, before they need the molars, which are suited to grinding and pressing. But men, and adults, are nourished on coarse and earthy foods, which require grinding, and this grinding is the end of division, as it were, and the end is nobler than those that exist for the sake of an end. Therefore, food is first divided by the front teeth, so that it is more suited for grinding by the molars, and this is why nature insists more on preserving the molars than the front teeth. Moreover, falling out is a defect, and on account of this, when a defect occurs earlier or to a greater degree, then the falling out occurs more. Now, defects occur more in front teeth because they are sharper and more fragile, and this is why they are injured more easily, and the molars are harder and more solid. And this is as nature ordained it, as if it were an art of the first cause, ordering each thing according to what is best. And this is the blessed God, to whom be honor and glory through the infinite and unending ages of ages. Therefore, wise and provident nature, taught to obey its Creator, accomplished all these things in his power. Therefore, the molars are just like the millstones that grind grain. The front teeth are like those that prepare the grain for the millhouse, and the tongue is like the miller's hand, which puts the grain back to be ground when it falls away; so too does the tongue turn and tumble the food until it is ground or completely chewed, etc.

Here end the questions concerning the On Animals that Brother Albert disputed while going over the book of animals for the brothers in Cologne. A certain brother, named Conrad of Austria, who heard the questions from him, collected and reported on the aforementioned book. This was done in the year of the Lord 1258.

  • [1] Reading secundum for the text's secundo.
Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  

Related topics