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On Longevity And Shortness Of Life   


THE reasons for some animals being long-lived and others

short-lived, and, in a word, causes of the length and brevity of

life call for investigation.

The necessary beginning to our inquiry is a statement of the

difficulties about these points. For it is not clear whether in

animals and plants universally it is a single or diverse cause that

makes some to be long-lived, others short-lived. Plants too have in

some cases a long life, while in others it lasts but for a year.

Further, in a natural structure are longevity and a sound

constitution coincident, or is shortness of life independent of

unhealthiness? Perhaps in the case of certain maladies a diseased

state of the body and shortness of life are interchangeable, while

in the case of others ill-health is perfectly compatible with long


Of sleep and waking we have already treated; about life and death we

shall speak later on, and likewise about health and disease, in so far

as it belongs to the science of nature to do so. But at present we

have to investigate the causes of some creatures being long-lived, and

others short-lived. We find this distinction affecting not only entire

genera opposed as wholes to one another, but applying also to

contrasted sets of individuals within the same species. As an instance

of the difference applying to the genus I give man and horse (for

mankind has a longer life than the horse), while within the species

there is the difference between man and man; for of men also some

are long-lived, others short-lived, differing from each other in

respect of the different regions in which they dwell. Races inhabiting

warm countries have longer life, those living in a cold climate live a

shorter time. Likewise there are similar differences among individuals

occupying the same locality.

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