Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of On The Generation Of Animals

Previous | Next

On The Generation Of Animals   

cannot, yet in another sense they can. (Now it makes no difference
whether we say 'the semen' or 'that from which the semen comes', in so
far as the semen has in itself the movement initiated by the other.)

It is possible, then, that A should move B, and B move C; that, in
fact, the case should be the same as with the automatic machines shown
as curiosities. For the parts of such machines while at rest have a
sort of potentiality of motion in them, and when any external force
puts the first of them in motion, immediately the next is moved in
actuality. As, then, in these automatic machines the external force
moves the parts in a certain sense (not by touching any part at the
moment, but by having touched one previously), in like manner also
that from which the semen comes, or in other words that which made the
semen, sets up the movement in the embryo and makes the parts of it by
having first touched something though not continuing to touch it. In a
way it is the innate motion that does this, as the act of building
builds the house. Plainly, then, while there is something which
makes the parts, this does not exist as a definite object, nor does it
exist in the semen at the first as a complete part.

But how is each part formed? We must answer this by starting in
the first instance from the principle that, in all products of
Nature or art, a thing is made by something actually existing out of
that which is potentially such as the finished product. Now the
semen is of such a nature, and has in it such a principle of motion,
that when the motion is ceasing each of the parts comes into being,
and that as a part having life or soul. For there is no such thing
as face or flesh without life or soul in it; it is only equivocally
that they will be called face or flesh if the life has gone out of
them, just as if they had been made of stone or wood. And the
homogeneous parts and the organic come into being together. And just
as we should not say that an axe or other instrument or organ was made
by the fire alone, so neither shall we say that foot or hand were made
by heat alone. The same applies also to flesh, for this too has a
function. While, then, we may allow that hardness and softness,
stickiness and brittleness, and whatever other qualities are found
in the parts that have life and soul, may be caused by mere heat and
cold, yet, when we come to the principle in virtue of which flesh is
flesh and bone is bone, that is no longer so; what makes them is the
movement set up by the male parent, who is in actuality what that
out of which the offspring is made is in potentiality. This is what we
find in the products of art; heat and cold may make the iron soft
and hard, but what makes a sword is the movement of the tools
employed, this movement containing the principle of the art. For the
art is the starting-point and form of the product; only it exists in
something else, whereas the movement of Nature exists in the product
itself, issuing from another nature which has the form in actuality.

Has the semen soul, or not? The same argument applies here as in the
question concerning the parts. As no part, if it participate not in
soul, will be a part except in an equivocal sense (as the eye of a
dead man is still called an 'eye'), so no soul will exist in anything
except that of which it is soul; it is plain therefore that semen both
has soul, and is soul, potentially.

But a thing existing potentially may be nearer or further from its
realization in actuality, as e.g. a mathematician when asleep is
further from his realization in actuality as engaged in mathematics
than when he is awake, and when awake again but not studying
mathematics he is further removed than when he is so studying.
Accordingly it is not any part that is the cause of the soul's
coming into being, but it is the first moving cause from outside.
(For nothing generates itself, though when it has come into being it
thenceforward increases itself.) Hence it is that only one part comes

Previous | Next
Site Search