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On The Natural Faculties   

Thus the author of this third piece of trickery would appear to have achieved nothing, but to have been at once detected, and there still remains the original difficulty which was insoluble by Erasistratus and by all others except Hippocrates. I dwell purposely on this topic, knowing well that nobody else has anything to say about the function of the kidneys, but that either we must prove more foolish than the very butchers if we do not agree that the urine passes through the kidneys; or, if one acknowledges this, that then one cannot possibly give any other reason for the secretion than the principle of attraction.

Now, if the movement of urine does not depend on the tendency of a vacuum to become refilled, it is clear that neither does that of the blood nor that of the bile; or if that of these latter does so, then so also does that of the former. For they must all be accomplished in one and the same way, even according to Erasistratus himself.

This matter, however, will be discussed more fully in the book following this.


1. In the previous book we demonstrated that not only Erasistratus, but also all others who would say anything to the purpose about urinary secretion, must acknowledge that the kidneys possess some faculty which attracts to them this particular quality existing in the urine. Besides this we drew attention to the fact that the urine is not carried through the kidneys into the bladder by one method, the blood into parts of the animal by another, and the yellow bile separated out on yet another principle. For when once there has been demonstrated in any one organ, the drawing, or so-called epispastic faculty, there is then no difficulty in transferring it to the rest. Certainly Nature did not give a power such as this to the kidneys without giving it also to the vessels which abstract the biliary fluid,* nor did she give it to the latter without also it to each of the other parts. And, assuredly, if this is true, we must marvel that Erasistratus should make statements concerning the delivery of nutriment from the food-canal which are so false as to be detected even by Asclepiades. Now, Erasistratus considers it absolutely certain that, if anything flows from the veins, one of two things must happen: either a completely empty space will result, or the contiguous quantum of fluid will run in and take the place of that which has been evacuated. Asclepiades, however, holds that not one of two, but one of three things must be said to result in the emptied vessels: either there will be an entirely empty space, or the contiguous portion will flow in, or the vessel will contract. For whereas, in the case of reeds and tubes it is true to say that, if these be submerged in water, and are emptied of the air which they contain in their lumens, then either a completely empty space will be left, or the contiguous portion will move onwards; in the case of veins this no longer holds, since their coats can collapse and so fall in upon the interior cavity. It may be seen, then, how false this hypothesis- by Zeus, I cannot call it a demonstration!- of Erasistratus is.

*The radicles of the hepatic ducts in the liver were supposed to be the active agents in extracting bile from the blood.

And, from another point of view, even if it were true, it is superfluous, if the stomach has the power of compressing the veins, as he himself supposed, and the veins again of contracting upon their contents and propelling them forwards. For, apart from other considerations, no plethora would ever take place in the body, if delivery of nutriment resulted merely from the tendency of a vacuum to become refilled. Now, if the compression of the stomach becomes weaker the further it goes, and cannot reach to an indefinite distance, and if, therefore, there is need of some other mechanism to explain why the blood is conveyed in all directions, then the principle of the refilling of a vacuum may be looked on as a necessary addition; there will not, however, be a plethora in any of the parts coming after the liver, or, if there be, it will be in the region of the heart and lungs; for the heart alone of the parts which come after the liver draws the nutriment into its right ventricle, thereafter sending it through the arterioid vein* to the lungs (for Erasistratus himself will have it that, owing to the membranous excrescences, no other parts save the lungs receive nourishment from the heart). If, however, in order to explain how plethora comes about, we suppose the force of compression by the stomach to persist indefinitely, we have no further need of the principle of the refilling of a vacuum, especially if we assume contraction of the veins in addition- as is, again, agreeable to Erasistratus himself.

*What we now call the pulmonary artery.

2. Let me draw his attention, then, once again, even if he does not wish it, to the kidneys, and let me state that these confute in the very clearest manner such people as object to the principle of attraction. Nobody has ever said anything plausible, nor, as we previously showed, has anyone been able to discover, by any means, any other cause for the secretion of urine; we necessarily appear mad if we maintain that the urine passes into the kidneys in the form of vapour, and we certainly cut a poor figure when we talk about the tendency of a vacuum to become refilled; this idea is foolish in the case of blood, and impossible, nay, perfectly nonsensical, in the case of the urine.

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