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On The Natural Faculties   


The seed having been cast into the womb or into the earth (for there is no difference), then, after a certain definite period, a great number of parts become constituted in the substance which is being generated; these differ as regards moisture, dryness, coldness and warmth, and in all the other qualities which naturally derive therefrom. These derivative qualities, you are acquainted with, if you have given any sort of scientific consideration to the question of genesis and destruction. For, first and foremost after the qualities mentioned come the other so-called tangible distinctions, and after them those which appeal to taste, smell, and sight. Now, tangible distinctions are hardness and softness, viscosity, friability, lightness, heaviness, density, rarity, smoothness, roughness, thickness and thinness; all of these have been duly mentioned by Aristotle. And of course you know those which appeal to taste, smell, and sight. Therefore, if you wish to know which alterative faculties are primary and elementary, they are moisture, dryness, coldness, and warmth, and if you wish to know which ones arise from the combination of these, they will be found to be in each animal of a number corresponding to its sensible elements. The name sensible elements is given to all the homogeneous parts of the body, and these are to be detected not by any system, but by personal observation of dissections.

Now Nature constructs bone, cartilage, nerve, membrane, ligament, vein, and so forth, at the first stage of the animal's genesis, employing at this task a faculty which is, in general terms, generative and alterative, and, in more detail, warming, chilling, drying, or moistening; or such as spring from the blending of these, for example, the bone-producing, nerve-producing, and cartilage-producing faculties (since for the sake of clearness these names must be used as well).

Now the peculiar flesh of the liver is of this kind as well, also that of the spleen, that of the kidneys, that of the lungs, and that of the heart; so also the proper substance of the brain, stomach, gullet, intestines, and uterus is a sensible element, of similar parts all through, simple, and uncompounded. That is to say, if you remove from each of the organs mentioned its arteries, veins, and nerves, the substance remaining in each organ is, from the point of view of the senses, simple and elementary. As regards those organs consisting of two dissimilar coats, of which each is simple, of these organs the coats are the are the elements- for example, the coats of the stomach, oesophagus, intestines, and arteries; each of these two coats has an alterative faculty peculiar to it, which has engendered it from the menstrual blood of the mother. Thus the special alterative faculties in each animal are of the same number as the elementary parts; and further, the activities must necessarily correspond each to one of the special parts, just as each part has its special use- for example, those ducts which extend from the kidneys into the bladder, and which are called ureters; for these are not arteries, since they do not pulsate nor do they consist of two coats; and they are not veins, since they neither contain blood, nor do their coats in any way resemble those of veins; from nerves they differ still more than from the structures mentioned.

"What, then, are they?" someone asks- as though every part must necessarily be either an artery, a vein, a nerve, or a complex of these, and as though the truth were not what I am now stating, namely, that every one of the various organs has its own particular substance. For in fact the two bladders- that which receives the urine, and that which receives the yellow bile- not only differ from all other organs, but also from one another. Further, the ducts which spring out like kinds of conduits from the gall-bladder and which pass into the liver have no resemblance either to arteries, veins or nerves. But these parts have been treated at a greater length in my work "On the Anatomy of Hippocrates," as well as elsewhere.

As for the actual substance of the coats of the stomach, intestine, and uterus, each of these has been rendered what it is by a special alterative faculty of Nature; while the bringing of these together, the therewith of the structures which are inserted into them, the outgrowth into the intestine,* the shape of the inner cavities, and the like, have all been determined by a faculty which we call the shaping or formative faculty; this faculty we also state to be artistic- nay, the best and highest art- doing everything for some purpose, so that there is nothing ineffective or superfluous, or capable of being better disposed. This, however, I shall demonstrate in my work "On the Use of Parts."

*By this is meant the duodenum, considered as an outgrowth or prolongation of the stomach towards the intestines.

7. Passing now to the faculty of Growth let us first mention that this, too, is present in the foetus in utero as is also the nutritive faculty, but that at that stage these two faculties are, as it were, handmaids to those already mentioned, and do not possess in themselves supreme authority. When, however, the animal has attained its complete size, then, during the whole period following its birth and until the acme is reached, the faculty of growth is predominant, while the alterative and nutritive faculties are accessory- in fact, act as its handmaids. What, then, is the property of this faculty of growth? To extend in every direction that which has already come into existence- that is to say, the solid parts of the body, the arteries, veins, nerves, bones, cartilages, membranes, ligaments, and the various coats which we have just called elementary, homogeneous, and simple. And I shall state in what way they gain this extension in every direction, first giving an illustration for the sake of clearness.

Children take the bladders of pigs, fill them with air, and then rub them on ashes near the fire, so as to warm, but not to injure them. This is a common game in the district of Ionia, and among not a few other nations. As they rub, they sing songs, to a certain measure, time, and rhythm, and all their words are an exhortation to the bladder to increase in size. When it appears to them fairly well distended, they again blow air into it and expand it further; then they rub it again. This they do several times, until the bladder seems to them to have become large enough. Now, clearly, in these doings of the children, the more the interior cavity of the bladder increases in size, the thinner, necessarily, does its substance become. But, if the children were able to bring nourishment to this thin part, then they would make the bladder big in the same way that Nature does. As it is, however, they cannot do what Nature does, for to imitate this is beyond the power not only of children, but of any one soever; it is a property of Nature alone.

It will now, therefore, be clear to you that nutrition is a necessity for growing things. For if such bodies were distended, but not at the same time nourished, they would take on a false appearance of growth, not a true growth. And further, to be distended in all directions belongs only to bodies whose growth is directed by Nature; for those which are distended by us undergo this distension in one direction but grow less in the others; it is impossible to find a body which will remain entire and not be torn through whilst we stretch it in the three dimensions. Thus Nature alone has the power to expand a body in all directions so that it remains unruptured and preserves completely its previous form.

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