Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

A Discourse of a Method for the Well Guiding of Reason ... »


By Ren*escartes

Thence I came to speak particularly of the Earth; how, although I had expresly supposed, that God had placed no weight in the Matter whereof it was composed; yet all its parts exactly tended towards its center: How that there being water and air upon its superficies, the disposition of the Heavens, and of the Starrs, and chiefly of the Moon, ought to cause a floud and an ebb, which in all circumstances was like to that which we observe in our Seas; And besides, a certain course aswel of the water, as of the air, from East to West, as is also observed between the Tropicks: How the Mountains, the Seas, the Springs and Rivers might naturally be form’d therein, and Metals run in the mines, and Plants grow in the Fields, and generally all bodies be therein engendered which are call’d mixt or composed.

And amongst other things, because that next the Stars, I know nothing in the world but Fire, which produceth light, I studied to make all clearly understood which belongs to its nature; how it’s made, how it’s fed, how sometimes it hath heat onely without light, and sometimes onely light without heat; how it can introduce several colours into several bodies, and divers other qualities; how it dissolves some, and hardens others; how it can consume almost all, or convert them into ashes and smoak: and last of all, how of those ashes, by the only violence of its action, it forms glass. For this transmutation of ashes into glass, seeming to me to be as admirable as any other operation in Nature, I particularly took pleasure to describe it.

Yet would I not inferre from all these things, that this World was created after the manner I had proposed. For it is more probable that God made it such as it was to be, from the beginning. But it’s certain, and ’tis an opinion commonly received amongst the Divines, That the action whereby he now preserveth it, is the same with that by which he created it. So that, although at the beginning he had given it no other form but that of a Chaos (provided, that having established the Laws of Nature, he had afforded his concurrence to it, to work as it used to do) we may beleeve (without doing wrong to the miracle of the Creation) that by that alone all things which are purely material might in time have rendred themselves such as we now see them: and their nature is far easier to conceive, when by little and little we see them brought forth so, then when we consider them quite form’d all at once.

From the description of inanimate Bodies and Plants, I pass’d to that of Animals, and particularly to that of Men. But because I had not yet knowledge enough to speak of them in the same stile as of the others; to wit, in demonstrating effects by their causes, and shewing from what seeds, and in what manner Nature ought to produce them; I contented my self to suppose, That God form’d the body of a Man altogether like one of ours; aswel the exteriour figure of its members, as in the interiour conformity of its organs; without framing it of other matter then of that which I had described; and without putting in it at the beginning any reasonable soul, or any other thing to serve therein for a vegetative or sensitive soul; unless he stirr’d up in his heart one of those fires without light which I had already discovered; and that I conceiv’d of no other nature but that which heats hay when its housed before it be dry, or which causes new Wines to boyl when it works upon the grape: For examining the functions which might be consequently in this body, I exactly found all those which may be in us, without our thinking of them; and to which our soul (that is to say, that distinct part from our bodies, whose nature (as hath been said before) is onely to think) consequently doth not contribute, and which are all the same wherein we may say unreasonable creatures resemble us. Yet could I not finde any, of those which depending from the thought, are the onely ones which belong unto us as Men; whereas I found them all afterwards, having supposed that God created a reasonable soul, and that he joyn’d it to this body, after a certain manner which I describ’d.

But that you might see how I treated this matter, I shall here present you with the explication of the motion of the heart, and of the arteries, which being the first and most general (which is observed in animals) we may thereby easily judge what we ought to think of all the rest. And that we may have the less difficulty to understand what I shall say thereof, I wish those who are not versed in Anatomy, would take the pains, before they read this, to cause the heart of some great animal which hath lungs, to be dissected; for in all of them its very like that of a Man: and that they may have shewn them the two cels or concavities which are there: First that on the right side, whereto two large conduits answer, to wit, the vena cava, which is the principal receptacle of bloud, and as the body of a tree, whereof all the other veins of the body are branches; and the arterious vein, which was so mis—call’d, because that in effect its an artery, which taking its origine from the heart, divides it self after being come forth, into divers branches, which every way spred themselves through the lungs. Then the other which is on the left side, whereunto in the same manner two pipes answer, which are as large, or larger then the former; to wit, the veinous artery, which was also il named, forasmuch as its nothing else but a vein which comes from the lungs, where its divided into several branches interlaid with those of the arterious vein, and those of that pipe which is called the Whistle, by which the breath enters. And the great artery, which proceeding from the heart, disperseth its branches thorow all the body. I would also that they would carefully observe the eleven little skins, which, as so many little doors, open and shut the four openings which are in these two concavities; to wit, three at the entry of the vena cava, where they are so disposed, that they can no wayes hinder the bloud which it contains from running into the right concavity of the heart; and yet altogether hinder it from coming out. Three at the entry of the arterious vein; which being disposed quite contrary, permit only the bloud which is in that concavity to pass to the lungs; but not that which is in the lungs to return thither. And then two others at the entry of the veinous artery, which permits the bloud to run to the left concavity of the heart, but opposeth its return. And three at the entry of the great artery, which permit it to go from the heart, but hinder its return thither. Neither need we seek any other reason for the number of these skins, save only that the opening of the veinous artery, being oval—wise, by reason of its situation, may be fitly shut with two; whereas the other, being round, may the better be clos’d with three. Besides, I would have them consider, that the great artery and the arterious vein are of a composition much stronger then the veinous artery or the vena cava. And that these two later grow larger before they enter into the heart, and make (as it were) two purses, call’d the ears of the heart, which are composed of a flesh like it; and that there is always more heat in the heart then in any other part of the body. And in fine, that if any drop of bloud enter into these concavities, this heat is able to make it presently swell and dilate it self, as generally all liquors do, when drop by drop we let them fall into a very hot vessel.

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