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

But there are divers other things which witness, that the true cause of this motion of the bloud is that which I have related. As first, The difference observed between that which issues out of the veins, and that which comes out of the arteries, cannot proceed but from its being rarified and (as it were) distilled by passing thorow the heart: its more subtil, more lively, and more hot presently after it comes out; that is to say, being in the arteries, then it is a little before it enters them, that is to say, in the veins. And if you observe, you will finde, that this difference appears not well but about the heart; and not so much in those places which are farther off. Next, the hardnesse of the skin of which the artery vein and the great artery are composed, sheweth sufficiently, that the bloud beats against them more forcibly then against the veins. And why should the left concavity of the heart, and the great artery be more large and ample then the right concavity, and the arterious vein; unless it were that the bloud of the veinous artery, having bin but onely in the lungs since its passage thorow the heart, is more subtil, and is rarified with more force and ease then the bloud which immediately comes from the vena cava. And what can the Physicians divine by feeling of the pulse, unlesse they know, that according as the bloud changeth its nature, it may by the heat of the heart be rarified to be more or lesse strong, and more or lesse quick then before. And if we examine how this heat is communicated to the other members, must we not avow that ’tis by means of the bloud, which passing the heart, reheats it self there, and thence disperseth it self thorow the whole body: whence it happens, that if you take away the bloud from any part, the heat by the same means also is taken a way. And although the heart were as burning as hot iron, it were not sufficient to warm the feet and the hands so often as it doth, did it not continue to furnish them with new bloud.

Besides, from thence we know also that the true use of respiration is to bring fresh air enough to the lungs, to cause that bloud which comes from the right concavity of the heart, where it was rarified, and (as it were) chang’d into vapours, there to thicken, and convert it self into bloud again, before it fall again into the left, without which it would not be fit to serve for the nourishment of the fire which is there. Which is confirm’d, for that its seen, that animals which have no lungs have but one onely concavity in the heart; and that children, who can make no use of them when they are in their mothers bellies, have an opening, by which the bloud of the vena cava runs to the left concavity of the heart, and a conduit by which it comes from the arterious vein into the great artery without passing the lungs.

Next, How would the concoction be made in the stomach, unlesse the heart sent heat by the arteries, and therewithall some of the most fluid parts of the bloud, which help to dissolve the meat receiv’d therein? and is not the act which converts the juice of these meats into bloud easie to be known, if we consider, that it is distill’d by passing and repassing the heart, perhaps more then one or two hundred times a day? And what need we ought else to explain the nutrition and the production of divers humours which are in the body, but to say, that the force wherewith the bloud in rarifying it self, passeth from the heart towards the extremities or the arteries, causeth some of its parts to stay amongst those of the members where they are, and there take the place of some others, which they drive from thence? And that according to the situation, or the figure, or the smalnesse of the pores which they meet, some arrive sooner in one place then others. In the same manner as we may have seen in severall sieves, which being diversly pierc’d, serve to sever divers grains one from the other. And briefly, that which is most remarkable herein, is the generation of the animal spirits, which are as a most subtil wind, or rather, as a most pure and lively flame, which continually rising in great abundance from the heart to the brain, dischargeth it self thence by the nerves into the muscles, and gives motion to all the members; without imagining any other reason which might cause these parts of the bloud, which being most mov’d, and the most penetrating, are the most fit to form these spirits, tend rather towards the brain, then to any other part. Save onely that the arteries which carry them thither, are those which come from the heart in the most direct line of all: And that according to the rules of the Mechanicks, which are the same with those of Nature, when divers things together strive to move one way, where there is not room enough for all; so those parts of bloud which issue from the left concavity of the heart tend towards the brain, the weaker and less agitated are expell’d by the stronger, who by that means arrive there alone.

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