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- Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - 90/159 -


the mother, has more influence on the child than on the mother; for there are many cases when the child loses its life from them, &c.

This discourse is not in its place here, but will be wanted for the one on the composition of animated bodies--and the rest of the definition of the soul I leave to the imaginations of friars, those fathers of the people who know all secrets by inspiration.

[Footnote 57: _lettere incoronate_. By this term Leonardo probably understands not the Bible only, but the works of the early Fathers, and all the books recognised as sacred by the Roman Church.] I leave alone the sacred books; for they are supreme truth.

On the relations of the soul to the organs of sense.

838.

HOW THE FIVE SENSES ARE THE MINISTERS OF THE SOUL.

The soul seems to reside in the judgment, and the judgment would seem to be seated in that part where all the senses meet; and this is called the Common Sense and is not all-pervading throughout the body, as many have thought. Rather is it entirely in one part. Because, if it were all-pervading and the same in every part, there would have been no need to make the instruments of the senses meet in one centre and in one single spot; on the contrary it would have sufficed that the eye should fulfil the function of its sensation on its surface only, and not transmit the image of the things seen, to the sense, by means of the optic nerves, so that the soul--for the reason given above-- may perceive it in the surface of the eye. In the same way as to the sense of hearing, it would have sufficed if the voice had merely sounded in the porous cavity of the indurated portion of the temporal bone which lies within the ear, without making any farther transit from this bone to the common sense, where the voice confers with and discourses to the common judgment. The sense of smell, again, is compelled by necessity to refer itself to that same judgment. Feeling passes through the perforated cords and is conveyed to this common sense. These cords diverge with infinite ramifications into the skin which encloses the members of the body and the viscera. The perforated cords convey volition and sensation to the subordinate limbs. These cords and the nerves direct the motions of the muscles and sinews, between which they are placed; these obey, and this obedience takes effect by reducing their thickness; for in swelling, their length is reduced, and the nerves shrink which are interwoven among the particles of the limbs; being extended to the tips of the fingers, they transmit to the sense the object which they touch.

The nerves with their muscles obey the tendons as soldiers obey the officers, and the tendons obey the Common [central] Sense as the officers obey the general. [27] Thus the joint of the bones obeys the nerve, and the nerve the muscle, and the muscle the tendon and the tendon the Common Sense. And the Common Sense is the seat of the soul [28], and memory is its ammunition, and the impressibility is its referendary since the sense waits on the soul and not the soul on the sense. And where the sense that ministers to the soul is not at the service of the soul, all the functions of that sense are also wanting in that man's life, as is seen in those born mute and blind.

[Footnote: The peculiar use of the words _nervo_, _muscolo_, _corda_, _senso comune_, which are here literally rendered by nerve, muscle cord or tendon and Common Sense may be understood from lines 27 and 28.]

On involuntary muscular action.

839.

HOW THE NERVES SOMETIMES ACT OF THEMSELVES WITHOUT ANY COMMANDS FROM THE OTHER FUNCTIONS OF THE SOUL.

This is most plainly seen; for you will see palsied and shivering persons move, and their trembling limbs, as their head and hands, quake without leave from their soul and their soul with all its power cannot prevent their members from trembling. The same thing happens in falling sickness, or in parts that have been cut off, as in the tails of lizards. The idea or imagination is the helm and guiding-rein of the senses, because the thing conceived of moves the sense. Pre-imagining, is imagining the things that are to be. Post-imagining, is imagining the things that are past.

Miscellaneous physiological observations (840-842).

840.

There are four Powers: memory and intellect, desire and covetousness. The two first are mental and the others sensual. The three senses: sight, hearing and smell cannot well be prevented; touch and taste not at all. Smell is connected with taste in dogs and other gluttonous animals.

841.

I reveal to men the origin of the first, or perhaps second cause of their existence.

842.

Lust is the cause of generation.

Appetite is the support of life. Fear or timidity is the prolongation of life and preservation of its instruments.

The laws of nutrition and the support of life (843-848).

843.

HOW THE BODY OF ANIMALS IS CONSTANTLY DYING AND BEING RENEWED.

The body of any thing whatever that takes nourishment constantly dies and is constantly renewed; because nourishment can only enter into places where the former nourishment has expired, and if it has expired it no longer has life. And if you do not supply nourishment equal to the nourishment which is gone, life will fail in vigour, and if you take away this nourishment, the life is entirely destroyed. But if you restore as much is destroyed day by day, then as much of the life is renewed as is consumed, just as the flame of the candle is fed by the nourishment afforded by the liquid of this candle, which flame continually with a rapid supply restores to it from below as much as is consumed in dying above: and from a brilliant light is converted in dying into murky smoke; and this death is continuous, as the smoke is continuous; and the continuance of the smoke is equal to the continuance of the nourishment, and in the same instant all the flame is dead and all regenerated, simultaneously with the movement of its own nourishment.

844.

King of the animals--as thou hast described him--I should rather say king of the beasts, thou being the greatest--because thou hast spared slaying them, in order that they may give thee their children for the benefit of the gullet, of which thou hast attempted to make a sepulchre for all animals; and I would say still more, if it were allowed me to speak the entire truth [5]. But we do not go outside human matters in telling of one supreme wickedness, which does not happen among the animals of the earth, inasmuch as among them are found none who eat their own kind, unless through want of sense (few indeed among them, and those being mothers, as with men, albeit they be not many in number); and this happens only among the rapacious animals, as with the leonine species, and leopards, panthers lynxes, cats and the like, who sometimes eat their children; but thou, besides thy children devourest father, mother, brothers and friends; nor is this enough for thee, but thou goest to the chase on the islands of others, taking other men and these half-naked, the ... and the ... thou fattenest, and chasest them down thy own throat[18]; now does not nature produce enough simples, for thee to satisfy thyself? and if thou art not content with simples, canst thou not by the mixture of them make infinite compounds, as Platina wrote[Footnote 21: _Come scrisse il Platina_ (Bartolomeo Sacchi, a famous humanist). The Italian edition of his treatise _De arte coquinaria_, was published under the title _De la honestra voluptate, e valetudine, Venezia_ 1487.], and other authors on feeding?

[Footnote: We are led to believe that Leonardo himself was a vegetarian from the following interesting passage in the first of Andrea Corsali's letters to Giuliano de'Medici: _Alcuni gentili chiamati Guzzarati non si cibano di cosa, alcuna che tenga sangue, ne fra essi loro consentono che si noccia ad alcuna cosa animata, come il nostro Leonardo da Vinci_.

5-18. Amerigo Vespucci, with whom Leonardo was personally acquainted, writes in his second letter to Pietro Soderini, about the inhabitants of the Canary Islands after having stayed there in 1503: "_Hanno una scelerata liberta di viuere; ... si cibano di carne humana, di maniera che il padre magia il figliuolo, et all'incontro il figliuolo il padre secondo che a caso e per sorte auiene. Io viddi un certo huomo sceleratissimo che si vantaua, et si teneua a non piccola gloria di hauer mangiato piu di trecento huomini. Viddi anche vna certa citta, nella quale io dimorai forse ventisette giorni, doue le carni humane, hauendole salate, eran appicate alli traui, si come noi alli traui di cucina_ _appicchiamo le carni di cinghali secche al sole o al fumo, et massimamente salsiccie, et altre simil cose: anzi si marauigliauano gradem ete che noi non magiaissimo della carne de nemici, le quali dicono muouere appetito, et essere di marauiglioso sapore, et le lodano come cibi soaui et delicati (Lettere due di Amerigo Vespucci Fiorentino drizzate al magnifico Pietro Soderini, Gonfaloniere della eccelsa Republica di Firenze_; various editions).]

845.

Our life is made by the death of others.

In dead matter insensible life remains, which, reunited to the stomachs of living beings, resumes life, both sensual and intellectual.

846.

Here nature appears with many animals to have been rather a cruel stepmother than a mother, and with others not a stepmother, but a most tender mother.

847.

Man and animals are really the passage and the conduit of food, the sepulchre of animals and resting place of the dead, one causing the death of the other, making themselves the covering for the corruption of other dead [bodies].


Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - 90/159

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