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On the relation between testicles and vocal cords, according to Aristotle

[Originally published at the now defunct group blog explananda.com]


Posted on July 25, 2006
Tags: aristotle
I have almost finished working through Aristotle’s biological works, hunting for inspiration and clues. I have found much to admire: Aristotle was the head of one of the most ambitious scientific research projects ever undertaken, and the sheer mass of detail and theoretical sophistication found in the resulting works is often breathtaking. And then there are passages like this, breathtaking mainly because I’m laughing too hard to breathe properly:
All animals when castrated change over to the female state, and as their sinewy strength is slackened at its source they emit a voice similar to that of females. This slackening may be illustrated in the following way. It is as though you were to stretch a cord and make it taut by hanging some weight on to it, just as women do who weave at the loom; they stetch the warp by hanging stone weights on to it. This is the way in which the testes are attached to the seminal passages, which in their turn are attached to the blood-vessel which has its starting-point at the heart near the part which sets the voince in movement. And so, as the seminal passages undergo a change at the approach of the age when they can secrete semen, this part undergoes a simultaneous change. And as this changes, so too does the voice . . . If the testes are removed, the tautness of the passages is slackened, just as when the weight is removed from the cord or from the warp; and as this slackens, the source (or principle) which sets the voice in movement is correspondingly loosened. This then is the cause on account of which castrated animals change over to the female condition both as regards the voice and the rest of their form: it is because the principle from which the tautness of the body is derived is slackened. (Generation of Animals, V.vii, Loeb translation)

Comments


Author: Paul
Date: 2006-07-26

That’s crazy! I told you he had an opinion on everything!



Author: Spaz
Date: 2006-07-26

what do you think his opinion on this scientific venture would be?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/07/13/wfari13.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/07/13/ixnews.html



Author: Chris
Date: 2006-07-26

Paul, Very close. I remember just throwing up my hands in resignation when I came across a passage explaining vaginal flatulence (conclusion: it’s harmless).

Spaz, Setting aside taboos on the dissection of human beings, I think he would be very interested. He makes a number of remarks about eunichs in the biological writings. (And there is an ancient tradition that one dude he hung out with during his travels, and for whom he later wrote a moving poem, was a eunich. It isn’t clear whether that’s just ancient slander or not, though.)



Author: Paul
Date: 2006-07-26

Aw, c’mon! You can’t drop “vaginal flatulence” without a Bekker number!



Author: Chris
Date: 2006-07-26

Paul, Wish I could remember. I was going to blog it, of course, but then I thought better of it.



Author: Paul
Date: 2006-07-26

I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough. I expect more from you, Chris.



Author: Chris
Date: 2006-07-26

Paul, I just can’t bear to read through the biological works again so soon. Sorry.

Is there any redeeming value in the fact that the original title of this post was “Do your balls hang low? Do they waggle to and fro, and pull down your vocal cords, thereby deepening your voice?”



Author: anne
Date: 2006-07-26

This is genius.





Author: Rob R. Doran, M.D.
Date: 2013-11-13

Rich, you need to understand what you’re reading. These are research summary reports to Aristotle as we would call them today. Plus maybe first get a good technical translation with footnotes ? IMHO Loeb has problems on punctuation alone.

Aristotle ( or rather the research report from one of his people, which is what this is along with much of his work which survived) is from a medical viewpoint absolutely right.

Something in the removal of the testes is having a catastrophic effect on the muscular tautness of the male body, along with other effects. It is related to the tautness created by the testes ( which we now know is related to hormones besides the separate tautness from physical connection also described), and both are the same principle i.e. that removing something is imbalancing the whole structure ( which is being here understood and analogized for the first time) as (likely) Aristotle himself footnotes at the bottom for continued research ( we don’t know what happened after that–most of Aristotle’s work was destroyed by the Church and others) as he clearly agrees ( and which might have been his original research question to his assistant, i.e. if these phenomena appeared inter-related ) or at least strongly suspects they’re the same system principle ( what I think he’s thinking about is what he elsewhere describes in his work and we call today homeostasis which is very brilliantly illustrated as a tight cord in a weaving system, something done elsewhere in his work to illustrate complex and counter-balancing functions) but NOT the same thing.

No one had observed and accurately described that inter-relation phenomenon before. This was a major advance. No one really followed up his footnote until the last century of so. No one knew much more until recently, and the exact process was only understood a few years ago, but the research direction and observation given is not only sound but path-breaking.

It’s different I admit in tone from a research biologist today who looks at things in parts, and may not be what someone who knows the answer expects to hear; but the tone reflects how a diagnostic physician, research head or systems analysts would put it organizing the data for the first time and suggesting the next step, and Aristotle was all 3 of these things. It’s a tone they would use today. Plus there’re nuances or complexities where the description makes sense and you get added information in a culture where everyone is familiar with how a loom works ( and is the most complex machine), which most people today are not.

You might as well read research by Benjamin Franklin on electricity and conclude because he uses the term fluid he thinks atoms are made of water .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeostasis