On Youth and Old Age, on Life and Death,: On Breathing

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Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC

CHAPTER 26 (20)

(20. On Life and Death II)

In connexion with the heart there are three phenomena, which, though apparently of the same nature, are really not so, namely palpitation, pulsation, and respiration.

Palpitation is the rushing together of the hot substance in the heart owing to the chilling influence of residual or waste products. It occurs, for example, in the ailment known as ’spasms’ and in other diseases. It occurs also in fear, for when one is afraid the upper parts become cold, and the hot substance, fleeing away, by its concentration in the heart produces palpitation. It is crushed into so small a space that sometimes life is extinguished, and the animals die of the fright and morbid disturbance.

The beating of the heart, which, as can be seen, goes on continuously, is similar to the throbbing of an abscess. That, however, is accompanied by pain, because the change produced in the blood is unnatural, and it goes on until the matter formed by concoction is discharged. There is a similarity between this phenomenon and that of boiling; for boiling is due to the volatilization of fluid by heat and the expansion consequent on increase of bulk. But in an abscess, if there is no evaporation through the walls, the process terminates in suppuration due to the thickening of the liquid, while in boiling it ends in the escape of the fluid out of the containing vessel.

In the heart the beating is produced by the heat expanding the fluid, of which the food furnishes a constant supply. It occurs when the fluid rises to the outer wall of the heart, and it goes on continuously; for there is a constant flow of the fluid that goes to constitute the blood, it being in the heart that the blood receives its primary elaboration. That this is so we can perceive in the initial stages of generation, for the heart can be seen to contain blood before the veins become distinct. This explains why pulsation in youth exceeds that in older people, for in the young the formation of vapour is more abundant.

All the veins pulse, and do so simultaneously with each other, owing to their connexion with the heart. The heart always beats, and hence they also beat continuously and simultaneously with each other and with it.

Palpitation, then, is the recoil of the heart against the compression due to cold; and pulsation is the volatilization of the heated fluid.

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Chicago: Aristotle, "Chapter 26 (20)," On Youth and Old Age, on Life and Death,: On Breathing, trans. G. R. T. Ross Original Sources, accessed February 24, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94V6F5BZCDNPSBT.

MLA: Aristotle. "Chapter 26 (20)." On Youth and Old Age, on Life and Death,: On Breathing, translted by G. R. T. Ross, Original Sources. 24 Feb. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94V6F5BZCDNPSBT.

Harvard: Aristotle, 'Chapter 26 (20)' in On Youth and Old Age, on Life and Death,: On Breathing, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 24 February 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=94V6F5BZCDNPSBT.