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To this discourse of Firmus, Senecio replied: Sir, your last similitude contradicts your first, and you have unwittingly opened the world (instead of the door, as the saying is) against yourself. For the world was before all, being the most perfect; and it is rational that the perfect in Nature should be before the imperfect, as the sound before the maimed, and the whole before the part. For it is absurd that there should be a part when there is nothing whose part it is; and therefore nobody says the seed's man or egg's hen, but the man's seed and hen's egg; because those being after these and formed in them, pay as it were a debt to Nature, by bringing forth another. For they are not in themselves perfect, and therefore have a natural appetite to produce such a thing as that out of which they were first formed; and therefore seed is defined as a telling produced that is to be perfected by another production. Now nothing can be perfected by or want that which as yet is not. Everybody sees that eggs have the nature of a concretion or consistence in some animal or other, but want those organs, veins, and muscles which animals enjoy. Therefore no story delivers that ever any egg was formed immediately from earth; and the poets themselves tell us, that the egg out of which came the Tyndaridae fell down from heaven. But even till this time the earth produceth some perfect and organized animals, as mice in Egypt, and snakes, frogs, and grasshoppers almost everywhere, some external and invigorating principle assisting [p. 245] in the production. And in Sicily, where in the servile war much blood was shed, and many carcasses rotted on the ground, whole swarms of locusts were produced, and spoiled the corn over the whole isle. Such spring from and are nourished by the earth; and seed being formed in them, pleasure and titillation provoke them to mix, upon which some lay eggs, and some bring forth their young alive; and this evidently proves that animals first sprang from earth, and afterwards by copulation, after different ways, propagated their several kinds. In short, it is the same thing as if you said the womb was before the woman; for as the womb is to the egg, the egg is to the chick that is formed in it; so that he that inquires how birds should be when there were no eggs, might ask as well how men and women could be before any organs of generation were formed. Parts generally have their subsistence together with the whole; particular powers follow particular members, and operations follow those powers, and effects those operations. Now the effect of the generative power is the seed and egg; so that these must be after the formation of the whole. Therefore consider, as there can be no digestion of food before the animal is formed, so there can be no seed nor egg; for those, it is likely, are made by some digestion and alterations; nor can it be that, before the animal is, the superfluous parts of the food of the animal should have a being. Besides, though seed may perhaps pretend to be a principle, the egg cannot; for it doth not subsist first, nor hath it the nature of a whole, for it is imperfect. Therefore we do not affirm that the animal is produced without a principle of its being; but we call the principle that power which changes, mixes, and tempers the matter, so that a living creature is regularly produced; but the egg is an after-production, as the blood or milk of an animal after the taking in and digestion of the food. For we never see an egg formed immediately of mud, for [p. 246] it is produced in the bodies of animals alone; but a thousand living creatures rise from the mud. What need of many instances? None ever found the spawn or egg of an eel; yet if you empty a pit and take out all the mud, as soon as other water settles in it, eels likewise are presently produced. Now that must exist first which hath no need of any other thing that it may exist, and that after, which cannot be without the concurrence of another thing. And of this priority is our present discourse. Besides, birds build nests before they lay their eggs; and women provide cradles, swaddling-clothes, and the like; yet who says that the nest is before the egg, or the swaddling-clothes before the infant? For the earth (as Plato says) doth not imitate a woman, but a woman, and so likewise all other females, the earth. Moreover it is probable that the first production out of the earth, which was then vigorous and perfect, was self-sufficient and entire, nor stood in need of those secundines, membranes, and vessels, which now Nature forms to help the weakness and supply the defects of breeders.
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