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Aristotle ON LONGEVITY AND SHORTNESS OF LIFE Complete

Translated by G. Ross.

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On Longevity And Shortness Of Life, by Aristotle


Part 1

The reasons for some animals being long-lived and others short-lived, and, in a word, causes of the length and brevity of life call for investigation.

The necessary beginning to our inquiry is a statement of the difficulties about these points. For it is not clear whether in animals and plants universally it is a single or diverse cause that makes some to be long-lived, others short-lived. Plants too have in some cases a long life, while in others it lasts but for a year.

Further, in a natural structure are longevity and a sound constitution coincident, or is shortness of life independent of unhealthiness? Perhaps in the case of certain maladies a diseased state of the body and shortness of life are interchangeable, while in the case of others ill-health is perfectly compatible with long life.

Of sleep and waking we have already treated; about life and death we shall speak later on, and likewise about health and disease, in so far as it belongs to the science of nature to do so. But at present we have to investigate the causes of some creatures being long-lived, and others short-lived. We find this distinction affecting not only entire genera opposed as wholes to one another, but applying also to contrasted sets of individuals within the same species. As an instance of the difference applying to the genus I give man and horse (for mankind has a longer life than the horse), while within the species there is the difference between man and man; for of men also some are long-lived, others short-lived, differing from each other in respect of the different regions in which they dwell. Races inhabiting warm countries have longer life, those living in a cold climate live a shorter time. Likewise there are similar differences among individuals occupying the same locality.

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