Observations upon experimental philosophy to which is added The description of a new blazing world
Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674.

29. Several Questions resolved concerning Cold, and Frozen Bodies, &c.

FIrst, I will give you my answer to the question, which is much agitated amongst the Learned con∣cerning Cold, to wit, Whether it be a Positive qua∣lity, or a bare Privation of Heat? And my opinion is, That Cold is both a Positive quality, and a privation of heat: For whatsoever is a true quality of Cold, must needs be a privation of Heat; since two opposites cannot subsist together in one and the same part, at one point of time. By Privation, I mean nothing else, but an alteration of Natures actions in her several parts, or which is all one, a change of natural, corporeal motions; and so the death of Animals may be called a privation of animal life; that is, a change of the animal motions in that particular Creature, which made animal life, to some other kind of action which is not animal life. And in this sense, both Cold and Heat, although they be po∣sitive qualities, or natural beings, yet they are also pri∣vations; that is, changes of corporeal, figurative mo∣tions, in several particular Creatures, or parts of Na∣ture. But what some Learned mean by Bare Priva∣tion, I cannot apprehend; for there's no such thing as a bare Privation, or bare Motion in Nature; but Page  126 all Motion is Corporeal, or Material; for Matter, Motion and Figure, are but one thing. Which is the reason, that to explain my self the better 〈…〉 of Motion, I do always add the word corporeal 〈◊〉••∣gurative; by which, I exclude all bare or immaterial Motion, which expression is altogether against sense and reason.

The second Question is, Whether Winds have the power to change the Exterior temper of the Air? To which, I answer: That Winds will not onely occasion the Air to be either hot or cold, according to their own temper, but also Animals and Vegetables, and other sorts of Creatures; for the sensitive, corporeal Motions in several kinds of Creatures, do often imitate and fi∣gure out the Motions of exterior objects, some more, some less; some regularly, and some irregularly, and some not at all; according to the nature of their own perceptions. By which we may observe, that the A∣gent, which is the external object, has onely an oc∣casional power; and the Patient, which is the sen∣tient, works chiefly the effect by vertue of the per∣ceptive, figurative motions in its own sensitive organs or parts.

Quest. 3. Why those Winds that come from cold Regions, are most commonly cold, and those that come from hot Regions are for the most part hot? I answer; The reason is, That those Winds have more constantly patterned out the motions of cold or heat Page  127 in those parts from which they either separated them∣selves, or which they have met withal. But it may be questioned, Whether all cold and hot winds do bring their heat and cold along with them out of such hot and cold Countries? And I am of opinion they do not; but that they proceed from an imitation of the nearest parts, which take patterns from other parts, and these again from the remoter parts; so that they are but patterns of other patterns, and copies of other copies.

Quest. 4. Why Fire in some cold Regions will hardly kindle, or at least not burn freely? I answer; This is no more to be wondered at, then that some men do die with cold; for cold being contrary to fire, if it have a predominate power, it will without doubt put out the fire; not that the cold corporeal motions do destroy fire by their actual power over it, but that fire destroys it self by an imitation of the motions of cold; so that cold is onely an occasional cause of the fires destruction, or at least of the alteration of its mo∣tions, and the diminution of its strength. But some might ask, What makes or causes this imitation in several sorts of Cretures? I answer, The wisdom of Nature, which orders her corporeal actions to be always in a mean, so that one extream (as one may call it) does countervail another. But then you'l say, There would always be a right and mean temper in all things. I answer: So there is in the whole, that is, in Infinite Nature, al∣though not in every particular; for Natures Wisdom Page  128 orders her particulars to the best of the whole; and al∣though particulars do oppose each other, yet all oppo∣sition tends to the conservation of a general peace and unity in the whole. But to return to Fire; since Air is the proper matter of respiration for fire, extream colds and frosts, either of air or vapour, are as unfit for the respiration of fire as water is; which if it do not kill it quite, yet it will at least make it sick, pale and faint; but if water be rarified to such a degree, that it becomes thin vapour, then it is as proper for its respiration, as air. Thus we see, although fire hath fuel, which is its food, yet no food can keep it alive without breath or re∣spiration: The like may be said of some other Crea∣tures.

Qu. 5. Whether Wood be apt to freeze? My Answer is, That I believe that the moist part of Wood, which is sap, may freeze as hard as Water, but the solid parts can∣not do so; for the cracking noise of Wood is no proof of its being frozen, because Wainscot will make such a noise in Summer, as well as in Winter. And it is to be observed, that some bodies will be apter to freeze in a weak, then in a hard frost, according to their own dispositions; which is as much to be considered, as the object of cold or frost it self; for some bodies do more, and some less imitate the motions of some ob∣jects, and some not at all: and thus we see that solid bodies do onely imitate the contractive motions of cold, but not the dilative motions of moisture, which Page  129 is the cause they break in a hard frost, like as a string, which being tied too hard, will fly asun∣der; and as they imitate Cold, so they do also imitate Thaw.

Quest. 6. Whether Water be fluid in its nature, or but occasionally by the agitation of the air? I answer: That Waters is fluid in its own nature, needs no proof, but 'tis known enough by the force of its dilating mo∣tions; for Water, when it gets but liberty, it over∣flows all, and dilates everywhere; which proves it is not air that makes it fluid, but it is so in its own nature.

Quest. 7. What produces those great Precipices and Mountains of Ice which are found in the Sea, and other great waters? I answer: That Snow, as also thick Fogs and Mists, which are nothing but rarified wa∣ter, falling upon the Ice, make its out-side thicker, and many great shelves and broken pieces of Ice joyning together, produce such Precipices and Mountains as mentioned.

Quest. 8. Whether Fishes can live in frozen Wa∣ter? I answer: If there be as much water left un∣frozen, as will serve them for respiration, they may live; for it is well known, that Water is the chief matter of respiration for Fish, and not Air; for Fish being out of water, cannot live long, but whilst they live, they gasp and gape for water: I mean such kinds of Fish which do live altogether in Water, and not Page  130 such Creatures as are of a mixt kind, and live in water as well as by land, which the Learned call Am∣phibious Creatures; as Otters, and the like, which may live in the air, as well as in water: Those Fish, I say, if the water be thorowly frozen, or if but the surface of water be quite frozen over to a pretty depth, will often die, by reason the water that remains unfro∣zen, by the contraction of Ice has altered for that time its dilative motions, to retentive motions; and like as men are smothered in a close air, so Fish in close wa∣ter, that is, in water which is quite covered and in∣closed with Ice: but at some men have not so nice and tender natures as others, and some have larger organs for respiration then others, and some are more accustomed to some sorts of air then others, which may cause them to endure longer, or respire more freely then others; so some Fishes do live longer in such close waters, then others; and some may be like Men that are frost-bitten, which may chance to live even in those waters that are quite thorowly frozen, as Experimenters relate; but yet I cannot believe, that the water, in which Fishes have been observed to live, can be so thorowly frozen to solid Ice, that it should not leave some liquidity or wetness in it, although not perceptible by our sight, by which those Fishes were preserved alive: However, it is more probable for Fish to live in Ice, then for other Creatures, be∣cause the Principle of Ice is Water, which is the Page  131 matter of the Fishes respiration, which keeps them alive.

Quest. 9. Whether in decoctions of Herbs, when congealed or frozen into Ice, the figures of the Herbs do appear in the Ice? This is affirmed for Truth by many Learned; and though I do not deny, but that such liquors in freezing may have some resemblance of their solid parts; yet I do not believe it to be universal; for if the blood of an animal should be congealed into Ice, I doubt it would hardly represent the figure of an animal. Indeed there's much difference between the exterior figures of Creatures, and their interior natures, which is evident even in frozen water, whose exteri∣or Icy figures are numerous, when as their interior na∣ture is but water; and there may also several changes and alterations of exterior figures be made by Art, when their interior nature is but one and the same.

Quest. 10. Whether Cold doth preserve Bodies from Corruption? I answer: That, in my opinion, it may be very probable: For Corruption or Putrefaction is nothing but irregular dissolving motions; when as Free∣zing or Congelation is made by regular contracting and condensing motions; and so long as these motions of Freezing are in force, it is impossible the motions that make Corruption should work their effect. But that such bodies as have been thorowly frozen, after being thawed, are most commonly spoiled; the rea∣son is, that the freezing or congealing motions, being not natural to those bodies, have caused such a thorow∣alteration Page  132 of the natural motions of their parts, as a hun∣dred to one but they will never move regularly and or∣derly again afterward; but on the contrary, their interior motions do quite and absolutelely change, by which the figure is totally altered from its former nature: but if a solid body be not throughly frozen, it may be redu∣ced to a perfect regularity again; for those natural mo∣tions that are not altered, may occasion the rest to act as formerly, to the preservation of that figure.