On the Generation and Corruption, by Aristotle

Book II

1

WE have explained under what conditions ‘combination’, ‘contact’, and ‘action-passion’ are attributable to the things which undergo natural change. Further, we have discussed ‘unqualified’ coming-to-be and passing-away, and explained under what conditions they are predicable, of what subject, and owing to what cause. Similarly, we have also discussed ‘alteration’, and explained what ‘altering’ is and how it differs from coming-to-be and passing-away. But we have still to investigate the so-called ‘elements’ of bodies.

For the complex substances whose formation and maintenance are due to natural processes all presuppose the perceptible bodies as the condition of their coming-to-be and passing-away: but philosophers disagree in regard to the matter which underlies these perceptible bodies. Some maintain it is single, supposing it to be, e.g. Air or Fire, or an ‘intermediate’ between these two (but still a body with a separate existence). Others, on the contrary, postulate two or more materials-ascribing to their ‘association’ and ‘dissociation’, or to their ‘alteration’, the coming-to-be and passing-away of things. (Some, for instance, postulate Fire and Earth: some add Air, making three: and some, like Empedocles, reckon Water as well, thus postulating four.)

Now we may agree that the primary materials, whose change (whether it be ‘association and dissociation’ or a process of another kind) results in coming-to-be and passingaway, are rightly described as ‘originative sources, i.e. elements’. But (i) those thinkers are in error who postulate, beside the bodies we have mentioned, a single matter-and that corporeal and separable matter. For this ‘body’ of theirs cannot possibly exist without a ‘perceptible contrariety’: this ‘Boundless’, which some thinkers identify with the ‘original real’, must be either light or heavy, either cold or hot. And (ii) what Plato has written in the Timaeus is not based on any precisely-articulated conception. For he has not stated clearly whether his ‘Omnirecipient” exists in separation from the ‘elements’; nor does he make any use of it. He says, indeed, that it is a substratum prior to the so-called ‘elements’-underlying them, as gold underlies the things that are fashioned of gold. (And yet this comparison, if thus expressed, is itself open to criticism. Things which come-to-be and pass-away cannot be called by the name of the material out of which they have come-tobe: it is only the results of ‘alteration’ which retain the name of the substratum whose ‘alterations’ they are. However, he actually says’ that the truest account is to affirm that each of them is “gold”’.) Nevertheless he carries his analysis of the ‘elements’-solids though they are-back to ‘planes’, and it is impossible for ‘the Nurse’ (i.e. the primary matter) to be identical with ‘the planes’.

Our own doctrine is that although there is a matter of the perceptible bodies (a matter out of which the so-called ‘clements’ come-to-be), it has no separate existence, but is always bound up with a contrariety. A more precise account of these presuppositions has been given in another work’: we must, however, give a detailed explanation of the primary bodies as well, since they too are similarly derived from the matter. We must reckon as an ‘originative source’ and as ‘primary’ the matter which underlies, though it is inseparable from, the contrary qualities: for the hot’ is not matter for ‘the cold’ nor ‘the cold’ for ‘the hot’, but the substratum is matter for them both. We therefore have to recognize three ‘originative sources’: firstly that which potentially perceptible body, secondly the contrarieties (I mean, e.g. heat and cold), and thirdly Fire, Water, and the like. Only ‘thirdly’, however: for these bodies change into one another (they are not immutable as Empedocles and other thinkers assert, since ‘alteration’ would then have been impossible), whereas the contrarieties do not change.

Nevertheless, even so the question remains: What sorts of contrarieties, and how many of them, are to be accounted ‘originative sources’ of body? For all the other thinkers assume and use them without explaining why they are these or why they are just so many.

2

Since, then, we are looking for ‘originative sources’ of perceptible body; and since ‘perceptible’ is equivalent to ‘tangible’, and ‘tangible’ is that of which the perception is touch; it is clear that not all the contrarieties constitute ‘forms’ and ‘originative sources’ of body, but only those which correspond to touch. For it is in accordance with a contrariety-a contrariety, moreover, of tangible qualities-that the primary bodies are differentiated. That is why neither whiteness (and blackness), nor sweetness (and bitterness), nor (similarly) any quality belonging to the other perceptible contrarieties either, constitutes an ‘element’. And yet vision is prior to touch, so that its object also is prior to the object of touch. The object of vision, however, is a quality of tangible body not qua tangible, but qua something else-qua something which may well be naturally prior to the object of touch.

Accordingly, we must segregate the tangible differences and contrarieties, and distinguish which amongst them are primary. Contrarieties correlative to touch are the following: hot-cold, dry-moist, heavy-light, hard-soft, viscous-brittle, rough-smooth, coarse-fine. Of these (i) heavy and light are neither active nor susceptible. Things are not called ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ because they act upon, or suffer action from, other things. But the ‘elements’ must be reciprocally active and susceptible, since they ‘combine’ and are transformed into one another. On the other hand (ii) hot and cold, and dry and moist, are terms, of which the first pair implies power to act and the second pair susceptibility. ‘Hot’ is that which ‘associates’ things of the same kind (for ‘dissociating’, which people attribute to Fire as its function, is ‘associating’ things of the same class, since its effect is to eliminate what is foreign), while ‘cold’ is that which brings together, i.e. ‘associates’, homogeneous and heterogeneous things alike. And moise is that which, being readily adaptable in shape, is not determinable by any limit of its own: while ‘dry’ is that which is readily determinable by its own limit, but not readily adaptable in shape.

From moist and dry are derived (iii) the fine and coarse, viscous and brittle, hard and soft, and the remaining tangible differences. For (a) since the moist has no determinate shape, but is readily adaptable and follows the outline of that which is in contact with it, it is characteristic of it to be ‘such as to fill up’. Now ‘the fine’ is ‘such as to fill up’. For the fine’ consists of subtle particles; but that which consists of small particles is ‘such as to fill up’, inasmuch as it is in contact whole with whole-and ‘the fine’ exhibits this character in a superlative degree. Hence it is evident that the fine derives from the moist, while the coarse derives from the dry. Again (b) the viscous’ derives from the moist: for ‘the viscous’ (e.g. oil) is a ‘moist’ modified in a certain way. ‘The brittle’, on the other hand, derives from the dry: for ‘brittle’ is that which is completely dry-so completely, that its solidification has actually been due to failure of moisture. Further (c) ‘the soft’ derives from the moist. For ‘soft’ is that which yields to pressure by retiring into itself, though it does not yield by total displacement as the moist does-which explains why the moist is not ‘soft’, although ‘the soft’ derives from the moist. ‘The hard’, on the other hand, derives from the dry: for ‘hard’ is that which is solidified, and the solidified is dry.

The terms ‘dry’ and ‘moist’ have more senses than one. For ‘the damp’, as well as the moist, is opposed to the dry: and again ‘the solidified’, as well as the dry, is opposed to the moist. But all these qualities derive from the dry and moist we mentioned first.’ For (i) the dry is opposed to the damp: i.e. ‘damp’ is that which has foreign moisture on its surface (’sodden’ being that which is penetrated to its core), while ‘dry’ is that which has lost foreign moisture. Hence it is evident that the damp will derive from the moist, and ‘the dry’ which is opposed to it will derive from the primary dry. Again (ii) the ‘moist’ and the solidified derive in the same way from the primary pair. For ‘moist’ is that which contains moisture of its-own deep within it (’sodden’ being that which is deeply penetrated by foreign mosture), whereas ‘solidigied’ is that which has lost this inner moisture. Hence these too derive from the primary pair, the ‘solidified’ from the dry and the ‘solidified’ from the dry the ‘liquefiable’ from the moist.

It is clear, then, that all the other differences reduce to the first four, but that these admit of no further reduction. For the hot is not essentially moist or dry, nor the moist essentially hot or cold: nor are the cold and the dry derivative forms, either of one another or of the hot and the moist. Hence these must be four.

3

The elementary qualities are four, and any four terms can be combined in six couples. Contraries, however, refuse to be coupled: for it is impossible for the same thing to be hot and cold, or moist and dry. Hence it is evident that the ‘couplings’ of the elementary qualities will be four: hot with dry and moist with hot, and again cold with dry and cold with moist. And these four couples have attached themselves to the apparently ‘simple’ bodies (Fire, Air, Water, and Earth) in a manner consonant with theory. For Fire is hot and dry, whereas Air is hot and moist (Air being a sort of aqueous vapour); and Water is cold and moist, while Earth is cold and dry. Thus the differences are reasonably distributed among the primary bodies, and the number of the latter is consonant with theory. For all who make the simple bodies ‘elements’ postulate either one, or two, or three, or four. Now (i) those who assert there is one only, and then generate everything else by condensation and rarefaction, are in effect making their ‘originative sources’ two, viz. the rare and the dense, or rather the hot and the cold: for it is these which are the moulding forces, while the ‘one’ underlies them as a ‘matter’. But (ii) those who postulate two from the start-as Parmenides postulated Fire and Earth-make the intermediates (e.g. Air and Water) blends of these. The same course is followed (iii) by those who advocate three. (We may compare what Plato does in Me Divisions’: for he makes ‘the middle’ a blend.) Indeed, there is practically no difference between those who postulate two and those who postulate three, except that the former split the middle ‘element’ into two, while the latter treat it as only one. But (iv) some advocate four from the start, e.g. Empedocles: yet he too draws them together so as to reduce them to the two, for he opposes all the others to Fire.

In fact, however, fire and air, and each of the bodies we have mentioned, are not simple, but blended. The ‘simple’ bodies are indeed similar in nature to them, but not identical with them. Thus the ‘simple’ body corresponding to fire is ‘such-as-fire, not fire: that which corresponds to air is ‘such-as-air’: and so on with the rest of them. But fire is an excess of heat, just as ice is an excess of cold. For freezing and boiling are excesses of heat and cold respectively. Assuming, therefore, that ice is a freezing of moist and cold, fire analogously will be a boiling of dry and hot: a fact, by the way, which explains why nothing comes-to-be either out of ice or out of fire.

The ‘simple’ bodies, since they are four, fall into two pairs which belong to the two regions, each to each: for Fire and Air are forms of the body moving towards the ‘limit’, while Earth and Water are forms of the body which moves towards the ‘centre’. Fire and Earth, moreover, are extremes and purest: Water and Air, on the contrary are intermediates and more like blends. And, further, the members of either pair are contrary to those of the other, Water being contrary to Fire and Earth to Air; for the qualities constituting Water and Earth are contrary to those that constitute Fire and Air. Nevertheless, since they are four, each of them is characterized par excellence a single quality: Earth by dry rather than by cold, Water by cold rather than by moist, Air by moist rather than by hot, and Fire by hot rather than by dry.

4

It has been established before’ that the coming-to-be of the ‘simple’ bodies is reciprocal. At the same time, it is manifest, even on the evidence of perception, that they do come-to-be: for otherwise there would not have been ‘alteration, since ‘alteration’ is change in respect to the qualities of the objects of touch. Consequently, we must explain (i) what is the manner of their reciprocal transformation, and (ii) whether every one of them can come to-be out of every one-or whether some can do so, but not others.

Now it is evident that all of them are by nature such as to change into one another: for coming-to-be is a change into contraries and out of contraries, and the ‘elements’ all involve a contrariety in their mutual relations because their distinctive qualities are contrary. For in some of them both qualities are contrary-e.g. in Fire and Water, the first of these being dry and hot, and the second moist and cold: while in others one of the qualities (though only one) is contrary-e.g. in Air and Water, the first being moist and hot, and the second moist and cold. It is evident, therefore, if we consider them in general, that every one is by nature such as to come-to-be out of every one: and when we come to consider them severally, it is not difficult to see the manner in which their transformation is effected. For, though all will result from all, both the speed and the facility of their conversion will differ in degree.

Thus (i) the process of conversion will be quick between those which have interchangeable ‘complementary factors’, but slow between those which have none. The reason is that it is easier for a single thing to change than for many. Air, e.g. will result from Fire if a single quality changes: for Fire, as we saw, is hot and dry while Air is hot and moist, so that there will be Air if the dry be overcome by the moist. Again, Water will result from Air if the hot be overcome by the cold: for Air, as we saw, is hot and moist while Water is cold and moist, so that, if the hot changes, there will be Water. So too, in the same manner, Earth will result from Water and Fire from Earth, since the two ‘elements’ in both these couples have interchangeable ‘complementary factors’. For Water is moist and cold while Earth is cold and dry-so that, if the moist be overcome, there will be Earth: and again, since Fire is dry and hot while Earth is cold and dry, Fire will result from Earth if the cold pass-away.

It is evident, therefore, that the coming-to-be of the ‘simple’ bodies will be cyclical; and that this cyclical method of transformation is the easiest, because the consecutive ‘clements’ contain interchangeable ‘complementary factors’. On the other hand (ii) the transformation of Fire into Water and of Air into Earth, and again of Water and Earth into Fire and Air respectively, though possible, is more difficult because it involves the change of more qualities. For if Fire is to result from Water, both the cold and the moist must pass-away: and again, both the cold and the dry must pass-away if Air is to result from Earth. So’ too, if Water and Earth are to result from Fire and Air respectively-both qualities must change.

This second method of coming-to-be, then, takes a longer time. But (iii) if one quality in each of two ‘elements’ pass-away, the transformation, though easier, is not reciprocal. Still, from Fire plus Water there will result Earth and Air, and from Air plus Earth Fire and Water. For there will be Air, when the cold of the Water and the dry of the Fire have passed-away (since the hot of the latter and the moist of the former are left): whereas, when the hot of the Fire and the moist of the Water have passed-away, there will be Earth, owing to the survival of the dry of the Fire and the cold of the Water. So, too, in the same Way, Fire and Water will result from Air plus Earth. For there will be Water, when the hot of the Air and the dry of the Earth have passed-away (since the moist of the former and the cold of the latter are left): whereas, when the moist of the Air and the cold of the Earth have passed-away, there will be Fire, owing to the survival of the hot of the Air and the dry of the Earth-qualities essentially constitutive of Fire. Moreover, this mode of Fire’s coming-to-be is confirmed by perception. For flame is par excellence Fire: but flame is burning smoke, and smoke consists of Air and Earth.

No transformation, however, into any of the ‘simple’ bodies can result from the passingaway of one elementary quality in each of two ‘elements’ when they are taken in their consecutive order, because either identical or contrary qualities are left in the pair: but no ‘simple’ body can be formed either out of identical, or out of contrary, qualities. Thus no ‘simple’ body would result, if the dry of Fire and the moist of Air were to pass-away: for the hot is left in both. On the other hand, if the hot pass-away out both, the contraries-dry and moist-are left. A similar result will occur in all the others too: for all the consecutive ‘elements’ contain one identical, and one contrary, quality. Hence, too, it clearly follows that, when one of the consecutive ‘elements’ is transformed into one, the coming-to-be is effected by the passing-away of a single quality: whereas, when two of them are transformed into a third, more than one quality must have passedaway.

We have stated that all the ‘elements’ come-to-be out of any one of them; and we have explained the manner in which their mutual conversion takes place. Let us nevertheless supplement our theory by the following speculations concerning them.

5

If Water, Air, and the like are a ‘matter’ of which the natural bodies consist, as some thinkers in fact believe, these ‘clements’ must be either one, or two, or more. Now they cannot all of them be one-they cannot, e.g. all be Air or Water or Fire or Earth-because ‘Change is into contraries’. For if they all were Air, then (assuming Air to persist) there will be ‘alteration’ instead of coming-to-be. Besides, nobody supposes a single ‘element’ to persist, as the basis of all, in such a way that it is Water as well as Air (or any other ‘element’) at the same time. So there will be a certain contrariety, i.e. a differentiating quality: and the other member of this contrariety, e.g. heat, will belong to some other ‘element’, e.g. to Fire. But Fire will certainly not be ‘hot Air’. For a change of that kind (a) is ‘alteration’, and (b) is not what is observed. Moreover (c) if Air is again to result out of the Fire, it will do so by the conversion of the hot into its contrary: this contrary, therefore, will belong to Air, and Air will be a cold something: hence it is impossible for Fire to be ‘hot Air’, since in that case the same thing will be simultaneously hot and cold. Both Fire and Air, therefore, will be something else which is the same; i.e. there will be some ‘matter’, other than either, common to both.

The same argument applies to all the ‘elements’, proving that there is no single one of them out of which they all originate. But neither is there, beside these four, some other body from which they originate-a something intermediate, e.g. between Air and Water (coarser than Air, but finer than Water), or between Air and Fire (coarser than Fire, but finer than Air). For the supposed ‘intermediate’ will be Air and Fire when a pair of contrasted qualities is added to it: but, since one of every two contrary qualities is a ‘privation’, the ‘intermediate’ never can exist-as some thinkers assert the ‘Boundless’ or the ‘Environing’ exists-in isolation. It is, therefore, equally and indifferently any one of the ‘elements’, or else it is nothing.

Since, then, there is nothing-at least, nothing perceptible-prior to these, they must be all. That being so, either they must always persist and not be transformable into one another: or they must undergo transformation-either all of them, or some only (as Plato wrote in the Timacus).’ Now it has been proved before that they must undergo reciprocal transformation. It has also been proved that the speed with which they come-to-be, one out of another, is not uniform-since the process of reciprocal transformation is relatively quick between the ‘elements’ with a ‘complementary factor’, but relatively slow between those which possess no such factor. Assuming, then, that the contrariety, in respect to which they are transformed, is one, the elements’ will inevitably be two: for it is ‘matter’ that is the ‘mean’ between the two contraries, and matter is imperceptible and inseparable from them. Since, however, the ‘elements’ are seen to be more than two, the contrarieties must at the least be two. But the contrarieties being two, the ‘elements’ must be four (as they evidently are) and cannot be three: for the couplings’ are four, since, though six are possible, the two in which the qualities are contrary to one another cannot occur.

These subjects have been discussed before:’ but the following arguments will make it clear that, since the ‘elements’ are transformed into one another, it is impossible for any one of them-whether it be at the end or in the middle-to be an ‘originative source’ of the rest. There can be no such ‘originative element’ at the ends: for all of them would then be Fire or Earth, and this theory amounts to the assertion that all things are made of Fire or Earth. Nor can a ‘middle-element’ be such an originative source’-as some thinkers suppose that Air is transformed both into Fire and into Water, and Water both into Air and into Earth, while the ‘end-elements’ are not further transformed into one another. For the process must come to a stop, and cannot continue ad infinitum in a straight line in either direction, since otherwise an infinite number of contrarieties would attach to the single ‘element’. Let E stand for Earth, W for Water, A for Air, and F for Fire. Then (i) since A is transformed into F and W, there will be a contrariety belonging to A F. Let these contraries be whiteness and blackness. Again (ii) since A is transformed into W, there will be another contrariety: for W is not the same as F. Let this second contrariety be dryness and moistness, D being dryness and M moistness. Now if, when A is transformed into W, the ‘white’ persists, Water will be moist and white: but if it does not persist, Water will be black since change is into contraries. Water, therefore, must be either white or black. Let it then be the first. On similar grounds, therefore, D (dryness) will also belong to F. Consequently F (Fire) as well as Air will be able to be transformed into Water: for it has qualities contrary to those of Water, since Fire was first taken to be black and then to be dry, while Water was moist and then showed itself white. Thus it is evident that all the ‘elements’ will be able to be transformed out of one another; and that, in the instances we have taken, E (Earth) also will contain the remaining two ‘complementary factors’, viz. the black and the moist (for these have not yet been coupled).

We have dealt with this last topic before the thesis we set out to prove. That thesis-viz. that the process cannot continue ad infinitum-will be clear from the following considerations. If Fire (which is represented by F) is not to revert, but is to be transformed in turn into some other ‘element’ (e.g. into Q), a new contrariety, other than those mentioned, will belong to Fire and Q: for it has been assumed that Q is not the same as any of the four, E W A and F. Let K, then, belong to F and Y to Q. Then K will belong to all four, E W A and F: for they are transformed into one another. This last point, however, we may admit, has not yet been proved: but at any rate it is clear that if Q is to be transformed in turn into yet another ‘element’, yet another contrariety will belong not only to Q but also to F (Fire). And, similarly, every addition of a new ‘element’ will carry with it the attachment of a new contrariety to the preceding elements’. Consequently, if the ‘elements’ are infinitely many, there will also belong to the single ‘element’ an infinite number of contrarieties. But if that be so, it will be impossible to define any ‘element’: impossible also for any to come-to-be. For if one is to result from another, it will have to pass through such a vast number of contrarieties-and indeed even more than any determinate number. Consequently (i) into some ‘elements’ transformation will never be effected-viz. if the intermediates are infinite in number, as they must be if the ‘elements’ are infinitely many: further (ii) there will not even be a transformation of Air into Fire, if the contrarieties are infinitely many: moreover (iii) all the ‘elements’ become one. For all the contrarieties of the ‘elements’ above F must belong to those below F, and vice versa: hence they will all be one.

6

As for those who agree with Empedocles that the ‘elements’ of body are more than one, so that they are not transformed into one another-one may well wonder in what sense it is open to them to maintain that the ‘elements’ are comparable. Yet Empedocles says ‘For these are all not only equal . . . ’

If it is meant that they are comparable in their amount, all the ‘comparables’ must possess an identical something whereby they are measured. If, e.g. one pint of Water yields ten of Air, both are measured by the same unit; and therefore both were from the first an identical something. On the other hand, suppose (ii) they are not ‘comparable in their amount’ in the sense that so-much of the one yields so much of the other, but comparable in ‘power of action (a pint of Water, e.g. having a power of cooling equal to that of ten pints of Air); even so, they are ‘comparable in their amount’, though not qua ‘amount’ but qua Iso-much power’. There is also (iii) a third possibility. Instead of comparing their powers by the measure of their amount, they might be compared as terms in a ‘correspondence’: e.g. ‘as x is hot, so correspondingly y is white’. But ‘correspondence’, though it means equality in the quantum, means similarity in a quale. Thus it is manifestly absurd that the ‘simple’ bodies, though they are not transformable, are comparable not merely as ‘corresponding’, but by a measure of their powers; i.e. that so-much Fire is comparable with many times-that-amount of Air, as being ‘equally’ or ‘similarly’ hot. For the same thing, if it be greater in amount, will, since it belongs to the same kind, have its ratio correspondingly increased.

A further objection to the theory of Empedocles is that it makes even growth impossible, unless it be increase by addition. For his Fire increases by Fire: ‘And Earth increases its own frame and Ether increases Ether.” These, however, are cases of addition: but it is not by addition that growing things are believed to increase. And it is far more difficult for him to account for the coming-to-be which occurs in nature. For the things which come-to-be by natural process all exhibit, in their coming-to-be, a uniformity either absolute or highly regular: while any exceptions any results which are in accordance neither with the invariable nor with the general rule are products of chance and luck. Then what is the cause determining that man comes-to-be from man, that wheat (instead of an olive) comes-to-be from wheat, either invariably or generally? Are we to say ‘Bone comes-to-be if the “elements” be put together in such-and such a manner’? For, according to his own estatements, nothing comes-to-be from their ‘fortuitous consilience’, but only from their ‘consilience’ in a certain proportion. What, then, is the cause of this proportional consilience? Presumably not Fire or Earth. But neither is it Love and Strife: for the former is a cause of ‘association’ only, and the latter only of ‘dissociation’. No: the cause in question is the essential nature of each thing-not merely to quote his words) ‘a mingling and a divorce of what has been mingled’. And chance, not proportion, ‘is the name given to these occurrences’: for things can be ‘mingled’ fortuitously.

The cause, therefore, of the coming-to-be of the things which owe their existence to nature is that they are in such-and-such a determinate condition: and it is this which constitutes, the ‘nature’ of each thing-a ‘nature’ about which he says nothing. What he says, therefore, is no explanation of ‘nature’. Moreover, it is this which is both ‘the excellence’ of each thing and its ‘good’: whereas he assigns the whole credit to the ‘mingling’. (And yet the ‘elements’ at all events are ‘dissociated’ not by Strife, but by Love: since the ‘elements’ are by nature prior to the Deity, and they too are Deities.)

Again, his account of motion is vague. For it is not an adequate explanation to say that ‘Love and Strife set things moving, unless the very nature of Love is a movement of this kind and the very nature of Strife a movement of that kind. He ought, then, either to have defined or to have postulated these characteristic movements, or to have demonstrated them-whether strictly or laxly or in some other fashion. Moreover, since (a) the ‘simple’ bodies appear to move ‘naturally’ as well as by compulsion, i.e. in a manner contrary to nature (fire, e.g. appears to move upwards without compulsion, though it appears to move by compulsion downwards); and since (b) what is ‘natural’ is contrary to that which is due to compulsion, and movement by compulsion actually occurs; it follows that ‘natural movement’ can also occur in fact. Is this, then, the movement that Love sets going? No: for, on the contrary, the ‘natural movement’ moves Earth downwards and resembles ‘dissociation’, and Strife rather than Love is its cause-so that in general, too, Love rather than Strife would seem to be contrary to nature. And unless Love or Strife is actually setting them in motion, the ‘simple’ bodies themselves have absolutely no movement or rest. But this is paradoxical: and what is more, they do in fact obviously move. For though Strife ‘dissociated’, it was not by Strife that the ‘Ether’ was borne upwards. On the contrary, sometimes he attributes its movement to something like chance (’For thus, as it ran, it happened to meet them then, though often otherwise”), while at other times he says it is the nature of Fire to be borne upwards, but ‘the Ether’ (to quote his words) ‘sank down upon the Earth with long roots’. With such statements, too, he combines the assertion that the Order of the World is the same now, in the reign of Strife, as it was formerly in the reign of Love. What, then, is the ‘first mover’ of the ‘elements’? What causes their motion? Presumably not Love and Strife: on the contrary, these are causes of a particular motion, if at least we assume that ‘first mover’ to be an originative source’.

An additional paradox is that the soul should consist of the ‘elements’, or that it should be one of them. How are the soul’s ‘alterations’ to take Place? How, e.g. is the change from being musical to being unmusical, or how is memory or forgetting, to occur? For clearly, if the soul be Fire, only such modifications will happen to it as characterize Fire qua Fire: while if it be compounded out of the elements’, only the corporeal modifications will occur in it. But the changes we have mentioned are none of them corporeal.

7

The discussion of these difficulties, however, is a task appropriate to a different investigation:’ let us return to the ‘elements’ of which bodies are composed. The theories that ‘there is something common to all the “elements”’, and that they are reciprocally transformed’, are so related that those who accept either are bound to accept the other as well. Those, on the other hand, who do not make their coming-to-be reciprocal-who refuse to suppose that any one of the ‘elements’ comes-to-be out of any other taken singly, except in the sense in which bricks come-to-be out of a wall-are faced with a paradox. How, on their theory, are flesh and bones or any of the other compounds to result from the ‘elements’ taken together?

Indeed, the point we have raised constitutes a problem even for those who generate the ‘elements’ out of one another. In what manner does anything other than, and beside, the ‘elements’ come-to-be out of them? Let me illustrate my meaning. Water can come-to-be out of Fire and Fire out of Water; for their substralum is something common to them both. But flesh too, presumably, and marrow come-to-be out of them. How, then, do such things come to-be? For (a) how is the manner of their coming-to-be to be conceived by those who maintain a theory like that of Empedocles? They must conceive it as composition-just as a wall comes-to-be out of bricks and stones: and the ‘Mixture’, of which they speak, will be composed of the ‘elements’, these being preserved in it unaltered but with their small particles juxtaposed each to each. That will be the manner, presumably, in which flesh and every other compound results from the ‘elements’. Consequently, it follows that Fire and Water do not come-to-be ‘out of any and every part of flesh’. For instance, although a sphere might come-to-be out of this part of a lump of wax and a pyramid out of some other part, it was nevertheless possible for either figure to have come-to-be out of either part indifferently: that is the manner of coming-to-be when ‘both Fire and Water come-to-be out of any and every part of flesh’. Those, however, who maintain the theory in question, are not at liberty to conceive that ‘both come-to-be out of flesh’ in that manner, but only as a stone and a brick ‘both come-to-be out of a wall’-viz. each out of a different place or part. Similarly (b) even for those who postulate a single matter of their ‘elements’ there is a certain difficulty in explaining how anything is to result from two of them taken together-e.g. from ‘cold’ and hot’, or from Fire and Earth. For if flesh consists of both and is neither of them, nor again is a ‘composition’ of them in which they are preserved unaltered, what alternative is left except to identify the resultant of the two ‘elements’ with their matter? For the passingaway of either ‘element’ produces either the other or the matter.

Perhaps we may suggest the following solution. (i) There are differences of degree in hot and cold. Although, therefore, when either is fully real without qualification, the other will exist potentially; yet, when neither exists in the full completeness of its being, but both by combining destroy one another’s excesses so that there exist instead a hot which (for a ‘hot’) is cold and a cold which (for a ‘cold’) is hot; then what results from these two contraries will be neither their matter, nor either of them existing in its full reality without qualification. There will result instead an ‘intermediate’: and this ‘intermediate’, according as it is potentially more hot than cold or vice versa, will possess a power-of-heating that is double or triple its power-of-cooling, or otherwise related thereto in some similar ratio. Thus all the other bodies will result from the contraries, or rather from the ‘elements’, in so far as these have been ‘combined’: while the elements’ will result from the contraries, in so far as these ‘exist potentially’ in a special sense-not as matter ‘exists potentially’, but in the sense explained above. And when a thing comes-to-be in this manner, the process is cobination’; whereas what comes-to-be in the other manner is matter. Moreover (ii) contraries also ‘suffer action’, in accordance with the disjunctively-articulated definition established in the early part of this work.’ For the actually-hot is potentially-cold and the actually cold potentially-hot; so that hot and cold, unless they are equally balanced, are transformed into one another (and all the other contraries behave in a similar way). It is thus, then, that in the first place the ‘elements’ are transformed; and that (in the second place) out of the ‘elements’ there come-to-be flesh and bones and the like-the hot becoming cold and the cold becoming hot when they have been brought to the ‘mean’. For at the ‘mean’ is neither hot nor cold. The ‘mean’, however, is of considerable extent and not indivisible. Similarly, it is qua reduced to a ‘mean’ condition that the dry and the moist, as well as the contraries we have used as examples, produce flesh and bone and the remaining compounds.

8

All the compound bodies-all of which exist in the region belonging to the central body-are composed of all the ‘simple’ bodies. For they all contain Earth because every ‘simple’ body is to be found specially and most abundantly in its own place. And they all contain Water because (a) the compound must possess a definite outline and Water, alone of the ‘simple’ bodies, is readily adaptable in shape: moreover (b) Earth has no power of cohesion without the moist. On the contrary, the moist is what holds it together; for it would fall to pieces if the moist were eliminated from it completely.

They contain Earth and Water, then, for the reasons we have given: and they contain Air and Fire, because these are contrary to Earth and Water (Earth being contrary to Air and Water to Fire, in so far as one Substance can be ‘contrary’ to another). Now all compounds presuppose in their coming-to-be constituents which are contrary to one another: and in all compounds there is contained one set of the contrasted extremes. Hence the other set must be contained in them also, so that every compound will include all the ‘simple’ bodies.

Additional evidence seems to be furnished by the food each compound takes. For all of them are fed by substances which are the same as their constituents, and all of them are fed by more substances than one. Indeed, even the plants, though it might be thought they are fed by one substance only, viz. by Water, are fed by more than one: for Earth has been mixed with the Water. That is why farmers too endeavour to mix before watering. Although food is akin to the matter, that which is fed is the ‘figure’-i.e. the ‘form’ taken along with the matter. This fact enables us to understand why, whereas all the ‘simple’ bodies come-to-be out of one another, Fire is the only one of them which (as our predecessors also assert) ‘is fed’. For Fire alone-or more than all the rest-is akin to the ‘form’ because it tends by nature to be borne towards the limit. Now each of them naturally tends to be borne towards its own place; but the ‘figure’-i.e. the ‘form’-Of them all is at the limits.

Thus we have explained that all the compound bodies are composed of all the ‘simple’ bodies.

9

Since some things are such as to come-to-be and pass-away, and since coming-to-be in fact occurs in the region about the centre, we must explain the number and the nature of the ‘originative sources’ of all coming-to-be alike: for a grasp of the true theory of any universal facilitates the understanding of its specific forms.

The ‘originative sources’, then, of the things which come-to-be are equal in number to, and identical in kind with, those in the sphere of the eternal and primary things. For there is one in the sense of ‘matter’, and a second in the sense of ‘form’: and, in addition, the third ‘originative source’ must be present as well. For the two first are not sufficient to bring things into being, any more than they are adequate to account for the primary things.

Now cause, in the sense of material origin, for the things which are such as to come-to-be is ‘that which can be-and-not-be’: and this is identical with’that which can come-to-be-and-pass-away’, since the latter, while it is at one time, at another time is not. (For whereas some things are of necessity, viz. the eternal things, others of necessity are not. And of these two sets of things, since they cannot diverge from the necessity of their nature, it is impossible for the first not to he and impossible for the second to he. Other things, however, can both be and not he.) Hence coming-to-be and passing-away must occur within the field of ‘that which can be-and not-be’. This, therefore, is cause in the sense of material origin for the things which are such as to come-to-be; while cause, in the sense of their ‘end’, is their ‘figure’ or ‘form’-and that is the formula expressing the essential nature of each of them.

But the third ‘originative source’ must be present as well-the cause vaguely dreamed of by all our predecessors, definitely stated by none of them. On the contrary (a) some amongst them thought the nature of ‘the Forms’ was adequate to account for coming-to-be. Thus Socrates in the Phaedo first blames everybody else for having given no explanation; and then lays it down; that ‘some things are Forms, others Participants in the Forms’, and that ‘while a thing is said to “be” in virtue of the Form, it is said to “come-to-be” qua sharing in,” to “pass-away” qua “losing,” the ‘Form’. Hence he thinks that ‘assuming the truth of these theses, the Forms must be causes both of coming-to-be and of passing-away’. On the other hand (b) there were others who thought ‘the matter’ was adequate by itself to account for coming-to-be, since ‘the movement originates from the matter’.

Neither of these theories, however, is sound. For (a) if the Forms are causes, why is their generating activity intermittent instead of perpetual and continuous-since there always are Participants as well as Forms? Besides, in some instances we see that the cause is other than the Form. For it is the doctor who implants health and the man of science who implants science, although ‘Health itself’ and ‘Science itself’ are as well as the Participants: and the same principle applies to everything else that is produced in accordance with an art. On the other hand (b) to say that ‘matter generates owing to its movement’ would be, no doubt, more scientific than to make such statements as are made by the thinkers we have been criticizing. For what ‘alters’ and transfigures plays a greater part in bringing, things into being; and we are everywhere accustomed, in the products of nature and of art alike, to look upon that which can initiate movement as the producing cause. Nevertheless this second theory is not right either.

For, to begin with, it is characteristic of matter to suffer action, i.e. to be moved: but to move, i.e. to act, belongs to a different ‘power’. This is obvious both in the things that come-to-be by art and in those that come to-be by nature. Water does not of itself produce out of itself an animal: and it is the art, not the wood, that makes a bed. Nor is this their only error. They make a second mistake in omitting the more controlling cause: for they eliminate the essential nature, i.e. the ‘form’. And what is more, since they remove the formal cause, they invest the forces they assign to the ‘simple’ bodies-the forces which enable these bodies to bring things into being-with too instrumental a character. For ‘since’ (as they say) ‘it is the nature of the hot to dissociate, of the cold to bring together, and of each remaining contrary either to act or to suffer action’, it is out of such materials and by their agency (so they maintain) that everything else comes-to-be and passes-away. Yet (a) it is evident that even Fire is itself moved, i.e. suffers action. Moreover (b) their procedure is virtually the same as if one were to treat the saw (and the various instruments of carpentry) as ‘the cause’ of the things that come-to-be: for the wood must be divided if a man saws, must become smooth if he planes, and so on with the remaining tools. Hence, however true it may be that Fire is active, i.e. sets things moving, there is a further point they fail to observe-viz. that Fire is inferior to the tools or instruments in the manner in which it sets things moving.

10

As to our own theory-we have given a general account of the causes in an earlier work,’ we have now explained and distinguished the ‘matter’ and the ‘form’. Further, since the change which is motion has been proved’ to be eternal, the continuity of the occurrence of coming-to-be follows necessarily from what we have established: for the eternal motion, by causing ‘the generator’ to approach and retire, will produce coming-to-be uninterruptedly. At the same time it is clear that we were right when, in an earlier work,’ we called motion (not coming-to-be) ‘the primary form of change’. For it is far more reasonable that what is should cause the coming-to-be of what is not, than that what is not should cause the being of what is. Now that which is being moved is, but that which is coming-to-be is not: hence, also, motion is prior to coming-to-be.

We have assumed, and have proved, that coming-to-be and passing-away happen to things continuously; and we assert that motion causes coming-to-be. That being so, it is evident that, if the motion be single, both processes cannot occur since they are contrary to one another: for it is a law of nature that the same cause, provided it remain in the same condition, always produces the same effect, so that, from a single motion, either coming-to-be or passing-away will always result. The movements must, on the contrary, be more than one, and they must be contrasted with one another either by the sense of their motion or by its irregularity: for contrary effects demand contraries as their causes.

This explains why it is not the primary motion that causes coming-to-be and passingaway, but the motion along the inclined circle: for this motion not only possesses the necessary continuity, but includes a duality of movements as well. For if coming-to-be and passing-away are always to be continuous, there must be some body always being moved (in order that these changes may not fail) and moved with a duality of movements (in order that both changes, not one only, may result). Now the continuity of this movement is caused by the motion of the whole: but the approaching and retreating of the moving body are caused by the inclination. For the consequence of the inclination is that the body becomes alternately remote and near; and since its distance is thus unequal, its movement will be irregular. Therefore, if it generates by approaching and by its proximity, it-this very same body-destroys by retreating and becoming remote: and if it generates by many successive approaches, it also destroys by many successive retirements. For contrary effects demand contraries as their causes; and the natural processes of passing-away and coming-to-be occupy equal periods of time. Hence, too, the times-i.e. the lives-of the several kinds of living things have a number by which they are distinguished: for there is an Order controlling all things, and every time (i.e. every life) is measured by a period. Not all of them, however, are measured by the same period, but some by a smaller and others by a greater one: for to some of them the period, which is their measure, is a year, while to some it is longer and to others shorter.

And there are facts of observation in manifest agreement with our theories. Thus we see that coming-to-be occurs as the sun approaches and decay as it retreats; and we see that the two processes occupy equal times. For the durations of the natural processes of passing-away and coming-to-be are equal. Nevertheless it Often happens that things pass-away in too short a time. This is due to the ‘intermingling’ by which the things that come-to-be and pass-away are implicated with one another. For their matter is ‘irregular’, i.e. is not everywhere the same: hence the processes by which they come-to-be must be ‘irregular’ too, i.e. some too quick and others too slow. Consequently the phenomenon in question occurs, because the ‘irregular’ coming-to-be of these things is the passing-away of other things.

Coming-to-be and passing-away will, as we have said, always be continuous, and will never fail owing to the cause we stated. And this continuity has a sufficient reason on our theory. For in all things, as we affirm, Nature always strives after ‘the better’. Now ‘being’ (we have explained elsewhere the exact variety of meanings we recognize in this term) is better than ‘not-being’: but not all things can possess ‘being’, since they are too far removed from the ‘originative source. ‘God therefore adopted the remaining alternative, and fulfilled the perfection of the universe by making coming-to-be uninterrupted: for the greatest possible coherence would thus be secured to existence, because that ‘coming-to-be should itself come-to-be perpetually’ is the closest approximation to eternal being.

The cause of this perpetuity of coming-to-be, as we have often said, is circular motion: for that is the only motion which is continuous. That, too, is why all the other things-the things, I mean, which are reciprocally transformed in virtue of their ‘passions’ and their ‘powers of action’ e.g. the ‘simple’ bodiesimitate circular motion. For when Water is transformed into Air, Air into Fire, and the Fire back into Water, we say the coming-to-be ‘has completed the circle’, because it reverts again to the beginning. Hence it is by imitating circular motion that rectilinear motion too is continuous.

These considerations serve at the same time to explain what is to some people a baffling problem-viz. why the ‘simple’ bodies, since each them is travelling towards its own place, have not become dissevered from one another in the infinite lapse of time. The reason is their reciprocal transformation. For, had each of them persisted in its own place instead of being transformed by its neighbour, they would have got dissevered long ago. They are transformed, however, owing to the motion with its dual character: and because they are transformed, none of them is able to persist in any place allotted to it by the Order.

It is clear from what has been said (i) that coming-to-be and passing-away actually occur, (ii) what causes them, and (iii) what subject undergoes them. But (a) if there is to be movement (as we have explained elsewhere, in an earlier work’) there must be something which initiates it; if there is to be movement always, there must always be something which initiates it; if the movement is to be continuous, what initiates it must be single, unmoved, ungenerated, and incapable of ‘alteration’; and if the circular movements are more than one, their initiating causes must all of them, in spite of their plurality, be in some way subordinated to a single ‘originative source’. Further (b) since time is continuous, movement must be continuous, inasmuch as there can be no time without movement. Time, therefore, is a ‘number’ of some continuous movement-a ‘number’, therefore, of the circular movement, as was established in the discussions at the beginning. But (c) is movement continuous because of the continuity of that which is moved, or because that in which the movement occurs (I mean, e.g. the place or the quality) is continuous? The answer must clearly be ‘because that which is moved is continuous’. (For how can the quality be continuous except in virtue of the continuity of the thing to which it belongs? But if the continuity of ‘that in which’ contributes to make the movement continuous, this is true only of ‘the place in which’; for that has ‘magnitude’ in a sense.) But (d) amongst continuous bodies which are moved, only that which is moved in a circle is ‘continuous’ in such a way that it preserves its continuity with itself throughout the movement. The conclusion therefore is that this is what produces continuous movement, viz. the body which is being moved in a circle; and its movement makes time continuous.

11

Wherever there is continuity in any process (coming-to-be or ‘alteration’ or any kind of change whatever) we observe consecutiveness’, i.e. this coming-to-be after that without any interval. Hence we must investigate whether, amongst the consecutive members, there is any whose future being is necessary; or whether, on the contrary, every one of them may fail to come-to-be. For that some of them may fail to occur, is clear. (a) We need only appeal to the distinction between the statements ‘x will be’ and ‘x is about to which depends upon this fact. For if it be true to say of x that it ‘will be’, it must at some time be true to say of it that ‘it is’: whereas, though it be true to say of x now that ‘it is about to occur’, it is quite possible for it not to come-to-be-thus a man might not walk, though he is now ‘about to’ walk. And (b) since (to appeal to a general principle) amongst the things which ‘are’ some are capable also of ‘not-being’, it is clear that the same ambiguous character will attach to them no less when they are coming-to-be: in other words, their coming-to-be will not be necessary.

Then are all the things that come-to-be of this contingent character? Or, on the contrary, is it absolutely necessary for some of them to come-to-be? Is there, in fact, a distinction in the field of ‘coming-to-be’ corresponding to the distinction, within the field of ‘being’, between things that cannot possibly ‘not-be’ and things that can ‘not-be’? For instance, is it necessary that solstices shall come-to-be, i.e. impossible that they should fail to be able to occur?

Assuming that the antecedent must have come-to-be if the consequent is to be (e.g. that foundations must have come-to-be if there is to be a house: clay, if there are to be foundations), is the converse also true? If foundations have come-to-be, must a house come-to-be? The answer seems to be that the necessary nexus no longer holds, unless it is ‘necessary’ for the consequent (as well as for the antecedent) to come-to-be-’necessary’ absolutely. If that be the case, however, ‘a house must come to-be if foundations have come-to-be’, as well as vice versa. For the antecedent was assumed to be so related to the consequent that, if the latter is to be, the antecedent must have come-tobe before it. If, therefore, it is necessary that the consequent should come-to-be, the antecedent also must have come-to-be: and if the antecedent has come-to-be, then the consequent also must come-to-be-not, however, because of the antecedent, but because the future being of the consequent was assumed as necessary. Hence, in any sequence, when the being of the consequent is necessary, the nexus is reciprocal-in other words, when the antecedent has come-to-be the consequent must always come-to-be too.

Now (i) if the sequence of occurrences is to proceed ad infinitum ‘downwards’, the coming to-be of any determinate ‘this’ amongst the later members of the sequence will not be absolutely, but only conditionally, necessary. For it will always be necessary that some other member shall have come-to-be before ‘this’ as the presupposed condition of the necessity that ‘this’ should come-to-be: consequently, since what is ‘infinite’ has no ‘originative source’, neither will there be in the infinite sequence any ‘primary’ member which will make it ‘necessary’ for the remaining members to come-to-be.

Nor again (ii) will it be possible to say with truth, even in regard to the members of a limited sequence, that it is ‘absolutely necessary’ for any one of them to come-to-be. We cannot truly say, e.g. that ‘it is absolutely necessary for a house to come-to-be when foundations have been laid’: for (unless it is always necessary for a house to be coming-to-be) we should be faced with the consequence that, when foundations have been laid, a thing, which need not always be, must always be. No: if its coming-to-be is to be ‘necessary’, it must be ‘always’ in its coming-to-be. For what is ‘of necessity’ coincides with what is ‘always’, since that which ‘must be’ cannot possibly ‘not-be’. Hence a thing is eternal if its ‘being’ is necessary: and if it is eternal, its ‘being’ is necessary. And if, therefore, the ‘coming-to-be’ of a thing is necessary, its ‘coming-to-be’ is eternal; and if eternal, necessary.

It follows that the coming-to-be of anything, if it is absolutely necessary, must be cyclical-i.e. must return upon itself. For coming to-be must either be limited or not limited: and if not limited, it must be either rectilinear or cyclical. But the first of these last two alternatives is impossible if coming-to-be is to be eternal, because there could not be any ‘originative source’ whatever in an infinite rectilinear sequence, whether its members be taken ‘downwards’ (as future events) or ‘upwards’ (as past events). Yet coming-to-be must have an ‘originative source’ (if it is to be necessary and therefore eternal), nor can it be eternal if it is limited. Consequently it must be cyclical. Hence the nexus must be reciprocal. By this I mean that the necessary occurrence of ‘this’ involves the necessary occurrence of its antecedent: and conversely that, given the antecedent, it is also necessary for the consequent to come-to-be. And this reciprocal nexus will hold continuously throughout the sequence: for it makes no difference whether the reciprocal nexus, of which we are speaking, is mediated by two, or by many, members.

It is in circular movement, therefore, and in cyclical coming-to-be that the ‘absolutely necessary’ is to be found. In other words, if the coming-to-be of any things is cyclical, it is ‘necessary’ that each of them is coming-to-be and has come-to-be: and if the coming-to-be of any things is ‘necessary’, their coming-to-be is cyclical.

The result we have reached is logically concordant with the eternity of circular motion, i.e. the eternity of the revolution of the heavens (a fact which approved itself on other and independent evidence),’ since precisely those movements which belong to, and depend upon, this eternal revolution ‘come-to-be’ of necessity, and of necessity ‘will be’. For since the revolving body is always setting something else in motion, the movement of the things it moves must also be circular. Thus, from the being of the ‘upper revolution’ it follows that the sun revolves in this determinate manner; and since the sun revolves thus, the seasons in consequence come-to-be in a cycle, i.e. return upon themselves; and since they come-to-be cyclically, so in their turn do the things whose coming-to-be the seasons initiate.

Then why do some things manifestly come to-be in this cyclical fashion (as, e.g. showers and air, so that it must rain if there is to be a cloud and, conversely, there must be a cloud if it is to rain), while men and animals do not ‘return upon themselves’ so that the same individual comes-to-be a second time (for though your coming-to-be presupposes your father’s, his coming-to-be does not presuppose yours)? Why, on the contrary, does this coming-to-be seem to constitute a rectilinear sequence?

In discussing this new problem, we must begin by inquiring whether all things ‘return upon themselves’ in a uniform manner; or whether, on the contrary, though in some sequences what recurs is numerically the same, in other sequences it is the same only in species. In consequence of this distinction, it is evident that those things, whose ‘substance’-that which is undergoing the process-is imperishable, will be numerically, as well as specifically, the same in their recurrence: for the character of the process is determined by the character of that which undergoes it. Those things, on the other hand, whose ‘substance’ is perish, able (not imperishable) must ‘return upon themselves’ in the sense that what recurs, though specifically the same, is not the same numerically. That why, when Water comes-to-be from Air and Air from Water, the Air is the same ‘specifically’, not ‘numerically’: and if these too recur numerically the same, at any rate this does not happen with things whose ‘substance’ comes-to-be-whose ‘substance’ is such that it is essentially capable of not-being.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:59