On the Heavens, by Aristotle

Book I

1

THE science which has to do with nature clearly concerns itself for the most part with bodies and magnitudes and their properties and movements, but also with the principles of this sort of substance, as many as they may be. For of things constituted by nature some are bodies and magnitudes, some possess body and magnitude, and some are principles of things which possess these. Now a continuum is that which is divisible into parts always capable of subdivision, and a body is that which is every way divisible. A magnitude if divisible one way is a line, if two ways a surface, and if three a body. Beyond these there is no other magnitude, because the three dimensions are all that there are, and that which is divisible in three directions is divisible in all. For, as the Pythagoreans say, the world and all that is in it is determined by the number three, since beginning and middle and end give the number of an ‘all’, and the number they give is the triad. And so, having taken these three from nature as (so to speak) laws of it, we make further use of the number three in the worship of the Gods. Further, we use the terms in practice in this way. Of two things, or men, we say ‘both’, but not ‘all’: three is the first number to which the term ‘all’ has been appropriated. And in this, as we have said, we do but follow the lead which nature gives. Therefore, since ‘every’ and ‘all’ and ‘complete’ do not differ from one another in respect of form, but only, if at all, in their matter and in that to which they are applied, body alone among magnitudes can be complete. For it alone is determined by the three dimensions, that is, is an ‘all’. But if it is divisible in three dimensions it is every way divisible, while the other magnitudes are divisible in one dimension or in two alone: for the divisibility and continuity of magnitudes depend upon the number of the dimensions, one sort being continuous in one direction, another in two, another in all. All magnitudes, then, which are divisible are also continuous. Whether we can also say that whatever is continuous is divisible does not yet, on our present grounds, appear. One thing, however, is clear. We cannot pass beyond body to a further kind, as we passed from length to surface, and from surface to body. For if we could, it would cease to be true that body is complete magnitude. We could pass beyond it only in virtue of a defect in it; and that which is complete cannot be defective, since it has being in every respect. Now bodies which are classed as parts of the whole are each complete according to our formula, since each possesses every dimension. But each is determined relatively to that part which is next to it by contact, for which reason each of them is in a sense many bodies. But the whole of which they are parts must necessarily be complete, and thus, in accordance with the meaning of the word, have being, not in some respect only, but in every respect.

2

The question as to the nature of the whole, whether it is infinite in size or limited in its total mass, is a matter for subsequent inquiry. We will now speak of those parts of the whole which are specifically distinct. Let us take this as our starting-point. All natural bodies and magnitudes we hold to be, as such, capable of locomotion; for nature, we say, is their principle of movement. But all movement that is in place, all locomotion, as we term it, is either straight or circular or a combination of these two, which are the only simple movements. And the reason of this is that these two, the straight and the circular line, are the only simple magnitudes. Now revolution about the centre is circular motion, while the upward and downward movements are in a straight line, ‘upward’ meaning motion away from the centre, and ‘downward’ motion towards it. All simple motion, then, must be motion either away from or towards or about the centre. This seems to be in exact accord with what we said above: as body found its completion in three dimensions, so its movement completes itself in three forms.

Bodies are either simple or compounded of such; and by simple bodies I mean those which possess a principle of movement in their own nature, such as fire and earth with their kinds, and whatever is akin to them. Necessarily, then, movements also will be either simple or in some sort compound-simple in the case of the simple bodies, compound in that of the composite-and in the latter case the motion will be that of the simple body which prevails in the composition. Supposing, then, that there is such a thing as simple movement, and that circular movement is an instance of it, and that both movement of a simple body is simple and simple movement is of a simple body (for if it is movement of a compound it will be in virtue of a prevailing simple element), then there must necessarily be some simple body which revolves naturally and in virtue of its own nature with a circular movement. By constraint, of course, it may be brought to move with the motion of something else different from itself, but it cannot so move naturally, since there is one sort of movement natural to each of the simple bodies. Again, if the unnatural movement is the contrary of the natural and a thing can have no more than one contrary, it will follow that circular movement, being a simple motion, must be unnatural, if it is not natural, to the body moved. If then (1) the body, whose movement is circular, is fire or some other element, its natural motion must be the contrary of the circular motion. But a single thing has a single contrary; and upward and downward motion are the contraries of one another. If, on the other hand, (2) the body moving with this circular motion which is unnatural to it is something different from the elements, there will be some other motion which is natural to it. But this cannot be. For if the natural motion is upward, it will be fire or air, and if downward, water or earth. Further, this circular motion is necessarily primary. For the perfect is naturally prior to the imperfect, and the circle is a perfect thing. This cannot be said of any straight line:-not of an infinite line; for, if it were perfect, it would have a limit and an end: nor of any finite line; for in every case there is something beyond it, since any finite line can be extended. And so, since the prior movement belongs to the body which naturally prior, and circular movement is prior to straight, and movement in a straight line belongs to simple bodies-fire moving straight upward and earthy bodies straight downward towards the centre-since this is so, it follows that circular movement also must be the movement of some simple body. For the movement of composite bodies is, as we said, determined by that simple body which preponderates in the composition. These premises clearly give the conclusion that there is in nature some bodily substance other than the formations we know, prior to them all and more divine than they. But it may also be proved as follows. We may take it that all movement is either natural or unnatural, and that the movement which is unnatural to one body is natural to another-as, for instance, is the case with the upward and downward movements, which are natural and unnatural to fire and earth respectively. It necessarily follows that circular movement, being unnatural to these bodies, is the natural movement of some other. Further, if, on the one hand, circular movement is natural to something, it must surely be some simple and primary body which is ordained to move with a natural circular motion, as fire is ordained to fly up and earth down. If, on the other hand, the movement of the rotating bodies about the centre is unnatural, it would be remarkable and indeed quite inconceivable that this movement alone should be continuous and eternal, being nevertheless contrary to nature. At any rate the evidence of all other cases goes to show that it is the unnatural which quickest passes away. And so, if, as some say, the body so moved is fire, this movement is just as unnatural to it as downward movement; for any one can see that fire moves in a straight line away from the centre. On all these grounds, therefore, we may infer with confidence that there is something beyond the bodies that are about us on this earth, different and separate from them; and that the superior glory of its nature is proportionate to its distance from this world of ours.

3

In consequence of what has been said, in part by way of assumption and in part by way of proof, it is clear that not every body either possesses lightness or heaviness. As a preliminary we must explain in what sense we are using the words ‘heavy’ and ‘light’, sufficiently, at least, for our present purpose: we can examine the terms more closely later, when we come to consider their essential nature. Let us then apply the term ‘heavy’ to that which naturally moves towards the centre, and ‘light’ to that which moves naturally away from the centre. The heaviest thing will be that which sinks to the bottom of all things that move downward, and the lightest that which rises to the surface of everything that moves upward. Now, necessarily, everything which moves either up or down possesses lightness or heaviness or both-but not both relatively to the same thing: for things are heavy and light relatively to one another; air, for instance, is light relatively to water, and water light relatively to earth. The body, then, which moves in a circle cannot possibly possess either heaviness or lightness. For neither naturally nor unnaturally can it move either towards or away from the centre. Movement in a straight line certainly does not belong to it naturally, since one sort of movement is, as we saw, appropriate to each simple body, and so we should be compelled to identify it with one of the bodies which move in this way. Suppose, then, that the movement is unnatural. In that case, if it is the downward movement which is unnatural, the upward movement will be natural; and if it is the upward which is unnatural, the downward will be natural. For we decided that of contrary movements, if the one is unnatural to anything, the other will be natural to it. But since the natural movement of the whole and of its part of earth, for instance, as a whole and of a small clod-have one and the same direction, it results, in the first place, that this body can possess no lightness or heaviness at all (for that would mean that it could move by its own nature either from or towards the centre, which, as we know, is impossible); and, secondly, that it cannot possibly move in the way of locomotion by being forced violently aside in an upward or downward direction. For neither naturally nor unnaturally can it move with any other motion but its own, either itself or any part of it, since the reasoning which applies to the whole applies also to the part.

It is equally reasonable to assume that this body will be ungenerated and indestructible and exempt from increase and alteration, since everything that comes to be comes into being from its contrary and in some substrate, and passes away likewise in a substrate by the action of the contrary into the contrary, as we explained in our opening discussions. Now the motions of contraries are contrary. If then this body can have no contrary, because there can be no contrary motion to the circular, nature seems justly to have exempted from contraries the body which was to be ungenerated and indestructible. For it is in contraries that generation and decay subsist. Again, that which is subject to increase increases upon contact with a kindred body, which is resolved into its matter. But there is nothing out of which this body can have been generated. And if it is exempt from increase and diminution, the same reasoning leads us to suppose that it is also unalterable. For alteration is movement in respect of quality; and qualitative states and dispositions, such as health and disease, do not come into being without changes of properties. But all natural bodies which change their properties we see to be subject without exception to increase and diminution. This is the case, for instance, with the bodies of animals and their parts and with vegetable bodies, and similarly also with those of the elements. And so, if the body which moves with a circular motion cannot admit of increase or diminution, it is reasonable to suppose that it is also unalterable.

The reasons why the primary body is eternal and not subject to increase or diminution, but unaging and unalterable and unmodified, will be clear from what has been said to any one who believes in our assumptions. Our theory seems to confirm experience and to be confirmed by it. For all men have some conception of the nature of the gods, and all who believe in the existence of gods at all, whether barbarian or Greek, agree in allotting the highest place to the deity, surely because they suppose that immortal is linked with immortal and regard any other supposition as inconceivable. If then there is, as there certainly is, anything divine, what we have just said about the primary bodily substance was well said. The mere evidence of the senses is enough to convince us of this, at least with human certainty. For in the whole range of time past, so far as our inherited records reach, no change appears to have taken place either in the whole scheme of the outermost heaven or in any of its proper parts. The common name, too, which has been handed down from our distant ancestors even to our own day, seems to show that they conceived of it in the fashion which we have been expressing. The same ideas, one must believe, recur in men’s minds not once or twice but again and again. And so, implying that the primary body is something else beyond earth, fire, air, and water, they gave the highest place a name of its own, aither, derived from the fact that it ‘runs always’ for an eternity of time. Anaxagoras, however, scandalously misuses this name, taking aither as equivalent to fire.

It is also clear from what has been said why the number of what we call simple bodies cannot be greater than it is. The motion of a simple body must itself be simple, and we assert that there are only these two simple motions, the circular and the straight, the latter being subdivided into motion away from and motion towards the centre.

4

That there is no other form of motion opposed as contrary to the circular may be proved in various ways. In the first place, there is an obvious tendency to oppose the straight line to the circular. For concave and convex are a not only regarded as opposed to one another, but they are also coupled together and treated as a unity in opposition to the straight. And so, if there is a contrary to circular motion, motion in a straight line must be recognized as having the best claim to that name. But the two forms of rectilinear motion are opposed to one another by reason of their places; for up and down is a difference and a contrary opposition in place. Secondly, it may be thought that the same reasoning which holds good of the rectilinear path applies also the circular, movement from A to B being opposed as contrary to movement from B to A. But what is meant is still rectilinear motion. For that is limited to a single path, while the circular paths which pass through the same two points are infinite in number. Even if we are confined to the single semicircle and the opposition is between movement from C to D and from D to C along that semicircle, the case is no better. For the motion is the same as that along the diameter, since we invariably regard the distance between two points as the length of the straight line which joins them. It is no more satisfactory to construct a circle and treat motion ‘along one semicircle as contrary to motion along the other. For example, taking a complete circle, motion from E to F on the semicircle G may be opposed to motion from F to E on the semicircle H. But even supposing these are contraries, it in no way follows that the reverse motions on the complete circumference contraries. Nor again can motion along the circle from A to B be regarded as the contrary of motion from A to C: for the motion goes from the same point towards the same point, and contrary motion was distinguished as motion from a contrary to its contrary. And even if the motion round a circle is the contrary of the reverse motion, one of the two would be ineffective: for both move to the same point, because that which moves in a circle, at whatever point it begins, must necessarily pass through all the contrary places alike. (By contrarieties of place I mean up and down, back and front, and right and left; and the contrary oppositions of movements are determined by those of places.) One of the motions, then, would be ineffective, for if the two motions were of equal strength, there would be no movement either way, and if one of the two were preponderant, the other would be inoperative. So that if both bodies were there, one of them, inasmuch as it would not be moving with its own movement, would be useless, in the sense in which a shoe is useless when it is not worn. But God and nature create nothing that has not its use.

5

This being clear, we must go on to consider the questions which remain. First, is there an infinite body, as the majority of the ancient philosophers thought, or is this an impossibility? The decision of this question, either way, is not unimportant, but rather all-important, to our search for the truth. It is this problem which has practically always been the source of the differences of those who have written about nature as a whole. So it has been and so it must be; since the least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold. Admit, for instance, the existence of a minimum magnitude, and you will find that the minimum which you have introduced, small as it is, causes the greatest truths of mathematics to totter. The reason is that a principle is great rather in power than in extent; hence that which was small at the start turns out a giant at the end. Now the conception of the infinite possesses this power of principles, and indeed in the sphere of quantity possesses it in a higher degree than any other conception; so that it is in no way absurd or unreasonable that the assumption that an infinite body exists should be of peculiar moment to our inquiry. The infinite, then, we must now discuss, opening the whole matter from the beginning.

Every body is necessarily to be classed either as simple or as composite; the infinite body, therefore, will be either simple or composite.

But it is clear, further, that if the simple bodies are finite, the composite must also be finite, since that which is composed of bodies finite both in number and in magnitude is itself finite in respect of number and magnitude: its quantity is in fact the same as that of the bodies which compose it. What remains for us to consider, then, is whether any of the simple bodies can be infinite in magnitude, or whether this is impossible. Let us try the primary body first, and then go on to consider the others.

The body which moves in a circle must necessarily be finite in every respect, for the following reasons. (1) If the body so moving is infinite, the radii drawn from the centre will be infinite. But the space between infinite radii is infinite: and by the space between the radii I mean the area outside which no magnitude which is in contact with the two lines can be conceived as falling. This, I say, will be infinite: first, because in the case of finite radii it is always finite; and secondly, because in it one can always go on to a width greater than any given width; thus the reasoning which forces us to believe in infinite number, because there is no maximum, applies also to the space between the radii. Now the infinite cannot be traversed, and if the body is infinite the interval between the radii is necessarily infinite: circular motion therefore is an impossibility. Yet our eyes tell us that the heavens revolve in a circle, and by argument also we have determined that there is something to which circular movement belongs.

(2) Again, if from a finite time a finite time be subtracted, what remains must be finite and have a beginning. And if the time of a journey has a beginning, there must be a beginning also of the movement, and consequently also of the distance traversed. This applies universally. Take a line, ACE, infinite in one direction, E, and another line, BB, infinite in both directions. Let ACE describe a circle, revolving upon C as centre. In its movement it will cut BB continuously for a certain time. This will be a finite time, since the total time is finite in which the heavens complete their circular orbit, and consequently the time subtracted from it, during which the one line in its motion cuts the other, is also finite. Therefore there will be a point at which ACE began for the first time to cut BB. This, however, is impossible. The infinite, then, cannot revolve in a circle; nor could the world, if it were infinite.

(3) That the infinite cannot move may also be shown as follows. Let A be a finite line moving past the finite line, B. Of necessity A will pass clear of B and B of A at the same moment; for each overlaps the other to precisely the same extent. Now if the two were both moving, and moving in contrary directions, they would pass clear of one another more rapidly; if one were still and the other moving past it, less rapidly; provided that the speed of the latter were the same in both cases. This, however, is clear: that it is impossible to traverse an infinite line in a finite time. Infinite time, then, would be required. (This we demonstrated above in the discussion of movement.) And it makes no difference whether a finite is passing by an infinite or an infinite by a finite. For when A is passing B, then B overlaps A and it makes no difference whether B is moved or unmoved, except that, if both move, they pass clear of one another more quickly. It is, however, quite possible that a moving line should in certain cases pass one which is stationary quicker than it passes one moving in an opposite direction. One has only to imagine the movement to be slow where both move and much faster where one is stationary. To suppose one line stationary, then, makes no difficulty for our argument, since it is quite possible for A to pass B at a slower rate when both are moving than when only one is. If, therefore, the time which the finite moving line takes to pass the other is infinite, then necessarily the time occupied by the motion of the infinite past the finite is also infinite. For the infinite to move at all is thus absolutely impossible; since the very smallest movement conceivable must take an infinity of time. Moreover the heavens certainly revolve, and they complete their circular orbit in a finite time; so that they pass round the whole extent of any line within their orbit, such as the finite line AB. The revolving body, therefore, cannot be infinite.

(4) Again, as a line which has a limit cannot be infinite, or, if it is infinite, is so only in length, so a surface cannot be infinite in that respect in which it has a limit; or, indeed, if it is completely determinate, in any respect whatever. Whether it be a square or a circle or a sphere, it cannot be infinite, any more than a foot-rule can. There is then no such thing as an infinite sphere or square or circle, and where there is no circle there can be no circular movement, and similarly where there is no infinite at all there can be no infinite movement; and from this it follows that, an infinite circle being itself an impossibility, there can be no circular motion of an infinite body.

(5) Again, take a centre C, an infinite line, AB, another infinite line at right angles to it, E, and a moving radius, CD. CD will never cease contact with E, but the position will always be something like CE, CD cutting E at F. The infinite line, therefore, refuses to complete the circle.

(6) Again, if the heaven is infinite and moves in a circle, we shall have to admit that in a finite time it has traversed the infinite. For suppose the fixed heaven infinite, and that which moves within it equal to it. It results that when the infinite body has completed its revolution, it has traversed an infinite equal to itself in a finite time. But that we know to be impossible.

(7) It can also be shown, conversely, that if the time of revolution is finite, the area traversed must also be finite; but the area traversed was equal to itself; therefore, it is itself finite.

We have now shown that the body which moves in a circle is not endless or infinite, but has its limit.

6

Further, neither that which moves towards nor that which moves away from the centre can be infinite. For the upward and downward motions are contraries and are therefore motions towards contrary places. But if one of a pair of contraries is determinate, the other must be determinate also. Now the centre is determined; for, from whatever point the body which sinks to the bottom starts its downward motion, it cannot go farther than the centre. The centre, therefore, being determinate, the upper place must also be determinate. But if these two places are determined and finite, the corresponding bodies must also be finite. Further, if up and down are determinate, the intermediate place is also necessarily determinate. For, if it is indeterminate, the movement within it will be infinite; and that we have already shown to be an impossibility. The middle region then is determinate, and consequently any body which either is in it, or might be in it, is determinate. But the bodies which move up and down may be in it, since the one moves naturally away from the centre and the other towards it.

From this alone it is clear that an infinite body is an impossibility; but there is a further point. If there is no such thing as infinite weight, then it follows that none of these bodies can be infinite. For the supposed infinite body would have to be infinite in weight. (The same argument applies to lightness: for as the one supposition involves infinite weight, so the infinity of the body which rises to the surface involves infinite lightness.) This is proved as follows. Assume the weight to be finite, and take an infinite body, AB, of the weight C. Subtract from the infinite body a finite mass, BD, the weight of which shall be E. E then is less than C, since it is the weight of a lesser mass. Suppose then that the smaller goes into the greater a certain number of times, and take BF bearing the same proportion to BD which the greater weight bears to the smaller. For you may subtract as much as you please from an infinite. If now the masses are proportionate to the weights, and the lesser weight is that of the lesser mass, the greater must be that of the greater. The weights, therefore, of the finite and of the infinite body are equal. Again, if the weight of a greater body is greater than that of a less, the weight of GB will be greater than that of FB; and thus the weight of the finite body is greater than that of the infinite. And, further, the weight of unequal masses will be the same, since the infinite and the finite cannot be equal. It does not matter whether the weights are commensurable or not. If (a) they are incommensurable the same reasoning holds. For instance, suppose E multiplied by three is rather more than C: the weight of three masses of the full size of BD will be greater than C. We thus arrive at the same impossibility as before. Again (b) we may assume weights which are commensurate; for it makes no difference whether we begin with the weight or with the mass. For example, assume the weight E to be commensurate with C, and take from the infinite mass a part BD of weight E. Then let a mass BF be taken having the same proportion to BD which the two weights have to one another. (For the mass being infinite you may subtract from it as much as you please.) These assumed bodies will be commensurate in mass and in weight alike. Nor again does it make any difference to our demonstration whether the total mass has its weight equally or unequally distributed. For it must always be Possible to take from the infinite mass a body of equal weight to BD by diminishing or increasing the size of the section to the necessary extent.

From what we have said, then, it is clear that the weight of the infinite body cannot be finite. It must then be infinite. We have therefore only to show this to be impossible in order to prove an infinite body impossible. But the impossibility of infinite weight can be shown in the following way. A given weight moves a given distance in a given time; a weight which is as great and more moves the same distance in a less time, the times being in inverse proportion to the weights. For instance, if one weight is twice another, it will take half as long over a given movement. Further, a finite weight traverses any finite distance in a finite time. It necessarily follows from this that infinite weight, if there is such a thing, being, on the one hand, as great and more than as great as the finite, will move accordingly, but being, on the other hand, compelled to move in a time inversely proportionate to its greatness, cannot move at all. The time should be less in proportion as the weight is greater. But there is no proportion between the infinite and the finite: proportion can only hold between a less and a greater finite time. And though you may say that the time of the movement can be continually diminished, yet there is no minimum. Nor, if there were, would it help us. For some finite body could have been found greater than the given finite in the same proportion which is supposed to hold between the infinite and the given finite; so that an infinite and a finite weight must have traversed an equal distance in equal time. But that is impossible. Again, whatever the time, so long as it is finite, in which the infinite performs the motion, a finite weight must necessarily move a certain finite distance in that same time. Infinite weight is therefore impossible, and the same reasoning applies also to infinite lightness. Bodies then of infinite weight and of infinite lightness are equally impossible.

That there is no infinite body may be shown, as we have shown it, by a detailed consideration of the various cases. But it may also be shown universally, not only by such reasoning as we advanced in our discussion of principles (though in that passage we have already determined universally the sense in which the existence of an infinite is to be asserted or denied), but also suitably to our present purpose in the following way. That will lead us to a further question. Even if the total mass is not infinite, it may yet be great enough to admit a plurality of universes. The question might possibly be raised whether there is any obstacle to our believing that there are other universes composed on the pattern of our own, more than one, though stopping short of infinity. First, however, let us treat of the infinite universally.

7

Every body must necessarily be either finite or infinite, and if infinite, either of similar or of dissimilar parts. If its parts are dissimilar, they must represent either a finite or an infinite number of kinds. That the kinds cannot be infinite is evident, if our original presuppositions remain unchallenged. For the primary movements being finite in number, the kinds of simple body are necessarily also finite, since the movement of a simple body is simple, and the simple movements are finite, and every natural body must always have its proper motion. Now if the infinite body is to be composed of a finite number of kinds, then each of its parts must necessarily be infinite in quantity, that is to say, the water, fire, &c., which compose it. But this is impossible, because, as we have already shown, infinite weight and lightness do not exist. Moreover it would be necessary also that their places should be infinite in extent, so that the movements too of all these bodies would be infinite. But this is not possible, if we are to hold to the truth of our original presuppositions and to the view that neither that which moves downward, nor, by the same reasoning, that which moves upward, can prolong its movement to infinity. For it is true in regard to quality, quantity, and place alike that any process of change is impossible which can have no end. I mean that if it is impossible for a thing to have come to be white, or a cubit long, or in Egypt, it is also impossible for it to be in process of coming to be any of these. It is thus impossible for a thing to be moving to a place at which in its motion it can never by any possibility arrive. Again, suppose the body to exist in dispersion, it may be maintained none the less that the total of all these scattered particles, say, of fire, is infinite. But body we saw to be that which has extension every way. How can there be several dissimilar elements, each infinite? Each would have to be infinitely extended every way.

It is no more conceivable, again, that the infinite should exist as a whole of similar parts. For, in the first place, there is no other (straight) movement beyond those mentioned: we must therefore give it one of them. And if so, we shall have to admit either infinite weight or infinite lightness. Nor, secondly, could the body whose movement is circular be infinite, since it is impossible for the infinite to move in a circle. This, indeed, would be as good as saying that the heavens are infinite, which we have shown to be impossible.

Moreover, in general, it is impossible that the infinite should move at all. If it did, it would move either naturally or by constraint: and if by constraint, it possesses also a natural motion, that is to say, there is another place, infinite like itself, to which it will move. But that is impossible.

That in general it is impossible for the infinite to be acted upon by the finite or to act upon it may be shown as follows.

(1. The infinite cannot be acted upon by the finite.) Let A be an infinite, B a finite, C the time of a given movement produced by one in the other. Suppose, then, that A was heated, or impelled, or modified in any way, or caused to undergo any sort of movement whatever, by in the time C. Let D be less than B; and, assuming that a lesser agent moves a lesser patient in an equal time, call the quantity thus modified by D, E. Then, as D is to B, so is E to some finite quantum. We assume that the alteration of equal by equal takes equal time, and the alteration of less by less or of greater by greater takes the same time, if the quantity of the patient is such as to keep the proportion which obtains between the agents, greater and less. If so, no movement can be caused in the infinite by any finite agent in any time whatever. For a less agent will produce that movement in a less patient in an equal time, and the proportionate equivalent of that patient will be a finite quantity, since no proportion holds between finite and infinite.

(2. The infinite cannot act upon the finite.) Nor, again, can the infinite produce a movement in the finite in any time whatever. Let A be an infinite, B a finite, C the time of action. In the time C, D will produce that motion in a patient less than B, say F. Then take E, bearing the same proportion to D as the whole BF bears to F. E will produce the motion in BF in the time C. Thus the finite and infinite effect the same alteration in equal times. But this is impossible; for the assumption is that the greater effects it in a shorter time. It will be the same with any time that can be taken, so that there will no time in which the infinite can effect this movement. And, as to infinite time, in that nothing can move another or be moved by it. For such time has no limit, while the action and reaction have.

(3. There is no interaction between infinites.) Nor can infinite be acted upon in any way by infinite. Let A and B be infinites, CD being the time of the action A of upon B. Now the whole B was modified in a certain time, and the part of this infinite, E, cannot be so modified in the same time, since we assume that a less quantity makes the movement in a less time. Let E then, when acted upon by A, complete the movement in the time D. Then, as D is to CD, so is E to some finite part of B. This part will necessarily be moved by A in the time CD. For we suppose that the same agent produces a given effect on a greater and a smaller mass in longer and shorter times, the times and masses varying proportionately. There is thus no finite time in which infinites can move one another. Is their time then infinite? No, for infinite time has no end, but the movement communicated has.

If therefore every perceptible body possesses the power of acting or of being acted upon, or both of these, it is impossible that an infinite body should be perceptible. All bodies, however, that occupy place are perceptible. There is therefore no infinite body beyond the heaven. Nor again is there anything of limited extent beyond it. And so beyond the heaven there is no body at all. For if you suppose it an object of intelligence, it will be in a place-since place is what ‘within’ and ‘beyond’ denote-and therefore an object of perception. But nothing that is not in a place is perceptible.

The question may also be examined in the light of more general considerations as follows. The infinite, considered as a whole of similar parts, cannot, on the one hand, move in a circle. For there is no centre of the infinite, and that which moves in a circle moves about the centre. Nor again can the infinite move in a straight line. For there would have to be another place infinite like itself to be the goal of its natural movement and another, equally great, for the goal of its unnatural movement. Moreover, whether its rectilinear movement is natural or constrained, in either case the force which causes its motion will have to be infinite. For infinite force is force of an infinite body, and of an infinite body the force is infinite. So the motive body also will be infinite. (The proof of this is given in our discussion of movement, where it is shown that no finite thing possesses infinite power, and no infinite thing finite power.) If then that which moves naturally can also move unnaturally, there will be two infinites, one which causes, and another which exhibits the latter motion. Again, what is it that moves the infinite? If it moves itself, it must be animate. But how can it possibly be conceived as an infinite animal? And if there is something else that moves it, there will be two infinites, that which moves and that which is moved, differing in their form and power.

If the whole is not continuous, but exists, as Democritus and Leucippus think, in the form of parts separated by void, there must necessarily be one movement of all the multitude. They are distinguished, we are told, from one another by their figures; but their nature is one, like many pieces of gold separated from one another. But each piece must, as we assert, have the same motion. For a single clod moves to the same place as the whole mass of earth, and a spark to the same place as the whole mass of fire. So that if it be weight that all possess, no body is, strictly speaking, light: and if lightness be universal, none is heavy. Moreover, whatever possesses weight or lightness will have its place either at one of the extremes or in the middle region. But this is impossible while the world is conceived as infinite. And, generally, that which has no centre or extreme limit, no up or down, gives the bodies no place for their motion; and without that movement is impossible. A thing must move either naturally or unnaturally, and the two movements are determined by the proper and alien places. Again, a place in which a thing rests or to which it moves unnaturally, must be the natural place for some other body, as experience shows. Necessarily, therefore, not everything possesses weight or lightness, but some things do and some do not. From these arguments then it is clear that the body of the universe is not infinite.

8

We must now proceed to explain why there cannot be more than one heaven-the further question mentioned above. For it may be thought that we have not proved universal of bodies that none whatever can exist outside our universe, and that our argument applied only to those of indeterminate extent.

Now all things rest and move naturally and by constraint. A thing moves naturally to a place in which it rests without constraint, and rests naturally in a place to which it moves without constraint. On the other hand, a thing moves by constraint to a place in which it rests by constraint, and rests by constraint in a place to which it moves by constraint. Further, if a given movement is due to constraint, its contrary is natural. If, then, it is by constraint that earth moves from a certain place to the centre here, its movement from here to there will be natural, and if earth from there rests here without constraint, its movement hither will be natural. And the natural movement in each case is one. Further, these worlds, being similar in nature to ours, must all be composed of the same bodies as it. Moreover each of the bodies, fire, I mean, and earth and their intermediates, must have the same power as in our world. For if these names are used equivocally, if the identity of name does not rest upon an identity of form in these elements and ours, then the whole to which they belong can only be called a world by equivocation. Clearly, then, one of the bodies will move naturally away from the centre and another towards the centre, since fire must be identical with fire, earth with earth, and so on, as the fragments of each are identical in this world. That this must be the case is evident from the principles laid down in our discussion of the movements, for these are limited in number, and the distinction of the elements depends upon the distinction of the movements. Therefore, since the movements are the same, the elements must also be the same everywhere. The particles of earth, then, in another world move naturally also to our centre and its fire to our circumference. This, however, is impossible, since, if it were true, earth must, in its own world, move upwards, and fire to the centre; in the same way the earth of our world must move naturally away from the centre when it moves towards the centre of another universe. This follows from the supposed juxtaposition of the worlds. For either we must refuse to admit the identical nature of the simple bodies in the various universes, or, admitting this, we must make the centre and the extremity one as suggested. This being so, it follows that there cannot be more worlds than one.

To postulate a difference of nature in the simple bodies according as they are more or less distant from their proper places is unreasonable. For what difference can it make whether we say that a thing is this distance away or that? One would have to suppose a difference proportionate to the distance and increasing with it, but the form is in fact the same. Moreover, the bodies must have some movement, since the fact that they move is quite evident. Are we to say then that all their movements, even those which are mutually contrary, are due to constraint? No, for a body which has no natural movement at all cannot be moved by constraint. If then the bodies have a natural movement, the movement of the particular instances of each form must necessarily have for goal a place numerically one, i.e. a particular centre or a particular extremity. If it be suggested that the goal in each case is one in form but numerically more than one, on the analogy of particulars which are many though each undifferentiated in form, we reply that the variety of goal cannot be limited to this portion or that but must extend to all alike. For all are equally undifferentiated in form, but any one is different numerically from any other. What I mean is this: if the portions in this world behave similarly both to one another and to those in another world, then the portion which is taken hence will not behave differently either from the portions in another world or from those in the same world, but similarly to them, since in form no portion differs from another. The result is that we must either abandon our present assumption or assert that the centre and the extremity are each numerically one. But this being so, the heaven, by the same evidence and the same necessary inferences, must be one only and no more.

A consideration of the other kinds of movement also makes it plain that there is some point to which earth and fire move naturally. For in general that which is moved changes from something into something, the starting-point and the goal being different in form, and always it is a finite change. For instance, to recover health is to change from disease to health, to increase is to change from smallness to greatness. Locomotion must be similar: for it also has its goal and starting-point — and therefore the starting-point and the goal of the natural movement must differ in form-just as the movement of coming to health does not take any direction which chance or the wishes of the mover may select. Thus, too, fire and earth move not to infinity but to opposite points; and since the opposition in place is between above and below, these will be the limits of their movement. (Even in circular movement there is a sort of opposition between the ends of the diameter, though the movement as a whole has no contrary: so that here too the movement has in a sense an opposed and finite goal.) There must therefore be some end to locomotion: it cannot continue to infinity.

This conclusion that local movement is not continued to infinity is corroborated by the fact that earth moves more quickly the nearer it is to the centre, and fire the nearer it is to the upper place. But if movement were infinite speed would be infinite also; and if speed then weight and lightness. For as superior speed in downward movement implies superior weight, so infinite increase of weight necessitates infinite increase of speed.

Further, it is not the action of another body that makes one of these bodies move up and the other down; nor is it constraint, like the ‘extrusion’ of some writers. For in that case the larger the mass of fire or earth the slower would be the upward or downward movement; but the fact is the reverse: the greater the mass of fire or earth the quicker always is its movement towards its own place. Again, the speed of the movement would not increase towards the end if it were due to constraint or extrusion; for a constrained movement always diminishes in speed as the source of constraint becomes more distant, and a body moves without constraint to the place whence it was moved by constraint.

A consideration of these points, then, gives adequate assurance of the truth of our contentions. The same could also be shown with the aid of the discussions which fall under First Philosophy, as well as from the nature of the circular movement, which must be eternal both here and in the other worlds. It is plain, too, from the following considerations that the universe must be one.

The bodily elements are three, and therefore the places of the elements will be three also; the place, first, of the body which sinks to the bottom, namely the region about the centre; the place, secondly, of the revolving body, namely the outermost place, and thirdly, the intermediate place, belonging to the intermediate body. Here in this third place will be the body which rises to the surface; since, if not here, it will be elsewhere, and it cannot be elsewhere: for we have two bodies, one weightless, one endowed with weight, and below is place of the body endowed with weight, since the region about the centre has been given to the heavy body. And its position cannot be unnatural to it, for it would have to be natural to something else, and there is nothing else. It must then occupy the intermediate place. What distinctions there are within the intermediate itself we will explain later on.

We have now said enough to make plain the character and number of the bodily elements, the place of each, and further, in general, how many in number the various places are.

9

We must show not only that the heaven is one, but also that more than one heaven is and, further, that, as exempt from decay and generation, the heaven is eternal. We may begin by raising a difficulty. From one point of view it might seem impossible that the heaven should be one and unique, since in all formations and products whether of nature or of art we can distinguish the shape in itself and the shape in combination with matter. For instance the form of the sphere is one thing and the gold or bronze sphere another; the shape of the circle again is one thing, the bronze or wooden circle another. For when we state the essential nature of the sphere or circle we do not include in the formula gold or bronze, because they do not belong to the essence, but if we are speaking of the copper or gold sphere we do include them. We still make the distinction even if we cannot conceive or apprehend any other example beside the particular thing. This may, of course, sometimes be the case: it might be, for instance, that only one circle could be found; yet none the less the difference will remain between the being of circle and of this particular circle, the one being form, the other form in matter, i.e. a particular thing. Now since the universe is perceptible it must be regarded as a particular; for everything that is perceptible subsists, as we know, in matter. But if it is a particular, there will be a distinction between the being of ‘this universe’ and of ‘universe’ unqualified. There is a difference, then, between ‘this universe’ and simple ‘universe’; the second is form and shape, the first form in combination with matter; and any shape or form has, or may have, more than one particular instance.

On the supposition of Forms such as some assert, this must be the case, and equally on the view that no such entity has a separate existence. For in every case in which the essence is in matter it is a fact of observation that the particulars of like form are several or infinite in number. Hence there either are, or may be, more heavens than one. On these grounds, then, it might be inferred either that there are or that there might be several heavens. We must, however, return and ask how much of this argument is correct and how much not.

Now it is quite right to say that the formula of the shape apart from the matter must be different from that of the shape in the matter, and we may allow this to be true. We are not, however, therefore compelled to assert a plurality of worlds. Such a plurality is in fact impossible if this world contains the entirety of matter, as in fact it does. But perhaps our contention can be made clearer in this way. Suppose ‘aquilinity’ to be curvature in the nose or flesh, and flesh to be the matter of aquilinity. Suppose further, that all flesh came together into a single whole of flesh endowed with this aquiline quality. Then neither would there be, nor could there arise, any other thing that was aquiline. Similarly, suppose flesh and bones to be the matter of man, and suppose a man to be created of all flesh and all bones in indissoluble union. The possibility of another man would be removed. Whatever case you took it would be the same. The general rule is this: a thing whose essence resides in a substratum of matter can never come into being in the absence of all matter. Now the universe is certainly a particular and a material thing: if however, it is composed not of a part but of the whole of matter, then though the being of ‘universe’ and of ‘this universe’ are still distinct, yet there is no other universe, and no possibility of others being made, because all the matter is already included in this. It remains, then, only to prove that it is composed of all natural perceptible body.

First, however, we must explain what we mean by ‘heaven’ and in how many senses we use the word, in order to make clearer the object of our inquiry. (a) In one sense, then, we call ‘heaven’ the substance of the extreme circumference of the whole, or that natural body whose place is at the extreme circumference. We recognize habitually a special right to the name ‘heaven’ in the extremity or upper region, which we take to be the seat of all that is divine. (b) In another sense, we use this name for the body continuous with the extreme circumference which contains the moon, the sun, and some of the stars; these we say are ‘in the heaven’. (c) In yet another sense we give the name to all body included within extreme circumference, since we habitually call the whole or totality ‘the heaven’. The word, then, is used in three senses.

Now the whole included within the extreme circumference must be composed of all physical and sensible body, because there neither is, nor can come into being, any body outside the heaven. For if there is a natural body outside the extreme circumference it must be either a simple or a composite body, and its position must be either natural or unnatural. But it cannot be any of the simple bodies. For, first, it has been shown that that which moves in a circle cannot change its place. And, secondly, it cannot be that which moves from the centre or that which lies lowest. Naturally they could not be there, since their proper places are elsewhere; and if these are there unnaturally, the exterior place will be natural to some other body, since a place which is unnatural to one body must be natural to another: but we saw that there is no other body besides these. Then it is not possible that any simple body should be outside the heaven. But, if no simple body, neither can any mixed body be there: for the presence of the simple body is involved in the presence of the mixture. Further neither can any body come into that place: for it will do so either naturally or unnaturally, and will be either simple or composite; so that the same argument will apply, since it makes no difference whether the question is ‘does A exist?’ or ‘could A come to exist?’ From our arguments then it is evident not only that there is not, but also that there could never come to be, any bodily mass whatever outside the circumference. The world as a whole, therefore, includes all its appropriate matter, which is, as we saw, natural perceptible body. So that neither are there now, nor have there ever been, nor can there ever be formed more heavens than one, but this heaven of ours is one and unique and complete.

It is therefore evident that there is also no place or void or time outside the heaven. For in every place body can be present; and void is said to be that in which the presence of body, though not actual, is possible; and time is the number of movement. But in the absence of natural body there is no movement, and outside the heaven, as we have shown, body neither exists nor can come to exist. It is clear then that there is neither place, nor void, nor time, outside the heaven. Hence whatever is there, is of such a nature as not to occupy any place, nor does time age it; nor is there any change in any of the things which lie beyond the outermost motion; they continue through their entire duration unalterable and unmodified, living the best and most selfsufficient of lives. As a matter of fact, this word ‘duration’ possessed a divine significance for the ancients, for the fulfilment which includes the period of life of any creature, outside of which no natural development can fall, has been called its duration. On the same principle the fulfilment of the whole heaven, the fulfilment which includes all time and infinity, is ‘duration’-a name based upon the fact that it is always-duration immortal and divine. From it derive the being and life which other things, some more or less articulately but others feebly, enjoy. So, too, in its discussions concerning the divine, popular philosophy often propounds the view that whatever is divine, whatever is primary and supreme, is necessarily unchangeable. This fact confirms what we have said. For there is nothing else stronger than it to move it-since that would mean more divine-and it has no defect and lacks none of its proper excellences. Its unceasing movement, then, is also reasonable, since everything ceases to move when it comes to its proper place, but the body whose path is the circle has one and the same place for starting-point and goal.

10

Having established these distinctions, we may now proceed to the question whether the heaven is ungenerated or generated, indestructible or destructible. Let us start with a review of the theories of other thinkers; for the proofs of a theory are difficulties for the contrary theory. Besides, those who have first heard the pleas of our adversaries will be more likely to credit the assertions which we are going to make. We shall be less open to the charge of procuring judgement by default. To give a satisfactory decision as to the truth it is necessary to be rather an arbitrator than a party to the dispute.

That the world was generated all are agreed, but, generation over, some say that it is eternal, others say that it is destructible like any other natural formation. Others again, with Empedliocles of Acragas and Heraclitus of Ephesus, believe that there is alternation in the destructive process, which takes now this direction, now that, and continues without end.

Now to assert that it was generated and yet is eternal is to assert the impossible; for we cannot reasonably attribute to anything any characteristics but those which observation detects in many or all instances. But in this case the facts point the other way: generated things are seen always to be destroyed. Further, a thing whose present state had no beginning and which could not have been other than it was at any previous moment throughout its entire duration, cannot possibly be changed. For there will have to be some cause of change, and if this had been present earlier it would have made possible another condition of that to which any other condition was impossible. Suppose that the world was formed out of elements which were formerly otherwise conditioned than as they are now. Then (1) if their condition was always so and could not have been otherwise, the world could never have come into being. And (2) if the world did come into being, then, clearly, their condition must have been capable of change and not eternal: after combination therefore they will be dispersed, just as in the past after dispersion they came into combination, and this process either has been, or could have been, indefinitely repeated. But if this is so, the world cannot be indestructible, and it does not matter whether the change of condition has actually occurred or remains a possibility.

Some of those who hold that the world, though indestructible, was yet generated, try to support their case by a parallel which is illusory. They say that in their statements about its generation they are doing what geometricians do when they construct their figures, not implying that the universe really had a beginning, but for didactic reasons facilitating understanding by exhibiting the object, like the figure, as in course of formation. The two cases, as we said, are not parallel; for, in the construction of the figure, when the various steps are completed the required figure forthwith results; but in these other demonstrations what results is not that which was required. Indeed it cannot be so; for antecedent and consequent, as assumed, are in contradiction. The ordered, it is said, arose out of the unordered; and the same thing cannot be at the same time both ordered and unordered; there must be a process and a lapse of time separating the two states. In the figure, on the other hand, there is no temporal separation. It is clear then that the universe cannot be at once eternal and generated.

To say that the universe alternately combines and dissolves is no more paradoxical than to make it eternal but varying in shape. It is as if one were to think that there was now destruction and now existence when from a child a man is generated, and from a man a child. For it is clear that when the elements come together the result is not a chance system and combination, but the very same as before-especially on the view of those who hold this theory, since they say that the contrary is the cause of each state. So that if the totality of body, which is a continuum, is now in this order or disposition and now in that, and if the combination of the whole is a world or heaven, then it will not be the world that comes into being and is destroyed, but only its dispositions.

If the world is believed to be one, it is impossible to suppose that it should be, as a whole, first generated and then destroyed, never to reappear; since before it came into being there was always present the combination prior to it, and that, we hold, could never change if it was never generated. If, on the other hand, the worlds are infinite in number the view is more plausible. But whether this is, or is not, impossible will be clear from what follows. For there are some who think it possible both for the ungenerated to be destroyed and for the generated to persist undestroyed. (This is held in the Timaeus, where Plato says that the heaven, though it was generated, will none the less exist to eternity.) So far as the heaven is concerned we have answered this view with arguments appropriate to the nature of the heaven: on the general question we shall attain clearness when we examine the matter universally.

11

We must first distinguish the senses in which we use the words ‘ungenerated’ and ‘generated’, ‘destructible’ and ‘indestructible’. These have many meanings, and though it may make no difference to the argument, yet some confusion of mind must result from treating as uniform in its use a word which has several distinct applications. The character which is the ground of the predication will always remain obscure.

The word ‘ungenerated’ then is used (a) in one sense whenever something now is which formerly was not, no process of becoming or change being involved. Such is the case, according to some, with contact and motion, since there is no process of coming to be in contact or in motion. (b) It is used in another sense, when something which is capable of coming to be, with or without process, does not exist; such a thing is ungenerated in the sense that its generation is not a fact but a possibility. (c) It is also applied where there is general impossibility of any generation such that the thing now is which then was not. And ‘impossibility’ has two uses: first, where it is untrue to say that the thing can ever come into being, and secondly, where it cannot do so easily, quickly, or well. In the same way the word ‘generated’ is used, (a) first, where what formerly was not afterwards is, whether a process of becoming was or was not involved, so long as that which then was not, now is; (b) secondly, of anything capable of existing, ‘capable’ being defined with reference either to truth or to facility; (c) thirdly, of anything to which the passage from not being to being belongs, whether already actual, if its existence is due to a past process of becoming, or not yet actual but only possible. The uses of the words ‘destructible’ and ‘indestructible’ are similar. ‘Destructible’ is applied (a) to that which formerly was and afterwards either is not or might not be, whether a period of being destroyed and changed intervenes or not; and (b) sometimes we apply the word to that which a process of destruction may cause not to be; and also (c) in a third sense, to that which is easily destructible, to the ‘easily destroyed’, so to speak. Of the indestructible the same account holds good. It is either (a) that which now is and now is not, without any process of destruction, like contact, which without being destroyed afterwards is not, though formerly it was; or (b) that which is but might not be, or which will at some time not be, though it now is. For you exist now and so does the contact; yet both are destructible, because a time will come when it will not be true of you that you exist, nor of these things that they are in contact. Thirdly (c) in its most proper use, it is that which is, but is incapable of any destruction such that the thing which now is later ceases to be or might cease to be; or again, that which has not yet been destroyed, but in the future may cease to be. For indestructible is also used of that which is destroyed with difficulty.

This being so, we must ask what we mean by ‘possible’ and ‘impossible’. For in its most proper use the predicate ‘indestructible’ is given because it is impossible that the thing should be destroyed, i.e. exist at one time and not at another. And ‘ungenerated’ also involves impossibility when used for that which cannot be generated, in such fashion that, while formerly it was not, later it is. An instance is a commensurable diagonal. Now when we speak of a power to move or to lift weights, we refer always to the maximum. We speak, for instance, of a power to lift a hundred talents or walk a hundred stades-though a power to effect the maximum is also a power to effect any part of the maximum-since we feel obliged in defining the power to give the limit or maximum. A thing, then, which is within it. If, for example, a man can lift a hundred talents, he can also lift two, and if he can walk a hundred stades, he can also walk two. But the power is of the maximum, and a thing said, with reference to its maximum, to be incapable of so much is also incapable of any greater amount. It is, for instance, clear that a person who cannot walk a thousand stades will also be unable to walk a thousand and one. This point need not trouble us, for we may take it as settled that what is, in the strict sense, possible is determined by a limiting maximum. Now perhaps the objection might be raised that there is no necessity in this, since he who sees a stade need not see the smaller measures contained in it, while, on the contrary, he who can see a dot or hear a small sound will perceive what is greater. This, however, does not touch our argument. The maximum may be determined either in the power or in its object. The application of this is plain. Superior sight is sight of the smaller body, but superior speed is that of the greater body.

12

Having established these distinctions we car now proceed to the sequel. If there are thing! capable both of being and of not being, there must be some definite maximum time of their being and not being; a time, I mean, during which continued existence is possible to them and a time during which continued nonexistence is possible. And this is true in every category, whether the thing is, for example, ‘man’, or ‘white’, or ‘three cubits long’, or whatever it may be. For if the time is not definite in quantity, but longer than any that can be suggested and shorter than none, then it will be possible for one and the same thing to exist for infinite time and not to exist for another infinity. This, however, is impossible.

Let us take our start from this point. The impossible and the false have not the same significance. One use of ‘impossible’ and ‘possible’, and ‘false’ and ‘true’, is hypothetical. It is impossible, for instance, on a certain hypothesis that the triangle should have its angles equal to two right angles, and on another the diagonal is commensurable. But there are also things possible and impossible, false and true, absolutely. Now it is one thing to be absolutely false, and another thing to be absolutely impossible. To say that you are standing when you are not standing is to assert a falsehood, but not an impossibility. Similarly to say that a man who is playing the harp, but not singing, is singing, is to say what is false but not impossible. To say, however, that you are at once standing and sitting, or that the diagonal is commensurable, is to say what is not only false but also impossible. Thus it is not the same thing to make a false and to make an impossible hypothesis, and from the impossible hypothesis impossible results follow. A man has, it is true, the capacity at once of sitting and of standing, because when he possesses the one he also possesses the other; but it does not follow that he can at once sit and stand, only that at another time he can do the other also. But if a thing has for infinite time more than one capacity, another time is impossible and the times must coincide. Thus if a thing which exists for infinite time is destructible, it will have the capacity of not being. Now if it exists for infinite time let this capacity be actualized; and it will be in actuality at once existent and non-existent. Thus a false conclusion would follow because a false assumption was made, but if what was assumed had not been impossible its consequence would not have been impossible.

Anything then which always exists is absolutely imperishable. It is also ungenerated, since if it was generated it will have the power for some time of not being. For as that which formerly was, but now is not, or is capable at some future time of not being, is destructible, so that which is capable of formerly not having been is generated. But in the case of that which always is, there is no time for such a capacity of not being, whether the supposed time is finite or infinite; for its capacity of being must include the finite time since it covers infinite time.

It is therefore impossible that one and the same thing should be capable of always existing and of always not-existing. And ‘not always existing’, the contradictory, is also excluded. Thus it is impossible for a thing always to exist and yet to be destructible. Nor, similarly, can it be generated. For of two attributes if B cannot be present without A, the impossibility A of proves the impossibility of B. What always is, then, since it is incapable of ever not being, cannot possibly be generated. But since the contradictory of ‘that which is always capable of being’ ‘that which is not always capable of being’; while ‘that which is always capable of not being’ is the contrary, whose contradictory in turn is ‘that which is not always capable of not being’, it is necessary that the contradictories of both terms should be predicable of one and the same thing, and thus that, intermediate between what always is and what always is not, there should be that to which being and not-being are both possible; for the contradictory of each will at times be true of it unless it always exists. Hence that which not always is not will sometimes be and sometimes not be; and it is clear that this is true also of that which cannot always be but sometimes is and therefore sometimes is not. One thing, then, will have the power of being, and will thus be intermediate between the other two.

Expresed universally our argument is as follows. Let there be two attributes, A and B, not capable of being present in any one thing together, while either A or C and either B or D are capable of being present in everything. Then C and D must be predicated of everything of which neither A nor B is predicated. Let E lie between A and B; for that which is neither of two contraries is a mean between them. In E both C and D must be present, for either A or C is present everywhere and therefore in E. Since then A is impossible, C must be present, and the same argument holds of D.

Neither that which always is, therefore, nor that which always is not is either generated or destructible. And clearly whatever is generated or destructible is not eternal. If it were, it would be at once capable of always being and capable of not always being, but it has already been shown that this is impossible. Surely then whatever is ungenerated and in being must be eternal, and whatever is indestructible and in being must equally be so. (I use the words ‘ungenerated’ and ‘indestructible’ in their proper sense, ‘ungenerated’ for that which now is and could not at any previous time have been truly said not to be; ‘indestructible’ for that which now is and cannot at any future time be truly said not to be.) If, again, the two terms are coincident, if the ungenerated is indestructible, and the indestructible ungenearted, then each of them is coincident with ‘eternal’; anything ungenerated is eternal and anything indestructible is eternal. This is clear too from the definition of the terms, Whatever is destructible must be generated; for it is either ungenerated, or generated, but, if ungenerated, it is by hypothesis indestructible. Whatever, further, is generated must be destructible. For it is either destructible or indestructible, but, if indestructible, it is by hypothesis ungenerated.

If, however, ‘indestructible’ and ‘ungenerated’ are not coincident, there is no necessity that either the ungenerated or the indestructible should be eternal. But they must be coincident, for the following reasons. The terms ‘generated’ and ‘destructible’ are coincident; this is obvious from our former remarks, since between what always is and what always is not there is an intermediate which is neither, and that intermediate is the generated and destructible. For whatever is either of these is capable both of being and of not being for a definite time: in either case, I mean, there is a certain period of time during which the thing is and another during which it is not. Anything therefore which is generated or destructible must be intermediate. Now let A be that which always is and B that which always is not, C the generated, and D the destructible. Then C must be intermediate between A and B. For in their case there is no time in the direction of either limit, in which either A is not or B is. But for the generated there must be such a time either actually or potentially, though not for A and B in either way. C then will be, and also not be, for a limited length of time, and this is true also of D, the destructible. Therefore each is both generated and destructible. Therefore ‘generated’ and ‘destructible’ are coincident. Now let E stand for the ungenerated, F for the generated, G for the indestructible, and H for the destructible. As for F and H, it has been shown that they are coincident. But when terms stand to one another as these do, F and H coincident, E and F never predicated of the same thing but one or other of everything, and G and H likewise, then E and G must needs be coincident. For suppose that E is not coincident with G, then F will be, since either E or F is predictable of everything. But of that of which F is predicated H will be predicable also. H will then be coincident with G, but this we saw to be impossible. And the same argument shows that G is coincident with E.

Now the relation of the ungenerated (E) to the generated (F) is the same as that of the indestructible (G) to the destructible (H). To say then that there is no reason why anything should not be generated and yet indestructible or ungenerated and yet destroyed, to imagine that in the one case generation and in the other case destruction occurs once for all, is to destroy part of the data. For (1) everything is capable of acting or being acted upon, of being or not being, either for an infinite, or for a definitely limited space of time; and the infinite time is only a possible alternative because it is after a fashion defined, as a length of time which cannot be exceeded. But infinity in one direction is neither infinite or finite. (2) Further, why, after always existing, was the thing destroyed, why, after an infinity of not being, was it generated, at one moment rather than another? If every moment is alike and the moments are infinite in number, it is clear that a generated or destructible thing existed for an infinite time. It has therefore for an infinite time the capacity of not being (since the capacity of being and the capacity of not being will be present together), if destructible, in the time before destruction, if generated, in the time after generation. If then we assume the two capacities to be actualized, opposites will be present together. (3) Further, this second capacity will be present like the first at every moment, so that the thing will have for an infinite time the capacity both of being and of not being; but this has been shown to be impossible. (4) Again, if the capacity is present prior to the activity, it will be present for all time, even while the thing was as yet ungenerated and non-existent, throughout the infinite time in which it was capable of being generated. At that time, then, when it was not, at that same time it had the capacity of being, both of being then and of being thereafter, and therefore for an infinity of time.

It is clear also on other grounds that it is impossible that the destructible should not at some time be destroyed. For otherwise it will always be at once destructible and in actuality indestructible, so that it will be at the same time capable of always existing and of not always existing. Thus the destructible is at some time actually destroyed. The generable, similarly, has been generated, for it is capable of having been generated and thus also of not always existing.

We may also see in the following way how impossible it is either for a thing which is generated to be thenceforward indestructible, or for a thing which is ungenerated and has always hitherto existed to be destroyed. Nothing that is by chance can be indestructible or ungenerated, since the products of chance and fortune are opposed to what is, or comes to be, always or usually, while anything which exists for a time infinite either absolutely or in one direction, is in existence either always or usually. That which is by chance, then, is by nature such as to exist at one time and not at another. But in things of that character the contradictory states proceed from one and the same capacity, the matter of the thing being the cause equally of its existence and of its non-existence. Hence contradictories would be present together in actuality.

Further, it cannot truly be said of a thing now that it exists last year, nor could it be said last year that it exists now. It is therefore impossible for what once did not exist later to be eternal. For in its later state it will possess the capacity of not existing, only not of not existing at a time when it exists-since then it exists in actuality-but of not existing last year or in the past. Now suppose it to be in actuality what it is capable of being. It will then be true to say now that it does not exist last year. But this is impossible. No capacity relates to being in the past, but always to being in the present or future. It is the same with the notion of an eternity of existence followed later by non-existence. In the later state the capacity will be present for that which is not there in actuality. Actualize, then, the capacity. It will be true to say now that this exists last year or in the past generally.

Considerations also not general like these but proper to the subject show it to be impossible that what was formerly eternal should later be destroyed or that what formerly was not should later be eternal. Whatever is destructible or generated is always alterable. Now alteration is due to contraries, and the things which compose the natural body are the very same that destroy it.

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