Simple English Aristotle, Physics Book 1, Chapter 4

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Simple English Aristotle

Physicists mainly choose between two ideas. The first party assume there is one underlying substance, as water, fire, air or another, and derive everything from that. They claim multiplicity comes from condensation or rarefaction.

The second party agree to the underlying substance, but they claim it consists of contraries, and variety emerges by separation, thus “What is, is One and Many”.{6}

“Empedocles supposes the course of Nature to return upon itself, coming round again periodically to its starting point”, ■→Wicksteed and Cornford, page 43.

Both parties believe that things appear different and receive different names owing to the character and amount of their constituent particles. Nothing is purely and entirely white or black or sweet; everything is a mixture of particles where some prevail. Contraries proceed one from another (as vapor coming from boiling water), and substances preexist, sometimes imperceptibly, as small particles.

Aristotle:
(1) We cannot get to know an object of thought, if we do not get to know what regularities make it, their number, multitude, or size (quantity), as well as character or kind (quality). It is when we know the component quality and quantity that we may suppose we know the complex.

(2) If the components, that is, parts that are actually present in the entirety, may be of indefinite size, the entirety may be of indefinite size. To human experience, neither animate nor inanimate forms happen to be indefinitely big or small. The proportion between part and entirety is a factor.

(3) If we sifted a “physical order”{7} out of a body of water, extracts would be smaller and smaller, until the water would have only the minimum proportion. Then, extraction would be arrested, and the water might not contain the particular structure or entity anymore.

(4) From a minimum physical order or body, none might be extracted.{8}

(5) There is a “physical order” in animate forms, as for the muscles, blood, and brain, and features can be inherited, but not all. There is no extraction to single out “white and hygienic”, λευκὸν καὶ ὑγιεινὸν.{9}

Animate structuring is not as with bricks that come from a house, or a house that comes from bricks; yet there must be a finite number of principles to make an individual.

■→This text is also available in Polish.

Notes

{6} The translation uses the word many as more than one. In the sense, two could be many.

{7} The Greek text has the noun ■→σάρξ (sarx), which has happened to be translated as flesh, it yet has meant since ancient times a physical state, structure, or order of things, as in the ■→Perseus word study tool.

{8} We may refer to salt production, the partial vacuum method and crystallization from brine. Filtering would be ἐκ σαρκὸς ὕδωρ, and evaporation σὰρξ ἐξ ὕδατος. Salt is white, observably structured in crystalline form, and continues to be associated with hygiene. Aristotle considered methods for obtaining salt and fresh water also in his Problems and Meteorology.

{9} We may refer to donkey keeping in ancient Greece. Donkeys are more difficult than horses to bathe; white donkeys would be extremely rare (I have not seen one even over the Internet), unlike clean white kittens.


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Świat może i nigdy nie widział jej oryginalnego pisma, jeśli jej umiejętność została wzięta za nadnaturalną. Zapraszam do Wierszy Emilii Dickinson w przekładzie Teresy Pelka: zwrotka tematyczna, notki o inspiracji greką i łaciną, korelacie z Websterem 1828 oraz wątku arystotelesowskim, Rzecz perpetualna — ta nie zasadza się na czasie, ale na wieczności.

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