Physics, Book I, Part 7

the-school-of-athens
“The School of Athens”, Raphael Sanzio, 1509-1511.

Part 7

We will now give our own account, approaching the question first with reference to becoming in its widest sense: for we shall be following the natural order of inquiry if we speak first of common characteristics, and then investigate the characteristics of special cases.

We say that one thing comes to be from another thing, and one sort of thing from another sort of thing, both in the case of simple and of complex things. I mean the following. We can say (1) ‘man becomes musical’, (2) what is ‘not-musical becomes musical’, or (3), the ‘not-musical man becomes a musical man’. Now what becomes in (1) and (2)-‘man’ and ‘not musical’-I call simple, and what each becomes-‘musical’-simple also. But when (3) we say the ‘not-musical man becomes a musical man’, both what becomes and what it becomes are complex.

As regards one of these simple ‘things that become’ we say not only ‘this becomes so-and-so’, but also ‘from being this, comes to be so-and-so’, as ‘from being not-musical comes to be musical’; as regards the other we do not say this in all cases, as we do not say (1) ‘from being a man he came to be musical’ but only ‘the man became musical’.

When a ‘simple’ thing is said to become something, in one case (1) it survives through the process, in the other (2) it does not. For man remains a man and is such even when he becomes musical, whereas what is not musical or is unmusical does not continue to exist, either simply or combined with the subject.

These distinctions drawn, one can gather from surveying the various cases of becoming in the way we are describing that, as we say, there must always be an underlying something, namely that which becomes, and that this, though always one numerically, in form at least is not one. (By that I mean that it can be described in different ways.) For ‘to be man’ is not the same as ‘to be unmusical’. One part survives, the other does not: what is not an opposite survives (for ‘man’ survives), but ‘not-musical’ or ‘unmusical’ does not survive, nor does the compound of the two, namely ‘unmusical man’.

We speak of ‘becoming that from this’ instead of ‘this becoming that’ more in the case of what does not survive the change-‘becoming musical from unmusical’, not ‘from man’-but there are exceptions, as we sometimes use the latter form of expression even of what survives; we speak of ‘a statue coming to be from bronze’, not of the ‘bronze becoming a statue’. The change, however, from an opposite which does not survive is described indifferently in both ways, ‘becoming that from this’ or ‘this becoming that’. We say both that ‘the unmusical becomes musical’, and that ‘from unmusical he becomes musical’. And so both forms are used of the complex, ‘becoming a musical man from an unmusical man’, and unmusical man becoming a musical man’.

But there are different senses of ‘coming to be’. In some cases we do not use the expression ‘come to be’, but ‘come to be so-and-so’. Only substances are said to ‘come to be’ in the unqualified sense.

Now in all cases other than substance it is plain that there must be some subject, namely, that which becomes. For we know that when a thing comes to be of such a quantity or quality or in such a relation, time, or place, a subject is always presupposed, since substance alone is not predicated of another subject, but everything else of substance.

But that substances too, and anything else that can be said ‘to be’ without qualification, come to be from some substratum, will appear on examination. For we find in every case something that underlies from which proceeds that which comes to be; for instance, animals and plants from seed.

Generally things which come to be, come to be in different ways: (1) by change of shape, as a statue; (2) by addition, as things which grow; (3) by taking away, as the Hermes from the stone; (4) by putting together, as a house; (5) by alteration, as things which ‘turn’ in respect of their material substance.

It is plain that these are all cases of coming to be from a substratum.

Thus, clearly, from what has been said, whatever comes to be is always complex. There is, on the one hand, (a) something which comes into existence, and again (b) something which becomes that-the latter (b) in two senses, either the subject or the opposite. By the ‘opposite’ I mean the ‘unmusical’, by the ‘subject’ ‘man’, and similarly I call the absence of shape or form or order the ‘opposite’, and the bronze or stone or gold the ‘subject’.

Plainly then, if there are conditions and principles which constitute natural objects and from which they primarily are or have come to be-have come to be, I mean, what each is said to be in its essential nature, not what each is in respect of a concomitant attribute-plainly, I say, everything comes to be from both subject and form. For ‘musical man’ is composed (in a way) of ‘man’ and ‘musical’: you can analyse it into the definitions of its elements. It is clear then that what comes to be will come to be from these elements.

Now the subject is one numerically, though it is two in form. (For it is the man, the gold-the ‘matter’ generally-that is counted, for it is more of the nature of a ‘this’, and what comes to be does not come from it in virtue of a concomitant attribute; the privation, on the other hand, and the contrary are incidental in the process.) And the positive form is one-the order, the acquired art of music, or any similar predicate.

There is a sense, therefore, in which we must declare the principles to be two, and a sense in which they are three; a sense in which the contraries are the principles-say for example the musical and the unmusical, the hot and the cold, the tuned and the untuned-and a sense in which they are not, since it is impossible for the contraries to be acted on by each other. But this difficulty also is solved by the fact that the substratum is different from the contraries, for it is itself not a contrary. The principles therefore are, in a way, not more in number than the contraries, but as it were two, nor yet precisely two, since there is a difference of essential nature, but three. For ‘to be man’ is different from ‘to be unmusical’, and ‘to be unformed’ from ‘to be bronze’.

We have now stated the number of the principles of natural objects which are subject to generation, and how the number is reached: and it is clear that there must be a substratum for the contraries, and that the contraries must be two. (Yet in another way of putting it this is not necessary, as one of the contraries will serve to effect the change by its successive absence and presence.)

The underlying nature is an object of scientific knowledge, by an analogy. For as the bronze is to the statue, the wood to the bed, or the matter and the formless before receiving form to any thing which has form, so is the underlying nature to substance, i.e. the ‘this’ or existent.

This then is one principle (though not one or existent in the same sense as the ‘this’), and the definition was one as we agreed; then further there is its contrary, the privation. In what sense these are two, and in what sense more, has been stated above. Briefly, we explained first that only the contraries were principles, and later that a substratum was indispensable, and that the principles were three; our last statement has elucidated the difference between the contraries, the mutual relation of the principles, and the nature of the substratum. Whether the form or the substratum is the essential nature of a physical object is not yet clear. But that the principles are three, and in what sense, and the way in which each is a principle, is clear.

So much then for the question of the number and the nature of the principles.

http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/physics.1.i.html

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