Physics Book I

There are no autographs of Aristotle’s works remaining. All we have today is copies and translations.


If we compare translations, we can see the remaining material has required balancing probability, on word sense and form.


CORPUS ARISTOTELICUM shows that many copies can be doubted on authenticity. The works have been forged, as well as redacted, and that already since Antiquity.


False copies still brought money. Redaction might have been for fear the author could have enclosed formulas, as how to alter water or air, which would have been dangerous in hostile hands.


Well, even if to suspect Aristotle’s Physics of having inspired heavy water (FOOTNOTE), the original context looks water filtering or desalinating, and after all, if someone misuses aspirin, we do not blame aspirin.


The Simple English presentation here refers to a Greek transcript with Wikisource.

Φυσικής Ακροάσεως


It compares a Latin edition by
Ambrosio Firmis Didot

Translations by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye
The Works of Aristotle, W.D. Ross (Ed.)
first print 1930, US public domain

Full text:

P.H. Wicksteed and F. M. Cornford
Physics, Volume I
first print 1929, US public domain

Full text:


For work with an ancient and incomplete text, we may compare C. W. Ceram’s descripion on JEAN FRANCOIS CHAMPOLLION.

Gods, Graves & Scholars: The Story of Archaeology




When we notice regularities about matters of our focus, we study those regularities, to have knowledge of the matters. We can have regularities for principles or, to think about American English as it is today, factors, as in a state or process.


We can have a basic regularity for a first principle
or a constitutive factor.[1]


Our method should be to begin with what we already know, even if our knowledge is sophisticated, and to work towards a truth we can find in nature.


We need to be selective, to observe how the particular relates to the general, much like when we relate persons, things, or other objects of our thought[2] and their names.


We need to decide, if we want to find (a) the one and only constitutive factor or regularity, or we allow for (b) more than one.


For the one and only regularity, we agree if it (i) never should allow change, as Parmenides and Melissus wanted, or if it (ii) might permit variance, as physicists prefer.


For more than one regularity, our set can be (i) finite or (ii) infinite. A (i) finite set would have two, three, or some other, specified number of regularities.


We do not tell how many, if our set for regularities is (ii) infinite, as Democritus held it should be; we yet may describe on regularity kind, shape, and form.


“An existent” can be our name for an object that exists. If we ask about existents, we ask in fact if there is one or more than one factor, for a context or set.


Existents need to be. We could make a gerund of the verb to be and ask, if being might be something we describe with one factor, and without allowance for change, as postulated by Melissus and Parmenides.


However, there is no being without an object that be. Regularities or factors all need objects, to apply.


Physicists agree that all is in a state that can change; and whether we take substance,[3] quantity,[4] and quality[5] separately or not, there always will be more than one factor to being.


To say that being is infinite, as Melissus did, is to say that being needs an idea of quantity, as does any definition of the infinite (as well as finite).


There would be at least two factors to being then: substance and quantity; and never only one.


The words “one” and “being” are used in many senses. To analyze the phrase All is one, we consider word sense.


The word “one” may mean something
(a) continuous,
(b) indivisible,
or it may mean
(c) things of the same essence, as ‘liquid’ and ‘drink’.[6]


In the sense of something (a) continuous, the One would be More than one,[7] as we could divide a continuum endlessly (ad infinitum), substance and quantity to be our factors.


For the sense of something (b) indivisible, there has been some difficulty over the part and the whole: if they relate by one or more than one factor.


Simply to consider One as something (b) indivisible, we would have to consider its limit or border on the divisible physical reality we perceive, and we always hold limits for indivisible, to delineate on something divisible.


An indivisible One would have neither quantity nor quality; it could not be infinite, as Melissus claimed, or limited, as Parmenides said, because then it would have to be divisible (analyzable).[8]


If we have things for One based on (c) part the same definition, we would be supporting the Heraclitean teaching, and the same thing might be ‘good’, ‘bad’, as well as ‘not good’ at the same time.


The way we describe on objects does not decide on principles. Whether we say a man ‘walks’ or ‘is walking’, the true principle, regularity, or factor is that he is a man who can walk.


Whether we say a man is ‘clever’ and ‘musical’, or ‘clever’ and ‘dexterous’, he remains the same man of potentially one factor we highlight for a context, as when we talk about a musician, or someone who has repaired a thing.


A philosopher’s pursuit is to think on the objective reality, not to follow on descriptions or highlights.


“The more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered”, Thomas Paine.

BOOK I | Part 3
Melissus divides on matters saying, ‘what has come into being always has a beginning’, and thus ‘what has not come into being has no beginning’.


It is yet absurd to surmise there always has to be a beginning to an object of thought, or that we always take such a factor.


Further, being cannot be of only one factor in form, however physicists may agree, and happen to take what being is made of (the substance) for one factor, in a process.


This yet does not justify Parmenides, in his trying to define being by only one factor. To take white objects, ‘whiteness’ will not be the same as ‘what has whiteness’, and yet they will not exist apart.


It must be, being means the same to Parmenides, no matter what object of thought there to be, and Parmenides refers being to (1) what just is and (2) what is just one.


If we yet (1) speak with an attribute, so that the subject to which being is attributed will not be (e.g. in the grammatical negative, as if we say there is no dry water; TPELKA), we make an object of thought, and that object exists as a thought.


If we always required substance for an object of thought, we would have to hold ‘white’ on its own, without a physical object, for ‘not-being’.


Otherwise, we would have to hold the quality ‘white’ for substance ‘white’. Gradation yet belongs with qualities (we do not say, ‘this wood is wood more than that wood’, and we can say something is ‘whiter’; TPELKA).


{The philosophical substance would often mean physical matter, in standard American English today; we may prefer to keep the philosophical term for talk about thinking: ability to make a wheel cannot require physically a wheel in one’s head; on the other hand, an idea philosophically ‘of substance’ is one that works. TPELKA}


(2) We always can analyze (‘divide’) substance. A ‘human being’ can be an ‘animate life form’ and a ‘biped’. Otherwise, we would not have dictionary definitions.


(a) An attribute may be separable from the subject, as ‘sitting’ when it refers to a ‘human being’. An attribute also may share part the definition with the subject, as ‘snub’ in referring mostly to ‘noses’.


We cannot reverse the roles between the definiendum (that which is defined) and the definiens (that which defines), as not all people would be sitting, and not all noses would be snub.


(b) However, attributes do not make the subject they may define, as not all definitions are permanent in reference. We can define our view is to a ‘two-footed life form’, but we may look to a life form different from human, as well. On this ground, we can say substance never is an attribute.


Could we say, then, that All is composed of indivisible substances?


Some thinkers have agreed that not-being also is, and thus All is One, as being is the only factor.


They added a concept for smallest and indivisible (atomic) magnitudes, in gradation.


{The Greek atomos meant “undivided, uncut”, please see the PERSEUS WORD STUDY TOOL. Uses to refer to weapons are much later.}


If we say something is not, we do not assert it never will be. We also do not assert it is, as the same thing never means its contradiction at the same time.


Just as we tell being by objects that be, we tell not-being by objects that be not (orig. ‘particular not-being’).


Being itself, without regard to time and the negative or affirmative, would be another philosophical substance, but not without qualification (attribute and definition). Clearly, being cannot exist by one factor (‘be one by itself’).


Physicists mainly chose between two ideas, to explain. The first party assumed there was one underlying body, of either water, or fire, or air, or another substance, and derived everything from that. They claimed multiplicity came from condensation and rarefaction, which were known as contraries or ‘excess and defect’.


The second party claimed the underlying body contained the contraries, and variety emerged by separation. Anaximander, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras believed in separation, and asserted that ‘What is, is One and Many’ (More than one).


Anaxagoras posited his homochimerous substances were infinite in multitude; and according to him, change came in series. Empedocles remained by the elements, and imagined change in feedback cycles.


{Ancients believed in five basic elements, earth, water, air, fire, and aether, WIKIPEDIA.


“Empedocles supposes the course of Nature to return upon itself, coming round again periodically to its starting point”, translation by WICKSTEED AND CORNFORD, PAGE 43.}


Anaxagoras believed in innumerable regularities, and accorded with the popular concept that a thing that came into being was a change in quality, as nothing came into being from not-being.


It was also for contraries proceeding from one another (as vapor coming from boiling water) that he believed substances pre-existed in one another, some imperceptibly, as small particles.


{Aristotle related four elements and human perception, in “Generation and Corruption”. Fire was both hot and dry, air was both hot and wet, water was both cold and wet, and earth was both cold and dry. Fire was the contrary of earth, and water was the contrary of air, WIKIPEDIA.}


Both parties believed that things appeared different and received different names owing to the nature and amount of the constituent particles. Nothing was purely and entirely white or black or sweet; everything was a mixture of particles where some prevailed.


(1) We cannot get to know a thing, if the regularities that make it are infinite to us in number, multitude, or size (quantity), as well as nature or kind (quality).


{To compare language, it is infinite in regard of all possible structures and forms. Our own lexicons yet are well known to us, however they can become bigger and thus they remain infinite, and grammar usually makes a finite logical set; TPELKA}


It is when we know the nature and quantity of its components that we suppose we know a complex.


{Complex: an entirety made of interrelated parts; compare ‘vitamin B complex’. The use has no reference to Freudist theories.}


(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. Since neither animate nor inanimate forms cannot be indefinitely big or small, neither can be their parts. There needs to be a definite proportion between the part and the entirety, that is, the proportion is a factor.


(3) If we sifted a molecular structure (“a physical order”) out of a body of water, successive extracts would diminish until they would attain the capacity of the minimum proportion. Then, extraction would become arrested, and the water might not contain a particular molecule anymore.


(4) From a minimum physical structure, no other structure might be extracted.


The Greek text has the noun σάρξ (sarx), which has happened to be translated as flesh, it yet also has meant, since ancient times, a physical structure (‘order of things’), see the PERSEUS WORD STUDY TOOL.


Flesh as such would require a DNA, and this is not reducible to hydrogen and oxygen, the components of water, H2O, or NaClH2O, salt water.
Spontaneous amino acid formation was scientifically affirmed in the Miller-Urey experiment, it yet requires also other elements.

To interpret Aristotle, we may refer to history of salt production, already in Antiquity to have used partial vacuum, beside CRYSTALLIZATION from brine, WIKIPEDIA. Aristotle pondered over a way to desalinate sea water also in his other works (Problems, Meteorology). For modern times, we can compare HEAVY WATER, which is an isotope-substituted compound.


Fresh water and salt, separately, were extremely precious in Antiquity, and sea water clearly might provide both, via filtering or evaporation (ἐκ σαρκὸς ὕδωρ ἐκκρινόμενον καὶ σὰρξ ἐξ ὕδατος).


To comprehend the Greek, we may think what there is to stay in our hands: ἐκ σαρκὸς ὕδωρ, we keep the water, after filtering; σὰρξ ἐξ ὕδατος, we keep the salt, after evaporation.


Salt is white, observably structured in crystalline form, and continues to be associated with hygiene. The association occurs in passage (5).


(5) On the contrary, there is a physical structuring (“order of things”) in animate forms, as for the flesh, blood, and brain, and features can be inherited, but there is no extraction to single out ‘white’ or ‘clean’ (λευκὸν καὶ ὑγιεινὸν).


{We may refer to the history of donkey keeping in ancient Greece: WIKIPEDIA, and genetics, WIKIPEDIA. White donkeys would still be extremely rare (I have not seen even one), and they take training, to bathe; the training is not a feature that could be inherited.}


The sense for animate structuring is not as with bricks that come ‘from’ a house or a house ‘from’ bricks, yet for a finite number of principles to make an individual.


All thinkers to say All is One and changeless, agree to contraries as first principles: Parmenides for hot and cold, under element names fire and earth; for rarefaction and density, Democritus professes plenum and void, as being and not-being.


The contraries may be first principles as qualities. As substance or elements, they can be generated as well as serve generation of new states or conditions, also in form, as fire and earth.


First principles (constitutive factors) must not be derived from one another, or from anything else. Primary qualities meet the requirement.


First principles cannot act randomly, as factors; the course needs to be ‘destined’, that is, directional. Otherwise, they would not have regularity.


Primary contraries have values “in the middle” (μεταξύ) in which one contrary may begin turning into another; there is a point at which warmth (hot) begins to turn into cold, or cold into hot.


The Centigrade median is the freezing point of water, 0 Centigrade. The Fahrenheit median (zero degrees, from which to measure plus or minus) is about -18 Centigrade.


Qualities other than primary do not have the median values. Color white may come in gradients, but it does not change or transform into color black. We use musical intervals to compose and play, but people are not ‘muscial’ or ‘unmusical’ in any way we might scale with a point zero, as we can for temperature.


For the passage in Greek, we can read about river Manavgat (Μέλας in ancient times, MELAS; its reed was used to produce flutes. The word μέλας meant ‘dark’ or ‘black’. We also may compare Cycladic figurines in white marble, mostly of musicians or persons standing with their feet together, see WIKIPEDIA.


οὐδὲ δὴ φθείρεται εἰς τὸ τυχὸν πρῶτον, οἷον τὸ λευκὸν οὐκ εἰς τὸ μουσικόν, πλὴν εἰ μή ποτε κατὰ συμβεβηκός, ἀλλ’ εἰς τὸ μὴ λευκόν, καὶ οὐκ εἰς τὸ τυχὸν ἀλλ’ εἰς τὸ μέλαν ἢ τὸ μεταξύ ὡς δ’ αὔτως καὶ τὸ μουσικὸν εἰς τὸ μὴ μουσικόν, καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ εἰς τὸ τυχὸν ἀλλ’ εἰς τὸ ἄμουσον ἢ εἴ τι αὐτῶν ἐστι μεταξύ.

WIKISOURCE, Βιβλίο 1, Κεφάλαιο 5;


Our approach should be as for fragmented and redacted content. Translations are divergent and descriptive here. Wicksteed further elaborates even into “anything that is articulated must rise out of something from which that particular articulation is absent”, a non-existent theory or doctrine on language, which does not have ground in the Greek, the English translation by Hardie and Gaye, Didot, the German translation by Christian Hermann Weiße, the French paraphrase by Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire, or the Russian translation by B.P. Karpov.
Evidently, the theory or doctrine is Mr. Wicksteed’s mistranslation.


The way to create an existent in substance is basically twofold: by separation or conjunction. We mostly combine the two, as for a house, or a figurine of a musical man. We first isolate the material as we find fit, and then shape it to a form we set by own reckoning.


These arrangements also do not have median values.

(Work in progress)



[1] Constitutive factor: a material feature or another determinant that makes something or someone what or who they are; Latin FACERE. The ancient idea for a factor or principle is that only regularity in behavior, condition, or application can let tell if we view an object of thought for substance, quality, or quantity, one of the three constitutive factors, which follows.


[2] Object of thought, object in short: a person, thing, animal, phenomenon, regard, idea, etc. we think about; used to avoid enumerating on possible objects of thought.


[3] Substance: the physical matter or the defining characteristic of an object of thought; one of the three constitutive factors in Greek philosophy. With regard to parts of speech, we express substance with nouns.


[4] Quantity: number, amount, an idea to invoke units of measurement. If we say something is uncountable or infinite, we still refer to the idea of measurement: we say something is without measurement. Quantity is one of the three constitutive factors in Greek philosophy. With regard to parts of speech, we relate quantity to numerals.


[5] Quality: sort, character; one of the three constitutive factors in Greek philosophy. With regard to parts of speech, we relate quality to adjectives.


[6] REFERENCE TO ALCOHOL is non-essential.


[7] The translation uses the word many in the sense of more than one; the use is yet non-standard, nowadays.


[7] A context in which to consider the limit itself for a delimited and thus divisible matter might be called an aporia.


We may compare the ancient scorched-earth tactics, WIKPEDIA.