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Physics translated by Joe Sachs

1 - Aristotle distinguishes what is clear by nature versus clear to us. Clear to us is what is clear in terms of how we come to understand the world, in the way that dog is known before animal, which is also messy and filled with many possible conceptual distinctions. What is clear by nature is what is clear in terms of logical structure, that is, in the way that after making distinctions, nature becomes more understandable.

2 - There can be one and many at the same time in terms of potential and actual.

3 - If being is caused by something, then the cause could not have been, because there was no something that was being. That is, in my wording, being would be caused ex nihilo.

What is not is not something in particular.

4 - To know something composite is to know how many things it is made of and what they are. 

If no animal is infinite, then its parts are always finite. My understanding is that being can't be infinite because if all substances are finite, then any parts will be finite as well.
5 - Opposites come into being from each other. 

A house doesn’t come into being absolutely from nothing whatever but from parts and materials. 

6 - Since two independent things can’t be derived from one another, there would need to be an underlying third thing.

7 - A statue comes from bronze, not that bronze becomes a statue, because it comes from something that persists. Education comes from uneducation no longer persisting. 

8 - Dogs come from dogs yet we don’t say that dogs come from animals, since animal persisted all along. The dog is animal incidentally, because animal is not a substance but a predicate in this case, which means apparently that the dog comes into being by the nature of the other dog. Animal is not a being itself, so it is not animal literally speaking that makes the dog come into being. 

It's no wonder then that Aristotle does not use simply a handful of animals to investigate how animals generate other animals. It is specific animals that bring about their offspring, not some broad form from beyond that literally brings the new dog into being.

Edited by Eiuol
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9 – There is something that things yearn and stretch toward by their nature, and this something is good. In this context, good doesn't seem to be a platonic "goodness" even remotely, but that good is thought of as having a definite nature such that reality is ordered and knowable. In a way it sounds like Aristotle doesn't use good as a moral concept, but anything that makes reality comprehendible. That is, it is a completely different concept than the concept we call "good" in English. I don't think he uses this concept in a moral context.

What a thing stretches toward is the form. But the form doesn’t long for itself. But these phrases are used metaphorically and Aristotle seems to have a difficult time finding the right words to describe his idea in this chapter. 

The form is potency to the degree that a thing needs to work for it to maintain its form and therefore exist. It is indestructible and ungenerable. The wording is still vague.

Book II

1 – Art, to the extent that it is art, has no innate impulse of change. This is because when skill is used to accomplish something, it is the person that is determining what the thing acts for the sake of.

Everything that has a nature is independent and persists through change. Aristotle says that fire doesn't have a nature, since it carries up, but this doesn't really make sense to me. Is he saying that fire is not independent because it is a component or part, so it is not fire itself that has a nature per se but the whole that it is part of? Or is he saying that fire is a type of characteristic, and that characteristics are never primary, so the nature of something is never found in its characteristics, but the characteristics in virtue of the thing itself?

What is potentially does not yet have its own nature until it takes on the look disclosed by speech. This seems to indicate that form is what gives rise to thinking of a concrete thing in conceptual terms, because how something looks as disclosed by speech is the same as saying a concept indicates how something would look and be. It's clear he doesn't think the form is a concept or that speech necessarily matches form, but whatever the pattern is, it will look like what speech points out or stands for.

2 – Form is in being from the beginning, but in art, people establish the form. 

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3 - Letters of syllables, parts of a whole, material of processed things, hypothesis of a conclusion. These are causes as that out of which. I think this is talking about material cause.
5 – Fortune applies to things regarding choice. Fortune is when something happens that wasn’t for the sake of something else, but it happens incidentally because of the choice, such as running into someone at the market who you were not planning to meet. 

Fortune is indefinite. It is not possible for fortune to be always and for the most part. Indefinite would not mean that there is no causality, but that there is no end fortune is moving towards. It is when entities happen to meet during their work, but it doesn't reach for anything. In a way, it is an incomplete action, and what is not complete or not on the way to completion can't be said to have a nature.

6 – Fortune only applies to what has the power to choose in advance. After all, what can choose in advance can act for the sake of something intentionally.

Nothing incidental is prior to things in virtue of themselves. So Aristotle is still saying that fortune has causes, and it is dependent on entities exhibiting a nature anyway.

7 – What causes motion by not having a source of motion in itself, does not belong to the study of nature. I think this is referring to geometry, so Aristotle is saying that whatever is going on in geometry is not a study of nature, in the sense that geometry is not about reality itself, but thinking about reality.

The form is an end and that for the sake of which. With this characterization, and the fact that Aristotle says form is most important, he seems to think of causality as a process that is pulled forward and oriented eternally towards the future, in contrast to how most people think of causality as what pushes things from behind and a process to trace backwards into the past. Form is that future direction, the future is what shapes how a thing develops.

8 – Why aren’t things done out of necessity and nothing else except the brute fact that it has to be this way? Why don’t things simply happen to co-occur? 

Edited by Eiuol
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8 - Aristotle suggests that art imitates nature. The difference is that nature brings about these things without intention. So he uses art as analogous to nature to make his points about motion clearer, probably because if nature really did produce houses, it would still look the same as a house and have the same form as one produced by art. Analyzing the nature of motion doesn't depend on anything more than the fact that something is moving, so we can abstract away many of the details of the particulars being moved.

It's absurd to say that we need to notice deliberation for things to act. I think Aristotle is simply pointing out that art imitates nature, rather than nature imitates art.

9 - Aristotle treats material as necessary for something to be, but a thing is the result of its function. It's not the material per se that explains why the thing exists the way it does.

A house is treated as natural as a way to make complicated points about form in a more clear way. If the house came about naturally, its function would still be shelter, and would exist for that reason, in the sense that its work and pattern is this function.

Book III

1 - Potential exists as motion. The way I understand this is that motion is always in the process of bringing something or some condition about. In a way, movement is always incomplete, because to the extent that something is at work, it is undergoing change towards what it has the potential to become.

2 - The movable being at work means that it is in motion. This is another way that motion, qua motion, is a potential. This is the way potential really does exist, and potential meant in a different way than how a chicken egg is a potential chicken. I would think that if the potential is to become actual, motion is necessary, so motion is the work of the potential within the actual. And by this reasoning not all potentials are in motion. But I'm not sure if Aristotle means that all potential exists as motion.

3 - The motion between two things is the same. 

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4 – People think of infinite in 5 ways. Time, division of magnitudes, coming to be and passing away not giving out, the limited always being limited, number going on forever in our thinking.

5 – If something is taken from the infinite, then the infinite is either divisible or indivisible into infinites. The infinite can't be made of multiple infinites. This would mean that the infinite is indivisable without parts. In this case, the infinite would have no quantity – but infinity needs to be a quantity!

If the infinite is heterogeneous, some of its places will be finite, and since body and place always match, the infinity will actually be finite. But I don't understand why I couldn't just say that these finite places are contained within the infinite. His reasoning is that a place is never larger than the body that it contains. My problem is that even then, the infinite could go off in one direction and be finite in the other direction, while the finite places and bodies could remain on the other side.

6 – Division can be infinite because you can continue splitting something up forever. But addition is finite because the thing has to be used up. You can't take a portion of a table and then add it to the same table in order to end up with more table.

7 – The infinite is a cause as material. That is, material is the stuff that something is actualized out of. The material is a potential, to be actualized with form. You can count infinitely, so infinity as material would be like you have the potential to count forever, but actually end up counting to a particular number. 

8 – Thinking is incidental to the facts. How we can imagine infinity doesn't tell the facts of infinity.

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9 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

I've heard a distinction drawn between infinite and unlimited.  Is this in Aristotle?

Not in those terms. 

Aristotle said that there are no infinite sensible bodies. There are no actual entities that are infinite. He also shows that there are no actual infinities even as far as the entire universe; the universe is not infinite.  

He distinguishes that kind of infinity from infinity as pertaining to a process that can go on forever but the process has boundaries at that point. So it's like counting but stopping at a number, or to use Aristotle's example, there are an infinite number of Olympics you could have, but there are a specific number right now.

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As far as motion in place, Aristotle should not be thought of as offering a strange and totally off base theory compared to modern physics. Rather, much of what he writes could work as fluid dynamics. Even assuming Newtonian physics, we can't disregard when objects move through mediums. If anything, Newton and Galileo underappreciated the notion of objects going through mediums. The way bodies according to Aristotle move to their natural place is similar to how objects of different density move differently in fluids. Aristotle was not wrong about physics in the sense that an astrologist is wrong about the stars influencing your life directly. He was wrong like Newton, in the sense that his theory didn't predict as much as he had hoped, in the same way Newton could not predict how subatomic particles move. In the world we live in, moving through air and water, Aristotle's observations and analysis are the right approach.

Rovelli, C. (2015). Aristotle’s Physics: A Physicist’s Look. https://doi.org/10.1017/apa.2014.11

Book IV

1 – Bodies are carried to their own place if not obstructed.

2 – Place is compared to a jar. So, to the extent that place is separate, it is not form; to the extent place contains, it is not material.

3 – A thing can not be within itself in the primary sense.

4 – The question of place only comes up because of the question of motion. We don't need to bother asking about places outside the context of motion, certainly not if the concept place is inductively dependent on motion.

The heavens have no place because nothing surrounds it; if it did have a place, something would be around it. All things are within the heavens.

Place is the limit of the limited.

6 – It might seem like that void is real because things contract or compress. By compressing, it might seem as if void is within the thing because void might seem like the reason it can go into itself.

7 – Things do not need to move by void, alteration is enough. A thing does not need to move into nothingness.

8 – Within the void, nothing is differentiated. Every direction is equally the same, every movement is to the same extent. In this sense void is not treated as simply a vacuum, but the complete absence of anything whatsoever of any particular nature. A true nothingness. At least a vacuum implies some nature of how things move through it.

Aristotle sees movement in place as always through a medium.

9 – Some people think that things can compress because they contain void.

Being smaller or larger, in the sense of being compressed or expanded, really has to do with material, not so much a movement in place. The material would have to do with the potential of something to be smaller or larger.

10 – Find the impasses deliberately. Aristotle likes to find ways to get stuck in reasoning, I would say as a way to question common sense assumptions that might otherwise be hard to notice.

Time is not composed of nows. Each successive now is destroyed. Time is like part of a circuit, but not a circuit itself. In these ways, now is not exactly a time.

11- Time is only perceived when there is motion so in this sense time must have something to do with motion. 

Time is a number of motion fitting along before and after. It is a number of motion as what has been counted, in the same way that 5 might be a number of particular horses in front of you.

Time is motion only insofar as motion has number.

The now is not time, in the same way that a point is not a line or part of a line. Instead, now is an attribute of time.

12 – Time is a measure of motion. Time is a number of change as being counted.

Things are in time just as things are in number. They are not within a literal time as a physical space, but within time because they belong to the concept time. Spacetime treats time as a space, but I suspect that the technical definition that Einstein used of time is different than what Aristotle used, not as an improved definition, but referring to something else.

14 – If there can't be a counter, there can't be anything counted. This might sound like primacy of consciousness, but Aristotle treats time as only a measurement. Time is not something primary, entities are primary, so its existence already depends on concrete things. Furthermore, motions must be measured - the resulting measurement, time, only exists after someone does the measuring. This whole chapter has a lot about measurement.

Time is like a circle because change of place can be uniform, circular motion is the most uniform, and all motions are measured by time.

Book V

1 – The form is not moved. It is motionless, as it is a state of being that things move towards, and does not itself exist independently.

Change from: 
      one subject to another = motion to contraries
      subject to what is not that subject = destruction
      from what is not a subject to the subject = coming into being.

2 – Motionless things are considered at the rest if they have the capacity to move.

There is no change of a change.

3 – The continuous has limits that touch, are the same, and hold together. This would be like a relay race.

4 – When something is continuous, and its ends are one, the motion is one.

5 – Things that do not have contraries, change from them is contrary to change to them. Coming into being has no contrary since that which doesn't exist can't itself change into a state of existence. But if change from existing into nonexisting is destruction, then doesn't coming into being have a contrary? Perhaps the question is about if there is a contrary that can become the thing that changed, in the way you can go from sick to healthy to sick again.

6 – Is rest a coming to a standstill?  Does movement by force or by nature affect this?

Book VI 

1 – The continuous is always divisible so what touches whole to whole is not continuous.

2 – Disproving Zeno. If the parts are finite, then passing through them is finite in time, if the part can measure the whole.

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3 – Nothing is moved in the now. 'Now' is like a moment that is frozen.

4 – Every changing thing is divisible by time, or the parts of the thing.

5 – First change is meant in two ways: completion, or beginning completion because it has a limit.
If only a part changed, the whole did not either.

6 – If something is changing, every part is changing. Each part of time is also changing. The beginning is infinitely divisible so there are infinite nows. Therefore, there is no first movement of a thing. This seems to suggest that as soon as something is generated, it is moving, so there can't be a time where it started because it always was moving since it existed.

7 – If motion is finite, then time is finite.

8 – There is no first magnitude, or first of anything continuous.
9 - Aristotle says that once you understand why Zeno is wrong, it would make you sick to deal with his paradoxes. He addresses the flying arrow, Hector chasing Achilles, and the stadium.

Is he saying that a singular thing is always changing?

10 – What has no parts cannot move. It only moves incidentally.

Book VII

1 - Motions of the mover and the moved happen at the same time. 

It doesn’t matter if something impossible follows from a hypothesis. When Aristotle says this, he seems to be saying that if we have a reason to come up with a hypothesis, we should not reject it if something impossible seems to follow.

2 – There are four changes of place: pulling, pushing, carrying, and whirling.
They all reduce to pushing and pulling. 

3 - Active states are not alterations. Active states are a result of something at work, not the result of something changing. Virtues, types of active states, are not alterations, they are a perfection. Perfection is a completion, so being in this state is not altering anything. Perfection is also relative to the thing in question, and relations are not alterations. These virtues are brought about from perceptible things altering perceptive parts.

Understanding is coming to rest of the thinking part and nothing comes into being already at rest. So, the thinking part can't come into existence with understanding already. This makes sense if we take understanding to be in the deepest sense as a kind of knowing that becomes intuitive and easy to see with little effort. Getting there takes time, and when you get there, it feels calming.

4 – We can call things different because they are not the same in any way, or one thing affects other thing differently.

5 - Just because A moves B does not mean half B moves half the distance. There might be a threshold. A group of men could move a ship, but one man will not move it at all.


2 – Why does it seem that motion shows up in things with souls? It does not necessarily always come from something self caused; individual parts can be moved by things besides the animal itself. An animal moves itself in respect to place. 

3 – To examine what you are better off than to need a reason is to judge badly what is worthy of belief. He says this of everything being at rest.

4 – Whenever what can act and what can be acted upon are together, the potential becomes at work.

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5 – Anything that moves itself cannot move itself as a whole. To cause motion in itself requires that it is caused by something motionless. Otherwise parts would move the whole and parts at the same time.

6 – There can only be one eternal first mover, which must be continuous.

7 – Change of place is the primary motion. What moves itself most authentically brings about this motion. Change of place belongs more to things that take up their nature more. This sounds like actualizing nature means to be active in a primary way especially, or at least that it is bounded together with something that is active in a primary way.

8 – Motion in a circle is from something itself to itself.

10 – Even if a thing could move continuously without something pushing it again and again, the motion will be consecutive rather than one.

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