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Cosmology (The Heavens, Generation and Corruption, Meteorology)


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Even though cosmology isn't a title used normally for these works, I'm using it to convey that these works are scientific theories (by Aristotle's definition of science) about how the cosmos works.

The Heavens translated by J. L. Stocks

Book I

1 - Anything divisible in 3 dimensions is divisible in all dimensions. 3 things are also what makes 'all' a relevant idea, because otherwise 2 things is simply 'both'. 

2 - Up and down are contraries of each other, but there is no movement contrary to circular movement. Since the elements move either up or down, their contrary movements would not be circular. So, circular movement would be the natural movement of some other kind of body.

4 - There are an infinite number of paths along a circle that pass through the same 2 points.

5 - The body that moves in a circle is not infinite but has a limit.

7 - The infinite cannot be acted upon or act on other things. If the lesser takes longer to act on the greater, then the lesser would need infinite time to act on the greatest. The infinite cannot interact with anything either.

9 - Aristotle explains how there can only be one heaven, that is, there is only one world that contains everything. It's explained in the sense that the world of forms doesn't exist. The universe is a particular and material thing because it is perceivable.

Every body within the world is perceivable. There is no body outside the world. Because of all this, there is only one world. The world already contains all that there is.

12 - If a thing that exists for infinite time is, it at once exists and does not. If time were not definite, there would be neither a shortest nor longest time. Since it exists for infinite time, we can assume it to be actualized the entire span as destroyed. But also existing. Therefore, it is impossible for something that exists forever to be destructible.

Book II

1 - Heaven is unaffected by mortal discomfort and it is effortless. There is nothing to prevent it from moving according to its own nature. Because of the impossibility of a soul existing painlessly in this condition, it is not a soul that makes the heavens eternal; it is why it must be devoid of all rational satisfaction.

2 - Aristotle says that the heaven is animate, but he just said that it has no soul? Either there is something funny with the translation or it is supposed to be about internally directed movements but not a soul per se, like those of a robot.

Edited by Eiuol
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4 - The sphere is primary because it is undivided as not possessing more than one surface. The first figure belongs to the first body, which is at the furthest circumference. The body therefore is spherical and has circular movement.

5 - Aristotle briefly mentions the value of looking for probable solutions in the face of difficult problems.

6 - The motion of heaven can't be irregular. Aristotle says that if it could, then we would see that in some parts. His reasoning is that we don't see changes in the intervals of stars. We now know this is false of course.

8 - Aristotle refers to circles and stars, but I'm not sure what he means circles are. Are they supposed to be circumferences of circles within heaven as a circle?

11 - Spheres are not well adapted for movement in terms of moving themselves, so things that don't move themselves would have spherical shapes. Although he really only explains that stars don't move themselves, but this may simply be based on the view that spheres are indivisible and things that move themselves need at least 2 parts.

12 - The first heaven finds its final end immediately with a single movement, while things further away reach their final end after more movements.

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13 and 14 - Aristotle discusses how the world is not flat.

Book III

1 - Natural bodies are the elements, and they all have weight, so in this sense, Aristotle says that these basic constituents of the world are all concrete. Something with weight cannot consist of parts without weight because the parts would not have a way to specify the manner that the parts produce weight.

2 - Infinite causes for the movement of a body would mean infinite variety of motions. This would be disorderly. But finite causes lead to natural movement, and the nature of something is the nature it has most time. To say that disorder goes on infinitely is therefore absurd.

5 - If elements are distinguished by size, things consisting of parts made of that element would have a ratio to other elements. But smaller things are contained within greater things. They would not all be elements. Aristotle says that things like this are errors.

6 - Something can't be put together infinitely then taken apart infinitely across time, because these are mutually exclusive infinites.

7 – Aristotle criticizes those who force the data into a theory and accept any consequence.

The elements cannot really be distinguished by shape, because the shape can always be divided up to some point, like from rectangle to triangle. In this case, that would mean there are fewer than 4 elements, but there are at least 4.

8 – Elements should be distinguished by the important differences of property, function, and capacity.

Book IV

Most of this book deals with things that are absolutely heavy or light. That is, heavy or light in terms of a property rather than a relation. It's not very useful but it does reveal that Aristotle thinks of this in terms of fluid dynamics as we would describe it today. He roughly describes density as a relevant cause. The shape of bodies impacts how things move up or down, like a plank on water.

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Generation and Corruption translated by H. H. Joachim

Book I

1 - Those who think that there is an underlying One must maintain that all coming-to-be is alteration, because everything is singular anyway. The singular thing is what changes.

Those who say that there is more than one ultimate kind, alteration is distinct from coming-to-be. This would be because some things come together or go apart.

2 - Those who dwell in close association with nature and its phenomena are better able to formulate the foundations of their theories, and their principles admit of wide development.

Suppose that you divide something until I can no longer be divided, so that the underlying thing is all that remains. This would mean that this thing has no magnitude, and would be a point. Or this would mean that the thing is no body, and would be a nothing. In both cases they can't be put together and make something come-to-be.

3 - Unqualified coming-to-be applies to substances. Qualified coming-to-be applies to qualities.

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4 – Alteration is when the underlying thing remains but a property changes.

5 – Matter cannot be separate from magnitude. If it was, it would lack either place, or concrete existence. And it cannot exist within a body as its own separate form of existence, because then there would be infinite matters within the body.

7 – If A and B are like each other in all respects without difference, then there is no reason to think that one should act on the other any more than the other.

If A and B are different from each other in every respect and not identical in any way, then there is no reason to think that one could be affected by the other. It would be as if saying white could affect line.

The proper relationship should involve contraries. The 2 things must be similar in genus but different in species.

Active power is that from which a process originates. The end for the sake of which the process takes place is not active. A state is when apparently the active power brings about an end. In a sense then, a state is a form.

10 - We don't say wood combines with fire, food with body, shape with wax, or properties with things. Combination should involve things that have separate existence. Compounds might be different than the constituents, but the constituents may remain potentially. Their power of action is preserved.

Combination should not depend on every part being side-by-side because this makes perceptual acuity the standard of something being a combination.

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Book II

1 – Matter is always bound up with a contrary. Hot and cold share the same matter.

4 – The coming-to-be of the elements is cyclical. For example, Fire + water results in earth + air.

5 - Matter is not perceivable and it is the intermediate between extremes, or contraries in this case.

6 – Aristotle says that the excellence and good of each thing that comes about by nature (as compared to fortune) is its nature. The cause of these things is their determinate condition.

If something is compounded out of elements, such as fire, what does the soul consist of? If the soul was made out of fire, then it would change only in a physical way. But that doesn't explain memory or gaining skills.

7 – It seems that Aristotle says that through the mean, contraries turn into each other.

9 – It is art, not wood, that makes a bed. The form is the essential nature, and it is an end - as a figure or form that expresses a formula of essential nature. Matter is moved, form moves.

10 – Coming-to-be and passing-away can both happen cyclically and forever because movement on a circle will approach and then retreat. All things in nature strive for the best, and since not all things exist eternally, the next best thing is perpetual coming-to-be. This sense of striving for the best sounds to me like Aristotle is saying that the nature of anything is to exist in its fullest extent and its fullest work.

11 – If something will come-to-be absolutely and necessarily, then it is always coming-to-be, in the sense that it can't possibly not-be. So if the existence of something is necessary, then it is eternal. This must be cyclical because this process be unlimited, and the relationship of necessity goes both directions. In a way, this is eternal recurrence from Nietzsche, if it were interpreted as a real metaphysical theory.

Aristotle however explains why individual animals don't recur, by distinguishing species from number, where species recur but not individuals.

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Meteorology translated by E. W. Webster

Book I

Natural phenomena in outer space are treated as if they are things occurring on earth in terms of the way things move and interact. Comets, shooting stars, and the Milky Way are treated as if wind and fire operate the same way in outer space, like circular motion stirring things in such a way that they catch fire. When the natural phenomena are things that already happen on earth, like snow and rain, descriptions and causes make more sense.

In chapter 14, Aristotle discusses the way that the earth has not always been the same, that rivers can come into existence while others might dry out. He directly recognizes that this process is sometimes man-made, but also sometimes natural. Because there is no end to time, Aristotle says that everything about the parts of the earth will change in time.

Book II

3 - Throughout the book Aristotle describes the water cycle, which makes everything else grounded despite the use of elements in his theories. He uses the fact that water loses the salt when it evaporates as evidence that another substance is added, rather than something that is part of water already, that makes the sea salty.

5 - Aristotle recognizes that the earth is symmetrical north and south, so it has north and south poles, and this is what makes places habitable.

8 - Earthquakes are thought to be caused by dry wind inside the earth. The main evidence for this seems to be the noise that earthquakes make, as if it was a release of wind that makes the noise. A lot of the stuff about wind and earthquakes are spurious correlations. But it is interesting that he describes tsunamis correctly in a way that makes sense that wind might be involved. He thought that a strong wind pushed the water back, and caused the earthquake, then the wave rushed in.

Book III

Aristotle has much to say about rainbows. Since these come about from water or rain, they come about through something like a mirror, but since the particles are so small, the mirror only reflects the color. It's interesting that he understands that it has to do with optics and not simply emitted from the sky.

Book IV

This entire book is basically antiquated chemistry. It is based on the 4 elements, and describes things like boiling or thickening.

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