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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Translated by A. Farquharson.

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Part 3

Here we may ask the difficult question whether if something moves the whole heavens this mover must be immovable, and moreover be no part of the heavens, nor in the heavens. For either it is moved itself and moves the heavens, in which case it must touch something immovable in order to create movement, and then this is no part of that which creates movement; or if the mover is from the first immovable it will equally be no part of that which is moved. In this point at least they argue correctly who say that as the Sphere is carried round in a circle no single part remains still, for then either the whole would necessarily stand still or its continuity be torn asunder; but they argue less well in supposing that the poles have a certain force, though conceived as having no magnitude, but as merely termini or points. For besides the fact that no such things have any substantial existence it is impossible for a single movement to be initiated by what is twofold; and yet they make the poles two. From a review of these difficulties we may conclude that there is something so related to the whole of Nature, as the earth is to animals and things moved by them.

And the mythologists with their fable of Atlas setting his feet upon the earth appear to have based the fable upon intelligent grounds. They make Atlas a kind of diameter twirling the heavens about the poles. Now as the earth remains still this would be reasonable enough, but their theory involves them in the position that the earth is no part of the universe. And further the force of that which initiates movement must be made equal to the force of that which remains at rest. For there is a definite quantity of force or power by dint of which that which remains at rest does so, just as there is of force by dint of which that which initiates movement does so; and as there is a necessary proportion between opposite motions, so there is between absences of motion. Now equal forces are unaffected by one another, but are overcome by a superiority of force. And so in their theory Atlas, or whatever similar power initiates movement from within, must exert no more force than will exactly balance the stability of the earth- otherwise the earth will be moved out of her place in the centre of things. For as the pusher pushes so is the pushed pushed, and with equal force. But the prime mover moves that which is to begin with at rest, so that the power it exerts is greater, rather than equal and like to the power which produces absence of motion in that which is moved. And similarly also the power of what is moved and so moves must be greater than the power of that which is moved but does not initiate movement. Therefore the force of the earth in its immobility will have to be as great as the force of the whole heavens, and of that which moves the heavens. But if that is impossible, it follows that the heavens cannot possibly be moved by any force of this kind inside them.

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