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“We seek,” he says," " the principles of sensible things, that is, of tangible bodies. We must take, therefore, not all the contrarieties of quality, but those only which have reference to the touch. Thus black and white, sweet and bitter, do not differ as tangible qualities, and therefore must be rejected from our consideration.
“Now the contrarieties of quality which refer to the touch are these: hot, cold; dry, wet; heavy, light; hard, soft ; unctuous, meagre; rough, smooth ; dense, rare.” He then proceeds to reject all but the four first of these, for various reasons; heavy and light, because they are not active and passive qualities; the others, because they are combinations of the four first, which therefore he infers to be the four elementary qualities.
« l?Now in four things there are six combinations of two; but the combinations of two opposites, as hot and cold, must be rejected; we have, therefore, four elementary combinations, which agree with the four apparently elementary bodies. Fire is hot and dry; air is hot and wet (for steam is air); water is cold and wet, earth is cold and dry.”
It may be remarked that this disposition to assume that some common elementary quality must exist in the cases in which we habitually apply a common adjective, as it began before the reign of the Aristotelian philosophy, so also survived its influence. Not to mention other cases, it would be difficult to free Bacon's Inquisitio in naturam calidi, “Examination of the nature of heat," from the charge of confounding together very different classes of phenomena under the cover of the word hot.
The correction of these opinions concerning the elementary composition of bodies belongs to an advanced period in the history of physical knowledge, even after the revival of its progress. But there are some of the Aristotelian doctrines which particularly deserve our attention, from the prominent share they had in the very first beginnings of that revival; I mean the doctrines concerning motion.
These are still founded upon the same mode of reasoning from adjectives; but in this case, the result follows, not only from the opposition of the words, but also from the distinction of their being absolutely or relatively true. “Former writers,” says Aristotle, “have considered heavy and light relatively only, taking cases, where both things have weight, but one is lighter than the other; and they imagined that, in this way, they defined what was absolutely (anhãs) heavy and light." We now know that things which rise by their lightness do so only because they are pressed upwards by heavier surrounding bodies; and this assumption of absolute levity, which is evidently gratuitous, or rather merely nominal, entirely vitiated the whole of the succeeding reasoning. The inference was, that fire must be absolutely light, since it tends to take its place above the other three elements; earth absolutely heavy, since it tends to take its place below fire, air, and water. The philosopher argued also, with great acuteness, that air, which tends to take its place below fire and above water, must do so by its nature, and not in virtue of any combination of heavy and light elements. “For if air were composed of the parts which give fire its levity, joined with other parts which produce gravity, we might assume a quantity of air so large, that it should be lighter than a small quantity of fire, having more of the light parts." It thus follows that each of the four elements tends to its own place, fire being the highest, air the next, water the next, and earth the lowest.
11 De Gen. et Corrupt. ii. 2.
12 Ib. iii, 3.
The whole of this train of errors arises from fallacies which have a verbal origin ;—from considering light as opposite to heavy; and from considering levity as a quality of a body, instead of regarding it as the effect of surrounding bodies.
It is worth while to notice that a difficulty which often embarrasses persons on their entrance upon physical speculations,—the difficulty of conceiving that up and down are different directions in different places,-had been completely got over by Aristotle and the Greek philosophers. They were steadily convinced of the roundness of the earth, and saw that this truth led to the conclusion that all heavy bodies tend in converging directions to the centre. And, they added, as the heavy tends to the centre, the light tends to the exterior, " for Exterior is opposite to Centre as heavy is to light."'**
The tendencies of bodies downwards and upwards, their weight, their fall, their floating or sinking, were thus accounted for in a manner which, however unsound, satisfied the greater part of the speculative world till the time of Galileo and Stevinus, though Archimedes in the mean time published the true theory of floating bodies, which is very
different from that above stated. Other parts of the doctrines of motion were delivered by the Stagirite in the same spirit and with the same success. The motion of a body which is thrown along the
13 De Cælo, iv. 4.
ground diminishes and finally ceases ; the motion of a body which falls from a height goes on becoming quicker and quicker; this was accounted for on the usual principle of opposition, by saying that the former is a violent, the latter a natural motion. And the later writers of this school expressed the characters of such motions in verse. The rule of natural motion was!
Principium tepeat, medium cum fine calebit.
And of violent motion, the law was
Principium fervet, medium calet, ultima friget.
It appears to have been considered by Aristotle a difficult problem to explain why a stone thrown from the hand continues to move for some time, and then stops. If the hand was the cause of the motion, how could the stone move at all when left to itself? if not, why does it ever stop? And he answers this difficulty by saying, 15 " that there is a motion communicated to the air, the successive parts of which urge the stone onwards; and that each part of this medium continues to act for some while after it has been acted on, and the motion ceases when it comes to a particle which cannot act after it has ceased to be acted on.” It will be readily seen that the whole of this difficulty, concerning a body which moves forward and is retarded till it stops, arises from ascribing the retardation, not to the real cause, the surrounding resistances, but to the body itself.
One of the doctrines which was the subject of the warmest discussion between the defenders and opposers of Aristotle, at the revival of physical knowledge, was that in which he asserts,'6 " That body is heavier than another which in an equal bulk moves downward quicker.” The opinion maintained by the Arisotelians at the time of Galileo was, that bodies fall quicker exactly in proportion to their weight. The master himself asserts this in express terms, and reasons upon it." Yet in another passage he appears to distinguish between weight and actual motion downwards. “In physics, we call bodies heavy and light from their power of motion ; but these names are not applied to their actual operations (ivé pyslais) except any one thinks
14 Alsted. Encyc. tom. i. p. 687. 15 Phys. Ausc. viii. 10. 17 Ib. iii. 2.
18 Ib. iv. 1, p. 807.
16 De Colo, iv. 1, p. 808.
momentum (pomri) to be a word of both applications. But heavy and light are, as it were, the embers or sparks of motion, and therefore proper to be treated of here."
The distinction just alluded to, between Power or Faculty of Action, and actual Operation or Energy, is one very frequently referred to by Aristotle; and though not by any means useless, may easily be so used as to lead to mere verbal refinements instead of substantial knowledge.
The Aristotelian distinction of Causes has not any very immediate bearing upon the parts of physics of which we have here mainly spoken ; but it was so extensively accepted, and so long retained, that it
may be proper to notice it.19 “ One kind of Cause is the matter of which any thing is made, as bronze of a statue, and silver of a vial; another is the form and pattern, as the Cause of an octave is the ratio of two to one ; again, there is the Cause which is the origin of the production, as the father of the child ; and again, there is the End, or that for the sake of which any thing is done, as health is the cause of walking." These four kinds of Cause, the material, the formal, the efficient, and the final, were long leading points in all speculative inquiries; and our familiar forms of speech still retain traces of the influence of this division.
It is my object here to present to the reader in an intelligible shape, the principles and mode of reasoning of the Aristotelian philosophy, not its results. If this were not the case, it would be easy to excite a smile by insulating some of the passages which are most remote from modern notions. I will only mention, as specimens, two such passages, both very remarkable.
In the beginning of the book “On the Heavens," he proves the world to be perfect, by reasoning of the following kind : “ The bodies of which the world is composed are solids, and therefore have three dimensions: now three is the most perfect number; it is the first of numbers, for of one we do not speak as a number; of two we say both ; but three is the first number of which we say all ; moreover, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end."
The reader will still perceive the verbal foundations of opinions thus supported.
" The simple elements must have simple motions, and thus fire and air have their natural motions upwards, and water and earth have
19 Phys. ii. 3.
20 De Colo, i. 1.
their natural motions downwards; but besides these motions, there is motion in a circle, which is unnatural to these elements, but which is a more perfect motion than the other, because a circle is a perfect line, and a straight line is not; and there must be something to which this motion is natural. From this it is evident," he adds, with obvious animation, “ that there is some essence of body different from those of the four elements, more divine than those, and superior to them. If things which move in a circle move contrary to nature, it is marvellous, or rather absurd, that this, the unnatural motion, should alone be continuous and eternal; for unnatural motions decay speedily. And so, from all this, we must collect, that besides the four eleinents which we have here and about us, there is another removed far off, and the more excellent in proportion as it is more distant from us.” This fifth element was the “quinta essentia," of after writers, of which we have a trace in our modern literature, in the word quintessence.
Sect. 3.— Technical Forms of the Greek Schools.
We have hitherto considered only the principle of the Greek Physics ; which was, as we have seen, to deduce its doctrines by an analysis of the notions which common language involves. But though the Grecian philosopher began by studying words in their common meanings, he soon found himself led to fix upon some special shades or applications of these meanings as the permanent and standard notion, which they were to express; that is, he made his language technical. The invention and establishment of technical terms is an important step in any philosophy, true or false; we must, therefore, say a few words on this process, as exemplified in the ancient systems.
1. Technical Forms of the Aristotelian Philosophy.—We have already had occasion to cite some of the distinctions introduced by Aristotle, which may be considered as technical ; for instance, the classification of Causes as material, formal, efficient, and final; and the opposition of Qualities as absolute and relative. A few more of the most important examples may suffice. An analysis of objects into Matter and Form, when metaphorically extended from visible objects to things conceived in the most general manner, became an habitual hypothesis of the Aristotelian school. Indeed this metaphor is even yet one of the most significant of those which we can employ, to suggest one of the most comprehensive and fundamental antitheses with which philosophy has to do;—the opposition of sense and reason, of