ARISTOTLE: Physics [Book IV, Ch. 1-5, 10-14]

In this selection from Physics, Aristotle discusses the nature of place and time. He defines place as an immobile container. Everything exists within a place. That which is in no place is nothing. Place, therefore, is the first thing of all creation; for bodies need place to exist, yet place does not require bodies to exist. The presentation of the various arguments against the existence of place and Aristotle’s refutations were tedious. This is the type of caviling that causes many people to conclude that philosophy is a trivial study concerned only with the most irrelevant considerations.

Aristotle defines time as the “number of movement in respect of before and after.” If anyone can explain what Aristotle means, then I will be eternally grateful. To me, these latter chapters were just as obscure and meaningless as the discussion of the nature of place. He seems to unnecessarily complicate a very simple idea. Simply stating that we perceive time when we perceive change is a satisfactory explanation of time. Yet Aristotle chooses to describe time using a complicated quantitative theory; he states that time moves with motion while motion moves with time, that motion and time are measures of one another, and other such nonsense. This reading selection is the least enjoyable text that I have read thus far.

“The potency of place must be a marvelous thing, and take precedence of all other things. For that without which nothing else can exist, while it can exist without the others, must needs be first; for place does not pass out of existence when the things in it are annihilated.”

“When the state of our own minds does not change at all, or we have not noticed its changing, we do not realize that time has elapsed, any more than those who are fabled to sleep among the heroes in Sardinia do when they are awakened; for they connect the earlier ‘now’ with the later and make them one, cutting out the interval because of their failure to notice it. Time is not movement, but only movement in so far as it admits of enumeration. A proof of this: we discriminate the more or the less by number, but more or less movement by time.”

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