On Aristotle On the Heavens 3.7-4.6 (Ancient Commentators on Aristotle)
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Commenting on the end of Aristotle's On the Heavens Book 3, Simplicius examines Aristotle's criticisms of Plato's theory of elemental chemistry in the Timaeus. Plato makes the characteristics of the four elements depend on the shapes of component corpuscles and ultimately on the arrangement of the triangles which compose them. Simplicius preserves and criticizes the contributions made to the debate in lost works by two other major commentators, Alexander the Aristotelian, and Proclus the Platonist.
In Book 4, Simplicius identifies fifteen objections by Aristotle to Plato's views on weight in the four elements. He finishes Book 4 by elaborating Aristotle's criticisms of Democritus' theory of weight in the atoms, including Democritus' suggestions about the influence of atomic shape on certain atomic motions.
This volume includes an English translation of Simplicius' commentary, a detailed introduction, extensive commentary notes and a bibliography.
Introduction question ‘how many’, he announces that the number and nature of the elements will be made clear by determining whether they are eternal or come to be. He argues that they are not eternal but come to be from one another. Aristotle’s own view, expressed most fully in GC, is that the earth, water, air, and fire come to be from one another through qualitative change, earth being cold and dry, water cold and wet, air hot and wet, fire hot and dry (cf. 636,14-17). In chapter 7 he
contains it at all points; however, ‘all the simple bodies are seen to be shaped by the space containing them, especially water and air’ (and also pure earth itself is shaped by what receives it – stone is not a simple body or just earth; and if someone could keep fire contained in some space or vessel so that it did not disperse, it would be shaped by what contains it; but clearly water and air are seen to be shaped by their container); therefore, it is impossible that these figures of the
proved that the centre to which things having weight move is determinate; and since because of this it has also been proved that the extremity is determinate (for if the extremity isn’t determinate no centre can be determinate either, at least if what is equally distant from everywhere on the extremity is the centre), he proves that what rises to the top of everything moves to this extremity. For since sinking to the bottom is contrary to rising to the top, and the centre is contrary to the
comparison of things of the same kind; for there is the same proportion of solid to void in more fire and in less, so that if the proportion is the cause, more fire and less ought to move equally quickly; however, more moves up faster and less moves down faster. 5 10 15
material in section 3. 2. Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s geometrical chemistry (Cael. 3.7, 306a1-3.8, 307b18; in Cael. 638,13-671,20) Simplicius’ discussion of Aristotle’s criticisms of Plato is a major document of late ancient philosophy.12 For, first of all, the criticisms put a severe strain on Simplicius’ view that Aristotle does not really disagree with Plato, but is only attacking superficial interpretations of him. But secondly and perhaps more importantly Simplicius brings in material