Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-559fc8cf4f-6f8dk Total loading time: 0.235 Render date: 2021-03-06T12:04:30.683Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2013

Timothy J. Crowley
University College, Dublin
E-mail address:


It might seem quite commonplace to say that Aristotle identifies fire, air, water and earth as the στοιχεῖα, or ‘elements’ – or, to be more precise, as the elements of bodies that are subject to generation and corruption. Yet there is a tradition of interpretation, already evident in the work of the sixth-century commentator John Philoponus and widespread, indeed prevalent, today, according to which Aristotle does not really believe that fire, air, water and earth are truly elemental. The basic premise of this interpretation is that Aristotle takes fire, air, water and earth to be, in some sense, composite bodies and, as such, analysable into simpler constituents. But, of course, an element of bodies is defined by Aristotle himself as something into which bodies can be analysed, and which does not admit further analysis (Metaph. 5.3, 1014a26–1014b15; Cael. 3.3, 302a14–21). So if fire, air, water and earth can be analysed into simpler or more basic constituents, then it would seem to follow that the latter ought to be considered Aristotle's true elements. These are usually identified as the primary contraries hot and cold, dry and wet; many, perhaps most, commentators would insist also upon prime matter as the subject upon which these contraries act.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2013

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.


1 For Philoponus, see In Ph. 16.94.13–15 (Vitelli); In GC 205.8–12, 23–5, with 224.1–5 (Vitelli). For modern views, see n. 2.

2 See e.g. Joachim, H.H., Aristotle On Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Oxford, 1922), 104, 137, 191, 200Google Scholar; Ross, W.D., Aristotle's Physics (Oxford, 1936), 484Google Scholar and Aristotle (London, 1949 5), 73, 168–9Google Scholar; Düring, I., Aristotle's De Partibus Animalium (Göteberg, 1943), 124Google Scholar; King, H.R., ‘Aristotle without prima materia’, JHI 17 (1956), 370–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 378; Kahn, C.H., Anaximander and the Origins of Greek Cosmology (New York, 1960), 120, 124Google Scholar; Solmsen, F., Aristotle's System of the Physical World (Ithaca, NY, 1960), 351, 368Google Scholar; Cherniss, H., Aristotle's Criticism of Presocratic Philosophy (Baltimore, 1935), 60, 122Google Scholar; id., Aristotle's Criticism of Plato and the Academy (Baltimore, 1944), 160, 171Google Scholar; Sokolowski, R., ‘Matter, elements, and substance in Aristotle’, JHPh 8 (1970), 263–88, at 268–9Google Scholar; Williams, C.J.F., Aristotle's De Generatione et Corruptione (Oxford, 1982), 152Google Scholar; Graham, D.W., ‘The paradox of prime matter’, JHPh 25 (1987), 475–90, at 476–7Google Scholar; Furth, M., Substance, Form and Psyche: An Aristotelean Metaphysics (Cambridge, 1988), 77, 223CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hankinson, R.J., Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought (Oxford, 1998), 180Google Scholar; Crubellier, M., ‘Metaphysics Λ 4’, in Frede, M. and Charles, D. (edd.), Aristotle's Metaphysics Lambda (Oxford, 2000), 137–60, at 142Google Scholar; Lennox, J., Aristotle: On the Parts of Animals (Oxford, 2001), 136–7, 180Google Scholar; Frede, D., ‘On Generation and Corruption I 10: on mixture and mixables’, in de Haas, F. and Mansfeld, J. (edd.), Aristotle: On Generation and Corruption, Book I (Oxford, 2004), 289314, at 303 with n. 36Google Scholar; and Rashed, M., Aristote. De la génération et la corruption (Paris, 2005), 129Google Scholar. Of these, Joachim, Ross, Solmsen, Cherniss, Sokolowski, Williams and Graham are explicit in their insistence that Aristotle appeals to prime matter.

3 By ‘bodies’ here we understand natural bodies, as opposed to e.g. artefacts (see Ph. 2.1, 192b8–15). Artefacts, of course, are corporeal; but they are so in virtue of being made from natural bodies, e.g. wood, stone (192b15–20). Aristotle occasionally appears to countenance mathematical bodies (Metaph. 1.8, 990a15–16; cf. 5.13, 1020a14, 11.1, 1059a38–b2, with 1059b9–14), but these ‘objects’ are merely abstractions from certain properties of (natural) bodies. In general, natural bodies are the principles of these other ‘bodies’ (De an. 2.1, 412a11–13; cf. Ph. 193b24–194a7).

4 See Pl. Ti. 48b–c, with Crowley, T., ‘On the use of stoicheion in the sense of “element”’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 29 (2005), 367–94, at 378–80Google Scholar; see also Phlb. 29a, Cra. 408d, Prt. 320d.

5 By his use of the phrase τὰ καλούμενα (or λεγόμενα) στοιχεῖα; see Crowley, T., ‘Aristotle's “so-called elements”’, Phronesis 53 (2008), 223–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Indeed it is often thought that Aristotle's use of the phrase τὰ καλούμενα στοιχεῖα indicates his rejection of the popular opinion; but see Crowley (n. 5).

7 I borrow this distinction between ‘logical’ and ‘physical’ analyses from Lacey, A.R., ‘The Eleatics and Aristotle on some problems of change’, JHI 26 (1965), 451–68, at 462, 464CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 Thus for Joachim (n. 2) fire, air, water and earth are the simple bodies (see e.g. xxxii, n. 1; 104, 136, 198; but cf. 212–13, 217), but they are not the elements; the genuine elements, i.e. the contraries and prime matter, are ‘abstracted by logical analysis’ (137, 199, 200). Likewise for Ross (n. 2 [19495]), 105; cf. 73–4. See also Ross (n. 2 [1936]), 484; Guthrie, W.K.C., A History of Greek Philosophy, Vol. VI (Cambridge, 1981), 229Google Scholar; and Graham, D.W.Aristotle: Physics Book VIII (Oxford, 1999), 81Google Scholar. Cf. Phlp. In GC 205.8–12.

9 Cherniss (n. 2, [1935]), 54, 61, stresses the ‘immateriality’ of Aristotle's primary contraries (see also Joachim [n. 2], 200–1); while the view that prime matter is incorporeal is a staple of the traditional view; see e.g. Joachim (n. 2), 94, 200, Ross (n. 2 [19495]), 105; Solmsen, F., ‘Aristotle and prime matter: a reply to Hugh R. King’, JHI 19 (1958), 243–52, at 244CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Robinson, H.M., ‘Prime matter in Aristotle’, Phronesis 19 (1974), 168188, at 168–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Guthrie (n. 8), 227; Williams (n. 2), 211.

10 See Joachim (n. 2), 137; Ross (n. 2 [19495]), 105, 168; Cherniss (n. 2, [1944]), 172; Lacey (n. 7), 462; Guthrie (n. 8), 227. Cf. D. Charles's interpretation of prime matter as a ‘logical (or abstract) object’, in ‘Simple genesis and prime matter’, in de Haas and Mansfeld (n. 2), 151–169, at 154–6.

11 See also Metaph. 7.17, 1041b31: στοιχεῖον δ' ἐστὶν εἰς ὃ διαιρεῖται ἐνυπάρχον ὡς ὕλην; cf. 1.4, 985a32, 12.5, 1071a13–14. At Cael. 3.3 an element of bodies is said to be that ‘into which other bodies (τἆλλα σώματα) may be analysed’ (302a15–16; cf. a12–13; with Cael. 1.2, 268b26, 3.3, 302b5–9, 3.7, 306b1–2).

12 Cf. Solmsen (n. 2), 259–60.

13 See Rashed (n. 2), 153.

14 Or at least the sources of the perceptibility of composite bodies: the sense in which the elements of bodies are perceptible is problematic; see below, § V.

15 On these occasions, admittedly, the incorporeal items implicated tend to be mathematical entities; but since these are a kind of abstract entities (see De an. 3.7, 431b12–17), it would take but slight manipulation to extend the critique to the ‘elements’ uncovered by ‘logical’ analysis.

16 See esp. Furth (n. 2), 76–9, 221–7 and Lewis, E., Alexander of Aphrodisias. On Aristotle's Meteorology 4 (Ithaca, NY, 1996), 1523, 34–59Google Scholar. But cf. Sokolowski (n. 2), who favours physical (or ‘chemical’, 269) analysis, yet accepts prime matter, 277–85.

17 For Furth (n. 2), 77, the primary contraries are ‘the very deepest lying “ultra-simples” … the most ultimate matter of things’; see also Lewis (n. 16), 16–17. King (n. 2), appears to have a similar conception of the contraries, notwithstanding his insistence that fire, air, water and earth are the simplest bodies; see 373, 377–9; likewise Gill, M.L., Aristotle on Substance (Princeton, 1989), 7582, 235–40, 246–7Google Scholar. Cf. Lacey (n. 7), 463; Robinson (n. 9), 183; and Loux, M.J., Primary Ousia: An Essay on Aristotle's Metaphysics Z and H (Ithaca, NY, 1991), 250Google Scholar.

18 Loux's term (n. 17), 250. See also Scaltsas, T., ‘Substratum, subject and substance’, AncPhil 5 (1985), 215–40, at 217–18 and 235 nn. 13, 14Google Scholar.

19 See King (n. 2), 378; Lacey (n. 7), 463–4; Sokolowski (n. 2), 268–9. Cf. also Solmsen (n. 9), 252 and (n. 2), 347–9, 351; Freudenthal, G., Aristotle's Theory of Material Substance (Oxford, 1995), 75–7Google Scholar. See also Graham (n. 2), 482.

20 Indeed Empedocles himself may have arrived at his four ‘roots’ by ‘hypostasizing’ the contraries; for this interpretation, see Burnet, J., Early Greek Philosophy (London, 1930 4), 228Google Scholar; Kirk, G.S. and Raven, J.E., The Presocratic Philosophers (Cambridge, 1971 repr. with corrections), 329Google Scholar; but cf. Longrigg, J., ‘The “roots of all things”’, Isis 67 (1976), 420–38, at 424–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 A point raised by Loux (n. 17), 251.

22 Scaltsas, T., ‘Mixing the elements’, in Anagnostopoulos, G. (ed.), A Companion to Aristotle (Oxford, 2009), 242–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 243 misinterprets the reference at 330a24–6 to ‘all the other differentiae’ (πᾶσαι αἱ ἄλλαι διαϕοραί). Aristotle is referring to all the active and passive differentiae (apart from hot, cold, dry and wet); hence heavy and light are not included. See Solmsen (n. 2), 337–8, and Williams (n. 2), 159.

23 See Solmsen (n. 2), 275; Freudenthal (n. 19), 76–7. Heat, however, often seems to be accorded a ‘special status’ in the biological works; see Freudenthal (n. 19), 77–8.

24 See e.g. Longrigg, J., ‘Elementary physics in the Lyceum and Stoa’, Isis 66 (1975), 211–29, at 214–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

25 See e.g. Hankinson (n. 2), 180.

26 Phlp. In GC 224.1–5; Joachim (n. 2), 213; Ross (n. 2 [1936]), 484; also Kahn (n. 2), 120–1; Sokolowski (n. 2), 269–71; Williams (n. 2), 160; Furth (n. 2), 223; cf. Lacey (n. 7), 464; D. Frede (n. 2), 303. Cf. Lennox (n. 2), 180 on Part. an. 2.1, 646a12–24.

27 Ἐπεὶ δὲ τέτταρα τὰ στοιχεῖα, τῶν δὲ τεττάρων ἓξ αἱ συζεύξεις, τὰ δ' ἐναντία οὐ πέϕυκε συνδυάζεσθαι (θερμὸν γὰρ καὶ ψυχρὸν εἶναι τὸ αὐτὸ καὶ πάλιν ξηρὸν καὶ ὑγρὸν ἀδύνατον), ϕανερὸν ὅτι τέτταρες ἔσονται αἱ τῶν στοιχείων συζεύξεις, θερμοῦ καὶ ξηροῦ, καὶ θερμοῦ καὶ ὑγροῦ, καὶ πάλιν ψυχροῦ καὶ ὑγροῦ, καὶ ψυχροῦ καὶ ξηροῦ. καὶ ἠκολούθηκε κατὰ λόγον τοῖς ἁπλοῖς ϕαινομένοις σώμασι, πυρὶ καὶ ἀέρι καὶ ὕδατι καὶ γῇ· τὸ μὲν γὰρ πῦρ θερμὸν καὶ ξηρόν, ὁ δ' ἀὴρ θερμὸν καὶ ὑγρόν (οἷον ἀτμὶς γὰρ ὁ ἀήρ), τὸ δ' ὕδωρ ψυχρὸν καὶ ὑγρόν, ἡ δὲ γῆ ψυχρὸν καὶ ξηρόν, ὥστ' εὐλόγως διανέμεσθαι τὰς διαϕορὰς τοῖς πρώτοις σώμασι, καὶ τὸ πλῆθος αὐτῶν εἶναι κατὰ λόγον.

28 See Joachim's commentary on this passage (n. 2), 213–17.

29 Sokolowski (n. 2) claims that Aristotle is already referring to hot, cold, dry and wet as στοιχεῖα in Gen. corr. 2.2; he cites as evidence 329b13 and 329b16–26 (cf. D. Frede [n. 2], 300). He also finds στοιχεῖα used to refer to the contraries at Gen. corr. 2.4, 331b27–8 and at 2.7, 334b17–18 and b25; also, ‘probably’, at 2.5, 333a12 (270 n. 14). He is certainly mistaken about 329b13 and b16–26, and it is extremely doubtful that any of the other passages indicate anything of the sort.

30 The conjunction ἐπεί could be rendered as ‘although’, instead of ‘since’; cf. Ph. 4.2, 217a10 for a possible precedent. As it happens, some MSS have the variant reading ἐπειδὴ δέ, i.e. ‘whereas’, or ‘although’, instead of ἐπεὶ δέ (Laurentianus 87.7, Vaticanus 1027 and Vaticanus 253). See LSJ s.v. ἐπεί.

31 We need not be disturbed by the reference to hot and cold, dry and wet as differentiae of body, rather than differentiae of the elements. For hot and cold, dry and wet are the primary tangible contrarieties; they are the minimal features that something must have to be a body. Hence hot and cold, dry and wet are the differentiae, or distinguishing marks, of body qua body, as well as the differentiae of the elements. Cf. Cael. 3.4, 302b30–303a2, 3.8, 307b19–22.

32 Joachim (n. 2), 213 and 217; see also Sokolowski (n. 2), 270–1, esp. n. 15; cf. Gannagé, E., Alexander of Aphrodisias. On Aristotle On Coming-to-be and Perishing 2.2–5 (London, 2005), 43–4, esp. n. 173Google Scholar.

33 Joachim (n. 2), 212–13, 217; see also Williams (n. 2), 160; Sokolowski (n. 2), 271 n. 15; D. Frede (n. 2), 304 n. 37.

34 See Owen, G.E.L., ‘Τιθέναι τὰ ϕαινόμενα’, in Mansion, S. (ed.), Aristote et les problèmes de la méthode (Louvain, 1961), 83133Google Scholar.

35 See Bolton, R., ‘Definition and scientific method in Aristotle's Posterior Analytics and Generation of Animals’, in Gotthelf, A. and Lennox, J. (edd.), Philosophical Issues in Aristotle's Biology (Cambridge, 1987), 120–66, at 125–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Cf. Nussbaum, M., ‘Saving Aristotle's appearances’, in Schofield, M. and Nussbaum, M. (edd.), Language and Logos: Studies in Ancient Greek Philosophy (Cambridge, 1982), 267–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 Joachim (n. 2), 213.

37 For Joachim (n. 2), the ‘really-simple bodies’ are prime matter informed by the appropriate pairings of the contraries hot, cold, dry and wet (217); cf. n. 59 below.

38 See the criticism of the view that all ϕαινόμενα are true, Metaph. 4.5–6; cf. De an. 1.2, 404a29, 3.3, 428b2–4.

39 For instance when he says that sophistry is not really intellectual excellence, but only appears to be (ἡ γὰρ σοϕιστικὴ ϕαινομένη μόνον σοϕία ἐστί … οὖσα δ' οὔ), Metaph. 4.2, 1004b18–19, 26; see also Metaph. 12.7, 1072a28, Gen. corr. 1.8, 325a21.

40 Admittedly there is a question about the sense in which simple bodies are apparent, or observable; but I postpone it until § V below; all we need at this point is the assurance that ‘apparently simple’ does not entail ‘not really simple’.

41 For Plato's contemporary Philistion of Locri, air is cold (Anonymus Londinensis xx, 25, in Wellman, M., Die Fragmente der sikelischen Ärzte Akron, Philistion und des Diokles von Karystos [Berlin, 1901], fr. 4Google Scholar). Theophrastus (Ign. 25 and 26) and the Stoics likewise took air to be cold (Diog. Laert. 7.137; cf. Cic. Nat. D. 2.26–7). Aristotle himself seems sometimes to say that air is cold; see e.g. Ph. 3.5, 204b27, with Ross (n. 2 [1936]), 549, and Resp. 21, 480a28–b6.

42 See nn. 32 and 33.

43 Οὐκ ἔστι δὲ τὸ πῦρ καὶ ὁ ἀὴρ καὶ ἕκαστον τῶν εἰρημένων ἁπλοῦν, ἀλλὰ μικτόν. τὰ δ' ἁπλᾶ τοιαῦτα μέν ἐστιν, οὐ μέντοι ταὐτά, οἷον εἴ τι τῷ πυρὶ ὅμοιον, πυροειδές, οὐ πῦρ, καὶ τὸ τῷ ἀέρι ἀεροειδές· ὁμοίως δὲ κἀπὶ τῶν ἄλλων. τὸ δὲ πῦρ ἐστιν ὑπερβολὴ θερμότητος, ὥσπερ καὶ κρύσταλλος ψυχρότητος· ἡ γὰρ πῆξις καὶ ἡ ζέσις ὑπερβολαί τινές εἰσιν, ἡ μὲν ψυχρότητος, ἡ δὲ θερμότητος. εἰ οὖν ὁ κρύσταλλός ἐστι πῆξις ὑγροῦ ψυχροῦ, καὶ τὸ πῦρ ἔσται ζέσις ξηροῦ θερμοῦ. διὸ καὶ οὐδὲν οὔτ' ἐκ κρυστάλλου γίνεται οὔτ' ἐκ πυρός.

44 Note that Aristotle is not referring to all of his predecessors, as Joachim (n. 2), 213 and Williams (n. 2), 161 seem to think. He is referring just to those who make one, some or all of the simple bodies fire, air, water and earth their στοιχεῖα. This admittedly broad class nevertheless excludes, for instance, Anaxagoras and the Atomists – a point that becomes relevant below.

45 Joachim (n. 2), 213–14; Verdenius, W.J. and Waszink, J.H., Aristotle on Coming-to-be and Passing-away (Leiden, 1966 2), 54Google Scholar; Williams (n. 2), 160–1.

46 Actually at 330b34 Aristotle does say that, relative to fire and earth, which are pure, water and air are mixed (μεμιγμένα). But this comes immediately after referring to them as ‘simple bodies’ (330b30–1), and is to do with their natural place and movement (330b31–3). The point recalls the De caelo doctrine of elements (see e.g. 1.8, 277b13–24, with 4.4), and looks forward to the Meteorologica's account of air as a vaporous exhalation from water (1.3, 340b2–3, 23–9; 2.4, 360a21–7; see Joachim [n. 2], 139).

47 That this is so could perhaps be gleaned from the analogy between fire and ice at Gen. corr. 2.3, 330b25–30. But it is confirmed at Mete. 1.3.

48 It seems natural to take ‘we’ here fairly generally or inclusively, as in: the element that we all commonly, or habitually, call ‘fire’. As noted earlier, that fire, air, water and earth are the elements of bodies seems to be widely accepted amongst Plato and Aristotle's contemporaries; see nn. 4 and 5 above.

49 Does it follow that that ‘pure’ elemental fire is not as hot as ‘mixed’ or ordinary fire, as Rashed (n. 2), 58 n. 1 claims? See § V below, esp. n. 70.

50 Phlp. In GC 228.28; Alexander of Aphrodisias also used this metaphor, according to Gannagé (n. 32), 46.

51 What is that which is properly called ‘air’, i.e. ‘mixed’ air? Aristotle doesn't say, but it is presumably something like cloud, mist, fog, or a damp unhealthy air, such as described in the Hippocratic treatise Airs, Waters, Places; see e.g. 6.7, 15.24–5. Cf. Mete. 1.9, 346b32–5; and also nn. 41 above and 62 below.

52 Kahn (n. 2), 124–5.

53 At DK 31B21.1–6 Empedocles does characterize the roots in terms of everyday examples, such as the sun and rain, but, as Patricia Curd points out, ‘it needs to be borne in mind that these “witnesses” are phenomenal earth, air, fire and water, which are partially mixed versions of the pure roots’ (The Legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic Monism and Later Presocratic Thought [Princeton, 1998], 158). Nevertheless, for Simplicius (in Phys. 33.8–11, 159.13–18), Empedocles' characterization of the roots does not get any more specific than at B21.1–6.

54 See Cael. 3.1, 7 and 4.2; see also Gen. corr. 1.1, 315b30, and 2.1, 329a21–4.

55 See Burnet (n. 20), 230 n. 3 and Joachim (n. 2), 163–4.

56 See n. 44.

57 Similarly Plato's critique of fire, air, water and earth at Ti. 48b–c is aimed not exclusively at Empedocles, but at a number of Presocratic doctrines; cf. e.g. 49b–d with Anaximenes, DK 13A5 and A7.

58 Aristotle includes Plato in this group, referring to a work called ‘Plato's Divisions’ (330b16). This is surprising given what Plato says about fire, air, water and earth in the Timaeus. It may well be one of the unwritten doctrines, sporting a theory quite at odds to that of the Timaeus, but see Joachim (n. 2), 215–17.

59 Joachim (n. 2), 217 understands the ‘fiery’ body to be ‘a really-simple body … a pure example of πρώτη ὕλη informed by … hot-dry’.

60 Both are quite rare; Plato uses the former at Leg. 895c and the latter at Ti. 78c, but neither instance is of much relevance.

61 Nevertheless Aristotle thinks that we are obliged to call the element ‘fire’, as no other name would be as suitable (Mete. 1.4, 341b13–18; cf. 2.4, 359b30–2).

62 It is often unclear whether ἀτμίς is by nature hot and wet, or cold and wet. Most of the MSS have θερμόν, ‘hot’, at 340b27, but many commentators believe this should be emended to ψυχρόν to make it consistent with e.g. 2.4, 360a22–3 and 2.8, 367a34. See Ross (n. 2 [19495]), 109 n. 4; Pepe, L., Aristotele Meteorologia (Milan, 2003), 222–3Google Scholar. Freudenthal (n. 19), 129 n. 51 rejects the emendation; cf. Hankinson (n. 2), 153 n. 12. What is not in doubt is that the sphere of air, where the ἀτμίς ultimately gathers, is hot; see e.g. 360a26–7, cf. also 3.3, 372b30–3, 4.9, 387a24–6. Cf. n. 41 above.

63 See e.g. Sokolowski (n. 2), 272 n. 18; Lewis (n. 16), 40; Gannagé (n. 32), 43–4.

64 Gannagé's phrase (n. 32), 44 n. 175; for Sokolowski (n. 2) they are ‘ideal constructs’ (272 n. 18). Cf. Plato's distinction between phenomenal fire and the pure, imperceptible, intelligible form of fire, at Ti. 51a–d; cf. also Phlb. 29b–c.

65 Lacey (n. 7), 463: ‘the basic qualities are not … qualities in the sense of perceptual qualities’. See n. 19 above.

66 See e.g. Metaph. 1.8, 989b29–33 and 12.1, 1069a3; see also Cael. 1.7, 275b5–6. Plato had already made this point (Phd. 78d–79a), as Aristotle himself reports (Metaph. 1.6, 987a33–4, b6–7).

67 It is sometimes suggested, or implied, that the simple bodies are indeed actually perceptible: Gill (n. 17), 247, for instance, calls them ‘actually perceptible bodies’; cf. Joachim's ‘primary perceptible bodies’ ([n. 2], 198–9); see also Guthrie (n. 8), 229. Cf. also Loux (n. 17), 243 n. 8 and S. Broadie, ‘GC I 4: distinguishing alteration’, in de Haas and Mansfeld (n. 2), 123–50, at 140–1.

68 See Ross, W.D., Aristotle's Metaphysics: A Revised Text with Introduction and Commentary, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1924), 2.166Google Scholar; Burnyeat, M. et al. (ed.), Notes on Book Zeta of Aristotle's Metaphysics (Oxford, 1979), 16Google Scholar.

69 Cf. Aristotle's occasional practice of distinguishing composites, described as ‘the perceptible bodies’ (τὰ αἰσθητὰ σώματα), from the simple bodies; see Metaph. 12.1, 1069a30–3; 12.4, 1070b10–19; 14.3, 1090a32–5; cf. 1.8, 989b31–990a18; Ph. 4.1, 209a14–17. Cf. Alexander's similar distinction, Diog. Laert. 8.24; DK 58B1a, lines 6–7.

70 Thus Rashed (n. 2), 58 n. 1 is mistaken when he concludes that elemental fire is ‘less hot’ than mixed fire, for such a comparison involves the presumption that the element is perceptibly, or tangibly, hot. Cf. Balme, D.M., Aristotle. De Partibus Animalium I and De Generatione Animalium I (Oxford, 1972, repr. 1992), 148Google Scholar.

71 Ἐπεὶ δὲ διώρισται πρότερον ὅτι τοῖς ἁπλοῖς σώμασιν ἐξ ἀλλήλων ἡ γένεσις, ἅμα δὲ καὶ κατὰ τὴν αἴσθησιν ϕαίνεται γινόμενα (οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἦν ἀλλοίωσις· κατὰ γὰρ τὰ τῶν ἁπτῶν πάθη ἀλλοίωσίς ἐστιν) …

72 See also n. 31 above.

73 The research of which this paper is a partial product was assisted by a Jacobsen Fellowship from the Royal Institute of Philosophy, for which I am very grateful. Michael Frede read and commented upon several earlier drafts; I was fortunate to have the benefit of his guidance and advice, and I dedicate this paper to his memory.

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 12
Total number of PDF views: 84 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 6th March 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *