Aristotle on Change

Aristotle on Change - Aristotle on Change The Physics The...

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Aristotle on Change The Physics The Physics is a study of nature ( ta phusika ), as opposed to the Metaphysics ( ta meta ta phusika —lit., “the stuff that comes after the stuff on nature”) which studies beings in general, not just natural objects. What is the difference? “ Natural things are some or all of them subject to change ” ( Physics I.2, 185a12-13). So the study of nature is basically a study of change and the things that are subject to change. Puzzles about Change We know this was a topic that puzzled Aristotle’s predecessors. Plato said that real things (Forms) don’t change, and restricted change to the realm of appearances—the physical world. Parmenides went farther still, denying the existence of change altogether. Change is often described (both by Aristotle and his predecessors) as coming-to-be ( genesis ), and Aristotle gives an example of an argument against coming-to-be that sounds typically Parmenidean (191a28-29): What is cannot come to be (since it already is), while nothing can come to be from what is not . The argument is basically that there are only two ways that something can come to be: either from what is, or from what is not. But neither is possible. Therefore, nothing can come to be. Aristotle wants to give an analysis of coming-to-be, i.e., change, that will enable him to avoid this dilemma. His account is designed to explain both how change in general is possible, and how coming into existence is possible. We will first look at Aristotle’s account, and then see how it manages to evade the Parmenidean dilemma. Aristotle’s Account Aristotle’s account is contained in Physics I.7. He insists that there must be three basic ingredients in every case of change. (Plato’s treatment only mentions two: a pair of opposites). In addition to a pair of opposites, there must be an underlying subject of change . The basic case of change involves a pair of opposed or contrary properties and a subject that loses one of them and gains the other. But Aristotle does not even insist that there be an opposed pair of properties (191a6-7): In another way, however, there need not be two
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This note was uploaded on 11/26/2011 for the course PHILOSOPHY 101 taught by Professor Buechner during the Fall '06 term at Rutgers.

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Aristotle on Change - Aristotle on Change The Physics The...

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