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Classical Physics, Book I, Chapter 3

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Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (bust)
Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Since, however, being is multifariously predicated, we shall begin in a manner the best adapted of all others to the subject, if we consider what those mean who assert that all things are one: Whether they conceive that all things are essence, or quantities, or qualities? And again, whether all things are one essence; as for instance, one man, or one horse, or one soul? Or whether they are one quality; and this such as a thing white, or hot, or any thing else of this kind? For all these very much differ from each other, and cannot be made the subject of discourse: for if all things are substance or essence, quantity and quality, whether these are separated from each other or not, beings will be many. But if all things are quality or quantity, whether essence has a subsistence or not, an absurdity will ensue; if it be necessary to call that absurd which is impossible: for none of the rest is separate except essence; since all of them are predicated of essence as their subject. But Melissus says, that being is infinite; being, therefore, is a certain quantity; for the infinite subsists in quantity. But it is not possible that essence or quality, or a participated property should be infinite, except according to accident: viz. From certain quantities subsisting together: for the definition of the infinite employs quantity, but not essence or quality. If therefore, there are essence and quantity, being will be two things, and not one. But if being be essence alone, it will not be infinite, nor possess any magnitude; for it will be a certain quantity. Besides, since the one itself is predicated multifariously, just as being is, let us consider after what manner they say that the universe is one. But that is called one, which is either continuous, or indivisible, or when the definition unfolding the essence is one and the same, as in methu and oinos (wine). If therefore, being is continuous, it is many: for the continuous is divisible to infinity. There is a doubt, however, with respect to part and whole (though perhaps it does not belong to this discussion, but is to be considered by itself) whether part and whole are one, or more than one. Likewise how they are one, or more than one: and if they are more than one, after what manner they are so; (the same consideration also pertains to parts which are not continuous) and if each is one with the whole, as being indivisible, whether in this case they are the same with each other.

If, however, being is one as indivisible, nothing will be a quantity or a quality; neither will being be infinite, as Melissus says it is, nor finite, as it is said to be by Parmenides; for bound is indivisible, not that which is bounded. But if all beings are one in definition, in the same manner as a garment and a robe, it happens that they will make the assertion of Heraclitus: for there will be the same essence of good and evil, and of that which is not good, and good; so that what is not good and good will be the same. Man likewise will be the same with horse; and the consideration will not be whether all things are one, but whether they are nothing. The quality also and the quantity of a thing will be the same. Posterior philosophers also, as well as the ancient, were disturbed, lest it should happen to them that the same thing should at the same time be one and many. Hence some of them took away the word is, as was the case with Lycophron; but others reformed the language, and did not say that a man is white, but that he grows white; or that a man is walking, but that he walks; lest by adding the word is, they should make the one to be many; as if the one or being were to be predicated in one way only. Beings, however, are many, either by definition (as for instance, the essence of that which is white is different from the essence of a musician, and yet both are in the same subject; whence also the one is many) or by division, as whole and parts, Here, however, they doubt, and acknowledge the one to by many; but yet they do not on that account admit the subsistence of opposites: for the one is both in capacity and energy. To those, therefore, who employ these arguments, it appears to be impossible that beings should be one.


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