previous next
[987a] [1] Of these he ranks Hot under Being and the other under Not-being.1

From the account just given, and from a consideration of those thinkers who have already debated this question, we have acquired the following information. From the earliest philosophers we have learned that the first principle is corporeal (since water and fire and the like are bodies); some of them assume one and others more than one corporeal principle, but both parties agree in making these principles material. Others assume in addition to this cause the source of motion, which some hold to be one and others two.Thus down to and apart from the Italian2 philosophers the other thinkers have expressed themselves vaguely on the subject, except that, as we have said, they actually employ two causes, and one of these—the source of motion —some regard as one and others as two. The Pythagoreans, while they likewise spoke of two principles, made this further addition, which is peculiar to them: they believed, not that the Limited and the Unlimited are separate entities, like fire or water or some other such thing, but that the Unlimited itself and the One itself are the essence of those things of which they are predicated, and hence that number is the essence of all things. [20] Such is the nature of their pronouncements on this subject. They also began to discuss and define the "what" of things; but their procedure was far too simple. They defined superficially, and supposed that the essence of a thing is that to which the term under consideration first applies—e.g. as if it were to be thought that "double" and "2" are the same, because 2 is the first number which is double another.But presumably "to be double a number" is not the same as "to be the number 2." Otherwise, one thing will be many—a consequence which actually followed in their system.3 This much, then, can be learned from other and earlier schools of thought.

The philosophies described above were succeeded by the system of Plato,4 which in most respects accorded with them, but contained also certain peculiar features distinct from the philosophy of the Italians.In his youth Plato first became acquainted with Cratylus5 and the Heraclitean doctrines—that the whole sensible world is always in a state of flux,6 and that there is no scientific knowledge of it—and in after years he still held these opinions.

1 Cf. note on Aristot. Met. 3.13.

2 The Pythagoreans; so called because Pythagoras founded his society at Croton.

3 i.e., the same number might be the first to which each of several definitions applied; then that number would be each of the concepts so defined.

4 Compare Aristot. Met. 12.4.2-5.

5 Cf. Aristot. Met. 4.5.18.

6 Plat. Crat. 402a (fr. 41 Bywater).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1924)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Croton (Italy) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (13 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: