[49a] and the second as the model's Copy, subject to becoming and visible. A third kind we did not at that time distinguish, considering that those two were sufficient; but now the argument seems to compel us to try to reveal by words a Form that is baffling and obscure. What essential property, then, are we to conceive it to possess? This in particular,—that it should be the receptacle, and as it were the nurse, of all Becoming. Yet true though this statement is, we must needs describe it more plainly. [49b] That, however, is a difficult task, especially because it is necessary, for its sake, to discuss first the problem of fire and its fellow elements. For in regard to these it is hard to say which particular element we ought really to term water rather than fire, and which we ought to term any one element rather than each and all of them, while still employing a terminology that is reliable and stable. How, then, shall we handle this problem, and what likely solution can we offer? First of all, we see that which we now call “water” becoming by condensation, [49c] as we believe, stones and earth; and again, this same substance, by dissolving and dilating, becoming breath and air; and air through combustion becoming fire; and conversely, fire when contracted and quenched returning back to the form of air and air once more uniting and condensing into cloud and mist; and issuing from these, when still further compressed, flowing water; and from water earth and stones again: thus we see the elements passing on to one another, as it would seem, [49d] in an unbroken circle the gift of birth. Accordingly, since no one of these ever remains identical in appearance, which of them shall a man definitely affirm to be any one particular element and no other without incurring ridicule? None such exists. On the contrary, by far the safest plan in treating of these elements is to proceed thus: Whatsoever object we perceive to be constantly changing from one state to another, like fire, that object, be it fire, we must never describe as “this” but as “suchlike,” nor should we ever call water “this” but “suchlike” nor should we describe any other element, as though it possessed stability, [49e] of all those which we indicate by using the terms “this” and “that” and suppose ourselves to refer to a definite object. For such an object shuns and eludes the names “this” and “that” and every name which indicates that they are stable. Thus we must not call the several elements “these,” but in regard to each of them and all together we must apply the term “suchlike” to represent what is always circling round: thus we shall call that which is constantly “suchlike” by the name of fire, and so with everything else that is generated. But that “wherein” they are always, in appearance,
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