previous next
[1052b] [1] But we must recognize that the questions, "What sort of things are called one?" and "What is essential unity, and what is the formula?" must not be taken to be the same. "One" has these several meanings, and each thing to which some one of these senses applies will be one; but essential unity will have now one of these senses and now something else, which is still nearer to the term one, whereas they are nearer to its denotation . This is also true of "element" and "cause," supposing that one had to explain them both by exhibiting concrete examples and by giving a definition of the term. There is a sense in which fire is an element (and no doubt so too is "the indeterminate"1 or some other similar thing, of its own nature), and there is a sense in which it is not; because "to be fire" and "to be an element" are not the same. It is as a concrete thing and as a stuff that fire is an element; but the term "element" denotes that it has this attribute: that something is made of it as a primary constituent. The same is true of "cause" or "one" and all other such terms.

Hence "to be one" means "to be indivisible" (being essentially a particular thing, distinct and separate in place or form or thought), or "to be whole and indivisible"; but especially "to be the first measure of each kind," and above all of quantity; for it is from this that it has been extended to the other categories. [20] Measure is that by which quantity is known, and quantity qua quantity is known either by unity or by number, and all number is known by unity. Therefore all quantity qua quantity is known by unity, and that by which quantities are primarily known is absolute unity.Thus unity is the starting point of number qua number. Hence in other cases too "measure" means that by which each thing is primarily known, and the measure of each thing is a unit—in length, breadth, depth, weight and speed.(The terms "weight" and "speed" are common to both contraries, for each of them has a double meaning; e.g., "weight" applies to that which has the least amount of gravity and also to that which has excess of it, and speed to that which has the least amount of motion and also to that which has excess of it; for even the slow has some speed, and the light some weight.)

In all these cases, then, the measure and starting-point is some indivisible unit (since even in the case of lines we treat the "one-foot line" as indivisible). For everywhere we require as our measure an indivisible unit; i.e., that which is simple either in quality or in quantity.Now where it seems impossible to take away or add, there the measure is exact.

1 The reference is undoubtedly to Anaximander.

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.

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: