Physics By Aristotle (Written 350 B.C.E)
Translated by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye

Book VI Part 2

And since every magnitude is divisible into magnitudes-for we have shown that it is impossible for anything continuous to be composed of indivisible parts, and every magnitude is continuous-it necessarily follows that the quicker of two things traverses a greater magnitude in an equal time, an equal magnitude in less time, and a greater magnitude in less time, in conformity with the definition sometimes given of 'the quicker'. Suppose that A is quicker than B. Now since of two things that which changes sooner is quicker, in the time ZH, in which A has changed from G to D, B will not yet have arrived at D but will be short of it: so that in an equal time the quicker will pass over a greater magnitude. More than this, it will pass over a greater magnitude in less time: for in the time in which A has arrived at D, B being the slower has arrived, let us say, at E. Then since A has occupied the whole time ZH in arriving at D, will have arrived at O in less time than this, say ZK. Now the magnitude GO that A has passed over is greater than the magnitude GE, and the time ZK is less than the whole time ZH: so that the quicker will pass over a greater magnitude in less time. And from this it is also clear that the quicker will pass over an equal magnitude in less time than the slower. For since it passes over the greater magnitude in less time than the slower, and (regarded by itself) passes over LM the greater in more time than LX the lesser, the time PRh in which it passes over LM will be more than the time PS, which it passes over LX: so that, the time PRh being less than the time PCh in which the slower passes over LX, the time PS will also be less than the time PX: for it is less than the time PRh, and that which is less than something else that is less than a thing is also itself less than that thing. Hence it follows that the quicker will traverse an equal magnitude in less time than the slower. Again, since the motion of anything must always occupy either an equal time or less or more time in comparison with that of another thing, and since, whereas a thing is slower if its motion occupies more time and of equal velocity if its motion occupies an equal time, the quicker is neither of equal velocity nor slower, it follows that the motion of the quicker can occupy neither an equal time nor more time. It can only be, then, that it occupies less time, and thus we get the necessary consequence that the quicker will pass over an equal magnitude (as well as a greater) in less time than the slower.

And since every motion is in time and a motion may occupy any time, and the motion of everything that is in motion may be either quicker or slower, both quicker motion and slower motion may occupy any time: and this being so, it necessarily follows that time also is continuous. By continuous I mean that which is divisible into divisibles that are infinitely divisible: and if we take this as the definition of continuous, it follows necessarily that time is continuous. For since it has been shown that the quicker will pass over an equal magnitude in less time than the slower, suppose that A is quicker and B slower, and that the slower has traversed the magnitude GD in the time ZH. Now it is clear that the quicker will traverse the same magnitude in less time than this: let us say in the time ZO. Again, since the quicker has passed over the whole D in the time ZO, the slower will in the same time pass over GK, say, which is less than GD. And since B, the slower, has passed over GK in the time ZO, the quicker will pass over it in less time: so that the time ZO will again be divided. And if this is divided the magnitude GK will also be divided just as GD was: and again, if the magnitude is divided, the time will also be divided. And we can carry on this process for ever, taking the slower after the quicker and the quicker after the slower alternately, and using what has been demonstrated at each stage as a new point of departure: for the quicker will divide the time and the slower will divide the length. If, then, this alternation always holds good, and at every turn involves a division, it is evident that all time must be continuous. And at the same time it is clear that all magnitude is also continuous; for the divisions of which time and magnitude respectively are susceptible are the same and equal.

Moreover, the current popular arguments make it plain that, if time is continuous, magnitude is continuous also, inasmuch as a thing asses over half a given magnitude in half the time taken to cover the whole: in fact without qualification it passes over a less magnitude in less time; for the divisions of time and of magnitude will be the same. And if either is infinite, so is the other, and the one is so in the same way as the other; i.e. if time is infinite in respect of its extremities, length is also infinite in respect of its extremities: if time is infinite in respect of divisibility, length is also infinite in respect of divisibility: and if time is infinite in both respects, magnitude is also infinite in both respects.

Hence Zeno's argument makes a false assumption in asserting that it is impossible for a thing to pass over or severally to come in contact with infinite things in a finite time. For there are two senses in which length and time and generally anything continuous are called '': they are called so either in respect of divisibility or in respect of their extremities. So while a thing in a finite time cannot come in contact with things quantitatively infinite, it can come in contact with things infinite in respect of divisibility: for in this sense the time itself is also infinite: and so we find that the time occupied by the passage over the infinite is not a finite but an infinite time, and the contact with the infinites is made by means of moments not finite but infinite in number.

The passage over the infinite, then, cannot occupy a finite time, and the passage over the finite cannot occupy an infinite time: if the time is infinite the magnitude must be infinite also, and if the magnitude is infinite, so also is the time. This may be shown as follows. Let AB be a finite magnitude, and let us suppose that it is traversed in infinite time G, and let a finite period GD of the time be taken. Now in this period the thing in motion will pass over a certain segment of the magnitude: let BE be the segment that it has thus passed over. (This will be either an exact measure of AB or less or greater than an exact measure: it makes no difference which it is.) Then, since a magnitude equal to BE will always be passed over in an equal time, and BE measures the whole magnitude, the whole time occupied in passing over AB will be finite: for it will be divisible into periods equal in number to the segments into which the magnitude is divisible. Moreover, if it is the case that infinite time is not occupied in passing over every magnitude, but it is possible to ass over some magnitude, say BE, in a finite time, and if this BE measures the whole of which it is a part, and if an equal magnitude is passed over in an equal time, then it follows that the time like the magnitude is finite. That infinite time will not be occupied in passing over BE is evident if the time be taken as limited in one direction: for as the part will be passed over in less time than the whole, the time occupied in traversing this part must be finite, the limit in one direction being given. The same reasoning will also show the falsity of the assumption that infinite length can be traversed in a finite time. It is evident, then, from what has been said that neither a line nor a surface nor in fact anything continuous can be indivisible.

This conclusion follows not only from the present argument but from the consideration that the opposite assumption implies the divisibility of the indivisible. For since the distinction of quicker and slower may apply to motions occupying any period of time and in an equal time the quicker passes over a greater length, it may happen that it will pass over a length twice, or one and a half times, as great as that passed over by the slower: for their respective velocities may stand to one another in this proportion. Suppose, then, that the quicker has in the same time been carried over a length one and a half times as great as that traversed by the slower, and that the respective magnitudes are divided, that of the quicker, the magnitude ABGD, into three indivisibles, and that of the slower into the two indivisibles EZ, ZH. Then the time may also be divided into three indivisibles, for an equal magnitude will be passed over in an equal time. Suppose then that it is thus divided into KL, Lm, MN. Again, since in the same time the slower has been carried over Ez, ZH, the time may also be similarly divided into two. Thus the indivisible will be divisible, and that which has no parts will be passed over not in an indivisible but in a greater time. It is evident, therefore, that nothing continuous is without parts.

Book VII Part 4

A difficulty may be raised as to whether every motion is commensurable with every other or not. Now if they are all commensurable and if two things to have the same velocity must accomplish an equal motion in an equal time, then we may have a circumference equal to a straight line, or, of course, the one may be greater or less than the other. Further, if one thing alters and another accomplishes a locomotion in an equal time, we may have an alteration and a locomotion equal to one another: thus an affection will be equal to a length, which is impossible. But is it not only when an equal motion is accomplished by two things in an equal time that the velocities of the two are equal? Now an affection cannot be equal to a length. Therefore there cannot be an alteration equal to or less than a locomotion: and consequently it is not the case that every motion is commensurable with every other.

But how will our conclusion work out in the case of the circle and the straight line? It would be absurd to suppose that the motion of one in a circle and of another in a straight line cannot be similar, but that the one must inevitably move more quickly or more slowly than the other, just as if the course of one were downhill and of the other uphill. Moreover it does not as a matter of fact make any difference to the argument to say that the one motion must inevitably be quicker or slower than the other: for then the circumference can be greater or less than the straight line; and if so it is possible for the two to be equal. For if in the time A the quicker (B) passes over the distance B' and the slower (G) passes over the distance G', B' will be greater than G': for this is what we took 'quicker' to mean: and so quicker motion also implies that one thing traverses an equal distance in less time than another: consequently there will be a part of A in which B will pass over a part of the circle equal to G', while G will occupy the whole of A in passing over G'. None the less, if the two motions are commensurable, we are confronted with the consequence stated above, viz. that there may be a straight line equal to a circle. But these are not commensurable: and so the corresponding motions are not commensurable either.

But may we say that things are always commensurable if the same terms are applied to them without equivocation? e.g. a pen, a wine, and the highest note in a scale are not commensurable: we cannot say whether any one of them is sharper than any other: and why is this? they are incommensurable because it is only equivocally that the same term 'sharp' is applied to them: whereas the highest note in a scale is commensurable with the leading-note, because the term 'sharp' has the same meaning as applied to both. Can it be, then, that the term 'quick' has not the same meaning as applied to straight motion and to circular motion respectively? If so, far less will it have the same meaning as applied to alteration and to locomotion.

Or shall we in the first place deny that things are always commensurable if the same terms are applied to them without equivocation? For the term 'much' has the same meaning whether applied to water or to air, yet water and air are not commensurable in respect of it: or, if this illustration is not considered satisfactory, 'double' at any rate would seem to have the same meaning as applied to each (denoting in each case the proportion of two to one), yet water and air are not commensurable in respect of it. But here again may we not take up the same position and say that the term 'much' is equivocal? In fact there are some terms of which even the definitions are equivocal; e.g. if 'much' were defined as 'so much and more','so much' would mean something different in different cases: 'equal' is similarly equivocal; and 'one' again is perhaps inevitably an equivocal term; and if 'one' is equivocal, so is 'two'. Otherwise why is it that some things are commensurable while others are not, if the nature of the attribute in the two cases is really one and the same?

Can it be that the incommensurability of two things in respect of any attribute is due to a difference in that which is primarily capable of carrying the attribute? Thus horse and dog are so commensurable that we may say which is the whiter, since that which primarily contains the whiteness is the same in both, viz. the surface: and similarly they are commensurable in respect of size. But water and speech are not commensurable in respect of clearness, since that which primarily contains the attribute is different in the two cases. It would seem, however that we must reject this solution, since clearly we could thus make all equivocal attributes univocal and say merely that that contains each of them is different in different cases: thus 'equality', 'sweetness', and 'whiteness' will severally always be the same, though that which contains them is different in different cases. Moreover, it is not any casual thing that is capable of carrying any attribute: each single attribute can be carried primarily only by one single thing.

Must we then say that, if two things are to be commensurable in respect of any attribute, not only must the attribute in question be applicable to both without equivocation, but there must also be no specific differences either in the attribute itself or in that which contains the attribute-that these, I mean, must not be divisible in the way in which colour is divided into kinds? Thus in this respect one thing will not be commensurable with another, i.e. we cannot say that one is more coloured than the other where only colour in general and not any particular colour is meant; but they are commensurable in respect of whiteness.

Similarly in the case of motion: two things are of the same velocity if they occupy an equal time in accomplishing a certain equal amount of motion. Suppose, then, that in a certain time an alteration is undergone by one half of a body's length and a locomotion is accomplished the other half: can be say that in this case the alteration is equal to the locomotion and of the same velocity? That would be absurd, and the reason is that there are different species of motion. And if in consequence of this we must say that two things are of equal velocity if they accomplish locomotion over an equal distance in an equal time, we have to admit the equality of a straight line and a circumference. What, then, is the reason of this? Is it that locomotion is a genus or that line is a genus? (We may leave the time out of account, since that is one and the same.) If the lines are specifically different, the locomotions also differ specifically from one another: for locomotion is specifically differentiated according to the specific differentiation of that over which it takes place. (It is also similarly differentiated, it would seem, accordingly as the instrument of the locomotion is different: thus if feet are the instrument, it is walking, if wings it is flying; but perhaps we should rather say that this is not so, and that in this case the differences in the locomotion are merely differences of posture in that which is in motion.) We may say, therefore, that things are of equal velocity in an equal time they traverse the same magnitude: and when I call it 'the same' I mean that it contains no specific difference and therefore no difference in the motion that takes place over it. So we have now to consider how motion is differentiated: and this discussion serves to show that the genus is not a unity but contains a plurality latent in it and distinct from it, and that in the case of equivocal terms sometimes the different senses in which they are used are far removed from one another, while sometimes there is a certain likeness between them, and sometimes again they are nearly related either generically or analogically, with the result that they seem not to be equivocal though they really are.

When, then, is there a difference of species? Is an attribute specifically different if the subject is different while the attribute is the same, or must the attribute itself be different as well? And how are we to define the limits of a species? What will enable us to decide that particular instances of whiteness or sweetness are the same or different? Is it enough that it appears different in one subject from what appears in another? Or must there be no sameness at all? And further, where alteration is in question, how is one alteration to be of equal velocity with another? One person may be cured quickly and another slowly, and cures may also be simultaneous: so that, recovery of health being an alteration, we have here alterations of equal velocity, since each alteration occupies an equal time. But what alteration? We cannot here speak of an 'equal' alteration: what corresponds in the category of quality to equality in the category of quantity is 'likeness'. However, let us say that there is equal velocity where the same change is accomplished in an equal time. Are we, then, to find the commensurability in the subject of the affection or in the affection itself? In the case that we have just been considering it is the fact that health is one and the same that enables us to arrive at the conclusion that the one alteration is neither more nor less than the other, but that both are alike. If on the other hand the affection is different in the two cases, e.g. when the alterations take the form of becoming white and becoming healthy respectively, here there is no sameness or equality or likeness inasmuch as the difference in the affections at once makes the alterations specifically different, and there is no unity of alteration any more than there would be unity of locomotion under like conditions. So we must find out how many species there are of alteration and of locomotion respectively. Now if the things that are in motion-that is to say, the things to which the motions belong essentially and not accidentally-differ specifically, then their respective motions will also differ specifically: if on the other hand they differ generically or numerically, the motions also will differ generically or numerically as the case may be. But there still remains the question whether, supposing that two alterations are of equal velocity, we ought to look for this equality in the sameness (or likeness) of the affections, or in the things altered, to see e.g. whether a certain quantity of each has become white. Or ought we not rather to look for it in both? That is to say, the alterations are the same or different according as the affections are the same or different, while they are equal or unequal according as the things altered are equal or unequal.

And now we must consider the same question in the case of becoming and perishing: how is one becoming of equal velocity with another? They are of equal velocity if in an equal time there are produced two things that are the same and specifically inseparable, e.g. two men (not merely generically inseparable as e.g. two animals). Similarly one is quicker than the other if in an equal time the product is different in the two cases. I state it thus because we have no pair of terms that will convey this 'difference' in the way in which unlikeness is conveyed. If we adopt the theory that it is number that constitutes being, we may indeed speak of a 'greater number' and a 'lesser number' within the same species, but there is no common term that will include both relations, nor are there terms to express each of them separately in the same way as we indicate a higher degree or preponderance of an affection by 'more', of a quantity by 'greater.'