Philoponus: Against Proclus On the Eternity of the World by John Philoponus

By John Philoponus

In probably the most unique books of past due antiquity, Philoponus argues for the Christian view that subject may be created by way of God out of not anything. It wishes no past topic for its production. while, Philoponus transforms Aristotle's perception of major subject as an incorporeal 'something - i do know now not what' that serves because the final topic for receiving extension and characteristics. to the contrary, says Philoponus, the last word topic is extension. it truly is three-d extension with its precise dimensions and any features unspecified. furthermore, such extension is the defining attribute of physique. for this reason, up to now from being incorporeal, it truly is physique, and in addition to being best subject, it's shape - the shape that constitutes physique. This makes use of, yet totally disrupts, Aristotle's conceptual equipment. ultimately, in Aristotle's scheme of different types, this extension isn't really to be labeled below the second one class of volume, yet less than the 1st classification of substance as a considerable quantity.

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Therefore, if powerlessness is opposed to power and non-being to being, and if each thing’s natural power is the cause of its being, then powerlessness should be the cause of non-being; for it is with the weakening of [their] natural power and its inability to sustain its substrate for ever that the perishing of things takes place, and it must be not infinite but limited power that grows weak, just as, to take a case, it is the power of the charioteer, whether one prefers to call it physical (sômatikos) or technical, that is the reason for the chariot’s remaining safe and his weakness that is the reason for the opposite.

But nor can they break up143 into anything simpler. Things which break up into simpler [elements] must be composite. So of what simpler [elements] does the sensory power consist? Or the nutritive [power], or whiteness, or sweetness, or other such things? And besides, the same difficulty remains again in regard to them; either they too will in their turn be resolved into simpler [elements], and the process (proodos) of resolution will have no end, or, if, being elements of enmattered forms, they are necessarily inferior to them and on that account also perishable themselves but are not resolved into simpler [elements] when they perish, why do we not admit to simplicity in the forms themselves?

And so not only the form but the matter too must come to be and perish. 124 Therefore the compound [of matter and form] does not come to be and perish as a whole. Let us consider the situation in regard to matter – whether, [that is to say,] so-called prime matter is in reality incorporeal or not, and whether it is entirely ungenerated and everlasting or not – in another context125 in which the philosopher [sc. Proclus] will make mention of 10 15 20 25 345,1 5 10 15 20 25 34 346,1 5 10 15 20 25 347,1 5 10 15 Chapter 9, Section 11 it, and if it [earlier] seemed126 true [to us] that among things currently coming to be and perishing through the agency of nature the common substrate of things neither comes to be nor perishes127 (after all, the destruction of, say, flesh has destroyed the particular form of the flesh, but not the body which underlies it as well; for the threedimensional [substrate] remains without having suffered any damage as far as the account (logos)128 of its own nature is concerned; for three-dimensional substance is precisely what the nature of body is; [and] in the same way, should water perish and air come to be out of it, there has been perishing of water and generation of air, but the substrate of both, that is to say, body devoid of qualities, has, qua body, undergone no change; and the same argument applies in every case) – if, then, [as I was saying,] the first substrate, or matter, neither comes to be in things that come to be nor perishes in things that perish, then it is neither the case that compound [things] perish as wholes (for matter remains unchanged (ametablêtos) in things that perish) nor that perishing occurs as far as matter is concerned.

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