Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of Metaphysics

Previous | Next


is why Democritus, at any rate, says that either there is no truth
or to us at least it is not evident.
And in general it is because these thinkers suppose knowledge to
be sensation, and this to be a physical alteration, that they say that
what appears to our senses must be true; for it is for these reasons
that both Empedocles and Democritus and, one may almost say, all the
others have fallen victims to opinions of this sort. For Empedocles
says that when men change their condition they change their knowledge;

For wisdom increases in men according to what is before them.

And elsewhere he says that:-

So far as their nature changed, so far to them always
Came changed thoughts into mind.

And Parmenides also expresses himself in the same way:

For as at each time the much-bent limbs are composed,
So is the mind of men; for in each and all men
'Tis one thing thinks-the substance of their limbs:
For that of which there is more is thought.

A saying of Anaxagoras to some of his friends is also
related,-that things would be for them such as they supposed them to
be. And they say that Homer also evidently had this opinion, because
he made Hector, when he was unconscious from the blow, lie 'thinking
other thoughts',-which implies that even those who are bereft of
thought have thoughts, though not the same thoughts. Evidently,
then, if both are forms of knowledge, the real things also are at
the same time 'both so and not so'. And it is in this direction that
the consequences are most difficult. For if those who have seen most
of such truth as is possible for us (and these are those who seek
and love it most)-if these have such opinions and express these
views about the truth, is it not natural that beginners in
philosophy should lose heart? For to seek the truth would be to follow
flying game.
But the reason why these thinkers held this opinion is that
while they were inquiring into the truth of that which is, they
thought, 'that which is' was identical with the sensible world; in
this, however, there is largely present the nature of the
indeterminate-of that which exists in the peculiar sense which we have
explained; and therefore, while they speak plausibly, they do not
say what is true (for it is fitting to put the matter so rather than
as Epicharmus put it against Xenophanes). And again, because they
saw that all this world of nature is in movement and that about that
which changes no true statement can be made, they said that of course,
regarding that which everywhere in every respect is changing,
nothing could truly be affirmed. It was this belief that blossomed
into the most extreme of the views above mentioned, that of the
professed Heracliteans, such as was held by Cratylus, who finally
did not think it right to say anything but only moved his finger,
and criticized Heraclitus for saying that it is impossible to step
twice into the same river; for he thought one could not do it even
But we shall say in answer to this argument also that while
there is some justification for their thinking that the changing, when
it is changing, does not exist, yet it is after all disputable; for
that which is losing a quality has something of that which is being
lost, and of that which is coming to be, something must already be.
And in general if a thing is perishing, will be present something that
exists; and if a thing is coming to be, there must be something from
which it comes to be and something by which it is generated, and

Previous | Next
Site Search