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On Generation and corruption   


dense, or rather the hot and the cold: for it is these which are the

moulding forces, while the 'one' underlies them as a 'matter'. But

(ii) those who postulate two from the start-as Parmenides postulated

Fire and Earth-make the intermediates (e.g. Air and Water) blends of

these. The same course is followed (iii) by those who advocate

three. (We may compare what Plato does in Me Divisions': for he

makes 'the middle' a blend.) Indeed, there is practically no

difference between those who postulate two and those who postulate

three, except that the former split the middle 'element' into two,

while the latter treat it as only one. But (iv) some advocate four

from the start, e.g. Empedocles: yet he too draws them together so

as to reduce them to the two, for he opposes all the others to Fire.

In fact, however, fire and air, and each of the bodies we have

mentioned, are not simple, but blended. The 'simple' bodies are indeed

similar in nature to them, but not identical with them. Thus the

'simple' body corresponding to fire is 'such-as-fire, not fire: that

which corresponds to air is 'such-as-air': and so on with the rest

of them. But fire is an excess of heat, just as ice is an excess of

cold. For freezing and boiling are excesses of heat and cold

respectively. Assuming, therefore, that ice is a freezing of moist and

cold, fire analogously will be a boiling of dry and hot: a fact, by

the way, which explains why nothing comes-to-be either out of ice or

out of fire.

The 'simple' bodies, since they are four, fall into two pairs

which belong to the two regions, each to each: for Fire and Air are

forms of the body moving towards the 'limit', while Earth and Water

are forms of the body which moves towards the 'centre'. Fire and

Earth, moreover, are extremes and purest: Water and Air, on the

contrary are intermediates and more like blends. And, further, the

members of either pair are contrary to those of the other, Water being

contrary to Fire and Earth to Air; for the qualities constituting

Water and Earth are contrary to those that constitute Fire and Air.

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