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On Generation and corruption   


the 'elements', or else it is nothing.

Since, then, there is nothing-at least, nothing perceptible-prior to

these, they must be all. That being so, either they must always

persist and not be transformable into one another: or they must

undergo transformation-either all of them, or some only (as Plato

wrote in the Timacus).' Now it has been proved before that they must

undergo reciprocal transformation. It has also been proved that the

speed with which they come-to-be, one out of another, is not

uniform-since the process of reciprocal transformation is relatively

quick between the 'elements' with a 'complementary factor', but

relatively slow between those which possess no such factor.

Assuming, then, that the contrariety, in respect to which they are

transformed, is one, the elements' will inevitably be two: for it is

'matter' that is the 'mean' between the two contraries, and matter

is imperceptible and inseparable from them. Since, however, the

'elements' are seen to be more than two, the contrarieties must at the

least be two. But the contrarieties being two, the 'elements' must

be four (as they evidently are) and cannot be three: for the

couplings' are four, since, though six are possible, the two in

which the qualities are contrary to one another cannot occur.

These subjects have been discussed before:' but the following

arguments will make it clear that, since the 'elements' are

transformed into one another, it is impossible for any one of

them-whether it be at the end or in the middle-to be an 'originative

source' of the rest. There can be no such 'originative element' at the

ends: for all of them would then be Fire or Earth, and this theory

amounts to the assertion that all things are made of Fire or Earth.

Nor can a 'middle-element' be such an originative source'-as some

thinkers suppose that Air is transformed both into Fire and into

Water, and Water both into Air and into Earth, while the

'end-elements' are not further transformed into one another. For the

process must come to a stop, and cannot continue ad infinitum in a

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