On The Heavens
child. For it is clear that when the elements come together the result
is not a chance system and combination, but the very same as
before-especially on the view of those who hold this theory, since
they say that the contrary is the cause of each state. So that if
the totality of body, which is a continuum, is now in this order or
disposition and now in that, and if the combination of the whole is
a world or heaven, then it will not be the world that comes into being
and is destroyed, but only its dispositions.
If the world is believed to be one, it is impossible to suppose that
it should be, as a whole, first generated and then destroyed, never to
reappear; since before it came into being there was always present the
combination prior to it, and that, we hold, could never change if it
was never generated. If, on the other hand, the worlds are infinite in
number the view is more plausible. But whether this is, or is not,
impossible will be clear from what follows. For there are some who
think it possible both for the ungenerated to be destroyed and for the
generated to persist undestroyed. (This is held in the Timaeus,
where Plato says that the heaven, though it was generated, will none
the less exist to eternity.) So far as the heaven is concerned we have
answered this view with arguments appropriate to the nature of the
heaven: on the general question we shall attain clearness when we
examine the matter universally.
We must first distinguish the senses in which we use the words
'ungenerated' and 'generated', 'destructible' and 'indestructible'.
These have many meanings, and though it may make no difference to
the argument, yet some confusion of mind must result from treating
as uniform in its use a word which has several distinct
applications. The character which is the ground of the predication
will always remain obscure.