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On The Heavens   

should show no movement at all. Yet here is this great weight of

earth, and it is at rest. And again, from beneath one of these

moving fragments of earth, before it falls, take away the earth, and

it will continue its downward movement with nothing to stop it. The

difficulty then, has naturally passed into a common place of

philosophy; and one may well wonder that the solutions offered are not

seen to involve greater absurdities than the problem itself.

By these considerations some have been led to assert that the

earth below us is infinite, saying, with Xenophanes of Colophon,

that it has 'pushed its roots to infinity',-in order to save the

trouble of seeking for the cause. Hence the sharp rebuke of

Empedocles, in the words 'if the deeps of the earth are endless and

endless the ample ether-such is the vain tale told by many a tongue,

poured from the mouths of those who have seen but little of the whole.

Others say the earth rests upon water. This, indeed, is the oldest

theory that has been preserved, and is attributed to Thales of

Miletus. It was supposed to stay still because it floated like wood

and other similar substances, which are so constituted as to rest upon

but not upon air. As if the same account had not to be given of the

water which carries the earth as of the earth itself! It is not the

nature of water, any more than of earth, to stay in mid-air: it must

have something to rest upon. Again, as air is lighter than water, so

is water than earth: how then can they think that the naturally

lighter substance lies below the heavier? Again, if the earth as a

whole is capable of floating upon water, that must obviously be the

case with any part of it. But observation shows that this is not the

case. Any piece of earth goes to the bottom, the quicker the larger it

is. These thinkers seem to push their inquiries some way into the

problem, but not so far as they might. It is what we are all

inclined to do, to direct our inquiry not by the matter itself, but by

the views of our opponents: and even when interrogating oneself one

pushes the inquiry only to the point at which one can no longer

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