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On The Heavens   



same thing happens again when the residue produces water. But this can

only go on for ever, if the finite body contains an infinity, which is

impossible. Therefore the generation of elements out of one another

will not always continue.

(2) We have now explained that the mutual transformations of the

elements cannot take place by means of excretion. The remaining

alternative is that they should be generated by changing into one

another. And this in one of two ways, either by change of shape, as

the same wax takes the shape both of a sphere and of a cube, or, as

some assert, by resolution into planes. (a) Generation by change of

shape would necessarily involve the assertion of atomic bodies. For if

the particles were divisible there would be a part of fire which was

not fire and a part of earth which was not earth, for the reason

that not every part of a pyramid is a pyramid nor of a cube a cube.

But if (b) the process is resolution into planes, the first difficulty

is that the elements cannot all be generated out of one another.

This they are obliged to assert, and do assert. It is absurd,

because it is unreasonable that one element alone should have no

part in the transformations, and also contrary to the observed data of

sense, according to which all alike change into one another. In fact

their explanation of the observations is not consistent with the

observations. And the reason is that their ultimate principles are

wrongly assumed: they had certain predetermined views, and were

resolved to bring everything into line with them. It seems that

perceptible things require perceptible principles, eternal things

eternal principles, corruptible things corruptible principles; and, in

general, every subject matter principles homogeneous with itself.

But they, owing to their love for their principles, fall into the

attitude of men who undertake the defence of a position in argument.

In the confidence that the principles are true they are ready to

accept any consequence of their application. As though some principles

did not require to be judged from their results, and particularly from

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