Aristotle on the Transmutation of the Elements in <i>De Generatione Et Corruptione</i> I. 1–4

David Bostock

in Space, Time, Matter, and Form

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780199286867
Published online May 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603532 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Aristotle Studies Series

 Aristotle on the Transmutation of the Elements in De Generatione Et Corruptione I. 1–4

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This essay is concerned with the contrast that Aristotle draws between ‘generation’ and ‘alteration’ in GC I.1-4, and its implications for ‘prime matter’. Aristotle believes that when one element (e.g., air) becomes another (e.g., water), this is a case of generation as opposed to alteration, and he attempts to explain what generation is in a way that will allow for this. It is argued that his attempts are clearly a failure, and are due to a mistaken appreciation of the question which should be understood as: When is the alteration of some persisting matter at the same time the generation of a new substance? It is also argued that when the question is thus revised, the answer should be that when one of Aristotle’s elements is transformed into another, this should not count as the generation of a new substance.

Keywords: De Generatione et Corruptione; elements; prime matter; generation; alteration; substance

Chapter.  6235 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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