Observations upon experimental philosophy to which is added The description of a new blazing world
Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674.
Page  135

31. Of the Parts of Nature, and of Atomes.

ALthough I am of opinion, that Nature is a self-moving, and consequently a self-living and self-knowing infinite body, divideable into infinite parts; yet I do not mean that these parts are Atomes; for there can be no Atome, that is, an individeable body in Nature, because whatsoever has body, or is mate∣rial, has quantity, and what has quantity is divideable. But some may say, if a part be finite, it cannot be di∣videable into Infinite. To which I answer, that there is no such thing as one finite single part in Nature; for when I speak of the parts of Nature, I do not under∣stand, that those parts are like grains of Corn, or sand in one heap, all of one figure or magnitude, and sepa∣rable from each other; but I conceive Nature to be an Infinite body, bulk or magnitude, which by its own self-motion is divided into infinite parts, not single or individable parts, but parts of one continued body, one∣ly discernable from each other by their proper figures, caused by the changes of particular motions; for it is well to be observed, first, that Nature is corporeal, and therefore divideable: Next, That Nature is self∣moving, and therefore never at rest; I do not mean exteriously moving; for Nature being infinite, is all within it self, and has nothing without or beyond it, because it is without limits or bounds; but interiously, Page  136 so that all the motions that are in Nature are within her self, and being various and infinite in their changes, they divide the substance or body of Nature into infinite parts; for the parts of Nature, and changes of Mo∣tion are but one thing; for were there no Motion, there would be no change of figures: 'Tis true, Matter in its own nature would be divideable, because whereso∣ever is body, there are parts; but if it had no motion, it would not have such various changes of figures as it hath; wherefore it is well to be considered, that self∣motion is throughout all the body of Nature, and that no part or figure, how small soever, can be without self-motion; and according as the motions are, so are the parts; for infinite changes of motions make infinite parts; nay, what we call one finite part, may have in∣finite changes, because it may be divided and compo∣sed infinite ways. By which it is evident, first, that no certain quantity or figure can be assigned to the parts of Nature, as I said before of the grains of corn or sand; for infinite changes of motions produce infinite varie∣ties of figures; and all the degrees of density, rarity, levity, gravity, slowness, quickness; nay, all the ef∣fects that are in Nature: Next, that it is impossible to have single parts in Nature, that is, parts which are individeable in themselves, as Atomes; and may subsist single, or by themselves, precised or separated from all other parts; for although there are perfect and whole figures in Nature, yet are they nothing else but parts Page  137 of Nature, which consist of a composition of other parts, and their figures make them discernable from other parts or figures of Nature. For example: an Eye, although it be composed of parts, and has a whole and perfect figure, yet it is but a part of the Head, and could not subsist without it: Also the Head, al∣though it has a whole and perfect figure, yet 'tis a part of the Body, and could not subsist without it. The same may be said of all other particular and perfect fi∣gures. As for example: an Animal, though it be a whole and perfect figure, yet it is but a part of Earth, and some other Elements, and parts of Nature, and could not subsist without them; nay, for any thing we know to the contrary, the Elements cannot subsist without other Creatures: All which proves, that there are no single Parts, nor Vacuum, nor no 〈◊〉 of loose Atomes in Nature; for if such a whole and perfect figure should be divided into millions of other parts and figures, yet it is impossible to divide it into single parts, by reason there is as much composition, as there is division in Nature; and as soon as parts are divided from such or such parts, at that instant of time, and by the same act of division they are joyned to other parts; and all this because Nature is a body of a conti∣nued infiniteness, without any holes or vacuities: Nay, were it possible that there could be a single part, that is, a part separated from all the rest; yet being a part of Nature, it must consist of the same substance as Na∣ture Page  138 her self; but Nature is an Infinite composition of rational, sensitive and inanimate matter; which although they do constitute but one body because of their close and inseparable conjunction and commixture; never∣theless they are several parts (for one part is not ano∣ther part) and therefore every part or particle of Na∣ture consisting of the same commixture, cannot be sin∣gle or individable. Thus it remains firm, that self∣motion is the onely cause of the various parts and changes of figures; and that when parts move or sepa∣rate themselves from parts, they move and joyn to other parts at the same point of time; I do not mean that parts do drive or press upon each other, for those are forced and constraint actions, when as natural self-mo∣tions are free and voluntary; and although there are pressures and re-actions in Nature, yet they are not u∣niversal actions: Neither is there any such thing as a stoppage in the actions of Nature, nor do parts move through Empty spaces; but as some parts joyn, so o∣thers divide by the same act; for although some parts can quit such or such parts, yet they cannot quit all parts; for example, a man goes a hundred miles, he leaves or quits those parts from whence he removed first; but as soon as he removes from such parts, he joyns to other parts, were his motion no more then a hairs breadth; so that all his journey is nothing else but a division and composition of parts, wheresoever he goes by water, or by land; for it is impossible for him Page  139 to quit parts in general, although it be in his choice to quit such or such particular parts, and to join to what parts he will.

When I speak of Motion, I desire to be under∣stood, that I do not mean any other but corpo∣real motion; for there is no other motion in Na∣ture; so that Generation, Dissolution, Alteration, Augmentation, Diminution, Transformation; nay, all the actions of Sense and Reason, both interior, and exterior, and what motions soever in Nature are corpo∣real, although they are not all perceptible by our ex∣terior senses; for our senses are too gross to perceive all the curious and various actions of Nature, and it would be but a folly to deny what our senses cannot perceive; for although Sense and Reason are the same in all Creatures and parts of Nature, not having any degrees in themselves, no more then self-knowledg hath; for self-knowledg can but be self-knowledg, and sense and reason can but be sense and reason; yet they do not work in all parts of Nature alike, but according as they are composed: and therefore it is impossible for any humane eye to see the exterior motions of all Crea∣tures, except they be of some grosser bodies; For who can see the motion of the Air, and the like? Nay, I believe not that all exterior motions of grosser bodies can be perceived by our sight, much less their interior actions; and by this I exclude Rest: for if Matter, or corporeal Nature be in a perpetual motion, there Page  140 can be no rest in Nature, but what others call rest, is nothing else but retentive motions, which retentive mo∣tions, are as active as dispersing motions; for Mr. Des Cartes says well, that it requires as much action or force to stay a Ship, as to set it a float; and there is as much action required in keeping parts together, as in disper∣sing them. Besides, interior motions are as active as some exterior; nay, some more; and I believe, if there were a World of Gold, whose parts are close and dense, it would be as active interiously, as a world of air, which is fluid and rare, would be active exteri∣ously. But some may say, How is it possible that: there can be a motion of bodies without an empty space; for one body cannot move in another body? I an∣swer: Space is change of division, as Place is change of magnitude; but division and magnitude belong to body; therefore space and place cannot be without bo∣dy, but wheresoever is body, there is place also: Nei∣ther can a body leave a place behind it; so that the di∣stinction of interior and exterior place is needless, be∣cause no body can have two places, but place and body are but one thing; and whensoever the body changes, its place changes also. But some do not consider that there are degrees of Matter; for Natures body doth not consist of one degree, as to be all hard or dense like a stone, but as there are infinite changes of Motion, so there are in Nature infinite degrees of density, rarity, grossness, purity, hardness, softness, &c. all caused Page  141 by self-motion; which hard, gross, rare, fluid, dense, subtil, and many other sorts of bodies, in their several degrees, may more easily move, divide and join, from and with each other, being in a continued body, then if they had a Vacuum to move in; for were there a Va∣cuum, there would be no successive motions, nor no degrees of swiftness and slowness, but all Motion would be done in an instant. The truth is, there would be such distances of several gaps and holes, that Parts would never join if once divided; in so much as a piece of the world would become a single parti∣cular World, not joyning to any part besides it self; which would make a horrid confusion in Nature con∣trary to all sense and reason. Wherefore the opinion of Vacuum is, in my judgment, as absurd as the opini∣on of senseless and irrational Atomes, moving by chance; for it is more probable that atomes should have life and knowledg to move regularly, then that they should move regularly and wisely by chance, and without life and knowledg; for there can be no re∣gular motion without knowledg, sense and reason; and therefore those that are for Atomes, had best to be∣lieve them to be self-moving, living and knowing bo∣dies, or else their opinion is very irrational. But the opinion of Atomes, is fitter for a Poetical fancy, then for serious Philosophy; and this is the reason that I have waved it in my Philosophical Works: for if there can be no single parts, there cannot be Atomes Page  142 in Nature, or else Nature would be like a Beggars coat full of lice; Neither would she be able to rule those wandering and stragling atomes, because they are not parts of her body, but each is a single body by it self, having no dependance upon each other; Wherefore if there should be a composition of Atomes, it would not be a body made of parts, but of so many whole and intire single bodies meeting together as a swarm of Bees: The truth is, every Atome being single, must be an absolute body by it self, and have an absolute power and knowledg; by which it would become a kind of a Deity; and the concourse of them would ra∣ther cause a confusion, then a conformity in Nature, because all Atomes, being absolute, they would all be Governours, but none would be governed.

Thus I have declared my opinion concerning the parts of Nature, as also Vacuum, and Atomes; to wit, That it is impossible there can be any such things in Nature. I will conclude after I have given my answer to these two following Questions.

First, It may be asked, Whether the Parts of a Composed figure do continue in such a Composition until the whole figure be dissolved? I answer, My o∣pinion is, that in some compositions they do continue, at least some longer then others; but although some parts of a figure do disjoin from each other, and join with others; yet the structure of the Creature may ne∣vertheless continue. Neither is it necessary, that those Page  143 which begin a buiding, must needs stay to the end or perfection of it, for some may begin, others may work on, and others may finish it; also some may repair, and some may ruine; and it is well to be observed, that the compositions of all Creatures are not alike, nor do they continue or dissolve all alike, and at the same time.

Secondly, It may be questioned, Whether there can be an infinite distance between two or more parts? And my answer is, That distance properly doth not belong to infinite, but onely to finite pars; for distance is a certain measure between parts and parts, and where∣soever is a measure, there must be two extreams; but there are no extreams nor ends in infinite, and there∣fore there can be no infinite distance between parts. In∣deed, it is a meer contradiction, and non-sense to say, Infinit between parts, by reason the word Between, im∣plies a finiteness, as between such a part, and such a part. But you will say, Because Nature is an infinite body, it must have an infinite measure; for wheresoever is bo∣dy, there is magnitude and figure; and wheresoever is magnitude and figure, there is measure. I answer: 'Tis true, body, magnitude and figure, are all but one thing; and according as the body is, so is its magnitude and figure; but the body of Nature being infinite, its magnitude and figure must also be infinite. But mi∣stake me not: I do not mean a circumscribed and per∣fect exterior magnitude, by reason there's nothing ex∣terior Page  144 in respect to Infinite, but in relation to its infinite parts. The truth is, Men do often mistake in adscri∣bing to Infinite that which properly belongs to particu∣lars; or at least they consider the attributes of an infi∣nite and a finite body, after one and the same manner; and no wonder, because a finite capacity cannot com∣prehend what infinite is; but although we cannot po∣sitively know what infinite is, yet we may guess at it by its opposite, that is, by Finite; for infinite is that which has no terms, bounds or limits; and therefore it cannot be circumscribed; and if it cannot be circumscri∣bed as a finite body, it cannot have an exterior magni∣tude and figure as a finite body, and consequently no measure. Nevertheless, it is no contradiction to say, it has an Infinite magnitude and figure; for although Infinite Nature cannot have any thing without or be∣yond it self, yet it may have magnitude and figure within it self, because it is a body, and by this the mag∣nitude and figure of infinite Nature is distinguished from the magnitude and figure of its finite parts; for these have each their exterior and circumscribed figure, which Nature has not. And as for Measure, it is one∣ly an effect of a finite magnitude, and belongs to finite parts that have certain distances from each other. 'Tis true, one might in a certain manner say, An infinite distance; as for example, if there be an infinite Line which has no ends, one might call the infinite exten∣sion of that line an infinite distance; but this is an im∣proper Page  145 expression, and it is better to keep the term of an infinite extension, then call it an infinite distance; for as I said before, distance is measure, and properly belongs to parts: Nay, if it were possible that there could be an infinite distance of parts in Nature, yet the perpetual changes of Motions, by which parts re∣move, and join from and to parts, would not allow any such thing in Nature; for the parts of Nature are always in action, working, intermixing, composing, dividing perpetually; so as it would be impossible for them to keep certain distances.

But to conclude this Discourse, I desire it may be observed.

1. That whatsoever is body, were it an Atome, must have parts; so that body cannot be without parts.

2. That there is no such thing as rest or stoppage in Infinite Matter; but there is self-motion in all parts of Nature, although they are not all exteriously, local∣ly moving to our perception; for reason must not de∣ny what our senses cannot comprehend: although a piece of Wood or Metal has no exterior progressive motion, such as is found in Animals; nevertheless, it is not without Motion; for it is subject to Generation and Dissolution, which certainly are natural corporeal motions, besides many others; the truth is, the harder, denser, and firmer bodies are, the stronger are their motions; for it requires more strength to keep and Page  146 hold parts together, then to dissolve and separate them.

3. That without motion, parts could not alter their figures, neither would there be any variety in infinite Nature.

4. If there were any such thing as Atomes, and Va∣cuum, there would be no conformity, nor uniformity in Nature.

Lastly, As there is a perpetual self-motion in Na∣ture, and all her parts, so it is impossible that there can be perfect measures, constant figures, or single parts in Nature.