Observations upon experimental philosophy to which is added The description of a new blazing world
Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674.
Page  32

5. On Aristotle's Philosophical Principles.

HAving viewed four of the most Eminent of the Ancient Philosophers, I will proceed now to Aristotle, who may justly be called the Idol of the Schools, for his doctrine is generally embraced with such reverence, as if Truth it self had declared it; but I find he is no less exempt from errors, then all the rest, though more happy in fame. For Fame doth all, and whose name she is pleased to record, that man shall live, when others, though of no less worth and merit, will be obscured, and buried in oblivion. I shall not give my self the trouble of examining all his Principles; but as I have done by the former, make my observations on some few points in his Philosophy.

1. The summe of his Doctrine concerning Motion, and the first Mover, is comprehended in these few The∣orems. 1. There are three sorts of motion, Accretion and Diminution, Alteration and Local motion. 2. Rest is a privation of Motion. 3. All Motion is finite, for it is done in Time, which is finite. 4. There is no infinite Quantity or Magnitude in act, but onely in power, and so no body can be actually infinite. 5. Whatsoever is moved, must necessarily be moved by another. 6. There is a first mover in Nature, which is the cause and origine of all motions. 7. This first mover is Infinite, Eternal, Page  33 Indivisible and Incorporeal. 8. Motion it self is Eter∣nal, because Time, the measure of Motion, is E∣ternal.

Concerning the first, I answer, That Nature and all her parts are perpetually self-moving; and therefore it is needless to make three sorts of motions: we might say rather, there are infinite sorts of Mo∣tions; but yet all is self-motion, and so is accretion, di∣minution, and alteration; for though our senses cannot perceive the motions of all bodies, how, and which way they move, yet it doth not follow from thence, that they are not moving; for solid composed bodies, such as Minerals, may (though not to our humane sense) be more active then some rarer and thinner bodies, as is evident in the Loadstone and Iron, and the Needle; nay, in several other bodies applied by Art Physically: for if Nature be self-moving, as surely she is, then her parts must necessarily be in a continual action, there being no such thing as rest or quiescence in Nature. Next, Aristotle seems to contradict himself, when he says, that all Motion is finite, because it is done in Time, and yet affirms, that both Motion and Time are Eternal; for Eternal is that which hath nei∣ther beginning, nor end; and if Motion and Time be thus, how can they be finite? 3. I deny, that whatsoever is body or quantitative, cannot be infinite in act, but is onely infinite in power; for if it be pro∣bable, that there can be an Eternal motion, and Eternal Page  34 time, which is infinite in act; why should it not also be probable, that there is an infinite quantity? For motion is the action of body, and it is absurd, in my opinion, to make body finite, and the action infinite. Truly, if Aristotle means the World to be finite, and yet eternal, I do not conceive how they can consist to∣gether; for if the World be finite in quantity, he must allow an infinite Vacuum beyond it; which if he doth, why may not he allow as well an infinite quan∣tity? But he has no more ground to deny there is a quantity actually infinite, then he has ground to af∣firm that it is onely infinite in power; for if that which is in power, may be deduced into act, I see no reason, but the World, which is Nature, may be said infi∣nite in act, as well as in power. 4. I deny also his Theoreme, That whatsoever is moved, must neces∣sarily be moved by another; for wheresoever is self∣motion, there needs no exterior movent; but Nature and all her parts have self-motion, therefore they stand in no need of an exterior Movent. 'Tis true, one part may occasion another by its outward impulse or force, to move thus or thus; but no part can move by any o∣thers motion, but its own, which is an internal, and innate motion; so that every part and particle of Nature has the principle of motion within it self, as consisting all of a composition of animate or self-moving Matter; and if this be so, what need we to trouble our selves about a first Mover? In Infinite and Eternity there is Page  35 neither first nor last, and therefore Aristotle cannot un∣derstand a first mover of Time; and as for motion it self, if all parts move of themselves, as I said before, there is no necessity of an exterior or first Mover. But I would fain know what he means by the action of the first Mover, whether he be actually moving the world, or not? if he be actually moving, he must of necessity have natural motion in himself; but natural self∣motion is corporeal; and a corporeal propriety can∣not be attributed to an incorporeal substance; But if he be not actually moving, he must move Nature by his powerful Decree and Command; and thus the first mover is none else but God, who may be called so, because he has endued Nature with self-motion, and given it a principle of motion within it self, to move according as he has decreed and ordered it from all E∣ternity; for God, being immovable and incorporeal, cannot actually move the Universe, like the chief wheel in a Watch. And as for his incorporeal Intelligences, which are Eternal and immovable, president over the motions of the inferior orbs, Forty seven in number; this is rather a Poetical Fancy, then a probability of truth, and deserves to be banished out of the sphere of Natural Philosophy, which inquires in∣to nothing but what is conformable to the truth of nature; and though we are all but guessers, yet he that brings the most probable and rational ar∣guments, does come nearer to truth, then those Page  36 whose Ground is onely Fancy without Reason.

2. Heaven, says Aristotle, is void of Generation and Corruption, and consequently of accretion, dimi∣nution and alteration; for there are no contraries in it, nor has it Levity, or Gravity; neither are there more Worlds but one, and that is finite; for if there were more, the Earth of one would move to the Earth of the other, as being of one kind. To which I an∣swer: first, As for Generation, Difsolution, Accre∣tion, Diminution and Alteration of Celestial bodies; it is more then a humane Creature is able to know; for although we do not see the alterations of them, yet we cannot deny they have natural motion, but where∣soever is motion, there's also change and alteration. For, put the case the Moon were such another body as this terrestrial Globe we inhabit, we can onely per∣ceive its outward progressive motion; nevertheless it may contain as many different particulars, as this Globe of the Earth, which may have their particular motions, and be generated, dissolved, composed, divided and transformed many, nay, infinite ways: The same may be said of the rest of the Planets, and the fixed Stars. And as for Gravity, and Levity, we do onely perceive they are qualities of those parts that belong to this terrestrial Globe; but we cannot judg of all bodies alike: we see air has neither gravity nor levity; for it neither ascends, nor descends; nay, this terrestrial Globe it self, has neither gravity nor Page  37 levity, for it is surrounded by the fluid air, and neither ascends nor descends: The truth is, there's no such thing as high and low, in Nature; but onely in refe∣rence to some parts; and therefore gravity and levity are not Universal, and necessary attributes of all na∣tural bodies. Next, concerning the multiplicity of Worlds, that there can be no such thing, but that the Earth of one, would move towards the Earth of the other: I answer first, There's no necessity that all Worlds must have a Terrestrial Globe; for Nature hath more varieties of Creatures, then Elements, Ve∣getables, Minerals, and Animals. Next, if it were so, yet I see no reason that one Creature must neces∣sarily move to another of the same kind: For, put the case, as I said before, the Moon was such another ter∣restrial Globe as this, yet we see they do not move one to another, but each remains in its own Sphere or Circle.

3. I admire, Aristotle makes the Principles of Na∣ture, Matter, Form and Privation, and leaves out the chief, which is Motion; for were there no motion, there would be no variety of figures; besides, Matter and Form are but one thing, for wheresoever is Mat∣ter, there is also form or figure; but privation is a non∣being, and therefore cannot be a principle of natural bodies.

4. There is no such thing as simple bodies in Na∣ture; for if Nature her self consists of a commixture Page  38 of animate and inanimate Matter, no part can be called simple, as having a composition of the same parts: be∣sides, no part can subsist single, or by it self; where∣fore the distinction into simple and mixt bodies is need∣less; for Elements are as much composed bodies, as other parts of Nature, neither do I understand the difference between perfect and imperfect mixt bodies, for Nature may compose, mix and divide parts as she pleaseth.

5. The primary Qualities of the Elements, as Heat, and Cold, Humidity and Siccity, says Aristotle, are the cause of Generation, when heat and cold overcome the Matter. I wonder he makes qualities to be no sub∣stances, or bodies, but accidents; which is something between body, and no body, and yet places them a∣bove Matter, and makes Generation their effect; But whatsoever he calls them, they are no more but effects of Nature, and cannot be above their cause, which is Matter; neither is it probable, there are but eighteen passive qualities; he might have said, as well, there are but eighteen sorts of motions; for natural effects go beyond all number, as being infinite.

6. Concerning the Soul, Aristotle doth not believe, That it moves by it self, but is onely moved accidentally, ac∣cording to the Motion of the body; but he doth not ex∣press from whence the motion of the Soul proceeds, al∣though he defines it to be that, by which we live, feel and understand: Neither, says he, is there a Soul Page  39 diffused through the World, for there are inanimate bo∣dies as well as animate; but sense and reason perceives the contrary, to wit, that there is no part of Nature but is animate; that is, has a soul. Sense, says he, is not sensible of it self, nor of its organ, nor of any interior thing; for sense cannot move it self, but is a mutation in the organ, caused by some sensible object: But the ab∣surdity of this opinion I have declared heretofore; for it is contrary to humane Reason to believe, first, that sense should be sensible of an outward object, and not of it self, or (which is all one) have perception of ex∣terior parts, and not self-knowledg. Next, that an external object should be the cause of sense, when as sense and reason are the chief principles of Nature, and the cause of all natural effects. Again, Sense, says he, is in all Animals, but Fancy is not, for Fancy is not Sense; Fancy acts in him that sleeps, Sense not. To which I answer, first, Fancy or Imagination is a voluntary action of Reason, or of the rational parts of Matter, and if reason be in all Animals, nay, in all Creatures, Fancy is there also; Next, it is evident that Sense acts as much a∣sleep as awake, the difference I have expressed else∣where, viz. That the sensitive motions, Work inward∣ly in sleep, and outwardly awake. The Intellect to Ari∣stotle, is that part of the Soul by which it knows and un∣derstands, and is onely proper to man, when as sense is pro∣per to animals: It is twofold, Patient and Agent, whereof this is Immortal, Eternal, not mixt with the body, but sepa∣rable Page  40 from it, and ever in action: The Patient Intellect, is mortal, and yet void of corruptive passion, not mixt with the body, nor having any corporeal organs. But these, and many other differences of Intellects, which he rehearses, are more troublesome to the understand∣ing, then beneficial for the knowledg of Nature: And why should we puzzle our selves with multiplicity of terms and distinctions when there's no need of them: Truly Nature's actions are easie, and we may easily apprehend them without much ado. If Nature be material, as it cannot be proved otherwise, sense and reason are material also, and therefore we need not to introduce an incorporeal mind, or intellect: Be∣sides; if sense and reason be a constitutive principle of Nature, all parts of Nature do partake of the same; nor hath man a prerogative before other Creatures in that case, onely the difference and variety of motions makes different figures, and consequently different knowledges and perceptions; and all Fancies, Ima∣ginations, Judgment, Memory, Remembrance, and the like, are nothing else but the actions of reason, or of the rational parts of Animate Matter; so that there is no necessity to make a Patient and Agent Intellect, much less to introduce incorporeal substances, to con∣found and disturb corporeal Nature.