theory were verified by observation. He had an empirically based procedure, contrary to whatsome have said. Generously speaking, his failures appear often to have been due to lack of information, or incorrect interpretation of it; or to phenomena unnoticed or not examined closelyenough; or to new stars (if any were known to him) and comets being regarded as being relativelynear to our earth, perhaps
they showed change; or to insufficient knowledge of thechemical constitution of matter; and so on. That celestial objects are alive wasn't a bad conjecturein the context of what was known, since they appear to be
It seemed obvious that thisis a characteristic of
entities, although there are some quite sessile creatures. Other motions,then, such as flight of spears or running water, must be
by some entity or entities, orforces, acting on them from outside of themselves. This suggests that birds and caterpillars, forexample, can move themselves, without external motivation or incitement, when they are aliveand in a mobile condition.3. That the celestial objects are divine wasn't too bad a conjecture, either, given theoverall regularity and permanence of many of them visible without instrumental aids, over periodsof time which are long relative to human lives. When Aristotle associates the divine with the outerheavens, he doesn't actually say the outer heavens or the stars
gods. He says they are
godsby virtue of their unchanging nature.
On earth, change is everywhere. The living are born orsprout or otherwise come to be, are transformed or transform themselves, and eventually die orpass away or otherwise cease to exist.
Ores in the earth can be changed to metals, metals rust.Mountains explode or wear down. Waters flood or dry up, spring from the earth or fall fromabove; when boiled (using
and when frozen
turns into a transparentform of
(the four basic elements in the theory of Empedocles and Aristotle are
water, earth, fire
Only the stars appear permanent and unchanging, he says. But, he asks, are there any
which last forever in one form? Those who believe there are immortal gods, says Aristotle,may be prepared to believe this too, and that the planets and stars are such bodies.4. The divinity and regularity of the movements of the sun, moon, planets and stars weretaken by many ancients as evidence that these celestial objects
or at least
various kinds of changes on earth. The objects were considered by some to be quite tyrannical,and to
events on earth. This extraterrestrial autocracy was taken to mean that one canmake predictions about events on earth. If everything, or at least something, is dictated inadvance, then it is reasonable to try to find out in advance what will happen. Success of prediction depends on events being completely or at least partly
in advance of theirhappening. There was an association of the divinity and the regularity of celestial objects withwhat we may rather pedantically call
the doctrine that some, at least, of themyriad changes on earth are dictated by stars and planets.
This, in turn, is associated with the
2 We can get around a potential contradiction here to the fact that Aristotle says stars are
gods, rather than thatthey
gods, by considering
here as indicating that stars partake in someway of the gods, or by regardingthem as permanent instruments of the gods, or in various other ways.
Aristotle also wrote a book called
Peri geneseos kaiphthoras,
otherwise known as
De generatione et corruptione,
often rather euphemistically translated into English as
On coming-to-be and passing-away.
4 In ancient times, the
were commonly taken to include our earth’s sun and moon, as well as the planets (intoday’s sense of the term) which were visible to unassisted eyes, viz. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Theword
traces back to the Greek word
to wander, since these five celestial beings, together with