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Title: Aristotle on the matter of the elements
Author: Crowley, Timothy James
ISNI:       0000 0000 7765 2657
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis is an investigation into the simplest material entities recognised by Aristotle's theory of nature. In general, the position I defend is that the four 'so-called elements' fire, air, water, and earth are, for Aristotle, genuine elements, i.e., the simplest material constituents, of bodies. In particular, I deal with two problems, the first concerning the relationship between the four 'so-called elements' and the primary contraries, hot-cold, dry-wet; and the second concerning the nature of the matter from which the latter come to be. Responses to these problems in the secondary literature tend to conclude that the contraries (usually together with 'prime matter'), are constitutive of the so-called elements. I reject this conclusion. In the first part of this thesis I consider, and dismiss, the alleged evidence that Aristotle denies to fire, air, water, and earth the status of genuine elements, and I argue that the status of the contraries as the differentiae of the elements effectively rules out the possibility that they could be the constituents of the latter. In the second part of this thesis I attempt to unpack Aristotle's assertion at De Gen. et Cor. II. 1 that the matter of the perceptible bodies is that from which the so-called elements come to be. I argue that the matter of the perceptible bodies, although it is that from which the elements come to be, is not the 'matter of the elements', in the sense of a matter that composes the elements. On the contrary, the 'matter of the perceptible bodies', i.e., the constitutive matter of composite bodies, is itself composed of the elements: it is a mixture of the four elements. Thus the latter can be said to come to be 'from' the 'matter of the perceptible bodies', but this must be understood in a non-constitutive sense of 'from'.
Supervisor: Frede, Michael ; Morison, Benjamin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Form (Philosophy) ; Four elements (Philosophy) ; Matter ; Philosophy ; Philosophy of nature ; Science, Ancient ; Substance (Philosophy) ; Early works to 1800