God as Pure Act, orbiter dicta
-Most who study Aristotle find it awkward that he defines maturing and augmentation (both called “growth” in English) as motions. When we want to speak about the wheat growing, or icicles growing on the eaves, we don’t say “look, the wheat is moving”. But this is not because we don’t see these things as motions, but only because we don’t tend to use the word m-o-t-i-o-n. It’s perfectly natural in English to use a synonym for moving, sc. “going”: “the leaves are going from green to red”; “the lake went from being totally open, to being frozen over”.
Another lovely English synonym for moving is “turn”, which since it is rooted in the idea of things that are rotating, contains the idea of the thing only being able to move in relation to something fixed. Wheels turn, colors turn, men turn. And then there’s that song we’ve all had beat into our heads “turn, turn, turn”. While I’m not sure that the Birds (Byrds?) got the Coheleth’s vibe, the song is pretty good at conveying the first idea we have of nature.
-As the previous posts should have shown, English speakers undertand the “completion” of a natural process a little easier than the “perfection” of a natural process. The words, however, are really synonymous: both the complete and the perfect are said of what lacks nothing due to it. The confusion happens only because we use the word “complete” so often only per accidens, as when we say that a paper is complete because we wrote five pages of garble, or when we say we’ve completed a test because we’ve given an answer to every question, no matter how awful (indeed, incomplete) our answers are. But we haven’t completed a test or a paper, except per accidens.
- The only difficulty people have with understanding the accepting the axiom “everything which is moving, is being moved by another” is how it can account for uniform motion in a straight line. It is not the case that projectile motion as such is difficult, because every projectile motion can be distinguished into the natural motion of falling to the earth, and the inertial motion of moving foreward. But no one doubts that the projectile, as moved gravitationally by the earth, is “being moved by another”- take away the earth, or the space/time medium in between the downward motion would immediately cease*.
The real reason that uniform motion in a straight line is viewed as having no cause per se is because the first measure of something is not measured, physics deals with motion as measured, and uniform motion in a straight line is the measure of all motions (because all motions are measured in relation to traversing some uniform space in a uniform time).
I believe that it’s true that we must not explain uniform motions in a stright line as being moved by something moving- but then again, the ancient physics was always able to tell you that the cause of the first moving thing was not itself moving. The question of “what is moving things in uniform motion in a straight line” is not a question that is contained within the science of physics. The answer can only be found after (in Greek, Meta) physics**.
*this is one of the many ways in which modern hypothetical physics is better at supporting Aristotle’s physics than Aristotle’s own hypotheses. On the ancient account, if the earth were to disappear, a falling rock would keep moving toward the center of the earth, even though there was no body at the center to act. “the center” is not a place, if separated from a body. The modern theory can give us a per se place to which motions tend. Gravitational force absolutely cannot be without body.
**and yes, this is the coolest pun that I have ever managed to eek out.
(real dorks will be able to spot another pun in even the line just said)