Two accounts of Physics

Everyone from Thales to Einstein agrees that the fundamental science that studies the natural world as natural is called physics, and they agree that this science studies mobile things as mobile. There are two approaches to this science: one that distinguishes motion and rest as contraries, and another that identifes uniform motion and rest as states. The first of these is evident, but the second needs a short explanation: a “state” appears to be a condition which, if it happens to the measurer and the mobile, makes the measurement of motion impossible. For example, we could never measure a difference between a mobile we were on that was resting, and a mobile we were on that was moving perfectly uniformily.

If we distinguish motion an rest as contraries, the most distinctive trait of motion becomes its lack of determination. This is evident from the terms: for if we oppose motion and rest, then no mobile can be in a determinite place, for then it would be resting in it. The case would be similar for any other kind of motion. Also required for this motion is the ability on the part of the mobile to change: a car might drive from here to there, but it can’t drive from here to the color green- the motion does not have that kind of potency: hence we call such a scenario absurd, or, more to the point “impossible“.

If we identify motion and rest as states, we lose this idea of indetermination, and so we have no need to see motion as a kind of lack. We also see no need to attribute potency or possibility essentially to the mobile. This second kind of physics, then will see no need for the ideas of act, potency, and privation in an account of motion, and so will see no need for them in explaining nature either. It is obviously not wrong to do this any more than it is for any other science to not pay attention to what is outside its subject manner. But the science does err if it claims that it is the only possible account of nature.

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