The difference between aristotelian physics and modern mathematical Physics

One place to focus on in order to understand the difference between ancient and modern physics is the different answers they give to the question “what is in motion?” For all the physicists after Newton- and to this day- the answer is “a body”: every body perseveres in a uniform state of motion or of rest, and inertia belongs to the moving or resting body. For Aristotle, the answer to the question “what is in motion?” is a mobile (Aristotle will insist that mobiles are bodies as well, even proving it in book VI of the Physics). While this difference seems small, it is in fact immense. For Aristotle the thing that moves is characterized by its “ability” (the -ble suffix); for Newton it is characterized by its act or form.


  1. December 22, 2007 at 10:17 am

    This site is an absolute gold mine!

  2. a thomist said,

    December 22, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you. That’s a very kind thing to say.

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