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Section XI

XI. Let this be taken as a testimony delivered by Plato to the imperishable nature of the world. Its uncreated character follows from the truth of natural philosophy; for dissolution must of necessity attend everything which is born, and incorruptibility must inevitably belong to everything which is unborn; since the poet who wrote the following iambic verse,

"All that is born must surely Die,"15241524Timaeus, p. 32.

appears to have spoken very correctly when he asserted this connection of destructibility with birth. The argument may be stated in a different way as follows. All compound things which are destroyed are dissolved into the elements of which they were compounded; accordingly, dissolution is nothing else but a return of everything to its original constituent parts; just as, on the contrary, composition is that which compels the things combined to come together in a manner contrary to their nature; and indeed, this appears to be the most exact truth; for men are composed of the four elements which together make up the whole of the universe, the heaven, the earth, the air, and fire, borrowing a few parts of each in a manner at first sight hardly consistent with nature. But the things which are thus combined together are necessarily deprived of a motion in accordance with nature; for instance, warmth is deprived of its upward motion, and coldness of its downward tendency, the earthy and somewhat weighty substance being lightened and assuming the higher place, which the most earth-like of our own parts, the head, has obtained in us. But of all bonds, that is the worst which is forged by violence, and which, being violent, is also short-lived; for it is speedily broken by those who are bound in it, since they become restive from their desire for a motion in accordance with nature, to which they hasten; for as the tragic poet says, -

"And for things sprung from earth, they must

Return unto their parent dust,

While those from heavenly seed which rise

Are borne uplifted to the skies.

Nought that has once existed dies,

Though often what has been combined

Before, we separated find,

Invested with another Form."15251525a fragment from the Chrysippus of Euripides.

And this law and ordinance is established with reference to everything which is destroyed, that wherever composite things are existing in combination they are thrown into disorder instead of into the order in accordance with nature, which they previously enjoyed, and they are removed to situations opposite to those in which they were previously placed, so that they seem in a manner to be sojourners; and when they are dissolved again, then they return to the appropriate parts allotted to them by nature. But since the world has no participation in that irregularity which exists in the things which I have just been mentioning, let us stop awhile and consider this point. If the world were liable to corruption and destruction, it follows of necessity that all its parts would at present be arranged in a position not in accordance with nature: but it is impious even to imagine such a thing as this; for all the parts of the world have received the most excellent position possible, and an arrangement of the purest symmetry and harmony; so that each individual part, being content with its place as a native country to it, does not seek any change for the better. On this account it is that the most central position of all has been assigned to the earth, to which all things belonging to it adhere, and to which they descend again even if you throw them into the air: and this is a proof that their place is in accordance with nature; for wherever anything is borne without any violence, and where it then remains firm and stationary, that is clearly its natural place. And then, in the second place, water was poured over the earth, and air and fire have gone from the central to the upper part, air having received for its portion the region which is on the borders between air and fire, and fire having received the highest place of all: on which account, if you light a torch and press it down towards the ground, nevertheless the flame will still turn in a contrary direction, and lightening itself in accordance with the natural motion of fire, will rise upwards: if, then, motion contrary to nature is the cause of corruptibility and destruction in the case of other animals, but if in the case of the world every one of its parts is arranged in complete accordance with nature, having had appropriate positions allotted to each of them, then surely the world must most justly be pronounced incorruptible and imperishable.


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