Table of Contents
Previous book | Next section

Book IV


     WE have explained that the qualities that constitute the elements are four, and that their combinations determine the number of the elements to be four.

     Two of the qualities, the hot and the cold, are active; two, the dry and the moist, passive. We can satisfy ourselves of this by looking at instances. In every case heat and cold determine, conjoin, and change things of the same kind and things of different kinds, moistening, drying, hardening, and softening them. Things dry and moist, on the other hand, both in isolation and when present together in the same body are the subjects of that determination and of the other affections enumerated. The account we give of the qualities when we define their character shows this too. Hot and cold we describe as active, for 'congregating' is essentially a species of 'being active': moist and dry are passive, for it is in virtue of its being acted upon in a certain way that a thing is said to be 'easy to determine' or 'difficult to determine'. So it is clear that some of the qualities are active and some passive.

     Next we must describe the operations of the active qualities and the forms taken by the passive. First of all, true becoming, that is, natural change, is always the work of these powers and so is the corresponding natural destruction; and this becoming and this destruction are found in plants and animals and their parts. True natural becoming is a change introduced by these powers into the matter underlying a given thing when they are in a certain ratio to that matter, which is the passive qualities we have mentioned. When the hot and the cold are masters of the matter they generate a thing: if they are not, and the failure is partial, the object is imperfectly boiled or otherwise unconcocted. But the strictest general opposite of true becoming is putrefaction. All natural destruction is on the way to it, as are, for instance, growing old or growing dry. Putrescence is the end of all these things, that is of all natural objects, except such as are destroyed by violence: you can burn, for instance, flesh, bone, or anything else, but the natural course of their destruction ends in putrefaction. Hence things that putrefy begin by being moist and end by being dry. For the moist and the dry were their matter, and the operation of the active qualities caused the dry to be determined by the moist.

     Destruction supervenes when the determined gets the better of the determining by the help of the environment (though in a special sense the word putrefaction is applied to partial destruction, when a thing's is perverted). Hence everything, except , is liable to putrefy; for , water, and putrefy, being all of them matter relatively to fire. The definition of putrefaction is: the destruction of the peculiar and natural heat in any moist subject by external heat, that is, by the heat of the environment. So since lack of heat is the ground of this affection and everything in as far as it lacks heat is cold, both heat and cold will be the causes of putrefaction, which will be due indifferently to cold in the putrefying subject or to heat in the environment.

     This explains why everything that putrefies grows drier and ends by becoming earth or dung. The subject's own heat departs and causes the natural moisture to evaporate with it, and then there is nothing left to draw in moisture, for it is a thing's peculiar heat that attracts moisture and draws it in. Again, putrefaction takes place less in cold that in hot seasons, for in winter the surrounding air and water contain but little heat and it has no power, but in there is more. Again, what is frozen does not putrefy, for its cold is greater that the heat of the air and so is not mastered, whereas what affects a thing does master it. Nor does that which is boiling or hot putrefy, for the heat in the air being less than that in the object does not prevail over it or set up any change. So too anything that is flowing or in is less apt to putrefy than a thing at rest, for the motion set up by the heat in the air is weaker than that pre-existing in the object, and so it causes no change. For the same reason a great quantity of a thing putrefies less readily than a little, for the greater quantity contains too much proper fire and cold for the corresponding qualities in the environment to get the better of. Hence, the putrefies quickly when broken up into parts, but not as a whole; and all other waters likewise. Animals too are generated in putrefying bodies, because the heat that has been secreted, being natural, organizes the particles secreted with it.

     So much for the nature of becoming and of destruction.


     We must now describe the next kinds of processes which the qualities already mentioned set up in actually existing natural objects as matter.

     Of these concoction is due to heat; its species are ripening, boiling, broiling. Inconcoction is due to cold and its species are rawness, imperfect boiling, imperfect broiling. (We must recognize that the things are not properly denoted by these words: the various classes of similar objects have no names universally applicable to them; consequently we must think of the species enumerated as being not what those words denote but something like it.) Let us say what each of them is. Concoction is a process in which the natural and proper heat of an object perfects the corresponding passive qualities, which are the proper matter of any given object. For when concoction has taken place we say that a thing has been perfected and has come to be itself. It is the proper heat of a thing that sets up this perfecting, though external influences may contribute in some degrees to its fulfilment. Baths, for instance, and other things of the kind contribute to the digestion of food, but the primary cause is the proper heat of the body. In some cases of concoction the end of the process is the nature of the thing-nature, that is, in the sense of the formal cause and essence. In other cases it leads to some presupposed state which is attained when the moisture has acquired certain properties or a certain magnitude in the process of being broiled or boiled or of putrefying, or however else it is being heated. This state is the end, for when it has been reached the thing has some use and we say that concoction has taken place. Must is an instance of this, and the matter in boils when it becomes purulent, and tears when they become rheum, and so with the rest.

          Concoction ensues whenever the matter, the moisture, is mastered. For the matter is what is determined by the heat connatural to the object, and as long as the ratio between them exists in it a thing maintains its nature. Hence things like the liquid and solid excreta and ejecta in general are signs of health, and concoction is said to have taken place in them, for they show that the proper heat has got the better of the indeterminate matter.

     Things that undergo a process of concoction necessarily become thicker and hotter, for the action of heat is to make things more compact, thicker, and drier.

     This then is the nature of concoction: but inconcoction is an imperfect state due to lack of proper heat, that is, to cold. That of which the imperfect state is, is the corresponding passive qualities which are the natural matter of anything.

     So much for the definition of concoction and inconcoction.


     Ripening is a sort of concoction; for we call it ripening when there is a concoction of the nutriment in fruit. And since concoction is a sort of perfecting, the process of ripening is perfect when the seeds in fruit are able to reproduce the fruit in which they are found; for in all other cases as well this is what we mean by 'perfect'. This is what 'ripening' means when the word is applied to fruit. However, many other things that have undergone concoction are said to be 'ripe', the general character of the process being the same, though the word is applied by an extension of meaning. The reason for this extension is, as we explained before, that the various modes in which natural heat and cold perfect the matter they determine have not special names appropriated to them. In the case of boils and , and the like, the process of ripening is the concoction of the moisture in them by their natural heat, for only that which gets the better of matter can determine it. So everything that ripens is condensed from a spirituous into a watery state, and from a watery into an earthy state, and in general from being rare becomes dense. In this process the nature of the thing that is ripening incorporates some of the matter in itself, and some it rejects. So much for the definition of ripening.

     Rawness is its opposite and is therefore an imperfect concoction of the nutriment in the fruit, namely, of the undetermined moisture. Consequently a raw thing is either spirituous or watery or contains both spirit and water. Ripening being a kind of perfecting, rawness will be an imperfect state, and this state is due to a lack of natural heat and its disproportion to the moisture that is undergoing the process of ripening. (Nothing moist ripens without the admixture of some dry matter: water alone of liquids does not thicken.) This disproportion may be due either to defect of heat or to excess of the matter to be determined: hence the juice of raw things is thin, cold rather than hot, and unfit for food or drink. Rawness, like ripening, is used to denote a variety of states. Thus the liquid and solid excreta and are called raw for the same reason, for in every case the word is applied to things because their heat has not got the mastery in them and compacted them. If we go further, brick is called raw and so is milk and many other things too when they are such as to admit of being changed and compacted by heat but have remained unaffected. Hence, while we speak of 'boiled' water, we cannot speak of raw water, since it does not thicken. We have now defined ripening and rawness and assigned their causes.

     Boiling is, in general, a concoction by moist heat of the indeterminate matter contained in the moisture of the thing boiled, and the word is strictly applicable only to things boiled in the way of cooking. The indeterminate matter, as we said, will be either spirituous or watery. The cause of the concoction is the fire contained in the moisture; for what is cooked in a frying-pan is broiled: it is the heat outside that affects it and, as for the moisture in which it is contained, it dries this up and draws it into itself. But a thing that is being boiled behaves in the opposite way: the moisture contained in it is drawn out of it by the heat in the liquid outside. Hence boiled meats are drier than broiled; for, in boiling, things do not draw the moisture into themselves, since the external heat gets the better of the internal: if the internal heat had got the better it would have drawn the moisture to itself. Not every body admits of the process of boiling: if there is no moisture in it, it does not (for instance, stones), nor does it if there is moisture in it but the density of the body is too great for it-to-be mastered, as in the case of wood. But only those bodies can be boiled that contain moisture which can be acted on by the heat contained in the liquid outside. It is true that gold and wood and many other things are said to be 'boiled': but this is a stretch of the meaning of the word, though the kind of thing intended is the same, the reason for the usage being that the various cases have no names appropriated to them. Liquids too, like milk and must, are said to undergo a process of 'boiling' when the external fire that surrounds and heats them changes the savour in the liquid into a given form, the process being thus in a way like what we have called boiling.

     The end of the things that undergo boiling, or indeed any form of concoction, is not always the same: some are meant to be eaten, some drunk, and some are intended for other uses; for instance dyes, too, are said to be 'boiled'.

     All those things then admit of 'boiling' which can grow denser, smaller, or heavier; also those which do that with a part of themselves and with a part do the opposite, dividing in such a way that one portion thickens while the other grows thinner, like milk when it divides into whey and curd. Oil by itself is affected in none of these ways, and therefore cannot be said to admit of 'boiling'. Such then is the pfcies of concoction known as 'boiling', and the process is the same in an artificial and in a natural instrument, for the cause will be the same in every case.

     Imperfect boiling is the form of inconcoction opposed to boiling. Now the opposite of boiling properly so called is an inconcoction of the undetermined matter in a body due to lack of heat in the surrounding liquid. (Lack of heat implies, as we have pointed out, the presence of cold.) The motion which causes imperfect boiling is different from that which causes boiling, for the heat which operates the concoction is driven out. The lack of heat is due either to the amount of cold in the liquid or to the quantity of moisture in the object undergoing the process of boiling. Where either of these conditions is realized the heat in the surrounding liquid is too great to have no effect at all, but too small to carry out the process of concocting uniformly and thoroughly. Hence things are harder when they are imperfectly boiled than when they are boiled, and the moisture in them more distinct from the solid parts. So much for the definition and causes of boiling and imperfect boiling.

     Broiling is concoction by dry foreign heat. Hence if a man were to boil a thing but the change and concoction in it were due, not to the heat of the liquid but to that of the fire, the thing will have been broiled and not boiled when the process has been carried to completion: if the process has gone too far we use the word 'scorched' to describe it. If the process leaves the thing drier at the end the agent has been dry heat. Hence the outside is drier than the inside, the opposite being true of things boiled. Where the process is artificial, broiling is more difficult than boiling, for it is difficult to heat the inside and the outside uniformly, since the parts nearer to the fire are the first to get dry and consequently get more intensely dry. In this way the outer pores contract and the moisture in the thing cannot be secreted but is shut in by the closing of the pores. Now broiling and boiling are artificial processes, but the same general kind of thing, as we said, is found in nature too. The affections produced are similar though they lack a name; for art imitates nature. For instance, the concoction of food in the body is like boiling, for it takes place in a hot and moist medium and the agent is the heat of the body. So, too, certain forms of indigestion are like imperfect boiling. And it is not true that animals are generated in the concoction of food, as some say. Really they are generated in the excretion which putrefies in the lower belly, and they ascend afterwards. For concoction goes on in the upper belly but the excretion putrefies in the lower: the reason for this has been explained elsewhere.

     We have seen that the opposite of boiling is imperfect boiling: now there is something correspondingly opposed to the species of concoction called broiling, but it is more difficult to find a name for it. It would be the kind of thing that would happen if there were imperfect broiling instead of broiling proper through lack of heat due to deficiency in the external fire or to the quantity of water in the thing undergoing the process. For then we should get too much heat for no effect to be produced, but too little for concoction to take place.

     We have now explained concoction and inconcoction, ripening and rawness, boiling and broiling, and their opposites.


     We must now describe the forms taken by the passive qualities the moist and the dry. The elements of bodies, that is, the passive ones, are the moist and the dry; the bodies themselves are compounded of them and whichever predominates determines the nature of the body; thus some bodies partake more of the dry, others of the moist. All the forms to be described will exist either actually, or potentially and in their opposite: for instance, there is actual melting and on the other hand that which admits of being melted.

     Since the moist is easily determined and the dry determined with difficulty, their relation to one another is like that of a dish and its condiments. The moist is what makes the dry determinable, and each serves as a sort of glue to the other-as Empedocles said in his poem on Nature, 'glueing meal together by means of water.' Thus the determined body involves them both. Of the elements earth is especially representative of the dry, water of the moist, and therefore all determinate bodies in our world involve earth and water. Every body shows the quality of that element which predominates in it. It is because earth and water are the material elements of all bodies that animals live in them alone and not in air or fire.

     Of the qualities of bodies hardness and softness are those which must primarily belong to a determined thing, for anything made up of the dry and the moist is necessarily either hard or soft. Hard is that the surface of which does not yield into itself; soft that which does yield but not by interchange of place: water, for instance, is not soft, for its surface does not yield to pressure or sink in but there is an interchange of place. Those things are absolutely hard and soft which satisfy the definition absolutely, and those things relatively so which do so compared with another thing. Now relatively to one another hard and soft are indefinable, because it is a matter of degree, but since all the objects of sense are determined by reference to the faculty of sense it is clearly the relation to touch which determines that which is hard and soft absolutely, and touch is that which we use as a standard or mean. So we call that which exceeds it hard and that which falls short of it soft.


     A body determined by its own boundary must be either hard or soft; for it either yields or does not.

     It must also be concrete: or it could not be so determined. So since everything that is determined and solid is either hard or soft and these qualities are due to concretion, all composite and determined bodies must involve concretion. Concretion therefore must be discussed.

     Now there are two causes besides matter, the agent and the quality brought about, the agent being the efficient cause, the quality the formal cause. Hence concretion and disaggregation, drying and moistening, must have these two causes.

     But since concretion is a form of drying let us speak of the latter first.

     As we have explained, the agent operates by means of two qualities and the patient is acted on in virtue of two qualities: action takes place by means of heat or cold, and the quality is produced either by the presence or by the absence of heat or cold; but that which is

acted upon is moist or dry or a compound of both. Water is the element characterized by the moist, earth that characterized by the dry, for these among the elements that admit the qualities moist and dry are passive. Therefore cold, too, being found in water and earth (both of which we recognize to be cold), must be reckoned rather as a passive quality. It is active only as contributing to destruction or incidentally in the manner described before; for cold is sometimes actually said to burn and to warm, but not in the same way as heat does, but by collecting and concentrating heat.

     The subjects of drying are water and the various watery fluids and those bodies which contain water either foreign or connatural. By foreign I mean like the water in wool, by connatural, like that in milk. The watery fluids are wine, urine, whey, and in general those fluids which have no sediment or only a little, except where this absence of sediment is due to viscosity. For in some cases, in oil and pitch for instance, it is the viscosity which prevents any sediment from appearing.

     It is always a process of heating or cooling that dries things, but the agent in both cases is heat, either internal or external. For even when things are dried by cooling, like a garment, where the moisture exists separately it is the internal heat that dries them. It carries off the moisture in the shape of (if there is not too much of it), being itself driven out by the surrounding cold. So everything is dried, as we have said, by a process either of heating or cooling, but the agent is always heat, either internal or external, carrying off the moisture in vapour. By external heat I mean as where things are boiled: by internal where the heat breathes out and takes away and uses up its moisture. So much for drying.


     Liquefaction is, first, condensation into water; second, the melting of a solidified body. The first, condensation, is due to the cooling of vapour: what melting is will appear from the account of solidification.

     Whatever solidifies is either water or a mixture of earth and water, and the agent is either dry heat or cold. Hence those of the bodies solidified by heat or cold which are soluble at all are dissolved by their opposites. Bodies solidified by the dry-hot are dissolved by water, which is the moist-cold, while bodies solidified by cold are dissolved by fire, which is hot. Some things seem to be solidified by water, e.g. boiled honey, but really it is not the water but the cold in the water which effects the solidification. Aqueous bodies are not solidified by fire: for it is fire that dissolves them, and the same cause in the same relation cannot have opposite effects upon the same thing. Again, water solidifies owing to the departure of heat; so it will clearly be dissolved by the entry into it of heat: cold, therefore, must be the agent in solidifying it.

     Hence aqueous bodies do not thicken when they solidify; for thickening occurs when the moisture goes off and the dry matter comes together, but water is the only liquid that does not thicken. Those bodies that are made up of both earth and water are solidified both by fire and by cold and in either case are thickened. The operation of the two is in a way the same and in a way different. Heat acts by drawing off the moisture, and as the moisture goes off in vapour the dry matter thickens and collects. Cold acts by driving out the heat, which is accompanied by the moisture as this goes off in vapour with it. Bodies that are soft but not liquid do not thicken but solidify when the moisture leaves them, e.g. potter's clay in process of baking: but those mixed bodies that are liquid thicken besides solidifying, like milk. Those bodies which have first been thickened or hardened by cold often begin by becoming moist: thus potter's clay at first in the process of baking steams and grows softer, and is liable to distortion in the ovens for that reason.

     Now of the bodies solidified by cold which are made up both of earth and water but in which the earth preponderates, those which solidify by the departure of heat melt by heat when it enters into them again; this is the case with frozen mud. But those which solidify by refrigeration, where all the moisture has gone off in vapour with the heat, like iron and horn, cannot be dissolved except by excessive heat, but they can be softened-though manufactured iron does melt, to the point of becoming fluid and then solidifying again. This is how steel is made. The dross sinks to the bottom and is purged away: when this has been done often and the metal is pure we have steel. The process is not repeated often because the purification of the metal involves great waste and loss of weight. But the iron that has less dross is the better iron. The stone pyrimachus, too, melts and forms into drops and becomes fluid; after having been in a fluid state it solidifies and becomes hard again. Millstones, too, melt and become fluid: when the fluid mass begins to solidify it is black but its consistency comes to be like that of lime. and earth, too

     Of the bodies which are solidified by dry heat some are insoluble, others are dissolved by liquid. Pottery and some kinds of stone that are formed out of earth burnt up by fire, such as millstones, cannot be dissolved. Natron and salt are soluble by liquid, but not all liquid but only such as is cold. Hence water and any of its varieties melt them, but oil does not. For the opposite of the dry-hot is the cold-moist and what the one solidified the other will dissolve, and so opposites will have opposite effects.

Table of Contents
Previous book | Next section

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.