Now that we have established the preceding distinctions, we must first consider whether there is anything which comes-to-be and passes-away in the unqualified sense: or whether nothing comes-to-be in this strict sense, but everything always comes-to-be something and out of something-I mean, e.g. comes-to-be-healthy out of being-ill and ill out of being-healthy, comes-to-be-small out of being big and big out of being-small, and so on in every other instance. For if there is to be coming-to-be without qualification, something must-without qualification-come-to-be out of not-being, so that it would be true to say that not-being is an attribute of some things. For qualified coming-to-be is a process out of qualified not-being (e.g. out of not-white or not-beautiful), but unqualified coming-to-be is a process out of unqualified not-being.
Now unqualified means either (i) the primary predication within each Category, or (ii) the universal, i.e. the all-comprehensive, predication. Hence, if unqualified not-being means the negation of being in the sense of the primary term of the Category in question, we shall have, in unqualified coming-to-be, a coming-to-be of a substance out of not-substance. But that which is not a substance or a this clearly cannot possess predicates drawn from any of the other Categories either--e.g. we cannot attribute to it any quality, quantity, or position. Otherwise, properties would admit of existence in separation from substances. If, on the other hand, unqualified not-being means what is not in any sense at all, it will be a universal negation of all forms of being, so that what comes-to-be will have to come-to-be out of nothing.
Although we have dealt with these problems at greater length in another work, where we have set forth the difficulties and established the distinguishing definitions, the following concise restatement of our results must here be offered: In one sense things come-to-be out of that which has no being without qualification: yet in another sense they come-to-be always out of what is. For coming-to-be necessarily implies the pre-existence of something which potentially is, but actually is not; and this something is spoken of both as being and as not-being.
These distinctions may be taken as established: but even then it is extraordinarily difficult to see how there can be unqualified coming-to-be (whether we suppose it to occur out of what potentially is, or in some other way), and we must recall this problem for further examination. For the question might be raised whether substance (i.e. the this) comes-to-be at all. Is it not rather the such, the so great, or the somewhere, which comes-to-be? And the same question might be raised about passing-away also. For if a substantial thing comes-to-be, it is clear that there will be (not actually, but potentially) a substance, out of which its coming-to-be will proceed and into which the thing that is passing-away will necessarily change. Then will any predicate belonging to the remaining Categories attach actually to this presupposed substance? In other words, will that which is only potentially a this (which only potentially is), while without the qualification potentially it is not a this (i.e. is not), possess, e.g. any determinate size or quality or position? For (i) if it possesses none of these determinations actually, but all of them only potentially, the result is first that a being, which is not a determinate being, is capable of separate existence; and in addition that coming-to-be proceeds out of nothing pre-existing-a thesis which, more than any other, preoccupied and alarmed the earliest philosophers. On the other hand (ii) if, although it is not a this somewhat or a substance, it is to possess some of the remaining determinations quoted above, then (as we said) properties will be separable from substances.
We must therefore concentrate all our powers on the discussion of these difficulties and on the solution of a further question--viz. What is the cause of the perpetuity of coming-to-be? Why is there always unqualified, as well as partial, coming-to-be? Cause in this connexion has two senses. It means (i) the source from which, as we say, the process originates, and (ii) the matter. It is the material cause that we have here to state. For, as to the other cause, we have already explained (in our treatise on Motion that it involves (a) something immovable through all time and (b) something always being moved. And the accurate treatment of the first of these-of the immovable originative source-belongs to the province of the other, or prior, philosophy: while as regards that which sets everything else in motion by being itself continuously moved, we shall have to explain later which amongst the so-called specific causes exhibits this character. But at present we are to state the material cause-the cause classed under the head of matter-to which it is due that passing-away and coming-to-be never fail to occur in Nature. For perhaps, if we succeed in clearing up this question, it will simultaneously become clear what account we ought to give of that which perplexed us just now, i.e. of unqualified passing-away and coming-to-be.
Our new question too--viz. what is the cause of the unbroken continuity of coming-to-be?-is sufficiently perplexing, if in fact what passes-away vanishes into what is not and what is not is nothing (since what is not is neither a thing, nor possessed of a quality or quantity, nor in any place). If, then, some one of the things which are constantly disappearing, why has not the whole of what is been used up long ago and vanished away assuming of course that the material of all the several comings-to-be was finite? For, presumably, the unfailing continuity of coming-to-be cannot be attributed to the infinity of the material. That is impossible, for nothing is actually infinite. A thing is infinite only potentially, i.e. the dividing of it can continue indefinitely: so that we should have to suppose there is only one kind of coming-to-be in the world-viz. one which never fails, because it is such that what comes-to-be is on each successive occasion smaller than before. But in fact this is not what we see occurring.
Why, then, is this form of change necessarily ceaseless? Is it because the passing-away of this is a coming-to-be of something else, and the coming-to-be of this a passing-away of something else?
The cause implied in this solution must no doubt be considered adequate to account for coming-to-be and passing-away in their general character as they occur in all existing things alike. Yet, if the same process is a coming to-be of this but a passing-away of that, and a passing-away of this but a coming-to-be of that, why are some things said to come-to-be and pass-away without qualification, but others only with a qualification?
The distinction must be investigated once more, for it demands some explanation. (It is applied in a twofold manner.) For (i) we say it is now passing-away without qualification, and not merely this is passing-away: and we call this change coming-to-be, and that passing-away, without qualification. And (ii) so-and-so comes-to-be-something, but does not come-to-be without qualification; for we say that the student comes-to-be-learned, not comes-to-be without qualification.
(i) Now we often divide terms into those which signify a this somewhat and those which do not. And (the first form of) the distinction, which we are investigating, results from a similar division of terms: for it makes a difference into what the changing thing changes. Perhaps, e.g. the passage into Fire is coming-to-be unqualified, but passing-away-of-something (e.g. Earth): whilst the coming-to-be of Earth is qualified (not unqualified) coming-to-be, though unqualified passing-away (e.g. of Fire). This would be the case on the theory set forth in Parmenides: for he says that the things into which change takes place are two, and he asserts that these two, viz. what is and what is not, are Fire and Earth. Whether we postulate these, or other things of a similar kind, makes no difference. For we are trying to discover not what undergoes these changes, but what is their characteristic manner. The passage, then, into what is not except with a qualification is unqualified passing-away, while the passage into what is without qualification is unqualified coming-to-be. Hence whatever the contrasted poles of the changes may be whether Fire and Earth, or some other couple-the one of them will be a being and the other a not-being.
We have thus stated one characteristic manner in which unqualified will be distinguished from qualified coming-to-be and passing-away: but they are also distinguished according to the special nature of the material of the changing thing. For a material, whose constitutive differences signify more a this somewhat, is itself more substantial or real: while a material, whose constitutive differences signify privation, is not real. (Suppose, e.g. that the hot is a positive predication, i.e. a form, whereas cold is a privation, and that Earth and Fire differ from one another by these constitutive differences.)
The opinion, however, which most people are inclined to prefer, is that the distinction depends upon the difference between the perceptible and the imperceptible. Thus, when there is a change into perceptible material, people say there is coming-to-be; but when there is a change into invisible material, they call it passing-away. For they distinguish what is and what is not by their perceiving and not-perceiving, just as what is knowable is and what is unknowable is not-perception on their view having the force of knowledge. Hence, just as they deem themselves to live and to be in virtue of their perceiving or their capacity to perceive, so too they deem the things to be qua perceived or perceptible-and in this they are in a sense on the track of the truth, though what they actually say is not true.
Thus unqualified coming-to-be and passingaway turn out to be different according to common opinion from what they are in truth. For Wind and Air are in truth more real more a this somewhat or a form-than Earth. But they are less real to perception which explains why things are commonly said to pass-away without qualification when they change into Wind and Air, and to come-to-be when they change into what is tangible, i.e. into Earth.
We have now explained why there is unqualified coming-to-be (though it is a passing-away-of-something) and unqualified passing-away (though it is a coming-to-be-of-something). For this distinction of appellation depends upon a difference in the material out of which, and into which, the changes are effected. It depends either upon whether the material is or is not substantial, or upon whether it is more or less substantial, or upon whether it is more or less perceptible.
(ii) But why are some things said to come to-be without qualification, and others only to come-to-be-so-and-so, in cases different from the one we have been considering where two things come-to-be reciprocally out of one another? For at present we have explained no more than this:-why, when two things change reciprocally into one another, we do not attribute coming-to-be and passing-away uniformly to them both, although every coming-to-be is a passing-away of something else and every passing-away some other things coming-to-be. But the question subsequently formulated involves a different problem-viz. why, although the learning thing is said to come-to-be-learned but not to come-to-be without qualification, yet the growing thing is said to come-to-be.
The distinction here turns upon the difference of the Categories. For some things signify a this somewhat, others a such, and others a so-much. Those things, then, which do not signify substance, are not said to come-to-be without qualification, but only to come-to-be-so-and-so. Nevertheless, in all changing things alike, we speak of coming-to-be when the thing comes-to-be something in one of the two Columns--e.g. in Substance, if it comes-to-be Fire but not if it comes-to-be Earth; and in Quality, if it comes-to-be learned but not when it comes-to-be ignorant.
We have explained why some things come to-be without qualification, but not others both in general, and also when the changing things are substances and nothing else; and we have stated that the substratum is the material cause of the continuous occurrence of coming to-be, because it is such as to change from contrary to contrary and because, in substances, the coming-to-be of one thing is always a passing-away of another, and the passing-away of one thing is always anothers coming-to-be. But there is no need even to discuss the other question we raised-viz. why coming-to-be continues though things are constantly being destroyed. For just as people speak of a passing-away without qualification when a thing has passed into what is imperceptible and what in that sense is not, so also they speak of a coming-to-be out of a not-being when a thing emerges from an imperceptible. Whether, therefore, the substratum is or is not something, what comes-to-be emerges out of a not-being: so that a thing comes-to-be out of a not-being just as much as it passes-away into what is not. Hence it is reasonable enough that coming-to-be should never fail. For coming-to-be is a passing-away of what is not and passing-away is a coming to-be of what is not.
But what about that which is not except with a qualification? Is it one of the two contrary poles of the chang-e.g. Earth (i.e. the heavy) a not-being, but Fire (i.e. the light) a being? Or, on the contrary, does what is include Earth as well as Fire, whereas what is not is matter-the matter of Earth and Fire alike? And again, is the matter of each different? Or is it the same, since otherwise they would not come-to-be reciprocally out of one another, i.e. contraries out of contraries? For these things-Fire, Earth, Water, Air-are characterized by the contraries.
Perhaps the solution is that their matter is in one sense the same, but in another sense different. For that which underlies them, whatever its nature may be qua underlying them, is the same: but its actual being is not the same. So much, then, on these topics.