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We have now to speak of the distinctive properties of these bodies and of the various phenomena connected with them. In accordance with general conviction we may distinguish the absolutely heavy, as that which sinks to the bottom of all things, from the absolutely light, which is that which rises to the surface of all things. I use the term ‘absolutely’, in view of the generic character of ‘light’ and ‘heavy’, in order to confine the application to bodies which do not combine lightness and heaviness. It is apparent, I mean, that fire, in whatever quantity, so long as there is no external obstacle moves upward, and earth downward; and, if the quantity is increased, the movement is the same, though swifter. But the heaviness and lightness of bodies which combine these qualities is different from this, since while they rise to the surface of some bodies they sink to the bottom of others. Such are air and water. Neither of them is absolutely either light or heavy. Both are lighter than earth-for any portion of either rises to the surface of it-but heavier than fire, since a portion of either, whatever its quantity, sinks to the bottom of fire; compared together, however, the one has absolute weight, the other absolute lightness, since air in any quantity rises to the surface of water, while water in any quantity sinks to the bottom of air. Now other bodies are severally light and heavy, and evidently in them the attributes are due to the difference of their uncompounded parts: that is to say, according as the one or the other happens to preponderate the bodies will be heavy and light respectively. Therefore we need only speak of these parts, since they are primary and all else consequential: and in so doing we shall be following the advice which we gave to those whose attribute heaviness to the presence of plenum and lightness to that of void. It is due to the properties of the elementary bodies that a body which is regarded as light in one place is regarded as heavy in another, and vice versa. In air, for instance, a talent’s weight of wood is heavier than a mina of lead, but in water the wood is the lighter. The reason is that all the elements except fire have weight and all but earth lightness. Earth, then, and bodies in which earth preponderates, must needs have weight everywhere, while water is heavy anywhere but in earth, and air is heavy when not in water or earth. In its own place each of these bodies has weight except fire, even air. Of this we have evidence in the fact that a bladder when inflated weighs more than when empty. A body, then, in which air preponderates over earth and water, may well be lighter than something in water and yet heavier than it in air, since such a body does not rise in air but rises to the surface in water.

The following account will make it plain that there is an absolutely light and an absolutely heavy body. And by absolutely light I mean one which of its own nature always moves upward, by absolutely heavy one which of its own nature always moves downward, if no obstacle is in the way. There are, I say, these two kinds of body, and it is not the case, as some maintain, that all bodies have weight. Different views are in fact agreed that there is a heavy body, which moves uniformly towards the centre. But is also similarly a light body. For we see with our eyes, as we said before, that earthy things sink to the bottom of all things and move towards the centre. But the centre is a fixed point. If therefore there is some body which rises to the surface of all things-and we observe fire to move upward even in air itself, while the air remains at rest-clearly this body is moving towards the extremity. It cannot then have any weight. If it had, there would be another body in which it sank: and if that had weight, there would be yet another which moved to the extremity and thus rose to the surface of all moving things. In fact, however, we have no evidence of such a body. Fire, then, has no weight. Neither has earth any lightness, since it sinks to the bottom of all things, and that which sinks moves to the centre. That there is a centre towards which the motion of heavy things, and away from which that of light things is directed, is manifest in many ways. First, because no movement can continue to infinity. For what cannot be can no more come-to-be than be, and movement is a coming to-be in one place from another. Secondly, like the upward movement of fire, the downward movement of earth and all heavy things makes equal angles on every side with the earth’s surface: it must therefore be directed towards the centre. Whether it is really the centre of the earth and not rather that of the whole to which it moves, may be left to another inquiry, since these are coincident. But since that which sinks to the bottom of all things moves to the centre, necessarily that which rises to the surface moves to the extremity of the region in which the movement of these bodies takes place. For the centre is opposed as contrary to the extremity, as that which sinks is opposed to that which rises to the surface. This also gives a reasonable ground for the duality of heavy and light in the spatial duality centre and extremity. Now there is also the intermediate region to which each name is given in opposition to the other extreme. For that which is intermediate between the two is in a sense both extremity and centre. For this reason there is another heavy and light; namely, water and air. But in our view the continent pertains to form and the contained to matter: and this distinction is present in every genus. Alike in the sphere of quality and in that of quantity there is that which corresponds rather to form and that which corresponds to matter. In the same way, among spatial distinctions, the above belongs to the determinate, the below to matter. The same holds, consequently, also of the matter itself of that which is heavy and light: as potentially possessing the one character, it is matter for the heavy, and as potentially possessing the other, for the light. It is the same matter, but its being is different, as that which is receptive of disease is the same as that which is receptive of health, though in being different from it, and therefore diseasedness is different from healthiness.

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