Order of Nature and Movement in Aristotelian Philosophy

Order of Nature and Movement in Aristotelian Philosophy

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Aristotle did not neglect to examine the order in nature in the light of all these basic metaphysical determinations regarding the existence in general. In Aristotle, unlike Plato, we encounter a very lively natural philosophy, natural knowledge. Because, as stated before, Aristotle thought that the idea, form, essence, in other words, reality is immanent in visible things, that is, in nature itself.

For this reason, researching nature could not be considered separately from research on reality and truth. Aristotle argued that acquiring knowledge of individual things and particulars is an important step in acquiring knowledge of the universal, concept, form, essence.

When Aristotle looked at nature (physis), he always saw matter and laws of motion. In other words, according to him, nature was a field formed by material structures in motion (Copleston, 1997: 57). The study of nature then meant the study of the laws of matter, and above all the laws of motion. Movement was one of the basic criteria that Aristotle used when classifying the entities in nature or the elements of the universe. According to him, there were as many types of movements as there were categories of assets (Weber, 1993: 76). As a matter of fact, he ranked all beings between God, who does not have the slightest movement but has the power to move all other things, and pure matter, which cannot move on its own and always needs an external factor for movement, and attributed the movement of everything that has motion to form and essence. In Aristotle, matter is the mover and form is the mover. The more the form has revealed itself in a thing, the more it has become actual, the more the movement in that thing will be perfected and will gain an appearance in accordance with unchanging principles.

On this basis, Aristotle divides the universe into three main parts; The sub-moon realm is the earth. Everything in this part of the universe is made up of Empedocles’ four causes, namely earth, water, air, and fire. Due to these features, they naturally move linearly. That is, their movements begin at one point and end at another. That’s why all sub-lunar bodies are mortal, and at some point their motion will come to an end. Linear motion manifests itself mainly in two ways; movement towards the center and movement away from the center (Gökberk, 1994: 85). The superlunar realm is the domain of celestial bodies. The bodies here are not made of earth, water, air and fire as on earth, but are made of a much finer and divine structure, aether, and therefore their movements are in a constant, circular form. Since the Pythagoreans, the understanding of circular motion, which is the symbol of perfection and divinity, has also found its place in Aristotle’s understanding of the universe. At the end of the superlunar realm, there is the field of fixed stars, which does not change in the slightest because it is the field of beings most similar to God.

According to Aristotle, nature expressed the whole of material structures subject to motion, and for him the study of nature was, first of all, the study of the laws of motion.

Aristotle’s understanding of the universe is divided into three as the sub-lunar realm, the superlunar realm and the realm of fixed stars. The sub-lunar realm is the earth, and everything there is made of four elements and is subject to linear motion. The celestial bodies in the superlunar realm, on the other hand, are made of a substance called ether, and are therefore subject to immutable circular motion of divine nature. The field of fixed stars, on the other hand, is the closest to the divine, and since it takes its movement directly from God, it displays a near-immutable perfection.

This universe picture presented by Aristotle inspired thinkers after him, especially Christian and Muslim philosophers, and turned into a classical doctrine whose influence lasted for centuries. So much so that almost all astronomy studies until the scientific revolution that started with Copernicus remained more or less faithful to this table, and the Aristotelian understanding of the universe became a paradigm whose validity lasted for about two thousand years.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook