Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


But since a motion appears to have contrary to it not only another motion but also a state of rest, we must determine how this is so. A motion has for its contrary in the strict sense of the term another motion, but it also has for an opposite a state of rest (for rest is the privation of motion and the privation of anything may be called its contrary), and motion of one kind has for its opposite rest of that kind, e.g. local motion has local rest. This statement, however, needs further qualification: there remains the question, is the opposite of remaining at a particular place motion from or motion to that place? It is surely clear that since there are two subjects between which motion takes place, motion from one of these (A) to its contrary (B) has for its opposite remaining in A while the reverse motion has for its opposite remaining in B. At the same time these two are also contrary to each other: for it would be absurd to suppose that there are contrary motions and not opposite states of rest. States of rest in contraries are opposed. To take an example, a state of rest in health is (1) contrary to a state of rest in disease, and (2) the motion to which it is contrary is that from health to disease. For (2) it would be absurd that its contrary motion should be that from disease to health, since motion to that in which a thing is at rest is rather a coming to rest, the coming to rest being found to come into being simultaneously with the motion; and one of these two motions it must be. And (1) rest in whiteness is of course not contrary to rest in health.

Of all things that have no contraries there are opposite changes (viz. change from the thing and change to the thing, e.g. change from being and change to being), but no motion. So, too, of such things there is no remaining though there is absence of change. Should there be a particular subject, absence of change in its being will be contrary to absence of change in its not-being. And here a difficulty may be raised: if not-being is not a particular something, what is it, it may be asked, that is contrary to absence of change in a thing’s being? and is this absence of change a state of rest? If it is, then either it is not true that every state of rest is contrary to a motion or else coming to be and ceasing to be are motion. It is clear then that, since we exclude these from among motions, we must not say that this absence of change is a state of rest: we must say that it is similar to a state of rest and call it absence of change. And it will have for its contrary either nothing or absence of change in the thing’s not-being, or the ceasing to be of the thing: for such ceasing to be is change from it and the thing’s coming to be is change to it.

Again, a further difficulty may be raised. How is it, it may be asked, that whereas in local change both remaining and moving may be natural or unnatural, in the other changes this is not so? e.g. alteration is not now natural and now unnatural, for convalescence is no more natural or unnatural than falling ill, whitening no more natural or unnatural than blackening; so, too, with increase and decrease: these are not contrary to each other in the sense that either of them is natural while the other is unnatural, nor is one increase contrary to another in this sense; and the same account may be given of becoming and perishing: it is not true that becoming is natural and perishing unnatural (for growing old is natural), nor do we observe one becoming to be natural and another unnatural. We answer that if what happens under violence is unnatural, then violent perishing is unnatural and as such contrary to natural perishing. Are there then also some becomings that are violent and not the result of natural necessity, and are therefore contrary to natural becomings, and violent increases and decreases, e.g. the rapid growth to maturity of profligates and the rapid ripening of seeds even when not packed close in the earth? And how is it with alterations? Surely just the same: we may say that some alterations are violent while others are natural, e.g. patients alter naturally or unnaturally according as they throw off fevers on the critical days or not. But, it may be objected, then we shall have perishings contrary to one another, not to becoming. Certainly: and why should not this in a sense be so? Thus it is so if one perishing is pleasant and another painful: and so one perishing will be contrary to another not in an unqualified sense, but in so far as one has this quality and the other that.

Now motions and states of rest universally exhibit contrariety in the manner described above, e.g. upward motion and rest above are respectively contrary to downward motion and rest below, these being instances of local contrariety; and upward locomotion belongs naturally to fire and downward to earth, i.e. the locomotions of the two are contrary to each other. And again, fire moves up naturally and down unnaturally: and its natural motion is certainly contrary to its unnatural motion. Similarly with remaining: remaining above is contrary to motion from above downwards, and to earth this remaining comes unnaturally, this motion naturally. So the unnatural remaining of a thing is contrary to its natural motion, just as we find a similar contrariety in the motion of the same thing: one of its motions, the upward or the downward, will be natural, the other unnatural.

Here, however, the question arises, has every state of rest that is not permanent a becoming, and is this becoming a coming to a standstill? If so, there must be a becoming of that which is at rest unnaturally, e.g. of earth at rest above: and therefore this earth during the time that it was being carried violently upward was coming to a standstill. But whereas the velocity of that which comes to a standstill seems always to increase, the velocity of that which is carried violently seems always to decrease: so it will he in a state of rest without having become so. Moreover ’coming to a standstill’ is generally recognized to be identical or at least concomitant with the locomotion of a thing to its proper place.

There is also another difficulty involved in the view that remaining in a particular place is contrary to motion from that place. For when a thing is moving from or discarding something, it still appears to have that which is being discarded, so that if a state of rest is itself contrary to the motion from the state of rest to its contrary, the contraries rest and motion will be simultaneously predicable of the same thing. May we not say, however, that in so far as the thing is still stationary it is in a state of rest in a qualified sense? For, in fact, whenever a thing is in motion, part of it is at the starting-point while part is at the goal to which it is changing: and consequently a motion finds its true contrary rather in another motion than in a state of rest.

With regard to motion and rest, then, we have now explained in what sense each of them is one and under what conditions they exhibit contrariety.

[With regard to coming to a standstill the question may be raised whether there is an opposite state of rest to unnatural as well as to natural motions. It would be absurd if this were not the case: for a thing may remain still merely under violence: thus we shall have a thing being in a non-permanent state of rest without having become so. But it is clear that it must be the case: for just as there is unnatural motion, so, too, a thing may be in an unnatural state of rest. Further, some things have a natural and an unnatural motion, e.g. fire has a natural upward motion and an unnatural downward motion: is it, then, this unnatural downward motion or is it the natural downward motion of earth that is contrary to the natural upward motion? Surely it is clear that both are contrary to it though not in the same sense: the natural motion of earth is contrary inasmuch as the motion of fire is also natural, whereas the upward motion of fire as being natural is contrary to the downward motion of fire as being unnatural. The same is true of the corresponding cases of remaining. But there would seem to be a sense in which a state of rest and a motion are opposites.]


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Chicago: Aristotle, "6," Physics, trans. R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye Original Sources, accessed May 31, 2023,

MLA: Aristotle. "6." Physics, translted by R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye, Original Sources. 31 May. 2023.

Harvard: Aristotle, '6' in Physics, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 31 May 2023, from