On the Motion of Animals

Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


But to return, the object we pursue or avoid in the field of action is, as has been explained, the original of movement, and upon the conception and imagination of this there necessarily follows a change in the temperature of the body. For what is painful we avoid, what is pleasing we pursue. We are, however, unconscious of what happens in the minute parts; still anything painful or pleasing is generally speaking accompanied by a definite change of temperature in the body. One may see this by considering the affections. Blind courage and panic fears, erotic motions, and the rest of the corporeal affections, pleasant and painful, are all accompanied by a change of temperature, some in a particular member, others in the body generally. So, memories and anticipations, using as it were the reflected images of these pleasures and pains, are now more and now less causes of the same changes of temperature. And so we see the reason of nature’s handiwork in the inward parts, and in the centres of movement of the organic members; they change from solid to moist, and from moist to solid, from soft to hard and vice versa. And so when these are affected in this way, and when besides the passive and active have the constitution we have many times described, as often as it comes to pass that one is active and the other passive, and neither of them falls short of the elements of its essence, straightway one acts and the other responds. And on this account thinking that one ought to go and going are virtually simultaneous, unless there be something else to hinder action. The organic parts are suitably prepared by the affections, these again by desire, and desire by imagination. Imagination in its turn depends either upon conception or sense-perception. And the simultaneity and speed are due to the natural correspondence of the active and passive.

However, that which first moves the animal organism must be situate in a definite original. Now we have said that a joint is the beginning of one part of a limb, the end of another. And so nature employs it sometimes as one, sometimes as two. When movement arises from a joint, one of the extreme points must remain at rest, and the other be moved (for as we explained above the mover must support itself against a point at rest); accordingly, in the case of the elbow-joint, the last point of the forearm is moved but does not move anything, while, in the flexion, one point of the elbow, which lies in the whole forearm that is being moved, is moved, but there must also be a point which is unmoved, and this is our meaning when we speak of a point which is in potency one, but which becomes two in actual exercise. Now if the arm were the living animal, somewhere in its elbow-joint would be situate the original seat of the moving soul. Since, however, it is possible for a lifeless thing to be so related to the hand as the forearm is to the upper (for example, when a man moves a stick in his hand), it is evident that the soul, the original of movement, could not lie in either of the two extreme points, neither, that is, in the last point of the stick which is moved, nor in the original point which causes movement. For the stick too has an end point and an originative point by reference to the hand. Accordingly, this example shows that the moving original which derives from the soul is not in the stick; and if not, then not in the hand; for a precisely similar relation obtains between the hand and the wrist, as between the wrist and the elbow. In this matter it makes no difference whether the part is a continuous part of the body or not; the stick may be looked at as a detached part of the whole. It follows then of necessity that the original cannot lie in any individual origin which is the end of another member, even though there may lie another part outside the one in question. For example, relatively to the end point of the stick the hand is the original, but the original of the hand’s movement is in the wrist. And so if the true original is not in the hand, bethere is still something higher up, neither is the true original in the wrist, for once more if the elbow is at rest the whole part below it can be moved as a continuous whole.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "Chapter 8," On the Motion of Animals, trans. A. S. L. Farquharson Original Sources, accessed March 20, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L4QENX6QR1Y2KIC.

MLA: Aristotle. "Chapter 8." On the Motion of Animals, translted by A. S. L. Farquharson, Original Sources. 20 Mar. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L4QENX6QR1Y2KIC.

Harvard: Aristotle, 'Chapter 8' in On the Motion of Animals, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 20 March 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L4QENX6QR1Y2KIC.