On the Heavens

Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


Now there are two ways of moving along a circle, from A to B or from A to C, and we have already explained that these movements are not contrary to one another. But nothing which concerns the eternal can be a matter of chance or spontaneity, and the heaven and its circular motion are eternal. We must therefore ask why this motion takes one direction and not the other. Either this is itself an ultimate fact or there is an ultimate fact behind it. It may seem evidence of excessive folly or excessive zeal to try to provide an explanation of some things, or of everything, admitting no exception. The criticism, however, is not always just: one should first consider what reason there is for speaking, and also what kind of certainty is looked for, whether human merely or of a more cogent kind. When any one shall succeed in finding proofs of greater precision, gratitude will be due to him for the discovery, but at present we must be content with a probable solution. If nature always follows the best course possible, and, just as upward movement is the superior form of rectilinear movement, since the upper region is more divine than the lower, so forward movement is superior to backward, then front and back exhibits, like right and left, as we said before and as the difficulty just stated itself suggests, the distinction of prior and posterior, which provides a reason and so solves our difficulty. Supposing that nature is ordered in the best way possible, this may stand as the reason of the fact mentioned. For it is best to move with a movement simple and unceasing, and, further, in the superior of two possible directions.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "5," On the Heavens, trans. J. L. Stocks Original Sources, accessed June 4, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L7KTKEZCGUCZBXH.

MLA: Aristotle. "5." On the Heavens, translted by J. L. Stocks, Original Sources. 4 Jun. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L7KTKEZCGUCZBXH.

Harvard: Aristotle, '5' in On the Heavens, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 4 June 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L7KTKEZCGUCZBXH.