350 BC
by Aristotle
translated by A. S. L. Farquharson

ELSEWHERE we have investigated in detail the movement of animals
after their various kinds, the differences between them, and the
reasons for their particular characters (for some animals fly, some
swim, some walk, others move in various other ways); there remains
an investigation of the common ground of any sort of animal movement
Now we have already determined (when we were discussing whether
eternal motion exists or not, and its definition, if it does exist)
that the origin of all other motions is that which moves itself, and
that the origin of this is the immovable, and that the prime mover
must of necessity be immovable. And we must grasp this not only
generally in theory, but also by reference to individuals in the world
of sense, for with these in view we seek general theories, and with
these we believe that general theories ought to harmonize. Now in
the world of sense too it is plainly impossible for movement to be
initiated if there is nothing at rest, and before all else in our
present subject- animal life. For if one of the parts of an animal
be moved, another must be at rest, and this is the purpose of their
joints; animals use joints like a centre, and the whole member, in
which the joint is, becomes both one and two, both straight and
bent, changing potentially and actually by reason of the joint. And
when it is bending and being moved one of the points in the joint is
moved and one is at rest, just as if the points A and D of a
diameter were at rest, and B were moved, and DAC were generated.
However, in the geometrical illustration, the centre is held to be
altogether indivisible (for in mathematics motion is a fiction, as the
phrase goes, no mathematical entity being really moved), whereas in
the case of joints the centres become now one potentially and
divided actually, and now one actually and divided potentially. But
still the origin of movement, qua origin, always remains at rest
when the lower part of a limb is moved; for example, the elbow
joint, when the forearm is moved, and the shoulder, when the whole
arm; the knee when the tibia is moved, and the hip when the whole leg.
Accordingly it is plain that each animal as a whole must have within
itself a point at rest, whence will be the origin of that which is
moved, and supporting itself upon which it will be moved both as a
complete whole and in its members.

But the point of rest in the animal is still quite ineffectual
unless there be something without which is absolutely at rest and
immovable. Now it is worth while to pause and consider what has been
said, for it involves a speculation which extends beyond animals
even to the motion and march of the universe. For just as there must
be something immovable within the animal, if it is to be moved, so
even more must there be without it something immovable, by
supporting itself upon which that which is moved moves. For were
that something always to give way (as it does for mice walking in
grain or persons walking in sand) advance would be impossible, and
neither would there be any walking unless the ground were to remain
still, nor any flying or swimming were not the air and the sea to
resist. And this which resists must needs be different from what is
moved, the whole of it from the whole of that, and what is thus
immovable must be no part of what is moved; otherwise there will be no
movement. Evidence of this lies in the problem why it is that a man
easily moves a boat from outside, if he push with a pole, putting it
against the mast or some other part, but if he tried to do this when
in the boat itself he would never move it, no not giant Tityus himself
nor Boreas blowing from inside the ship, if he really were blowing
in the way painters represent him; for they paint him sending the
breath out from the boat. For whether one blew gently or so stoutly as
to make a very great wind, and whether what were thrown or pushed were
wind or something else, it is necessary in the first place to be
supported upon one of one's own members which is at rest and so to
push, and in the second place for this member, either itself, or
that of which it is a part, to remain at rest, fixing itself against
something external to itself. Now the man who is himself in the
boat, if he pushes, fixing himself against the boat, very naturally
does not move the boat, because what he pushes against should properly
remain at rest. Now what he is trying to move, and what he is fixing
himself against is in his case the same. If, however, he pushes or
pulls from outside he does move it, for the ground is no part of the

Here we may ask the difficult question whether if something moves
the whole heavens this mover must be immovable, and moreover be no
part of the heavens, nor in the heavens. For either it is moved itself
and moves the heavens, in which case it must touch something immovable
in order to create movement, and then this is no part of that which
creates movement; or if the mover is from the first immovable it
will equally be no part of that which is moved. In this point at least
they argue correctly who say that as the Sphere is carried round in
a circle no single part remains still, for then either the whole would
necessarily stand still or its continuity be torn asunder; but they
argue less well in supposing that the poles have a certain force,
though conceived as having no magnitude, but as merely termini or
points. For besides the fact that no such things have any
substantial existence it is impossible for a single movement to be
initiated by what is twofold; and yet they make the poles two. From
a review of these difficulties we may conclude that there is something
so related to the whole of Nature, as the earth is to animals and
things moved by them.
And the mythologists with their fable of Atlas setting his feet upon
the earth appear to have based the fable upon intelligent grounds.
They make Atlas a kind of diameter twirling the heavens about the
poles. Now as the earth remains still this would be reasonable enough,
but their theory involves them in the position that the earth is no
part of the universe. And further the force of that which initiates
movement must be made equal to the force of that which remains at
rest. For there is a definite quantity of force or power by dint of
which that which remains at rest does so, just as there is of force by
dint of which that which initiates movement does so; and as there is a
necessary proportion between opposite motions, so there is between
absences of motion. Now equal forces are unaffected by one another,
but are overcome by a superiority of force. And so in their theory
Atlas, or whatever similar power initiates movement from within,
must exert no more force than will exactly balance the stability of
the earth- otherwise the earth will be moved out of her place in the
centre of things. For as the pusher pushes so is the pushed pushed,
and with equal force. But the prime mover moves that which is to begin
with at rest, so that the power it exerts is greater, rather than
equal and like to the power which produces absence of motion in that
which is moved. And similarly also the power of what is moved and so
moves must be greater than the power of that which is moved but does
not initiate movement. Therefore the force of the earth in its
immobility will have to be as great as the force of the whole heavens,
and of that which moves the heavens. But if that is impossible, it
follows that the heavens cannot possibly be moved by any force of this
kind inside them.

There is a further difficulty about the motions of the parts of
the heavens which, as akin to what has gone before, may be
considered next. For if one could overcome by force of motion the
immobility of the earth he would clearly move it away from the centre.
And it is plain that the power from which this force would originate
will not be infinite, for the earth is not infinite and therefore
its weight is not. Now there are more senses than one of the word
'impossible'. When we say it is impossible to see a sound, and when we
say it is impossible to see the men in the moon, we use two senses
of the word; the former is of necessity, the latter, though their
nature is to be seen, cannot as a fact be seen by us. Now we suppose
that the heavens are of necessity impossible to destroy and to
dissolve, whereas the result of the present argument would be to do
away with this necessity. For it is natural and possible for a
motion to exist greater than the force by dint of which the earth is
at rest, or than that by dint of which Fire and Aether are moved. If
then there are superior motions, these will be dissolved in succession
by one another: and if there actually are not, but might possibly be
(for the earth cannot be infinite because no body can possibly be
infinite), there is a possibility of the heavens being dissolved.
For what is to prevent this coming to pass, unless it be impossible?
And it is not impossible unless the opposite is necessary. This
difficulty, however, we will discuss elsewhere.
To resume, must there be something immovable and at rest outside
of what is moved, and no part of it, or not? And must this necessarily
be so also in the case of the universe? Perhaps it would be thought
strange were the origin of movement inside. And to those who so
conceive it the word of Homer would appear to have been well spoken:
'Nay, ye would not pull Zeus, highest of all from heaven to the
plain, no not even if ye toiled right hard; come, all ye gods and
goddesses! Set hands to the chain'; for that which is entirely
immovable cannot possibly be moved by anything. And herein lies the
solution of the difficulty stated some time back, the possibility or
impossibility of dissolving the system of the heavens, in that it
depends from an original which is immovable.
Now in the animal world there must be not only an immovable without,
but also within those things which move in place, and initiate their
own movement. For one part of an animal must be moved, and another
be at rest, and against this the part which is moved will support
itself and be moved; for example, if it move one of its parts; for one
part, as it were, supports itself against another part at rest.
But about things without life which are moved one might ask the
question whether all contain in themselves both that which is at
rest and that which initiates movement, and whether they also, for
instance fire, earth, or any other inanimate thing, must support
themselves against something outside which is at rest. Or is this
impossible and must it not be looked for rather in those primary
causes by which they are set in motion? For all things without life
are moved by something other, and the origin of all things so moved
are things which move themselves. And out of these we have spoken
about animals (for they must all have in themselves that which is at
rest, and without them that against which they are supported); but
whether there is some higher and prime mover is not clear, and an
origin of that kind involves a different discussion. Animals at any
rate which move themselves are all moved supporting themselves on what
is outside them, even when they inspire and expire; for there is no
essential difference between casting a great and a small weight, and
this is what men do when they spit and cough and when they breathe
in and breathe out.

But is it only in that which moves itself in place that there must
be a point at rest, or does this hold also of that which causes its
own qualitative changes, and its own growth? Now the question of
original generation and decay is different; for if there is, as we
hold, a primary movement, this would be the cause of generation and
decay, and probably of all the secondary movements too. And as in
the universe, so in the animal world this is the primary movement,
when the creature attains maturity; and therefore it is the cause of
growth, when the creature becomes the cause of its own growth, and the
cause too of alteration. But if this is not the primary movement
then the point at rest is not necessary. However, the earliest
growth and alteration in the living creature arise through another and
by other channels, nor can anything possibly be the cause of its own
generation and decay, for the mover must exist before the moved, the
begetter before the begotten, and nothing is prior to itself.

Now whether the soul is moved or not, and how it is moved if it be
moved, has been stated before in our treatise concerning it. And since
all inorganic things are moved by some other thing- and the manner
of the movement of the first and eternally moved, and how the first
mover moves it, has been determined before in our Metaphysics, it
remains to inquire how the soul moves the body, and what is the origin
of movement in a living creature. For, if we except the movement of
the universe, things with life are the causes of the movement of all
else, that is of all that are not moved by one another by mutual
impact. And so all their motions have a term or limit, inasmuch as the
movements of things with life have such. For all living things both
move and are moved with some object, so that this is the term of all
their movement, the end, that is, in view. Now we see that the
living creature is moved by intellect, imagination, purpose, wish, and
appetite. And all these are reducible to mind and desire. For both
imagination and sensation are on common ground with mind, since all
three are faculties of judgement though differing according to
distinctions stated elsewhere. Will, however, impulse, and appetite,
are all three forms of desire, while purpose belongs both to intellect
and to desire. Therefore the object of desire or of intellect first
initiates movement, not, that is, every object of intellect, only
the end in the domain of conduct. Accordingly among goods that which
moves is a practical end, not the good in its whole extent. For it
initiates movement only so far as something else is for its sake, or
so far as it is the object of that which is for the sake of
something else. And we must suppose that a seeming good may take the
room of actual good, and so may the pleasant, which is itself a
seeming good. From these considerations it is clear that in one regard
that which is eternally moved by the eternal mover is moved in the
same way as every living creature, in another regard differently,
and so while it is moved eternally, the movement of living creatures
has a term. Now the eternal beautiful, and the truly and primarily
good (which is not at one time good, at another time not good), is too
divine and precious to be relative to anything else. The prime mover
then moves, itself being unmoved, whereas desire and its faculty are
moved and so move. But it is not necessary for the last in the chain
of things moved to move something else; wherefore it is plainly
reasonable that motion in place should be the last of what happens
in the region of things happening, since the living creature is
moved and goes forward by reason of desire or purpose, when some
alteration has been set going on the occasion of sensation or

But how is it that thought (viz. sense, imagination, and thought
proper) is sometimes followed by action, sometimes not; sometimes by
movement, sometimes not? What happens seems parallel to the case of
thinking and inferring about the immovable objects of science. There
the end is the truth seen (for, when one conceives the two
premisses, one at once conceives and comprehends the conclusion),
but here the two premisses result in a conclusion which is an
action- for example, one conceives that every man ought to walk, one
is a man oneself: straightway one walks; or that, in this case, no man
should walk, one is a man: straightway one remains at rest. And one so
acts in the two cases provided that there is nothing in the one case
to compel or in the other to prevent. Again, I ought to create a good,
a house is good: straightway I make a house. I need a covering, a coat
is a covering: I need a coat. What I need I ought to make, I need a
coat: I make a coat. And the conclusion I must make a coat is an
action. And the action goes back to the beginning or first step. If
there is to be a coat, one must first have B, and if B then A, so
one gets A to begin with. Now that the action is the conclusion is
clear. But the premisses of action are of two kinds, of the good and
of the possible.
And as in some cases of speculative inquiry we suppress one
premise so here the mind does not stop to consider at all an obvious
minor premise; for example if walking is good for man, one does not
dwell upon the minor 'I am a man'. And so what we do without
reflection, we do quickly. For when a man actualizes himself in
relation to his object either by perceiving, or imagining or
conceiving it, what he desires he does at once. For the actualizing of
desire is a substitute for inquiry or reflection. I want to drink,
says appetite; this is drink, says sense or imagination or mind:
straightway I drink. In this way living creatures are impelled to move
and to act, and desire is the last or immediate cause of movement, and
desire arises after perception or after imagination and conception.
And things that desire to act now create and now act under the
influence of appetite or impulse or of desire or wish.
The movements of animals may be compared with those of automatic
puppets, which are set going on the occasion of a tiny movement; the
levers are released, and strike the twisted strings against one
another; or with the toy wagon. For the child mounts on it and moves
it straight forward, and then again it is moved in a circle owing to
its wheels being of unequal diameter (the smaller acts like a centre
on the same principle as the cylinders). Animals have parts of a
similar kind, their organs, the sinewy tendons to wit and the bones;
the bones are like the wooden levers in the automaton, and the iron;
the tendons are like the strings, for when these are tightened or
leased movement begins. However, in the automata and the toy wagon
there is no change of quality, though if the inner wheels became
smaller and greater by turns there would be the same circular movement
set up. In an animal the same part has the power of becoming now
larger and now smaller, and changing its form, as the parts increase
by warmth and again contract by cold and change their quality. This
change of quality is caused by imaginations and sensations and by
ideas. Sensations are obviously a form of change of quality, and
imagination and conception have the same effect as the objects so
imagined and conceived For in a measure the form conceived be it of
hot or cold or pleasant or fearful is like what the actual objects
would be, and so we shudder and are frightened at a mere idea. Now all
these affections involve changes of quality, and with those changes
some parts of the body enlarge, others grow smaller. And it is not
hard to see that a small change occurring at the centre makes great
and numerous changes at the circumference, just as by shifting the
rudder a hair's breadth you get a wide deviation at the prow. And
further, when by reason of heat or cold or some kindred affection a
change is set up in the region of the heart, even in an
imperceptibly small part of the heart, it produces a vast difference
in the periphery of the body,- blushing, let us say, or turning white,
goose-skin and shivers and their opposites.

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, be-there 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.

Now since the left and the right sides are symmetrical, and these
opposites are moved simultaneously, it cannot be that the left is
moved by the right remaining stationary, nor vice versa; the
original must always be in what lies above both. Therefore, the
original seat of the moving soul must be in that which lies in the
middle, for of both extremes the middle is the limiting point; and
this is similarly related to the movements from above [and below,]
those that is from the head, and to the bones which spring from the
spinal column, in creatures that have a spinal column.
And this is a reasonable arrangement. For the sensorium is in our
opinion in the centre too; and so, if the region of the original of
movement is altered in structure through sense-perception and thus
changes, it carries with it the parts that depend upon it and they too
are extended or contracted, and in this way the movement of the
creature necessarily follows. And the middle of the body must needs be
in potency one but in action more than one; for the limbs are moved
simultaneously from the original seat of movement, and when one is
at rest the other is moved. For example, in the line BAC, B is
moved, and A is the mover. There must, however, be a point at rest
if one is to move, the other to be moved. A (AE) then being one in
potency must be two in action, and so be a definite spatial
magnitude not a mathematical point. Again, C may be moved
simultaneously with B. Both the originals then in A must move and
be, and so there must be something other than them which moves but
is not moved. For otherwise, when the movement begins, the extremes,
i.e. the originals, in A would rest upon one another, like two men
putting themselves back to back and so moving their legs. There must
then be some one thing which moves both. This something is the soul,
distinct from the spatial magnitude just described and yet located

Although from the point of view of the definition of movement- a
definition which gives the cause- desire is the middle term or
cause, and desire moves being moved, still in the material animated
body there must be some material which itself moves being moved. Now
that which is moved, but whose nature is not to initiate movement,
is capable of being passive to an external force, while that which
initiates movement must needs possess a kind of force and power. Now
experience shows us that animals do both possess connatural spirit and
derive power from this. (How this connatural spirit is maintained in
the body is explained in other passages of our works.) And this spirit
appears to stand to the soul-centre or original in a relation
analogous to that between the point in a joint which moves being moved
and the unmoved. Now since this centre is for some animals in the
heart, in the rest in a part analogous with the heart, we further
see the reason for the connatural spirit being situate where it
actually is found. The question whether the spirit remains always
the same or constantly changes and is renewed, like the cognate
question about the rest of the parts of the body, is better postponed.
At all events we see that it is well disposed to excite movement and
to exert power; and the functions of movement are thrusting and
pulling. Accordingly, the organ of movement must be capable of
expanding and contracting; and this is precisely the characteristic of
spirit. It contracts and expands naturally, and so is able to pull and
to thrust from one and the same cause, exhibiting gravity compared
with the fiery element, and levity by comparison with the opposites of
fire. Now that which is to initiate movement without change of
structure must be of the kind described, for the elementary bodies
prevail over one another in a compound body by dint of
disproportion; the light is overcome and kept down by the heavier, and
the heavy kept up by the lighter.
We have now explained what the part is which is moved when the
soul originates movement in the body, and what is the reason for this.
And the animal organism must be conceived after the similitude of a
well-governed commonwealth. When order is once established in it there
is no more need of a separate monarch to preside over each several
task. The individuals each play their assigned part as it is
ordered, and one thing follows another in its accustomed order. So
in animals there is the same orderliness- nature taking the place of
custom- and each part naturally doing his own work as nature has
composed them. There is no need then of a soul in each part, but she
resides in a kind of central governing place of the body, and the
remaining parts live by continuity of natural structure, and play
the parts Nature would have them play.

So much then for the voluntary movements of animal bodies, and the
reasons for them. These bodies, however, display in certain members
involuntary movements too, but most often non-voluntary movements.
By involuntary I mean motions of the heart and of the privy member;
for often upon an image arising and without express mandate of the
reason these parts are moved. By non-voluntary I mean sleep and waking
and respiration, and other similar organic movements. For neither
imagination nor desire is properly mistress of any of these; but since
the animal body must undergo natural changes of quality, and when
the parts are so altered some must increase and other decrease, the
body must straightway be moved and change with the changes that nature
makes dependent upon one another. Now the causes of the movements
are natural changes of temperature, both those coming from outside the
body, and those taking place within it. So the involuntary movements
which occur in spite of reason in the aforesaid parts occur when a
change of quality supervenes. For conception and imagination, as we
said above, produce the conditions necessary to affections, since they
bring to bear the images or forms which tend to create these states.
And the two parts aforesaid display this motion more conspicuously
than the rest, because each is in a sense a separate vital organism,
the reason being that each contains vital moisture. In the case of the
heart the cause is plain, for the heart is the seat of the senses,
while an indication that the generative organ too is vital is that
there flows from it the seminal potency, itself a kind of organism.
Again, it is a reasonable arrangement that the movements arise in
the centre upon movements in the parts, and in the parts upon
movements in the centre, and so reach one another. Conceive A to be
the centre or starting point. The movements then arrive at the
centre from each letter in the diagram we have drawn, and flow back
again from the centre which is moved and changes, (for the centre is
potentially multiple) the movement of B goes to B, that of C to C, the
movement of both to both; but from B to C the movements flow by dint
of going from B to A as to a centre, and then from A to C as from a
Moreover a movement contrary to reason sometimes does and
sometimes does not arise in the organs on the occasion of the same
thoughts; the reason is that sometimes the matter which is passive
to the impressions is there in sufficient quantity and of the right
quality and sometimes not.
And so we have finished our account of the reasons for the parts
of each kind of animal, of the soul, and furthere of sense-perception,
of sleep, of memory, and of movement in general; it remains to speak
of animal generation.



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