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14939Re: [ANE-2] air in water

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  • Graham Hagens
    Jul 1, 2013
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      This is not your typical ANE question - unless one accepts that ANE includes Ionia and Persian South Asia
      But here goes: the whole air,fire, earth water element thing was explored by various Upanishadic philosophers in India, and arguably these concepts made their way from east to to west, rather than the other way round,  influencing such thinkers as Empedocles, Heraclitus, Anaximenes, and ultimately Aristotle.
      There was no consensus among them on whether air, water, or fire were the 'ulitmate' elements, and no way to test these ideas because they were  purely speculative.
      If any of them tried to build on subtleties such whether any one of these four elements could include another,  these did not make much of an impression'
      And the reason this question really didn't really matter then, as now, is that the understanding of  'physis' - or the nature of  things - turned upside down when the more robust  and testable atomic theories were developed by Leucippus and Democritus.  Neither Aristotle nor Plato  liked Democrtus, and atomism fell out of favour until thr Renaissance - but prior to the 4th century AD, Democritean (Epicurean) atomism was very active
      So there may be no simple answer to the question about what the people of the ANE thought about air being in water or vice versa. 
      The atomists thought about air and water very much the way we do today - as both being distinct entities composed of atoms of different shapes, which could be further understood by means of experiments.  That said, if Aristotle did conclude that  there is no air in water because he could see it rise - he could well have been on the right track, because in doing so he might not have been treating air and water s hypothetical ultimate building blocks of  the universe,  but just things.
      Graham Hagens
      Hamilton, ON

      From: Richard Whitekettle <rwhiteke@...>
      To: ANE-2 <ANE-2@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:09 AM
      Subject: [ANE-2] air in water

      Among the ancient Greeks, Anaxagoras, Diogenes of Apollonia, and the author of the Hippocratic text On Breaths thought that there was air in water. This seems to be based, as far as I can tell, and at least to some degree, on the idea that matter is a mixture of fundamental elements (air, fire, water, earth).

      On the other hand, Aristotle, and the author of the Aristotelian text De Spiritu thought that there was no air in water. This seems to derive from the simple observation that when air is introduced into water it does not stay in the water but rises to the top and exits.

      Does anyone have any idea of what people in the ANE thought about whether there was air in water? Are there any texts or bibliography you can point me to?

      Thanks for any help.

      Richard Whitekettle
      Dept of Religion
      Calvin College

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