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Fifth Element as "Idea"

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  • Melanie B. Mineo
    Hello all - What can you tell me about the fifth element, alternately known as aether, quintessence, etc, also being known as Idea in Plato and Aristotle?
    Message 1 of 3 , May 23, 2008
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      Hello all - What can you tell me about the fifth element, alternately
      known as aether, quintessence, etc, also being known as 'Idea' in
      Plato and Aristotle? Can anyone give me the particular passages from
      the Platonic/Aristotelian corpus where this occurs? Many thanks, M
    • Peter Adamson
      Dear Melanie, One thing to do would be to look at the excellent introduction in Wilberding s recent book with Oxford UP, Plotinus Cosmology, which goes into
      Message 2 of 3 , May 23, 2008
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        Dear Melanie,

        One thing to do would be to look at the excellent introduction in
        Wilberding's recent book with Oxford UP, "Plotinus' Cosmology," which
        goes into this issue and other issues in ancient cosmology. Another
        place to look would be the Physics volume in Sorabji's Commentators
        Sourcebooks (Duckworth).

        But a short answer is that Aristotle proves the fifth element theory
        of the heavens principally in De Caelo (On the Heavens). Plato's
        Timaeus seems to say that the heavens are _not_ made from a fifth
        element but from a very pure version of the elements in the sublunary
        world. But some Neoplatonists wanted to say that Plato agrees with
        Aristotle and endorses a fifth sui generis element.

        You might also want to look at Philoponus' "Against Aristotle on the
        Eternity of the World" which is mostly devoted to attacking the aether
        theory.

        Aristotle's basic idea is that the heavenly bodies naturally move in a
        circular fashion, whereas the four sublunary elements move
        rectilinearly by nature (fire and air go up, i.e. away from the center
        of the cosmos, and water and earth down, i.e. towards the center).
        Thus the heavens cannot share a nature with the four elements; they
        must be made of a fifth element. The argument for the
        indestructibility of this element is more complicated, but one idea is
        that circular motion has no contrary, so that which naturally moves in
        a circle has no contrary substance which could destroy it.

        Hope that helps,
        Peter Adamson

        Quoting "Melanie B. Mineo" <melonyfelony@...>:

        > Hello all - What can you tell me about the fifth element, alternately
        > known as aether, quintessence, etc, also being known as 'Idea' in
        > Plato and Aristotle? Can anyone give me the particular passages from
        > the Platonic/Aristotelian corpus where this occurs? Many thanks, M
        >
        >



        --
        Peter Adamson
        peter.adamson@...
      • Melanie B. Mineo
        Dear Peter, Thank you for the good leads. Very helpful. I did actually look at the Wilberding before asking here, and a few other places, but unless it s under
        Message 3 of 3 , May 24, 2008
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          Dear Peter,

          Thank you for the good leads. Very helpful. I did actually look at the
          Wilberding before asking here, and a few other places, but unless it's
          under my nose and I didn't see it, I didn't find anything about the
          "fifth element" as "Idea" there. That's the notion I'm curious about -
          Intriguing, even absurd, some might say–I'd never seen it before, so
          I'm fully expecting to find it spurious. But, it's innocent until
          proven guilty - so on to Sorabji and Philoponus - and thanks again. M


          --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Peter Adamson <peter.adamson@...>
          wrote:
          >
          > Dear Melanie,
          >
          > One thing to do would be to look at the excellent introduction in
          > Wilberding's recent book with Oxford UP, "Plotinus' Cosmology,"
          > whichgoes into this issue and other issues in ancient cosmology.
          > Another place to look would be the Physics volume in Sorabji's
          > Commentators Sourcebooks (Duckworth).
          >
          > But a short answer is that Aristotle proves the fifth element theory
          > of the heavens principally in De Caelo (On the Heavens). Plato's
          > Timaeus seems to say that the heavens are _not_ made from a fifth
          > element but from a very pure version of the elements in the
          > sublunary world. But some Neoplatonists wanted to say that Plato
          > agrees with Aristotle and endorses a fifth sui generis element.
          >
          > You might also want to look at Philoponus' "Against Aristotle on the
          > Eternity of the World" which is mostly devoted to attacking the aether
          > theory.
          >
          > Aristotle's basic idea is that the heavenly bodies naturally move in a
          > circular fashion, whereas the four sublunary elements move
          > rectilinearly by nature (fire and air go up, i.e. away from the center
          > of the cosmos, and water and earth down, i.e. towards the center).
          > Thus the heavens cannot share a nature with the four elements; they
          > must be made of a fifth element. The argument for the
          > indestructibility of this element is more complicated, but one idea is
          > that circular motion has no contrary, so that which naturally moves in
          > a circle has no contrary substance which could destroy it.
          >
          > Hope that helps,
          > Peter Adamson
          >
          > Quoting "Melanie B. Mineo" <melonyfelony@...>:
          >
          > > Hello all - What can you tell me about the fifth element, alternately
          > > known as aether, quintessence, etc, also being known as 'Idea' in
          > > Plato and Aristotle? Can anyone give me the particular passages from
          > > the Platonic/Aristotelian corpus where this occurs? Many thanks, M
          > >
          > >
          >
          >
          >
          > --
          > Peter Adamson
          > peter.adamson@...
          >
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