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Fragments of the Lost Writings of Proclus


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Author Topic: Fragments of the Lost Writings of Proclus  (Read 1550 times)
Major Weatherly
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« on: February 06, 2009, 01:17:56 pm »

angle, tenuity of side, and swiftness of motion, this element alone is very properly hot. This, however, is not the case with all fire, but with that alone which consists of larger pyramids; on which account, as Timæus says, there is a certain fire which illuminates indeed, but does not burn, because it is composed of the smallest elements. And according to this, fire is visible."

Aristotle adds, "at the same time also it will happen that mathematical bodies will burn and impart heat; for these likewise have angles; and atoms, cubes, spheres, and pyramids, are inherent in them, especially if, as they say, these are indivisible magnitudes. For if some of them burn, and others do not, the cause of this difference must be assigned, but not simply so as they assign it."

Proclus, well opposing what is here said, does that which Aristotle desires, viz. he assigns the difference consequent to the hypothesis according to which some bodies burn, but mathematical bodies do not burn. For Plato says, that burning bodies are material and moved figures; on which account also he says, that ϐ is added to the name, this letter being the instrument of motion. Not every thing, therefore, which is angular, is calorific, unless it is acute-angled, is attenuated in its sides, and may be easily moved.

p. 24

Again, Aristotle says, "let it be reasonable, therefore, that to cut and divide should be accidents to figure; yet, that a pyramid should necessarily make pyramids, or a sphere spheres, is perfectly absurd, and is just as if some one should think that a sword may be divided into swords, or a saw into saws."

To this also Proclus replies, "that fire dissolves the elements of that which it burns, and transmutes them into itself. But a sword does not act upon the essence of that which it cuts. For it does not dissolve the essence of it, but by dividing it, makes a less from a greater quantity; since it has not its figure essentially, but from accident. If, therefore, nothing which cuts changes that which is cut into the essence of itself, nor dissolves the form of it, how can it make a division into things similar to itself? But it may be said, Let bodies which are burnt be dissolved into triangles, for instance, water and air, and the elements of them, the icosaedron and octaedron, yet what is which composes the triangles of these into the figure of fire, viz. into the pyramid, so as that many such being conjoined, fire is produced? Plato therefore says, in the Timæus, that the triangles being dissolved by fire, do not cease to pass from one body into another until they conic into another form; for instance, the triangles of

p. 25

the icosaedron, which are divisible into octaedra, or rather till they pass into fire, which is of a dividing nature. For if they are composed into the nature of fire, they cease their transition; since similars neither act upon, nor suffer from each other. But it will be well to hear the most beautiful words themselves of Plato: 'When any one of the forms (says he), becoming invested by fire, is cut by the acuteness of its angles and sides, then, passing into the nature of fire, it suffers no farther discerption. For no form is ever able to produce mutation or passivity, or any kind of alteration, in that which is similar and the same with itself; but as long as it passes into something else, and the more imbecile contends with the more powerful, it will not cease to be dissolved.' It is evident, however, that the planes are not composed casually, and as it may happen, at one time in this, and at another in that figure; but that which dissolves them exterminates the aptitude which they had to that figure, for instance, to the icosaedron, this aptitude being more gross and turbulent, and transfers it to the purer aptitude of the air which is near. And in the first place, they acquire a bulk from octaedra. Afterwards being dissolved by fire, they are more purified and attenuated, and become adapted to the composition of a pyramid. But it is evident that

p. 26

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