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t it le:

The Universal Treat ise of Nicholas of Aut recourt

Mediaeval Philosophical Text s in Translat ion ; No. 20
aut hor: Nicolaus.
publisher: Marquet t e Universit y Press
isbn10 | asin: 0874622204
print isbn13: 9780874622201
ebook isbn13: 9780585371573
language: English
subject Arist ot le, Philosophy, Medieval.
publicat ion dat e: 1971
lcc: B765.N563E95 1971eb
ddc: 189/.4
subject : Arist ot le, Philosophy, Medieval.
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The Universal Treatise of Nicholas of Autrecourt

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No. 20
James H. Robb, L.S.M., Ph.D., Chairman
The Rev. Gerard Smith, S.J., Ph.D.
The Rev. Richard E. Arnold, S.J., Ph.D.
Paul M. Byrne, L.S.M., Ph.D.
The Rev. John Sheets, S.J., S.T.D.
Marquette University Press
1131 West Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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The Universal Treatise of Nicholas of Autrecourt
Translated by
Leonard A. Kennedy, C.S.B., Ph.D.
University of Windsor
Richard E. Arnold, S.J., Ph.D.
Marquette University
Arthur E. Millward, A.M.
formerly University of Windsor
with an introduction by
Leonard A. Kennedy, C.S.B.

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Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 70-155364
Copyright, 1971, The Marquette University Press
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Printed in the United States of America

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Table of Contents
Life and Works of Nicholas 1
The Universal Treatise 2
Prologues 3
First Treatise: The Eternity of Things 9
Indivisibles 11
The Vacuum 14
Material Substance and Quantity 16
Movement 16
Whether Everything Which Appears is 17
Whether Exactly the Same Thing Can Be Seen Clearly and
Beings in the Imagination 19
The Intellect 22
Whether the Same Cause Can Produce Specifically Different
Principles Used in the Translation 28
Selected Bibliography 29
The Translation of the Universal Treatise of Nicholas of Autrecourt
Prologues: I 31
II 57
First Treatise: The Eternity of Things 59
Indivisibles 71
The Vacuum 87
Material Substance and Quantity 95
Movement 98

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Whether Everything Which Appears is 104
Whether Exactly the Same Thing Can Be Seen Clearly and
Imaginable Beings 124
The Intellect 143
Whether the Same Cause Can Produce Specifically Different Effects 146

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Life and Works of Nicholas
Nicholas was born at Autrecourt, a village in the diocese of Verdun, France, about 1300. He
is known to have lived at the Sorbonne from 1320 to 1327, and to have received the Master
of Arts degree, the Baccalaureate in Theology and Laws, and the Licentiate in Theology.
He lectured on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and also on some of the works of Aristotle.
In 1338 he was made a canon of the Cathedral of Metz, this benefice being an honorary one
which helped to support him while he continued his work at the University of Paris. In
1340 Pope Benedict XII summoned him to the Papal Curia at Avignon to answer charges
concerning his teaching. His case was not concluded until 1346, under Benedict's
successor, Clement VI. Nicholas was required to revoke publicly many statements he had
spoken or written; his Universal Treatise, and his letters to Bernard of Arezzo, O.F.M., had
to be burned publicly in Paris. He was deprived of his Master of Arts degree and was
declared unfit to be promoted to the Master of Theology degree. In 1350 he became dean
of the Cathedral at Metz.
Of the works of Nicholas, two of his nine letters to Bernard are extant. These, along with a
letter of Nicholas to a certain Giles, have been published by Lappe.1 Nicholas' Universal
Treatise, and a smaller work Utrum visio creaturae rationalis beatificabilis per verbum possit
intendi naturaliter, have been published by Father O'Donnell.2 Short excerpts from other
works by Nicholas are found in the list of his statements which were condemned.3
Nicholas is important in the history of fourteenth-century philosophy. He is most famous
for his doctrines which bear similarities to the teachings of David Hume.4 These doctrines,
found chiefly in Nicholas' letters to Bernard, indicate scepticism in regard to man's ability
to gain sure knowledge of substance or causes, and in regard to man's ability to prove
God's existence or to discover a hierarchy in beings.
1 J. Lappe, "Nicolaus von Autrecourt," Beitrge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters,
Band VI, Heft 2 (Mnster, 1908) pp. 2*-14*, 24*-30*. The two letters to Bernard have been
translated into English in H. Shapiro, Medieval Philosophy (New York, 1964) pp. 509-527, and in
A. Hyman and J. Walsh, Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1967) pp. 654-664.
2 J. R. O'Donnell, "Nicholas of Autrecourt," Mediaeval Studies, I (1939) 179-280.
3 H. Denifle, ed., Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, tom. II (Paris, 1891) 576-587.
4 H. Rashdall, "Nicholas de Ultracuria, a Medieval Hume," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society,
N.S., 8 (1907) 1-27.

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Nicholas' most important teaching in the Universal Treatise, however, is that all things are
eternal. This teaching also involves the consequence that all things repeat themselves in
cycles, and leads, too, to a denial of the immortality of the human soul as this immortality
had usually been understood.
These doctrines were all condemned. However, it should be pointed out that Nicholas
claimed that many of the statements attributed to him were not made by him, at least not in
the form in which they were stated. He also claimed that they had been made by way of
discussion and had not been asserted obstinately. He stated frequently, too, in his letters to
Bernard and in his Universal Treatise, that he was dealing only with what was probable, not
with what was certain.
The Universal Treatise
The Universal Treatise, usually referred to as the Exigit ordo, was composed about 1340. It
has as its intention to call university professors, especially at Paris, to the study of
Christianity and ethics. The means to achieve this end is the discrediting of Aristotle and
his disciple Averroes (1126-1198), the study of whose writings occupied most of the time
of these professors. Attacks on Aristotle were by no means unknown; before Nicholas
several scholastics had strongly opposed the Stagirite. Nicholas does not think that he can
definitely disprove what Aristotle and Averroes taught, but does think that he can show that
it is less probable than other doctrines. Accordingly he sets out to contradict a number of
Aristotelian tenets, and defends doctrines such as the following as being more probable
than what Aristotle and Averroes held:
(a) the universe consists of unchangeable atoms, (b) space and time are composed of
points and instants respectively, (c) there is a vacuum, (d) material substance and quantity
are not really distinct, (e) movement is not anything real, (f) everything is as it appears, (g)
the same thing cannot be seen clearly and obscurely, (h) there is not one intellect for all
men, (i) a cause can produce only one effect.
In following Nicholas through this project we shall stay close to his own order of
argumentation, hoping thereby to facilitate the work of the reader of the translation. Many
details, of course, will be omitted.
Nicholas is not trying to establish an integrated system of his own but rather to find fault
with Aristotelianism. For this reason the various doctrines he supports are often isolated
teachings whose compatibility is not made clear. Moreover, since Nicholas is not demon-

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strating his own position but simply establishing its probability, he uses arguments which
are not demonstrations and even defends positions which he believes to be false. He takes
a set of propositions, which he need not necessarily accept as true, and defends them as
more probable than their opposites. He also answers objections against them, and draws
conclusions from them.5
First Prologue, Part One
Nicholas thinks that the so-called "conclusions" of Aristotle and Averroes are not really
demonstrated and that opposite conclusions can just as easily be drawn from the evidence.
He has seen men spend their whole lives studying the works of these men and, at the end,
know only as much as another person could learn in a short while if he studied things
rather than Aristotelian writings. Moreover, while this life-long study goes on, not only is
the study of Christian life and of ethics neglected, but these men even give bad example by
their quarrels and their worldly lives.
Nicholas proposes, then, to find out how much certainty can be obtained about things, and
to see whether Aristotle is a good guide.
First Prologue, Part Two
It may be presumptuous for someone like Nicholas to contradict the long-established
authority of Aristotle and Averroes. But Nicholas feels that a person is allowed to criticize
widely-held opinions if he has a special insight into things. The fact that most men think
or act in a certain way is no guarantee that what they think is true or what they do is right.
Nicholas does not claim special authority for himself, but claims that he has thought about
his views for a long time and has consulted others about them, and thinks that they should
be published so that all may discuss them.
What is it that makes a man's judgment sound? It is his ability to get to the heart of things
and his ability to relate particular instances to appropriate general rules. Judgment based
on authority is not reliable. Even if God told someone something, the person would be
sure it was true, but would not have evidence that it was true, for
5 For a full treatment of Nicholas' philosophy, see J. R. Weinberg, Nicolaus of Autrecourt
(Princeton, 1948). See also J. R. O'Donnell, "The Philosophy of Nicholas of Autrecourt and His
Appraisal of Aristotle," Mediaeval Studies, IV (1942) 97-125. And, for the relation of Nicholas'
doctrine to nominalism, see E. A. Moody, "Ockham, Buridan, and Nicolaus of Autrecourt,"
Franciscan Studies, 7 (1947) 113-146.

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evidence is based on seeing for oneself. Therefore one should not blindly accept the
authority of Aristotle without seeing for oneself. Even Aristotle himself contradicted the
authority of his predecessors. The only criterion is natural evidence.
Nicholas remarks that the Aristotelians may have wanted to simplify things for the sake of
the unintelligent, but does not think that this is good policy since it has gone too far.
Nicholas now begins a discussion of his chief teaching: that all things are eternal. In order
to broach the subject, however, he must begin with a discussion of the good. For Nicholas
the universe is good, and things are disposed as they should be. As a craftsman makes
things so that they will be good and desirable, so nature disposes things so that they will
be good. For example, stones are on the ground so that men may get at them and use them;
horses are just the right height for men to ride. If things were not made according to a plan,
and therefore good, there would be total chaos.
Besides being good, the beings in the universe are interconnected. Every being benefits
every other being. Also, every being is related to a first good, for otherwise there would
be no explanation of how things have purposes.
Also, the whole of the universe is always perfect to the same extent. Were there to be
some decrease in perfection nothing could stop it going further and further indefinitely.
Besides, if there is a first being which never changes, the goodness which it decides to put
in things never changes; hence the total amount remains the same.
Nicholas puts forth these teachings about the good merely as probable. He then uses them
to show that whatever exists is eternal. Whatever exists is good. Moreover, it is good for
the whole universe. Thus the withdrawal of any good would decrease the total goodness.
But the total amount of goodness in the universe never changes. Therefore, everything is
Nicholas contends that his doctrine safeguards universal justice better than Aristotle's.
Aristotle seems to say that, after death, men are not rewarded or punished. But, according
to Nicholas, there are in each man spirits called sense and intellect. A man is composed of
atoms, and at death the atoms, but not these two spirits, are dispersed. In the case of a good
man the spirits continue in good condition; in the case of a bad man they continue in a poor
condition. Thus, when the spirits are joined once again to different atoms to constitute new
men, they benefit or suffer depending on how they behaved in their previous human
existence. Or, Nicholas adds, possibly what happens is that the spirits are joined to better
or poorer atoms in their new

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human existence and benefit or suffer in this way. In any case, the requirements of justice
are met better than in Aristotle's system.
Nicholas is a little worried that his doctrine, though apparently better than Aristotle's, still
is only probable and may also be rejected. But he hopes that faith in Christian revelation
concerning the afterlife will prevent anyone being disturbed because of philosophical
Nicholas is at least sure that no one can prove that some beings are not eternal, because
there is nothing in the notion ''being" or "good" which demands that it be accompanied by
the notion of "corruptibility." On the contrary, something is more a being and more a good
if it is eternal. Nor does the notion of "many beings" demand that it be accompanied by the
notion of "corruptibility," since plurality is quite consistent with eternity.
One might argue that the notion "corruptible being" is a possible notion, not a
contradictory one, and that therefore perhaps beings are not eternal. Nicholas answers that,
since each being is a good, and is demanded for the goodness of the universe, and since
the amount of goodness in the universe never changes, the notion "corruptible being" is a
contradictory notion. If someone objects that we should be able to see that the notion
"corruptible being" is contradictory simply by an inspection of it without resorting to the
notion of "good", Nicholas responds that there are many notions which entail
consequences which are not obvious to us, and that "being" is one of these notions.
Nicholas now mixes a series of arguments in favour of his thesis of the eternity of things
with a series of answers to objections against the thesis. In order to clarify somewhat this
involved medieval discussion, the arguments and the objections will be numbered.
Argument 1
There are no questions which cannot be answered eventually. But, if things lasted only for
a certain length of time, we could not answer the question why they lasted just that long
and not for a longer or shorter duration. And, if it is suggested that each being has a
different duration, an infinite multiplicity of things will be required in order for all
durations to be represented. But it does not seem possible for there to be an infinite
multiplicity of things.
Argument 2
Aristotle teaches that for the common good a man should risk death, and yet he holds that a
man should love himself more than others. Now, if there is no afterlife, Aristotle is
contradicting himself. But Nicholas teaches that there is a certain kind of afterlife, and
hence can urge without contradiction that a man risk his life for the common good.
The point on which Nicholas opposes Aristotle is not simply the eternity of the world,
since Aristotle taught that the world is eternal.

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What Nicholas teaches is that the universe is composed of atoms, each of which is
eternally unchanged. The only change which occurs is change in place. This change, of
course, is often imperceptible to the senses. Thus Nicholas' theory is based on
argumentation, not on observation. Nicholas upbraids those men who are willing to
believe only what they sense. There are many things which are not verifiable through
sense experience and yet are true. Clock-wheels move without their movement being
perceptible. Tops can spin and seem to be resting. So Nicholas is convinced that his
teaching about the eternity of things is quite probable.
Nicholas claims that Aristotelians, too, sometimes accept arguments even when they are
apparently opposed to sense experience. For example, they teach that "species" come from
distant objects to the eye, and that sound approaches successively, even though both sight
and sound seem to take place instantaneously.
Objection 1
Nicholas' theory makes it difficult to judge whether one thing is nobler than another. Since
no new beings are produced, the efficient causality required to produce new beings cannot
be used as a criterion of worth.
Nicholas replies that, though the objection has some weight, the Aristotelians themselves
are not free of problems. For example, the generative power produces a substance (a child)
and the intellective power produces an accident (knowledge). Now, since a substance is
nobler than an accident, the generative power will be superior to the intellect. But this is
Also, some Aristotelians say that God does not produce natural changes as efficient
cause,6 and yet they say that God is the highest being. Also, the individual is superior to
its nature, and yet the nature, not the individual, is the source of efficient causality.7 Then,
too, when a substance receives an accident, the accident seems to be superior to the
substance, since it acts on it. But accidents are not superior to substances.
Nicholas thinks that a being can be seen to be nobler than another if it naturally pleases
men more, or if it takes greater pleasure in its existence, as a man takes greater pleasure in
his being than a horse does in its. Another sign of superiority is evident in the case of the
human soul. Since the natures of all things come into it, it is of the same nature as all of
them. Hence it is superior to a being to which this does not happen, for example, a stone.
The heavenly bodies, too,
6 This is Aristotle's teaching. See W. D. Ross, Aristotle (New York, 1959) pp. 176-177.
7 See pages 196 and 245. (All references to the Treatise refer to the pages of the Latin edition.)

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please us and seem to be noble beings; but certainty is not possible here.
Argument 3
Belief in eternity is found in all men and is a strong impetus to good behavior. It would
not be right for such a belief to be illusory.
Objection 2
When someone throws a stone, the stone in flight is different from what it was before
being thrown. Now, if the stone is different, there is a change in it. Thus it is not eternally
the same.
Nicholas' answer is that there is no intrinsic change in the stone. The whole process can be
explained by the local motion of unchanged particles.
Argument 4
When Socrates dies he can exist in memory. Now, it is more in keeping with the purpose
of nature for something to continue in real being rather than in diminished being (as in
memory). Therefore it is natural for Socrates to exist forever in real being.
Objection 3
It cannot be absolutely proven that something continues in being even if it is apparently
always visible. All one can say is that what is seen looks like what was seen in the same
place previously. There is no guarantee that it is the same thing.
Nicholas responds that the objection is valid as far as certainty goes, but that it is very
probable that all things are eternal if one appeals to his first argument for the eternity of
things (that the universe always has the same amount of goodness, etc.).
Argument 5
If things were not eternal, substantial change would take place. There would then have to
be such a reality as prime matter. But the arguments given by Aristotle and Averroes for
the existence of matter are not demonstrative. One of them is founded on a comparison of
substantial change with accidental change. But such a comparison need not hold. The other
argument assumes that there is change from non-being; but this must be established, not
assumed. And, even assuming that there is change from non-being to being, it can be
accounted for by simply positing being after non-being; it need not come from it in any
other sense.
Objection 4
Two identical objects never exist at the same time, for the existence of the second would
be superfluous. But they can exist successively. Now, if they existed successively, the
perfection of the world would not be impaired but rather enhanced because more beings
would exist. But in this case some things would case to be, and thus would not be eternal.
Nicholas answers that there is no sense in a being ceasing to be and being replaced by an
identical being. There is no point to it.
Objection 5
Nicholas will argue later (page 203) that men have a natural desire to live forever and that
therefore they are eternal. But

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the prologue here raises the objection that some desires are never fulfilled.
Nicholas' answer is that desires which are not fulfilled here and now are always fulfilled
Averroists might claim that a man's desire for eternity is satisfied by contemplating an
eternal being during his life, though he himself ceases to be at death. Nicholas claims,
however, that a man desires not only eternity but also personal eternity.
Objection 6
Nicholas will teach later (page 205) that acts of the soul are eternal, the same act
belonging now to one individual, now to another. But the prologue raises the objection
that we cannot conceive how this is possible.
Nicholas replies that he thinks that acts of the soul pass from one individual to another, but
that he cannot understand how they do so. He explains, however, that it is true of many
things that we know that they are and yet cannot understand how they happen.
Argument 6
According to Nicholas, when two things (for example, two whitenesses) appear exactly the
same to sense and to intellect, they are the same. Thus, when one appears to pass away, it
really does not pass away at all; it remains (in the other individual). The one which
apparently passes away does not even really appear to pass away; it simply ceases to
appear, which is quite a different thing. Thus things are again shown to be eternal.
Objection 7
Argument 6 presumes that it is possible for one thing to be in two places at the same time.
But this is not possible.
Nicholas retorts that the same specific nature can be in two places at the same time,
although a subject numerically one cannot.
Objection 8
Nicholas will teach (pages 198 ff.) that the non-appearance of something does not prove its
non-existence. Now, if this is so, I cannot be sure that a person, whom I see in one place,
is not also in another place.
Nicholas replies that it is only when indivisibles are scattered that they exist and are not
visible. When they are gathered together to form a person, we can be quite sure that the
person is only where we see him.
Objection 9
If you cannot tell that something is non-existent because it is not visible, you cannot tell
that something is not moving because it does not seem to move.
Nicholas agrees with the substance of the objection, but adds that it is possible to tell
whether something is moving if the right technique is used.

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Objection 10
Nicholas raises an objection against his doctrine of the good. If a person makes a mistake,
his act is not good. But Nicholas has taught that whatever exists is good. Now, how can the
act be both good and not good?
Nicholas' answer to this objection is that the act is good, absolutely speaking; that is, it is
better for it to exist than not exist. Nicholas holds that the existence of whatever is is
better than its non-existence, since otherwise everything in the universe would happen by
The Beginning of the Second Prologue
The second part of the first prologue was concerned with defending the teaching contained
in the body of the treatise. This second prologue is like the first part of the first prologue,
an explanation of why Nicholas wrote his treatise.
Nicholas finds fault with those who cannot hear a new idea, and who immediately quote
Aristotle to squelch any investigation into principles, for example, the principle that
material substance and quantity are really distinct. It is not right simply to quote Aristotle;
one should look into the nature of things in themselves.
First Treatise:
The Eternity of Things
Nicholas has already dealt at length with this doctrine in the second part of the first
prologue, which was written after this section now under consideration. There is,
accordingly, some overlapping.
What seems to oppose Nicholas' teaching about the eternity of things is that we see things
ceasing to be. Now, Nicholas says that we really do not see them cease to be; we simply
cease seeing them. We cannot prove that they no longer exist. If something is white and
then becomes black, we cannot say that whiteness ceases to exist, just as, if the power of
movement stops functioning, we cannot say that it ceases to exist. It may be that the
whiteness was composed of particles which looked white when they were all together, but
now are dispersed and thus are no longer visible. Besides, if something white becomes
black, black things also become white; the whiteness which ceases to be in this being
comes to be in another being. If you argue that these two whitenesses are specifically the
same but not numerically the same, your argument is not a demonstrative one. If the two
whitenesses are the same as far as sense and intellect are concerned, difference in location
is not sufficient proof of numerical difference. It might be that, just as something seems to
be in many places when mirrors are used and yet is one thing numerically, so two
whitenesses may be in different places and yet be one thing numerically.

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(This seems to contradict what Nicholas has said earlier [page 195] about individuation.
The apparent conflict in Nicholas' teachings concerning individuation will be treated at the
end of this introduction.)
Nicholas has now explained how things are eternal even though they seem to change. But
his explanation involves admitting the local movement of atoms. A problem now arises
whether local movement itself is something real, distinct from the moving atoms. If it is, it
comes into being and goes out of being. Thus it is not eternal. Nicholas will explain later
(page 205) that movement is not distinct from a moving object; hence it does not come to
be or cease to be.
How about light? Is it eternal? Nicholas teaches that light is a group of eternal atoms
which move very quickly because of their exceptionally penetrative quality.
Nicholas holds that things are eternal because the universe is perfect and would be
deformed if one of its parts ceased to be. But someone might say that the perfection of the
universe is produced by the species of things in it, not by individual things. Nicholas'
answer is that, where certain others say that the species exists in each individual of its
kind, he holds that there is only one individual of each kind. When, for example, two
whitenesses are seen, what is really seen is the same individual whiteness in two
Nicholas raises again the problem of whether a thing could not be replaced by something
exactly like it without lessening the goodness of the universe. Of course this would not
lessen the goodness of the universe from one point of view, but Nicholas thinks that it
would imply imperfection in God, who would require many acts of causation rather than
one initial one.
Nicholas then explains that his theory of the eternal existence of all things is not only
probable, but is more probable than its opposite. He also says that the mere examination of
the notions "things" and "eternal" will not yield a conclusion on the matter; one must resort
to a study of final causality and goodness. Nicholas also admits that his theory is false
because it is contradicted by the Catholic faith, but he sees nothing wrong with supporting
it as more probable than its opposite, even if it is false.
Having defended his thesis, Nicholas is now ready to show that a great many of Aristotle's
teachings are false or irrelevant. Aristotle taught that prime matter exists and that there is
motion other than local motion; both of these are false. Aristotle's teaching about accidents
should be revised, too, to fit in with Nicholas' atomic theory. Also, since there is no form
or matter, questions concerning them become meaningless.

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Nicholas teaches that actions of the soul are eternal. A thought, for example, is merely an
atom or a group of atoms of a special kind, and, if a man thinks, his thought has belonged
to another man previously. Nicholas thinks that this teaching will render obsolete most of
the third book of Aristotle's On the Soul. Some of the questions raised there will now be
meaningless, and others will have to be answered differently.
A person's thought passes from him to someone else, and so on indefinitely. Also, all
things return in long cycles to exactly where they were, so that history repeats itself.
In accordance with his atomism, Nicholas holds that space consists of points and that time
consists of instants. Since the arguments in favor of this doctrine and the answers to
objections against it run into one another, they will be numbered for the sake of clarity.
And the reader is warned that Nicholas' defense of this doctrine leads him to positions
which seem fantastic.
Objection 1
Aristotle taught that a continuum is not composed ultimately of indivisbles, but is
infinitely divisible. One of his arguments is that, if an object crosses three indivisibles of
space, then another object, half as fast, and starting out with it, will cross an indivisible and
a half in the same time. But there cannot be half of an indivisible. Thus the continuum is
not composed of indivisibles.
Nicholas' answer to this reasoning is that every object requires one instant to cease being
at one point and to begin to be at another point, but that it can take time resting when it is
at a point. Thus, when the first object has passed three points, without resting, the second
object has come to the first point, rested there one instant, and gone on to the second point.
Objection 2
Aristotle also argues that if a continuum is made up of indivisible points it will have no
magnitude. For, if a point touches a point, it coincides with it. And, if the points in the
magnitude do not touch each other, there is no continuum.
Nicholas' answer is baffling. He thinks that it is possible for points to touch each other
without coinciding because two points can touch with each retaining its own different
position. Yet he does not really explain how this is possible.
Objection 3
Another difficulty is raised by Algazel. If two circles of different radii move together
around a common centre, when the large circumference has moved one point, the small
circumference has moved through a fraction of a point. But there cannot be a fraction of a
point. Therefore a line is not composed of indivisible points.

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Nicholas answers that straight lines cannot be drawn from each point on the larger
circumference to the centre. Only as many lines can be drawn as there are points on the
smaller circumference. When the larger circumference moves through so many points (as
many as there are between points from which straight lines can be drawn to the centre of
the circle), the smaller circumference moves through one point. Thus the smaller
circumference either moves through a whole point or does not move at all; it does not
move through a fraction of a point.
Objection 4
Another problem in saying that a line is composed of points is saying which point is in the
middle. If the number of points is odd, the problem is easy. But, if the number is even,
there is no mid-point and the line cannot be divided into halves.
Nicholas thinks that one half will be a little larger than the other, but that the difference
will be so small as to be negligible.
Argument 1
A finite continuum must be composed of indivisibles because, if it were infinitely
divisible, it would be composed of an infinite multiplicity of parts, and would thus be
infinite in magnitude. Nor can it be argued that a continuum is composed of an infinite
multiplicity of parts but that they do not make it infinite in extension because each part is
inside another part; for in a continuum some parts are outside of other parts. If these parts
are finite in number, they are either divisible or indivisible. If they are divisible, the final
multitude of parts will be either finite or infinite. If finite, Nicholas' contention is upheld.
If infinite, the continuum will have to be infinite in magnitude.
If someone (with admittedly superhuman powers) were to divide a finite continuum into its
infinite multiplicity of parts and put them together again, the resulting continuum would be
infinite in magnitude. But this is absurd. Thus a finite continuum is not infinitely divisible.
Objection 5
Aristotle held that a continuum is infinitely divisible only potentially, not actually, and that
therefore it can be actually finite.
Nicholas points out, however, that, without actually breaking up the continuum, the
intellect can consider all its parts. If these parts are finite in number, Aristotle is wrong. If
they are infininte in multiplicity, the continuum is infinite in extension. And, besides, it is
not right to say that the parts are potential, for even before actual separation they are
different from each other. They are therefore already parts actually, not merely potentially.

Page 13
Argument 2
If a finite continuum is infinitely divisible, one could keep taking away from it forever.
Therefore there must have been an infinite extension before starting.
Argument 3
It can be proven that a plane is composed of points because a spherical body, touching a
plane at a point, can move over the plane a point at a time. Even if it is objected that the
sphere and the plane are not perfect geometrical figures, it must be admitted that the sphere
traverses points at least per accidens; thus the argument holds.
Objection 6
For any rectangle taken at random, it is not possible to express the ratio of diagonal to side
as a rational fraction. But, if diagonal and side were composed of a finite number of points,
this should be possible.
Nicholas sees the force of this argument, and states that the side and diagonal are
composed of points, but of an infinite multiplicity of points. Nicholas is aware that this
position seems to undermine the stand he has taken just previously that a continuum must
be infinite in extent if it is infinitely divisible. But he says that his position is different,
since he holds that, though the continuum is infinitely divisible, it is also composed of
Nicholas thus holds that every continuum one can see has an infinite multiplicity of
indivisible parts. No matter how small a part one can see, it can always be divided. Yet
(beyond our ability to sense it) there are indivisible parts ultimately.
Objection 7
If moving objects rested, we would be able to see them do so.
Nicholas' answer is that we do not see them rest because we see only groups of
indivisibles and groups of points together; the resting would be visible only if single
indivisibles and single points were seen.
Objection 8
Concerning the divisibility of time, Aristotle argues that, if an object moves through a
certain space in an instant, a faster object would move through the same space in a fraction
of an instant. But there are no fractions of an instant. Therefore there are no instants in
time; it is infinitely divisible.
Nicholas answers that the fastest object moves constantly, and that every object, when it
goes from one point to the next, does so in an instant, but that other objects are slower than
the fastest object because they rest at the points. This gets around Arisotle's problem.
Objection 9
Another argument for the infinite divisibility of time is that an object cannot rest in an
instant because to rest means to be the same after as before, and an instant has no after and
before. But,

Page 14
if an object cannot rest in an instant, it cannot move in a instant. Therefore, since things
move, there are no instants.
Nicholas thinks, however, that an instant has duration, just as he thinks that points put
together make up a continuum. He therefore is able to answer this objection.
Having disproved Aristotle's teaching concerning the divisibility of space and time,
Nicholas declares that nearly all Aristotle's conclusions in Book 6 of his Physics are
(a) Aristotle taught that in movement the moving object is in neither the terminus a quo nor
the terminus ad quem, but partly in both. For Nicholas, a moving object is never partly in
both termini; it is in one and an instant later is in the other.
(b) Aristotle was also wrong in thinking that movement is something inhering in the
moving object, as will be shown later (page 224).
(c) Aristotle also said that, in movement, there is no primary part which is changed, since
each part is divisible, and the first part of that again divisible, and so on to infinity. But
Nicholas can claim that the primary parts involved in movement are the point, the instant,
and the atom.
(d) Aristotle said also that all changed being is preceded by movement. But, according to
Nicholas' theory, changed being takes place without movement, since an object going from
a to b is in b without passing from a to b.
(e) The beginning of Book 7 of the Physics stated that everything in motion must be
moved by something, and the proof for this assumed that whatever is in motion is
divisible. But this assumption is not established.
(f) Aristotle also claimed that, for every movement, a faster one can be found. This,
Nicholas holds, is false, for the being which moves without resting is the fastest-moving
The Vacuum
Another anti-Aristotelian doctrine advocated by Nicholas is that a vacuum is necessary in
order that motion take place.
Argument 1
Otherwise, when something moves, either it will have to occupy the same place as
something else, or all things will have to move and be readjusted at the same instant. One
might say that motion takes place by the bodies bumped into becoming compressed. But
Nicholas says that such compression takes place only by particles coming closer to each
other than they were previously. Thus, either there is a vacuum in which they exist only
loosely joined, or they are fully compact to start with (and the same problem remains).

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Objection 1
One teacher in Nicholas' day taught that, when a is moved into the place of b, b moves into
the place of a.
But Nicholas thinks that it will be easier for what is behind a (air, for example) to take its
place than for what it bumps into to take its place.
Objection 2
One of Aristotle's arguments against a vacuum is that local motion in it would take place
instantaneously, since there would be no resistance in the medium.
Nicholas points out that he does not posit a large vacuum but small vacuums among parts
of bodies. Also, according to Nicholas, all motion takes place instantaneously, although
this is not evident because the moving bodies rest along the way.
Objection 3
If water came out of a water-clock when a finger was pressed over the opening at the top, a
vacuum would be formed. But the water does not come out. This shows that a vacuum is
not possible.
Nicholas answers that possibly this kind of vacuum (a large one) is not possible. But this
does not prove that small vacuums among the parts of bodies are not possible. Nicholas
rejects the solution which says that the universe is perfectly full and that, if the water came
out, it would make the universe more full since nothing could take the place of the
escaping water.
Objection 4
An inflated bladder cannot be compressed. If there were a vacuum it seems that it would
allow the particles in it to contract and the bladder to be compressed.
Nicholas replies that there is a vacuum in ordinary air, which allows it to be contracted, but
that in the bladder the air has reached the maximum of its compressibility. Or else in the
bladder there is a vacuum separated from the particles, but of such a nature that it cannot be
Argument 2
It is a fact that things grow. Now, if a person's arm grows, the additional space it occupies
is made possible only because of a vacuum. If the space were filled, the arm could not
increase in size.
Aristotle interprets this increase as being due to the particles already there increasing in
size. But, his position continues, since they are already full particles, they cannot increase
in size. Nicholas, however, has no difficulty in answering this objection. He holds, not that
the particles already there increase in size, but that other corporeal particles are added and
fill the empty spaces.
Argument 3
A jar filled with ashes can receive as much water as if it were empty. This shows that, in a
jar filled with water, there are spaces which can be occupied by something else.

Page 16
Argument 4
Since things grow larger, one denying that there is a vacuum will have to prove that other
things become more compressed or that somewhere else a larger body becomes smaller in
the same proportion.
Objection 5
When a displaces b, the space is always occupied, either by a or b. Thus there is no
Nicholas replies that a vacuum is a space where there is no body or where there is a body
which can be displaced. Thus the space occupied by a is, of itself, a vacuum, even though
at the moment it happens to be occupied.
Material Substance and Quantity
According to Aristotle, quantity is distinct from material substance.8 Nicholas again
contradicts Aristotle. Total identity, he says, is impossible to prove positively, but there is
a negative proof because no distinction can be proven here. For quantity and substance,
when they change, always change together. And plurality is not to be assumed
Similarly, number is not distinct from the things numbered.
In order to defend his position that everything is eternal, Nicholas must hold that
movement, as a reality, does not exist, since movement, of its very nature, is transitory.
What Nicholas does is to insist that movement is not distinct from moving objects.
In local movement there is an object in one place and at a later time it is in another place.
There is nothing else involved, nothing which is successive, part of which has passed and
part of which is yet to come. A real existent cannot consist of what was and of what will
be, since both of these are non-existent.
An objection to Nicholas' position is that, if someone is going to go to Notre Dame, he is
always going there; otherwise his going there will end. If it ends, it is not eternal.
Nicholas answers that the ''going" is not a thing. Hence, when it ends, nothing ceases to be.
Nicholas admits that "moving," as he has explained it, exists, but claims that it does not
involve the beginning or termination of any positive reality.
The same is true of any kind of change. For example, when a person thinks, a thought is
present to his mind. But this same thought existed elsewhere all the time.
Concerning the identity of material substance and quantity, one might object that, if they
are not distinct, they are identical. Nicholas
8Metaphysics, V, 13.

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explains that, considered as regards what they represent outside the mind, they are
identical, but, considered as signs of concepts (that is, ways of considering things), they
are different. There is, then, a mental distinction but not a real distinction. We can have
many concepts of the same thing. For example, the length and width of a body belong to
the same body and thus are not really distinct, though they are conceptually distinct.
Whether Everything Which Appears Is
Aristotle taught that not all appearances are true.9 This teaching also is attacked by
Nicholas, who holds as the more probable opinion that everything evident to the senses is
true. If a man with a fever tastes sugar as bitter, it is bitter.
Some wish to admit this position of Nicholas but only after adding the proviso "if the
medium and the sense organ are properly disposed, and if there is a proper distance
between the sense power and its object." But Nicholas rejects this proviso, since one must
trust the senses in order to be sure the proviso is met.
Nicholas admits that mistakes can be made when partial appearances are mistaken for full
ones, as when one thinks the sun is smaller than the earth, or when one is dreaming and
mistakes for reality that which he dreams. Hence, everything evident to the senses is true
if it appears in a full light. If it were not, man would have no certitude at all.
What truth is there when the man with the fever tastes sugar as bitter? Because of his fever,
he tastes something in his own sense organ which is really bitter.
Nicholas must face the problem of how a person is sure that what he senses appears to him
in a full light. Nicholas thinks that man has a spontaneous conviction that what is evident
to him is true; he cannot prove such a statement as a conclusion from previously
demonstrated truths. He will be mistaken sometimes (as when he dreams) but is able later
on to correct these mistakes (as when he wakes up). As concerns evidence present to him
when he is awake, he trusts his spontaneous conviction. If someone is not satisfied with
this explanation, he must say that man has no full certitude.
Nicholas points out that men do not have contradictory appearances. They simply have
different appearances, or more or fewer appearances. Error occurs when one thinks or says
what actually exceeds the appearances he has. Therefore there is no possibility of
contradictories being true at the same time.
9Metaphysics, IV, 4-6.

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What Nicholas accepts as evident are: (1) sensible objects; (2) acts which we experience in
ourselves; (3) self-evident principles; (4) conclusions depending on self-evident
principles. And the ultimate reason why these evidences are to be accepted is because the
intellect accepts them with pleasure, while it is opposed to what it sees to be false. We
cannot prove that what is evident is true; we can only accept it as true because the intellect
finds it pleasurable. We cannot prove all things; our first truth must be accepted without
proof, for proof involves the use of previous truths, and no truths are previous to the first
Nicholas' position is that not many things can be known for certain. For example, as
concerns matters of experience (a magnet attracts iron), it is not possible to be sure that
what has happened will go on as it has in the past. Such assurance would be only opinion,
not certainty.
Whether Exactly the Same Thing Can Be Seen Clearly and Obscurely
It might seem that, concerning the question of whether all appearances are true, Nicholas'
answer is not really different from Aristotle's. Yet Nicholas' has a consequence which
Aristotle's did not have. In defending the position that all appearances are true Nicholas
does not hold that contradictories can be true. He does not hold, for example, that, if
something is seen by one man as blue and by another as white, it is both blue and white.
Nevertheless he does say that the two men see different things. One sees a white thing; the
other sees a blue thing. The same holds true of clear and obscure knowledge. If an act (say
of vision) is clear at one time and obscure at another, Nicholas says that what is seen first
is something different from what is seen later. This means that the same object cannot be
seen clearly and obscurely.
For Nicholas there is a proportion between an act and its object. To a certain kind of act
corresponds a certain kind of object. If an act of seeing is bright, its object is bright. If the
act of seeing is dull, its object is dull. Thus there cannot be two acts by which the same
object is seen.
Many striking conclusions follow from this position:
(a) God knows what we know, He has the same kind of act of knowledge as we have. And
He has only the certainty which we have. God's knowledge differs from ours only in that
He knows more things.
(b) And, if Nicholas' theory is true when applied to two acts of the same power, it is just as
true when applied to acts of two different powers. Hence no two knowing powers can
grasp the same object.

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(c) Also, when an object (say whiteness) is seen, every object like it (every whiteness like
the one seen) is seen. By seeing one whiteness in one place, a person sees every
whiteness everywhere in the world.
(d) Also, there cannot be two different acts of the intellect grasping the same object.
Therefore every concept of a thing has a different formality or reality corresponding to it
in the thing. The categories are thus really or formally distinct.
(e) If two people have different intellectual ability, they can never know the same things. If
someone sees something from close up, and another from afar, they cannot see the same
thing. And, since God understands better than we do, He cannot know any of the things
which we know. (This seems to contradict what Nicholas has said in [a]).
Beings in the Imagination
For Nicholas, imaginary beings exist just as truly as beings seen by the external senses,
but they are a different kind of reality. Objects of the imagination exist before they are
imagined just as sensible objects exist before they are sensed. For an object of sense is
more closely related to the act of sensing than is an object of imagination to the act of
imagining, and, if the more closely related object does not pass away when the act ceases,
then the less closely related object will not pass away either. Also, what we imagine is
known by God always; thus it always exists.
Nicholas next deals with a number of consequences of his doctrines, or problems arising
in connection with them, or other teachings related to them:
(a) First comes a problem concerning God's knowledge. Since things are finite, they can
be known fully by a finite power. But God, being infinite, cannot know what a finite power
knows. How, then, does He know things? It seems that He knows Himself directly, and
other things indirectly.
(b) There is a distinction between the object of knowledge and the act of understanding.
The object is what we see, but the act of knowing in itself does not resemble its object.
Besides, the object as known is less perfect than the object in itself, but sometimes the act
of knowing is more perfect than the object in itself.
(c) By objective being Nicholas means a thing as known. By subjective being he means a
thing in itself. There are thus many objective beings and one subjective being of each
thing. The higher the intellect, the closer the objective being is to the subjective being.

Page 20
(d) Nicholas again (see pages 194-195) argues that things are eternal because when
something (for example, whiteness) ceases to be in one place in continues to be in another
place (where there is whiteness). And the same act of seeing sees both whitenesses at the
same time.
How can whiteness cease to be in England and remain in Paris? Because its individuating
principle leaves it. But the individuating principle does not make one whiteness in any
way unlike another. It merely locates the whiteness in a certain spot. To say that the
whitenesses are in any way different is to raise insuperable difficulties. For example, if to
see one whiteness clearly is to see another clearly, as has been proven, then one can see
clearly a whiteness infinitely distant simply by looking at a whiteness nearby. Now, unless
they were absolutely identical, this could not be. Individuation, for Nicholas, does not
necessarily bring about numerical difference.
A plurality of whitenesses is not possible because the existence of the second would be
superfluous. Or, if you say that two are better than one, by the same token an infinite
multiplicity would be better than a finite number. But an infinite multiplicity is not
possible. Therefore there is only one whiteness.
Nicholas' doctrine raises a serious problem. If I am in Paris looking at whiteness, by
numerically the same act, according to Nicholas, I see numerically the same whiteness in
England. If the whiteness in Paris is destroyed, the act of seeing it remains because by this
same act I see the whiteness in England. But then there would be evidence of seeing
whiteness in Paris, even after the whiteness was destroyed. And what is evident is true. But
this would not be true. Thus Nicholas' criterion of certitude would be invalidated.
To avoid this difficulty some say that a man seeing whiteness in Paris does not see it in
London because the object of knowledge must be an efficient cause of its own being
known. But Nicholas points out that the whiteness in Paris could suffice as efficient cause.
And, once it is seen, one sees immediately the whiteness in London, since it is the same
whiteness. Besides, God could cause a person to see whiteness and he would see it; the
whiteness need not be the efficient cause of its being seen. Nicholas goes on without
solving this important problem.
(e) If someone says that the same object can be seen by several acts, which, for example,
succeed one another, Nicholas objects that a power can produce only numerically one act.
For, if it could produce more than one, why would it produce this one rather than any other?

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It would produce all the acts at once, which is contrary to experience. So whiteness is
known always by the same act.
And, in general, from a cause comes numerically only one effect, and this effect is always
produced, though not necessarily in the same place. And, since the cause always produces,
the effect is eternal.
(f) There is a problem how an accident is produced now in one substance and now in
another. Nicholas explains, however, that it is not "transported" from one substance to the
other, but that it ceases to be in one substance and in the next instant is in the other
(g) Nicholas admits that some things are corruptible in the sense that they appear here now
and elsewhere later. They are not really corruptible, of course, since they remain in
existence all the time. However, Nicholas runs into a problem in defending this doctrine.
He has taught (pages 164-165) that a plurality of whitenesses is not possible because there
cannot be two things of the same kind. Now, how can he reconcile this with his assertion
that individuals come and go? If individuals come and go, there must be individuals. And,
if there are individual whitenesses, there is a plurality of whitenesses.
Nicholas' answer is that, though there is a sense in which there are many whitenesses, there
is a stronger sense in which there is only one. Nicholas has already taught that there are
many individual whitenesses and one specific nature of whiteness (pages 195, 245-46). But
now he teaches that this is not incompatible with there being only one whiteness
numerically. Similarly, he teaches that whiteness is common to both bright whiteness and
dull whiteness, the difference being that in dull whiteness it is mixed with blackness; yet
somehow the whiteness in the two cases is numerically one.
Nicholas therefore teaches that individual whitenesses require individual efficient causes
to explain why they are here rather than elsewhere. Yet individuality of location, and
individuality in relation to efficient cause, are compatible with basic unity, not only
specific but also numerical. How can this be? Nicholas compares individuation to
movement. As movement is not anything real in a thing, so neither is individuation. that is,
when a thing appears in a certain place or ceases to be in a certain place, nothing new
comes into existence or goes out of existence. The nature and its individuation are
different in concept, as are material substance and quantity, but they are not really distinct.
(h) An interesting doctrine of Nicholas is that, since there cannot be two things alike,
greater brightness is not produced by adding together equal amounts of light. And,
consequently, if lights of different intensity are joined, the amount of light given off is that

Page 22
the light of highest intensity. Nicholas admits, however, that this seems to contradict
(i) Since there can be only one thing of a kind, every individual is identical with its
species. Thus individuals are required for the perfection of the universe. (Nicholas
explains that the individual as such is required for this perfection but that its location in a
particular place is not required for this perfection except while the thing is there.)
(j) Another consequence of Nicholas' teaching about the eternity of things concerns the
eternity of powers; for example, in a human being. Since a power remains eternally
unchanged, it cannot develop. Thus, when a boy grows, his powers do not really develop,
as ordinarily understood. At each moment they are replaced by other, more developed,
powers. Thus, the will which performs a deed immediately ceases to be, and therefore a
person is rewarded or punished for the deeds performed by a will not his own.
The Intellect
This section is directed especially against the teaching of Averroes that there is one
intellect for all men. The arguments of Nicholas, however, are unusual, not at all like
those of, say, Thomas Aquinas.
Nicholas says that men have different intellectual capacities, and that every faculty always
works according to its peak capacity, and that therefore all men do not have the same
Nicholas takes quite seriously the statement that a power always works at peak capacity.
He even says that, when a person thinks less clearly than he did an hour previously, he
does so with a different intellect. Also, since some intelligibles are harder to understand
than others, they will be understood by different intellects in the same person. In fact, there
are as many intellects as concepts.
A problem arises in this latter case, however, for how can an intellect compare two
intelligibles if it can understand only one of them? Nicholas thinks that, as long as both
intellects are in the same soul, the problem is settled, provided there is a third intellect
whose object is the difference between the two intelligibles. (Nicholas seems to think that
it is possible to know the difference between two intelligibles without knowing the
Why cannot men know an infinite multiplicity of things at the same time? Because
thinking is accompanied by activities of the sense powers, and these, since they involve
matter, interfere with one another and thus limit the intellectual activities corresponding to

Page 23
Whether the Same Cause Can Produce Specifically Different Effects
Nicholas defends the doctrine that a cause can produce only one kind of effect. The proof
is that, if a cause produced an effect less noble than another effect, some of its power
would be superfluous; and this is unfitting in a perfect universe.
A corollary is that two causes cannot produce one effect. For the higher of them will
produce a greater effect, the lesser a lesser effect; hence they cannot produce the same
effect. And it cannot be claimed that the two causes produce an effect greater than either of
them, since then there would be no way of proving that any effect, however exalted, is
beyond the power of any two causes.
But, if an effect cannot be produced by two causes, there seems to be no necessity for many
causes working together. The higher alone would suffice. Nicholas asserts, however, that,
though two causes cannot produce the same simple effect, they can produce a complex
effect, such as Socrates, who is composed of bones, flesh, etc. One cause would produce
the bones, another the flesh, and so on.
A great many conclusions follow from these doctrines.
(a) One fire cannot produce another. Since, according to previous teaching, there are no
two things exactly alike, the fires will be unlike. Suppose the fire caused is more intense
than the fire causing it. Since an effect comes from only one cause, the first fire is the only
cause of the second. But, since the second is greater than it, the first cannot be the cause of
the second. Nicholas' position is that a heating power is in some way joined to a fire and
that this heating power causes the effect. And, according as the effect is greater, the heating
power coming into play is greater.
(b) It seems also that an animal cannot beget its like. It is not equal to its offspring, since
no two beings are equal. It is not superior, except incidentally, since an inferior animal can
beget offspring as well as a superior one can. Nor is it inferior, since the lower cannot
cause the higher. Hence the effect must be produced by some higher being.
(c) If an effect seems to depend on the condition of the material worked upon, what really
happens is not that poor material makes a particular cause produce an inferior effect, but
that, because of the material, an inferior cause is at work.
(d) Averroes is wrong in holding that the same effect (mice) is caused by different causes.
The effects are not really the same but are slightly different; therefore the causes are
slightly different.

Page 24
(e) Knowledge is not caused by its object and a power of the soul, for no effect has two
causes. Nor is the object in any way the cause, since the effect (knowledge) is usually
something superior to the object.
(f) God is not the total cause of all things, since, like other causes, God has only one
effect. And God is not the partial cause of all things, because things can have two causes
only in certain cases. Also, God produces nothing, because any creature is finite and thus
out of proportion to an infinite cause.
(g) If a cause can produce only one effect, how can the will be free? For it cannot be free
unless it can produce opposite effects. Now, there are as many wills as there are volitions,
just as there are as many intellects as concepts. Thus, no volition is capable of producing
opposite effects. Nicholas cannot see how free will is possible.
Nicholas now switches to a new topic. People who see white see it a little different
objectively. Yet what they see is subjectively the same.10 So, too, white and black are
subjectively the same. For there are any number of degrees of perfection of eyesight.
When white is looked at, what is seen ranges from bright white to black. Thus the same
subjective being can give rise to such disparate objective beings. And Nicholas makes the
startling statement that in reality there is only one subjective being in the universe. This
subjective being is God.
There is a difficulty in saying that blackness is merely the objective knowledge of white
by a person with poor sight. For persons with good sight know blackness better than
persons with poor sight. So blackness has, it would seem, a subjective being different
from the subjective being of white.
Nicholas answers, nevertheless, that there may be two orders of knowers. Those with first-
order knowledge are in touch with the one subjective being, and white and black are two
different objective beings for them. But, for the second-order knowers, what serves as a
quasi-subjective being is the objective being of the first-order knowers. These second-
order knowers then know black and white as if they were two different subjective beings,
but, in reality, they are not.
It seems strange to speak of one person knowing another person's knowledge, but it
should be remembered that for Nicholas knowledge is a thing, an atom or a group of
atoms. Hence, presumably it can be known.
10 For Nicholas, the objective being of a thing is the being it has as an object in the mind; its
subjective being is the being it has in itself, outside the mind.

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In these first-order and second-order knowers it would seem that the first-order knower is
higher because he is closer to the subjective being of things. And yet the second-order
knower seems higher because it is harder to know knowledge than it is to know things.
Nicholas answers that the second-order knower is stronger but that he is less noble
because the dignity of knowledge is measured by the object more than by strength.
Nicholas finishes by considering a variety of only loosely related topics:
(a) An intellect can know intuitively or abstractively. The human intellect knows
abstractively. Intuitive knowledge is different from abstractive knowledge in that it is
(b) Can a person with good vision see as well at a distance as a person with poor vision
close up? If so, different powers will have the same object; but this cannot be.11 Nicholas
says that in the power of sight are two powers, the power of the soul and the corporeal
power that unites the spirits. The latter powers in the two men are unequal, but the former
powers are numerically the same power. Hence there is only one power with the same
(c) The object of the intellect is a universal. To the objective universal in the intellect
there corresponds a subjective universal outside the mind. It may or may not be one with
all other universals. It can be known more or less well in objective being.
(d) Nicholas wants to simplify logic by reducing the kinds of supposition to two: formal
and material. In formal supposition, a term is taken for what it signifies, as is "human" in
"Socrates is human." In material supposition, a term is taken in itself, as in "'human' has
two syllables." Some logicians appeal to other kinds of supposition to explain the error
''Socrates is man, man is a species, therefore Socrates is a species." Nicholas, however,
thinks that the error can be explained simply by saying that in the first case "man" is not
considered in all its extension and in the second case it is.
The Universal Treatise is incomplete. It seems, however, that not much is missing.
Nicholas is lavish with references, and it would seem from the references in the extant part
of the Treatise that little has been lost. It is even possible that, though Nicholas intended to
write more, he never actually did so.
The chief unity in the Treatise is a negative oneits anti-Aristotelianism. For this reason it
is difficult to put Nicholas' teachings to-
11 See page 240.

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gether as a unified whole. It is possible, however, to find some kind of positive unity. The
major unifying theme is Nicholas' doctrine of the good. Nicholas teaches that, since the
universe always contains the same amount of good, everything in it always continues in
existence. Thus the universe consists of unchangeable atoms.
The first consequence of the doctrine of the good in turn serves as a minor unifying theme.
For atomism fits in very well with the teaching that space consists of points, and time of
Besides, though Nicholas admits change in quantity and change in place, he has to teach
that such changes do not produce or destroy any real being. Thus he must say that quantity
is identical with material substance and that movement is simply a change in the position
of atoms. He cannot say that quantity is something other than material substance or that
movement is a property inhering in the atom, for then something real would cease to be or
would come into being.
A further consequence of the eternity of things is the eternity of actions of the soul. And, if
an act of the soul (say, of vision) is eternal, it must be unchanged. Therefore it cannot vary
in intensity. Thus the same object cannot be seen clearly and obscurely. Each act has its
object eternally joined to it.
Thus we see that the first consequence of the doctrine of the good (atomism) itself has
further consequences (that space consists of points, that time consists of instants, that
quantity is identical with material substance, that movement is simply a change in the
position of the atoms, and that the same object cannot be seen clearly and obscurely).
Now, the second result of the doctrine of the good is that all things are as they appear.
There is no way of demonstrating that things are as they appear. The only assurance we
have is that the mind finds pleasure in this conviction, and that such pleasure would be
illusory if what is clear and evident were not true. Therefore the goodness of the universe
is the only warrant for this assurance.
The third result of the doctrine of the good is that a cause has only one effect. For, if a
cause could produce two unequal effects, its power would be superfluous while it was
causing the lesser effect. But, if there were superfluous power in the universe, the universe
would be lacking in goodness.
There is, then, some positive unity in Nicholas' doctrines. But unity is not the only
criterion of satisfactoriness. And a serious source of dissatisfaction with Nicholas'
doctrine arises from a large number

Page 27
of positions which seem unproven or false or contrary to experience, such as:
(a) The whole of the universe is always perfect to the same extent.
(b) The nature, not the individual, is the source of efficient causality.
(c) Actions of the soul are eternal, and pass from one person to another.
(d) Individuation adds nothing real to a universal nature.
(e) Moving objects rest at regular intervals.
(f) Points can join to form a continuum, and instants can join to form time.
(g) A straight line cannot be drawn from each point on the circumference of a circle to the
(h) Movement takes place by an object being in one place and at the next instant being in
another place without actually "passing" to the new place.
(i) The same thing cannot be seen clearly and obscurely, or by different persons; nor can it
be known by different powers.
(j) There are as many intellects as concepts.
(k) Objects of the imagination exist before being imagined.
(l) A cause can produce only one kind of effect.
(m) Two causes cannot produce one effect.
(n) God cannot be a cause.
(o) There is only one being (God).
Nicholas, however, does not seem disturbed by these amazing doctrines. One reason for
this, as has been said, is that he does not believe all that he advocates, but simply wants
any kind of ammunition against Aristotle. Another reason is that he does not think that
many things can be established with certainty, and is content to defend positions even if
they are probably wrong, as long as there is some probability in their favour.
Another source of dissatisfaction with Nicholas' teaching is that it is often difficult to
coordinate what he says at different times about the same topic. Take, for example, the
doctrine of universality and individuation. He teaches (page 195) that there are individuals
within a species. He also argues (page 200) that individuation may be illusory. Later
(pages 202, 245-256) he says that there is only one individual of each kind, though this
individual can exist in many places. He then "reconciles" these apparently conflicting
views by

Page 28
holding (pages 248-251) that individuation adds nothing real to specific unity. Finally he
teaches (page 262) that there is really only one being, God. It might be possible to
reconcile these views, but Nicholas does not indicate how it can be done.
Nicholas' importance in the history of medieval philosophy seems to be as a witness to a
fourteenth-century sceptical current. In a way it is unfair to label him a sceptic, since he
thinks that a few things can be known as certain and quite a few as probable. Yet
scepticism admits of degrees. If philosophical scepticism is a tendency to doubt the mind's
ability to attain certainty in philosophical matters, Nicholas is somewhat of a sceptic. He
teaches that, for the most part, philosophy can arrive only at probability, and that even some
of its more probable teachings are false.
The Translation
Only one manuscript containing the Universal Treatise is extant, and has been edited by
Father O'Donnell.12 The manuscript contains a large number of small mistakes, many of
which have been corrected by the editor. Other mistakes have come to light in the process
of translation, and have been indicated in the footnotes. The punctuation is also faulty, and
has frequently been ignored in the translation.
The Universal Treatise is difficult to translate for other reasons as well. Sentences are
rambling. Some constructions are especially awkward. Ellipsis is common. There are also
uncalled-for changes in number, person, tense, voice, and mood.
The translators have shortened the involved sentences; this results, of course, in changes in
connectives. The translators have also occasionally combined double negatives into
affirmatives. And, though they have tried to reduce, as much as possible, the
unintelligibility or ambiguity of the text by choosing what they consider the most likely
interpretation, difficulty in understanding, and ambiguity, sometimes remain.
The chapter headings added by Father O'Donnell have been retained. Cross-references in
the Treatise, and references to the works of previous philosophers, have been indicated in
the translation or in the footnotes (most of these footnotes are taken from the Latin
edition). References to the Treatise refer to the pages (and, in the case of changes in the
text, to the lines) of the Latin edition. These pages are indicated in the translation.
12 J. R. O'Donnell, "Nicholas of Autrecourt," Mediaeval Studies, I (1939) 179-267.

Page 29
Selected Bibliography
Editions and Translations of Nicholas' Works
Denifle, H., ed. Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, II (Paris, 1891) 576-587.
Hyman, A., and Walsh, J. Philosophy in the Middle Ages. New York, 1967. Pp. 654-664.
Lappe, J. "Nicolaus von Autrecourt. Sein Leben, seine Philosophie, seine Schriften,"
Beitrge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, Band VI, Heft 2 (1908).
O'Donnell, J. R. "Nicolas of Autrecourt," Mediaeval Studies, I (1939) 179-280.
Shapiro, H. Medieval Philosophy. New York, 1964. Pp. 509-527.
Gilson, E. History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages. New York, 1955. Pp. 505-
Lappe, E. "Nicolaus von Autrecourt. Sein Leben, seine Philosophie, seine Schriften,"
Beitrge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters, Band VI, Heft 2 (1908).
Moody, E. A. "Ockham, Buridan, and Nicolaus of Autrecourt," Franciscan Studies, VII
(1947) 113-146.
O'Donnell, J. R. "The Philosophy of Nicolaus of Autrecourt and His Appraisal of
Aristotle," Mediaeval Studies, IV (1942) 97-125.
Rashdall, H. "Nicholas de Ultricuria, a Medieval Hume," Proceedings of the Aristotelian
Society, N.S., 8 (1907) 1-27.
Vignaux, P. "Nicholas d'Autrecourt," Dictionnaire de Thologie Catholique, XI (Paris, 1931)
Walker, L. J. "Nicolaus of Autrecourt's Refutation of Aristotelianism," Downside Review,
67 (1949) 26-42.
Weinberg, J. R. Nicolaus of Autrecourt. Princeton, 1948.

Page 31
The Universal Treatise of Nicholas of Autrecourt
Page 181 The beginning of the Universal Treatise of Master Nicholas of
Autrecourt, aiming to determine whether the discourses of the Peri-
patetics were demonstrative.
First Prologue, Part One
Proper procedure requires me to mention at the start what motive
led me to compose this treatise, so that the justifying reason for so
great a project might be0 known. The reason is that many things came
to my mind which, when put together, I considered an unmixed good.
Moreover, further delay was displeasing to God.
First I inspected the teaching of Aristotle and his commentator
Averroes. I saw that a thousand conclusions, or quasi-conclusions,
had been demonstrated by them in abstruse matters, and especially
in those which the intellect most wants to know. It is true that I did
not find demonstrative arguments to the contrary in all cases, but
there came to mind some by which, it seemed to me, contrary con-
clusions could be held as probably as the ones proposed by these men.
Secondly, I saw that some persons studied their doctrines for
twenty or thirty years; indeed, some until old age.
Thirdly, it became clear that one could in a short time have the
knowledge which is possible about things according to their natural
appearances and to the degree that those men seem to have had it.
Fourthly, I pondered how they all deserted moral matters and
concern for the common good because of the logical discourses of
Aristotle and Averroes. Indeed, among other things, there are some
reverend fathers whose heads are now growing grey, whose moral
fibre is so well attested that I would scarcely, in my considered judg-
ment, have dared claim to be worthy to sit on the ground at their
feet; and yet (it is most painful, if it be true) I have seen, although
not with a perfect view, them apparently having so spurned, alas,
the practice that is called moral that, when a friend of the truth13
13 Nicholas himself. See Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, tom. II, p. 581.

Page 32
arose and sounded an alarm in order to arouse the slumberers from
their sleep, they sighed, indicated clearly their displeasure, and, re-
covering their breath, attacked him like men armed for mortal combat.
And what are these men doing for God? Certainly charity does
not seem fervent in them. Rather they seem subject to rivalries, jeal-
ousies, murmurings, the grasping for empty praise, and all the mis-
eries in which men are involved. Their life seems to differ only for
the worse from the life of the crowd. To have spoken thus in general
terms does not harm those I am speaking against. May my tongue
be cut off with a sword if I attack their reputation in some particular,
or if I intend to do this in what I shall write.
Let me return now to what I was saying. I saw that scarcely any
certitude about things can be acquired through their natural appear-
ances, and that what can be obtained will be obtained in a short
time if men turn their minds directly to things, as they have turned
them to the opinions of men (Aristotle and his commentator Aver-
roes). When it became clear, indeed, that man ought to place little
confidence in natural appearances, I came to the conclusion that, if
those who are well-endowed in the political community knew this,
they would turn to moral matters and attach themselves strongly to
the sacred law, the Christian law, which, of all laws, has embraced
the most honorable way of life. They would live in charity. The per-
182 fect would direct the less perfect in his action. They would not have
matter for pride when they considered that by merely natural means
they can have little certitude about things. They would purify their
hearts. Envy, avarice, and cupidity, which blind the intellect, would
depart. They would live soberly, they would live chastely. At last,
in the course of time, they would seem like divine men, so to speak,
who would not consume the whole span of their life in logical dis-
course or in clarifying obscure statements of Aristotle or in quoting
the comments of Averroes. Rather, they would explain the divine
law to the people and, diffusing the rays of their goodness on every
side, so live as to appear, in the sight of the most glorious Price
of all nature, as spotless mirrors, and images of His goodness.
This is my goal, this is my aim. Perhaps it would have been more
cautious not to have expressed it, but it seems to me so divine that
ultimately it will gain the effect it deserves, [whether] through me
or someone else. I humbly beseech the reverend fathers, under whose
wings we are protected, who are the model of all sanctity, that they
allow this work to be finished. Indeed, I really do not see how [God]
ought to grant the breath of life to him who would stand in the way
of this thing. Should there be need [of testing its worth], its ability
to last will make the matter clear.

Page 33
I declare that, neither in this treatise nor in others, do I wish to
say anything which is against the articles of faith, or against the de-
cision of the church, or against the articles the opposite of which
were condemned at Paris, etc.14 I wish only to ask, setting aside all
positive law, what certainty can be obtained concerning things, and
whether the arguments of Aristotle were demonstrative.
First Prologue, Part Two
I begin my second discussion with something men syllogize about
against those who try to change popular notions and to throw new light
on conclusions that lie hidden in things. And their one statement divides
in effect into two: one involving such a man's judgment in regard to
conclusions he sets down about things; the second involving his judg-
ment in regard to the opinion he holds of his own capacity. I join
the discussions into one and present the argument as follows: "Those
conclusions are not true and so his judgment is not sound. Likewise,
a man seems to think higher of himself than the facts warrant if he
teaches conclusions contradictory to those long generally approved by
men of every level of understanding. But the conclusions which in
your introduction you have set down as probable, and which you
are to list in the present treatise, are of this kind, for they contradict
Aristotle and his commentator Averroes. Therefore, etc."
So that the possible answers to this argument might be seen more
distinctly, I begin by freeing myself of what seems to argue a bad
disposition of soul toward conduct in the ethical realm, where the
good is at issue. And to bring the truth to light, I shall set down one
rule, a moral rule which seems to me to be very useful and note-
worthy. It is as follows. There comes to a man all the concepts (con-
cerning certain questions) which come to a certain whole group
concerning those questions; and [the case is] of special interest [when
they come], so to speak, naturally from within him, not by being
received from another. Beyond these [concepts] there come [to the
individual], as though from within himself and not by being received
from another, other concepts as clear15 as the former, and clearer.
By means of these he seems to reach things themselves better and
to bring them more intimately within himself. Every such under-
standing can set down in these questions, without heat or presump-
tion, some conclusions beyond those set down by the whole group,
indeed directly opposed to them, and with a certainty which fairly
satisfies his judgment.
14 Possibly a reference to the condemnation of 1277. See the Chartularium, tom. I (1889) 543-
558. There is an English translation in J. Katz and R. Weingartner, Philosophy in the West (New
York, 1965) pp. 533-542.
15 For ita, alii read alii ita.

Page 34
The basis for the rule is this: Anyone with a natural pre-eminence
in understanding principles has a natural pre-eminence in reaching
183 conclusions. Now, from the combination of those other concepts other
principles result, and consequently other conclusions. For it would
not be right that principles be communicated to someone and the
conclusions denied. A person, then, perceives and experiences that
many concepts occur to him about some questions. He knows also, so
far as certainty is possible in such matters, that he forms all those
concepts which others form, and many other concepts by which he
gains closer contact with reality, penetrating it, as it were. He then
sees that, as concerns the questions about which he forms as many
concepts as the whole group, he is like the whole group in capacity.
In addition, as concerns the other concepts, he is a sort of third party
of special authority. Thus he learns that he is such that the knowledge
of conclusions finds its natural abode in him above others.
This provides an aswer to a certain argument that has a great
influence on young men when they begin to see the direction men
take according to their differences and their appetites. [They see]
that, whatever men may say, in fact the whole lot of them abandon
concern for the intellectual virtues and ceaselessly devote themselves
to the pursuit of riches and positions and to doing favours for their
"carnal" friends. They consider this situation and see that there are
very few of the opposite persuasion. Then they experience a kind
of struggle. Their heads argue that they should do what is in fact
generally approved. The argument runs as follows: "Those should
be followed whose judgment is sounder; now, it is likely that the
judgment of the whole human community is sounder than that of
two or three members of that community."
Of course [the man I have described] does not use this argument,
but the rule stated above. For he sees that he has all the concepts
of the group concerning that question, and many more. So he knows
that if they were asked why they are so eager for riches, then prestige,
etc., he has many other concepts beyond these. He knows that wealth
is not a help to proper living. He knows the good that lies in the
contemplation of God and in the practice of moral virtues. Thus he
can surmise that others do not have a natural capacity, as he has,
to rejoice in this good, since divine thoughts do not constantly reach
their soul. Similarly with regard to many other things he can know
that he is exceptional, standing outside the common throng.
Anaxagoras seems to have used this rule of the privileged, accord-
ing to Aristotle's account in Book 10 of the Ethics.16 When the ob-
jection was raised against him that everybody disagreed with his
16 1179a12.

Page 35
statements, he replied that he was not surprised at this, because they
perceived only externals, as if his meaning were: "I see the concepts
of others well enough, but beyond those I have worthier ones which
set me right."
I am not invoking the protection of this rule, since I do not say
that I have all the concepts of others about the matters to be in-
vestigated below, and other concepts besides. Therefore, for my own
vindication, I lay down another, more modest rule, which is as fol-
low: "On some questions a person gets some thoughts that run coun-
ter to the general opinion. He discusses the matter with persons
whose judgment he respects. After he has stood fast for a long time
because his views have appeared and still appear [clear] to him,
he can and should, particularly in purely speculative matters, de-
clare his own judgment honestly, and set down his views as true, yet
so as to expose [his judgment] in those matters to examination. And
therefore, since a person like that does not have a false opinion of
his own judgment, he does not fall into the fault referred to above."17
Now, I am such a person; and, [keeping in mind] what has been
said in the major premise, the minor can in this manner be used
under it properly.
Since a conclusion was drawn above concerning poor judgment,
I set down two criteria for recognizing whether someone's judgment
is sound. What makes one man's judgment sounder than another's
is that the proper concepts of propositions, whereby truth can be-
come apparent in the soul, come to his intellect with clarity and fully
184 developed. A sign of this is that, in primary propositions, everyone
makes a right judgment concerning them once the soul grasps the
proper concepts of the terms which determine the truth of the prop-
osition, but, if the proposition is not obvious, the intellect will need
to do a lot of analyzing before it gets down to those concepts which
determine its truth.
Accordingly, the rule seems to be as follows: "Whenever anyone
can analyse obscure points, able to make distinctions as if by his
own power, not by habits acquired from others, when he abstracts
one concept from another, not remaining on the surface, but so to
speak piercing to the heart of things in his grasp of causes, that man's
judgment is sound." For it is evident that such a one can get right
to the proper concepts wherein the truth about the problem is con-
tained. With this rule let those well-endowed with judgment con-
sider the quality of the minds from which men's doctrines have come.
The second criterion is as follows: "In moral questions there are
certain rules which are posited universally, but, when particular cases
17 Page 182.

Page 36
are pointed out, it is often unclear whether the universal rule should
be extended to them. Here one needs a sense of equity (as Aristotle
says,18 to whom recourse is made as to a sure guide). Now, if it could
be known of anyone that he is well endowed with this quality, it
would be a sign that his judgment was sound. This reveals itself in
the process of getting back to motives. For a person of that sort could
not bind himself by a rule in deciding a particular case without
investigating all the possible motives of the lawgiver. When he sees
that those apply in the particular given case, he says that the rule
ought to be extended to that case. Because he can perceive the mo-
tives, he grasps the proper concepts of the terms. Therefore he can
judge soundly.''
I might have said this with respect to the argument set down
above insofar as it seemed to conclude that I have a higher opinion
of my own capacity than the truth of the matter would warrant. The
argument seemed to contain a further conclusion, that is, that the
conclusions I shall give are not true because they directly contradict
conclusions generally approved.
In the first place, one thing is clear, that such a method of argu-
ing is not the proper kind to give proof for the conclusion. Thus,
even if God simply said to a blind man, "White is the most beautiful
of colours," and the blind man knew that it was God [speaking],
nevertheless the fact [that white is the most beautiful of colours]
would not be evident to him, because he would lack the proper con-
cepts of the terms, even though he assented to this proposition as true.
Now, in speculative matters, our only aim is knowledge itself, that a
thing's appearance might come into the soul. It is not like the obedi-
ence due to the law, where the aim is not knowledge, but action.
There the lawgiver uses such arguments as may win men's assent,
for he knows that, when assent is given, action will follow.19 But here
our only aim is proof, and so it seems unworthy to use arguments
of this kind. Nay, rather let us seek the truth concerning the matters
at issue in self-evident propositions and in experience.
Also, if anyone hobbles himself by such maxims [that the tradi-
tional should not be contradicted], he will at once be put in a quan-
dary by my saying in turn that Aristotle's teaching is not likely to
be sound since he contradicted all his predecessors.
Likewise, by your argument you can reach only the conclusion
that "your teaching is not likely to be sound, etc." I say that, even
if your conclusion is true, the possibility of [my teaching's] being
true is not thereby eliminated, because even according to Aristotle
18Nicomachean Ethics, V, 10; 1137b26.
19 F. H. Hourani, Averroes (London, 1961) p. 64.

Page 37
nothing prevents some false assertions from being more probable than
some true assertions.20 And now, though I have other ways of refuta-
tion, I leave off for brevity's sake.
It seems to me that there is no naturally unprejudiced person who
is bound by such maxims in investigations which are said to be made
185 according to natural appearances, but, if there were a thousand [so
bound], they would not believe a proposed conclusion to be evidently
true nor its opposite evidently false.
We must also look at one point which is very important. There
could have been some reason why the reverend fathers who followed
Aristotle wanted indeed to allow the sayings of Aristotle to be held
in respect and people in general to place great confidence in them.
For they knew that not all men have a natural capacity for enjoying
the benefit of speculation; on the contrary, even if they went to pains,
they would never acquire a knowledge of a single piece of abstruse
thought. Now if these persons did not have a respect for Aristotle's
sayings, with the result that they did not believe that by studying
them they were acquiring an important science, they would despair
of [attaining] the goal of speculation and would turn to the pleasures
of the flesh. Therefore [the fathers] wanted to allow them to advance
in study in this simple fashion. Now I see that the process has gone
too much to an extreme, for dangerously few turn to the nature of
reality, while the majority turn to the opinions of men. Therefore,
to restore the balance, I am quite eager to show which is the true
way of investigating difficult matters.
Mention was made above of an argument that runs: "Every perfect
whole, etc."21 It is plain that the distinction there made between the
universal and the particular, in an explanation adduced against this
argument, fails to prove that particulars do not contribute to the per-
fection of the universe. The insufficiency of the argument is made
plain by an exposition of the principles upon which the argument was
One principle is that the good is present to the intellect as a
measure for quantifying beings and generally for determining the
properties they may have, so that [the intellect] may recognize that
the beings in the universe are most justly disposed, and that things
are such as it is good for them to be, and not such as it would be
evil for them to be.
The intellect grasps this proposition when it considers what hap-
pens in natural objects and artifacts. In artifacts the workman has
a good as his yardstick. Hence, a house is made just as he thinks
20 Perhaps Topics, VIII, 2; 157a33.
21 Page 202. This prologue was written after the treatise proper.

Page 38
it is good for it to be madeit is not made roofless, it is not made of
feathers, for all these would be contrary to the purpose on which the
goodness and desirability of this house seem to depend. If there
were no good, there would be no obvious plan for the construction
of a house, since there is no end to evil or to the negation of good.
And so there would be no more reason for building the house in one
way than in another, or in countless ways, or not at all.
Now, just as the good and the orderly arrangement is seen to
serve as a yardstick in a craft, the same seems to hold true in nature,
and even much more so, according to Aristotle's teaching, in propor-
tion to the greater strictness of principles on which being depends.
That this is so in natural objects we perceive from two considerations.
First, from a certain inductive process. The desirability of stones
seems to lie in their use for building monuments for man. Do we not
see that they are not up in the sky because they would be useless
[there]? A horse is not as tall as the sky, for then man could not
mount it. Man's front teeth are sharper for breaking up food, and his
back teeth broader for chewingthis example Aristotle uses.22
In other things, too, the proposition becomes evident for the reason
that there is no limit to evil and the negation of good, as [was said]
above [when speaking] of artifacts.23 For it would then be unintel-
ligible why [things] are made in one way rather than in another, nor
would we know how to settle the questions which arise in us naturally
when we consider how things are arranged in their inherent quantity
and quality. Therefore, just as the craftsman aims at the most suitable
disposition of his product, and one that pleases him most, similarly
we must suppose that the beings of the universe are disposed as
would please a sound intellect more.
186 The second principle is that the beings of the universe are con-
nected to one another, so that one seems to be on account of another
in some way. The intellect grasps this principle when it considers the
origin of its sense of the desirability and pleasingness of things. Thus,
it is immediately seen that, if you take away from a house its ability
to protect from heat and rain, its goodness and desirability are taken
away. Take away man, and it is immediately seen that there is taken
away that which makes protection a good; and similarly in other
cases. The basis for the proposition seems to lie in the assumption
that there is some first being, because no goodness is found in beings
except in conjunction with that being which is the first good. Now,
such beings subordinate to an end do not seem to be joined to [the
first good] except through the end to which they are subordinate.
22Physics, II, 8; 198b24.
23 This same page.

Page 39
The third principle is one that seems to follow from the preceding.
Since the universe is so interconnected, there is nothing whose ex-
istence does not benefit the entire multitude of beings. Hence this
being is for the sake of that, that for the sake of another, and so on
The fourth principle is that the universe is always perfect to the
same extent. For if there were a deterioration to some degree of im-
perfection, it could proceed to a yet worse degree, and so on indefi-
nitely forever. Likewise, assuming a first being, it seems that if all
things take place as the first being demands, and this being itself
never varies, then whatever it demanded at one time [it will demand]
also at another.
Philosophers have used these principles; and, having expounded
them so, I wish to use them as probable in order to show that this
particular thing which now exists exists always. The argument runs
as follows: "Everything whose present existence benefits and em-
bellishes the whole multitude of some totality that is always perfect
to the same extent, exists always. But this holds true of this thing.
For, in accordance with what was said above, it exists only because
its existence is good, according to the first principle set down above.24
It is for the good of the whole multitude of beings because the uni-
verse is an interconnected whole, according to the second and third
principles; and the universe is always perfect, according to the fourth
principle. Therefore this thing will always exist."
Likewise, on the basis of the principles set down above, it seems
that nothing in the universe, either in particular or in general, can
be useless, for, if it were, then it would be better for it not to be
than to be. Therefore, since the existence of any existent thing is
good, it seems that nothing can be removed without involving a
deformity in the whole, just as in a very well-arranged house, in which
nothing would be superfluous or incomplete, one could not imagine
the removal of any item except as disfiguring the whole house. We
must believe the same about the whole multitude of beings.
Here is a further argument for the principal conclusion. When
the intellect knows some extremes between which stands a middle
position [produced] by negating the extremes, if the extremes have
any consequences, the middle position will also have a consequence
midway between those consequences and [produced] by the nega-
tion. The truth of this norm will become evident in applying it to
the case at hand. Well, then, it goes as follows. There are, so to
speak, the extremes: "Some being never exists; every possible being
24 Page 185.

Page 40
always exists." And there seems to be a kind of middle position:
"There are beings that sometimes exist, sometimes do not exist." Now
the consequence of "Some being never exists" is "There will be a
total lack of good." The consequence of "Every possible being ex-
ists" will be ''There will always be a total complement of good."
Therefore the consequence of "Sometimes a being exists, sometimes
it does not exist" will be "There will not always be a total comple-
ment of good." And so the universe would not always be perfect to
the same extent.
The propositions become evident from the fact that "being" and
"good" are interchangeable. And so from "Some being never exists"
will follow "A good never exists." The intellect notices that "being"
and "good" are interchangeable because the intellect always takes
187 pleasure in the fact of "being." Hence we also feel displeasure when
we believe that a thing has become non-existent, and we would feel
it more strongly except that familiarity has made us callous.
Moreover, there is another argument for the conclusion about the
eternity of things which brings out the kind of response to this
reasoning which would be given according to Aristotle's principles
and conclusions. The argument runs as follows: "A conclusion which
can safeguard the rewarding of good men and the punishing of the
evil seems closer to the truth than one which could not so safeguard
these, since the good order of the universe seems to demand that the
good be rewarded and the evil punished, and universal justice seems
to require this. But this safeguard is lacking in Aristotle's contention
about the decay of things. For, when each and every man becomes
completely non-existent as regards all that is proper to him, it does
not seem possible to understand how one person would have a greater
share in good than another. Hence [Aristotle] himself in the Ethics
seems to mean that the dead have in them neither good nor evil.25
But will not this be a perverse ordering of the universe?"
Now, from what has been said about the eternity of things it will
be easy to understand wherein the good man has the advantage over
the evil. First, someone might wish to say: "Let us imagine in a
good man two spirits, of which one is called intelligence, and the
other sense. The sense-spirit is subservient, as it were, because uni-
versal and divine likenesses are not so constituted as to come to the
spirit called intelligence except when particular and more material
likenesses come first to the spirit called sense. Now, when one speaks
of the decay of the subject [in which these spirits reside], this means
only the dispersal of the atomic bodies. The spirits called intelligence
25 I, 10; 1100a12.

Page 41
and sense remain. An infinite number of times these will be in the
same excellent condition in which they were in the good man, ac-
cording as those indivisibles will be re-assembled an infinite number
of times. In this very fact lies an advantage for a good man over an
evil man, who will recover his evil condition an infinite number of
times just as the other his good condition." Or, one might say that,
when that subject is said to decay, those two spirits will take up
their abode in another subject composed of more perfect atoms; and,
since the subject would be more adaptable, intelligibles would come
to [the spirits] more than before.
Before God I pray that these remarks exert no evil influence on
anyone. For although in my opinion they appear far more probable
than what Aristotle said, yet, just as for a long time Aristotle's state-
ments seemed to be probable, though now perhaps their probability
will be lessened, so someone will come along and undermine the
probability of these [statements of mine]. Let us also hold fast to
the law of Christ and believe that there never occurs a rewarding
of the good or a punishing of the evil except in the manner stated
in that holy law.
But to return to the main point: Any conclusion that can be
known when formulated in terms of being can be known through
the concepts of being or of the consequences of being. But the con-
clusion "Not all things are eternal" is formulated in terms of being
and cannot be known through such concepts. Therefore it cannot
be known and consequently you cannot say that that conclusion has
been demonstrated by the Peripatetics.
The major premise is known. According to my opponent meta-
physics is a science embracing all fields,26 and, because of this prop-
erty, by means of transcendental propositions it seeks truth concern-
ing any recondite proposition at all. The minor premise is clear. For
[the conclusion] cannot be known through the concept of being, be-
cause the concept of being seems rather to argue for eternity than for
deficiency and corruptibility. Neither [can it be known] through the
concept of good; rather, [thinking] in terms of [good] argues for
the opposite, for it is better for any being at all to be eternal than
not to be [eternal], as it seems. Neither [can it be known] through
[the concept of] plurality, because plurality and distinction in beings
are consistent with the eternity of being.
188 Nevertheless, it might seem to someone that this conclusion would
be knowable even in concepts of being, or at least that the ex-
26 Aristotle, Metaphysics, XI, 3; 1060b 31.

Page 42
istence of such a [non-eternal] being is possible. The argument runs
as follows: "Every being which does not contain an incompatibility
in its concept is possible; but there is nothing incompatible in the
concept of a corruptible being, because there is no incompatibility
in the concepts that something exists now and that it does not exist
The answer is as follows. What contains an incompatibility in
none of its concepts is possible. Thus the major premise is true, but
not the minor. The minor, indeed, is not true if one admits that
"corruptible being" contains an incompatibility in its concepts, that
is, if one says that "a corruptible being which is part of a whole
that is always perfect to the same extent" contains an incompatibility
and contradiction. (Keep in mind what was said above in the argu-
ment running ''Every perfect whole, etc."27) If you should say "Every
impossibility in secondary concepts reduces to an impossibility in a
primary concept," I say that this is true when speaking of a primary
concept which it is possible for us to have insofar as reality is con-
cerned; but there is no need for the reducing always to be such that
we have an evident reduction to a primary concept which we actually
There is another argument for the main point. It is strengthened
by supposing what the adversary Averroes says in Book 2 of the
Metaphysics, that there is no question which the human intellect can
never answer.28 This is the argument: "The conclusion that there
would be some question which the human intellect could never an-
swer, or which might even seem unanswerable to every intellect, does
not seem probable. Thus it is when, for instance, things are caused
in a segment of eternity. Suppose a definite duration, for instance a
hundred years. The question arises why things have not been caused
with a greater length of duration; and it does not seem that that ques-
tion can be solved.29 It seems then that they are caused with every
degree of duration. But this seems to be impossible since, whatever
finite degree of duration be granted, there are still infinite degrees
between it and eternity. Therefore [things have been caused] with
either every degree of duration (which seems to be impossible, as has
been said) or certain particular degrees [which has also been ruled
Likewise there is an argument against Aristotle, who posits that
things pass from being to non-being absolutely. For Aristotle posits
27 Page 185.
28 II, comm. 1; in Aristotelis Opera cum Averrois Commentariis (Venice, 1562-74) vol. VIII.
29 This argument is recounted by Algazel. See S. Van den Bergh, ed., Averroes' Tahafut Al-Tahafut
(London, 1954) vol. I, p. 1.

Page 43
that friendly relations towards another proceed from what a man
desires for himself;30 he also posits that for the sake of the common
good a virtuous man ought to expose himself to death.31 Now, then,
how can these [propositions] be reconciled so that it can be argued
in this way? Nothing in whose eyes its own existence is most highly
desirable ought to perform an act tending to the destruction of its
own existence. But this is the case here according to him. Not so,
however, according to the conclusion that we posit. For it gives better
reason for urging that one should die for the common good than
does his conclusion previously mentioned, since we have not posited
a change to non-being absolutely. "If these arguments. . . ."32
Now, as for acts of the soul, in a special treatise on the soul33
we shall investigate more closely whether there is one intellect for
all men and, if so, whether there is numerically one act of under-
standing, or more; and so on concerning some other matters. But I
do not want at the moment to take much trouble to remove all
doubts arising about the proposed conclusion. I hope that some-
where else I shall have need to speak again about this matter; and
should there be no need, I shall write pertinent special treatises.
It should be noted that I said before34 that when a thing is said
to be in the process of dissolution, this is nothing but the separation
of the particles which are dispersing and parting. Although this is
clear enough in some cases, still it is not in all cases so clear to the
senses as it is when grain is separated from chaff.
189 Now, one should know that there are some men who are willing
to accept only those propositions that come into sense experience.
Thus, when it is said that a whiteness is disintegrating, if they saw
that minute whitenesses, like mustard seeds, were separating, they
would then believe the statement. Such men are always asking "How
is this?" and are unwilling to believe unless a man gives a sense
demonstration of it. Nevertheless, not all truths are so demonstrable
by us. Thus some men, by abstraction and analysis, see many things
which these fellows never see, and are well aware that not all things
are of such a nature as to come in this way into sense experience.
Now, use your imagination, and you will have something like the
dispute in which men are now involved. In some country everyone
is blind from birth. Some among them are eager for knowledge and
aspire after truth. Sooner or later one [of these] will say: "You see,
30Nicomachean Ethics, IX, 4; 1166al ff.
31Nichomachean Ethics, III, 6; 1115a 33.
32 These last three words are quoted from page 203. The prologue was written after the treatise
33 Page 253.
34 Page 187.

Page 44
sirs, how we cannot walk straight along our way, but rather we fre-
quently fall into holes. But I do not believe that the whole human
race is under such a handicap, for the natural desire that we have
to walk straight is not frustrated in the whole race. So I believe that
there are some men who are endowed with a faculty for setting them-
selves straight."
Another will say: "Your supposition goes right against experience.
What would that faculty be? Not intellect, for we have that, and we
still do not walk straight. Not taste, not smellthese senses effect
And indeed, through his metaphysical argument based on natural
desire, he will not be able to make the other assent to what he says
because he will not be able to make something appear to his senses.
He could not do this unless he made him see, thus bestowing on
him the power of sight. Nevertheless, he himself will have certitude
through his metaphysical argument, and he will know that many
things can exist which are not naturally fitted to reach their senses;
at least there is no incompatibility [here].
So I have here arguments probable enough to conclude that the
conclusion about the eternity of things is probable. Some perhaps
will withhold belief because I cannot show that those minute white-
nesses come and go like seeds; but that is no reason for a denial.
They will perhaps make the mistake of saying that I am denying
what is self-evident, as that ignorant blind man would say to his
knowledgeable fellow. Let these men take note that there are many
things which are not naturally evident to sense. Thus, as perhaps
will be said later in the treatise on indivisibles,35 in a clock there is
a certain wheel that moves, but, no matter how fixedly one watches it,
he would not see it move. Similarly, the faster an arrow moves in
the air, the less its movement is seen. And so, it seems, its motion
could be accelerated so much that it would not be evident. For boys
play with certain toys, like a top, or a hoop with or without a string;
and, the faster these move, the less they are said to move, to the
point that, when one of them is moving very fast, it seems that it is
at rest, and the boys say that it is sleeping.
This also ought to carry special weight because, according to those
who hold Aristotle's conclusions, there are many things which cannot
be readily imagined at first sight; nevertheless men because of Aris-
totle's pronouncements (or, let us say, giving them more credit, be-
cause of reasons which they have not known how to fathom) have
ended by scorning imagination and clinging to reason. They say,
35 Page 196.

Page 45
indeed, that, if there is a mountain visible twenty leagues away,
this is because it causes certain realities which they call "species."
These multiply themselves through the whole intervening distance,
so that they are infinite in number and [can be produced] an infinite
number of times; and thus they go on multiplying until they reach
the sight. And the whole process takes place in an instant. In sound
190 the production is successive and yet it seems to happen suddenly.
They also posit a memory which retains the forms of non-sensory
concepts which sometimes move [the memory] and sometimes do
not; and many such things.
Now, for our part, we do not set down that some such things [as
species] are caused by objects from scratch. We simply say that, when
an object is present to the vision, and the eye is open, etc. (under-
stand that these are simultaneous), some reality is now present to
the soul which previously was not present [to it], though it existed.
Nor do we say that particular atoms are released, but just that, as if
by some special motion,36 what is there imagined is sometimes present
to this thing, sometimes not. And perhaps, if God grants, I shall
compose a special treatise on the soul, where more will be seen about
these matters. And so we shall have said that things which are called
permanent are eternal. ("Now, if the . . . , etc.")37
If things are posited to be eternal, as above, it will not be clear
how the worth of one thing over another can be proven; for it will
not be proven from the efficient causality required to produce some
new being. It is true that a difficulty also arises for those who posit
generation and corruption, according to the mind of Aristotle. For,
according to this, the conclusion seems to be that the generative
power in man would be nobler than the active intellective power,
since every active power whose effect is nobler seems to be nobler.
Now, this is the case; the effect of [the generative power] is a sub-
stance; the effect of [the intellective power] is an accident. But,
according to Aristotle, every substance is nobler than any accident.38
From this, in conjunction with the other points set down above, the
argument could be derived that natural things are eternal, because
otherwise you would be left with the absurdity that the generative
power would be nobler than the active intellective power.
Likewise, according to them the argument of efficient causality
does not suffice [to prove nobility] because God is the noblest of
36 See pages 205 and 225.
37 A reference to page 206.
38Metaphysics, IV, 2; 1003b17. Averroes, De Anima, II, comm. 2, in Averrois . . . Commentarium . . .
in . . . De Anima . . . (Cambridge, Mass., 1953).

Page 46
beings, and yet according to them, several of them at least, he is the
efficient cause of nothing according to its natural appearances.
Likewise, the rank of individual seems nobler than the specific
nature, since it is later in generation, and things which are thus later39
in generation seem to be prior in perfection, as Aristotle seems to say
in Book 8 of the Physics;40 and yet it does not seem to have any
efficient causality.
Likewise, the receiving of some quality or accident, whatever it
may be, does not seem to be a sufficient argument [to prove nobility]
because every agent is nobler than the recipient [of an action] (On
the Soul).41 Therefore they encounter a difficulty in solving that prob-
with certainty.
In keeping with the thought stated above about the eternity of
things, it might conjecturally be said that, just as in the case of
taste that flavor is called better which is more attractive to the taste,
and in the case of vision that color, so in the case of the intellect that
being seems nobler and more perfect which pleases it more and in
which it naturally delights more, or which gives itself greater pleasure
because of its nature. Now if you compare a man to an ass or a horse,
and a horse to a stone, the one has a natural satisfaction and pleasure
in being this rather than that.
As a man knows that somehow the likenesses of all things come
to him, so he knows that somehow he seems to be all things. And, as
it is in natural sense-objects, that things move towards things of the
same nature, as fire to the fire in the concave part of the moon's orb,
and earth towards the centre, so it does not seem that those beings
which thus come to the soul would come except because of a certain
sameness of nature. This seems to give evidence about nobility and
perfection. That capacity does not seem to be in the stone, for which
191 reason there are no indications by which we might know it is in it.
Therefore man is nobler and more perfect than a stone. I have spoken
about sameness in nature; what I have said, I believe to be true; and
so the person who speaks about the earth so that paltry ideas come
to men's souls seems in some fashion himself to have a soul of the
same nature, and therefore paltry.
Concerning the heavenly bodies, with respect to shape, quantity,
motion, light, and that change in beings which seems to be a con-
sequence of changes of the heavenly bodies, we conjecture that there
is nobility there, and so they give us much pleasure; and we con-
jecture that they would be more pleasing and satisfying if we knew
39 Read posteriora for posterior in line 27.
40 261a13.
41 III, 5; 430a18.

Page 47
everything in them. But in this case I do not see that demonstrative
reasons are possible. Nevertheless, what has been said is sufficient
to answer the question.
Therefore, things are eternal. Indeed, this can be further proved
as follows: "Nothing should be called absolutely false which binds
together the whole multitude of men with a view to communal actions
and generally to the goal of the whole human race; for this arrange-
ment of the universe would not seem to be fitting or right. But all
men, of whatever sect they be, unite in good works because of their
belief in eternity; therefore this [belief] ought not to be called abso-
lutely and altogether false."
But now we encounter two ways of speaking. One would say that
[things] pass over to non-being and later return. And, though this
way would be, absolutely speaking, closer to the truth, yet the op-
posite is said to have been the mind of Aristotle, for in Book 5 of
the Physics he says: "Things whose substance perishes do not return
numerically the same."42 The second way encountered would deny a
transfer to non-being, and here, as is certain, the proposition [that
things are eternal] would be conceded.
But against this conclusion about the eternity of things there arises
a difficult argument. When a man throws a stone, there exists in the
stone, which moves when the man's hand leaves it, either something
which did not exist previously (and there [you have] the contention,
it seems) or nothing (which cannot be asserted because the in-
divisibles which are in the stone naturally move downward).
It can be answered that there is nothing there which did not exist
previously. This is Plato's teaching, as reported by the commentator
Averroes in Book 4 of the Physics.43 According to Plato, the motion
of the stone is produced because the hand moves and the stone yields
to it, part of the air yields to the stone, that part of the air is sup-
planted by another part which moves the projectile; and this continues
to some point determined by the amount of the air which first yielded
or by its motion in a particular pattern. Or it might be said that there
is present in the stone something that was not present before, but yet
existed, just as according to absolute truth and the Catholic faith
there are some things, angels for example, who do not have a being
circumscribed in space but only a determined location; that is, they
are present in one place in such a way as not [to be present] in
42 V, 4; 228a3 ff.
43 IV, comm. 68; in Aristotelis Opera cum Averrois Commentariis (Venice, 1562-74) vol. IV. The
reference is to Plato, Timaeus, 79.

Page 48
The principal conclusion is further proved as follows: "A thing
ought not to be posited to endure in diminished being rather than
in absolute being, but rather the other way round, since absolute
being is more in keeping with the intent of nature. But, when Socrates
is said to be decayed, he still endures materially in diminished being,
for example, in memory. Therefore, etc."
Likewise I raise an argument which perhaps will be shown not
to be valid. It would follow that, in the case of a whiteness which
we see, we would not be certain that it would have the same identity
now as before, because it is not sufficient to argue that the present
whiteness and the former whiteness are completely united in sense
experience. Now, according to [the arguments] men use, this is not
sufficient because, if I take two equal whitenesses, Socrates' white-
ness and Plato's whiteness, these are completely united in sense ex-
perience and yet are not simply one whiteness, as [men] admit. Nor
is identity of site or place sufficient, because in numerically the same
192 place different things can succeed one another. By such inference
I do not see that there could be another argument except by reason-
ing [this way]: "It was previously, therefore it is now, and so it has
the same identity now as previously." And this reasoning would be
proved through the arguments adduced above for the eternity of
things: "Every part of a whole that is always perfect to the same
extent always exists, etc."44
And let no one think it ridiculous to make use of the arguments
adduced above45 concerning the eternity of things. For they are meta-
physical, and such are most certain, as Aristotle says in the preface
to the Metaphysics.46 (Not only, as the expositors say, are they cer-
tain from the nature of the matter, but also as regards us, if there
were someone naturally fitted to use them.) Hence they depend upon
propositions which are not received by sense except incidentally.
Moreover, if things passed from non-being to being, it would fol-
low that there would have to be something to act as subject (which
would be matter), and something which would be form in the being;
for such is Aristotle's description of generation.47 But there is no
necessity for matter to exist. For this [necessity] would result chiefly
from two arguments. The first would be Aristotle's,48 as it seems:
"A substantial change is comparable to an accidental change, but in
the latter there must be something acting as subject to the termini of
the change. For example, if something changes from whiteness to
blackness, there is given a surface which acts as subject to both white-
44 Pages 186.
45 Pages 186 ff.
46 I, 2; 982b2.
47Physics, I, 7; 190b1 ff.
48Physics, I, 7; 190a33 ff.

Page 49
ness and blackness." But, admitting that in accidental change a sub-
ject is necessary, this argument requires the positing of matter only
because accidents, according to Aristotle,49 are beings only in a rela-
tive sense, so that they can have no independent existence. It does
not follow from this that the same holds true in substantial genera-
tion. For Aristotle also, in Book 7 of the Metaphysics,50 seems to mean
that accidents are beings only because they belong to a being.
The other argument in proof of prime matter seems to be the
Commentator's.51 If there were no prime matter, one of two things
would follow: either [something] would be changed without change,
or the change would be based upon non-being. Now, either there is
change or there is not. If there is not, and it is certain that something
is changed from non-being to being, then it will have been changed
without change. If there is change, then it has as subject either non-
being (and thus [you have] another unsuitability) or the terminus a
quo or the terminus ad quem (and each is false because these are
the limits of the change). Therefore [there is] something besides
these, and that is called matter or subject.
It is certain that to those who posit the eternity of things this
argument proves nothing. It assumes as known that something is
being changed from non-being to being, which would be denied it.
Nevertheless, supposing that I posited generation and corruption in
things, as men generally do, I would still not be positing prime mat-
ter. I would reply to the argument with the premise that by this
statement "This being is being changed in substance" I understand
merely "This being is, and previously it was not." Nor do I mean
therein something other than non-being and being; or, if something,
I would mean a relationship founded in being. If you should reply,
"This means that being is acquired through change," I would say,
"If this is true, it ought to be understood so as to mean: 'A being
which is changed is and previously it was not.'"
And [now] for the replies. Since he who says "This being is being
changed" seems always to understand something by way of subject,
I would say: "Remove that verb 'is changed', and substitute all the
appearances, and see if from them a subject is necessarily inferred."
According to [my opponents] the appearances are: a thing is which
previously was not, or a thing is not which previously was. Accord-
ing to them this is known or, more truly, inferred. But, now, on the
basis of these propositions a subject would never be inferred. If you
193 say, "The ancients agreed that nothing arises from nothing,"52 I should
50 VII, 1; 1028a10 ff.
51 Averroes, Physics, I, comm. 68.
52 Aristotle, Physics, I, 4; 187a27.

Page 50
reply: "If by this proposition the ancients meant to denote the natural
order which exists among beings (for when one being is generated,
another decays, and so nothing is generated without being preceded
by something to which the emergent being had a natural ordering
in its emerging), then their meaning would be true on that inter-
pretation. But, if by the aforementioned proposition they meant some-
thing else, they would be contradicted." So, granted that I posited
generation and corruption in things as is commonly done, yet I would
not posit prime matter, and I used to say so before there occurred
to me the conclusion about the eternity of things.
Concerning what has been said before, a doubt is raised by re-
calling a certain argument previously touched upon to some extent,
namely, that it seems that eternity cannot be demonstrated from the
concept of plurality, since there are in nature as many things as are
possible (as was said above),53 but corruptible things are possible
(as it seems and as was asserted above).54 So one might argue as
follows: "Just as the existence of an individual object is possible in
nature so is that of its equal. But neither will exist at the same time
[as the other] because the other would be superfluous. Therefore,
they will exist in succession. In this way the universe will remain
always perfect to the same extent, and it is better thus by substitu-
tions in that one may posit as large a plurality as is possible."
In this way they could answer the argument I gave above55 for
the eternity of things, for it is known, through the reasoning given,
that some things are corruptible because they pass into non-being.
Therefore, either [the corruptible things] are those things which are
always in evidence (which is false and contradicts sense experience)
or they are those things which are not always in evidence. And then
either they have non-being when they are in evidence (which is
against sense experience) or they have non-being when they are not
in evidence (and this would be the contention).
To this argument, which seems to do away with the eternity of
things, I have a reply. When it is said that one must posit a plurality,
I am ready to agree, although it ought not to be posited unneces-
sarily, as they themselves admit.56 But I say that eternity does not
seem to do away with plurality because, though you imagine as many
things as you like, they can still be eternal. Concerning this point,
indeed, it was objected that we [can] imagine some individual equal
[to another]. But here I say that plurality ought not to be posited
except to reveal the First Being. Now, since the other is altogether
53 Page 187.
54 Page 188.
55 Page 186.
56 Aristotle, On the Parts of Animals, III, 4; 665b15.

Page 51
equal, they are identical in relation to the First Being; and so to posit
corruption would be pointless. Likewise, one individual object does
not exclude another. If you say it does, this is only because the second
would be superfluous and so the existence of one is as good as if
there were a pair of things.
It was argued that it seems that man's natural desire for eternity
is not in vain.57 But a counter-argument is raised, first, because we
see that many things are in vain. For example, someone has a natural
desire to be somewhere and yet he will never be there. This is no
obstacle; nay, rather it seems to confirm the proposition. That natural
desire is a thing that will always be, and, though the journey to a
particular thing may not follow now, it will follow on another occa-
sion. So even now [the desire] is not in vain.
Therefore you must know that on this subject I picture [the situa-
tion] as follows. Each thing is in the first place intended by nature for
its own sake, so that each thing has, so to speak, its own divinity and
its own goodness, and it is for this that it s intended by nature in the
first place. In the second place, as regards a secondary intention, a con-
nexion is found in some way among beings so that one is for the sake of
another. Now, then, it would seem unfitting for the secondary purpose
of the thing never to be achieved. But, if at some time it is not
194 achieved, [that] does not seem unfitting, because the first purpose for
which it was intended by nature remains. This could be said here.
Hence that desire is something which at some time will be followed
by movement towards Notre Dame.
Some, however, from the Rue Fouarre,58 might perhaps want to
make a different rejoinder to the argument given. When it is said
"Then the natural desire would be in vain," they might say: "Not so,
for men achieve their purpose. They contemplate eternity, for they
have it in the intellective soul, which Aristotle59 (as they claim for
themselves) posited as eternal." But this does not hold good because
not only do men desire eternity, but they desire it in such a way that
each desires to achieve it in a manner proper to himself.60 But accord-
ing to them the intellective soul is common, so as to be numerically
one in all men.61
But a doubt is raised over the statement that the natural desire to
go to Notre Dame (and in general with regard to other acts of the
soul)62 is present now to one individual and now to another. There-
57 Page 203.
58 The University of Paris was located there.
59On the Soul III, 5; 430a22.
60 For alio in line 9 read modo.
61 This was taught by Averroists, of whom there were many at Paris. See E. Gilson, History of
Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1954) pp. 387-402, 521-527.
62 Page 205.

Page 52
fore, let us determine that mode of presence. My opinion is that that
mode cannot easily be explained or determined. But this [difficulty] is
not peculiar to the one who posits eternity in things, but happens to
others also. For it is not evident, if the intellect is numerically one in
all men, what mode of presence it has with respect to each individual.
Alsoand this seems better knownit is not evident what is meant
by the statement ''An accident inheres in a subject." Hence, it is true
that the intellect somehow seems to abstract this concept of inherence
from certain things, as when it says that skin inheres in the bones, and
afterwards it applies [the concept] to accident and subject as if imag-
ining that it belongs there, but the truth about the real situation is not
evident. Similarly one does not posit the inherence of intelligence.
What, then, its mode of presence is in this world, it is not easy to say.
Hence in some matters he have a concept, as it were, through a con-
cept that a thing is or if it is, but do not have a concept of its essence
or properties. It would be like a blind man's being told by a being that
cannot lie (and the blind man would know this [veracity], as was said
above)63 that white is the most beautiful of colours, for example. The
blind man would know this to be true, and yet would not know how
to attach to his statement any meaning as regards essence or property.
So in this case we satisfactorily conclude that the act of understanding
is now present in this individual (indeed, it seems to be evident
enough), and yet we cannot describe the presence.
Another argument for the eternity of things applies especially to
those who posit a plurality of formal causes in the same subject.64 For,
according to them, when the whiteness in a wall is said to give place
to blackness, it does not pass away insofar as what appears is con-
cerned, because it does not appear except as regards something com-
mon to itself and to another whiteness equal to it (hence they are
completely united in sense-experience). Now, insofar as it is the same
as another whiteness, it does not pass away except as regards the sin-
gular [concerned], which is an extrinsic consideration. Therefore, since
it does not pass away as regards the being which appearedand it is
not evident that it passes to non-being as regards other beingit seems
that it does not pass to non-being in any way. It seems that those who
posit a plurality of formal causes ought easily to be converted to a
belief in eternity. For, according to them, when it is said "The white-
ness which was in the wall is destroyed," one ought to say that nothing
that was there has been destroyed, although nothing appears there of
what appeared there previously. However, what ought to be said
195 about this plurality of formal causes is not now among the matters
falling within our scope.
63 Page 184.
64 The Scotists.

Page 53
Nevertheless, incidentally, it seems to me that it may be more prob-
able to say that in the whiteness of Socrates and the whiteness of Plato
there is some one thing in reality itself, one thing which, isolated from
anything subsequent to it, is of itself in no way differentiated in the
two; and that I call the specific nature.
That this would be the case is shown. Granted that some devise
many highly abstract arguments, I do not think that any is more prob-
able than the following: "Things that are completely identified in sense
experience and in the intellect have a real unity. For, where the intel-
lect makes a discovery in reality so that it can point out that this [ob-
ject] has two existences, it then says that there is plurality there.
Where [it can point out that it has] only one, there it must assert
unity. Now, since they are completely one in sense experience and in
the intellect, it is evident that the intellect cannot point out this thing
twice without repetition. But this is the case. Assume two equal white-
nesses. These are completely identified in sense experience and in the
But you will say: "The major premise is true if they are completely
identified in sense experience and in the intellect so that the intellect
has neither an a priori nor an a posteriori means of positing a differ-
ence. But this is not the case here; on the contrary, the intellect
posits a difference on the basis of different locations. For it is evident
to the intellect that one thing cannot be in several places at the same
I retort with a question about the major premise which we as-
sumed before, namely, that what are in themselves completely iden-
tified in sense experience and in the intellect are in some way one thing
in reality itself. Either this assumed [premise] is necessarily true, or
it can be untrue. If the first, the contention [is established], because
you readily grant the minor premise. But, if the assumption can be
untrue, then we shall have no certainty that something is the same now
as previously, because unity in sense experience and in the intellect
will be inconclusive. Unity of place is inconclusive because different
things can succeed one another in the same place.
Also, no identity ought to be rejected except the one about which
your argument draws a conclusion, arguing from the difference in
location. But [this identity concerns] only a subject numerically one,
or the formal constitution of a subject which is numerically one. It is
true that such a thing cannot be in several places, but it is not true
that the specific nature cannot.
But it seems that I shall prove not only identity as regards species
between these whitenesses but an absolute identity, because the same

Page 54
kind of argument proves that this whiteness is completely the same
now as before. For it seems that the only way of showing this, as was
said above, is that in sense experience and in the intellect it is exactly
the same.65 But this argument is inadequate to prove that a particular
whiteness is completely the same now as before. Or we might say:
"We have a way of proving identity, and because no way comes to
mind of proving diversity, therefore we do not posit it." And then this
falls short of full certainty.
Here, though, we do have a means of proving diversity, namely,
[diversity] of location. Therefore we have proved identity in nature
and diversity on the individual level. That level does not come as
such into sense experience, for this whiteness is seen only according
to something common to itself and another whiteness equal to it.
Hence, concerning [individuality],66 we have, as it were, a concept
that it is, but we do not have a concept of its essence or a concept of
its properties, as was said above, in the case of the blind man.67 If
someone who could not lie (and this [veracity] were known to the
blind man) were to address him and tell him that white is the most
beautiful of colours, the blind man would have a concept of the fact
but would not have a concept of its content. Hence, if he were asked
"What do you mean?", he would say: "I don't know." Therefore, when
it is asked whether [the individual], taken as such, is nobler than the
nature, the question cannot be fully settled since the concept which
ought to be the means of settling that question lies hidden. Neverthe-
196 less, whichever may be said, I do not see that it has impossible
consequences. If it is said that [it is] nobler, on the other hand it seems not
to have a function. [But] this is not an obstacle, because neither is
the nobility of God dependent upon some [function] in Him different
from Himself. Thus the [individual] itself sets an end, and its function
is like an end because all that precedes it exists for it.
Were it said that it is less noble, there is no great difficulty in what
was said concerning things later in generation being more perfect,68
because in our view there is no generation. And, granted that there
were, I do not see that that rule could be proved except by induction in
some instances. And such inductions, when they are not confirmed by
a cause, are like Priscian's argument: "If there is order in some, there
is order in all." But enough of this for the present. Perhaps I shall dis-
cuss it at greater length elsewhere, for the confirming of this conclu-
sion will prepare men's minds to a great extent for the conclusion
65 Add sit eadem after omnino in line 32.
66 Read ipso for ipsa in line 41.
67 Pages 184 and 194.
68 Page 190.

Page 55
about eternity as related above.69 For, when whiteness is said to give
place to blackness, it does not cease appearing insofar as it was like
some other whiteness. Nevertheless, previously nothing else appeared,
and so as much appears now as did before.
[There may be] those who still have doubts about the argument
first adduced for the eternity of things.70 In its minor premise it was
said that it does not follow that, if something does not appear, therefore
it does not exist. It can be objected: "Then, if you are in one
place,71 we would not be certain you were not in another, because it
does not follow that, if you do not appear there, you do not exist." The
answer, indeed, is that we shall be certain enough, because, while you
exist as an individual, you are not elsewhere. For, when there are
posited those things which an appearance will follow, the appearance
is posited as it follows them. Now, this is the case, for we do not posit
in the instance given indivisibles which are scattered, but we posit
that they are gathered together so that they are72 here when the indi-
vidual is here, and elsewhere [when he is elsewhere].
There is another reason, too. It is evident that you are now in one
spot. Positing this, it is evident to the intellect that you are not else-
where, because it is unintelligible that one individual would be simul-
taneously in several places. Therefore, according to this, it would not
be proved by non-appearance.
But there is still a doubt from another source: according to this, it
could not be proved that a moving object is not always in motion, be-
cause it will not follow that, because it does not appear to move,
therefore it does not move, as in [the case of] a certain clock-wheel,
which moves without appearing to. My answer is that you are speak-
ing either of an individual sense object which moves in a straight line
(and then it is known not to be moving because it appears here now
as previously, and thus is here now as previously, and so is not else-
where; as [was said] above)73 or of one which moves with a circular
movement (then it is not entirely certain whether it is moving unless
this appears post factum; for example, if some mark were placed on
that clock-wheel, then it would be evident that the mark had changed
when movement had previously been present).
Now, an argument is raised against some bases of the above dis-
cussion. A basis was the concept of good. Now, it seems that it cannot
provide a sure argument in things because men sometimes judge the
false to be true. Thus a person's act is spoiled, and thus it would seem
better for it not to exist. I say that, even though it is evil or imperfect
69 Pages 186 ff.
70 Pages 198 ff.
71 Omit non after te in line 18.
72 Add sunt after the first nunc in line 24.
73 Page 191.

Page 56
in some respect, yet absolutely it is better for it to be than not be.
Consequent on that judgment are some good movements and some
good operations, the existence of which is better than their nonexist-
ence. Let that be our answer, even though it seem to destroy one of
the arguments given above.74 Hence, unless we wish to say that every-
thing happens by chance, it seems to me true (according to75 the
imperfect concepts which we now use) that there is nothing in the
universe whose existence is not better than its nonexistence. And per-
haps he to whom the false judgment is attributed ought rather to wish
to exist with this state of affairs than not exist at all, with no actions
74 Page 186.
75 Add secundum after verum in line 44.
76 Add non sit after quod in line 48.

Page 57
197 The Beginning of the Second Prologue
To Master Odo,77 and to All Others Who Want to
Seek the Truth and Accept It
When my mind in its deliberations turned to thinking of those who
call themselves searchers of truth as it is found in natural appearance,
[I found] one matter among others which of itself is very displeasing
to any lover of truth. For those who would claim to proceed discursive-
ly to diverse conclusions by [reasoning from] acts which we experience
in ourselves and from principles self-evident from their terms agreed
so much with the mob that their final solution in their investigations
was in accord with the conclusions and words of Aristotle and his
commentator Averroes. They used these as principles, and gave them
such great credence that they considered it entirely irrational to argue
against someone denying their conclusions, as though to argue against
such a one were to argue with a half-wit. Lest I seem to seek glory in
imputing falsity to these I have been speaking about so that thereby
I might appear to the people as a corrector of errors, I adduce some
examples and some probable conjectures which ought to suffice in
this matter.
The first is this. When for the first time the doctors of this univer-
sity heard that some people were asserting it as probable that material
substance and quantity are not really distinct,78 I heard from the elders
among them that it was unfitting to argue against such people be-
cause they denied self-evident principles. But I have a query. They
though that to be a principle either simply because it was said by
Aristotlein which case the contention [is established]or because
the intellect grasps it naturally as soon as it understands the terms,
or because it is something we experience within ourselves. But neither
[of these last] can be said, because either there would then be no
question about such a proposition or, if there were, its solution would
be quite easy. And yet their master Aristotle, whom they wish to fol-
low so closely, said that this is a very difficult problem, and accord-
ingly lists it among the most difficult problems in Book 3 of his Meta-
physics, near the beginning.79
Briefly let the argument be as follows: "One should not think it
irrational to argue with someone upholding the other side of a very
difficult problem. It would not be called very difficult unless each part
of it were difficult, either in itself or by reason of the arguments ap-
77 This may be Gerard Odo. See Histoire Littraire de la France, XXIV (1896) 349.
78 William of Ockham, Sentences, lib. IV, q. 4 (Lyons, 1494-96) f. R viii ff.
79 III, 1; 996a12 ff.

Page 58
parently leading to its solution. But, as has been said, it is a very diffi-
cult problem whether substance and quantity are really the same.
Therefore it must not be rational to judge that it is irrational to argue
against someone upholding the other side. If they have thought this
to be a principle whereas (as is clearly shown by Aristotle, whom they
follow implicitly) it is not, it is most likely that they act similarly in
other matters, so that, especially since they have no arguments and
have always used Aristotle's conclusions as principles, they will say
that men deny principles when a man merely asserts conclusions which
are true but different from those usually held. Let each person, then,
leave these [supposed principles] aside, and take care to persuade his
soul that the true philosopher should distinguish himself from the
crowd by not accepting some things as principles merely because they
are commonplace."
There is a second example which confirms the contention stated
above. The doctors who gather to keep occupied fill books during their
deliberations and compose long courses in expounding the words of
Aristotle. But, if the precise cause of their accepting Aristotle's words
as true is an evident reason, it seems utterly superfluous for them to
198 thus set aside the consideration of things and turn to a man's words.
For no one doubts that [the purpose] could have been accomplished
in a shorter time if each person gave his reason for holding a con-
The third example concerns teachers who settle fully scarcely one
out of ten arguments in their questions. They merely allege a statement
of Aristotle or of his Commentator for the major or minor proposition.
Yet, as would be evident to one looking at their books, the propositions
are not know from their terms, nor are they such as the intellect spon-
taneously assents to, nor [do they concern] something which we ex-
perience in ourselves.
My mind has seen all these things and more like them, and it
thought that there was error in them and no little deception. Moved
by a charitable zeal, I thought that their opinion needed help. God
knows [that I was] not [moved] by love of glory, but by the belief
that, when there is a search based on principles, truth will reign in
the soul and there will not be room for falsehood any longer.
And so I proposed, among other things, to show against these mis-
guided persons that there are some conclusions which it is certain that
Aristotle taught and which they do not call into doubt, but which
they could not know at all. In the course of this there were a great
many conclusions which will be examined, not by settling them but
questioning them.

Page 59
First Treatise:
The Eternity of Things
We must investigate the eternity of things especially. And first
partially under this form: "Can our intellect state a conclusion that is
certain from the fact that some things absolutely permanent are not
eternal, those things of which it is commonly said that they are gene-
rated and decay or that they are subject to alteration and the move-
ment of growth?" The proof deals first with things in which, as it
seems, it is more obvious that there is a passage from non-being to
being and from being to non-being, as in [the case of] sensory quali-
ties. But it should be known at the outset that it can be shown in two
ways that we do not know this conclusion: "Not all things are eternal."
[We can] either show that the opposite is true; or show that the only
arguments which appear sufficient to show the proposed conclusion
are not sufficient. Hence it is possible that someone might think this
an open question because the first way is ruled out but not the second.
Therefore we shall begin with the second way.
No intellect, to which it is certain and evident that something exists
at some time, can say for certain at a later time that that thing does not
exist, unless it has some argument with the power to induce a knowl-
edge of that negative proposition asserting that the thing which existed
previously no longer exists. In the case of sensory qualities which exist
now, the intellect is, or can be, certain that they exist. Therefore at a
later time it ought not to deny the thing's existence unless it has some
argument with the power to induce the knowledge of this negative
proposition. The major premise is known, since the intellect, as a ra-
tional power, ought not to change from the extreme of an affirmative
proposition to the negative extreme without an inherent reason for the
change, since there is no self-evident principle. For, take a proposition
about a thing previously existing which is said to be non-existent: "The
whiteness does not exist." My question is whether that [proposition]80
is known to you from its terms, or is first known through experience
as something you experience in yourself. Not in the first way, because
it would be always known to you, and so its truth was known to you
when the opposite was a fact; even in the absence of sensation that
negative proposition would be known once its terms were understood.
199 Nor in the second way, for all we experience in ourselves is that, before
blackness takes over, there seems to be a cessation of the act of appear-
ing that we had, so that we no longer experience in ourselves the act
of seeing that we had before. Therefore, since [the proposition] is not
known as a principle, it must be as a conclusion, and so by virtue of
some argument.
80 Read illa for alia in line 41.

Page 60
But there is no argument inducing a knowledge of this negative
proposition that a thing, or whiteness, does not exist. For both propo-
sitions of that argument would be known either from their terms or
through experience. I shall prove that it is not from their terms be-
cause, if they were known from their terms or were dependent on such,
such a proposition would always be understood once they were under-
stood, and thus in the absence of whiteness itself one would have cer-
tainty about it.
Therefore [the proposition] must be known through experience,
from sensory acts which we experience in ourselves. Therefore, the
proposition "This whiteness does not exist" is assumed on the basis of
either a positive sense act or the cessation of a sense act which at first
was experienced with regard to whiteness. Not from the first, because
that would point rather to the existence of the whiteness than to its
non-existence. Therefore from the second, that is, from the cessation
of an act which at first was experienced with regard to the whiteness.
If, therefore, there is produced some suitable argument leading to the
conclusion that the whiteness which formerly existed exists no longer,
it seems to be the one stated.
This is clear also from the fact that what the intellect seems to
naturally resort to when asked about a proposition is what serves as
an argument for the intellect in regard to the proposition. But when it
is asked if water is hot, men at once resort to an act of touch. When it
is asked if this wall is white, it resorts to an act of sight. And similarly
in other cases. With some young men a more adequate argument might
seem to be: "Because blackness inheres, therefore whiteness does not."
But the intellect cannot use this as a primary argument because, if
the intellect says that on the advent of blackness whiteness is removed,
this is only because it sees that on the advent of blackness the sense
of sight loses the appearance of whiteness. Thus it seems that the argu-
ment ought to be declared the one into which all others are finally
resolved, and the one which seems to suffice by itself.
It would be tedious and useless to discuss all the arguments that
could be given, and it is customary enough that the argument be taken
for granted that is more probable and more suitable for the question
at issue. And if there is another,81 he who claims he is certain of his
conclusion should propose [this argument]. Otherwise we should be
forced to wander through almost endless arguments. Similarly, it has
been proven well enough that there is no other argument, or, if there
is, that it reduces to this one as the basic argument.
Now, indeed, it is shown that the cessation of appearance is an in-
adequate argument to conclude that a thing does not exist. Let us
81 Read alium for alius in line 30.

Page 61
phrase the argument so as to make its force more apparent by argu-
ing: "Everything which previously appeared to a sense but now does
not appear, no matter what the sense fixes its attention on, no longer
exists. But this is the case with the whiteness which previously ap-
peared, but now does not appear. Therefore, etc." The inconclusive-
ness of this reasoning can be shown in three ways. The first of these
ways seems to me to be more probable than the others, even though
I do not have an evidently demonstrative conclusion. Here it is: "As
concerns the major premise, let it be said that it does not contain
truth. For natural forms are divisible into their smallest units in such
a way that these, when divided off from the whole, could not perform
their proper action. And so, though they are visible when existing in
the whole, they are not visible when dispersed and divided or sepa-
rated. For this is true even according to the mind of Aristotle when
he says82 that natural beings have maximum and minimum limits."
The second way would be to say that the case is analogous with
the power of movement, which sometimes performs its act and some-
200 times is at rest. When it functions, it appears. When it is at rest, it then
does not appear, but it is not therefore said to be destroyed. The
same could be said of all other powers. [If the contrary is true,] then
a man is said to be destroyed when those of his faculties are at rest
which relate to his principal function. And, when this happens in all
the parts of some region, then the world is said to be destroyed as far
as that region is concerned. So it has been countless times, and so it
will be, if the world, because of natural appearances, is said to be
The third way would be to say that the nature of no thing's appear-
ance is lost. For if you see whiteness in Socrates' face, blackness in his
hair, and a scar on his forehead, all these things you will see when he
is said to be destroyed. You will not see them where you saw them
before, but elsewhere: the whiteness in John, for example, the black-
ness in a horse, the scar on Peter. But you will say: "I shall see some-
thing similar and specifically the same, but not numerically the same."
The answer is that, regarding things which come exactly the same to
sense and intellect, so that the intellect, at least of itself, does not
posit a distinction, you ought not deny some degree of identity unless
because of a diversity of some external characteristics from which it
might be concluded. Now, these two things come exactly the same to
sense and intellect as in the case of two eggs totally alike, so that no
diversity is conceived except the diversity of location. And so, if loca-
tion is set aside, no diversity would be conceived there. Therefore, if
there is diversity, it comes from something external.
82Physics, I, 4; 187b14 ff.

Page 62
This gives rise to the argument: ''Things in numerically diverse
places are at least numerically diverse. But these two whitenesses are
in numerically diverse places, as sight makes known. Therefore they
are numerically diverse, since the same thing cannot be in diverse
Though this argument is probable, it is not conclusive. The major
premise, though denied by some who assert that the same thing can be
in diverse places, may be grantedI am not willing, as some think, to
proceed by means of principles so at odds with sense experience. But
the minor premise is denied because, in order to prove that the white-
ness appearing in two eggs is83 in diverse places, you cannot adduce
the argument that whiteness is in diverse places because sight sees
whiteness when it fixes its gaze on diverse places. This is invalid. For,
suppose in front of or around you several mirrors in diverse places.
According to common doctrine, if you fix your gaze in one direction,
you will see yourself and nothing else formally inhering in the mirror.
Similarly, if you look in another direction, you will see yourself. Thus
in looking in diverse directions you will see something which will not
be in numerically diverse places. So in the case under discussion the
position might be stated that here there is only something material
underneath, and that separated principles are responsible for the ac-
tions of things, as Plato claimed;84 for example, a separated whiteness
for the action of this whiteness. (I refer to a separateness of the kind
attributed to the intelligences and also to the possible intellect accord-
ing to the Commentator.)85 And then that material that is looked at is
only a sort of mirror in which the whiteness can be seen when the
gaze is fixed in that direction. This is how Plato understands it.
Each of these three ways is possible, and I do not see that any of
them would have been adequately disproved by Aristotle. However,
for the present I choose the first. But the reasoning given under the
first theory, which was chosen as more probable, does not apply to
motion, if [motion] is a thing distinct from the movable object, since,
unlike other natural beings, it does not consist of permanently exist-
ing atoms that can be dispersed. But before the end of the whole
treatise we shall investigate whether motion is distinct from the mov-
able object, and also what their relationships are.86 For, if they are
not distinct, it is unnecessary to inquire carefully into them. We shall
also deal separately with the acts of our soul.87
83 Put esse after ovis in line 26.
84 For example, Timaeus, 52.
85 Averroes, De Anima, III, comm. 4 and 36.
86 Page 205.
87 Pp. 223 ff.

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Thus in natural things there is only local movement. When this
201 movement results in an assembly of natural bodies which gather to-
gether and acquire the nature of a subject, this is called generation.
When they separate, it is called destruction. When through local move-
ment there are joined to a certain subject atomic particles of such a
kind that their arrival seems unrelated both to the movement of the
subject and to what is called its natural functioning, that is called
alteration. Perhaps there is something there which connects and re-
tains the indivisibles in this union, as a magnet does with iron. The
stronger the force of this thing, the longer the subject survives as a
subject. If there were a force of this kind, it would be called the quasi-
formal principle of the thing.
What should be said about the light in a medium? What is it in
the night? It could be said that the light itself is nothing but certain
bodies that naturally accompany the movement of the sun or of some
other luminous body also. If in this regard it is objected88 that light is
generated instantaneously, one must reply that, though it seems to be
generated instantaneously because it happens as if all at once, never-
theless it takes time. According to the common doctrine, sound multi-
plies itself successively in the intervening space because [it proceeds]
by a kind of local movement; yet it seems to arrive as if all at once.
So, too, it is not difficult to imagine that there are some finer and more
penetrative bodies which seem to diffuse themselves almost instantly
throughout the whole intervening space. [This will become clear]
particularly from certain considerations about movement and rest
which will be discussed89 when this subject is treated.90
The point of the first chapter would be that, if a well endowed
man reflects without falling under some misleading influence, he will
say that men of this age cannot say for sure that they know that some
thing has passed from being to non-being. From this it seems that, if
my intellect has an alternative to suggest, it ought to claim that things,
especially permanent things, are eternal. For, if in each thing eternity
is better than [the thing's] destruction, it will be seen that the uni-
verse is more perfect if its parts, particularly its permanent parts, are
posited to be eternal, just as its being is admitted to be eternal. [There
is a connection between a thing's perfection and its being,] for, if
movement is distinct from the movable object, as is commonly thought,
perhaps one should say that its perfection, like its being, lies rather in
the negation of permanence. It may be argued as follows: "That hy-
pothesis about the universe should be made which reveals a greater
perfection in the universe, as long as the hypothesis involves no impos-
88 Read in stando in line 13 as one word.
89 Read dicentur for dicetur in line 19.
90 Pages 206 ff.

Page 64
sibility. But the hypothesis that permanent natural things, which have
been discussed above, are eternal, reveals a greater perfection in the
universe, and involves no impossibility. Therefore, etc." The major
premise is known because it is not to be thought that the universe
lacks any possible perfection. If one were lacking, in the same way
[there could be lacking] two perfections, or three, or infinite perfec-
tions infinitely multiplied; and thus there would be no limit, nor
[would there be one] with regard to the rule for measuring divine
truths. The minor premise, too, appears true from what has been said
This conclusion may be further argued as follows: Things ought
to be said to decay in a way more befitting the nature of a thing. If
[this proposition] is considered carefully, it is known from its terms.
However, if it is considered carefully with regard to the cessation of
permanent natural things, there does not take place the total annihila-
tion of some permanent being, but there takes place the removal or
separation of small bodies, or even the withdrawal of bodies previous-
ly inhering and their replacement by others. Consider the case of
sticks that are being burned, or a lighted candle, and you will see that
there constantly occurs a certain withdrawal of bodies. Hence death,
too, as Aristotle says in his book On Death,91 in one way befalls a man
because the enveloping heat attracts the heat that was within. So, in
things that rot, the natural heat is being released. In brief, by induction
from similar cases it is not clear that decay takes place in things in
202 another way than through the withdrawal of bodies. If in some in-
stance the process appears to take place otherwise because of the
minuteness of the bodies withdrawing, it is not therefore to be denied.
Even according to Aristotle, in Book 1 of the Meteorology,92 there con-
stantly arise from water and earth bodies which leave their imprint in
the air; and so, when a lake has dried up, one must not think that it
passes over to non-being, but there occurs only a separation and rais-
ing-up of its component bodies.
There is still another [argument]: "Every whole that is most per-
fect because of the inclusion of every perfection and the exclusion of
every imprefection, one in which there is no deformity, ought to have
all its parts as good as possible, especially where the nature of the
thing permits. The universe is [a whole] of this kind. Therefore, etc."
The major premise is obvious because, if a city seems to be disfigured
when any house of that city falls down, much more must the whole
universe be thought to be disfigured in its totality by a deformity in a
part. The minor premise, namely, that the universe itself is perfect
91 470a29.
92 I, 9.

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because of the inclusion of every perfection and the exclusion of every
imperfection, seems known. Even Aristotle agrees.93 Hence, granted
that something in the universe could in a way be called imperfect by
comparison with something else in the universe that is more perfect,
it is still true that there is nothing in the universe which is imperfect
absolutely speaking, so that it would be better for it not to exist. For
in the universe good should be set up as a standard, since it has the
nature of an end. Hence the only94 reason you will find why a thing
is what it is, rather than its opposite, is that it is better for this thing
to exist than for its opposite; and similarly in other cases.
Those who delight in looking for ways of evading what seems truer
so far as natural appearances are concerned might reply to this argu-
ment first by saying that it is species, and not individuals, that make
up the perfection of the universe, and that species, indeed, survive
perpetually. I counter by asking what you mean by species. [You may
mean] universal concepts. But they do not seem to make up the per-
fection of the universe more than the external natures of things do.
Or you may mean by a species something absolutely one in itself,
really existing in all the individuals of the species. This seems more
probable. It is what might be said by those who posit that the specific
nature really exists in individuals as absolutely one in itself so that it is
differentiated in them only by the addition of the individual differ-
ences, and so is differentiated only extrinsically.
Now I ask why in the case of two whitenesses you posit some differ-
entiating principles superimposed upon that nature absolutely one in
itself. It does not seem unreasonable for me to ask this. For [the two]
are completely united in the senses and in the intellect's first grasp of
[the nature], so that the intellect would make no distinction unless
there were difference of location. But the location-argument (i.e., that
it is impossible for something numerically one to be in different places,
etc.) would be inconclusive. It is inconclusive because, according to
those who use this argument, the specific nature, which is absolutely
one in itself, is in several places. If they can maintain this, it can simi-
larly be maintained against them that, as this is absolutely one it itself,
so also is that (what is numerically one).
The argument based on generation and decay would be inconclu-
sive to those who say that, when this whiteness decays, whiteness itself
does not decay (except extrinsically) but simply ceases to be shared.
This could be said even if [whiteness and this whiteness] were not
differentiated at all.
93 Perhaps On the Heavens, II, 11; 291b14.
94 Add nisi before quia in line 21.

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Coming back to the argument given above, one could make another
seemingly probable reply: "It might be said that a particular thing con-
tributes to the perfection of the universe, but contingently, in the sense
that in nature it is possible to produce perfections the exact equals of
203 this, so that another will replace it when it decays." I think this reply
improbable. For one thing, first of all, this replacing seems to smack of
a certain imperfection. This is true, and the spokesmen of the adver-
saries do not deny it, but openly admit it. The Commentator Averroes
in Book 2 of On the Soul95 says that, when the divine solicitude saw
that the individual could not survive in numerical identity, it took pity
on it by bestowing upon it at least the ability to survive in specific
But there is an argument against this opinion. A cause which pro-
duces its effect by a single causation, to an extent sufficient for the
nature of the whole, is more perfect than one which does not produce
at all, or, if it does, produces by several acts of causation. But, according
to this opinion, God would not produce an effect as final cause by one
act of causation to a sufficient extent, nor as efficient cause except by
many acts of causation. Therefore he would not cause those effects in
the most perfect manner either as final or as efficient cause. Hence it
seems better, particularly because it does not appear impossible, to
posit one perfect effect than to posit so many replacements. It also
seems that you cannot say, according to this, that the destruction of a
particular thing has a final cause and therefore no efficient cause what-
ever. For, since it is necessary to substitute in its place another thing
equal in perfection, it seems that it would be better, or at least good,
for [the original] thing to continue in existence.
If these arguments should not be found altogether conclusive, yet
the position taken is probable, and more probable than the arguments
for the opposite conclusion. For, if those who hold opposite conclu-
sions have arguments, let them declare them; and let the lovers of
truth make a comparison between [the two positions]; and I believe
that to anyone not inclined in favor of one side rather than the other
the degree of probability will appear higher in the arguments I have
given. I speak in this way because, in the books of others, I have seen
in favor of recondite conclusions few arguments to which I would not
know how to give probable replies. If they say that I deny self-evident
principles, it is amazing how they express such falsehoods openly, for
they cannot do so without lying. Has it not, indeed, been adequately
shown above that, when blackness takes over, to say that whiteness
does not exist is neither a principle know from its terms nor something
that we initially experience in ourselves? It is also amazing how they
95De Anima, II, comm. 34.

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consider those to be self-evident principles when virtually all Aristotle's
predecessors, at least the more illustrious, agreed upon their opposites.
However, making use of this opportunity, I shall devote a chapter later
to the self-evident proposition.96 Moreover, students of philosophy
should not let them get away with the verbosities behind which these
incompetent resisters of the truth take shelter.
I adduce also an argument that seems probable, but perhaps I have
given it before.97 (Then [see] the passage marked in the first pro-
logue;98 then the paragraph [from] "If these arguments" down to "I
adduce also";99 and afterwards the passage "These arguments, then
. . . .")100 How much will they be worth? If everyone naturally desires
something and, not having it, does not rest and, indeed, finds his ex-
istence somewhat unsatisfying, as it were, [that thing] exists. But
everyone desires his own eternity. Therefore, etc. The major premise
seems known because such a universal desire in nature seems not in
vain; otherwise the disposition of the universe would seem unfitting
because there would be a universal desire for something that will never
exist. The minor premise we experience in ourselves. For everyone
wants his own eternity and naturally tends towards it. Thus, if you
set aside all positive law and declare to the generality of men that
they will cease to exist, like horses that they think cease to exist abso-
lutely in the natural course of events, they will grow sad and think
that they are left with only a conjurer's trick: Now it is, now it isn't
("or i est, or n'i est une").
204 These arguments, then, I have brought forward as probable argu-
ments for the conclusion [that things are eternal]. It is certain that this
conclusion cannot be proved by an explanation of the concepts of the
terms of the conclusion (these means of proof are called formal causes,
so than one who knows by them is said to know by means of a formal
cause). Explain as much as you will, the explanation of the concepts
will not provide you with either an affirmative or a negative conclu-
sion. Therefore, in considering this matter, I had to resort to a final
cause and show that it is better to say that things are eternal, and that
greater perfection is thereby attributed to the universe. And, since that
is not impossible, it should be stated; at least it deserves more assent
than its opposite.
These assertions are made in conformity with the natural appear-
ances in which we are now involved. I know, indeed, that the truth is,
and that the Catholic faith holds, that not all things are eternal, nor do
I seem to contradict this, because I am saying only that this conclusion
96 This promise is not carried out.
97 Page 193.
98 The passage is not marked in the extant manuscript.
99 Page 203.
100 Page 204.

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is more probable than its opposite with respect to the natural appear-
ances in which we are now involved.
From this conclusion, indeed, it can be concluded that the asser-
tions of Aristotle in various places are false, and sometimes in certain
places there is only fiction. For what he says about prime matter is
neither relevant nor true, because his basis in that investigation is that
things pass from being to non-being, and vice versa. Observe that
Aristotle has not at all removed the reason for the ancient's hesitation.
They did not see that it was in some way necessary to say that, for
something to be generated it would receive being after non-being, or
that for it to be destroyed it would receive non-being after being. For,
in their view, when something is said to decay, there seems to be a
certain withdrawal of atomic particles; when it is generated, there is a
gain of others in addition. So they said that nothing decays into non-
being, nor is anything generated from non-being, as is reported in Book
1 of the Physics and Book 1 of On Generation.101 This objection Aris-
totle in no wise removed. It was, no doubt, difficult for them to imag-
ine how something which previously would have had no being at all
could come into being. Aristotle says here that, though there is not a
being actually, yet there is a being potentially in the prime matter.
Granted that on this assumption there seems to be something to re-
ceive that form if it is produced, nevertheless it is still not apparent
how that can be a being which previously was not a being at all. Also,
many things which he says about generation have been invalidated.
Also, when he says that there is no movement towards substance, but
towards other things,102 this similarly has been removed by the fore-
going discussion, because, as was said above,103 there is only local
movement, though it may be allotted different names.
Likewise, on the basis of what has been said, it is clear what must
be said about many statements which have been unintelligible. It was
asserted that an accident inheres in a subject,104 but the mode of in-
herence is not clear because it cannot be posited to be like the inher-
ence of skin in the bones. This gave rise to many difficulties: for
example, whether inherence concerns the accident's substance. On the
basis of the foregoing discussion it might be said that these accidents
are only certain atomic particles, and that they are not in the subject
except as a part in the whole, but a part, one must understand, that
is essential and necessary to the whole. Still more can these difficulties
be stated about the substance of the subject. Upon the departure of
these atoms [in the substance], what is called the functioning of the
101Physics, I, 4; 187a30. On Generation, I, 1; 314a7 ff.
102Physics, V, 1; 225b5 ff.
103 Page 200.
104 Averroes, Metaphysics, VII, comm. 18.

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thing, and the movement which previously appeared in the thing,
cease to appear. Upon the departure of the other atoms they do not go
away. These ought more properly to be called accidentals of the sub-
ject; yet they, too, are as a part in a whole.
Likewise, the irrelevance is evident of the debate whether
form or matter is the whole essence of a composite,105 or whether
205 form is the essential and primary term of generation.106 Likewise, there
is evident the falsity or irrelevance of many propositions long employed
by some as of prime significance: for example, that every form in mat-
ter is subject to decay107 (unless by matter you mean the atomic particles
in flux). (A heavenly body is not composed of atomic particles in flux,
and is therefore perpetual.) Likewise, there ceases the dispute whether
privation is an essential principle of natural things;108 likewise, whether
a composite is distinct from form and matter taken together;109 like-
wise, whether the potentialities of matter are infinite.110 In short, very
many difficulties, even impossible of solution, befall those holding Aris-
totle's principles, but will be of no concern to those who will not posit
the principle about the decay of things, on which Aristotle based him-
self. Arguments could be formed against those men out of all the diffi-
culties besetting them.
Likewise, on the basis of what has been said, it can easily be seen
what could be said if the heavenly bodies to whose movements these
lower bodies accommodate themselves at some time return to the same
place they are in now. It can be said that the same individual which
now exists will exist again at some time. For, according to the proposed
conclusion, all atomic particles of which things are composed survive,
and so, once they are assembled, the individual will be numerically
the same as before.
If the question is raised whether the atoms are of the same kind or
are of different kinds, one must say, of different kinds. But the means
of proving the difference of kinds will perhaps become apparent
What must be said about the acts of our soul? Certainly we have so
little knowledge here that there is no question about them which the
doctors can settle. We have no sure definition (for example, of what
cognition is), which ought to have been the means of demonstration
in the aforesaid problems. Nevertheless, we can say that it can be
105 Averroes, Physics, II, comm. 31.
106Ibid., I, comm. 64 ff.
107 A widely held doctrine.
108 Siger of Brabant, Questions sur la Physique d'Aristote, lib. I, q. 31 (Louvain, 1941) p. 65.
109 Siger of Brabant, Questions sur la Mtaphysique, lib. VII, q. 12 (Louvain, 1948) p. 375.
110 Siger of Brabant, Questions sur la Physique d'Aristote, lib. I, q. 40 (Louvain, 1941) p. 80.
111 This is not treated.

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maintained as a probability, and that it is probable, that the acts of
our soul are eternal, by recapitulating some of the previous statements
above:112 "Every perfect whole requires that its parts exist, just as, in
their way, these material beings do. In them (at least in the case of
absolutely permanent beings) nothing is new. Nevertheless, through
local movement a particular thing is at some time present to someone
to whom previously it was not present. So, through spiritual move-
ment, [the same thing happens] there, that is, in our soul." This is
rendered intelligible by considering some things concerning the senses,
which our opponents admit, for example, that species multiply them-
selves across the whole intervening space right up to the [sense] organ.
If you understand this, you will understand my position, or be well
enough prepared to understand it.
If this conclusion is true, it will dispose of almost all of Book 3 of
Aristotle's On the Soul, which gives rise to insoluble difficulties, all
providing arguments against those who posit such things. We are also
freed from the dispute about the agent intellect and the possible intel-
lect.113 There will still be left many matters for consideration, for ex-
ample, whether the soul can have many intelligibles in act (as they
are called) at the sime time. One must consider, also, the connection
of one intelligible to another, the difference between them, and the
relationship they have to [their] objects. Yet one must know that the
grouping of such spiritual atomic beings sometimes turns out inharmoni-
ous, sometimes harmonious. Just as external material things, because
of disharmony or harmony in the grouping, are said sometimes to be
monstrosities, sometimes to be well put together, so in [the case of]
206 the soul an inharmonious grouping is called a false composition, a
harmonious one ([i.e.,] when it is properly related to what is in reality
outside) a true composition.
One must consider, also, the differences between cognition, compo-
sition, judgment, assent, willing, not willing, and so on; also, whether
there is a distinction between the concept and the appearance of a
thing; also, in what way we are to number those beings called acts of
understanding, whether according to the natures proper to the species
or according to the number of subjects. All these matters are not yet
clarified by what has been written above.
Returning to the matter in hand, it could be said that the intellec-
tual act now present to me will later be present to another subject, and
so on forever. When in my youth I first heard Book 3 of On the Soul,
it occurred to me, supposing the Commentator's opinion that the intel-
lect is numerically one in all men,114 to say instead (see how easy the
112 Page 202.
113On the Soul, III, 5.
114 III, comm. 5.

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substitution is) that understanding can be called eternal. According
to him, although the intellect is one as regards Socrates and Plato, yet
Socrates does not always understand when Plato does; although the
intellectual act is in the intellect which belongs to him he understands
only when the intellect is joined to him115 (this [being joined] depends
upon an image). Now, I, too, would say that Socrates understands by
an act of understanding which is eternally in the possible intellect,
and when the possible intellect actually possesses the same form as is
in the image actually existing in his cognitative power. The argument
would be as follows: "If understanding were posited to be subject to
decay, the reason would be because man sometimes understands and
sometimes does not. But this gives no difficulty because, even though
an act of understanding is in the intellect, he does not understand
[with it] because it does not have the same form as in his image."
Now, if the problem about movement were settled, and it were
shown that movement is not distinguished from the movable object, as
far as what is outside the intellect is concerned, and that relationships
are not distinguished from their terms, it could be universally conclud-
ed as probable that all things are eternal. But I want to defer these
matters until I have treated of indivisibles, because some of the points
to be raised about them will prepare us for the question of movement.
It seems good to examine indivisibles in this way: to give Aristotle's
conclusion first, with his arguments; then to place beside them argu-
ments against them, which, in my opinion, lead to the opposite con-
clusion with sufficient probability.
The Aristotleian conclusion, then, is that a continuum is not com-
posed of indivisibles; rather each one, no matter how small, even so
small that it cannot be divided by sense, is infinitely divisible, and that
something smaller than it can always be obtained.116 This is proved by
one argument especially, which was for a long time called an "Achilles"
one argument especially, which was for a long time called an "Achilles"
[that is, a conclusive argument]. Concerning it, one solemn doctor of
the Rue Fouarre has said that it would never have been discovered
and come to light if Aristotle had not existed.
According to this argument, take two moving objects, one of which
is twice as fast at the other. Then, according to the definition of a fast
object (i.e., the faster object is one that crosses a larger space in equal
time, or an equal space in a shorter time), the object twice as fast will
move through double the space in an equal time. Posit, with the oppo-
nent [that is, the advocate of indivisibles], that it moves through a
115 Add coniunctus ei after est in line 16.
116Physics, VI, 1; 231a21 ff.

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certain space in three instants. Then the argument against the oppo-
nent proceeds as follows: ''As a line is composed of points, so time is
composed of instants. Let [the faster object] move through the space
abc. Now, since the fast and the slow objects began their movement
through abc at the same time, the question is how far the slow one
207 has reached when the fast one has finished its movement in those three
instants. First of all, not to a, because then the fast one would not be
merely twice as fast, as was posited. Nor to c, because then it would
have moved as far as the fast one. If to b, so that it has completed its
movement through ab, then the fast one will not be twice as fast. There-
fore there is left the necessity of conceding that it is at a and half of b.
Thus b, which was assumed to be indivisible, will be divisible."
However, with apologies to Aristotle, I say that this argument is
inconclusive. But, to refute it in keeping with the opinion that a line
is composed of points and time of instants, how are we to deal with
the superior velocity of one movable object over another? First, I
make this negative assertion: "It must not be accepted as depending
on reaching the terminus [ad quem] when the terminus a quo is left
(I am not here referring to the extreme termini) for, since the space
abc is composed of indivisibles with nothing between them, the mov-
ing object is at b as soon as it leaves a, and so on forever." Secondly,
I make this affirmation: "One movable thing is faster than another
because one rests and the other does not. The fastest movable thing,
indeed, is the one which moves without resting at all. The first heaven
is like this, I believe.117 But other movable objects rest to a certain
extent, according as they are more or less slow."
Now for the argument. If the fastest movable thing moves in three
instants through a space abc composed of three indivisibles, it has
traversed it by moving without resting. If a movable object twice as
slow moves through that space, I say that it will reach a in one instant
and rest at a for another instant; similarly it will reach b in one instant
and rest at it for one instant; similarly with c. Thus in traversing that
space it will require six instants, three of movement and three of rest.
Thus, when you ask whether the slow object will be in the middle of
the space at the time the object twice as fast has completed the whole
space, the answer is no, if you understand "the middle of the space"
materially, but yes, if you understand it formally, in relation to the
movable object. For example, in the case under consideration, I say
that, in the time taken by the fast object of the aforesaid to reach c,
the slow object has reached b, but it is not in b in the same way in
which the fast object was. For the fast object came to b and was there
only one instant, while the slow object is there two instants; at least
117On the Heavens, II, 4; 287a24.

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[it would be] if it had to keep on going. Therefore it is the half-way
mark as far as the object is concerned, for the object has taken three
instants, and would take three [more] if it had to cross the whole space
abc. For, when the faster object has finished its movement abc, the
slow one has reached a in one instant, rested there the second instant,
and reached b in the third. If it were proceeding further, it would rest
for one instant in b, reach c in one instant, and remain there one in-
stant. In this way, it will take six instants in crossing the whole space,
and three in moving through half of it. But the half is reckoned in
terms of time rather than in terms of space considered materially. For
this reason an object twice as fast is one that moves through an equal
space in half the time.118
Aristotle119 has another argument, the gist of which is as follows:
"If a continuum were composed of points, either the points would
touch one another or not. If not, a continuum or a 'contiguum' would
never be made from them. If they do, then either a whole point touch-
es a whole point, or part [of a point] touches part [of a point]. But
part does not touch part, since then [the points] would be divisible,
which was denied originally. And, if a whole touches a whole, it does
not make it any larger, which is against the hypothesis."
But the following answer could be given to this argument. "A
whole touching a whole" can be understood in a certain way, that is,
with each part of itself, so that nothing of it is related to the other
mediately, but the whole of it is related immediately as a whole to it.
208 This kind of contact is not possible in bodies because one body is al-
ways related to another mediately as regards the parts farther away,
and [the bodies] do not touch except by means of the parts that are
close together. In this way a point can be said to touch another point
with its whole self, in the manner explained; but this is not true of
In another way, someone could understand that one of the wholes
is not outside the other (although this meaning is perhaps not explicit-
ly stated). I gainsay this meaning, for in this second way a whole
touching a whole would not make it larger; but in the first way it will
make it larger. Accordingly, a point has its own position and its own
mode of being. Therefore, if points are put together and retain their
own positions, it is senseless to say that they will not constitute some-
thing larger.
Another argument is presented by certain other persons: "If a con-
tinuum were composed of points, the quantified would be made of the
118 This theory of movement was taught by Mutakallemin, a group of Mohammedan theologians.
See Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, trans. M. Friedlnder (London, 1919) pp.
119Physics, VI, 1; 231a29 ff.

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non-quantified, since a continuum is quantified and a point is not quan-
tified. Now, either you understand by the quantified the composite it-
self or its extension (and then a point is not quantified, although
according to this interpretation the quantified can be made from the
non-quantified just as the composite from what are incomposite) or
you understand by the quantified that which has its own position and
a circumscribed being (and thus I grant that a point can be said to be
quantified, and you will not then be able to conclude from this that
the quantified is made from the non-quantified)."
Again, it is amazing how Aristotle, in the immediately preceding
argument, has accepted as a self-evident principle that which required
proof. For his adversaries said that an indivisible added to an indivisi-
ble makes it larger, just as a line of three points is longer than one of
two. Aristotle accepted the opposite of this as a principle, but it seems
that he should not have so accepted it without having given a clearer
explanation of it.
Algazel,120 however, brings forth some arguments for Aristotle's
proposition. One is: "Take a mill wheel which moves, and around its
center imagine a small and unimpressive circle composed of four
points. Let the circumference of the mill wheel or large circle contain a
hundred points, and suppose that it moves continuously. Then I ask:
When the larger circumference passes through one point, what does
the small circle pass through? If through one point, it moves as much
as the circumference, which is false, since [the circumference] would
go through a hundred points while the small circle went through only
four. But it cannot be said that it rests, since then there would be dis-
continuity in the parts, and the parts will be broken up."
According to the conditions laid down, we must answer that, if in
the small circle there are only four points, in the large circumference
there will be only four points from which straight lines would end at
those four points of the small circle. Lines drawn from other points
would meet before they reached the center. Thus, when these points
move, the small circle will not move, but be at rest. However, when a
point moves from which a straight line terminates at a point of the
small circle, then the point of the small circle moves. If this did not
happen, that line would have to be broken. If for some reason a point
on the small circle does not [have to] move, then no line has to be
The same person argues from another point of view.121 If a line
were composed of points, it would follow that not every line could be
120Metaphysics, pars I, tract. I, div. I, cap. 2; ed. J. T. Muckle (Toronto, 1933) p. 13.
121 This is like an argument ibid., pp. 11-12.

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divided into two equal parts (for example, a line of an odd number of
points, say three or five). Or, if one point is said to be the dividing-
209 point, every line of an odd number of points will be divided into two
halves at will, but no line of an even number of points will permit
this kind of division.
But let us not yet consider this discomfiting. For, although each line
seems to have two equal parts, this is either because they are equal,
as in a line of an odd number of points, or because one half is larger
than the other by one point only, and they show up as equal because
a point is so small.
Now the next thing is to bring in some arguments in favor of the
conclusion we are aiming at: first, rather by raising doubts; secondly,
more by explaining the matter in question. Whatever has an infinite
multiplicity of quantified parts is infinite in extension, because, since
each part is a certain extension, and [the parts] are infinite [in num-
ber], it is unintelligible that the extension is not infinite. But this is
[how they describe] a continuum, and a particle which is seen in the
sun's ray falls into this category.
Some answer this by saying that the major premise is true if those
parts are not related as container and contained, and each is outside
any other; but that this is not the case here, for these parts are not
each outside the others.
Against this it is argued that in that continuum there are some parts
one of which is outside another. Now, the total of such parts is a
definite number or infinite. If a definite number, it cannot be said
[that there are some parts one of which is outside another] unless that
continuum is broken down into indivisibles because, since each part is
divisible into two parts of which one is outside the other, if you say
there are122 four such parts, you will arrive at what is indivisible or
else [the parts] will be infinite. And thus the total of such parts will be
infinite, and the contention is upheld. If, however, it were said that
the major premise mentioned above is true on the condition that that
multiplicity be of parts of some one determined quantity, this gives
no difficulty because an infinite multiplicity of parts, of which one is
totally outside another, seems to suffice for an infinite extension.
There is another argument leading to the same conclusion. Let us
suppose that a per impossible hypothesis never changes the nature of
what is in question unless it changes the nature of the subject, and that
in relation to the predicate. For, when the subject remains totally un-
changed, what we are dealing with is unchanged, since there is in the
subject a cause for the inherence of the predicate in the subject itself.
The argument then proceeds. A continuum is now as large as would be
122 Read sunt for super in line 19.

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[a continuum] composed of its parts if (supposing the impossible)
some agent had broken it up from eternity. This is known from what
was supposed, since the agent would not have added anything to that
continuum, but would merely have broken it up.123 Now, however,
if (supposing the impossible) some agent had broken up the continu-
um from eternity and had put together a continuum out of those
parts, since you say that the parts are infinite, that [continuum] put
together would be of infinite extension also.
I say (again by way of preface) that, when someone wants to rea-
son out some problem properly, he should first form in his mind the
concepts of the terms of the conclusion. And then see whether you can
abstract from these a concept containing knowledge of the conclusion
and meanwhile take into consideration factors related to the problem.
The closer the concepts you form are to the problem at issue, the more
fitting the argument will be. Sometimes you ought to consider the
opposites of the subject and the predicate, and many such things, as
you yourself learn from Aristotle in Book 1 of the Prior Analytics.124
And, if you were noticing carefully, you would know that many argu-
ments, which are sometimes considered subtle because they are very
abstract, are nevertheless entirely logical and are extraneous to the
point in question, so that they are unable to give knowledge about it.
Therefore let us form concepts about our problem, and see how
they come to the intellect. On the part of the subject, there comes a
concept about the continuum, common to it and the "contiguum", that
210 is, "having parts with nothing between them." This [concept] comes
to the intellect by means of sight and touch. Another concept is proper
to the continuum and is an a posteriori one. It comes to the intellect
through movement, when the movement of one thing necessarily moves
something else. Therefore it is said that "those things which have a
single movement are continua."
The concept of a continuum finite in extension comes to the intel-
lect because something is seen outside of it. Or (which Aristotle thinks
is closer to the truth)125 I get a concept of the finite because there is
in it some definite section which, taken a certain number of times,
would produce the whole. Likewise the infinite in extension comes to
the intellect either because there is nothing outside it, as the ancients
seem to have thought, or because no common measure could be ob-
tained in it by which the whole might be measured.
Another concept concerns the predicate of the suggested proposi-
tion (that [the continuum] is divisible), which is indeed a relation.
Now,126 a relation comes to the intellect through knowledge of its
123 Read illud for aliud in line 33.
124 I, 27.
125Physics, III, 6; 206b7 ff.
126 Read autem for autum in line 12.

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terms; thus one must examine the concepts of the terms. Division, in-
deed, is simply the separation of one thing from something which was
outside it, since it would not be a division if it were inside. So before
division there naturally must be in the continuum something outside
something else, and before division into infinity there must be some-
thing outside something else into infinity.
From these [concepts] it is seen that the concept of this conclusion
(that no continuum is divisible into endlessly divisible parts) can be
abstracted clearly. This is the argument: "In every being which is in-
finitely divisible there is something outside something else into infinity.
But a continuum is infinitely divisible. Therefore there is in it some-
thing outside something else into infinity." Then to continue: "Every-
thing in which there is something outside something else into infinity
is infinite in extension. But in a continuum there is something outside
something else into infinity. Therefore the continuum is infinite in
extension." The conclusion is false. Therefore one of the premises is
false. The major premise is not false, since it is not imaginable that in
something there is something outside another thing into infinity with-
out this forming something infinite in extension. Therefore the minor
premise from the first syllogism (which was the conclusion of the first
syllogism) is false. Thus one of the premises from which it follows [is
false]. The major premise is not false, as appears from what has been
said, because, in order for something to be infinitely divisible it is re-
quired, of its nature, that something be outside something else into
infinity. It remains therefore that the minor premise of the first syllo-
gism is false, which says that a continuum is infinitely divisible.
But perhaps someone might say, concerning the major premise
of the first syllogism, that in what is infinitely divisible there is some-
thing outside something else into infinity potentially, but not actually.
Thus it would not be concluded that the continuum is actually infinite
in extension.127 But, arguing against this, it is certain that in this desig-
nated continuum an act of intellect (indeed, even of sight) can
consider something of the continuum without considering the whole.
And it is certain that [the continuum] would be infinite in extent if,
just as there are parts in it which an act [of the intellect] can consider
when it considers something, there were in the continuum an infinite
multiplicity of parts each of which an act of the intellect could consider
(as much as nature allows). But now as follows: "Those things which
an act of the intellect considers or can consider one at a time (as much
as nature allows) are finite or infinite. If infinite, since each of them is
a certain extension and is outside another, it follows that the continuum
127Read concluderetur for excluderetur in lines 33-34.

Page 78
is infinite in extension. If finite, they are divisible or indivisible. If di-
visible, then nothing in the nature of the case prevents an act of the
intellect from being able to consider one and not another. If indivisible,
then the contention is established."
Also, when you say "they are potential," it is true as regards their
being separated from one another. But they are not potential in such
a way as not to be actual. For, first, an actual composite seems to have
211 parts actually, as a potential composite has parts potentially. Also,
what is divided from something else precedes of its nature its division
from the other. Also, parts of the continuum are really distinct if an
act of a sense power can grasp one and not the other. Also, it is certain
that there is something in the continuum now which can be divided
from something else. Therefore the parts are either finite (and thus
the contention is established, for, if they were divisible, they would
still have components between which division could take place) [or
infinite] (if infinite, then [there would be] an infinite extension).
Also, this actual continuum is larger than another. Since this is not
by the whole of itself, it is by part of itself. Therefore there are actual
parts. According to Aristotle in Book 9 of the Metaphysics,128 "Act is
the [real] existence of a thing, not in the sense of what we call poten-
tial [existence], as I say that Mercury [exists] in the stone129 potential-
ly." Now, indeed, by designating something in the continuum and not
the whole continuum, this definition applies.
Also, as [the parts] are said to have actual being after division, so
[they are said to have had it] before. For the intellect ought not to
affirm of any being that it has actual being which it did not have be-
fore, since [this actuality] does not come to the intellect by some con-
cept by which it did not come previously. For the intellect does not
attribute the concept of actual being which it did not attribute pre-
viously except because it130 comes to the intellect by some concept
concerning existence by which it did not come before. This concept
is a means by which the intellect concludes that there is actual being.
For example, the intellect now says that whiteness, which it previously
called potential, is actual, because its power of judging attributes the
predicate of actual being to it, after attributing potentiality to it for a
time, when it considers the previous state of the sight of a person when
he looked at the surface, and its present state. But it is now the case
that, when a division of the continuum is made, [the intellect] has no
concept concerning existence which it did not have before. From this
[division] it has this concept which it did not have before: "This is
not with that now." But this is not the concept of existence; nor can
128 IX, 6; 1048a31.
129 Read lapide for lapidem in line 11.
130 Read ipsa for ipsum in line 17.

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this concept be abstracted from this. For it does not follow that, if
something was previously with something else, is was not a being.
Indeed the opposite [is the case]. Also, it does not appear how division
can be a means of establishing a new being.
There is also this argument for [my] contention: "It is not true to
say that, for every magnitude, a smaller one can be found. Thus mag-
nitude is not infinitely divisible." The [validity of the] reasoning is
well known. The antecedent is explained because, to the extent that
the removal of a part makes the remaining whole smaller, to that ex-
tent its presence makes it larger. Therefore, if the lessening by removal
can go into infinity, there was an infinite extension before any lessen-
Some adduce also for this conclusion a certain reasoning which
they consider difficult. It is demonstrated in geometry that, if a spheri-
cal body is placed on a plane, it will touch the plane at only a point.
They also accept what Aristotle says in Book 6 of the Physics,131 that,
if an indivisible moves, it traverses a distance equal to itself before it
traverses a larger distance. Thus, let that spherical body, touching the
plane beneath it at a point, move over the plane. It is clear that it will
traverse the whole plane by traversing a distance always equal to itself,
that is, a point. Therefore the plane itself is composed of points.
Nor does it suffice to say, as some do, that there are no two bodies
one of which is perfectly spherical and the other perfectly level; and,
if there were such, others say that motion would not take place in the
manner stated. In answer: "All of these men say that a point in a
movable body moves with the motion of the movable body itself, and,
212 if not per se, at least per accidens. Therefore let the validity of the
argument stated above be assumed. Whether the point moves per se
or per accidens, it must first traverse a distance equal to itself before
it traverses a greater distance. And yet it does traverse that space, at
least per accidens; therefore distances equal to itself; and thus points.
Hence it follows that a continuum is composed of indivisibles."
Some persons argue against this conclusion, and claim that they do
so demonstratively, not merely dialectically. They say that, if a con-
tinuum were composed of indivisibles, it would follow that the diago-
nal would be commensurable with the side, the contrary of which is
demonstrated in Euclid, Book 10.132 They prove their argument by say-
ing that, if the diagonal were composed of points, it would be com-
posed of a certain number of points; and the side likewise, although
the diagonal would be composed of more points than the side, since
131 VI, 10; 241a6 ff.
132 Sir T. L. Heath, The Thirteen Books of Euclid's Elements (New York, 1956) vol. 3, p. 2.

Page 80
it is larger. Therefore, since every number has its measure, these two
numbers [of points] in the diagonal and the side are measured by
unity, since they have some common measure. And every smaller
number forms part or parts of a larger one.
I leave the full solution of this argument and of others like it (as,
for example, that mentioned above concerning the wheel133 and others
of the sort) to certain ones who hold this conclusion about the con-
tinuum which I have presented as probable. For things which are
said to belong to the imagination agree less well with my mind than
things of the intellect, which are said to have a greater abstractness.
For the sake of practice, however, I will give some responses (how-
ever probable they are) which are not customarily given.
First, concerning the argument about the diagonal, a certain rever-
end master says that he has arguments against that conclusion (that
the diagonal is incommensurable with the side) which are better than
the arguments Euclid had for his proposition. But I answer differently.
The opponents indeed accept as a principle that, if the diagonal were
composed of points, it would be composed of a finite number of points,
like a diagonal drawn on a wall or on the ground. Otherwise this
argument would be invalid. But they are wrong in accepting this as a
principle. For it is not a conclusion from the Master's [principles], nor
is it known to follow from a conclusion from them. For these stand at
the same time: a continuum is composed of points; and a continuum
marked on a wall or elsewhere, whether sensed or imagined, is com-
posed of infinite points.
Perhaps they might say, against this, that, if a point added to a
point makes it larger and causes it to have extension, and three points
are larger than two, and so on, and the points are infinite, it follows
that there would be an infinite extension there. Also, the only reason
why the continuum is said not to be divided into endlessly divisible
parts is because an infinite extension seems to result from what was
said above.
By an infinite extension you mean an extension without limits. This
[extension] I deny; nor does it follow from the points argued or from
what is posited, for such an infinity requires that, if some agent or
agents had been dividing it from eternity, the division would never
cease. Now, however, I do grant that, supposing that any magnitude
pointed out to sense or imagination is composed of infinite points,
nevertheless, if some agent or agents had divided it from eternity, they
would finally come to indivisibles. Or else, by an infinite extension
you mean an extension capable of infinite division in any magnitude
pointed out to sense or imagination.
133 Page 208.

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When it is said that the only reason for denying that a continuum is
divisible into parts endlessly divisible is the infinite extension which
seemed to result, it should be said that, even if there were no reason
other than the denial of the adversary's conclusion, this is no obstacle,
because what seems to result from his opinion is an extension which
is infinite because of a complete absence of limits. For they say that a
continuum is divisible into endlessly divisible parts, and that, if infinite
agents had divided it from eternity, they would never come to indi-
213 visibles; indeed, that infinitely infinite agents in infinitely infinite pe-
riods would never come [to indivisibles]. But I do not posit "division
into infinity" in this way, as is known from what has been said.
In line with this view an answer can be given to a certain argu-
ment made above which is considered very difficult.134 This argument
proves that, if a continuum were composed of indivisibles, a larger
circle would be equal to a smaller one. Imagine a circle, and another
circle, a small one, about its center. Now, a line can be drawn from
any point on the circumference to the center through a point on the
small circle. Or also this: a straight line can be drawn from any point
of the larger circle to one point of the small circle. Then there will be
as many points in the small circle as in the larger one, since, if there
were not as many, then straight lines could not be drawn, as was
We must say here that, although it is true that from any part (of
the circumference) demonstrable to the senses a straight line can be
drawn to some part of the smaller circle, yet it is not true that from
any point of the circumference a straight line could be drawn to some
point of the small circle. Indeed, there are some points on the circum-
ference from which no line reaches down to the center or the small
circle. Therefore, from any point, that is, from whatever we take as a
point when we draw a circle on the ground or elsewhere, a circle not
infinitely divisible, a straight line can be drawn to the center or to
some point on the small circle. But what I mean is that a line cannot
be drawn from every point on the circumference so that that line
would reach some point placed directly under it on a line exactly coin-
ciding [with the first line] (as I draw here so that it may be seen,
since perhaps I am not using geometrical terms in speaking this way).
But, if the line is drawn, [it will reach] a point of meeting, as it were
(as in the diagram). And thus from two points in the circumference
only one straight line will reach down to the small circle or the center
(as in this diagram YY). This is true also of other lines coming down.
In this way there will not be so many points in the small circle as in
the larger one.

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If, then, what has been said in these answers is true, two conclu-
sions might be made in the problem concerning the composition of the
continuum. First, the continuum is not composed of parts which can
always be further divided (and in this there would be a departure
from common opinion). Secondly, a continuum demonstrable to sense
or imagination is not composed of a finite number of points (and in
this a departure would be made from the opinion of all those who
have posited that a continuum is composed of indivisibles). And on
this basis [other] propositions are true. For example: ''For every mag-
nitude which is given or which is pointed out to sense or imagination,
there is a smaller one (at least, nothing seems to prevent this), and
yet, along with this, it will be true to say that there is in a thing some
magnitude such that a smaller cannot be found."
Now if someone wished to say that one of our statements above is
false,135 and that an object moving slowly does not take rests, I see no
more probable escape than to say that, just as one indivisible does not
come to sense or imagination as a finished being, so one indivisible,
taken in itself, does not constitute the space to be traversed, but several
together [do]. The more swiftly or rapidly the movable object moved,
the more [indivisibles] there will be to constitute a unit of space for
it to traverse, and speed and slowness of movement would be meas-
ured accordingly. All these things need no little consideration.
Coming once again to the theory of the continuum's being com-
posed of endlessly divisible parts, an implicit argument is given by
214 Aristotle in Book 6 of the Physics:136 "If the continuum is composed of
indivisibles, let there be an indivisible in a which is to pass along the
line bcd composed of three indivisibles. Either it moves (or crosses b)
and simultaneously has finished its movement (which seems utterly
unintelligible and impossible), or it moves first and has finished its
movement afterwards (which cannot be unless b is divisible), so that it
can be said that it has crossed part of b and there still remains a part
to be crossed."
To solve this argument we must see what the word "moves" means,
and what the expression "it moves through a or through b" means, and
what this means, "it crosses a or b," so that it can be seen when and
in what sense these expressions are to be allowed.
Now, as will be seen in the treatise on material substance, [discuss-
ing] whether it is distinct from quantity,137 this word "moves" im-
plies many propositions. I mention now those which suffice for the
present. For it implies that there is nothing between a movable object
and something else, where previously something intervened between
135 Page 207.
136 VI, 6; 237a17 ff.
137 Pp. 223 ff.

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them. Secondly, when this is true of the movable object, the parts of a
single contradiction [that the movable object moves and is still in the
same place] cannot be verified. From this it is clear that the statement
"something moves" is rightly described. It is true to say that "some-
thing has been acquired" and that "something is to be acquired" [in
movement]; and it will be said in the aforementioned treatise concern-
ing material substance, etc.,138 how "to be acquired'' is to be under-
Now, the statement "the movable object moves to b" implies the
first proposition139 and further connotes a certain deprivation of b, and
indicates a certain relationship between the movable object and b
which arises from the fact that the movable object by moving becomes
altogether indistinguishable from b through the removal of what was
between them. I say therefore that the movable object which is in a
and has to cross the space bcd does not move to b (because there is in
b no negation of b itself) nor [is it] ahead of b (because then it does
not move). (And thus there will be a "primary [when]" in movement,
although Aristotle seems to say the opposite in Book 6 of the
Physics.)140 But, when it is in c, it moves to d (when I say "it moves"
I imply those things which concur and are involved in movement and
which I have just now explained), for it is identical in place with some-
thing when previously it was not. And, this being so with it, the parts
of the single contradiction cannot be verified, especially if it is the
fastest movable object. And it can move to c since there is a lack of
identity with c itself which it had afterwards. But will this be true in
the case given (the movable object passes b)? For, if this means that
the movable object first was not in b, is now in b, and will be in other
than b with no medium between [it and the "other than b"], then it
should indeed be admitted. If [it means that] this movable object
first moved to b, is in b, and will now remain in b, it should be denied,
since it did not first move to b, as has been said.
And from this it is clear what should be said in answer to Aristotle's
argument that "either the movable object moves through b and at the
same time has a completed motion in b, etc." I say that it does not
move to b in any way, but that it does indeed have a changed being in
b, if by "to be changed" we mean "to be different now from what one
was before." But it does not have a completed motion if by saying
that the movable object is in b we mean that some movement existed
before or that the moving object first moved to b and is in b now. But
I say that it is moving to c when it is in b. For all the propositions
which movement implies are true then, and not till then.
138 Page 226.
139 For primo read prima in line 19.
140 VI, 5; 236a6 ff.

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Another answer could be given. It might be said that Aristotle
means by "movement" a successive entity infinitely divisible into parts.
But we deny that anything so defined exists in the nature of things, as
will become clear in what follows. Or else he means by "movement"
215 what we have said it means ([by saying] what "it moves" does not
mean).141 We have used this meaning above; and all appearances can
be saved according to what we said.142
Another argument is adduced by Aristotle143 concerning the divisi-
bility of time. [He says] that time is divisible into endlessly divisible
parts, and that, as a consequence, magnitude is, since these two seem
to be related in the same way to divisibility and indivisibility. That
time is such, and that it is not composed of [indivisibles], is proven
because there would be no movement. My proof will be that, if some
movable object moved through a space in an instant, a faster movable
object would move through that space in a shorter time, and as a con-
sequence there would be [a length of time] smaller than an instant.
There is another argument which confirms this and which seems
to be evident: "Resting cannot take place in an instant; therefore
similarly neither can movement.144 It is proven that rest cannot be-
cause to rest is to be the same now as before. But in an instant there is
no before and after, since then it would be divisible."
The answer is to say that by "to move" (we are concerned with
motion in place) is meant "to move in place". What is somewhere was
elsewhere without anything in-between, and will be elsewhere without
anything in-between. We say this because that is the way it is, or how
it appears to us. Therefore, although some things are not moving (since
they are not in a place in such a way as to be elsewhere [in the next
instant] without anything in-between), sometimes we say that they
are moving, but that is hidden from us, as I said above.145 A movable
thing which is in fact of this kind [always moving] is the first heaven,
which moves with the swiftest motion. Of such it can be said that it
moves in an instant. When you argue that a faster movable object will
move through that space in a shorter length of time, I say that there is
no movable object faster than it. But you will say: "What of another
movable object?" I say that it moves in an instant. You will say:
"Therefore a faster movable object will move in a shorter time [shorter
than an instant].'' I answer no, for, as I have said above,146 one mov-
able object is faster than another only because one moves continuously
and the other rests, or because one rests more than the other, so that,
141 Page 207.
142 Read ea for ipsum in line 1.
143Physics, VI, 1; 232a18 ff.
144 Aristotle, Physics, VI, 3; 234a32.
145 Page 213.
146 Page 207.

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if it moves for one instant, it will rest for another instant in a, or for
more instants in proportion to its slowness.
And, when the second objection says that a movable object cannot
rest in an instant, I say that this is false. To prove it: "To rest is to be
the same now as before. Let this be granted, explaining 'before' in this
way: when a movable object moves to a in a certain instant so that
it is in a in that instant and is still in a in the instant immediately fol-
lowing, then in that second instant it is at rest, since it is the same now
as in the previous instant." Therefore perhaps no movable object ex-
cept the first heaven ought to be said to move, unless by "to move" is
meant that something which was somewhere without something in-
between will be elsewhere without something in-between, whether
the something is real or apparent. And considering the truth further,
though it is not said to move, neither will it be said to rest. Therefore
it would not be true there to say that "this being is moving," but
perhaps that "it is changing from non-a to a." (What I have just said,
"neither will it be said to rest,'' ought to be understood [as having the
condition] "unless it is compared to the first heaven, which is by its
nature in motion.")
If what has been said is true, nearly all the conclusions of Book 6
of the Physics, concerning which express mention has been made, are
destroyed. That conclusion is destroyed also which says that everything
that moves is divisible.147 Aristotle proves it in this way: "The moving
object is either totally in the terminus a quo or totally in the terminus
ad quem.148 If the former, it is at rest. If the latter, it already has a
changed being and thus it is not moving. Or else it is partly in one and
partly in the other, and thus it will be divisible."
I answer that, according to what has been said above,149 the divi-
216 sion is not sufficient. For, in the case given above, namely, that the
movable object is in a and has to be transferred to d, it does not move
to b, but, when it is in b, then it can be said to be moving, as has been
seen. Now, according to this, b is neither the terminus a quo (indeed,
[this is] a itself, in which it rested when it was there) nor the terminus
ad quem of the movement. Aristotle was right in adopting that clause
in Book 6 of the Physics,150 namely "that [what moves] is at neither
of the members or termini"; but in that text he does not disprove [our
Likewise another conclusion of Aristotle151 is either equivalent to
no argument or is completely destroyed. It says that movement is di-
visible according to the division of the parts of the movable object.
147 VI, 4; 234b10 ff.
148 For certo read termino in line 44.
149 Pp. 213-214.
150 See n. 139.
151Physics, VI, 4; 234b21.

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For, if by movement he means something inhering in the movable
object, as is commonly thought, there is no such thing, as will be said
later in the treatise on material substance, etc.152 If, however, by the
proposition "movement is divided according to the divisions of the
parts of the movable objects" he means the proposition "the movable
object in motion so moves that all its parts move," it will be true,
but then it will be a statement scarcely doubtful.
The same might be said in regard to another conclusion, which
says that that toward which movement proceeds is divisible.153 For,
if he means that in movement (let us suppose local movement) some-
thing new is acquired which did not exist before (for example, a new
position, as some think), that will negate itself, for such things would
be posited gratuitously. Therefore in local movement the movable
object, as will be said later,154 acquires a new place, that is, makes
itself locally undifferentiated from something between which and it
something was previously interposed. This does not allow the parts
of a contradiction155 to be verified. Thus it is true.
Likewise another conclusion is destroyed,156 which says that in
movement, in regard to the beginning of movement, there is no pri-
mary part which is changed. (This applies to the movable object
which moves, the distance over which movement takes place, the time
in which [it takes place], and the terminus ad quem.) This argument
is based on the contention that all things are divisible into endless
divisibles, which has been denied.
Likewise another conclusion157 is destroyed, which says that move-
ment precedes all changed being. Indeed, we have above posited
changed being which is not preceded by any movement in relation
to it. In the case given above,158 if a movable object which is in a has
to be transferred to d, it is not true to say that it moves to b; yet with
respect to b it has a changed being. For Aristotle's argument is
founded on divisibility into endless divisibles of the things which
concur in motion, as is evident to one inspecting his text. Hence he
says that a half-way movement precedes a completely changed being,
and that a quarter-way movement precedes a half-changed being,
and so on. Notice that he grounds his argument on divisibility into
endless divisibles!
Another conclusion159 also is abolished, which says that an indivis-
ible does not move. His proof is that space would then be composed
152 Page 224.
153 Aristotle, Physics, VI, 5; 236a10.
154 Page 226.
155 Page 214.
156 Aristotle, Physics, VI, 5; 236a28 ff. Also, for quia read qua in line 23.
157 Aristotle, Physics, VI, 6; 237b3.
158 Page 207.
159 Aristotle, Physics, VI, 10; 241a6 ff.

Page 87
of indivisibles (we have conceded this), and also that there is no
movement in an instant (this is disproved above).160 Now, his argu-
ment, by which he proves that an indivisible does not move, proceeds
from insufficient grounds. He would say that it would move either
when it is in the terminus a quo or when it is in the terminus ad quem,
etc. The answer is that it has been stated above in this treatise161 that
this is an insufficient division, because a movable object is moving
neither when it is in the terminus a quo nor when it is in the terminus
217 ad quem, but when it is at an in-between point in respect to which
it is said to be changed. For example, when an indivisible movable
object which is in a is to be transferred to d, it is not moving when
it is in a. But, when it is in b (to which it does not move) it is mov-
ing, as I have stated above.162
Aristotle also does not demonstrate the first conclusion of Book 7
of the Physics,163 because he supposes that it becomes impossible for
an indivisible to move, which he has not yet demonstrated in Book 6.
And, even supposing that that principle were true, he still does not
demonstrate his conclusion, as will be said elsewhere.164
Also another conclusion of Book 6165 [is destroyed], which says
that for every movement, considered as movement, there is a more
rapid one. For, as has been said above,166 no movable object moves
more quickly than that which moves so as not to rest at all. Conse-
quently I argued elsewhere167 about this against Aristotle, because
then there would not have been, nor would there be, in the realm of
nature, a most perfect individual of a certain universal [nature].
The Vacuum
We have, with probability, destroyed many arguments. Now we
wish to consider certain matters on which we have some unusual
things to say on the basis of what has previously been laid down. Let
us begin the discussion with the question whether there is a vacuum,
after laying down a definition indicating the meaning of the name.
By the name "vacuum" we understand that in which there is no body,
but in which there can be a body. It seems that there is [a vacuum]
because otherwise it would follow that there could be no local motion
in a straight line, either because two bodies would coincide, or be-
in a straight line, either because two bodies would coincide, or be-
cause all things would have to move and change place in a single
motion. We can be left with nothing so probable as [that there is]
a vacuum; therefore one must posit a vacuum.
160 Page 215.
161 Pp. 215-216.
162 Page 216.
163 VII, 1; 241b24 ff.
164 Pp. 223-224.
165 VI, 2; 232b20 ff.
166 Page 207.
167 Pages 206-207.

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That all those alternatives are less suitable than positing a vacuum
seems well enough known, and it will be conceded to us that they
would follow. It is shown because, when a body changes position,
either the place it goes into was empty (and so the proposition is
affirmed) or it was occupied by a body (and then either the body
remains and so the two bodies will coincide, which is one of the un-
suitable [alternatives], or it withdraws and passes to another position,
and then I shall ask my former question). By progressing in this
way, you will concede either that there is always a progression ad
infinitum, or that two bodies coincide; or you will concede a vacuum.
But at this point the retort is made that finally there will be a
halt because a compacting will be made. But we cannot make this
assertion so as to deny a vacuum, though perhaps Aristotle could on
the basis of his principles.168 For we do not say that an object would
be compact because of the generating of some new quality which did
not exist before, but that it would be compact only through the with-
drawal of bodies, as in the case of wool, or because the parts come
together, that is, they are closer than before. And a body will be
rarified only because its parts are more widely separated than be-
fore; and so it is compact or rarified only through local movement of
its parts. And so another interpretation of the rarefied and the com-
pact would not help us.
There is another answer which I have heard from an influential
teacher, which may seem more probable both on Aristotle's side and
on the side of our conclusion. He imagines that, in straight local mo-
tion, things come to a halt because a kind of circle is reached. For
example, if a body existing in a moves to point b, [the body] existing
in b will also move to point a, and so things will come to a halt. But
this seems inadequate. Let us imagine around a space differences in
position: before, behind, etc. Now let this movable object move in
a straight line. It is evident that what is behind, air for example,
could arrive at that [vacated] spot before what is in front of the mov-
218 able object, and so the rear object would enter the spot. Then what
is in rear of it [would occupy its vacated place], and so there would
never be a halt, as above, unless one admits a vacuum. Likewise, a
body which is in front of a movable object seems to move only be-
cause it is struck and gives way. Now I ask: "What is at a is at b at
the same instant as what is at b is at a. And so it is not clear that this
would give way to that rather than vice versa. Then how would this
give way as if struck? Or else [what is at a is at b] at a different
instant [than what is at b is at a], and then either the two bodies
168Physics, IV, 6-9.

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coincided at that first instant or there was a vacuum." And perhaps
this argument might serve in other cases against another approach.
(What I have said about the "next instant" is to be understood in
accordance with the conclusion posited above,169 that a continuum
is composed of indivisibles, and time of instants.)
Another argument might be adduced from new wine in a jar. When
it expands there is an appearance of greater quantity. However, this
is not because of the generation of a new quality (we have dealt
with this above)170 or because of the addition of new bodies. It only
seems to be, because the combining parts, as if there were a certain
pressure there, would now separate and be further apart than before.
Likewise, this argument is attested by what seems more intel-
ligible in the definition of the rarefied and compact. The usual defini-
tion of the compact is that the compact is a thing whose parts lie
closer together. Hence water seems more compact than air only be-
cause its parts are closer one to another. And so in a rarefied thing
the parts somehow are separated, so that a vacuum intervenes; that
is, the parts could be closer one to another; there is something where
body is not, yet could be. This is my explanation; for those urging
the opposite seem to frighten men by the mere name [of vacuum].
It is true that others use the designation "compact" in another
sense. They say that the compact is what is less yielding to the touch,
and the rarefied what does yield. But then this does not put an end
to one question which the intellect naturally asks, namely, why this
body is more compact than another. Likewise they cut into the defini-
tion of other things, i.e., solid and light. For the concept of compact
comes to the intellect solely through seeing a body, so that, as soon
as the body is seen, on the basis of what we see of its constitution
we say it is compact. But solid comes to the intellect by means of
touch, so that a thing is called solid because it hardly yields to the
one touching it, and light conversely.
If this is what we were saying (a point I am not now deciding
fully), we would investigate how to answer the contrary propositions.
The first thing would be to see how the positing of a vacuum destroys
the objection raised above,171 which concluded that either there would
be no local motion, or all things would move in a single motion, etc. It
must be said that this is how we shall understand the case of local
motion. For when a body moves locally in the air, parts of the air in
some way contract and come together. Then it is not necessary that
such a process go on ad infinitum or that two bodies coincide. You
169 Pp. 206 ff.
170 Page 216.
171 Page 217.

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may imagine something like what would be said. Suppose that wool is
not interspersed with those minute bodies which are said to be there,
and that someone were in a room full of wool, and moved. The parts
would come closer together and draw nearer to one another.
If there were some good arguments against this conclusion, it
would seem that they would be those of Aristotle in Book 4 of the
Physics,172 though there are but few of them (indeed, hardly any).
Aristotle adduces some arguments in Book 4 of the Physics against
those who posit a vacuum which is drunk in, as it were;173 but those
arguments are directed against the reasons they gave for positing the
vacuum rather than against the conclusion in itself; and we do not use
those reasons. He argues as follows (the reasoning seems very difficult
and is considered to be one of his more subtle ones, at least against
219 one way of positing a vacuum): "If there were [a vacuum], it would
follow that local motion would take place instantaneously. The reason-
ing is proved because the swiftness or slowness of a moving body in
relation to another is like the relationship between the media [through
which they move]. For it is clear that, the greater the resistance of
the medium, the slower the movement becomes. Now there is no rela-
tionship between media when one is a plenum and the other a
vacuum; therefore neither [is there a relationship] of swiftness or
slowness among movements. Now, if movement through a vacuum
were in time, there would be some relationship like that between
times. Therefore it will be instantaneous."
The first thing is to see that this argument is not directed (nor did
Aristotle wish to adduce [it]) against the way of positioning a vacuum
that I have used. For we do not posit a separate, pre-existing vacuum
through which movement would take place, but a vacuum among the
parts of the body. When an object has to move in place, those parts
contract and come closer together. Now, if you wish to speak of the
movement of that first body which is posited to move through a
medium whose parts contract, though [the body] is received in a
vacuum, yet previously [the medium] was full. Other things being
equal, the faster those parts contract, the faster the body moves, just
as [fast], perhaps, as if we assumed that it moved through a pre-
existing vacuum. But though the argument is no obstacle to us from
this point of view, it is an obstacle from the point of view of the body
whose parts contract. For here the parts contract inwardly where
there was a pre-existing vacuum, and so, it seems, their movement is
172 IV, 8-9.
173 IV, 9; 216b22 ff. The expression "drunk in" is found in Averroes' commentary on this text,
comm. 79.

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It is shown in other ways that the argument is not conclusive. You
have seen above in the treatise on motion174 whether the conclusion is
unfitting. For a movable object can be instantaneously in some place
in which it previously was not; and, if by motion you understood a
composite of several changed things, then the motion would not take
place in one instant, but in several.
And, whatever be the case with regard to the conclusion (which
we do not say is absolutely unfitting, as above in the treatise on
motion),175 I do say that the reasoning is not valid if it is well known
what determines the swiftness or slowness of one movable object in
relation to another (as stated above in the treatise on the continu-
um,176 when I answered Aristotle's arguments). Hence, restating
briefly: an agent is called slower only because it rests in some way.
One must therefore consider that in motion there is a certain
essential characteristic so that, just as one part of space is before
another, so it is traversed first; and that essential characteristic cannot
be removed. One must also consider that slowness results from the
fact that the movable object rests, so that to say "One movable object
is slower than another" is the same as saying "One movable object
rests more than another." The movable object rests because of the
determination of its nature or the resistance of the medium (which
results from the parts of the medium not contracting easily). Now
then, granted that there is motion in a vacuum, it does not follow
that, as concerns what was essential in movement (that one part of
space would be traversed before another), it has no relationship to the
movement made in the vacuum. And so you would still not conclude
that the motion accomplished through the whole space would take
place instantaneously. Likewise, neither [would you conclude] that
there would be no resting. And this is true if we said, not that the total
cause of the resting in such motion is the resistance of the medium,
but that the resting is caused by a determination of the moving object
itself. And that theory which I have set down about succession, that it
depends on the order of parts in space, was the theory of Avempeche,
as it seems.177
Other arguments are adduced to show that there is no vacuum.
They are certain natural experiments, as it were, which seem to take
place only because of the impossibility of a vacuum. The first178 con-
cerns the water-clock.179 This is a jar with an opening at the top and
at the bottom, and filled180 with water. If a finger is held at the top,
174 Page 207.
176 Pp. 206 ff.
177 Averroes, Physics, Lib. IV, comm. 71.
178 Aristotle, Physics, IV, 6; 213a23 ff.
179 Read clepsedra for clapsedra in line 47.
180 Read repletum for repleto in line 48.

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the water will not come out, though its natural tendency is to fall. If
220 the finger is removed, the water falls. Its not falling in the first case
seems only because of repugnance to a vacuum, because there would
be a vacuum if [the water] came out. For another body could not
enter from above, since that is blocked; nor from below, because then
two bodies would be simultaneously in the same place, which is im-
possible. Say this: this argument is not opposed to the conclusion
which we hold, because we have not yet posited that it would be
possible for such a separate vacuum to exist as would be the case
after the removal of the water.
Likewise, I have heard a subtle answer: the fact that the water
would not go out is not because of a repugnance to a vacuum. They
imagine that the whole universe has its proper measure of fullness, so
that there is as much as can enter the universe, taking into considera-
tion the welfare of beings. Now, if that body left, another could not
enter, and so either the whole universe would not have been wholly
full, or two bodies would coincide. In that [problem] I now choose
the first answer.
A doubt arises in connection with the sense in which we posit a
vacuum. Suppose a body moves locally. You say that the parts of a
body, of air, for example, which were in the place to which [the
object] moves, contract so as to occupy less space than before. But,
following this up, I ask whether anything enters the place left by [the
object]. If we say no, then we shall posit the same kind of vacuum as
others do, a separate vacuum. If we say yes, then something would
enter, air, for example. Then, as before, we shall ask about the place
left by [the air], and so we shall not avoid another unfitting situation,
which we sought to escape by positing a vacuum. Perhaps on this
point it will be a suitable reply to say that some parts of the air which
were, as it were, behind the object somehow expand (because they
moved) so that, being less contracted, they fill the place, and this up
to a certain quantity, not, however, ad infinitum.
Likewise, though we might not have to posit a vacuum on that
basis, yet we might posit it for another reason, to avoid falling into
the awkwardness of having all bodies in front move when one body is
moved,181 and also to avoid the position we have mentioned briefly,182
that in the previous instant the parts of the space contract, which we
do not approve of. Perhaps we shall consider this point elsewhere.183
Against what we have said about the vacuum, there is the experi-
ment with an inflated bladder which cannot be compressed. This
would not seem to be [possible] if there were a vacuum intervening,
181 Page 217.
182 In the previous paragraph.
183 This point does not seem to have been considered elsewhere.

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so that the parts would contract. Here one of two kinds [of answer]
must be given. [It might be said] that the parts of that body which is
enclosed in the bladder cannot be further compressed, at least easily.
Hence, though the parts of air through which motion takes place con-
tract, yet they are not so cohesive as to prevent some vacuum184 re-
maining among them. They have the ability, then, to contract up to a
certain extent, and this limit does not hold as regards the contents of
the bladder. Or else it might be said that the reason for this is that
there then remained a vacuum completely separated from the rest and
such that another body would not penetrate.
The ancients adduced one argument in favour of the vacuum
hypothesis.185 They argued as follows: "If there were no vacuum,
there would be no increase in size. The proof is that the increase takes
place only by some corporeal addition. That, then, is received either in
a plenum or in a vacuum. If in a plenum, two bodies would coincide.
If in a vacuum, the hypothesis is established. Nor would it be valid to
say that [it is received] in something previously filled with some
subtle body. First, this seems only an evasion. Secondly, [the enlarged
body] in this case would not occupy more [space] than [the original]
body. Now, a whole arm, interspersed with those subtle bodies, was
previously only one foot long, and now it is two feet long."
Aristotle186 does not answer this argument, but says that those
arguments work against themselves. For, granted that there is a
221 vacuum, it still follows that there will be no increase, because it
follows either that some part of the enlarged body will not have been
enlarged, or that increase would not take place by some corporeal
addition, or that two bodies will coincide, or that the whole body will
have been increased. The proof of the reasoning is that, if in the en-
larged body there are empty spaces, then either there will be empty
spaces everywhere and so the whole will be a vacuum and nothing
will be corporeal (which is one of the inadmissible results), or some
part of the enlarged body is vacuum and some plenum, and then
either the full part, even with its lack of emptiness, is increased, or it
is not. If it is granted that it is increased, I ask: by a corporeal addi-
tion or not? If not, this is another inadmissible result. If it is increased
by a corporeal addition, then since in this hypothesis that part was
completely full, there will be, according to them, two bodies in the
same place.
With all due respect to Aristotle, this argument gets nowhere
against them. First let us see what "increase" means. Suppose that
184 Read vacui for vacu in line 35.
185 Aristotle, Physics, IV, 6; 213b19.
186Ibid., IV, 7; 214b3 ff.

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some body is composed of four indivisibles, a, b, c, d. I say that be-
tween these indivisibles there are empty spaces. Separate a and b by
one indivisible. I say that, upon the approach of a suitable thing, the
indivisibles spread themselves, as it were, so that they stretched some-
how (like ab, with an empty space of two indivisibles), and there
they will receive within them the thing that is congruous with their
own nature, and thus increase will be effected. Such a meaning of the
proposition "When a body is increased, every part of it is increased"
does not at all include the primary parts of the body increased, in the
sense that an indivisible is enlarged. The meaning is that, after the
increase of any composite part that is demonstrable to the senses, it is
true to say that it is larger than it was before the increase. For ex-
ample, a hand after growth is larger than before growth, and similarly
in other cases.
Again, the ancients argued that a jar filled with ashes takes as
much water as if there were no ashes in it, or almost as much. The
Commentator Averroes187 who wishes to resolve this argument says
first that he has not made the experiment. In the second place he says
that it is because some parts of the water and some parts of the ash
are destroyed. The evidence for this is that, if the ashes are later dried
out, they do not appear in so great a quantity. As for his first point, it
seems that he would not be much of a lover of truth to neglect so
easy an experiment. His second point seems an evasion, and what he
says is no obstacle because the ancients188 would say that, if the bulk
appears less, this is because the parts are closer together than before.
The ancients had another way of arguing against those who deny
a vacuum and posit generation in things.189 Suppose that from a body
of lesser bulk arises a body of greater bulk. Then it must be either
that there is a vacuum, or that necessarily there takes place a com-
pressing of bodies [those round about], or that, just as here a body of
greater bulk would be generated from a smaller one, so necessarily, in
another place, a body of lesser bulk would be generated from a larger
one in the same proportion. In avoiding this they grant [that there
is a vacuum]. This reasoning follows from the fact that the generated
body occupies more space than it did before.
Again, when it is asserted that a body moves locally, it is received
either in a plenum or in a vacuum. If in a plenum, two bodies coin-
cide. If in a vacuum, the proposition is affirmed. The last of Aristotle's
expositors replies that by "to be received" is meant either what pre-
cedes being received (and thus the body is received in another full
body) or the being which is received (and thus it is received in that
187 Physics, Lib. IV. comm. 56.
188 For antique read antiqui in line 32.
189 Aristotle, Physics, IV, 9; 216b21 ff.

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full body which is received); and so there is never a vacuum. Nay
rather, in accordance with what has been said, it seems that there
would be a vacuum because, while it is true that one concept of
vacuum is quasi-relative and would not be attributed to a thing except
when there is the negation of a body in it, yet it will be seen that there
222 is a vacuum in the absolute sense he speaks of, whether it be a posi-
tive or a privative being, so that, if a body were removed from any
place without having another body enter, that would be called a
vacuum in which that body formerly was. If a body should come
[there], the nature [of the vacuum] would not be destroyed. Only,
indeed, previously it was thought of [in] a relative concept as existing
under a negation of a body; now it will be thought of as existing
under the contrary. It is true that to a person speaking in this way it
would be said, unless he had something else on which to base his
imagination, that he is being led by imagination, and that the imagi-
nation is not to be trusted.
Material Substance and Quantity
[I treat] the problem of material substance and quantity in con-
nection with the statement: ''Quantity is a thing inherent in material
substance, but distinct from it." It needs to be investigated whether
they are mutually distinct. First we shall inquire into continuous and
discrete permanent quantity; then into successive quantity.
On the first point, one conclusion is posited, namely, that the
intellect is not compelled by some reason to say that permanent
quantity is a thing distinct from material substance. Here one must
first inquire how a problem about total identity can be settled by
man. A problem about partial identity is settled only through a mani-
festation of some things in which [two things] agree (as two white-
nesses agree in that they penetrate sight). Similarly, total identity will
be proven only by the agreement in all the things that can be attrib-
uted to them. It follows from this and from another consideration that
[the problem] is not fully determinable by man. For the intellect
cannot fully arrive at a conclusion which depends upon a minor
premise not fully understood. But that is the case here. For the con-
clusion here depends upon this minor premise: "Everything that is in
this thing is in that, and in the same way." But this is not fully known.
For, granted that agreement were shown in such and such details, it
does not therefore follow that there is agreement in all details, be-
cause perhaps in this thing there are some details of which you are not
aware. It is sufficient, therefore, since we cannot settle the matter com-
pletely, if, so far as is possible, on the basis of the details which are
seen to be in each thing, one shows by induction a total agreement in

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them. And so in disputes, when an opponent shows agreement in all
details which seem to be known by a man, the respondent bears the
onus of saying where there is no agreement, or else total identify [is]
concluded. This is, therefore, sufficient to make an assertion as long as
no known fact is left out.
In accordance with what has been said, I set down some con-
clusions. The first is that permanent quantity is not distinct from
material substance. This we prove (so far as such a matter can be
proved). Things which coincide in all the details which are recognized
to exist in them are not distinct. But quantityas concerns everything
outside the souland material substance are of this kind. The proof:
"When we think of those things that are totally inseparable so far as
pertains to all movement or change, we think of them as totally coin-
cident. Hence the understanding cannot attribute anything to the one
without being able to attribute it to the other. But this is the case here.
For, if the quantity becomes greater, so too the substance. If it is
generated, so too the substance. And so on. Therefore, they are totally
coincident." This method of proof satisfies Aristotle, in Book 4 of the
Metaphysics,190 when he proved that being and oneness are the same
because they are generated by the same generation, etc. Observe that
he there takes "by the same generation" either to refer to a measure
of time or simply as it stands. [If the former,] this helps to confirm
the proposition. [If the latter,] then the adversary would deny the
minor premise, or, rather, would say that in that case there are two
generations of which one is naturally prior to the other, just as being
is naturally prior to oneness. It should be noticed that, because plur-
ality is not to be posited unnecessarily, it is sufficient for the upholder
223 of identity to know how to reply to the arguments opposed to [his]
conclusion. Hence the onus of proof lies upon the one positing the
In the same way it can be said that a subject and its distinctive
characteristics, so far as pertains to anything that can be considered
in the real order, are not distinct, because no kind of change can
separate them. The same can be said of fire and its heat, of water and
its coldness, and similarly of other things in relation to what have for
a long time been called the qualities of the elements. In the same way
it can be said that the number of continua, as regards what it implies
outside the intellect, is not distinct from the continua. There is also
another reason [for saying this]. Sometimes there are two propositions
which are rendered impossible or false for the same reasons, if they
190 IV, 2; 1003b23 ff.

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are verified without positing that the predicate entails something in-
herent in its subject and distinct from it. If one is verified without
such a distinction, the other can also be called true in the same way.
But that is the case here. For we talk of "two intelligences," "two
continua." Now, there is no more impossibility involved in the one
case than in the other. For, if the concept of duality can be enter-
tained about two intelligences, and granted that there is in them no
common reality really distinct from them, it does not seem that it
would be less possible in the case of two continua. The same can be
said of relations and of the categories in general. For when there are
two white objects, no real generation or corruption appears [either in
the things or in their duality] without the other being similarly
affected. If it appears in some cases, doubt will enter our statement.
However, it seems to some that the number of two continua is
distinct from the two continua, for those things are distinct which are
such that something is really in one that is not in the other. But that
is the case here. For if there are two continua and one becomes
greater by addition, either . . . or else these continua are now greater
than before; and yet the duality is not greater than before. I say that
in one way duality can be taken for the concrete object for which it
stands when one says "The two continua are two," and then one
would admit that it is greater than before. In another way [it can be
taken] for what it signifies, and then it implies a concept to which,
since [the concept] is abstracted from things, it is irrelevant that they
be large or small. Hence, when the intellect conceives of a thing as
undivided in itself and divided off from any other, and of another
thing in like manner, and compares the one with the other, it abstracts
the concept of duality.
The same might be said of equality. One might argue that it is
distinct from the things of which it is predicated because the equality
itself is destroyed if one of its elements becomes larger. I answer
that it always remains while the elements remain, so far as concerns
what it stands for. [What happens is that,] for the abstraction of the
concept designated "equality" there were first other concepts, which
are now not held about the things. For, when the intellect saw that,
upon the juxtaposition of these two bodies, everything in the first
body had something corresponding in the other, it abstracted from
this the concept of equality. When something new is added to one of
the bodies, so that it becomes larger while the other does not, the
former propositions become void. One would say, likewise, if the
argument were about the similarity observed between two white
things, that, when one of them becomes whiter, the similarity is lost.

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And now the question of movement. We must see whether it is
distinct from the movable object. Let us take it in the sense of local
movement. One must notice that, as someone says,191 these names
"movement" and "motion" were invented only192 for stylistic reasons.
224 Hence, if the propositions in which such names are used were broken
down into their words, many difficulties, whether nominal or real,
would disappear. Let us see, then, what is implied by the predicate of
this proposition: "A being moves locally." First we must see what con-
cepts come to the mind when a body appears to move locally, so that
it may appear how the concept "moving locally'' is abstracted from
them. I say that these concepts come: a body which moves; a place or
interval between which and the movable object there was previously
an interval, but there is now an absence of interval there. Likewise
the intellect realizes that the object which moves locally behaves so
that there can never be a verification of the parts of a single contra-
diction (that the original object is [still] in the same place). Now I
say that, when one has these concepts, one has the concept of what
"moving" is. Granted that this term is incomplex, nevertheless "it
moves" implies all those propositions, and the statement using this
expression193 is the equivalent of many propositions. Hence, to say
"This being moves locally" is the same as saying all the following:
"Between this body and another there was previously an interval; now
there is an absence of interval; and, now that the body is related to
some place by an absence of interval, the parts of the contradiction
cannot be verified."194
Next I say that by the name "movement" is not implied something
completely distinct objectively from place, absence of interval, and so
on. For by means of these, all other realities being set aside, all appearances
in things can be truly saved. From this it appears clearly
how some chatterboxes, who want to argue against a man before they
understand him, have been deceived. They argue as follows: "There
is a self-contradiction in the aforesaid conclusion about movement.
Since the movable object existed yesterday, and the movement did
not exist yesterday, therefore the movable object is not the movement."
I answer that they draw a true conclusion after a fashion when
they say "The movable object is not the movement." But it is not an
argument against me, for I concede what they have said. "A movable
object is a movable object" and "A movable object moves" are not one
and the same in predicate, as synonyms would be. Rather, I say that
191 William of Ockham, Summulae in libros physicorum, III, 7 (Rome, 1637) p. 54.
192 Add nisi after inventa in line 48.
193 Read qua for quibus in line 11.
194 Page 214.

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this predicate "moves" implies many propositions, as I said above.195
And, if one were not verified, the proposition which affirmed that "a
movable object moves" would not be true; and yet the other proposi-
tion would be true: ''A movable object is a movable object." But in my
conclusion on movement I mean, and meant, that this predicate
"moves" does not imply one positive thing existing in the movable
object, as is commonly imagined. I posit no such thing because it is
not necessary, as has been seen, nor even very intelligible. Nor have
I yet heard a good answer to the argument of the ancients196 who
proved that movement does not exist because anything consisting of
non-beings is non-being. But this is what the opposition maintain; for
they imagine that movement is one successive thing, of which one
part has passed and another is yet to come.
These notions are not very intelligible, for, in knowing the truth of
a proposition about the past, the intellect's yardstick is always the
truth of a proposition about the present. Hence one says: "It is true
that 'Socrates was in love yesterday', since at some time it was true
that 'Socrates was in love'." A fuller explanation of this proposition
comes to light; for to say "This thing existed yesterday" is only saying
"This thing's existence is measured by some time before the present."
But they reply that, though the parts of movement are not in perma-
nent existence, yet they are in successive existence, and this is enough
for its succession. I do not clearly understand this reply unless they
mean that for a successive being it is enough that there be a non-
being. But it does not seem intelligible that there should be some
positive entity and yet that it be such that of its two component parts
it is true to say that one has passed and is non-being, and the other
is yet to come and is non-being.
Because of what has been said above,197 we are relieved of such
225 unintelligible propositions, since for the truth of the statement "A
movable object moves" it is not necessary to posit any such positive
thing inherent in the movable object. It is sufficient to posit what we
have discussed above,198 that is: a movable object which moves, a
terminus a quo, a terminus ad quem, the negation of an interval, and
that, this being so, the parts of a single contradiction cannot be veri-
fied. For, when these requirements are present, all others being re-
moved, it is true that "a movable object moves." The negation of inter-
val is to be understood as above; for when between that movable
object and a particular spot there is a negation of the interval which
previously intervened, the other requirements concurring, we say that
the movable object moves.
196 Aristotle, Physics, I, 4; 187a32 ff.
197 Page 214.

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From what was said before, it is clear that it is not necessary to
posit that quantity is a thing inherent in material substance, as is
imagined. And this was said about all quantity, both permanent and
successive, because it might seem that especially in dealing with them
the opposite should be said about movement.
Now, however, in accordance with the exposition above, the fol-
lowing conclusion is probable, although according to absolute truth
and the Catholic faith it is not true: that all permanent and successive
things are eternal. And therefore the general inference can be made
safely enough that all things are eternal. There is not much need to
answer the arguments adduced on the other side because their con-
clusions are merely probable.
If you have attended well to what has been said about movement,
many examples which appear to be entirely conclusive have no
validity. For it is proven that, if you are going to Notre Dame, you
are always going, because otherwise that movement would be des-
troyed. The answer is that I am not always going to Notre Dame.
When it is said that then that movement will be destroyed, I say that,
if you mean that something positive is destroyed, that is false. But I
am willing [to concede] that the movement is destroyed if you are
willing to use the expression in the sense that "the movable object
which previously was moving is now not moving." This can be so
without the destruction of some positive being. For, as has been
said,199 the predicate "is moving" implies many propositions. It sig-
nifies that the movable object is related by a negation of interval to
something to which it previously was not so related.
Now, when we say that a movable object is at rest, that [predicate]
cannot be stated truly. If it can be stated, nevertheless it cannot be
stated truly, according to what this predicate "is moving" implies.
That is, under these circumstances the parts of a single contradiction
can200 be verified;201 hence this would be false.
In this local movement nothing is acquired which was not there
before. There arises simply a lack of differentiation between one thing
and another. So, too, in the spiritual movement which takes place in
the soul (about which I have spoken above in the treatise on the
eternity of things),202 no new understanding or new knowledge, which
had not existed before, is acquired. There is posited simply a lack of
differentiation as regards subject, as it were, between the soul and
its knowledge. I say "as regards subject, as it were" because things
that cannot be sensed are not conceived by means of their own essen-
200 Omit non in line 30.
201 Page 214.
202 Page 205.

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tial concepts, as will be seen elsewhere.203 So an explanation can be
made only according to certain superficial analogies.
If the same mistake leads you to ask me whether I have existed
always, I reply that one must say, as a result, that I have existed in the
following sense: "When stones are assembled, we call them a heap. If
they are scattered, we no longer call them a heap. Yet every true
entity that existed before exists now. These things are called thus
(that is, a heap) when there is a negation of spatial intervals between
them. So in the present case it is true that every true entity which
exists in me now has existed always and will exist always. But they will
not exist, as they do now, in the same subject. For at some time the
atoms of which my substance is composed will be dispersed. So it has
been an infinite number of times, and so it will go on being, according
to these opinions."204
In keeping with what has been said, it has seemed that it is not
necessary to posit that movement signifies a thing existing in the
226 movable object, as is generally posited. Against [this]: "Movement is
rapid or slow, and yet the movable object is not rapid or slow." The
answer, in accordance with what was said above, is that, if proposi-
tions using the noun "movement" were rephrased so as to use a verb
instead of this term, one would get rid of much that seems difficult to
understand. Let us then rephrase: "Movement is rapid or slow, that is,
a movable object moves rapidly or slowly.'' That proposition can be
said to be true without any such reality as is imagined to exist in such
a thing. For from the fact that a movable object separates itself from
some terminus so that fewer parts of the contradiction can be veri-
fied205 than those which can be verified in another movable object
separating itself206 locally from that terminus, it is said to move more
rapidly than the other. The fewer [the parts] that can be verified, the
more rapidly it is moving. Or speak of the rapid object as above in
the treatise on indivisibles.207 And so the objection had no validity.
Another objection can be made: "Something is acquired through
movement. (We must not say 'through the movable object as such.')
The meaning of the first statement (something is acquired through
movement) ought to be that, when a movable object moves, it
acquires something." Now, the word "acquire" could be taken in a
proper and an improper sense. For if you mean that some new thing
is brought into being, that is false. If you mean [that it acquires]
something in as much as, by reason of the negation of an interval in-
203 Page 235.
204 Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, IX, 30 ff.
205 Page 214.
206 Read se distinguente for indistinguente in line 9.
207 Page 207.

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between, it is not separated locally, that is true. However, our oppon-
ents imagine that some form is left there in the located body by the
locating body. I do not see, according to what was said above, that
one should posit such trivial realities.
But someone will ask, "Since material substance and quantity are
not distinct, ought one not to admit that material substance is quan-
tity?" I say that these terms can be taken in two ways, either in a pre-
cise sense as signs of things outside the mind (and in this way I would
admit that the proposition is true) or in another way, as signs of con-
cepts, or of things thus conceived (and in this way it is not to be con-
ceded). For to the thing considered in itself or as related to what are
called its functions, there is ascribed the name of substance. But to the
same thing [considered] as having one part outside another part there
is ascribed the concept of quantity. And these are different concepts.
And we must keep in mind that these concepts, as being signs of
things, or [as being] things thus conceived, sometimes are mutually
related in a certain way, as container and contained, or part and
whole, so that, when one is presented to the intellect, in some way the
other is presented also, and, when one is removed, the other is re-
moved also. For example, if the intellect posits that a particular being
does not have one part outside another part, from this Aristotle208
concludes that it is not of infinite magnitude. If it posits that it has
magnitude, from this he makes the abstraction, as a part from a whole,
that it has one part outside another part. If we posit that some being
is a man, we posit implicitly that it is an animal. Then the intellect
abstracts concept from concept until it arrives at a simple concept. By
so abstracting it finds ten simple concepts which are included in all
others. These concepts, and the things in which they are included, are
the means for all scientific investigation. These ten first concepts, or
things thus conceived, he calls the ten categories.
If by the ten categories you wish to understand something else, for
example, ten things really distinct, I would deny it absolutely. It does
not follow that, because there are ten concepts, therefore there are ten
things of which there are these concepts first. Perhaps it is true that, if
we had the most perfect concept of a thing, that concept would not
permit another concept209 of the same thing. Then the argument
would hold that there are as many concepts as there are things. But
now we grasp things only partially, and so nothing prevents us from
having several concepts of the same thing. There is also a sense in
which we can conclude that there are as many things as concepts.
This is not in the sense in which people usually understand this, but
208Physics, III, 6; 207a8.
209 For aliquando read alium in line 45.

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227 in this sense: "A thing is conceived of in itself, and that is the concept
of substance. It is conceived of as having parts, and that concept is
implied by the term 'quantity'." As you see, it is irrelevant to the first
concept that the thing has several parts; but not to the second. Thus
in a sense there are as many things as concepts, but not in such a way
that quantity implies a thing totally distinct from the first thing.
But it might seem to some that material substance and quantity
are really distinct because they are generically distinct.210 This follows
because whatever differ generically differ in species, and whatever
differ in species are really distinct. I answer that this rule (whatever
differ in species are really distinct) is true only as regards those things
that belong to the same order of category, and then not to every one,
but only to that which is called substance. At least it does not hold in
the case of quantity. For the concepts of that order [of substance] are
taken from things as they are in themselves or as [a thing] is con-
sidered in its functions.
Let us give an example. When whiteness is presented to sight, and
the intellect actually thinks of this, it has a concept of whiteness.
When sight beholds whiteness in a location different from the first, the
intellect forms a concept of likeness as if by a process of abstraction.
Then it abstracts, as it were, some common concept and says that the
whitenesses are of the same species because it does not perceive that
there was diversity in the sense experience or [it perceives] as if there
had been no diversity. Afterwards it encounters blackness, and then it
abstracts the concept of diversity. Because these concepts [likeness
and diversity] are, as it were, essential to things, therefore things that
differ thus in the intellect with respect to such concepts are really
different (if the intellect can say that some things are really different).
But afterwards the intellect considers that the same thing is seen in
two different places, and that therefore, as it were, there seem to be
there [two] things one of which is outside the other. These concepts
are, after a fashion, more external to the thing because they are ob-
tained, as it were, through comparison with what is outside it. To this
concept which has been mentioned the intellect applies the name
"quantity". Then, things that differ thus with respect to such concepts
are not really different; rather, several concepts of this kind can be
had of the same thing without one's imagining some reality inherent
in the thing. It is true, as I have said above,211 that the thing from
which the concept implied by this name "quantity" is abstracted must
have several parts. I say now that what differ thus generically are not
really different.
210 For medio read in eo quod in line 7.
211 Page 226.

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Similarly let us take two things in the category of quantity which
are said to differ specifically: line and surface. I say that it is not
necessary for these to differ really, because, as has been said, quantity
is not distinct from material substance. Similarly neither are its
species. For example, length [is not distinct] from a long substance,
or width from a wide substance. A reason was given why it is not
necessary to posit diverse things on the basis of this diversity of con-
cepts, because one of them, namely the concept of quantity, was
obtained from the thing from extrinsic considerations, as it were. The
intellect does not obtain it by considering what are posited to be the
natural functions of a thing. For the same reason, nay, rather, for a
weightier reason, when both [concepts] are extrinsic, as the concepts
of length and width, a real distinction will be possible only because
it is indeed true that those parts which determine length (which is
the terminus of some width) are not those parts which determine the
width of which it is the terminus.
But it does not follow from this that there is a diversity of things
inherent in a substance in the sense in which men are generally
thought to understand this. For it has been said212 that concepts [of
inherent things] are, as it were, intrinsic, in relation to things' func-
tions, and it has been said that concepts of quantity are extrinsic
because they are not obtained from things with reference to a thing's
functions. In regard to this point it has been fittingly stated by the
228 Commentator in Book 4 of the Physics213 that quantities are not of the
genus of active or passive powers because the fact that a thing is
active or passive is irrelevant to the concept of quantity being
abstracted from it.
Whether Everything Which Appears Is
We must next treat of the problem whether everything which
appears is, and whether everything which appears to be true is true.
In this matter we have to consider that one who says that everything
which appears is true, at least as regards what appears to the external
senses, need only know how to answer objections [against his posi-
tion]. For a rule of general application should not be modified or
restricted unless necessity forces a modification. And so a person who
says this need only bear the onus of responding, this being sufficient
to make the intellect incline more to this conclusion than to its
opposite. Now, as will be seen below,214 it is not necessary to modify
the rule in order to safeguard "everything which appears is true."
Therefore the rule must be held universally.
212 Page 227.
213 Comm. 84.
214 Page 234.

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However, although that should suffice in a way, the intellect does
not rest content with knowing that the opposite [of a proposition] is
not known, but also wants to establish the proposition [itself] by
some probable arguments. For this reason I will introduce some
probable arguments concerning what we are looking for.
Therefore, if we have any certainty about things, I say that it is
probable that everything that appears to be is, and that everything
that appears to be true is true. Let this universal proposition be
understood according to the meaning which can be gathered from
statements below. I argue as follows: "The intellect is certain concern-
ing everything which is evident to it, and, ultimately, evident to it
according to an act of the senses. Now, as concerns everything which
appears in a proper sense, such appearance is only in an act of the
external senses. Otherwise it would not be said to appear in a proper
sense. Hence the intellect judges of many things that they are such
and such, and assents to them; but they are not said to appear to it,
properly and strictly speaking, since they are not, in the final analysis,
evident; for example, that Rome is a large city. But it would be
evident and perfectly clear to a viewer who was in Rome."
Let food which you call sweet be given to a patient with a fever;
it is perfectly evident to him, in tasting, that what he tastes is bitter.
I do not say that that food is bitter, but something else which he
tastes. Someone sees redness where you say there is whiteness; I say
that it is clear and evident to him that there is redness. And similarly
in other cases. This minor premise [that the only kind of experience
which, properly speaking, appears, belongs to the external senses]
rests on acts of experience; I experience this within me.
Someone wishing to remove or diminish the probability of the pro-
posed conclusion will say that the argument given for the major
premise (that the intellect is sure of what is evident to it in the final
analysis) is inconclusive, [and that] it is true if three things are pre-
supposed: the proper disposition of the medium, the organ, and the
distance between the power and the object. To the contrary: "That
response is not good which takes away from the intellect certitude
about things. Such is this response because it is not less possible that
evidence of the proper disposition exists without the reality (for
example, that there be ultimate evidence that the power is rightly
disposed, and yet it is not) than that there be ultimate evidence that
redness exist, and yet redness does not exist. But according to you
the latter evidence can be present without the reality. Therefore the
former also, and so the intellect will have all this evidence concerning
the object, the proper disposition of the medium and organ, and the

Page 106
right distance, and still the intellect will not have certitude. Hence I
say that this conclusion is probable: that everything that appears
229 (properly and strictly speaking) is, and what appears to be true is
true." I posit this conclusion as more probable than its opposite, not
as truer.
There are doubts against this conclusion. First, it will seem to
follow that all things are true and that all things are false. I hold that
this undesirable consequence does not follow. To prove this I say by
way of preface that not every act of a knowing faculty is the appear-
ance of an object. Thus, as has been said elsewhere previously,215 the
intellect judges and assents concerning things which are not present
to it as appearances, even if "appearances" be taken in the wide
sense. For example, a man gives judgment and assent to the proposi-
tion that "Rome is a large city" even though he has not seen Rome.
Thus it is true that your conclusion would follow if we were saying
that everything judged to be true is true, or that everything to which
the intellect assents is true. But this is not what we say; our statement
concerns only an act involving an appearance.
And it should be noted that sometimes it happens that the intellect
judges about something which appears to it but does not appear com-
pletely. For example, when someone sees the sun, what appears to him
is smaller than the whole earth, as we shall say below.216 Now, be-
cause he depends totally on what is seen, he judges that there is noth-
ing there except what is seen, and so he declares that the whole of
what is seen moving from east to west is smaller than the whole
earth. In this way the object concerning which the intellect judges
appears to it but perhaps does not appear completely. This will be
investigated more fully elsewhere.217 Thus there is falsehood in the
act of judging, although there is none in the act involving the
The second doubt which comes to mind is considered by adver-
saries to be an Achilles [a conclusive argument]. In sleep it appears
to someone that he is flying through the air or that he is across the
sea fighting the Saracens. I would say by way of preface something
about things which we experience when awake. At the command of
my will there comes now a combination of objects in my mind, for
example, that my father is flying. In a certain way that combination
has the nature of an appearance, and it is true to say that the com-
bination appears to me. Yet the truth of the combination does not
appear to me. It would appear, however, if my father were present
215 Page 228.
216 Page 231.

Page 107
here and really flying, and I fixed my gaze on him with my eyes open.
Hence it follows from this kind of appearance merely that that com-
bination is within my mind in the form of likenesses. But it does not
follow that it is true, that is, that it exists as such in reality. For such
a conformity to external reality does not naturally belong to an ap-
pearance in itself but only when it is considered further in relation to
what is outside;218 that is, in so far as things actually exist in them-
selves and are known by the external senses.
But you will say: "It is not merely that such a combination appears
to me in sleep, but it also appears to me to be true." The answer is
that only the combination appears, and the judgment of its truth219
follows because other concepts which should rectify the power in its
judgment are hidden. Right judgment naturally follows these concepts
if there is an appearance [of them].
It is evident that in sleep the appearance is not clear. For, no
matter how vividly it appears to someone in sleep that he has seen a
camp, the light of heaven, etc., nevertheless everyone experiences
when awake that the appearance he gets through sight is clearer and
is different in kind, and so he is more attracted by this. For, if they
were equally clear, he would have either to say nothing is certain for
him or to admit that in both appearances what appears to be true is
true. Now, in those appearances concerning which I said that things
are as they appear, the appearances are perfectly clear. For example,
when redness appears to someone looking through a red medium, it
appears so clearly that nothing appears clearer to him. Therefore
"clear and evident in the final analysis" was placed in the major
premise of the argument used to arrive at the conclusion stated.
230 Therefore, on the basis of the preceding, the conclusion proposed
seems probable, that, although acts of judging and assenting may be
false, acts of appearing (in the strict sense) are not. [It] also [seems
probable] why, whereas in other matters there is general agreement
(because such an appearance is the fundamental principle of all the
truth we know, so that certainty would be removed if [this appear-
ance] existed without the reality), yet this is not true of the act of
judging; though judgment is sometimes false, it will be able to be set
right somehow by this [further] act.
Other doubts come to mind which are easier to solve. One con-
cerns the man with a fever to whom sweet food seems bitter. I say, as
above,220 that in the sense of taste there are some likenesses [in the
mind] to which there correspond in realityfor example, in the
218 Read exterum for extremum in line 33.
219 In line 37 read veritatis for veritatem.
220 Page 229.

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[sense] organother things of the same kind. There is also another
doubt, touched on above,221 concerning redness being seen where the
object is said to be white. I say that there are atoms there whose like-
nesses naturally come to the soul when the organ and medium are
disposed in a certain way. There is also the problem about the sun.222
I say that what appears is smaller than the whole earth. Thus, if you
imagine a line drawn straight from your eye to the sun, and a small
circular circumference around the point of that line in the sun, that
will indicate what is seen.
It is therefore probable that whatever appears is true; that is,
what is clear and evident in a full light. For otherwise the intellect
would be sure of nothing, since the intellect can claim to be sure only
of what is experienced directly or is reasoned to as a result of exper-
ience (as with those things which follow as a natural result of exper-
ience). This is obvious, for the intellect is sure of nothing insofar as
it is in darkness, but insofar as it is in the light. Therefore what the
intellect is certain of must be either the light itself (as our experiences
are) or what is consequent upon the light (as what we reason to as
a natural result of our experiences or by way of abstraction from our
Considering a man who says he has certainty, I ask him further
whether or not he has some light or some appearance in which light
or appearance he says he has certainty. If not, he is therefore in dark-
ness and speaks like a blind man. If there is some light or appearance,
then either what he says he is certain of is the light itself or the light is
[part] of it. Then it is always experienced in itself or in its light, or
what he says he is certain about is consequent upon, or related to,
[what is so experienced]. For, if the light itself did not have some
relationship to what he says he is sure of, it would be, as it were,
completely in darkness in regard to it; and then, like a blind man, he
would not be sure of it. If it has a relationship, which one ought to
admit, this relationship might be a contingent one, indifferent to
whether [the relationship] exists or not. But then he will not be able
to say that he is certain through that light or appearance, because he
could not say he was surer of its existence than of its nonexistence.
Thus it must have a necessary relationship. And, if this is the case,
[what he says he is sure of] can be reasoned to by means of a con-
clusion, for, if something is present, all things necessarily consequent
upon it seem to be present also. As a consequence it is true that no
one can claim certainty about something unless he has the light
providing either it or what it is necessarily consequent upon. Because
221 Page 228.
222 Page 229.

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of this proposition, I have said elsewhere223 that no one can say that
in a body, besides the three dimensions, there is a reality which is the
subject of them, as those say who posit that quantity is distinct from
material substance. The reason is that that reality does not provide
the intellect with any light in which the existence of that reality is
experienced. For we have not seen it or heard it; nor can the existence
of such a reality be reasoned to from what we see or from what we
sense in any other way whatever, as has been said elswhere.224
231 According to this teaching, then, it can with probability be said
that, if a man can say he is certain of something, what appears
(properly speaking and in the final analysis) is true. Let us express
this rule in other words: every act of affirmation which is formulated
in a full light, in so far as man can have a full light, is true. For every
act measuring up to its true norm is true. And an act of affirmation
formulated in a full light measures up to its true norm, that is, the full
light. For we can state nothing with certainty unless in relation to the
light or the appearance which we have. For these have the nature of
a measure and principle, as has been sufficiently seen above.225 As has
been said above,226 it would not be valid to say that the full light does
not of itself have the nature of a measure, but [only] if three things
concur, that is, the proper disposition of the organ and of the medium,
and the proper distance of the object. For I ask two things of one who
says this. First, how is he sure that they are required? He will not be
able to give a true means [of knowing] other than an appearance or
its light, and thus his denial of the statement will involve its admis-
sion. Secondly, I ask the one who says he has certainty, whether he
knows that those three things do concur, [that is,] that his faculty is
properly disposed, etc. He cannot allege a true means [of knowing]
except that it appears so to him. Therefore he will always have to fall
back on what he has denied, namely, that a full appearance, without
any reservation, is always true, and that an act of affirmation based
on it is always true.
We have used the expression "full light" because a light which is
not full does not have the nature of a measure. Hence they argue
frivolously who say: "In sleep it appears that I am running through
the camp, or that I am in heaven, and yet this is not so." I answer: "It
did not appear to you with a full appearance, for a full appearance of
the truth of this statement is an appearance through the external
senses when you see the movement through sight."
But it should be known, because of certain other matters, that
sometimes a thing is said to be seen in its own light, and sometimes
223 Page 222.
225 Page 230.
226 Pp. 228-229.

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in the light of its image, as when a man is seen in a mirror. Now I say
that every act of affirmation which is based on light and does not
exceed it is true. Therefore, when the sun is seen, some say that sense
is deceived because [the sun] is larger than the whole earth and yet
seems to have a size of two feet [around]. It is amazing that they talk
so. If they were to think over carefully what they are saying they
would see that he [sic] is speaking in darkness, or else they would
agree with us. For they say that the whole sun is larger than the
whole earth, and they say that what they see is in its appearance only
one foot [across]. How will the fact that it appears in its entirety and
the fact that it appears to be only one foot [across] be reconciled? I
say, then, that it is seen by us in the light of its image. Thus we see
the one image which is the image of the sun; when this has been seen,
the sun is said, after a fashion, to be seen. And in that [image] one
part is not represented more than another. Hence the sun's extension
is represented there only by way of resemblance in shape, substance,
and light; it is not represented there by way of a quantity equal [to
the original]. Some want to use this fact as the basis of a specious
argument proving that quantity is really distinct from substance and
shape, but I forego a rebuttal for now. It is sufficient for me at present
that there is a true act of affirmation which refers to an image smaller
than the whole earth.
The same answer would be given concerning a stick appearing
broken in the water. I say that the appearance has to do with an
image, which is of the same nature at is appears [to be]. I would say
the same concerning a river-bank which, to a man in a ship, appears
to move. Concerning the man with a fever to whom sweet things
seem bitter, it can be said, as above,227 that this is due to certain
really bitter things which are present in the organ of taste. So these
objections have little force against my contention. Rather [what I have
said] has much more force because, according to what was said con-
232 cerning the light of an image, it would follow that no one could
speak of the true subjective228 existence of whiteness or anything else.
For he cannot say [anything about it] except according to its appear-
ance, [and] it will now be said that that appearance terminates at the
image of the thing and not at something subjectively existing in a
thing outside. It must be said, of course, that it is certain that when
sight sees whiteness it sees something. Its appearance vouches for
this; and that it is outside the eye and in such and such a place. I
grant that all these things are true.
Now, when vision does not change, no matter where it turns or
what its state, and [whiteness] appears to it, it imposes that name
227 Page 230.
228 See n. 10.

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[whiteness] and says that true whiteness is there, possessing a stable
or subjective existence.229 When this is not the case, it imposes the
name and calls that thing an image, as when a man is seen in a mirror,
or when a man sees the river-bank move but would not see it move if
he were in another spot, provided he saw it most fully. But it is
somehow not sure that there is any difference between the image and
what it calls a fixed thing; indeed, from its appearance, there is simply
a numerical difference. (In the case of touch, indeed, there does not
seem to be any reason for doubting, for it does not seem to be con-
cerned sometimes with an image, but always with a fixed thing.)
But, because of what has been said above, just as because of what
others have said, it would seem to some that certitude is destroyed:
''According to the above, to prove that something exists it would not
suffice to say that it appears to me to be true, and that therefore it is
true. For in sleep something appears which is not true. One must
accept as true what appears in a full light. Now, concerning the minor
premise of this argument, how can you have certainty? If you say
[that it is] because it appears to you without qualification, I shall then
hold that the appearance ought to be taken without qualification as
an argument for drawing the conclusion. If you say [that it is] because
it appears in a full light, the question230 will return as before. For in
sleep it appears most clearly that I see some person, and yet I do not."
One way of answering this would be to say that there would be no
way of proving the conclusion, but that the concept of certitude which
is present comes as a certain natural consequence, and not as a con-
clusion. An example, among others, [is] that white and black are
different. This concept of their difference is not gotten by way of con-
clusion. For, if one said "I prove that white and black are different
because the acts of seeing are different," it would be proving231 [the
more know] by the less known. Also the question would return con-
cerning the acts of seeing, and it would be necessary to grant the
contention at least there.
I will answer similarly in the other case, that is, as regards sleep.
I answer negatively. For it appears to me when I am awake that I can
drink, speak, hear, etc., and that this is something unchanging and
calm; and from many such appearances the concept of certitude
arises. [But it is] not so in the other case. And perhaps, in the final
analysis, it would have to be that we do not have full certitude about
things; indeed that only the First Intellect, which is the measure of all
intellects, has it.
229 See n. 10.
230 Namely, how can you be certain that it is a full light?
231 For esse read esset in line 29.

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We might say one thing about this matter. The disagreement
which seems to happen among men does not have to do with the
appearance itself. Opposites do not appear to men. But it is true that
things not the same appear; indeed, one thing appears to one man,
another thing to another, and sometimes more things appear to one
man, fewer to another. So the disagreement concerns the act of
speaking. For example, if someone says that it is better to live in
bodily delights than to philosophize, the only thing that appears to
such a man is that bodily delights appear to him as superior. But
another person who says the opposite is more concerned with the
work in itself as it prescinds from pleasure, and similarly with the
operation of touch, and the appearance comes that the former is
better than the latter. Thus they contradict each other in what they
say, but not in the appearances they receive. Similarly, if someone
denied the [accepted] number of categories, ordinarily one would
say to him: you are denying first principles. But another person would
answer that he is not. For it seems to the former only that that man
denies what are considered as first principles, and nothing more
appears to him. The latter considers that it is not a proposition self-
evident from its terms that there are ten categories. And what appears
to both of them is true.
233 It is only because of the poor quality of the intellect that the act of
speaking would thus go beyond the limits of an appearance. For a
good intellect is always equal to its measure, and a man has a better
intellect than others if he knows better how to lead back all his acts of
speaking to their first measure, that is, to appearances or the light
within them. When men argue, their consideration will concern knowl-
edge about one of two things, either leading back their acts of speak-
ing to their measure, or multiplying appearances. In the first case a
man wanting to lead another back [to the measure] must show him
the reasons for what he says. In the second case he must show the
appearances he has and assume the stance of his opponent completely.
What happens when assent is given when the act of speaking
exceeds the bounds of its measure and we give greater credence for a
more perfect reason, as when someone proposes that bodily delights
are preferable? The delight itself is in the appearance and, as it pre-
scinds from the action, it is good, as we have said elsewhere.232 There-
fore, although he says this about the action, his assent nevertheless is
in accord with the appearance which concerns the pleasure. Similarly,
true things appear to people who are awake, except madmen or a man
resembling a sleeper, and they assent to truths, but they do not always
232 Page 234.

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express truths, because sometimes the act of speaking goes beyond its
A consideration of what was said above seems to lead to a contra-
diction. For, when reference is made to the same thing, it is true that
to that man the delights of touch appear greater than intellectual
delights, and to another the contrary appears [true]. The explanation
for this will be to say that there appear to these men things which are
diverse in some way but not contradictory nor impossible. In the case
of the one saying that the delights of touch are greater than intel-
lectual delights, we shall say that what he says is true if it is referred
to what appears to him. But to complete the statement it must be
added that intellectual delights do not occur in him with their full
being. He has only a diminished experience of them, while they
appear to the other absolutely, with no such diminution. Recall what
Aristotle says in agreement with this matter in Book 2 of the
Politics.233 Speaking of those who want to experience pleasure com-
pletely and continuously, he says that they will seek relief only in
turning to philosophy if they are able to find joy in it.
A third way of accounting for divergencies occurring among men
is a difference in assent. For, when two men have equal appearances,
assent follows in one (for example, that Rome is a large city) and not
in the other, or not so firm an assent. Suppose that one believes firmly
and the other does not. Still, the same thing appears to both (that is,
that this is common knowledge and that there is no contradiction in
it).234 Or perhaps this should be corrected to say that the same
appearance is followed by the same assent, but not the same belief
about this, even though it appears to be common knowledge. What
actually appears to [one of them] is that there is no necessary con-
nection, and therefore he does not believe firmly.
Indeed it happens sometimes that, although appearances exist and
somehow or other contribute to opposite conclusions, yet attention
dwells on one appearance and not on the other. For example, when it
is asked whether two similar whitenesses have some real unity, it
appears that, considered simply in themselves, they come as com-
pletely one to the sense, so that, if the intellect took no account of
their [different] locations, it would not tell them apart. Looking at
what appears, some declare that there is a real unity there. Others
consider that one thing cannot be in different places, and that one of
those things [can] cease to be while the other remains. Considering
this, they declare that there is no real unity there. Certain others,
indeed, declare that there is a real unity there. And certain others,
233 II, 7; 1267a10.
234 Omit non aliquo in line 34.

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considering all such appearances, say that this conclusion should be
accepted by men as neutral, that is, as surpassing man's ability to
decide, and that the appearance cannot be fully explained here.
234 What is the answer to this? I hold, as above,235 that whatever
appears in a full light is true, and that contrary things cannot appear
to men in a full light. For otherwise the disputant would have to use
as his argument "whatever appears to me is true," and not "whatever
appears in a full light is true."236 For, if he used the former, and said
that contrary things can appear, it could be deduced that contraries
would be true at the same time; which is impossible.
And here we must make an observation. For perhaps it would
seem to some that it is not much good to have knowledge of things
because it has been said that we cannot have full certainty about
them. The answer to this would be that, granted that such is the case,
there is no great obstacle. For it is certain that every object provides
some appearances and some light. It doesn't matter much, except that
our desire to know things would then remain unsatisfied.
Concerning this, also, consider that the superiority of one man's
intellect over another's occurs in one of the two ways mentioned
above, either because the appearances of things come to him in
greater number and more quickly, or because he reflects more upon
his appearances and is less hasty in pronouncing upon them.
Just as we have said that whatever appears is true, so we must say
of the will, according to a certain similarity, that whatever the appe-
tite desires is a good simply speaking, not merely an apparent good.
For, as the means of proving that something is true is the appearance
itself, so, in its own way, the means of proving that something is good
on the part of the appetite is the very act of desiring. In order not to
leave room for doubt should there occur the objection that some want
to steal, others want to kill themselves, and others want bodily delights,
we shall answer those persons that the appetite is not directed to those
things in themselves, but only because of what is annexed to them, at
least in the first two cases. For, if killing or stealing were considered
apart from what precedes, accompanies, or follows them, the appetite
would never desire them. But the possession of money accompanies
theft, and certainly it is good to have money in order to stay alive.
Likewise those suffering many sorrows kill themselves through the
desire to escape the sorrows, which desire is good. And so on. Con-
cerning bodily delights, for example tactile ones, we shall say that the
delight is a good if considered apart from everything other than the
delight. But the latter is not good because, if it is considered apart
235 Page 230.
236 Add in pleno lumine after apparet in line 5.

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from the delight, no one would desire it except for the sake of genera-
tion or some attendant benefit. And thus it appears that what is desired
is good, just as what appears is true, as has been shown above.
Indeed, it must be considered that sometimes men accept as
evident many things which are not evident to them, as when they
mistake one thing for another. For example, someone may accept as
evident that there is no whiteness when blackness comes on the
scene; yet this is not evident to him, but the whiteness merely does
not appear to sight and it appeared previously. Others accept some
things as evident because they are much talked of. Sometimes, too,
people say that something is totally evident to them which is evident
only in part. For instance, someone states a universal proposition
which he has accepted only by induction from some individual cases.
Sometimes he proposes it by saying "this is evident to me;" and yet
nothing is evident to him except those singular propositions on which
he based the induction; nor is it even evident to him that those singu-
lars are of the same nature as far as the predicate is concerned.
In another way someone says that something is evident to him
because of an inadequate indication. For example, people claim to
know that a certain person is acting out of vainglory; and yet nothing
is evident to them except one indication, which is related very inci-
dentally to the conclusion. But, because their mind is given to detrac-
tion, they accept the contingent argument as if it were evident to
235 them, and were a necessary one. (All that one needs to do in order to
have evidence in an argument is to arrange it in a syllogistic form,
since that form is evident. Then, if the premises are evident to him,
the conclusion will be evident to him too, as depending on the
There is something, also, which is not evident directly, but is
accepted because its opposite, of its very nature, cannot appear. For
example, if the world has not existed eternally, why did it begin at
one time rather than another?
The following are evident, properly speaking: sensible objects, and
the acts which we experience in ourselves. These refer to what is in-
complex. As regards what is complex, there are the principles which
are known from their terms, and conclusions depending on them.
Therefore from the above we can easily see what certitude means.
For, as concerns certain knowledge in regard to some propositionfor
this is its literal meaningmen use this word thus: when someone has
clear and evident knowledge of the truth of a proposition and also
perceives that he has such clear and evident knowledge, he then says
that he is certain. Therefore certitude implies such clear knowledge of

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some proposition. Aristotle used such a method of investigating the
meaning of the word in Book 1 of the Posterior Analytics,237 when he
says, "We think we know something etc." But you will ask: "What do
you mean by clear and evident knowledge?" I reply that you should
see what kind of explanation can be given here. If you ask "What do
you mean by color?", perhaps the answer will be "what is seen." And,
if you ask ''What do you mean by seeing?", the meaning of this word
could be shown to someone not knowing it by calling attention to his
eyes, or telling him to fix his gaze on something or to watch me fix
my gaze. "Look," I would say to him, "this is what I call 'seeing'."
There is no better way in which it could be shown to him.
"But how about the acts of the soul, which are harder to point out?
What do you mean by 'clear knowledge' as it is used in the proposi-
tion?" I say that I use some concepts side by side, and that finally
the acceptance of what is meant by clear and evident knowledge will
come to the intellect disposed in this way. For example, I use this
term238 in this way, for I say that I have clear and evident knowledge
of first principles, of the conclusions derived from them, of our acts
also (as that I am now speaking), and so on.
In general, when the intellect is drawn to assent entirely because
of knowledge, it is then said to have clear knowledge. I say "when it
is drawn to assent because of knowledge" because it assents to many
propositions which are not known to it or evident to it, as that Rome
is a large city, etc., as was said above.239 When, therefore, some
proposition comes to someone's intellect clearly and evidently, then he
is said to have certitude, so that, when he perceives the clarity of his
knowledge, he then says with certainty: "This is how it is."
Accordingly, I shall lay down as a first conclusion that, if the
intellect can say of something "this is true," there cannot coexist the
opposite of what is known clearly and evidently. Hence what is clear
and evident to the intellect is truea statement universally valid, and
convertible. This conclusion is proven for, when something is known
with clear and evident knowledge, if it were possible for its opposite
to be true, it would follow that the intellect could be sure of nothing.
[But] the opposite of this was maintained in our hypothesis. The
reasoning is proven because we have no certitude concerning first
principles or anything else knowlable except because we know them
clearly and evidently. Accordingly we experience that we have only
one kind of act concerning principles: clear knowledge. But if you
say "We have some clarity in knowledge," we shall say that, if the
237 I, 2; 71b9.
238 Namely, clear and evident knowledge.
239 Page 228.

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degree is questioned, since it is uncertain and indeterminate, our
236 possession of truth would be an uncertain and indeterminate thing
for us.
But you will say, as was touched on above somewhat,240 that,
according to the aforesaid, contradictories will be true at the same
time, for some persons posit contradictory conclusions. Here we shall
say that our argument would be better if we added these words:
"Which would be clear to each person, clear and evident that things
are as he asserts." But you will say: "This is not a valid answer, for
each of them judges that it is completely clear and evident to him
that things are so, and he is thereby drawn to assent." Hence, if the
opposite could exist along with such [knowledge] you will then argue,
as we argued before, that we will be sure of nothing. For we say we
have certitude even of first principles only because we judge that it is
completely clear and evident that things are so.
Here it must be said that, where men hold opposite conclusions,
something is clear to both, but they do not contradict on this point or
those points. But sometimes they mistake one thing for another, as was
said above.241 There was an example of this which I have often seen
actually happen. Someone says something. Some hear him. Sometimes
one says "He said this" (whereas in reality he did not). Another says
"No; this is what he said." When this happens, they are then said to
contradict one another. But in reality opposite [pieces of evidence]
do not enter their intellects. For it is not evident to the first man, who
says that I said something which I did not say, that I said it. What is
evident to him is that, while I was speaking, the concept of that thing
entered his mind, perhaps because of my manner of speaking or
because what I said was close to the thought he got. It is also evident
to him that I said something and that I moved my lips, but it is not
evident to him that I said [what he thought I said]. Thus he mistakes
one thing for another.
You will still say: "According to this way of answering it would
follow that the intellect could say it was certain of nothing specifically
although it could [say it was certain] of something in general. For,
according to you, the intellect can mistake one thing for another and
thus it will judge something to be perfectly clear when it is not that
which will be clear to it but something else on which it will not pass
judgment. And, if you say that someone will have certitude but will
lack every means of proving to himself or another that he is certain, it
follows that 'this is, and it is not,' since the degree of knowledge
necessary to rule out its opposite being true is not sufficiently deter-
240 Page 229.
241 Page 234.

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minate to be known." And, in line with this, an answer could be given
to the argument I adduced above242 to prove that everything clear
and evident to the intellect is true, by applying to that argument the
present objection. It thus becomes clear that that conclusion has not
yet been sufficiently proven. Therefore, according to this position,
someone will be sure, but no one would say for certain that he is sure.
But I argue against this, because not only does it seem that I am
certain, when I say that every whole is greater than its part, but it
also seems that I am certain of [my certainty]. I therefore respond
differently to the above reasoning which holds that no one will be
sure of something specific in a determinate manner because he will
not be sure whether he mistakes one thing for another. I say that a
person will be sure when, after the meaning of the terms is grasped,
something is so clear and evident to him that he is drawn [to assent]
entirely and cannot backtrack, and especially that that is precisely
what has come to his knowledge. For, if one person heard another,
and it was not perfectly clear that he said such and such, and some-
one asked "Can it not be that he said one thing and you understood
another?", the answer would be yes. And thus it becomes clear that
the conclusion laid down above can be held, namely, that that is true
which, by the very nature of vision, is so clear and evident to the
intellect that the intellect cannot backtrack. The reason for this con-
clusion is apparent: as taste does not naturally enjoy most what is
bitter, so the intellect does not naturally enjoy most what is false,
especially because falsity is the evil of the intellect.
237 From what has been said a second conclusion is inferred: namely,
that that conclusion, which was proved hypothetically (on the suppo-
sition that something is true), ought to be accepted as a principle.
For, if it were proven to be true, the premises would be assumed as
either evident or true. If as evident only, then, though they would
make the conclusion evident, they would not prove it to be true. If as
true, I have a question: [it would be] either in virtue of themselves
as being evident (and this would be begging the question) or because
they are true (and then it would be necessary that their truth be
shown from other premises, and so on into infinity).
The third conclusion is that there is no principle serving as founda-
tion for another principle in such a way as to prove its truth. This can
be proven in the same way as the preceding conclusion.
The fourth conclusion is that we do not seem to have full certainty
concerning things because we must assume as an argument that what
is evident is true. This is not evident;243 nevertheless the intellect finds
rest in that reasoning.
242 Page 228.
243 Add non after licet in line 11.

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The fifth conclusion is that, as concerns the nature of evidence,
there is no first principle. Or, rather, this conclusion244 can be made
evident in a way, because evil does not seem to set the intellect at rest,
etc., as above.
The sixth conclusion is that no conclusion can be proven true
unless by means of evidence, that is, unless it be proven evident by
evident propositions.
The seventh conclusion is that something cannot be proven true
unless something is more evident than it.
The eighth conclusion is that not all propositions can be shown to
be evident through the first principle.245 For, along with the first prin-
ciple, it is necessary to assume something which contains the con-
clusion actually. The minor premise does not [contain the conclusion]
as do the major premise and the first principle, that is, potentially.
The ninth conclusion is that someone could, because of custom or
some other reason, refuse to assent unhesitatingly to the point that the
first principle is true. An example of this would be a person so brought
up as to be taught that there is an omnipotent agent who can bring
about the contrary, and that evidence should not move him [to assent]
since the opposite can coexist with it, as might be shown in many
The tenth conclusion is that he could not withhold assent that it
[the first principle] was clear and evident to him.
The eleventh conclusion is that, as we agree that what is perfectly
evident is true, so, appropriately, we agree that what cannot be pre-
sented by evidence cannot be true. Thus we distinguish the possible
from the impossible.
The twelfth conclusion is that one would have full certitude if, in
addition to something being evident to him, the reasoning "this is
evident to me and therefore is true" was also evident to him.
The thirteenth conclusion is that only opinion, not certainty, is had
concerning things known by experience, in the way in which it is said
to be known that rhubarb cures cholera, or that a magnet attracts iron.
When it is proven that certitude [comes] from the proposition existing
in the mind which states that what is usually produced by a non-free
cause is its natural effect, I ask what you call a natural cause. A cause
which has produced what has happened usually, and which will still
produce in the future if [the cause] lasts and is applied? Then the
minor premise is not known. Even if something has been produced
usually, it is still not certain whether it must be produced in the
244 Namely, that something is true because it is evident.
245 That is, the principle of non-contradiction.

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The fourteenth conclusion is that everything evident to the external
senses is true, provided some certitude is had of such objects.
The fifteenth conclusion is that what appears in sleep is true as it
238 appears internally, that is, in forms which are likenesses. (When
awake, indeed, he experiences other evidence, and among other
The sixteenth conclusion is that, just as not every proposition can
be proven evident by what is called the first principle, as has been
said, and we call a proposition impossible only if it cannot become
evident to us, so there are some impossible things which cannot be
resolved into the first principle in such a way that it shows evidence
of their impossibility. At least the matter is not certain.
The seventeenth conclusion is that, in order to know that we are
awake, or are speaking, etc., it is not necessary to know that the power is
properly disposed, since this is more hidden than the former, and it is
not clear how this could be known except by an act of sense. Also,
even if this were known, I should still possess only evidence. If, there-
fore, I have evidence as clear under the one set of circumstances as
under the other, either no one is certain or he [who does not know
that the power is properly disposed] will be.
The eighteenth conclusion is that not everything lacking the
highest degree of evidence is provable. This is clear from a statement
made above,246 that not everything which follows the first principle
is provable by it.
Whether Exactly The Same Thing Can Be Seen Clearly and Obscurely
In order for us to see something more concerning objects which
appear, I propose the problem whether exactly the same thing can be
seen clearly and obscurely. It seems that it can. For, when two things
deal with the same object or thing acted upon, the more perfect will
always have the more perfect act with regard to that thing acted
upon. With this as preface the suggested conclusion seems to follow,
and this is accepted as certain by all, and a contradictor of this has
not been found. But the contrary seems to me to be true, as far as the
natural reason we partake of in this life is concerned. This is what I
shall discuss here and in what follows.
The first conclusion, therefore, is that there can never be clear and
obscure knowledge in regard to the same thing. To show this, take two
whiteness, one of which is clear, and the other dim. Let the first be
called a, the second b. Now take c, the act of seeing a, and d, the act
246 Conclusion eight.

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of seeing b. It is certain that c will be a clearer act than d, just as a is
a clearer whiteness than b, since an act is a sort of copy of the object
in the intellect. Therefore, when whiteness a is seen from afar, or is
seen as if in the darkness of fading light like that at nightfall, it is
certain that it has the dim act of seeing, d. It is then argued that, for
every instant that there is in vision an act of seeing some object, that
object is seen; and for every instant that there is in the power no act
of seeing some object, that object is not seen. But, as we have posited,
at this instant vision has the act, d, of seeing b, and not the act of
seeing a. Therefore whiteness b is seen, and not whiteness a. Or, if a
is seen, it is only because whiteness b is seen, which is somehow the
same as it, and is, as it were, evidently contained in it.
A further explanation proceeds from the same root. Suppose that
someone else sees a dim whiteness. He will have the act of seeing, d,
and the first person has the act of seeing, d. Thus, [arguing] similarly,
a power having an act equal to another power sees whatever the other
power sees, and only that, since it has only an equal act. But one sees
a dim, and not a clear, whiteness. Therefore the other will be similarly
Also, no intellect using reason, and existing under one extreme of a
contradiction, should change to the other extreme without there exist-
ing some reason for the change. At one time, when the intellect is as
though in darkness, blackness appears to it, as it judges. At another
time, in the light, whiteness appears to it. Now, it is not entitled from
239 this to say that it did not see blackness previously; it can say only
that it does not see blackness now, unless perhaps as it is evidently
contained in whiteness. And, just as it has been said concerning sight
that clear and dim vision cannot exist in regard to the same thing, so
it may be said, mutatis mutandis, of other cognitive powers, and for
the same reasons.
From what has been said a second conclusion follows. Speaking of
the First Conceivable Being, whatever is conceived by us, the same
thing is conceived by God just as clearly as it is conceived by us. For,
if the knowledge were clearer, it would indeed be knowledge of
another thing.
And a third conclusion follows. All things are conceived equally
clearly, each according to its dimness, because, according to what has
been said,247 each thing is conceived as much as it can be conceived,
and as clearly as it can be conceived.
And from this follows a fourth conclusion. God is not different
from man in that He knows things more clearly, but in that He has
more concepts of things.
247 Conclusion one.

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A fifth conclusion follows. The intellect and sight (or any other
sensitive power whatever), or any two powers whatever, never have
the same object, because the act of one of the powers is always
different, or is clearer, in regard to the same object. Either way there
follows a distinction on the part of the thing [known].
And a sixth conclusion is contained in this. Nothing that can be
apprehended by sight can be apprehended by the intellect or by
another power. This is true universally of one power compared to
Then a seventh conclusion can be inferred. When sight sees white-
ness, the intellect understands whiteness when the whiteness is
absent, that is, something like whiteness in some way. And it can be
said that that exists in reality before any act of the intellect, as does
the whiteness seen. But it is never visible.
Here is the eighth conclusion. Of these two whitenesses the white-
ness seen is more perfect than the whiteness understood, because it
has more brightness. Because of this some might think that sight
knows bright whiteness because in comparing two extremes it must
know both of the extremes. Say that sight somehow knows insofar as
it has knowledge of a whiteness which is in some way like that object;
and this suffices. Here give some thought.
The ninth conclusion is that every lower degree of whiteness is
present where the brightest whiteness exists. For, when that spot is
looked at, every whiteness below that whiteness can be seen in turn as
the light gradually leaves. Indeed, where there is the greatest white-
ness even blackness will be more capable of being seen as the light
leaves; and so contraries co-exist.
The tenth conclusion is that one who actually sees whiteness
actually sees absolutely every whiteness at the same time. Therefore
that whiteness will be seen, no matter where it might be. One seeing
a whiteness which is in Paris sees the one exactly like it which is in
England. I do not say that he sees it by looking at a place in England,
but at a place in Paris. Now, the place in England and the place here
are specifically different; therefore they have acts of seeing which
differ on account of the distance to this place and the distance as far
as England.
There is an eleventh conclusion which follows from the second.
Whatever the human intellect conceives it conceives it as much as it is
conceivable. Therefore, concerning what it knows, it has as great a
certitude as God. For it is equal to God radically, that is, in simple248
248 Read incomplexis for in complexis in line 47.

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acts of seeing. And the combination of these produces a principle and
a conclusion.
The twelfth conclusion is that as many formalities or realities exist
in [a thing] as there are concepts [of it]. For a number of concepts
are related to one another as a clear concept and a dim concept, and
240 then they show that there are different realities or formalities. Or else
they are related to one another as two disparate concepts, like the
concepts of goodness and of eternity, and then they must show much
more that there are different things or formalities.
The thirteenth conclusion, which has been touched on in a way, is
this: such formalities as eternity or goodness, if considered apart from
everything else existing in [a thing], are conceivable by only one
concept, and, stopping at that point, the intellect would not affirm
anything or deny anything.
The fourteenth conclusion follows from the foregoing. Under genus
and difference different things or formalities are considered, because
there are different concepts there.
The fifteenth conclusion is that there are ten categories really or
formally distinct because there are that many concepts and therefore
that many things or formalities.
The sixteenth conclusion is that, if there are two persons of whom
one has a better intellect than the other, he will be able to say to the
other: "You have known nothing which I have known." This appears
plainly when the first conclusion is considered.
The seventeenth conclusion is that, if someone looks at close range at
something visible, and another person from a greater distance, he will
be able to say to the second: "You do not see what I see." This will be
true even though, because their acts of sight are similar, they can
think they see the same thing. The same must be said of hearing, etc.
Let us here go back over the proof of this conclusion (that is, that
one who is near sees something different from what the one at a
distance sees). Indeed, when the argument for some conclusion re-
mains, and nothing else is present which removes the nature of the
argument, the conclusion, too, will always and everywhere be posited.
But this is the case for, if a bright and a dim whiteness were seen in
different subjects and judged to be different, the means of judging
would be the very appearances, not, however, the consideration of the
difference in location, for even if this is not considered, they will still
be judged to be different. Now, this basis [of judging], that is, the
change of form in appearances, concerns what is called one whiteness,
for from a distance it seems to be dimmer, from nearby brighter. And

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so, if there is also identity of location, only identity in location can be
concluded from this, not, however, identity in nature.
From the preceding this corollary would seem to be true: nothing
which is seen is understood or imagined. Similarly this: nothing which
is heard is understood. And so on. And this is convertible: nothing
which is understood is seen or heard.
This would also seem to be true: God understands nothing which
I understand. For, since he is the most perfect intellect, he under-
stands according to the condition of his nature. Now, it has been said
in the first conclusion, [though] in different words, that what the most
perfect intellect understands is different from what the less perfect
understands. What the Commentator Averroes says in Book 12 of the
Metaphysics249 agrees with this opinion: that is, that what the Prime
Mover understands about God is different from what the second
mover understands. And this conclusion will be similarly convertible.
That is, I can understand none of the things which God understands.
Likewise, if a person's intellect is better than another's, the other of
the two can say: "You can understand none of the things I under-
stand." Thus God comprehends all things only in their highest degrees.
That is, he comprehends whiteness at its brightest, and comprehends
man similarly, and so on. Accordingly Aristotle250 seems to have reas-
oned well when he said that God understands nothing of the lower
beings which we understand, since his intellect would be demeaned
if he did. And it is certainly true because it would then follow that
241 his intellect would be equal to ours in perfection. For, if it is more
perfect, then he will understand an object differently, as was proved
in the first conclusion.
Imaginable Beings
We must also take notice here of imaginable beings, of which it
can be said that they have a true existence which is prior to the act
of the imagination and persists after the act of the imagination has
passed away, just as in the case of visible and audible beings. Thus
a chimera exists. And, if anyone dreams that he is a cardinal, so will
he be. This is denied only because he is not so in visible form. But
this does not destroy the fact, for there are differences between beings
of the external sense, beings of the imagination, and beings of the
intellect. Hence, if he existed in visible form, he would no longer be
imaginable, as has been said. Therefore [imaginary beings] truly
exist, although their existence is not like that of things subject to the
external senses.
249 Comm. 44.
250Metaphysics, XII, 9; 1074b25.

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Something similar must be said about intelligible beings. For, as
was said above, nothing intelligible is sensed, just as no sense object
is understood. But intelligible objects have their own proper and
distinct being just as do sense objects. And so it will be true that each
faculty will presuppose the existence of its own object; no faculty will
produce it. Hence, just as sense objects (for example, visible objects)
precede, and must needs precede, vision, so imaginable objects pre-
cede imagination.
What comes to mind about the nature of such imaginable and
intelligible objects seems to be true, namely, that one does not have
to say they can be generated and destroyed; likewise, that there are
many of them in the same species, and that they have no particular
determination of local existence.
It follows also from what has been said that it is false to say that
every being is intelligible. For what is perceived by the senses is not
perceived by the intellect, as was seen above, although the intellect
does perceive something which is very much like it in appearance
and similarity.
Furthermore, one must consider that, when we say "A whiteness
exists, which did not exist before," the whiteness, considering the
subject [of the statement], is grasped according to the being it has
when it is the object of the intellect or imagination; and the predicate
joins to it every existence which is simply the being the whiteness has
when it is an object of the senses; and these two [beings] are really
distinct. And, indeed, according to this, the being of essence251 and
the being of existence are really distinct. And, if the things are cor-
poreal, the proposition so formed is a contingent one.
If the question is raised whether the being of existence attributed
to an object of the imagination or intellect is distinct [from the being
of its essence], the answer would be that it is, formally, for the reason
given above, but that it is not, really and simply, because no separa-
tion is possible there, as I indicated to some extent above.252
If the question is raised why a thing is said to exist in an absolute
sense when it exists according to the being which is grasped by the
senses, the answer to this will be that that being presupposes the
being of imagination and the being of intellect, and so it is then true
to say that the thing exists according to all its being, and thus exists
absolutely and wholly.
That the object of imagination or intellect does not pass away
when their act ceases, seems probable for the following reason. If an
251 After hoc esse in line 31, replace existentiae by essentiae.
252 This page.

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object which is more closely related to an act, or at least not less
closely related, does not pass away when the act ceases, neither will
an object which is less closely related to the act. But the fact is that
an object of the external senses is more closely related to the act of
an external sense since it is grasped more, or not less, fully than is the
object of imagination in the act of imagining. But it is considered
certain that [the sense object] does not pass away when the act
ceases. Therefore neither does the other.
242 From what has been said it would seem that a thing, even as
concerns the being it has as an object of an external sense, does not
cease to be. For, if a thing is indestructible with respect to its less
perfect being and with respect to what is less its natural purpose,
much more with respect to its perfect being. But, as has been said
above,253 a thing in relation to the being it has as an object of imagi-
nation is of this kind.
Further, one should know that, as has been said in earlier pas-
sages,254 each power in its act presupposes the existence of its object.
And, to the extent that the act of the power is clearer, to that extent
the object is presupposed to exist more clearly, that is, in a clearer
being. For example, vision presupposes the existence of its object in a
clearer being than does imagination. Consequently, if it is at its
clearest, its object will be presupposed to exist in its clearest being;
and that will be said to be the highest being in which the object exists.
and that will be said to be the highest being in which the object exists.
Therefore, if there is some faculty which knows things constantly and
most clearly, as is believed about God, then it will have to be said that
things always exist; and one will be able to say this absolutely.
Let us draw a comparison on this point. The visual power grasps
its object more clearly than does the imagination. Suppose, per im-
possibile, that the being which is considered whiteness ceased to be
insofar as it is an object of imagination, while it still remained with
respect to the being it has as an object of vision. The whiteness would
still be said to be, simply speaking. Now, if there is a faculty which
grasps whiteness more clearly than does vision, suppose that the object
passed away in regard to the being which is apprehended by vision,
so that the being which vision knows were destroyed. Nevertheless, if
the object remains as regards what pertains to the clearer faculty, it
could still be said to be, simply speaking, though it should not be said
that it had being in every sense.
From what has gone before it is evident that that proposition255 is
not altogether true which says that intuitive knowledge is of an exist-
ing thing as existing, and abstractive knowledge is not, and hence [the
253 Page 241.
255 William of Ockham, Sentences, lib. 1, Prologue, I, AA.

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latter] is indifferent to existence and nonexistence. As I said above,256
each knowledge is of an existing thing. The difference lies in this, that
intuitive knowledge grasps the existent in a clearer being. If God knows
all things most clearly, as is believed, our intuitive knowledge could
even be called abstractive in comparison with God's knowledge, which
would be called intuitive absolutely.
And, since one object is more perfect and clearer than another,
though they be of the same thing, it does not seem, if the thing is
finite, that there would be a progression to infinity in such objects
concerning the same finite thing. For every objective being257 seems
to fall short of the perfection which the thing has in itself according
to the subjective being it has. Accordingly there must be some finite
objective being beyond which, if progress were made in knowing the
thing more clearly, the thing would be known according to its sub-
jective being. And, since all this can be done by a finite power, just as
the thing in itself has finite being, either God is not infinite or He will
not know such a thing according to its own nature, unless one wished
to say that the clearest being of each thing would be the one infinite
being that is God. And it seems more acceptable to the mind to say
that God knows none of the things outside Himself except insofar as
they are reflected in His essence. For example, when one sees the
brightest whiteness, he is said not to see the dim in itself, but only as
its perfection seems to be contained in the whiteness in a preeminent
Furthermore, one must consider that sometimes the thought arises
that that objective being of a thing was simply the act of understand-
ing. But this does not seem true. Let us take the example of seeing
whiteness. There is something outside to which we give this name
''whiteness", and something inside. Otherwise it should not be said
that we258 see the whiteness which [we allege to be that] of a stone.
We experience the external whiteness by way of object, but the white-
243 ness inside by way of act. And if it be asked what that act is, there
is no better explanation than [this]: If he asked "What is whiteness?",
it would be shown by pointing259 out "What you see here;" and
similarly vision is what you have when you say you see whiteness.
We do not know experientially that such a thing as we call knowl-
edge [i.e., the act of knowing] is a likeness of an object. For when we
contemplate the act of seeing whiteness, it is not evident to us that
it is whiteness or something like whiteness. Moreover, each likeness
seems to fall short of the perfection of the thing of which it is a like-
256 Page 229.
257 See n. 10.
258 Read nos for vas in line 47.
259 For ad digitum read addigitatum in line 2.

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ness, but the act of knowing at times seems more perfect than its
object. For it seems that knowing blackness pleases someone with
more natural pleasure accompanying a higher good than does actually
possessing it.
But, concerning what has been said about objective being,260 it
should be noted that by objective being I understand that being of an
object which has such a conjunction with and inseparability from an
act that, wherever the act is posited, that objective being will be
posited also. For example, when someone is in a boat on a river and it
seems to him that the bank is moving, in whomever such an act of
seeing was posited, the object would come with that kind of being.
Likewise, the objective being is multiplied, while the subjective being
remains one, because if there are two persons, one of whom under-
stands an object more clearly than the other, what each understands is
not the same thing, as was proven above,261 even when it seems more
probable that the thing is one in its subjective being. For when a
bright and a dull intellect looked at anything, regardless of its unity,
what the bright intellect conceived would be different from what the
dull one conceived, as has been shown sufficiently above.262
Hence, to assert that a diversity of conceptsfor example, calling
a thing true, of such a size, good, etc.does not prove a subjective
diversity in the thing, be it a real or a formal diversity, but only in the
objective being. For in these concepts the same thing is grasped,
though according to a different objective being. For the one who says
that a thing is good, true, and eternal is looking at the same thing.
This is not so in other concepts that are altogether disparate, as in the
concepts of a man, an ass, and the like. Accordingly one can get a
means of knowing what kind of diversity of concepts is sufficient to
prove a subjective diversity in the thing.
If you ask of a thing, taken subjectively in itself, whether it is
eternal, true, and good, one must say that subjectively in itself it is not
formally eternal, that is, so as to establish eternity as a reality or
formality existing subjectively in itself; and likewise with the rest. But
it is quite true that the thing, of itself, can be understood263 by a
certain kind of intellect according to such objective beings. For if
someone understood a thing with respect to the subjective being that
it has in itself, he would not affirm several predicates of it. And
though we do not know that subjective being as it is in itself, but only
according to particular objective beings, nevertheless we make affirma-
tions about these objective beings according as they represent or are
taken for that subjective being which is one in itself; and similarly
260 Page 242.
261 Page 240.
263 Add intelligi after possit in line 35.

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with other things. Since a clearer intellect understands a thing in an
objective being that is more intimate to the thing, it follows that the
brightest intellect will understand the thing most intimately, and then
it would seem true that it would understand the thing as it is in itself.
As for what we said about the man in the boat,264 it must be
known that sometimes movement has a quasi-subjective being, as
when a thing is of such a nature that it would be seen by sight or by
an intellect considering it, so that such subjective being is, in a way,
joined to things. This is when a thing is ordinarily said to be moving;
and this is true. But sometimes [the movement] is joined rather to the
act of seeing than to the nature of the thing, as when to the man in
244 the boat it appears that the bank is moving; and then it is said to have
objective being rather than subjective.
In connexion with the material concerning acts of understanding,265
I cite one argument to prove the eternity of things. Suppose that there
is a whiteness in Paris and one in England. I prove that, when black-
ness takes over in the subject in which was the whiteness which was
in England, the whiteness is not destroyed. First I bring in a proof of
the conclusion that through numerically the same act are seen the
whiteness in Paris and the totally similar whiteness in England. I
accept the following propositions. When the whiteness in Paris is seen,
it is true to say that this whiteness is seen not only by this act, because
then this whiteness could not be seen perpetually, once this act of
seeing ceased; which you deny. The second proposition is that this
whiteness is seen through all acts like the first one. For, as this white-
ness can be seen through an act other than this but exactly like it, for
the same reason it can be seen through any act exactly like it.
Now, since the whiteness in Paris is exactly like the whiteness in
England, it is true to say that the acts of seeing them are exactly alike.
If this is granted, then let us call the whiteness in Paris whiteness a;
that in England whiteness b; the act of seeing a, c; the act of seeing
b, d. Then a can be seen not only through c, but through any act like
c, as the second proposition says. But d is altogether like c, as was
posited above. Therefore a can be seen through d. Thus also I shall
say that it will be possible for b to be seen through act c for the same
reason. Therefore, since a is seen through act c, and similarly b
through act c, this is numerically the same act. Then it follows that the
whiteness in Paris and the whiteness in England can be seen through
numerically one act. From this follows another conclusion, that, as
often as the whiteness in Paris is seen, the whiteness in England is
seen also.266 It is proved as follows: "At whatever instant there exists
264 Page 231.
265 Page 205.
266 Add Parisius et videtur albedo after albedo in line 25.

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in someones' sight the act of seeing some object, that object is seen.
But, at the instant at which there exists in one's sight the act of seeing
the whiteness in Paris, there exists in his sight the act of seeing the
whiteness in England, because there is numerically one and the same
act of seeing, as was proven above.267 Therefore the whiteness in Eng-
land is seen when the whiteness in Paris is seen."
From this it can be argued to the conclusion principally aimed at,
namely, that when blackness takes over in the subject of the whiteness
in England, the whiteness in England is not destroyed. It is certain
that, when the blackness takes over, I do not thereby268 cease to see
the whiteness in Paris. Now, then, this act of seeing is as much the act
of seeing the whiteness in England as the whiteness in Paris. But the
act is not removed with the removing of the whiteness which is in
England. Therefore it is not removed with the removing of the white-
ness in Paris. Thus, if the whiteness in Paris passed away, [the act]
would still remain.
But then it would follow that sight would be deceived about its
object, even when there concur the proper disposition of the organ
and of the medium, and the proper distance of the object. And every-
one denies this. Indeed, to say this is to destroy every principle which
gives us certainty about how things are. For we gain no certainty
about things except through the appearances we get; and these ap-
pearances would be related contingently to their objects, as has been
The true meaning of the statement is in accord with our aim. For
the whiteness is the same in Paris and in England, so that there is no
difference in the nature of the whiteness. And so, when blackness
takes over from the whiteness in England, although the whiteness
ceases to be there, yet it is not destroyed, but remains entirely in its
full being in Paris. And, as it can be said that this thing is eternal, so
it can be said of every other thing.
If you ask why it ceases to be in England, I shall say that this is
because of the local withdrawal (or quasi-local withdrawal) of a
certain principle, commonly called the individuating principle of a
245 thing, that determines a thing's being in a particular spot, and
[because] a composite of such a principle and the nature it thus
determines cannot be in several places.
If anyone holds that the whiteness in Paris is different from that in
England, he will be led into various errors, according to the con-
clusion proved above.269 For, supposing that he sees very clearly the
whiteness in Paris, it is true to say that he sees very clearly the white-
267 This page.
268 Add hoc after propter in line 33.
269 Page 244.

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ness in England, as was proved above.270 Hence it would follow that,
if an object were removed to an infinite distance, it would be seen as
clearly as if it were two feet away. Let us then say that the whiteness
is altogether the same in Paris and in England.
And much more easily can it be said that the act of seeing whereby
Socrates and Plato see numerically one object is numerically the same
act. For, more than in the case of an act of seeing or of any other act
of the soul, whiteness, since it is more material, seems to determine a
particular place for itself so that one [whiteness] cannot be in several
places. Nevertheless, the same whiteness is in Paris and in England,
as has been said. Therefore, much more is there the same act of
seeing, the same vision, the same understanding, etc. If you say that
it is impossible for numerically the same thing to be in several places,
I say that, if you take "one thing numerically the same" to mean what
is one in such a manner as to be in no way many, this is false if taken
universally. And, if you understand by "numerically one" a unity
[made so] by the determination of a nature which is of itself deter-
mined by an ultimate determination, as is a thing which includes in
its composition an individuating principle, this will be true, but not
relevant to your purpose.
However, the opponents who posit it must say what that principle
which limits the nature is. In my view it is only something that deter-
mines the nature to be in a particular place; it has no operation. Hence
it is not as perfect or noble as the nature to which the operations and
actions belong chiefly, though they belong to it insofar as it is limited
to a particular spot. If you ask what there would be of whiteness if, by
any possibility or per impossible, every such limiting factor were
removed, I would say that whiteness would have no positive existence
anywhere, but a privative existence in everything. It exists privatively
here because it does not exist elsewhere. This merits consideration.
Someone might perversely wish to obstruct the argument made
above, whereby it was proved that one who sees the whiteness in Paris
sees the whiteness in England. Answering the principle upon which
the reasoning was based, namely, that one who has the act of seeing
some object sees the object, he might say that it is true if the object is
present, but that the whiteness in England is not present. My rejoinder
is that they assert that the object is required only because it is neces-
sary for creating the act or for determining the relationship of the act
to the object. Now, in the case in hand, the presence is not required
for the first reason because it has been proved that the act of seeing
the whiteness in England is there. Nor for the second reason, for the

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presence is not required there, for even according to them, if two
white things were an infinite distance apart, the relation between
them would be just as it is now.
Furthermore, according to Averroes, in Book 3 of On the Soul,271
whose words they accept as true, to understand is nothing else than
to receive the objects understood and to be perfected by them. And it
is certain, even according to them, that this perfection does not exist
except as regards the act, or the species of the object. Now, it has been
proved that the act of seeing the whiteness in England is present, and
by the same reasoning it can be proven that the species is present, if
the species is posited as being distinct from the act. Likewise, suppose,
as was argued above,272 that the act of seeing, and similarly the acts
of the other external senses, can exist in a power without an object
being known. If [an object] is brought near, and nothing more were
added to the power than was there [before], then, just as the power
246 did not know the object before, neither will it know it now. Hence it
is true that whatever has knowledge is a knowing subject, and what-
ever has knowledge of some object is a subject knowing that object.
From the preceding it seems to be proven not only that the same
whiteness is in Paris and in England, but also that a plurality of white-
nesses is not possible. This is so in all other things, as, clearly, can
become obvious from what has been said before. Also, either the exist-
ence of two has the same perfection as that of one, and then the
second would be superfluous; or there is a greater perfection in two,
and then an infinity of such things would have to exist or the world
would not have complete being.
But it might seem to some that one could refute the principal
argument made above,273 when it was said that, just as upon the
removal of the whiteness in England the act of seeing the whiteness
in Paris did not cease, so, upon the removal of [the whiteness in
Paris], the act of seeing it would not cease. It might be said that there
is no similarity because the whiteness in Paris is the efficient cause
(and somehow the conserving cause) of the act of seeing it. So, if this
object is removed, that act would cease. Therefore, it must be said
that the act does not have a contingent relationship to the object. But
this does not seem to be valid, because one who knows most clearly
would then not be in a position to pass any certain judgment upon the
object. For him it is irrelevant that the object be the efficient or pre-
serving cause, since he would be said to know that object no matter
what other agent were causing the act of knowing whereby knowl-
edge was present in the faculty. Hence, if the act were caused and
271 III, 18.
272 Page 244.

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preserved by a higher agent, he would know that object and yet he
would be deceived about it; which seems to be false.
A refutation of the teaching previously mentioned can come from
another source. He concedes well enough that one who sees the white-
ness in Paris sees the whiteness in England; yet he will say that this is
consistent with the existence of two whitenesses. This is the opposite
of what we maintained. In answer: "One who knows very clearly two
whitenesses differentiated as to subject, or two continua, knows clearly
that number is inherent in them. But one who knows the whitenesses
in Paris and England does not know that number is inherent in them,
and yet he knows each one clearly, according to the proof given
above. Therefore there is no duality in them. Likewise, one who knows
some object clearly can experience that he knows that object; but one
who knows the whiteness in Paris never experiences that he knows the
whiteness in England. And if someone said that the assumptions in the
major premises of the two aforesaid arguments are true not only when
the whiteness known is known but also when it is the efficient cause
of its being known, this is not valid, or, rather, it is frivolous, if one
pays attention. For one thing, evidence for number is found only
because there is clear evidence of numerically diverse objects. For
another thing, experience of an act is found only because it takes
place, and clearly."
Furthermore, an argument can be adduced to confirm my principal
aims. First I prove that, when the object is equally close, the medium
equally disposed, and an equally strong faculty equally applied, an
object numerically the same can be seen by the same faculty only by
an act one in number. You may say that [it is seen] by several acts, so
that [the faculty] can see now by one act, then will terminate [this]
act of seeing, and will see a second time; and there will be a numeric-
ally different act of seeing. I will raise the following counter-argu-
ment: "If a faculty numerically one contained numerically several acts
of seeing with respect to numerically the same object, since those acts
are alike and equal, insofar as it contained one [it would contain]
also [any] other." Then as follows: "In things existing at some moment,
when all factors concur for the causing of some effect, that effect is
caused. But, at the moment at which this whiteness is seen by this act
of sight, there are present all the causes of another act of sight like
and equal to this one. For nothing more is needed than the faculty,
the object, proximity, etc.; and these are present. Therefore, at this
moment the other act of sight is posited. And so at whatever moment
247 sight saw some object, it would see it with an infinity of acts of sight."
This is confirmed, and comes virtually to the same thing. A natural
cause acting naturally and containing equally several effects produces

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either none of them or all of them at once, for there is no reason for
one rather than the rest. But sight and its object are in the position
of containing equally all acts of seeing this object, since all are alike;
for there is no reason for one rather than the rest. Therefore it is true
that the object is always seen by numerically one act of seeing. Now,
moreover, if someone, when he has ceased to see, afterwards sees the
object numerically the same (and, as has been said, this cannot be by
several acts of sight), it will be necessary to admit that the act of
seeing whereby the object was first seen was not absolutely destroyed,
even though it ceased to exist here. This is my contention. Or [it will
be necessary to admit] that numerically the same [act] has been re-
stored. [But] they do not admit this because they have it form Book 5
of Aristotle's Physics274 that invariably things whose substance has
perished cannot return numerically the same.
There are also some who, to obstruct the above train of argument,
say that, though those acts of seeing are equal, yet they have an order-
ing in their coming into being. The truth of the reply to this is not
evident. Hence let the major premise be rephrased as follows: "No
two effects that are altogether alike and equal can have a necessary
ordering in their production, because the agent contains them equally,
and because an order cannot originate from a final cause because the
existence of one is as good as that of the others. Likewise, it is a mark
of greater perfection to contain two like things rather than one; other-
wise two like things would never exist in nature, since one would be
superfluous. So also to contain three [is better] than [to contain] two,
and so on, ad infinitum. And so, since each faculty of itself contains an
infinite number [of its acts] (because to the degree that it contains a
particular act [it contains] every one like it), it will therefore be
In the matter of the conclusion principally aimed at, concerning
the eternity of things, there comes to mind another way of asserting
it, as I have to some extent intimated in what has gone before.275 From
causes numerically the same is always produced numerically the same
effect. This is evident to me both from a grasp of the terms and from
the analyses given above. For, if a cause numerically the same con-
tained several such effects, it would produce either none, or all at the
same time, as was said above.276 Therefore, we shall be able to say
that all things are eternal, so that, when any particular thing at all is
pointed out, it is true to say that it has always been, is now, and
always will be. For, suppose that there is light now in our hemisphere.
274 Aristotle, Physics, V, 4; 228a3. See also Averroes, Physics, IV, comm, 36.
275 Pp. 193, 203.

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I say that at night that light is not destroyed, but is produced in a
hemisphere other than ours. Hence at one time it was here, and at the
end of that time it was produced in another hemisphere. Or, if time
is composed of instants, as I have said elsewhere,277 then at this instant
it is here, and at the next instant it is in the next hemisphere.
And so this rule is true: that a thing which is, or, rather, which
has been for all time, will go on being produced. In keeping with
this, to say that this agent produces this thing is not to say that it
causes it to be after it was not, but only to say that it causes the thing
to be. And, in keeping with this, it could be said that when some
object is seen continuously, granted that the act of seeing has been
produced, it is being produced at each instant of time, because present
causes always produce their proper effect unless something else inter-
feres. And here all the causes are present (the faculty of sight and an
object); and there is nothing interfering. The greatest [interference]
would seem to be the existence of the thing [the act], for the reason
that, as it seems, nothing which exists can be produced. And so it is
false [that the act is not constantly produced], as was said above.278
248 Let us say, then, that, if light is something produced, a heavenly
body produces it in the intervening space as long as the body is
present. And accordingly the preservation of a thing is nothing else
than continuous production of the thing. But sometimes the preserva-
tion of a thing is simply preventing the escape of hot bodies from the
thing, the escape of which would make the thing cold, as in a room, in
which there was a fire, when the windows are closed.
In keeping with this, when it is asked whether all things are
eternal, it might be said that "They are eternal" could be understood
in two ways. For example, [it might refer to] things which are called
liable to generation and corruption, in the sense that they had one
production which receded into the past while the thing itself endured
ever after. In this sense it is not true. And so Aristotle279 understood
that in this sense some things are corruptible. Likewise, in the sense
that their existence lasted forever in the same place or subject, it is not
true of things liable to generation and corruption. But in the sense
that they are being continuously produced whether in this place or in
another, whether in this subject or in another, it is true that all things
are eternal.
Perhaps this does not represent the intention of the Commentator
Averroes,280 who says that, with the exception of motion, nothing
which is in itself corruptible can be made everlasting by something
else. Now, it is true that nothing which is in itself corruptible can be
277 Pp. 206 ff.
278 This page.
279On the Heavens, I, 12; 283a25.
280Metaphysics, VIII, comm. 41.

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made everlasting by something else once the production has retreated
out of being into the past, as was previously explained. But, when he
adds "with the exception of motion," he wishes thereby to make a
distinction between motion and other things. For if you take a motion
infinite in duration, it cannot be imagined as being everlasting in the
same way as are other things which have been brought into being. As
has been said, they can be understood to be everlasting as if
the agent's production has receded into the past and no longer exists,
and yet they last forever. And this interpretation would not be what
Aristotle had in mind.
But motion cannot be understood to be everlasting in this way.
For, since it does not exist all at once, but part by part, and is infinite
in duration, its production can never be understood by reason to be
posited as being in the past. Hence the argument devised by others
about the nature of permanent things would not hold here. And so, if
anyone investigated carefully, it could properly be said that the pro-
posed conclusion is not contrary to Aristotle's intention.
What, then, must be said, according to Aristotle's theory, about the
whiteness which is here now, when it shall no longer appear here? If
you say that it is elsewhere, then a transference is made of an accident
from one subject to another; yet according to Aristotle281 "passions"
are not separated from their subjects, and "passions" he seems to
mean all accidents.282 The answer [to this] will be in this other of the
two ways [of explaining Aristotle]: "It might be said that there is no
transference made of an accident from one subject to another subject,
for, just as the accident is now elsewhere, so is its [original] subject."
However, though this might be probable, we are not compelled to
speak in this way, for [we can] say that this takes place, without
transference, through a production which previously was here and
now is elsewhere, and the whole is causally reduced to the motion of
the heavenly bodies. It is, therefore, true to say that the accident is
now in this subject and now in another, without imagining any such
transference. They imagine that, according to this explanation, one
would have to say that the accident had been produced, as it were,
and, after the production had receded into non-being, it was, so to
speak, taken by the hand and placed in another subject. But one must
not imagine any such thing, as was said before.283
Furthermore, one should know that some of the ancients284 said
that all things are eternal simply because they refused to investigate
249 the causes, especially the efficient causes, of things, as if everything
281Metaphysics, V, 21, and VII, 1.
282 Averroes, Metaphysics, V, comm. 26.
283 Possibly pp. 223-225.
284 Aristotle, Metaphysics, I, 3; 983b6 ff.

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existed of itself. In answer to these men Aristotle says that there are
some corruptible things (as we admit too), meaning things which
require an efficient cause. Also, they are corruptible in the sense that,
if a whiteness is here, and one numerically the same is produced in
England, the one in England can be said not to have existed pre-
viously. For, just as it would have needed an efficient cause if it had
not existed here before, so it also needs one now [in England]. Like-
wise, previously it was not here.
Nor are we, accordingly, compelled to say that there is some one
thing, universal or particular, which is in several places; but only that,
when this thing ceases to be here, it is produced elsewhere. It is true
to say that, when any whiteness at all is pointed out, this whiteness is
now here and is not now elsewhere, neither itself nor one exactly like
it. For, as I have said,285 if there were several similar effects, they
would be contained simultaneously in the agent's active power, and
thus the active power would produce either no effect, or all its effects
at once. Hence in my view it does not seem impossible both that there
be a perfect likeness and that there be otherness. For likeness, after a
fashion, as far as the connotation of the name is concerned, presup-
poses otherness, since nothing is like itslef. And otherness seems con-
sistent with perfect likeness.286 This makes a better foundation, beyond
the reasons cited above.
There seems to be a doubt left about things not altogether similar,
for example, whether there is something common to a bright white-
ness and a dull whiteness. There might be here one way of answering
which, as it seems at first, is not based upon what was laid down
before; namely, that wherever whiteness has subjective being,287 it is
always equally bright. If anywhere it is called dull, this is only because
of an admixture of its opposite, namely, blackness. Then it is different
from when it is seen in its subjective being. It is obstructed from its
perfect action because of the presence of its opposite, and produces a
duller object. In the case of such bright and dull objective being,
though it be admitted that there is some one thing in both of them,
yet it would not be held that one thing is in several places according
to the subjective being it has.
But if the whiteness in Paris and the whiteness in England are such
that, just as one is bright, so also is the other of itself, the question
returns. Then, as it seems, either they will be numerically one white-
ness, and so it would be numerically the same, which we were trying
to prove; or there will be some one thing common to them, which we
were also trying to prove. If this were the answer, it would concede
285 Page 247.
286 Omit non in line 15.
287 See n. 10.

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that there is only one whiteness in Paris and in England. But this
could be understood in two ways. One is that this whiteness would be
numerically one in such a way that [its cause] would contain one
production equivalent [to all]. This is false; indeed it contains several
equivalent ones. Hence, suppose that God is the productive [agent]
of the whiteness here. Then he would contain the effect just as before,
for He is just as perfect as before. It does not appear impossible that
he be able to produce the effect there, that is, to cause the effect to
be there.
And then there is a doubt. This production is either something
distinct from the producting agent or altogether the same. If it is the
same, then just as it was not producing there previously, neither will it
produce now. If it is distinct, then it will seem to receive its being
from the agent, and, just as the agent is one, so the production will be
one. Then, since that production would have existed previously, it
seems that the whiteness ought always to have been in England, since
a production numerically one lasts forever.
We shall speak here about movement, and be consistent with what
was said in other statements above, in the treatise on material sub-
stance and quantity.288 [The question was] whether they are distinct
subjectively, that is, in their subjective being. We said there that the
word ''movement" does not imply anything distinct from permanent
things, that is, from a moving object and its terminus. And it can be
seen there concerning the possibility of this thing. Now, in keeping
with this, it is true that a thing is here and previously it was not.
Nevertheless, no reality is present which did not exist previously, nor
250 has one been destroyed which previously existed. Ponder that case,
and apply it appropriately in this case. Hence, it is only in accordance
with the local movement of the heavenly bodies that this whiteness is
sometimes produced here, sometimes elsewhere.
In the case of material substance and quantity, let us readily admit
that they are different in objective being, because in that case there
are different concepts, as was said above.289 And thus the distinction
of categories posited by Aristotle290 will stand up. Ponder this point, if
you want to understand, because the matter needs close consideration,
and a lot of young men at this point would despair of comprehending
what has been said above in several places.
But it seems highly unintelligible and false that a stranger, who is
numerically one, as long as he is here, it being established that he is
here, could at the same time be produced elsewhere. For in him the
full manifestation of the agent, as regards the kind of manifestation
288 Pp. 222 ff.
289 Page 226.
290Categories, chap. 4.

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which has to do with this effect, seems expressed in the effect which
is here. But this argument would not be very conclusive (even if one
were to accept that [duplication] as impossible), especially as regards
an agent as perfect as the First Agent. For it is true, but only if the
agent's power is used up in making the stranger be here. Likewise,
[such a duplication] could not be found in the movement of the
heavenly bodies, for no part of them291 is in several places at the
same time. So, in keeping with what has been said above,292 there is
some one thing in them [two similar things], and that is a universal
not limited ultimately by an individuating principle. Nothing prevents
something of this sort from being in several places at once, which
accords even with the common opinion of those who hold that a
specific nature is one in its subjects.
And consider well that it can be held with probability, although it
is not in keeping with what has been said, that wherever hotness has
being it has equally perfect being, and similarly in the case of cold-
ness, whiteness, and blackness, and so on, but that it does not every-
where perform its action equally, because of the admixture of its
opposite. And thus Aristotle's saying in Book 3 of the Metaphysics,293
that there is no order among individuals, will have good standing; and
the one in Book 3 of the Topics,294 that we call something whiter
because it has a smaller admixture of blackness. However, one thing
is not whiter than another in its subjective being,295 but only in its
objective being; for one contrary obstructs the action of another
But two things seem to contribute to the destruction of this proba-
bility. First, that one contrary is not always equally obstructed in its
action seems to be true only because sometimes it receives a greater
admixture of its contrary, and so will then take on more of its contrary
and, in consequence, the rest of its opposite, in accordance with the
rule in the Topics.296 Likewise, some things seem to obstruct them-
selves in their function only because they previously obstruct them-
selves in the principle of the function, namely, in their essence, so that
one enfeebles the others. Likewise, it would be ridiculous to say that
in the flame of a candle there was as great an intensity of fire as in a
blazing furnace. For, that there is in the latter a smaller admixture of
the contrary is nevertheless due simply to the fact that it has been
expelled through the perfect inherence of its contrary. This seems to
represent the truth.
291 Read quae for qui in line 16.
292 Pp. 244-245.
293 III, 3; 999a12.
294 III, 5; 119a27.
295 See n. 10.
296 See n. 294.

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Do not suppose that something is hotter because of having more
degrees of hotness altogether equal, because that is impossible, as was
said above.297 It is because it has one, more perfect, hotness. And so,
if two candles were taken altogether equal and alike as to matter,
form, etc. (which is not possible, as I intimated above),298 I would
say that at the midpoint, where the lights would meet, there would
not be greater light, nor would that midpoint be more illuminated
than before, and this would be as true of a thousand as of two. In
keeping with this, the highly improbable result would seem to follow
that, if some altogether similar wax were taken and made into a torch,
it would not give more light than a small candle. For it seems laid
down as a rule that the assembling of several items of the same
character does not produce an effect of greater intensity.
251 It will be said that the preceding is impossible (that there would
be such a continuum having all its parts of exactly the same nature)
except as the thing takes on objective being. For there cannot be
several things of exactly the same nature in the universe, as I said
above.299 Rather, according to this, the being of each thing consists of
an indivisible, as the author300 of The Six Principles intimates. Hence,
of each thing there will be only a point, and, just as a torch is made as
an aggregate of several things of different natures, so light is some-
thing composed of several things of different natures. But then it
would seem that the most perfect nature among them would be
sufficient. One might say: "No, because it does not have the full con-
tent of the others, even though it is more perfect than the others." Or,
if you want rather to return to opinions commonly held, do not take
the arguments adduced above insofar as they are efficacious,301 if set in
order, to prove that there cannot be two things of the same nature in
the universe. Rather take them insofar as they prove that these things
are not contained in the active power of an agent numerically one. This
is inadmissible because, if they are totally alike, the way in which one
is contained in the active power of this agent is the same as that in
which the rest are contained, as was deduced above.302
In keeping with this, if Socrates is white, one will now be able to
say that no one else has exactly the same colour. Or, when one sees or
understands this whiteness, he can say that no one else sees this white-
ness right now with exactly the same kind of sensation because, as has
been said,303 there do not occur in the universe several effects exactly
297 This page.
298 Pp. 246-247.
300 Gilbert de la Porre, Liber de Sex Principiis, ed. A. Heysse (Monasterri, 1929) p. 11.
301 Read efficaces for efficacibus in line 11.
302 Pp. 246-247.

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alike. It will follow from this that this whiteness belongs to the per-
fection of the universe, because one does not find another exactly like
it in the universe and so in a fashion the same thing is species and
individual. Hence nature is adorned by the existence of such a reality
which exists only because this specimen exists. If you say that indi-
viduals are not of the perfection of nature, I say that an individual is
of two kinds, a natural individual and a local individual. An example
of a natural individual is a whiteness in which are contained whiteness
and also some ultimate characteristic which makes it this [particular]
whiteness. Such a natural individual certainly belongs to the perfec-
tion of nature or of the universe. But an example of a local individual
is some particular being here in our midst in this hemisphere. It is
accordingly not of the perfection of the universe. Hence, this light is
not always in our hemisphere, but sometimes in the other, and so its
being here does not belong to the perfection of the universe, simply
speaking, but only while it is [here].
Concerning what I have said about things having active powers,
some probabilities can be inferred. First, there are the ease and diffi-
culty, painfulness, weariness, which we experience in ourselves when
something is somewhere where previously it was not, as when some-
thing moves a small or larger stone, or when someone sees the sun
or something else. Again, something else is inferred about this. For,
as has been said,304 when this whiteness ceases, at the moment of
ceasing it is elsewhere, and it does not always appear that it is trans-
ferred to a neighbouring place. If, therefore, this were by way of
transference, it would need an agent. And so it is satisfactory to accept
as a rather conjectural proposition that it is elsewhere by way of
causation, so that it is caused elsewhere in the way explained above.305
In keeping with what has been said, you can see that resurrection
is possible. For example, if a man who exists now ceased to exist here
in our hemisphere and were caused elsewhere, and again ceased to
exist there some time later, and then were caused here, he would be
said to have risen.
It should be observed that the eternity of things could be under-
stood in one of two ways. One is that they would always remain in-
tegral as some composite whole, just as they are now. For example, in
Socrates there are many realities of different natures joined together,
such as flesh, bone, and breath. Now, one could take it to mean that
Socrates would be eternal in the sense that he would be always just
252 as he is now, meaning that, since Socrates is not altogether identical
with himself as boy and old man (rather, in some way he varies from
304 Page 244.
305 Page 248.

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hour to hour), it would be understood that when he ceased to be in
one condition, for example, that of boyhood, he would exist elsewhere
in the same condition, and, later still, in another place, and so on for-
ever in a circle, until he would have existed everywhere. And [this
happens] not only from hour to hour or from day to day, but even
from moment to moment, so that, as soon as he ceased to exist in one
condition here, he would begin to exist in the same condition else-
Another way of understanding eternity in things would be by way
of separation, so that Socrates would be nowhere as a composite
whole, but his whiteness would be caused in one place, his virtue in
another, and so on, until finally, the mighty orb having come full
circle, a gathering-together would again take place. Take the more
probable of these ways.
As for my remark that the old man is not the same thing as the
boy, this is clear from the fact that no power can be changed in its
essence without being destroyed. Suppose that there are two powers
very closely related in nature. Let a be the more perfect power, b the
less perfect. Now, if a were changed in the direction of imperfection,
this would be only because b was produced. And then the truth of
the matter would be that a was destroyed and b was caused. And so
one must say that the powers of the boy are not the sameat least
not allas the powers of the mature man, because then the boy would
produce works as perfect as does the man of mature condition. [The
man], therefore, has other, more perfect powers, and [those of the
boy] are caused elsewhere. But because the powers are continuously
changing to a very closely related condition, he is always said to be
numerically the same (perhaps it would not be so if a year-old boy
were suddenly made into an old man), or else because a boy is a very
similar root which is put down, and is a necessary prerequisite accord-
ing to the regular course of nature.
Although [the man] later has a more perfect faculty of memory
than before, yet this is with respect to objects previously seen and
remembered by the previous feeble memory. And sometimes he is
punished in old age for the misdeeds of his youth. For a person
naturally protects the being he will have in old age just as much as
his present being. And so, for fear of later punishment, he would re-
strain himself even now. And yet, from a strict point of view, it is true
to say that he is being punished who is committing no offense; and
so such fear is instilled into his nature as will induce him to refrain
from the fault. Similarly, as concerns the death which someone fears, it
can be said that, unless it were feared, many evils and many murders
would be committed; the dissolution of a well-made connection be-

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tween beings is an evil. Even a madman can be punished for a crime
committed before his madness, to make everyone recognize that he
will always be punished either in his own person or in what is left of
And, if it is asked whether a boy is a man, it can be said, in ac-
cordance with what was said before, that, if the designation is based
on the rather general appearance, he should then be designated a man
because he has an appearance like a man's, with the head above and
the feet below. But it is fitting to take the designation not from this,
but rather from the function and the inherent power. And, just as he
does not have the function, so he could be said not to have the power.
It is only as he functions that a person should be said to have a power.
So, if a child dies when he is one day old, it can be said that he had
the power neither to laugh nor to reason, although certainly he had
some remote preparations for this, just as it is in the seed. Neverthe-
less, it is customary to say that men and boys are of the same species.
Perhaps the reason for the custom is so that men may have more com-
passion upon them.
If a child has not a man's powers, it is proper to inquire whether
the power exists in a quiescent state. For example, when someone is
not moving a stone or some other heavy object, has he the power to
move the stone? It seems not, because its being would then be super-
fluous at the time. On the other hand, it seems [that he has], because
otherwise no one ought to choose a state of rest, nor should nature
naturally incline to this when a natural power tires it, since this would
involve its destruction.
And so it could well be said that [the power] persists during a
253 state of rest. And this is not something superfluous because it thereby
ensures its preservation in its subject. Otherwise it would be caused
elsewhere and would cease to exist here, and in its place would be a
less perfect thing. Hence, when with the concurrence of certain spirits
a heavenly body causes such a power, the spirits leave as the work
(say, of laborious motion) progresses, and in their stead come less
perfect ones. When the toil is very excessive, they withdraw com-
pletely. Sometimes, when it is light and moderate, stronger spirits
come. They certainly come to more practised subjects, as if they were
seeking a place of activity, not of rest, provided, at least, that it is
regulated activity. As has been said about this power, so let it be un-
derstood about others.
The Intellect
There might be a number of questions concerning the intellect:
first, whether the intellect is the same for each man. It seems that it is

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not because, after a man is declared dead, it is true to say that he has
never seen306 as clearly as some other man, never heard as clearly, and
so on. Therefore he has never needed as perfect a faculty. This excess
[of power], consequently, is something in nature which is superfluous.
Moreover, every faculty performs an operation commensurate with
its nature. If there were a degree of the faculty to which no degree of
operation corresponded, neither would there be other [degrees of
operation] less perfect, or at least not more perfect; as a result the
faculty would do nothing. Moreover, every natural faculty functions
according to the whole inborn force of its nature.
Also, if it is possible and fitting to postulate a being, then in fact
it does exist. We have used this principle, mentioned above, in the
treatise on the eternity of things.307 But an intellect corresponding to
a level of imperfect operations is possible, for it does not include a
contradiction in its concept. Moreover, it is fitting that it be postu-
lated, since it is very fitting that a level of operation correspond to
each level of the faculty so that nothing be above the maximum or
below the minimum [required for its operation].
From this it is shown clearly enough that the intellect of Socrates
is one thing and the intellect of Plato another.
This argument can also be confirmed. If unequal operations came
from equal faculties, there would be no degree of preferment of one
faculty above another, for we measure the degrees only by means of
the operations. From this it follows that not only Socrates and Plato,
but a young man and an old man, have different intellects, if the
young man's intellect operates more clearly than the old intellect in
all matters. Hence, just as the old man would see like a youth, so he
would understand like a youth if he had the intellect of a youth. It
even seems that, just as someone, by understanding more clearly or
less clearly, changes from one day to the next and from one hour to
the next, and similarly in other functions, accordingly a change is pro-
duced in his faculties.
Consequently it remains to be shown whether there is one intellect
from the point of view of its containing all intelligibles. It seems that
there is not, because anyone possessing intellect would then have the
capacity for understanding all intelligibles; but, since there are some
who have syllogized with universals scarcely once in their life, the
intellect was idle in relation to the knowledge of the other intelligibles
it contained. The argument could now proceed as previously. Let us
suppose, as previously, that there are intelligibles which do not require
unequal power [of understanding], as carrying a hundred pounds of
306 Add vidit after numquam in line 13.
307 Pp. 185-186.

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stone or a hunderd pounds of iron [do not] in the power of moving.
Then he who has the power to do one has the power to do the other,
254 since he is equally able to do either. But, where a diversity of intel-
ligibles of themselves require unequal power (as a man desiring to get
a concept of prime matter in things), there is required a more perfect
power because of the effect [to be achieved]. Then we must say that
there is a different intellect in these men; otherwise there would be a
superfluous degree of understanding in the man who will never under-
stand these difficult intelligibles.
Also, as was argued above,308 faculties should correspond to their
operations, so that, just as there is a difference in perfection and
imperfection in operations, so also is there in faculties. And so, to
prevent there being309 an excessive or deficient [power], let us posit
degrees of perfection and imperfection in faculties to match the
It is the same with the other arguments given just above, for all
the arguments set down there hold here. And so if there is some
intelligible by which one thing is seen more clearly than another, as
it is both in itself and in relation to us, the understanding of it, accord-
ingly, takes its origin from an intellect more proper to it. This [will be
true] also: there were as many intellect as there are concepts. Simi-
larly, in the case of a man blind from birth to death, even though
perhaps he had an intellect capable of understanding things more
difficult to understand than are colors for one not deprived of sight,
it could be said that he never had an intellect capable of understand-
ing colors. As there should be nothing superfluous or deficient in a
master's well-ordered household, so also should it be in God's creation.
But, if there are as many intellects as concepts, there seems to be a
difficulty. It then seems that no intellect will be able to differentiate
between two things because no one intellect knows two things. I
answer that it suffices that the separated intelligibles are understood
by intellects connected with each other and with a [common] subject,
and also that there is an intellect able to know the difference between
the separated intelligibles. As corporeal [parts] which are in a subject
are joined to one another in a certain order, so these intellects are
joined to one another in a certain natural order, and perhaps it could
be said that where these three intellects exist (that is, the two know-
ing the separated intelligibles, and the third intellect knowing the
difference [between them]) they are all rooted in the essence of the
soul. Give further thought here.
308 Page 253.
309 Add sit after nihil in line 7.

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Supposing these matters settled, there remains the difficulty
whether a person could know several things; and, if he could know
several, why he could not know ten as easily as two. It seems that this
should be the case, for, since they proceed from different intellects,
none of them gets tired when functioning according to its nature, and
it is not evident how they can impede one another. The aswer seems
to be that, in understanding, there is a certain movement of spirits, as
appears from the subsequent condition, that is, fatigue and the change
of the spirits into weaker ones. The more things someone considers, the
greater and faster is the movement required, as experience testifies.
Sometimes the spirits' powers of movement do not suffice for such
great motion, and intellection ceases.
Why is such a motion of spirits necessary? The answer is difficult,
but it could be said that the reason is that we do not understand
anything except somehow with matter or with the admixture of some-
thing like matter. The image of a thing, which is like corporeal things,
is carried to the place where intellection should take place, or (per-
haps better) the cogitation preliminary to intellection. These spirits,
some of which carry the image of one thing, and others the image of
another thing, can impede one another in their movement. Then the
image of neither thing is carried without mutilation. It is men in this
condition who judge of things defectively and imperfectly. And so, if
there were a being to which there were joined intellects which always
had present the images of things without such motion of the spirits,
there, indeed, could be the understanding of an infinite multitude of
things. There does not seem to be an impossibility in this, and this is
granted concerning the First Being.
Whether the Same Cause Can Produce Specifically Different Effects
255 From the aforesaid arguments it is clear enough whether the same
cause can produce specifically different effects. It seems that it cannot.
For, granting that one of those effects is less perfect, it is true to say
that of itself it does not require as perfect a cause as does the more
perfect effect, because, if it did, then from the nobility of effects one
could never argue to the nobility of causes. Furthermore, a less perfect
effect requires no more than that its cause is such as to contain it
virtually. Now, according to the common opinion of all, something
which is not more perfect than something else can contain it virtually,
as in the case of a univocal production; although, as they say, an
equivocal cause should be more perfect than its effect. Therefore,
since that effect does not need as perfect a cause as does the more
perfect effect, there will be a superfluity of perfection, proportionate

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to the degree of superiority. Therefore, that nothing be in vain, let us
say that it is produced by a cause that befits its perfection. For the
fitting order is one in which a perfect effect is produced by a perfect
cause, a more perfect effect by a more perfect cause, and the most
perfect effect by the most perfect cause.
Likewise, as was argued above,310 every possible entity which it
would be fitting and for the adornment of the universe to postulate
does exist. But a cause that corresponds directly to an effect is a
possible entity, for it does not include any contradiction in its concept,
and it is fitting to postulate it, for it seems fitting that each effect be
produced by a cause befitting it. Furthermore, it seems that a cause
which performs according to its whole inborn force performs its more
perfect effect, and, it seems, only its more perfect effect. But a natural
cause always performs according to its whole inborn force. Further-
more, a cause performs insofar as it is a certain kind of thing. Now,
since it is one, it seems to be of only one kind, just as it has one
essence. Therefore, one must say that one cause does not produce
effects specifically different, especially quite dissimilar effects. (If,
however, an imperfect effect followed a more perfect one, perhaps it
could be that the nobility of being ought to be measured by the first
And what is it fitting to say about whether the same effect can be
produced by specifically different causes? It seems that it cannot,
because, just as the effect is one in itself, having one nature and one
essence, so it seems to be produced by only one cause having one
nature and one essence. Furthermore, the more perfect of two causes
must always of itself produce a more perfect effect, the less perfect
cause a less perfect effect. Therefore their effects will not agree. Like-
wise, the production of each effect is by the most suitable means
possible. But, that one effect be produced by one cause in the same
genus of cause and the same mode of causality seems the more suit-
able production, so that, just as it is one in itself, it may have one
cause. Nothing else seems possible, because an effect requires only
some being which contains it in active power.
Furthermore, in a way this amounts to the same thing as some
previous points. Never does the meeting of a less perfect cause with a
more perfect cause change its nature; but the more perfect cause of
itself must produce a more perfect effect, and the less perfect cause
a less perfect effect. Likewise, suppose the effect produced by a more
perfect and a less perfect cause were more perfect than the effect
produced simply by the more perfect cause. It is then not clear
310 Pp. 185-186.
311 Add esse after posset in line 26.

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whence it can have this extra degree of perfection, because it is
neither from the more perfect cause nor from the less perfect. Some-
one will say that it is from both at once. The rejoinder is that, if we
posit that the most perfect effect is from a cause moderately perfect
and one less perfect, there would be no means of disproving this,
because, though one said that this effect exceeds the perfection of each
256 of the causes, this would not satisfy you. You will say that it exceeds
the perfection of both causes taken together.
Even if it be admitted [that two causes produce an effect greater
than that of the higher cause], let us further investigate how the
perfection of these causes taken together is to be investigated. Let us
suppose that the more perfect cause includes as much perfection as
does the less perfect, and in addition one degree more. Let us suppose
that the less perfect contains three degrees. Then, if the degrees of the
less perfect cause are added together with all the degrees of the more
perfect cause, the same thing would be taken twice, because on our
assumption the more perfect cause included the perfection of the less
perfect and something more. Now, the same thing taken twice does
not imply a greater perfection in the intensity of perfection, just as, if
there existed a thousand whitenesses exactly equal, they would not
posit a greater intensity of perfection in the category of whiteness.
Perhaps this argument is not conclusive, because then the world
would seem to be as perfect through the existence of a more perfect
cause alone as through the simultaneous existence of a more and a less
perfect. Also, ''containing" is equivocal; it means "having as much
power as." Perhaps equivocal "containing" would be involved if we
imagined that those two beings are one being. Then it would be seen
in which a man would naturally have more satisfaction, considering
each of those beings, in the being which is imagined as one (if per
impossibile that were the truth), or in the other which in truth is one.
Whatever may be said concerning that answer or argument, the pre-
vious ones make me think that this conclusion is more probable than
its opposite: one effect always proceeds from only the one cause. This
is true of a simple effect but not of one composed of things of different
natures. In [a complex effect] it would be otherwise, because then in
truth there are different beings there, as in Socrates there are bones,
flesh, breath, blood, etc.; and so one must posit different causes there.
From these rules, that one cause cannot have several effects speci-
fically different and that one effect can be produced by only one
cause, there are many consequences that run counter to what is usually
asserted. From these it follows that fire is not produced from fire, nor
heat from heat. For suppose that, when there is a small fire (little
sparks, for example), there follows an enormous and very intense fire.

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Now, one heat is naturally more perfect than another, and similarly
one fire than another, because it is never possible to allow two effects
altogether alike and equal, as was proved above. In our present ex-
ample, the first fire was less perfect, and similarly its heat. The argu-
ment proceeds as follows: "The second fire is produced by the first,
and the second heat by the first. Therefore, according to the rule
above (that one effect can be produced only by one cause), [the
second fire is produced] by the first fire alone. But the first fire, by
hypothesis, is less perfect. Therefore, a less perfect cause will, by
itself, produce a more perfect effect. This is impossible. Therefore so is
that from which it followed, namely, the hypothesis made that a small
fire would have generated a greater fire, and an imperfect heat a more
perfect. Nor could you say, changing the arrangement, that the first
fire would generate the second heat, and the first heat the second fire.
This would be impossible, as far as the second statement is concerned,
since heat, if it is distinct from fire, is less perfect than it. Neither is it
produced by the most perfect agent, because this produces only the
effect that befits its own nature, that is, the most perfect effect, as was
said above;312 and it produces only one effect insofar as it is a natural
By what, then, will it be produced? One can say, by a fire-produc-
ing power, and heat by a heating power inhering in a heatable thing.
But then one might wonder why, since there is a heating power
present, and a heatable thing, heating is not always taking place,
especially because what is said about a cause sine qua non313 seems
257 to me mere senseless talk. For everything necessarily and per se pre-
requisite for positing some effect is the cause of that effect. Otherwise
it would not be possible to prove that anything is the cause of any-
thing else. (Or perhaps we should add "if the being is not less perfect
than the effect.") Nevertheless, it can be said that the power inheres
in some superior agent, and that this power has a certain operational
conjunction with the formal effect, so that, when fire is brought near
some heatable thing, at least if the fire in question is perfect, then it
heats the heatable thing. In proportion as this is more heatable, a
more perfect heating power is joined to it. In accordance with this, it
is false to say that light or movement heats, except insofar as they are
attended by certain heating powers.
Wind, however, seems to help the generation of fire, as in the case
of blowing with the mouth or by some artificial means, especially
when it is moderate. This is because along with such wind some
bodies withdraw which obstructed the reception of fire in a particular
312 Page 247.
313 William of Ockham, Sentences, Lib. IV, I, G.

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subject, so that a perfect fire-producing power was not joined to it.
But, when the wind is uncontrolled, then also those bodies are re-
moved which disposed the subject for ignitibility. Above, in the
treatise on the eternity of things,314 I said that, when fire is said to be
produced, the truth of the matter is that this is only the addition of
some hot bodies; and coldness is said to be produced through the
withdrawal of these and the addition of cold bodies, as in the case of
hot water, which, left to itself, reverts to its former nature, namely,
coldness, through the withdrawal of hot bodies and the addition of
cold bodies. In this last case, the only serious improbability seems to
be that, when fire appears where previously it did not appear, it is not
evident how a local movement of hot bodies could have taken place
so quickly.
Also, with respect to the sun, we say that it does not heat, but that
certain hot bodies in the fiery sphere naturally follow the movement
of the sun. It is similar in the case of coldness, when it is said that this
planet makes cool. And so with other things in their own way. With
respect to the movement of hot bodies, it might be imagined that they
are close enough, but have been kept from their action because of a
large admixture of their opposite. But, when they gather in a place
where there is fire accompanied by a power capable of expelling cold
bodies, then [the heating power] performs its actions there.
From the rules set down above315that one effect proceeds from
only one cause, etc.it follows that the soul of one man, whatever
sort it might be, is not produced by another man, because it follows
that, since it is produced by him, it is produced by him alone. Now,
[the cause] is not less noble, because a cause can never exceed its own
perfection in producing, as has been said.316 Nor is it equally perfect,
because, as was said above,317 there cannot be two equal effects in
one species. Therefore, it will be more perfect. But this is false; in-
deed, it is generally found to be less perfect in regard to all powers
and functions. Therefore it is produced by some superior agent (I do
not say by the most perfect agent, unless the effect is the most perfect,
as was proved above).318
If the man who might be called the producer is more perfect, this
is irrelevant, because in the matter of the generation of a man the
less perfect producer seems to do as well as the more perfect. As was
said of a man, so one must understand of an ass and everything else.
Consequently, there will be no univocal production, because the
cause would be either less perfect (which cannot be) or equally
314 Page 201.
315 Page 255.
316 Page 256.
318 Page 255.

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perfect (which has been disproved above)319 or more perfect (and
this is irrelevant insofar as it is the cause of the effect, as has just
been said). Nevertheless, man can indeed be one of the prerequisites
(semen, etc.) to which the human form is related. (By "man" I mean
some power inherent in man.)
In accordance with the aforesaid, one must consider that it is false
that a power produces a more perfect effect in a more perfect subject,
and a less perfect effect in a less perfect subject, because a power
258 has only one effect, as was said above,320 and so it produces either that
or none. But it is true that, unless the subject is suitable to receive it,
it will not produce in that subject, but a less perfect power will be
joined with that subject for operation. For an ill-adapted subject in no
way alters the nature of the agent so as to prevent it from producing
in accordance with its nature (if it does produce).
From what has been said there appears the solution of the problem
discussed by the Commentator Averroes in Book 7 of the Meta-
physics,321 how it is that some animals, such as mice, are generated
through putrefaction, and others, which are called by the same name,
through generation. One would have to say that "generation" in the
two cases is used equivocally, and [in the former case] takes place
through the power of a superior agent. The difference lies in the
preparation of the material, and the things which prepare it. They are
different in the two cases. And it will be said that there is also some
diversity in nature, even though there is a close affinity in nature.
Let us go back now to a matter mentioned before,322 whether a
cause must be more perfect than its effect or it suffices that it be
equally perfect. The truth is that a cause as such is more perfect
because, as such, it has formal being because it causes what in itself
is nothing. And, when its inherent power to produce the effect as
such is described, the cause must be posited, but the effect need not
be. Likewise, absolutely it ought to be more perfect because, if it were
less perfect, it would not be clear how in its power it would contain
a more perfect effect. Rather, it seems well enough known that it
could not contain an equally perfect effect either, because [cause and
effect] would be either of the same species or of different. [If of
different], then one would be more perfect that the other. If of the
same, this cannot be, as was sufficiently proved above,323 since there
would be no more reason for one than for the other to have had prior
319 Page 256.
320 Page 247.
321On the Generation of Animals, I, comm. 1; in Aristotelis Opera cum Averrois Commentariis (Venice,
1562-74) VI.
322 Page 257.
323 Page 247.

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being or to have had priority as the cause of the other. Therefore [the
cause] must be more perfect [than the effect.].
But it seems that this can be disputed. For if a work were eternally
unproduced, the goodness and desirability of the producing power
would cease, for all its desirability seems to derive from the work. The
answer is that the goodness of a power, strictly speaking, is not in the
work except for the purpose of demonstration. For we demonstrate
from the work the desirability and goodness of the power, but the
power has its own goodness and desirability in itself. Hence, assum-
ing that the work had not been produced, still it would be good for
such a being to be, since it would have been produced itself, although
it would not be good for it to produce this work.
Understand that every cause, considered in itself, produces its
effect with equal facility, because every cause is uniformly matched
with its effect. But sometimes causes are obstructed and others,
attended by effort, take their place. Thus, suppose a most perfect
heating power, joined to a most perfect fire which is brought into
contact with very cold water accompanied by a most perfect cooling
power. My understanding is not that a reduced heat is produced by
that most perfect power, because it cannot act except after the manner
of its own nature. But these powers obstruct each other. Nevertheless,
certain other powers succeed which are not as perfect; and these pro-
duce their own effects. If the heat was more perfect and more active
in the genus of heat, then, as it were, it brings, through a certain
concomitance, a more perfect heating power.
But you will say that these second powers would obstruct each
other just as the first, and that consequently they will produce noth-
ing; and so with a third setwhich is clearly false. The difficulty
would not be present if one said that there is no production of heat
there, but only the addition and subtraction of hot and cold bodies
which obstruct one another (because, if there had been no cold bodies,
more of the hot would have been taken in, and vice versa).
But there is another answer to the difficulty. The difficulty seems
to suppose, in its way of arguing, that there are two powers, each
259 most perfect in its own genus, for example, a most perfect heating
power, and a most perfect cooling power; and that one has obstructed
the other, and other, less perfect, powers have taken over. But this is
not the case. Rather, the powers which were present have had their
proper effect. To show this, one should know, as I intimated to some
extent above,324 that the most perfect heating power, so far as con-
cerns its functioning, is joined with the most perfect fire, so that it
324 This page.

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functions where there is the most perfect fire, if there is fitting material
which the ignited bodies enter. The more they enter and penetrate,325
assuming the material remains the same, the more perfect a heating
power functions. Now, when the fire and the water come into prox-
imity, the fire does not thus enter into the matter of the water because
of the coldness, or the attendant expulsive power, which repels it. It is
similar in the case of the coldness. And so the heating power then
does not function, but a less perfect power, [producing] also an
imperfect heat. In keeping with this, a discerning investigator would
not find an instance in which a cause does not always produce in
accordance with the condition of its nature, wherever it functions;
and [he would find] that a more perfect effect is produced by a more
perfect power.
It is clear from what has been said that a certain common saying
is false, namely, that the act of knowing is produced by an active
power of the soul and by an object, because, as was said above,326
there can be only one cause of one effect. Furthermore, it is false that
the object is a cause of the act of understanding, because generally
the object can be less perfect that the act of understanding, as in the
case of relationships. And so we are left with some other power as the
active power of the act of knowing, if such beings have been
On the basis of what has been said, we hold that not all things
have been produced by the First Agent, neither as by a total producer
(because He has only one effect, proportionaate in its production to
His nature) nor as by a partial cause327 (because such partial causes
are in play only in an effect made up of many parts, as was seen
From the aforesaid it is clear that, if the Prime Being is of infinite
power, no effect can be produced by Him naturally. Any effect which
is produced is finite and so never needs an infinite power. A more
perfect finite power suffices for it, and so infinity in the agent would
there be superfluous. Likewise it follows that, if the Prime Being is
infinite, He could not have any magnitude, so as to partake of the
conditions of powers which exist in magnitude, which are greater in
the whole than in a part. His power would then be divided in propor-
tion to the magnitude. And so, since the whole magnitude is finite
because one must not allow an infinite magnitudeit will follow that
that power would be finite. Likewise, He would not seem to have
325 Read et for ei in line 7.
326 Page 256.
327 Read sicut a for sit in line 24.
328 Page 256.

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magnitude except in order to cause motion or to produce some such
effect; and this He does not do, as has been said.329
With respect to what was said330 about a natural cause functioning
according to the condition of its nature, is this true in the case of a
free power, the will, for example? As was said above,331 no cause can
produce more than one effect, and the acts of the soul are not pro-
duced by their objects. From this it follows that the will can issue in
no act other than willing. It seems that this is not so. In the first place,
take the eliciting of the immanent act. I can will this more intensely
or more slackly. Similarly, I can will to throw a two-foot or a three-
foot stone. (Concerning the will's not always functioning with all its
inborn capacity, many theologians say that the reasoning is poor,
because, if the First Being moved the first heaven, which has an in-
stantaneous movement, He would move it by intellect and will, and
so He could will it to move at a certain speed.)
But the contrary seems supported by a proof given above.332 There
260 are as many intellects as there are intelligible objects or as there are
concepts, because one cause does not produce different effects. So
here for the same reasons one would have to say that there are as
many wills as there are objects of the will. Just as it was said that no
intellect functions beyond or beneath its nature, so also neither does
the will. For if at any time it willed beneath its own nature, it would
always will beneath its nature, because one cause does not have two
effects. So a higher degree of perfection would be superfluous in it.
So one must say that it would seem that, just as the First Intellect can
have only the act that befits its own nature, so with its act of willing.
In keeping with this, the First Intellect, which undertsands the noblest
object, namely, itself, also wills, with pleasure, the same object. As for
the remark that we can will more intensely or more slackly, one must
say that this is not by means of the same will, but by one in the one
case, and another in the other. When someone carries a two-foot or
three-foot weight or stone, this is not by means of the same power,
but by one in the one case, another in the other.
In accordance with this, it is clear that the problem of the freedom
of the will ceases if it becomes a problem whether a will numerically
the same can choose one thing or its opposite. But there will still re-
main the following problem: "There is one will for choosing the
journey of going to church and another for refusing it. Now, it can
be asked whether it can be truly asserted that either will can be
united to me. It seems that it cannot, because there is some cause of
this union equally effective for both extremes. But this cannot be
329 This page.
330 Page 253.
331 Page 256.
332 Pp. 253-254.

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because there is no natural or free cause that is numerically the same
for opposites. For, since you say that either can equally be united to
me, the cause causes one no more than the other; so it causes neither.
If, however, it is the cause of one and not of the other, then the one
of which it will not be the cause will not be united to me. If you
should say that those powers are already in that subject, although it is
not yet accepting or rejecting, still, according to this, it seems that it is
never true to say that at any moment either would be able to produce
its own effect, for each one is equally capable of producing its own
effect. Therefore, either both would produce, or there must be present
some cause why one has to yield."
Hence it could be argued that every single cause that has in its
power only a single effect, of which it is the sufficient cause, produces
its effect at some specific moment or time, unless something obstructs
it; otherwise it would never produce it. But this is the case with any
cause, whether natural or free. For each is determined to one effect,
as was proved above, so that it has the capacity for only one effect of
which it is the sufficient cause, because one effect can never be pro-
duced by two specifically different causes, as was proved above.333
Therefore, if it is not obstructed, it will produce its effect. And so it is
true to say of any cause in the world that, if it should not produce its
effect, it is because it is obstructed, and not because it is free, as our
opponents imagine.
If in the case of two causes one posited equal factors obstructing
and favouring [the effects], it follows that neither will produce its
effect, or both will at the same time. For example, suppose that some-
one were in a circle over all of whose parts a heavenly body had equal
influence, and which was of the same nature in all its parts. Suppose
that Socrates were in the middle, seeing similar food in equal quantity
in every part of the circle. Suppose, also, that there are volitional
powers, each of which could elicit an act of will towards one part of
the circle, so that one act of will and one volitional power [incline
him] towards one part, and another act and its power towards another,
according to the assumptions above. If one assumes that these powers
exist and are not obstructed, not even by mutually obstructive collis-
261 ion, each would produce its effect. But in this supposed case, if the
powers existed, they would obstruct one another by collision. Even
granting that someone will to limit his motion to one place, it does not
follow that his will is free, as if it had opposite possibilities. For that
will strictly has the capacity for that effect, as has been said;334 it did
not have such volitional power for moving to another place.
333 Page 256.
334 Pp. 259-60.

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You will say that, on the contrary, it had the volitional power for
moving to any part. For since we posit an equal distance, and the
parts alike and equal, and similarly concerning the food placed there,
the same power can perform any act, since the acts are all exactly
alike. To the extent that one act is contained in this power, so are the
rest. The reasoning seems to be true according to what was said
above. So I would say that the hypothesis is not possible. For, as I
have said, it is impossible for there to be two effects exactly alike and
equal in nature, as was shown above.335
If, therefore, someone posited that the First Being is infinite in per-
fection and moved the first heaven, the meaning could only be that He
moved it naturally or through His will. If naturally, then in accordance
with the condition of His nature. And so, since the greater the power of
the mover, the swifter the movement, He could produce no movement
measurable by successive duration. Therefore He would produce it
instantaneously; and so the reasoning of Aristotle in Book 8 of the
Physics336 holds good.
If He moved it through His will, still, according to what has been
said,337 that will is determined to an act of will commensurate with
itself, so that a more perfect act of will is elicited by a more perfect
will. Therefore, since the movement is finite, one can always imagine a
finite will with which the effect will be commensurate. Hence, a finite
effect never requires an infinite cause. On the contrary, if an infinite
power were involved, in respect to its infinity it would be superfluous
in as much as [the effect] can be produced by a finite power from
which this is infinitely remote.
Thus, therefore, since a power has the capacity only for an effect
commensurate with itself, if the First Being is infinite and does not
understand anything outside Himself (because that, being finite, can
be commensurate with a finite power), neither does He will anything
outside Himself. Nevertheless, He ought not for this reason338 to be
said simply to be ignorant of or not to understand what is outside
Himself. For, as was proved above,339 if two persons fix their gaze on
something, and one of them sees more clearly, they will never see
exactly the same thing. The one who has the clearer visual power will
never see exactly the same things as the one with the dull vision sees.
However, we do not say that he does not see it; for he sees the same
thing under the aspect of a clearer beinghe sees, say, a clearer white-
ness which seems to contain the dull eminently. So, also, all things are
reflected in the essence of the First Being because it is eminently all
335 Page 251.
336 VIII, 6; 259a14 ff.
337 Pp. 259-260.
338 Add hoc after propter in line 28.
339 Page 240.

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being. So, when it sees itself, it is not said to be totally ignorant of
other things. This seems to be the intention of the Commentator Aver-
roes on Book 12 of the Metaphysics,340 [when he says] that one who
knows the most perfect heat, heat in its essence, is not ignorant of heat
in other hot things.
Likewise, from the aforesaid it is clear how what the Commen-
tator says341 about intelligences and the heaven itself is true: if any-
thing were added to or anything taken away from the heaven, the
intelligence would never move it. This is explained above.342 This
reference is not precisely to intelligences, but it is explained that a
perfect cause can never produce the effect of a less perfect cause. For
each cause produces an effect commensurate with itself, and not
another, so that no cause acts either beneath or above itself.
When, therefore, it is said that the will is related to opposites, this
must not be understood of the individual as if any particular will were
262 related to opposites. Rather, each is determined to a single thing, as
has been said. But [the statement] must be understood [of the will]
as a species. For one will is related to one object, another to its
In connection with what was said above near the beginning of the
treatise dealing with this,343 it was maintained that, if two persons see
or understand the same thing, and one of them has clearer vision or
understanding, they do not see the same aspect of the thing, but one
sees rather a clear whiteness where the other sees a dull whiteness.
Nevertheless, those whitenesses in their subjective being are one white-
ness.344 What each person tries to see when they look is subjectively
the same numerically, although it comes to them according to a
different objective being. According to this way of speaking, it could
with probability be maintained that whiteness and blackness are one
in subjective being. For suppose there are a hundred visions arranged
according to the more perfect and the less perfect. The highest sees a
thing, and according to its objective being gives it the name of white-
ness. The lowest will see so dimly that it will call blackness what the
highest called whiteness. And yet they are the same in subjective
being. Thus, to see what the supposition means, let it be said, in this
case, that whiteness and blackness do not differ in subjective being
but differ indeed in objective being. And, if this be said, it will be
possible to say of any things at all that all things are one thing in
340 XII, comm. 51.
341 Averroes, De Substantia Orbis, cap. 3; in Aristotelis Opera cum Averrois Commentariis (Venice,
156274) IX.
342 Page 255.
343 Page 238.
344 See n. 10.

Page 158
subjective being, although there is differentiation in the objective
being according to which it comes to us.
Therefore, what each objective thing seeks, and what it moves
towards, is the one subjective being which is God. And this being
understands Himself by a knowledge which is the same as Himself in
subjective being, and He contacts [Himself] in the subjective being
according to which He exists.
But there seems to be an obstacle to this position. For one who
sees clearly perceives blackness more than the man of feeble vision
perceives it. Therefore it seems that, the more blackness increased, the
more it would be seen. As a result whiteness and blackness would
never be found to be united in subjective being. It might be retorted
that sight can be extended absolutely in the genus of being, so as to
reach a perfect grasp of an object as it is in itself. But this is false;
rather the thing in itself sometimes appears according to one such
objective being, and that comes in clearer being to one person than to
another. If there were further progress made in clarity, there would
be made an approach to a unity. Finally one would discover one sub-
jective being which would be the foundation, as it were, of these
objective beings.
But the argument returns in the following way: ''Granted that
there were one subjective being, no one would deny that one objective
being would approach closer to it than another, for example, whiteness
closer than blackness. Now, when blackness is perceived more clearly,
its objective being is that much more perfect, and consequently that
much closer to the being of whiteness. Nevertheless, the distinction
and difference is now judged better than before, and [the objective
being] seems to be receding further from whiteness."
This seems to be a serious obstacle to the aforesaid position. But
there seems to be an answer in what follows. First I imagine that
subjective being. Secondly, [I imagine] powers of sight or intellects,
say a hundred arranged according to more perfect and less perfect.
Now, when one person mentions whiteness in connection with what
he sees, another will see only a dimmer being and he will call it
black. Of these visions the first is [closer] to the subjective being.
Then I imagine intellects of another sort, whose gaze will not be
directed towards the thing's subjective being, but towards these
objective beings. Now, the objective being which one man calls black-
ness, this intellect will see, and, to the extent to which it has clearer
vision, it will see that objective being in a being close to itself. And,
because in its objective being it was distinguished from other objec-
263 tive beings, the more clearly it is seen, the more evident will be its
distinction from another objective being, namely, from whiteness,

Page 159
because it is an objective being with respect to the first group, but it
is a subjective being with respect to the second. Concerning those who
know in the second way, the argument proceeds that, the more
clearly they know, the more evident it will be to them that blackness
is distinguished from whiteness. It is otherwise with those who know
in the first way. Indeed, if their knowledge were extended, finally they
would arrive at one subjective being.
It is doubtful, however, whether there are certain persons whose
knowledge is of a third type, persons for whom the being which we
know would be, so to speak, a subjective being, while they themselves
would have other objective beings, and those have others, and so on
ad infinitum. It seems that this is so, because any being can be known
more clearly and less clearly; and so their objective beings can be
known more clearly and less clearly. Those who see these see them
more clearly and less clearly, and so on endlessly. And such beings
are only objective. But [the truth] seems contrary to this, because
there would then be an infinite progression of beings. And, if it were
said that finally there would be a halt, then that [last] objective being
would thus be imperfect, because it would be known in only one way,
and it could be comprehended only as it is in itself.
According to this position, something amazing appears. For, in the
order of knowing subjects which you imagine for that objective being,
the lowest being will be further removed from that subjective being
in which resides the truth of the being. Similarly, the cognitive faculty
corresponding to it will be lowest in the genus of knowing powers.
And yet it seems that, the less knowable an object is, that is, the closer
to unknowability, the more perfectly does the power which appre-
hends it [know it]. So this cognitive faculty which was placed lowest
will be more perfect than all the others. Likewise, the others appre-
hend [the object] only in its objective being, but this [apprehends it]
in its subjective being.
The answer in this case seems to be that there are some faculties
whose perfection or imperfection is measured by their strength, not
by the perfection of the object of their act. An example is the power to
lift a weight. The power to lift gold is not more perfect than the
power to lift stones, but the more perfect power is that which is
stronger and which lifts a greater weight. Not so with other powers
[which are measured] by the nobility of their object, as is the case
with the cognitive powers. And so the power [we are discussing] will
not be a more perfect power, but the lowest. Even though it attains
the object in itself, yet that being is less perfect. Likewise, it will know
the effect (namely, that objective being) as far as it is knowable in

Page 160
itself; yet it will not know the causes of that being because then it
would be going beyond its own nature.
In the same way it could be said that God, though He knows Him-
self insofar as He is knowable in Himself, nevertheless does not know
in their proper form things that are beneath Him because then His
nature would be lessened, as has been said above and explained.345
In the case of intellects that know only the objective beings of things,
there is found a progression from one to another. It is different with
another intellect or other intellects which know things in the being
which they have in themselves. Therefore, that lowest intellect will
know that final object in itself as it is, and so in its mode of knowing
it will be more perfect than the higher powers with the exception of
the first. Or you might answer (and this is better) that even in its
mode of knowing it is not more perfect, because each cognitive power
knows some objective being in itself and insofar as it is knowable, as
has been explained above,346 but it does not know the objective being
of a higher [knowledge]; rather, to it that being is347 a subjective
being, as it were.
Since every being can be intuited by an intellect (for this is not
repugnant to the intellect as intellect), it is seen that one must postu-
264 late a twofold order of knowing subjects, and that we are in the second
order. For it is not repugnant to the most perfect cognitive power to
possess its object in a perfect manner. Now, the intellective faculty is
more perfect, as is seen, and the manner of possessing through abstrac-
tion is not perfect, but only the manner of possessing by way of in-
tuition.348 And this [abstraction] befits the external senses, which are
less perfect. Nor does that seem to be repugnant to the thing [known].
Another [factor] is that not every entity can be intuited by one intel-
lect, because, as was proven above,349 one intellect can understand
only one intelligible object. Therefore there are several intellects. So,
in keeping with this, we have one order of intellects understanding
intuitively. And in our experience there is a second order of intellects
understanding abstractively. But it does not seem that there is any
intellect understanding intuitively unless one intellect understands in
one way, and another in another way, each thus understanding in-
tuitively. For, as has been said, each intellect apprehends its first
object in itself insofar as it can be apprehended.
In accordance with what was said above,350 it is certain that no
one apprehends the first subjective being (which is the first being
345 Pp. 240241.
346 Page 262.
347 Read est for et in line 46.
348 William of Ockham, Sentences, lib. I, Prologue, I, Z.
349 Page 254.
350 Page 262.

Page 161
absolutely) insofar as it can be apprehended, except the one very
being which we would posit. And this seems to be truer. But this not-
withstanding, those two orders of intellects imagined above have still
been able to stand up, even though their difference is not found in
the intuitive and abstractive mode of knowing. Or perhaps it might
be said that the intuitive is not distinguished from the abstractive in
that there is knowledge of the object in itself, as was said, but because
the one is discursive, or quasi-discursive, the other not. But since in
no one intellect is there discursive reasoning, because each knows only
one object, it does not seem to be a sufficient distinction. So another
way of expressing it comes to mind. It might be said that they are
distinguished relatively, as being clear and less clear, because the
intuitive is clearer than the abstractive. Thus intellects of the first
order would be said to know more clearly, and so after a fashion
intuitively. When this evidence is examined, there seems to be a
difference only in name.
It has been said that one knowing some objective being recognizes
it insofar as it is knowable in itself, and yet he still asks, and has
doubts about the question: "What is the white thing, what is the black
thing?" It follows from this that one knowing a thing insofar as it is
knowable in itself can still question and be in doubt. Hence, such
persons seek to know it in its first and basic subjective being, where
its being is rooted. They approach as closely as they can, through
collecting a multitude of objective beings. One must consider that, by
means of different intellects, a man grasps one objective being which
serves as a subjective being in relation to other subsequent objective
beings. For example, when someone, not having had the experience,
first sees Socrates, he grasps one confused objective being, because he
confuses in himself many objective beings. For later he compares him
with Plato and grasps one objective being, namely, man. Later, com-
paring him with a donkey, he grasps another objective being, namely,
animal, and so on. By collecting many such ideas he establishes a
definition which explains what was implicitly contained in the con-
fused being.
Those objective beings were distinguished above from the sub-
jective being351 because they are multiplied while the thing's subjec-
tive being remains one in itself. For example, granted that the thing
is one in itself, if two persons look at it, of whom one has clearer
vision, he will see more clearly. The same consequence follows as was
deduced above352 when, speaking of what is in objective being, we
said that one person will see one objective being in his sight and
351 Read subjectivo for objectivo in line 43.
352 Page 262.

Page 162
another another. Nevertheless, it seems possible to have a situation
where persons with different senses of sight will see the same thing.
265 For the one with clearer vision will at a distance see a thing less
clearly. Consequently he will be able to stand far enough away that
the one with duller vision will see equally clearly, even though their
powers differ. Thus powers that differ in intensity of perfection will
have the same effectwhich was disproved above.353
Likewise, it has been proven354 that the same power cannot pro-
duce two [different] effects. But the contrary seems to be true, since
with the same power a man will see clearly at close quarters and he
will see dimly from a distance. The answer seems to lie in the premise
that in connection with the act of seeing one must reckon with a two-
fold power. One is more corporeal, which unites the spirits and the
visual rays. In or by their union the species is conveyed right to the
organ of sight. Whether it be for receiving the species or for what-
ever other purpose, it is certain that such a union of spirits is pre-
requisite to the act of seeing. [Only] after this should we consider the
power of the soul which elicits the act of seeing.
It would then be said that one afar off who sees a thing as clearly
as one near at hand certainly has an unequal and different power
(meaning the corporeal power that unites the spirits); and so its effect
is different. For when someone is farther away, if he wants to see an
object equally clearly, that much more perfect a union is needed of
the spirits and the visual rays. But, as far as concerns the power of
the soul that elicits the act, we say that it is a power of the soul
altogether one in itself, although it is determined by some individuat-
ing principles to be here or there. In the second example, that of the
man who with one power will see clearly or less clearly as he is close
at hand or far away, I say that it is possible here that there is an equal
power uniting the spirits, and an equal effect, namely, the union of the
spirits and the rays. But I say that the power of the soul that elicits
the act will not be equal then and now. And, if one thing cannot be in
several places at once, then it will be said that two persons can never
see an object equally clearly, as was asserted above.
Thought must be given to what has been said,355 that two [causes]
can never have one effect, that a power never acts beneath or above
itself, that one power can have only one effect, and that there are as
many intellects as there are concepts. It follows that the intellect that
knows universals does not know particulars. Therefore, what kind of
power will tell the difference between universals and particulars? It
seems that none will because every power of the soul that tells the
353 Page 253.
355 Pp. 253255.

Page 163
difference between two things knows each of them. But the power
that knows particulars cannot know universals, because it would then
be acting above itself; and vice versa. I say that there is one power
of the soul, by whatever name it be called, that will tell the difference,
and it knows only that one object of thought, namely, the difference,
while the extremes will be known by two other powers of the soul.
This satisfied Aristotle, in Book 2 of On the Soul,356 when he
wanted to prove that there is a common sense from the fact that we
differentiate between acts of the external senses, namely, seeing and
hearing. Certainly it is right to conclude that there is another power.
For to know this difference belongs to a power other than the power
that knows the extremes. Hence, one concludes that there is not just
one power of the soul, but three, though they can be called one
faculty because they are ordered, as it were, to one thing. On the
basis of experience it is argued that the three powers of the soul will
be virtually the same power. For we know the act of seeing and the
act of hearing separately, and so there will be two powers. And we
conceive the difference [between them], and here there is another
power of the soul. Nevertheless, because these powers are closely
related, they are taken after a fashion as one faculty. So it is said that
the power that differentiates between two extremes knows each of
266 the extremes. Similarly one speaks of only one intellect because all
intellects have the same mode of knowing, namely, an abstract mode
of knowing.
The intellect knows whiteness in itself, abstracted from every
location and every particular. As has been said, in the case of an
object of the external senses, the object exists before or is simultaneous
with the act, and it would not cease to exist even if, by any possibility
or per impossibile, [the act] ceased to exist. The same could be said
of the object of the intellect. It is a universal, and such a universal
can be said to be everywhere and always, for it need not be in one
place rather than another, or at one time rather than another.
When that universal is in the mind of a person where previously it
was not, this does not happen by way of transference, since such a
being is not contained in space. It seems that it is by means of some
causation. Such a power could be called the possible intellect, which
is accompanied by the agent intellect which produces intellection.
Both these faculties, since each produces something abstract, can be
called the agent intellect. So they are one power in genus but two
powers in species. And [it seems] that the objective being in the
higher [part of the] soul, which comes to a particular interior power,
356 III, 2; 426b17 ff.

Page 164
and the universal objective being in the soul, have thus had a close
relationship to the one subjective being from which they are taken.
One is attributed to the other in predication, for example, the universal
to the particular, as when it is said that Socrates is a man; and
similarly in the case of universals, when "animal" is attributed to
If you ask whether there is some subjective universal corresponding
to the objective universal in the intellect, it might be said that
there is. If all things are not united in one subjective being, but
[instead] there is a subjective being for each species, then there would
be a subjective being corresponding to an objective universal. This
would not be multiplied in being. There is a multiplication of objective
beings in the intellect, however; for a man of clearer and more
abstract intellect, in understanding whiteness, holds whiteness in
clearer being in his intellect than does another man who understands
less clearly.
It might be said that this subjective universal being is the quiddity
of particulars, the principle of their existing, the principles for understanding
them, and much [else], in agreement with Plato's position.
But they would not subsist in the air, as perhaps was held because of
Plato's words,357 against which Aristotle argued.358 For [Plato] laid
down that they would have a being separate from particulars. Against
this, Aristotle in the preface to On the Soul359 says that the universal
animal posited by Plato either is nothing or is subsequent to singulars,
so that it will have no validity for the understanding of the singulars
themselves. This is true, granting such a separation. So universal
objective being would be attributed in predication to singular objective
being. Universal objective being would be taken for that universal
subjective being which is the quiddity of the singulars themselves.
So, in the proposition "Socrates is man", "man" is not taken for
Socrates as if it had a personal supposition, as many intimate and
falsely so. For the one who forms this proposition does not find that
in the predicate of the proposition he has Socrates as object, but only
the universal nature of man. Therefore, the reasoning "Socrates is
man, man is a species, therefore Socrates is a species" is not rebutted
by saying, as some do, that the error occurs because of the changing
supposition of a termfor in the first proposition the term "man" has
a personal supposition and is taken for its inferior, in the second it
has a singular supposition.360
357 For example, Phaedo, 100 ff.
358Metaphysics, I, 9; 991b2.
359 I, 1; 402b7.
360 For William of Ockham's theory of supposition, see his Summa Logicae, Pars I, cap. 63-65 (St.
Bonaventure, 1957) pp. 175-181.

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