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Chapter XXXVI.—Other Absurd Theories Respecting Matter and Its Incidents Exposed in an Ironical Strain. Motion in Matter. Hermogenes’ Conceits Respecting It.

But see what a contradiction he next advances 6510 (or perhaps some other reason 6511 occurs to him), when he declares that Matter partly corporeal and partly incorporeal. Then must Matter be considered (to embrace) both conditions, in order that it may not have either? For it will be corporeal, and incorporeal in spite of 6512 the declaration of that antithesis, 6513 which is plainly above giving any p. 498 reason for its opinion, just as that “other reason” also was. Now, by the corporeal part of Matter, he means that of which bodies are created; but by the incorporeal part of Matter, he means its uncreated 6514 motion. If, says he, Matter were simply a body, there would appear to be in it nothing incorporeal, that is, (no) motion; if, on the other hand, it had been wholly incorporeal no body could be formed out of it. What a peculiarly right 6515 reason have we here! Only if you make your sketches as right as you make your reason, Hermogenes, no painter would be more stupid 6516 than yourself. For who is going to allow you to reckon motion as a moiety of Matter, seeing that it is not a substantial thing, because it is not corporeal, but an accident (if indeed it be even that) of a substance and a body?  Just as action 6517 is, and impulsion, just as a slip is, or a fall, so is motion. When anything moves even of itself, its motion is the result of impulse; 6518 but certainly it is no part of its substance in your sense, 6519 when you make motion the incorporeal part of matter. All things, indeed, 6520 have motion—either of themselves as animals, or of others as inanimate things; but yet we should not say that either a man or a stone was both corporeal and incorporeal because they had both a body and motion: we should say rather that all things have one form of simple 6521 corporeality, which is the essential quality 6522 of substance. If any incorporeal incidents accrue to them, as actions, or passions, or functions, 6523 or desires, we do not reckon these parts as of the things. How then does he contrive to assign an integral portion of Matter to motion, which does not pertain to substance, but to a certain condition 6524 of substance? Is not this incontrovertible? 6525 Suppose you had taken it into your head 6526 to represent matter as immoveable, would then the immobility seem to you to be a moiety of its form? Certainly not. Neither, in like manner, could motion. But I shall be at liberty to speak of motion elsewhere. 6527





Other than “the right reason” above named.




The original, “Adversus renuntiationem reciprocationis illius,” is an obscure expression. Oehler, who gives this reading in his edition, after the editio princeps, renders the term “reciprocationis” by the phrase “negative conversion” of the proposition that Matter is corporeal and incorporeal (q.d. “Matter is neither corporeal nor incorporeal”). Instead, however, of the reading “reciprocationis,” Oehler would gladly read “rectæ rationis,” after most of the editions.  He thinks that this allusion to “the right reason,” of which Hermogenes boasted, and of which the absurd conclusion is exposed in the context, very well suits the sarcastic style of Tertullian.  If this, the general reading, be adopted, we must render the whole clause this: “For it will be corporeal and incorporeal, in spite of the declaration of that right reason (of Hermogenes), which is plainly enough above giving any reason,” etc. etc.


Inconditum. See above ch. xviii., in the middle. Notwithstanding the absurdity of Hermogenes idea, it is impossible to translate this word irregular as it has been proposed to do by Genoude.






Actus: being driven.


Actus ejus est motus.


Sicut tu.












Quid enim?


Si placuisset tibi.


See below, ch. xli., p. 500.

Next: Ironical Dilemmas Respecting Matter, and Sundry Moral Qualities Fancifully Attributed to It.