Sacred Texts  Classics  Aristotle  Index  Previous  Next 


We must explain (i) wherein growth differs from coming-to-be and from ‘alteration’, and ii) what is the process of growing and the process of diminishing in each and all of the things that grow and diminish.

Hence our first question is this: Do these changes differ from one another solely because of a difference in their respective ‘spheres’? In other words, do they differ because, while a change from this to that (viz. from potential to actual substance) is coming-to-be, a change in the sphere of magnitude is growth and one in the sphere of quality is ‘alteration’-both growth and ‘alteration’ being changes from what is-potentially to what is-actually magnitude and quality respectively? Or is there also a difference in the manner of the change, since it is evident that, whereas neither what is ‘altering’ nor what is coming-to-be necessarily changes its place, what is growing or diminishing changes its spatial position of necessity, though in a different manner from that in which the moving thing does so? For that which is being moved changes its place as a whole: but the growing thing changes its place like a metal that is being beaten, retaining its position as a whole while its parts change their places. They change their places, but not in the same way as the parts of a revolving globe. For the parts of the globe change their places while the whole continues to occupy an equal place: but the parts of the rowing thing expand over an ever-increasing place and the parts of the diminishing thing contract within an ever-diminishing area.

It is clear, then, that these changes-the changes of that which is coming-to-be, of that which is ‘altering’, and of that which is growing-differ in manner as well as in sphere. But how are we to conceive the ‘sphere’ of the change which is growth and diminution? The sphere’ of growing and diminishing is believed to be magnitude. Are we to suppose that body and magnitude come-to-be out of something which, though potentially magnitude and body, is actually incorporeal and devoid of magnitude? And since this description may be understood in two different ways, in which of these two ways are we to apply it to the process of growth? Is the matter, out of which growth takes place, (i) ‘separate’ and existing alone by itself, or (ii) ‘separate’ but contained in another body?

Perhaps it is impossible for growth to take place in either of these ways. For since the matter is ‘separate’, either (a) it will occupy no place (as if it were a point), or (b) it will be a ‘void’, i.e. a non-perceptible body. But the first of these alternatives is impossible. For since what comes-to-be out of this incorporeal and sizeless something will always be ‘somewhere’, it too must be ‘somewhere’-either intrinsically or indirectly. And the second alternative necessarily implies that the matter is contained in some other body. But if it is to be ‘in’ another body and yet remains ‘separate’ in such a way that it is in no sense a part of that body (neither a part of its substantial being nor an ‘accident’ of it), many impossibilities will result. It is as if we were to suppose that when, e.g. air comes-to-be out of water the process were due not to a change of the but to the matter of the air being ‘contained in’ the water as in a vessel. This is impossible. For (i) there is nothing to prevent an indeterminate number of matters being thus ‘contained in’ the water, so that they might come-to-be actually an indeterminate quantity of air; and (ii) we do not in fact see air coming-to-be out of water in this fashion, viz. withdrawing out of it and leaving it unchanged.

It is therefore better to suppose that in all instances of coming-to-be the matter is inseparable, being numerically identical and one with the ‘containing’ body, though isolable from it by definition. But the same reasons also forbid us to regard the matter, out of which the body comes-to-be, as points or lines. The matter is that of which points and lines are limits, and it is something that can never exist without quality and without form.

Now it is no doubt true, as we have also established elsewhere,’ that one thing ‘comes-to-be’ (in the unqualified sense) out of another thing: and further it is true that the efficient cause of its coming-to-be is either (i) an actual thing (which is the same as the effect either generically-or the efficient cause of the coming-to-be of a hard thing is not a hard thing or specifically, as e.g. fire is the efficient cause of the coming-to-be of fire or one man of the birth of another), or (ii) an actuality. Nevertheless, since there is also a matter out of which corporeal substance itself comes-to-be (corporeal substance, however, already characterized as such-and-such a determinate body, for there is no such thing as body in general), this same matter is also the matter of magnitude and quality-being separable from these matters by definition, but not separable in place unless Qualities are, in their turn, separable.

It is evident, from the preceding development and discussion of difficulties, that growth is not a change out of something which, though potentially a magnitude, actually possesses no magnitude. For, if it were, the ‘void’ would exist in separation; but we have explained in a former work’ that this is impossible. Moreover, a change of that kind is not peculiarly distinctive of growth, but characterizes coming-to-be as such or in general. For growth is an increase, and diminution is a lessening, of the magnitude which is there already-that, indeed, is why the growing thing must possess some magnitude. Hence growth must not be regarded as a process from a matter without magnitude to an actuality of magnitude: for this would be a body’s coming-to-be rather than its growth.

We must therefore come to closer quarters with the subject of our inquiry. We must grapple’ with it (as it were) from its beginning, and determine the precise character of the growing and diminishing whose causes we are investigating.

It is evident (i) that any and every part of the growing thing has increased, and that similarly in diminution every part has become smaller: also (ii) that a thing grows by the accession, and diminishes by the departure, of something. Hence it must grow by the accession either (a) of something incorporeal or (b) of a body. Now, if (a) it grows by the accession of something incorporeal, there will exist separate a void: but (as we have stated before)’ is impossible for a matter of magnitude to exist ‘separate’. If, on the other hand (b) it grows by the accession of a body, there will be two bodies-that which grows and that which increases it-in the same place: and this too is impossible.

But neither is it open to us to say that growth or diminution occurs in the way in which e.g. air is generated from water. For, although the volume has then become greater, the change will not be growth, but a coming to-be of the one-viz. of that into which the change is taking place-and a passing-away of the contrasted body. It is not a growth of either. Nothing grows in the process; unless indeed there be something common to both things (to that which is coming-to-be and to that which passed-away), e.g. ‘body’, and this grows. The water has not grown, nor has the air: but the former has passed-away and the latter has come-to-be, and-if anything has grown-there has been a growth of ‘body.’ Yet this too is impossible. For our account of growth must preserve the characteristics of that which is growing and diminishing. And these characteristics are three: (i) any and every part of the growing magnitude is made bigger (e.g. if flesh grows, every particle of the flesh gets bigger), (ii) by the accession of something, and (iii) in such a way that the growing thing is preserved and persists. For whereas a thing does not persist in the processes of unqualified coming-to-be or passing-away, that which grows or ‘alters’ persists in its identity through the ‘altering’ and through the growing or diminishing, though the quality (in ‘alteration’) and the size (in growth) do not remain the same. Now if the generation of air from water is to be regarded as growth, a thing might grow without the accession (and without the persistence) of anything, and diminish without the departure of anything-and that which grows need not persist. But this characteristic must be preserved: for the growth we are discussing has been assumed to be thus characterized.

One might raise a further difficulty. What is ‘that which grows’? Is it that to which something is added? If, e.g. a man grows in his shin, is it the shin which is greater-but not that ‘whereby’ he grows, viz. not the food? Then why have not both ‘grown’? For when A is added to B, both A and B are greater, as when you mix wine with water; for each ingredient is alike increased in volume. Perhaps the explanation is that the substance of the one remains unchanged, but the substance of the other (viz. of the food) does not. For indeed, even in the mixture of wine and water, it is the prevailing ingredient which is said to have increased in volume. We say, e.g. that the wine has increased, because the whole mixture acts as wine but not as water. A similar principle applies also to ‘alteration’. Flesh is said to have been ‘altered’ if, while its character and substance remain, some one of its essential properties, which was not there before, now qualifies it: on the other hand, that ‘whereby’ it has been ‘altered’ may have undergone no change, though sometimes it too has been affected. The altering agent, however, and the originative source of the process are in the growing thing and in that which is being ‘altered’: for the efficient cause is in these. No doubt the food, which has come in, may sometimes expand as well as the body that has consumed it (that is so, e.g. if, after having come in, a food is converted into wind), but when it has undergone this change it has passed-away: and the efficient cause is not in the food.

We have now developed the difficulties sufficiently and must therefore try to find a solution of the problem. Our solution must preserve intact the three characteristics of growth-that the growing thing persists, that it grows by the accession (and diminishes by the departure) of something, and further that every perceptible particle of it has become either larger or smaller. We must recognize also (a) that the growing body is not ‘void’ and that yet there are not two magnitudes in the same place, and (b) that it does not grow by the accession of something incorporeal.

Two preliminary distinctions will prepare us to grasp the cause of growth. We must note (i) that the organic parts grow by the growth of the tissues (for every organ is composed of these as its constituents); and (ii) that flesh, bone, and every such part-like every other thing which has its form immersed in matter-has a twofold nature: for the form as well as the matter is called ‘flesh’ or ‘bone’.

Now, that any and every part of the tissue qua form should grow-and grow by the accession of something-is possible, but not that any and every part of the tissue qua matter should do so. For we must think of the tissue after the image of flowing water that is measured by one and the same measure: particle after particle comes-to-be, and each successive particle is different. And it is in this sense that the matter of the flesh grows, some flowing out and some flowing in fresh; not in the sense that fresh matter accedes to every particle of it. There is, however, an accession to every part of its figure or ‘form’.

That growth has taken place proportionally, is more manifest in the organic parts--e.g. in the hand. For there the fact that the matter is distinct from the form is more manifest than in flesh, i.e. than in the tissues. That is why there is a greater tendency to suppose that a corpse still possesses flesh and bone than that it still has a hand or an arm.

Hence in one sense it is true that any and every part of the flesh has grown; but in another sense it is false. For there has been an accession to every part of the flesh in respect to its form, but not in respect to its matter. The whole, however, has become larger. And this increase is due (a) on the one hand to the accession of something, which is called ‘food’ and is said to be ‘contrary’ to flesh, but (b) on the other hand to the transformation of this food into the same form as that of flesh as if, e.g. ‘moist’ were to accede to ‘dry’ and, having acceded, were to be transformed and to become ‘dry’. For in one sense ‘Like grows by Like’, but in another sense ‘Unlike grows by Unlike’.

One might discuss what must be the character of that ‘whereby’ a thing grows. Clearly it must be potentially that which is growing-potentially flesh, e.g. if it is flesh that is growing. Actually, therefore, it must be ‘other’ than the growing thing. This ‘actual other’, then, has passed-away and come-to-be flesh. But it has not been transformed into flesh alone by itself (for that would have been a coming-to-be, not a growth): on the contrary, it is the growing thing which has come-to-be flesh (and grown) by the food. In what way, then, has the food been modified by the growing thing? Perhaps we should say that it has been ‘mixed’ with it, as if one were to pour water into wine and the wine were able to convert the new ingredient into wine. And as fire lays hold of the inflammable, so the active principle of growth, dwelling in the growing thing that which is actually flesh), lays hold of an acceding food which is potentially flesh and converts it into actual flesh. The acceding food, therefore, must be together with the growing thing: for if it were apart from it, the change would be a coming-to-be. For it is possible to produce fire by piling logs on to the already burning fire. That is ‘growth’. But when the logs themselves are set on fire, that is ‘coming-to-be’.

‘Quantum-in-general’ does not come-to-be any more than ‘animal’ which is neither man nor any other of the specific forms of animal: what ‘animal-in-general’ is in coming-to-be, that ‘quantum-in-general’ is in growth. But what does come-to-be in growth is flesh or bone-or a hand or arm (i.e. the tissues of these organic parts). Such things come-to-be, then, by the accession not of quantified-flesh but of a quantified-something. In so far as this acceding food is potentially the double result e.g. is potentially so-much-flesh-it produces growth: for it is bound to become actually both so-much and flesh. But in so far as it is potentially flesh only, it nourishes: for it is thus that ‘nutrition’ and ‘growth’ differ by their definition. That is why a body’s’ nutrition’ continues so long as it is kept alive (even when it is diminishing), though not its ‘growth’; and why nutrition, though ‘the same’ as growth, is yet different from it in its actual being. For in so far as that which accedes is potentially ‘so much-flesh’ it tends to increase flesh: whereas, in so far as it is potentially ‘flesh’ only, it is nourishment.

The form of which we have spoken is a kind of power immersed in matter-a duct, as it were. If, then, a matter accedes-a matter, which is potentially a duct and also potentially possesses determinate quantity the ducts to which it accedes will become bigger. But if it is no longer able to act-if it has been weakened by the continued influx of matter, just as water, continually mixed in greater and greater quantity with wine, in the end makes the wine watery and converts it into water-then it will cause a diminution of the quantum; though still the form persists.

Next: Chapter 6