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A view that has been entertained traditionally by Aristotelian scholars is that the four simple bodies in the sublunary world (earth, water, air, and fire) cannot exist independently; a consequence of this view is the general belief that all homoeomers or uniform bodies have to be compounds. i would like to suggest that, while Aristotle consistently maintains that the four basic opposites (hot, cold, moist, dry) cannot exist independently, this is not always the case with the four simple bodies. My central claim is that Meteorology IV – Aristotle’s ‘chemical treatise’ – provides evidence that, contrary to the traditional interpretation of his natural philosophy, not all uniform stuffs (ta homoiomerē) are necessarily compounds of the four simple bodies or even of just earth and water; indeed, some of them consist of only one element: earth or water. This, however, does not prevent, for instance, bodies consisting entirely of earth from displaying different behaviors among them and, so, from being divisible into distinct kinds or forms (eidē) according to their material dispositions. If my interpretation is correct, we may need to rethink and redefine Aristotle’s concept of homoeomer which involves uniformity, but not necessarily chemical combination (although most of the homoeomers are indeed compounds). Every instance of chemical combination is a homoeomer, but every homoeomer is not necessarily a compound. in short, i would like to reexamine both the notion that all uniform bodies are compounds (of earth and water or of all four simple bodies) and the cognate notion that elements cannot exist on their own, but are only present in potentiality as ingredients in chemical combinations. The last section of my paper will consider several implications of this conclusion for Aristotle’s cosmology and theory of mixis and separation, as well as a few additional clarifications regarding the ‘purity’ of the simple bodies, the nature of the two exhalations and of the forms of earth and water, and the emergence of both dispositional and categorical properties.


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