Aristotle, On the Heavens

LCL 338: x-xi

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Introduction I. Contents. Aristotle’s World-system

The Greek word οὐρανός used as a title to describe the subject of this work,a bears, as Aristotle himself explains (i. 9. 278 b 11), three different meanings: (i) the sphere which bounds the whole Universe, and contains the fixed stars, (ii) the region between this outermost sphere and the moon, where are the spheres carrying the planets, (iii) the Universe as a whole, i.e. everything enclosed by the outermost sphere, including the earth. Books i. and ii. of the treatise, forming together two thirds of the whole, deal with the first and second regions, which stand in contrast to the sublunary world as being made of the divine and imperishable substance aither. The shorter books iii. and iv. discuss the sublunary world, containing the familiar four elements which are the material of the earth and the atmosphere immediately surrounding it. It is conceivable therefore that, as Alexander of Aphrodisias supposed, the title was chosen to indicate the full scope of the work, but more likely that (as Mr. Allan suggests) it was thought of by the ancient editors in its more restricted sense,