Single Idea 17463

[catalogued under 26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / f. Ancient elements]

Full Idea

An element is a body into which other bodies may be analyzed, present in them potentially or in actuality (which of these is still disputable), and not itself divisible into bodies different in form. That is what all men mean by element.

Gist of Idea

An element is what bodies are analysed into, and won't itself divide into something else


Aristotle (On the Heavens [c.336 BCE], 302a05), quoted by Weisberg/Needham/Hendry - Philosophy of Chemistry 1.1

Book Reference

'Stanford Online Encyclopaedia of Philosophy', ed/tr. Stanford University [], p.4

A Reaction

This is the classic definition of an element, which endured for a long time, and has been replaced by an 'actual components' view. Obviously analysis nowadays goes well beyond the atoms.