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Aristotle METAPHYSICA Book 10 Part 7

Intermediates and contraries

1. Since contraries admit of an intermediate and in some cases have it, intermediates must be composed of the contraries.

2. For (1) all intermediates are in the same genus as the things between which they stand. For we call those things intermediates, into which that which changes must change first; e.g. if we were to pass from the highest string to the lowest by the smallest intervals, we should come sooner to the intermediate notes, and in colours if we were to pass from white to black, we should come sooner to crimson and grey than to black; and similarly in all other cases. But to change from one genus to another genus is not possible except in an incidental way, as from colour to figure. Intermediates, then, must be in the same genus both as one another and as the things they stand between.

3. But (2) all intermediates stand between opposites of some kind; for only between these can change take place in virtue of their own nature (so that an intermediate is impossible between things which are not opposite; for then there would be change which was not from one opposite towards the other). Of opposites, contradictories admit of no middle term; for this is what contradiction is - an opposition, one or other side of which must attach to anything whatever, i.e. which has no intermediate. Of other opposites, some are relative, others privative, others contrary. Of relative terms, those which are not contrary have no intermediate; the reason is that they are not in the same genus. For what intermediate could there be between knowledge and knowable? But between great and small there is one.

4. (3) If intermediates are in the same genus, as has been shown, and stand between contraries, they must be composed of these contraries. For either there will be a genus including the contraries or there will be none. And if (a) there is to be a genus in such a way that it is something prior to the contraries, the differentiae which constituted the contrary species-of-a-genus will be contraries prior to the species; for species are composed of the genus and the differentiae. (E.g. if white and black are contraries, and one is a piercing colour and the other a compressing colour, these differentiae - 'piercing' and 'compressing' - are prior; so that these are prior contraries of one another.) But, again, the species which differ contrariwise are the more truly contrary species. And the other.species, i.e. the intermediates, must be composed of their genus and their differentiae. (E.g. all colours which are between white and black must be said to be composed of the genus, i.e. colour, and certain differentiae. But these differentiae will not be the primary contraries; otherwise every colour would be either white or black. They are different, then, from the primary contraries; and therefore they will be between the primary contraries; the primary differentiae are 'piercing' and 'compressing'.)

5. Therefore it is (b) with regard to these contraries which do not fall within a genus that we must first ask of what their intermediates are composed. (For things which are in the same genus must be composed of terms in which the genus is not an element, or else be themselves incomposite.) Now contraries do not involve one another in their composition, and are therefore first principles; but the intermediates are either all incomposite, or none of them. But there is something compounded out of the contraries, so that there can be a change from a contrary to it sooner than to the other contrary; for it will have less of the quality in question than the one contrary and more than the other. This also, then, will come between the contraries. All the other intermediates also, therefore, are composite; for that which has more of a quality than one thing and less than another is compounded somehow out of the things than which it is said to have more and less respectively of the quality. And since there are no other things prior to the contraries and homogeneous with the intermediates, all intermediates must be compounded out of the contraries. Therefore also all the inferior classes, both the contraries and their intermediates, will be compounded out of the primary contraries.

6. Clearly, then, intermediates are

7. (1) all in the same genus

8. and (2) intermediate between contraries,

9. and (3) all compounded out of the contraries.


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