Aristotle Quiz: Distinguishing Change from Movement
According to Aristotle, while the house changing from non-being to being was discrete, the change in the quality of its elements was continuous and spanned a period of time. Aristotle argues that a change from being to non-being and vice versa, referred to simply as a change, is different from a change in the quality of an entity or its components, referred to as a movement (226b. 19-22).
Further, he says that the “actuality, or natural form, of a buildable’s motion must be either the final construct or the act of building.
The former is shown to be illogical as there would be no buildable once the construction is complete, so the actuality of the motion must apply to the act of building (202a. 5-11). This means that the motion will span a period of time and must be a gradual process. This contrasts the change of the structure from not being a house to being a house, which is proved to be a discrete process with continuous intermediate (226b. 26-30).
Aristotle shows movement and change to be dissimilar by comparing their opposites, or lack thereof. He postulates the opposite of movement to be rest, but argues that there is no logical opposite of change (225b. 20-27). This is due to the fact that a change can only occur if there is a change in substance of the entity, otherwise it would simply be altered. He illustrates this point with the example of birth and death, arguing that they are not direct opposites as gaining life gains substance and losing life loses substance (226b. 12-16). This becomes more evident with his explanation that a source of one’s own movement can originate from within living beings, but the principle of motion for inanimate objects must come artificially or from nature external to their being (193a. 26-29, 193a. 32-33).
The importance of this distinction stems from the fact that mainstream philosophy of Aristotle’s time rejected the notion that an entity can truly come to exist from nothing or cease to exist into nothing. Aristotle’s qualification of the types of change refutes this notion, as for example the combination of a construction worker and building materials can come together as a material cause and an efficient cause to create the entity of a home. This continuous motion in underlying elements is therefore shown to elicit a fundamental change of the whole, and therefore supports the possibility of creating or destroying an entity.