'numerically one' and 'individual'. For this is just what we mean by the individual—the numerically one, and by the universal we mean that which is predicable of the individuals. Therefore just as, if the elements of articulate sound were limited in number, all the literature in the world would be confined to the ABC, since there could not be two or more letters of the same kind, so is it with all existing things and their first principles.
One difficulty which is as great as any has been omitted both by modern philosophers and by their predecessors—whether the principles of perishable and those of imperishable things are the same or different. If they are the same, how are some things imperishable and others perishable, and for what reason? The school of Hesiod and all the mythologists thought only of what was plausible to themselves, and had no regard to us. For asserting the first principles to be gods and born of gods, they say that the beings which did not taste of nectar and ambrosia became mortal; and clearly they are using words which are familiar to themselves, yet what they have said even about the very application of these causes is above our comprehension. For if the gods taste nectar and ambrosia for their pleasure, these are in no wise the causes of their existence; and if they taste them to maintain their existence, how can gods who need food be eternal?—But into the subtleties of the mythologists it is not worth our while to inquire seriously; those, however, who use the language of proof we must cross-examine and ask why, after all, things which consist of the same elements are, some of them, eternal in nature, while others perish. Since these philosophers mention no cause, and it is unreasonable that things should be as they say, evidently the principles or causes of things cannot be the same. Even the man whom one might suppose to speak most consistently—Empedocles,—even he has made the same mistake; for he maintains that strife is a principle that causes destruction, but strife would seem none the less to produce everything, except the One; for all
- With 999b24-1000a4 cf. 996a1-2. For the answer cf. z. 14, γ. 4 m. 10.