certain elements; for all things that perish, perish by being resolved into the elements of which they consist; so that it follows that prior to the principles there are other principles. And this is impossible, whether the process has a limit or proceeds to infinity. Further, how will perishable things exist, if their principles are to be destroyed? But if the principles are imperishable, why will things composed of some imperishable principles be perishable, while those composed of the others are imperishable? This is not probable, but is either impossible or needs much proof. Further, no one has even tried to maintain different principles; they maintain the same principles for all things. But they swallow the difficulty we stated first as if they took it to be something trifling.
The hardest inquiry of all, and the one most necessary for knowledge of the truth, is whether being and unity are the substances of things, and whether each of them, without being anything else, is being or unity respectively, or we must inquire what being and unity are, with the implication that they have some other underlying nature. For some people think they are of the former, others think they are of the latter character. Plato and the Pythagoreans thought being and unity were nothing else, but this was their nature, their essence being just unity and being. But the natural philosophers take a different line; e. g. Empedocles—as though reducing it to something more intelligible—says what unity is; for he would seem to say it is love: at least, this is for all things the cause of their being one. Others say this unity and being, of which things consist and have been made, is fire, and others say it is air. A similar view is expressed by those who make the elements more than one; for these also must say that being and unity are precisely all the things which they say are principles, (1) If we do not suppose unity and being to be substances, it follows that none of the other universals is a substance; for these are most universal of all. For if there is no unity-itself or being-itself, there will scarcely be in any other case anything apart from what are
- With 1000a5-1001a3 cf. 996a2-4. For the answer cf. z. 7-11, λ.