Air and Fire as Force

by Steven McCabe

in black rain

Xenophanes is said to have argued against the thesis that the world breathes: he must have been thinking of some Ionian nature-philosophers. Possibly Anaximenes originated the idea.

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Aristotle says that among older Pythagoreans was a similar belief; its advocates connected it with the theory that the world contained empty space.

the ice storm

Sextus says that the Pythagoreans and Empedokles based it on their creed that the fellowship of men is not merely with one another and with the gods, but includes animals: “For there is one pneuma which pervades, like a soul, the entire universe and which also makes us one with them.”

cosmic physics

By adding the opposites dry and moist, hot and cold, to pneuma, thinkers were able to differentiate the pneuma of psyche, dry and warm, from the pneuma of physis (world of plants), moist and cold.

as emotional

Orphic theology represented the psyche as entering the newborn child on wings of wind.

in detritus

We are not sure how far air was active or passive in early formulations. There seems a confusion in Aristotle and later writers, perhaps through a linking of air and water-vapour.


Poseidonios makes moisture produce the chill of air over marshy ground; but his pupil Cicero stressed the caloric content of air.

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Ploutarch pointed to the active role of air in freezing water, and assigned air a mid-position between fire and water.

surrealistic insurance

The Stoics made air and fire active.

black bucket wreckralph 2

Ch. 6  – Air and Fire as Force

Blast Power & Ballistics: Concepts of Force & Energy in the Ancient World

 by Jack Lindsay

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 I do not own the copyright to the original image

of the auto-insurance agent found in the Toronto Star.

I altered it for purposes of commentary

under fair use provisions.

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