University of Illinois at Chicago

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Five Aporiai on Place

posted on 2022-08-01, 00:00 authored by Seth Michael-Martin Christensen
Commentary on Aristotle’s concept of place often overlooks many of place’s most fascinating features. By focusing on five of the six aporiai Aristotle presents on place in Physics 4.1, my dissertation aims to recapture much of the originality of Aristotle’s thought on place. Chapter one provides a preliminary introduction to place and to the various notions of place in Aristotle’s physics. Chapter two considers the structure of the account of place in Physics 4.1-5 and notes several special features. Chapters three-seven address the aporiai. Chapter three puts the long-standing idea that for Aristotle place is simply a two-dimensional surface to test. I argue that, corresponding with what Aristotle says about place and its “parts and kinds,” place does have three dimensions. Chapter four considers the places of bodies and of bodily limits. The place of a point poses a special problem for differentiating the place of a body from the body itself. I argue that while bodies are in place in actuality and in virtue of themselves, points and other limits are in place accidentally. This thought is bolstered by considering the ontological priority that bodies have over limits for Aristotle. Chapter five considers place’s status as an element. The Aristotelian conception of element is considered. I argue that place is neither an element nor composed of elements, as Aristotle indicates in the second aporia, and I further argue, contrary to the views of commentators, that being an element or being composed of elements is not necessary to be for Aristotle. Chapter six considers place’s role as a cause. Special consideration is given concerning the notion of place under consideration in the fourth aporia. I argue that the approaches taken by commentators that involve specifying proper place as the subject of the aporia are misguided. Once the appropriate notion of place is put into focus, and it is recognized that place in general terms can neither be form nor matter, it follows that none of the four causes belongs to place. I further argue that the disagreement among commentators over proper place’s causal role is mostly superficial, and I aim to conclusively explain proper place’s causal role. Chapter seven considers the sixth aporia. This aporia deals with place and bodily growth. Commentators argue that when a body grows, the place of a body does not grow but instead the surrounding body yields. I argue that yielding may not preclude the growth of the surrounding limits, and that it is wise to approach the sixth aporia by considering whether place is always equal to that which is in place, especially when motion is involved. Considering place’s immobility, what happens to place/the immediate surrounding limit when a body grows, and distinguishing between the different notions of place all help to provide a more satisfying resolution to the sixth aporia than has been previously offered. The concluding chapter summarizes the results of my dissertation and suggests areas for future research.



Huggett, Nicholas


Huggett, Nicholas



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Polansky, Ronald Eaton, Anne Sutherland, Daniel Metcalf, Robert

Submitted date

August 2022

Thesis type



  • en

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