§15 [105-107]

Aristotle proceeds at once to the characteristic determination of place: ἔχει τινὰ δύναμιν (b10f.), "place has a certain power" (translating in the usual way). Δύναμις is here understood in a quite strictly ontological sense; δύναμις implies that the place pertains to the being itself, the place constitutes precisely the possibility of the proper presence of the being in question. This possibility, like every possibility, is prescribed in a determinate direction: every being has its place. The δύναμις of the τόπος pertains to beings themselves as such. φέρεται γὰρ ἕκαστον εἰς τὸν αὑτοῦ τόπον μὴ κωλυόμενον, τὸ μὲν ἄνω τὸ δὲ κάτω (b11f.). Fire, πῦρ, as such, has its place ἄνω; earth, γῆ, as such has its place κάτω (cf. b19f.). The light possesses in its Being a prescription to its place, above; the heavy to its place, below. And that is not arbitrary but φύσει (b18). These assertions of Aristotle's are self-evident, and we may not permit mathematical-physical determinations to intrude. The heavy goes below, the light above. Fire has its determined location; i.e., the τόπος of fire pertains to its very Being. In the same way, what is light belongs above; if it is not above, then, as long as it is not impeded, it will go up. Each being possesses in its Being a prescription toward a determinate location or place. The place is constitutive of the presence of the being. Every being is carried, φέρεται,, to its place, εἰς τὸν αὑτοῦ τόπον, τὸ μὲν ἄνω, τὸ δὲ κάτω, "the one above, the other below." This consideration of τόπος is carried out in Physics IV, chapters 1-5.

Aristotle designates ἄνω and κάτω as μέρη or εἴδη of place. Μέρος has here a quite broad meaning: character, moment, determination. ταῦτα δ᾽ ἐστὶ τόπου μέρη καὶ εἴδη, τό τε ἄνω καὶ τὸ κάτω καὶ αἱ λοιπαὶ τῶν ἓξ διαστάσεων (Phys. IV, 1, 208b12ff.). The outward look of a place is determined according to these possibilities: above-below, front-back, right-left. These are the six διαστάσεις into which beings can be dissected. Aristotle emphasizes expressly: ἕστι δέ τά τοιαῦτα οὐ μόνον πρός ἡμᾶς, τό ἄνω καὶ κάτω καὶ δεξιόν καὶ ἀριστερόν (b14f.), "these things, above and below, right and left, are not just in relation to us," relative to the particular orientation we happen to take up. ἡμῖν μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ἀεὶ τὸ αὐτό, "admittedly, for us the above and the below are not always the same," they do not properly exist, ἀλλά κατά τὴν θέσιν, ὅπως ἂν στραφῶμεν, γίνεται (b15f.), "but instead they correspond to a θέσις, to the way we happen to stand and turn at any time." Here θέσις is introduced in opposition to τόπος as such. Hence there are determinations of τόπος which in a certain sense are absolute within the world; along with these, however, there is also the possibility that much changes: what is above for one person may be below for another. This change is one of θέσις, is dependent on how we place ourselves, on our particular stance. Therefore one and the same thing is often to the right and to the left at the same time. ἐν δὲ τῇ φύσει διώρισται χωρὶς ἕκαστον (b18f.). "On the other hand, in nature itself (i.e., considering things simply in their Being) everything is for itself positioned in its own place."