Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, ITALY

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The feather and the guinea The void: an absurd idea The void and divine omnipotence

The Aristotelian world system.



Natural philosophy was dominated for nearly two millennia by the ideas of Aristotle, which were then reinterpreted by the Scholastics in order to bring them into line with the dogmas of the Christian faith.
In his Physics, Aristotle declares that the affirmation of the existence of the void - as Democritus had done - represented an infringement of the principle of non-contradiction. For Aristotle, a space without objects (that is, void), is not in fact the same as nothing, but has its own permanent existence.
Nor can the void, for Aristotle, be considered insofar as it is immaterial, seeing that natural philosophy has as its object only being as being.
On the other hand, Aristotle, while conceiving of the universe as finite, denied resolutely that beyond the confines of the world there was the void.
The Greek philosopher, moreover, considered the sublunar world to be composed of four elements (fire, air, earth and water) and claimed that each of these had its own natural place, from which it could be removed only by an act of violence. In their natural places, elements did not have weight. So air, for the Greek philosopher and his many followers, had no weight, and did not exert pressure.




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