On the Infinite Universe and Worlds


Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule




 PHILOTHEO (occasionally called THEOPHILO).

Elpino. How is it possible that the universe can be infinite?

Philotheo. How is it possible that the universe can be finite?

Elpino. Do you claim that you can demonstrate this infinitude?

Philotheo. Do you claim that you can demonstrate this finitude?

Elpino. What is this spreading forth?

Philotheo. What is this limit?

Fracastoro. To the point, to the point, if you please. Too long you have kept us in suspense.

Burchio. Come quickly to argument, Philotheo, for I shall be vastly amused to hear this fable or fantasy.

Fracastoro. More modestly, Burchio. What wilt thou say if truth doth ultimately convince thee?

Burchio. Even if this be true I do not wish to believe it, for this Infinite can neither be understood by my head nor brooked by my stomach. Although, to tell the truth, I could yet hope that Philotheo were right, so that if by ill luck I were to fall from this world I should always find myself on firm ground.

Elpino. Certainly, O Theophilo, if we wish to judge by our senses, yielding suitable primacy to that which is the source of all our knowledge, perchance we shall not find it easier to reach the conclusion you expressed than to take the contrary view. Now be so kind as to begin my enlightenment.

Philotheo. No corporeal sense can perceive the infinite. None of our senses could be expected to furnish this conclusion; for the infinite cannot be the object of sense-perception; therefore he who demandeth to obtain this knowledge through the senses is like unto one who would desire to see with his eyes both substance and essence. And he who would deny the existence of a thing merely because it cannot be apprehended by the senses, nor is visible, would presently be led to the denial of his own substance and being. Wherefore there must be some measure in the demand for evidence from our sense-perception, for this we can accept only in regard to sensible objects, and even there it is not above all suspicion unless it cometh before the court aided by good judgement. It is the part of the intellect to judge, yielding due weight to factors absent and separated by distance of time and by space intervals. And in this matter our sense-perception doth suffice us and doth yield us adequate testimony, since it is unable to gainsay us; moreover it advertiseth and confesseth his own feebleness and inadequacy by the impression it giveth us of a finite horizon, an impression moreover which is ever changing. Since then we have experience that sense-perception deceiveth us concerning the surface of this globe on which we live, much more should we hold suspect the impression it giveth us of a limit to the starry sphere.

Elpino. Of what use then are the senses to us? Tell me that.

Philotheo. Solely to stimulate our reason, to accuse, to indicate, to testify in part; not to testify completely, still less to judge or to condemn. For our senses, however perfect, are never without some perturbation. Wherefore truth is in but very small degree derived from the senses as from a frail origin, and doth by no means reside in the senses.

Elpino. Where then?

Philotheo. In the sensible object as in a mirror. In reason, by process of argument and discussion. In the intellect, either through origin or by conclusion. In the mind, in its proper and vital form.

Elpino. On, then, and give your reasons.

Philotheo. I will do so. If the world is finite and if nothing lieth beyond, I ask you Where is the world? Where is the universe? Aristotle replieth, it is in itself. [1] The convex surface of the primal heaven is universal space, which being the primal container is by naught contained. For position in space is no other than the surfaces and limit of the containing body, so that he who hath no containing body hath no position in space. [2] What then dost thou mean, O Aristotle, by this phrase, that "space is within itself"? What will be thy conclusion concerning that which is beyond the world? If thou sayest, there is nothing, then the heaven [3] and the world will certainly not be anywhere.

Fracastoro. The world will then be nowhere. Everything will be nowhere.

Philotheo. The world is something which is past finding out. If thou sayest (and it certainly appeareth to me that thou seekest to say something in order to escape Vacuum and Nullity), if thou sayest that beyond the world is a divine intellect, so that God doth become the position in space of all things, why then thou thyself wilt be much embarrassed to explain to us how that which is incorporeal [yet] intelligible, and without dimension can be the very position in space occupied by a dimensional body; and if thou sayest that this incorporeal space containeth as it were a form, as the soul containeth the body, then thou dost not reply to the question of that which lieth beyond, nor to the enquiry concerning that which is outside the universe. And if thou wouldst excuse thyself by asserting that where naught is, and nothing existeth, there can be no question of position in space nor of beyond or outside, yet I shall in no wise be satisfied. For these are mere words and excuses, which cannot form part of our thought. For it is wholly impossible that in any sense or fantasy (even though there may be various senses and various fantasies), it is I say impossible that I can with any true meaning assert that there existeth such a surface, boundary or limit, beyond which is neither body, nor empty space, even though God be there. For divinity hath not as aim to fill space, nor therefore doth it by any means appertain to the nature of divinity that it should be the boundary of a body. For aught which can be termed a limiting body must either be the exterior shape or else a containing body. And by no description of this quality canst thou render it compatible with the dignity of divine and universal nature. [4]

Burchio. Certainly I think that one must reply to this fellow that if a person would stretch out his hand beyond the convex sphere of heaven, the hand would occupy no position in space nor any place, and in consequence would not exist.

Philotheo. I would add that no mind can fail to perceive the contradiction implicit in this saying of the Peripatetic. Aristotle defined position occupied by a body not as the containing body itself, nor as a certain [part of] space, [5] but as a surface of the containing body. Then he affirmeth that the prime, principal and greatest space is that to which such a definition least and by no means conformeth, namely, the convex surface of the first [outermost] heaven. This is the surface of a body of a particular sort, a body which containeth only, and is not contained. Now for the surface to be a position in space, it need not appertain to a contained body but it must appertain to a containing body. And if it be the surface of a containing body and yet be not joined to and continuous with the contained body, then it is a space without position, since the first [outermost] heaven cannot be a space except in virtue of the concave surface thereof, which is in contact with the convex surface of the next heaven. Thus we recognize that this definition is vain, confused and self-destructive, the confusion being caused by that incongruity which maintaineth that naught existeth beyond the firmament.

Elpino. The Peripatetics would say that the outermost heaven is a containing body in virtue of the concave and not of the convex surface thereof, and that in virtue of the concave surface it is a space.

Fracastoro. And I would add that therefore the surface of a containing body need not be a position in space. [6]

Philotheo. In short then, to come straight to my proposition, it appeareth to me ridiculous to affirm that nothing is beyond the heaven, and that the heaven is contained in itself and is in place and hath position only by accident, that is, by means of the parts thereof. And however Aristotle's phrase by accident be interpreted, he cannot escape the difficulty that one cannot be transformed into two, for the container is eternally different from the contained, [7] so different, indeed, that according to Aristotle himself, the container is incorporeal while the contained is corporeal; the container is motionless while the contained hath motion; the container is a mathematical conception while the contained hath physical existence. [8]

Thus let this surface be what it will, I must always put the question, what is beyond? If the reply is Nothing, then I call that the Void or emptiness. And such a Void or Emptiness hath no measure and no outer limit, though it hath an inner; and this is harder to imagine than is an infinite or immense universe. For if we insist on a finite universe, we cannot escape the void. And let us now see whether there can be such a space in which is naught. In this infinite space is placed our universe (whether by chance, by necessity or by providence I do not now consider). I ask now whether this space which indeed containeth the world is better fitted to do so than is another space beyond?

Fracastoro. It certainly appeareth to me, not so. For where there is nothing, there can be no differentiation; where there is no differentiation there is no distinction of quality and perhaps there is even less of quality where there is naught whatsoever.

Elpino. Neither also can there be then any lack of quality, and this more surely than the previous proposition.

Philotheo. You say truly. Therefore I say that as the Void or Emptiness, which according to the Peripatetic view is necessary, hath no aptness to receive [i.e., no power of attracting the world], still less can it repel the world. But of these two faculties we see one in action, while the other we cannot wholly see except with the eye of reason. As therefore this world (called by the Platonists Matter), lieth in this space which doth equal in size the whole of our world, so another world can be in that other space, and [other worlds] in innumerable spaces beyond of similar kind. [9]

Fracastoro. Certainly we may judge more confidently by analogy with what we see and know than in opposition to what we see and know. Since then, on the evidence of our sight and experience, the universe hath no end nor is terminated in Void and Emptiness, about which indeed there is no information, therefore we should reasonably conclude as you do, since if all other reasonings were of equal weight, we should still see that our experience is opposed to a Void but not to a Plenum: therefore we shall always be justified in accepting the Plenum; but if we reject it, we shall not easily escape a thousand accusations and inconveniences. Continue, O Philotheo.

Philotheo. As regards infinite space, we know for certain that this is apt for the reception of matter and we know naught else thereof; for me, however, it is enough that infinity is not repugnant to the reception of matter, if only because where there is naught, there at least is no outrage. It remaineth to see whether or not it is convenient that all space be filled? And here, if we consider no less what it may be than what it may do, we shall still find the Plenum not merely reasonable but inevitable. That this may be manifest I ask you whether it is well that this world [10] exist.

Elpino. It is very well.

Philotheo. Then it is well that this space equal in size to the world (I will call it Empty Space, like to and indistinguishable from the space which thou wouldst call the nullity beyond the convexity of the first heaven) that this space I say should similarly be filled.

Elpino. Certainly.

Philotheo. I ask thee further. Dost thou think that as in this our space there existeth this frame that we call the world, so the same could have existed or could exist in another space within this great Emptiness?

Elpino. I will say yes, albeit I do not see how we can posit any distinction between one thing and another in mere nullity and empty space.

Fracastoro. I am sure that thou dost see, but thou art not anxious to declare it, for thou dost perceive whither this will lead thee.

Elpino. Declare it indeed without hesitation, [11] For it behoveth us to declare and understand that our world [12] lieth in a space which without our world would be indistinguishable from that which is beyond your primum mobile.

Fracastoro. Continue.

Philotheo. So just as this space can contain and hath contained this universal body, and is necessarily completed thereby as thou didst say, so also all the rest of space can be and hath been no less completed in this manner.

Elpino. I admit it. What may be deduced therefrom? A thing can be or can have: therefore is it or hath it?

Philotheo. I will expound so that, if thou wishest to make a frank confession, then wilt thou say that it can be, that it should be, that it is. For just as it would be ill were this our space not filled, that is, were our world [12] not to exist, then, since the spaces are indistinguishable, it would be no less ill if the whole of space were not filled. Thus we see that the universe [13] is of infinite size and the worlds [14] therein without number.

Elpino. Wherefore then must they be so numerous rather than a single one?

Philotheo. Because if it were ill that our world [15] should not exist, or that this Plenum should not be, then the same holdeth good of our space or space of similar kind. [16]

Elpino. I say that 'twere ill as regards that which is in this our space, which might equally exist in another space of the same kind. [16]

Philotheo. This, if thou considereth well, cometh all to the same. For the goodness of this corporeal being which is our space, or could be in another space similar to ours [16] doth explain and concern that goodness, suitability and perfection which may be in a space like to and as great as our own or in another similar [16] to ours, but doth not concern that goodness which may be in countless other spaces similar to our own. [17] This argument is the more cogent since, if it is reasonable to postulate a finite goodness, a bounded perfection, all the more reasonable is the conception of an infinite goodness. For whereas finite goodness appeareth to us reasonable and convenient, the infinite is an imperative necessity.

Elpino. Infinite Good doth certainly exist, but is incorporeal.

Philotheo. We are then at one concerning the incorporeal infinite; but what preventeth the similar acceptability of the good, corporeal and infinite being? And why should not that infinite which is implicit in the utterly simple and individual Prime Origin rather become explicit in his own infinite and boundless image able to contain innumerable worlds, than become explicit within such narrow bounds? So that it appeareth indeed shameful to refuse to credit that this world which seemeth to us so vast may not in the divine regard appear a mere point, even a nullity?

Elpino. But since the greatness of God lieth not at all in corporeal size (not to mention that our world doth add nothing to him) so also we should not conceive the greatness of his image to consist in the greater or lesser extent of the size thereof. [18]

Theophilo. Well said. But you do not answer the pith of the argument. For I do not insist on infinite space, nor is Nature endowed with infinite space for the exaltation of size or of corporeal extent, but rather for the exaltation of corporeal natures and species, because infinite perfection is far better presented in innumerable individuals than in those which are numbered and finite. Needs must indeed that there should be an infinite image of the inaccessible divine countenance and that there should be in this image as infinite members thereof, innumerable worlds, namely, these others that I postulate. But since innumerable grades of perfection must, through corporeal mode, unfold the divine incorporeal perfection, therefore there must be innumerable individuals, those great animals, whereof one is our earth, the divine mother who hath given birth to us, doth nourish us and moreover will receive us back; [19] and to contain these innumerable bodies there is needed an infinite space. Nevertheless it is well that there should be since there can be innumerable worlds similar to our own, even as our world hath achieved and doth achieve existence and it is well that it should exist.

Elpino. We shall say that this finite world [20] with the finite stars embraceth the perfection of all things.

Theophilo. You may say so, but you cannot prove it. For the world [20] of this our finite space embraceth indeed the perfection of all those finite objects contained within our space, but not of those infinite potentialities of innumerable other spaces.

Fracastoro. Pray let us stop here and not act like those sophists who dispute merely for victory, and while they strive for their laurels prevent both themselves and others from comprehending the truth. For I believe there is none so pertinacious in perfidy and in slander withal as to deny that since space may contain infinity and in view of the goodness both individual and collective of the infinite number of worlds [21] which may be contained therein, therefore each of them, no less than this world which we know, may rationally and conveniently have his being. For infinite space is endowed with infinite quality and therein is lauded the infinite act of existence, whereby the infinite First Cause is not considered deficient, nor is the infinite quality thereof in vain. Let us then, O Elpino, be content to hear further arguments from Philotheo if they should occur to him.

Elpino. To tell the truth, I see well that to pronounce the world (as you name the universe) boundless, carrieth no inconvenience and indeed freeth us from many difficulties in which the contrary opinion doth envelope us. In particular I recognize that, if we follow the Peripatetics, we must often assert that which hath no basis in our thought. For example, having denied the existence of empty space either without or within the universe, [22] when we seek to reply to the question "Where is the universe?" we must needs declare the universe to be within the very parts thereof, for fear of asserting that it is in no place whatsoever. As though we were to say Nullibi, nusquam. But it cannot be denied that by such arguments 'twere needful to declare that the parts occupy some position while the universe occupieth no position and is not in space. And this (as all will recognize) is meaningless nonsense, and is clearly an obstinate flight in order to avoid confession of the truth, and to refuse admission either of the infinity of the world and of the universe, or of the infinity of space. From such attempts there followeth double confusion to whoever adopteth them. I therefore affirm that if the universe [23] be a single spherical body, and therefore hath form and limit, then it must terminate within infinite space. And if we would say that nothing is within infinite space, then we must admit a truly empty space, and if this exist, it is no less reasonable to conceive it of the whole than of this part which here we see capable of enclosing this world. But if vacant space doth not exist, then must [the whole of space] be a plenum, and consequently this universe must be infinite. And it were no less foolish to affirm that the world must have position after we have asserted that nothing lieth beyond it, or to maintain that it is within the very parts of itself, than if we were to say that Elpino must have position because his hand is on his arm, his eye on his face, his foot on his leg, his head on his body. But to come to a conclusion, not behaving like a sophist standing on manifest difficulties or spending my time in chatter, I declare that which I cannot deny, namely, that within infinite space either there may be an infinity of worlds similar to our own; or that this universe may have extended its capacity in order to contain many bodies such as those we name stars; or again that, whether these worlds be similar or dissimilar to one another, it may with no less reason be well that one than that another should exist. For the existence of one is no less reasonable than that of another; and the existence of many no less so than of one or of the other; and the existence of an infinity of them no less so than the existence of a large number. Wherefore, even as the abolition and nonexistence of this world would be an evil, so would it be of innumerable others.

Fracastoro. You explain right well, and you shew that you understand argument and are not a mere sophist since you accept that which cannot be denied.

Elpino. Yet I would hear the further argument concerning the primal and eternal efficient cause; whether such infinite effect beseemeth thereto and doth therefore in fact follow therefrom? [24]

Philotheo. This is indeed what I had to add; for, having pronounced that the universe must itself be infinite because of the capacity and aptness of infinite space; on account also of the possibility and convenience of accepting the existence of innumerable worlds like to our own; it remaineth still to prove it. Now both from the circumstances of this efficient cause which must have produced the universe such as it is, or rather, must ever produce it such as it is, and also from the conditions of our mode of understanding, we may easily argue that infinite space is similar to this which we see, rather than argue that it is that which we do not see either by example or by similitude or by proportion, or indeed by any effort of imagination which doth not finally destroy itself. Now to begin. Why should we or could we imagine that divine power were otiose? Divine goodness can indeed be communicated to infinite things and can be infinitely diffused; why then should we wish to assert that it would choose to be scarce and to reduce itself to naught -- for every finite thing is as naught in relation to the infinite? Why do you desire that centre of divinity which can (if one may so express it) extend infinitely to an infinite sphere, why do you desire that it should remain grudgingly sterile rather than extend itself, as a father, fecund, ornate and beautiful? Why should you prefer that it should be less or indeed by no means communicated, rather than that it should fulfil the scheme of its glorious power and being? Why should infinite amplitude be frustrated, the possibility of an infinity of worlds [25] be defrauded? Why should be prejudiced the excellency of the divine image which ought rather to glow in an unrestricted mirror, infinite, immense, according to the law of its being? Why must we affirm this opinion which beareth with it so many inconveniences and penalties and, without in any way fostering law, religions, faith or morality, destroyeth so many philosophical principles? Why wouldst thou that God should in power, in act and in effect (which in him are identical) be determined as the limit of the convexity of a sphere, rather than that he should be as we may say the undetermined limit of the boundless? The limit I say, without limit, that I may differentiate the one infinity from the other. For He is the whole, comprehensive [26] and complete totality of the infinite, but the universe is the explicit though not the all-comprehensive totality (if indeed we may in any wise use the term totality where there is neither part nor boundary). Therefore the nature of the one doth comprehend boundaries; that of the other is bounded. And this is not the distinction between infinite and finite. The distinction is rather that the one is infinite, while the other doth limit according to the nature of the totality and of the whole being thereof. So that although it is entirely infinite, the infinity thereof is not completely comprehensive, for this would be repugnant to dimensional infinity.

Elpino. I would like to understand this better; indeed you would give me pleasure if you would somewhat further expound that which you call the comprehensive and complete infinite totality and the completely infinite.

Philotheo. I say that the universe is entirely infinite because it hath neither edge, limit, nor surfaces. But I say that the universe is not all-comprehensive infinity because each of the parts thereof that we can examine is finite and each of the innumerable worlds contained therein is finite. I declare God to be completely infinite because he can be associated with no boundary and his every attribute is one and infinite. And I say that God is all-comprehensive infinity because the whole of him pervadeth the whole world and every part thereof comprehensively and to infinity. That is unlike the infinity of the universe which is comprehensively in the whole but not comprehensively in those parts which we can distinguish within the whole (if indeed we can use the name parts, since they appertain to an infinite whole). [27]

Elpino. I understand. Now continue your proposition.

Theophilo. Then, by virtue of all those arguments by which this world understood as finite is said to be expedient, good and necessary, so also should all the innumerable other worlds be named expedient and good; and to them by the same argument Omnipotence doth not grudge being; and without them, Omnipotence would be reproached for deficiency either of will or of power in thus permitting a void or (if thou likest not the term void) an infinite space, whence would result diminishment not only of infinite perfection of being, but also of the infinite majesty of the efficient cause acting on created or on dependent things, if eternal. What argument would persuade us that the Agent capable of creating infinite good should have created it finite? And if he hath created it finite, why should we believe that the Agent could have created it infinite, since power and action are in him but one? For he is immutable, there is no contingency in his action or in his power, but from his determined and assured power there immutably do follow determined and assured results. Wherefore he cannot be other than what he is, nor can he be that which he is not, nor achieve that for which he hath no power, otherwise than as he willeth, and he necessarily cannot do other than he doth, since power without action appertaineth only to those things which are mutable.

Fracastoro. Certainly that which never was nor is, nor shall be, can neither exist nor be patient of power. If indeed the Prime Efficient Cause is unable to will save as he doth will, then is he unable to do other than as he doth. Nor can I understand what some mean when they speak of infinite active power to which correspondeth no infinite passive power, and aver that that Power doth create finite unity which could create innumerable beings in infinite immensity; for his action is determined by necessity, since it doth proceed from that will supremely immutable, wherein immutability and necessity are thus but one and the same. Wherefore we perceive the complete identity of liberty, free will and necessity and, moreover, we recognize that action and will, potentiality and being are but one.

Philotheo. You agree and you speak right well. We have then to admit one or other of the two following propositions. Either Efficient Cause, since from him there can follow an infinite result, must be recognized as the cause and origin of the infinite universe which containeth innumerable worlds, whence there ariseth no inconvenience but all is in convenient harmony with science, with the law and with Faith. Or on the Efficient Cause there dependeth a finite universe with a determined number of worlds, which are the stars, wherefore this Efficient Cause must be recognized as endowed with a finite and determined active power, conformable to finite and determined action, for the quality of the action followeth that of both will and power.

Fracastoro. I complete and set forth a pair of syllogisms as follows: Had the First Efficient Cause willed to do other than in fact he willeth, then he could have done other than he doth; but (in fact) he cannot will to do other than he doth will to do. Therefore he cannot do other than he doth. Therefore he who affirmeth a finite result affirmeth also a finite action and finite power. Moreover (though it amounteth to the same), the Prime Efficient Cause can do naught but what he willeth to do, he willeth but what he doth, therefore he can do naught but what he doth. Wherefore he who denieth infinite result denieth also infinite power.

Philotheo. These syllogisms if not simple are demonstrable. Nevertheless I praise some worthy theologians who accept them not. For considering the matter carefully, they know that rude and ignorant folk come to be unable to conceive how, under this necessity, free will and dignity or the rewards of justice can survive. Wherefore, confident or desperate under an irrevocable fate, they become inevitably very wicked. Thus sometimes certain corrupters of laws, faith and religion, wishing to appear wise, have infected with their views many peoples, rendering them more barbarous and wicked than they were before, despising good works, doing and confirmed in every vice and ribaldry on account of the conclusions which they draw from such premises. [28] Albeit to express to the wise a contrary opinion is not so scandalous nor derogatory to the divine greatness and excellence; but rather that which is true is pernicious to civil conversation and contrary to the object of laws not because it is true but because it is ill understood, both by those who use it maliciously and by those who are not fitted to hear it without wreck of their good habits.

Fracastoro. True. There hath never been found a learned and worthy philosopher who, under any kind of pretext, hath wished to deduce from such a proposition the necessity of human action and thus to destroy free will. Thus, Plato and Aristotle among others, in postulating the necessity and immutability of God, posit no less the moral liberty and power of our free will, for they know well and understand how compatible are that necessity and that free will. Wherefore some true fathers and pastors of the people perhaps deny this and similar opinions, that they may not provide opportunity for sinners and seducers hostile to decency and to the general weal, to draw harmful conclusions, and to abuse the simplicity and ignorance of those who can grasp the truth but hardly, and are but too readily inclined to evil. And such fathers and pastors will readily condone in us the expression of true propositions from which we have no wish to deduce aught but the truth concerning Nature and the excellence of her Author, such propositions not being propounded by us to the ignorant but only to the wise who can penetrate the true meaning of our discourses. This is why theologians no less learned than religious have never opposed the liberty of philosophers, while the true philosophers of civil worth and of good custom have ever fostered religions. For both sides know that faith is required for the rule [29] of the rude populace who must be governed, while demonstration is for the contemplative who know how to govern themselves and others.

Elpino. Enough of this protestation; return now to the proposition.

Theophilo. To come then to the discovery of that which we seek. I say that if in the first efficient Cause there be infinite power, there is also action from which there resulteth a universe of infinite size and worlds infinite in number.

Elpino. What you say is very persuasive if not true. But this I will declare to be true, since it appeareth to me most probable, if you can resolve for me one important argument which forced Aristotle to deny intensive infinite divine power, though he admitted it in extension. And the reason of his denial was that as in God power and action are the same, therefore if he could move infinitely, then he would move infinitely and with infinite vigour; and if this were true he would see the heaven moved instantaneously, for if a stronger force moveth with greater speed, then an immensely strong force would move with immense speed, and infinite force [must] move instantaneously. The reason on the other hand for Aristotle's consent [as to infinite divine power in extension] was that God moveth the primum mobile with eternal regularity according to that law and rhythm whereby it moveth. [30] Thou seest therefore that by this reasoning Aristotle doth attribute to God extensive infinity but not absolute intensive infinity withal, whence I would conclude that as his infinite motive power is constrained to motive action in conformity with finite speed, so also the same power of creating the immense and the innumerable is limited by his own will to the finite and numerable. Some theologians have argued almost in the same way, since besides admitting infinity in extension, whereby God conveyeth perpetual motion to the universe, they require also intensive infinity with which he can create and move innumerable worlds, and cause each of them and all at once to move instantaneously; nevertheless God hath thus limited by his will the number of the innumerable multitude of worlds, and also the quality of utterly intensive motion. And as this motion, which proceedeth indeed from infinite power (nothing interfering), is recognized as finite, so also the number of worlds may easily be believed to be determinate.

Theophilo. This argument indeed is more persuasive and plausible than the other, with regard to which enough hath been said, since it asserteth that the divine will doth regulate, moderate, and limit the divine power. Whence there follow innumerable inconveniences at least to the philosopher, leaving aside theological principles which, however, by no means admit that divine power exceedeth divine will and goodness, or generally that one attribute consorteth more than another with the nature of divinity.

Elpino. Then why do they speak in this fashion if such is not their meaning?

Theophilo. Through inadequacy both in stating and in solving these problems.

Elpino. You then, who have certain principles with which you affirm one point, namely, that the divine power is infinite both intensively and extensively; and that action cannot be distinguished from power; that therefore the universe is infinite and the worlds innumerable (nor do you deny the further point that each of the stars or orbs -- as thou art pleased to say -- is moved within time and not instantaneously), shew me, with what statements and reasonings you can achieve salvation for your own views or deny those of others, who judge in contrary fashion from yourself.

Theophilo. For the solution that you seek you must realize Firstly, that since the universe is infinite and immobile, there is no need to seek the motive power thereof, Secondly, the worlds contained therein such as earths, fires and other species of body named stars are infinite in number, and all move by the internal principle which is their own soul, as we have shewn elsewhere; [31] wherefore it is vain to persist in seeking an extrinsic cause of their motion. Thirdly, these worlds move in the ethereal regions and are not fixed or nailed down on to any body, any more than is our earth, which is one of them. And we prove that this earth doth from innate animal instinct, circle around her own centre in diverse fashion and around the sun. These matters having been thus declared, we are not, according to our principles, obliged to demonstrate either active or passive motion arising from infinite intensive force, for the moving body, as also the motor power, is infinite; moving soul and moved body meet in a finite subject, that is, in each of the aforesaid stars which are worlds. So that the Prime Origin is not that which moveth; but itself still and immobile, it giveth the power to generate their own motion to an infinity of worlds, [32] great and small animals placed in the vast space of the universe, each with a pattern of mobility, of motion and of other accidents, conditioned by its own nature.

Elpino. Your position is well fortified; nevertheless you have not overthrown the structure of contrary opinions which have all as their glorious and presupposed foundation that the Best and Greatest doth move the whole. Thou sayest that it accordeth the power of moving itself to the whole which moveth itself, wherefore motion taketh place according to the power of the nearest motive force. Certainly, this saying of thine appeareth to me most reasonable and more rather than less convenient than the usual opinion. Nevertheless, as regards that which you are wont to say concerning the soul of the world and concerning the divine essence which is all in all, filleth all, and is more intrinsically pervasive of things than is their very own essence, because it is the essence of essences, the life of lives, the soul of souls, it doth none the less appear to me that we may say that he moveth all things rather than that he bestoweth on all things the power to move themselves. Whence the doubt already introduced appeareth to be well founded.

Theophilo. And in this I can easily satisfy you. I declare that there are to be observed (if you will) within things two active principles of motion: the one finite according to the nature of the finite subject, and this moveth within time; the other infinite, according to the nature of the soul of the world or indeed of Divinity which is as the soul of the soul which is all in all, and it createth the soul, all in all, and this doth move instantaneously. The earth then hath two motions just as all bodies which move themselves have two principles of motion. Of these the infinite principle is that which simultaneously moveth and hath moved, whereof according to that reasoning the mobile body is no less utterly stable than utterly mobile. This is clear in the present figure wherein is represented the earth which doth experience instantaneous motion, inasmuch as she is impelled by innate motive power of infinite force. The earth moveth herself so that her centre is transferred from A to E and turneth again from E to A, this all in a single instant. [33]

[Diagram I]

Thus at the very same moment the earth is in A and in E and in all the intermediate positions; moreover, at one and the same moment she hath departed and hath returned; and since this is always the case, it doth follow that the earth is always utterly stable. Similarly as regards the motion thereof around her centre, where the East thereof is at I, the South at V, the West at K and the North thereof at O. Each of these points revolveth by virtue of an infinite impulse, whereof each hath at the same moment started and returned; consequently each is for ever fixed and remaineth where it was. So that in conclusion, we see that for these bodies to be moved by infinite force amounteth to the same thing as though they were not moved, since instantaneous motion and stillness are one and the same thing. There remaineth then the other active principle of motion which is the result of intrinsic quality, and consequently is within time and in a certain succession. And this motion is distinct from immobility. Thus it is that we can say that God moveth all; and thus should we understand that He giveth the power of self-motion to all which moveth.

Elpino. Now that thou hast in such exalted and efficacious manner removed and resolved for me this difficulty, I yield fully to your judgement. I hope moreover always to receive from you similar solutions, for though I have practised and attempted but little hitherto, I have yet received and understood a good deal. And I hope for great further benefit, for though I still do not fully see your meaning, from the ray which is diffused I apprehend that behind it is held either a sun or a yet greater luminary; and from to-day on it will be not with the hope of surpassing your ability, but with the object of affording occasion for your explanations that I will return to discourse with you, if you will deign to meet here at the same hour for as many days as may suffice for me to hear and understand as much as may fully quiet my mind.

Philotheo. This I will do.

Fracastoro. I shall be very grateful and we shall be most attentive listeners to you.

Burchio. And I, albeit understanding little, if I do not comprehend the ideas I shall hearken to the words; if I do not hearken to the words, I shall hear the voice. Farewell.

End of the First Dialogue.

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule