In the classical philosophy, air is hot and wet, while earth is cold and dry.
In the Indian teachings, both of these are rather cold; air is dry and earth is wet.

These are merely examples. I'd like to, however, figure out less or more general statistics regarding these two elements' attributes, including but not requiring symbolism.

[I assume the four temperaments do reflect the classical viewpoint?]

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    Is the italicized part at the top a quote. If so, what are your quoting? Also, as written, what is the question about philosophy rather than say anthropology in terms of cosmology?
    – virmaior
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 13:06
  • "statistics" ???? Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 18:38
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    Not aware of any Indian teachings in the Vedas that teach what you say. Do you have a reference for your quote??? The elements referred to In vedic philosophy - indian philosophy - such as water and air are subtle elements - not the gross elements of water and air...incapable of being either cold or dry or wet which are perceptions of gross elements.... Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 9:46

2 Answers 2


There are three ways of laying out the four elements. If you choose to have Fire at the top of a + the element opposite can be any of the other three, and then the left and right positions are basically symmetrical and don't create more variation.

The layout you are talking about, the one with Water opposite Fire is the one aligned with Astrology. The actual hot, wet, cool and moist notions apply to the seasons dominated by those elements. Spring, dominated by Air (associated with rapid change) is wet and warm; Summer, dominated by Fire is hot and dry; Autumn, dominated by Earth, is dry and cool; Winter, dominated by Water, is cold and wet. This is true at least at the latitudes of the Classical Ascendancy.

Farther away from the Equator, Autumn is wet and Winter is dry, so Winter is associated with Air and placed opposite Summer associated with Fire; while Autumn is associated with Earth and placed opposite Spring associated with Water. The strong association of Winter with Air is common in northern cultures with festivals of light at midwinter when the air is exceptionally clear, and the alternation of temperate wet and extreme dry seasons, can be found in some Celtic and Teutonic traditions.

The arrangements opposing Fire with Earth are more common in cultures less dominated by either of these forces, because the actual substances physically, visibly arrange themselves that way. The heat of fire rises, and Earth falls through both Air and Water. This is the elemental arrangement that has become more popular over time, and is used, for instance in Jungian type theory, European racial stereotyping, and Wiccan geographical associations.


The four classical elements were known rather early and they came apparently from the craft of pottery. It is only Aristotle who gave an analysis in terms of two principles and their presence (or absence). 'Moisture' and 'heat' being the two principles, two elements contain just one of them: water and fire. More explicitly, water is the unadulterated presence of moisture and so there is an absence of heat. Air being much like fire is presence of heat and presence of moisture. A double absence, of both moisture and heat, should be ascribed to earth and this points to some unqualified substrate beneath the four elements.

This is a rather elegant structural analysis and offers what Levi Strauss called an example of concrete logic. It is difficult to argue for some alternative along these lines, so there is no room for statistics in the traditions that followed Aristotle.

Interestingly, in modern times the four elements look like the four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas and plasma; actually there is one substance and different amounts of energy.

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