I'm still a bit new to Aristotle, so this question may be imperfect:

In Meteorology, Aristotle uses friction to explain how the sun generates heat. Although it's composed of aether, and not fire, the sun moves rapidly around a sphere of fire and/or exhalation, creating friction and thereby heating the sublunary world.

However, because Aristotle believes heat is in some sense a "thing" (as one of the two contraries that makes up fire and air respectively) rather than an event (as in our modern view that heat is the vibration of particles) it seems to me that he needs an explanation for why friction, of the sun, sticks, flint, etc. generate that thing out of the fire or exhalation. Unfortunately, I've yet to come across one. My reading is still incomplete and scattered however, and neither can I claim to have understood all that I've read!

Is such an explanation anywhere, even just implicitly, in his corpus? Or alternatively (and this being Aristotle), is there a subtler reason why this question might be misconstruing him or miss the point?

EDIT: So it seems like I don't yet have a handle on the Aristotelian view of heat (see comments). I'm leaving this question open while I do more reading in case someone wants to come along and provide some much-needed clarity, but please consider it tweaked to: Does Aristotle's concept of heat differ from ours, and if so how does he relate that concept to friction?

  • "because Aristotle believes heat is in some sense a 'thing' " Are you sure ? See Meter, 341a14 : "As for the heat derived from the sun, the right place for a special and accurate account of it is in the treatise about perception, since heat is an affection of perception". Jan 30, 2019 at 15:24
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA I am definitely not sure. XD It's been about two months since I read Met. in near-full, and I'm not all that surprised something that big slipped my memory in the interim. I guess the question then becomes, is this a discrepancy in Aristotle or have I also completely misunderstood the role of contraries in Gen & Cor? (going to go reference that now, but it may take a while for me to figure out where I was getting my impression from exactly.)
    – Random
    Jan 30, 2019 at 15:38
  • 1
    Maybe useful : Malcolm Wilson, Structure and Method in Aristotle's Meteorologica Cambridge UP (2015), page 118 : The kapnospheric exhalation. Jan 30, 2019 at 15:45
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Still paging through references, but my general inference seems to have been: Physics saying the basic elements are natural things, elemental fire is made of heat and dryness, so heat is also a thing. Anyway, I'm going to keep the question open while I continue look into this, but tweak it to: Does Aristotle's concept of heat differ from ours, and if so how does he relate that concept to friction?
    – Random
    Jan 30, 2019 at 16:39
  • Because Aristotle noticed that friction generates heat and for simplicity assumed that ONLY friction generates heat?
    – rus9384
    Jan 30, 2019 at 17:16

1 Answer 1


Friction is no more than the interaction of actual material, affecting the organization of that material as well as those "characteristics" imputed to them by man's system of reasoning, through the information of the intellect by the body. That is how friction produces the sensation of "heat," or, the phantasm sent to the mind from the quick movements of matter.

Why the sensation of heat is produced is not philosophical, but takes looking into the order of the events which effected the spatial movement of the matter.

  • Hello, and welcome to Philosophy.SE. The question is about what Aristotle wrote about friction, so answers should refer to his works.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Feb 25, 2019 at 23:05
  • My answer is very much in accord with Aristotle's teachings and is what he himself believed.
    – user96931
    Feb 26, 2019 at 15:23

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