Aristotle wrote in his Physics:

The earth is in the water, the water is in the air, the air is in the ether, the ether is in the sky, and the sky is no longer in anything else.

Do you agree with Aristotle's statement that the sky (universe) has no location?

  • 1
    Yes, no infinite regress. Apr 13 at 11:07
  • Why can't we say that the sky is in a void?
    – ggk hj
    Apr 13 at 11:34
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    What I mean is that from this statement of Aristotle one can deduce the theme of the location of the universe as a whole. If the universe is the totality of everything that exists, then where is it itself? Nowhere? Is it correct to assume that it is not located anywhere?
    – ggk hj
    Apr 13 at 14:16
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    @ggkhj In what ways can we make this question relevant to our time and really philosophical? What do you expect from a discussion about this?
    – Frank
    Apr 13 at 15:00
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    @ggkhj, back when Aristotle was a living person, science, philosophy, same thing! However, wouldn't ya like to dig deeper into why some scientists are so antiphilosophy these days? The son rebels, Oedipus-like. May 14 at 7:23

4 Answers 4


Sky is spacetime. Spacetime extends throughout the universe. So, sky cannot have a location.

  • What exactly is "sky is spacetime" supposed to mean? This does not make any sense.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Apr 13 at 13:29
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    What is sky? It is nothing but the spacetime that we see around us. It makes sense to think of it in this way. Apr 13 at 15:11
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    In this he is right. Aristotle probably identified the sky and the universe, in which there are all other objects.
    – ggk hj
    Apr 13 at 15:15

Well, it's weird to ask if I agree, since I can agree or disagree for any reason, including no reason at all, and I imagine that's not what you mean to ask.

It's not clear to me whether you are requesting argumentation regarding the extent to which his thesis could have been construed to be true at the time, or at the current moment. I feel that since you're asking whether I agree--as someone living right now, that means that my agreeing or not agreeing has to conform, to some extent, to my other ideas, which are influenced by contemporary knowledge. After all, people do tend to avoid cognitive dissonance (though, as a neuropsychologist, I must add that people are also completely fine with either giving themselves bad excuses or not dealing at all with cognitive dissonance).

But I digress. Regarding your question, I would call attention to one of PBS Space Time's newer videos discussing the ontology of time and space. My answer will largely be based on content from this video.

One thing I'd call to attention is that some historic people, including Newton, famously believed that there was some sort of objective coordinate system through which we can appreciate the position of any given thing. It doesn't seem to me that Aristotle is arguing this position. Instead, he seems to be arguing that our ability to observe the "position" property of objects is dependent on our capacity to position them ourselves in a map inside our minds. In this context, the lack of any meaningful construct that would serve as parameter from which any sort of coordinate system could be established--cognitive pause to process; anyway, the lack of any such construct would make it impossible to localize the sky anywhere, and as such, it could be said that it is not anywhere.

As you say, though, he has to mean 'universe', here, because it's immediately clear that this is not true for the sky. Now... it's not clear to me that this is true for the universe, either. As I said, from Newton's position on this issue we're led to believe that this was a position that at least some people held, and it seems clear to me that Aristotle was not confortable with a completely relative positioning system (e.g., 'the sky is outside the Earth').

So, I hope I don't dissapoint when I say I have no position in this matter whatsoever.

tl;dr: I have no idea.

  • Okay, I'll ask it another way: Is Aristotle's statement true that the universe is located nowhere? Have there been arguments for or against it since then? I also note that he believed that the sky is the universe, because everything else is inside the sky, and there is nothing outside the sky.
    – ggk hj
    Apr 13 at 18:32
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    Apr 16 at 19:59
  • The whole point ta life seems ta be variety loads of it. I recall look at this giant digital counter on the side of a road in a megacity. In 3 seconds, the number displayed jumped up by at least 30,000. There are, quite obviously, many ways to answer the question as posed. I suggest we go ta a toy store to get some ideas. May 14 at 11:35
  • Maybe Philosophical questions have a "Best Before" date? Does it make any sense now to answer a 2000 year old question? If I tried to pay for something with 2000 year old coins, it wouldn't go well. Heck, even Canadian quarters get you a funny look.
    – Scott Rowe
    May 14 at 13:00

What I understand from Aristotle’s statement is that the location of an object must by definition be relative to some other object, whether quantitative (10m north of this tree) or qualitative (in the sea). He’s saying that the sky is not contained in anything that he knows about.


We know that there must be a boundary between space and earth because of the cosmic rays that create enough radiation that and is in the universe and it would kill us all. This is known as the atmosphere and there is also more to it then this but without it we would be too hot or cold and we would be exposed to all of the cosmic radiation in the universe.

  • Didn't understand the answer. I note that Aristotle believed that the sky is the universe, because everything else is inside the sky, and there is nothing outside the sky.
    – ggk hj
    Apr 13 at 18:33
  • If the sky was the universe then the earth is inside of the sky. I understand what you are saying, but I want to ask you a question. What is the boundary of the universe? Since the universe is always getting bigger because matter is expanding. This means that the universe would need to be inside of something for it to expand. My question is: What is the universe inside of if it is always able to get bigger because matter expands. If the universe is not inside of anything than that means that it has a boundary and matter would not be able to expand because there is not enough room to expand.
    – Simerarion
    Apr 14 at 16:32
  • The common explanation is that the universe is like the surface of an expanding balloon: there is no boundary to the surface, but it expands. The surface doesn't get bigger IN something, it just gets bigger. Right? So the universe is itself, it isn't in anything. It IS.
    – Scott Rowe
    May 14 at 13:04

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