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From the previous unit, I want to believe that you can offer your own opinion in discussions about mind and body and you will not lack behind where the problems of universals is discussed. Let us turn our attention to something else. The world as we know it seems to be characterized by change and or movement. There is a tendency therefore to conclude that reality is nothing else but change or movement. In this unit, we are going to look closely at the phenomenon of change or movement with the eyes of philosophy so as to know what the nature of change or movement is. Time also seems to be the greatest illusion of all. What is it? This unit will shed some light on it.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
analyse the nature of change

  1.  identify what motion is 
  2.  distinguish between time and place. 


3.1 The Nature of Movement or Change

According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, “Motion can be taken in a wide and in a strict sense. In the wide sense it stands for any change, for any transition from one state or condition to another. In a strict sense it means succession and continuous change, usually spoken of as movement.” In this lecture, we shall consider movement in its strict sense. Strictly speaking therefore we shall consider movement in these various forms: locally – movement from one place or position to another; quantitatively – increase or decrease in size; and qualitatively – alteration in quality. However, according to Aristotle, it is not necessary to prove the existence of movement (in the above cases) since it is evident in nature. That notwithstanding, it is not difficult to note that the concept of movement constitutes one of the problems in philosophy. But it must be added that the study of movement has helped philosophy to gain a significant insight into the nature of reality itself.
There are necessary factors which must be presumed in movement. They include:

  1.  The subject which moves locally, quantitatively or qualitatively;
  2. Two distinct termini – the beginning point which the subject is and the point at which the subject finds itself at the end of the movement; 
  3.  A permanent substratum which underlies the change or movement and which is common to both ends; 
  4.  It includes also a certain determination which serves as the goal of the movement – a determination which exists merely in potency before the movement; 
  5. A real possibility or an unrealized capacity which the subject has to receive the new determination. 

As mentioned earlier, the study of movement has helped in understanding the nature of being and movement is found to exist in different categories of being. Therefore, any attempt at the definition of movement must go beyond these different categories and touch on concepts which are essential to being. These concepts are act and potency. As we have already known, in philosophy, the term act means the primary act of all, that is, the act of existence. Whatever exists is in act. Strictly speaking act means being. Potency on the other hand, is not being in its full sense, it is a power of being – a capacity to be. We can see now that even though movement exists in several categories of being, yet movement is different from act and different from potency. It is neither act nor potency.

Aristotle in his Physics defines movement as: “The fulfillment of what exists in potentiality, in so far as it exists in potentiality” (Phy. 3, 1 (202b3)). In other words, movement implies the actual process or the actual fulfillment of becoming. Movement or motion situates midway between potentiality and full actuality. When the subject is only in potency, it is not yet in motion, when it has been fully actualized, movement ceases. Therefore, movement is the act of a being in potency precisely as still in potency.
Let us use an illustration to explain this process. A plank of wood is an actual plank of wood, but it has the capacity or the potency to be made into a table. Movement is neither the plank of wood nor the potency nor the table into which the plank of wood can be made; because the plank

of wood is not in motion before the carpenter begins work on it nor is it in motion after the carpenter has worked on it. Movement or motion begins at the moment the carpenter starts the making of the table and continues till the table is produced. Until the table is produced, the wood is still in potency and the movement is incomplete. The plank of wood and the table, that is, the point of departure and the point of arrival are distinct and are often called contraries though they admit intermediaries. The motion between them is continuous and successive. We can see now that movement is not instantaneous, it takes time. It follows also that properly speaking, movement belongs only to bodies since only bodies can undergo the gradual process.
Therefore, in the process of carpentry, that is, when the carpenter is engaged in the making of the table, the plank of wood gradually actualizes its potentiality to be a table. At that point the plank of wood is in motion, on the way to being a table. The plank of wood is in perfect act before the making of the table and the table is in perfect act after it has been made. It is to be said that movement is an imperfect act. It is the act of a being in potency as it is still in potency. It is the act of a being capable of becoming something else. What stands out in this explanation of movement is the reality of change and becoming in being. Change or movement necessarily is a process in which one thing loses its identity in order to assume another. G. Lagrange supports this view when he states: “Becoming [change or movement] involves a certain absence of identity which can be explained by something other than act, and this other something can only be a real capacity….” (Reality, p. 361). We can see now that change or movement does not invalidate the principle of identity. We have to say rather that every created thing has a capacity to become one or more things successively.

3.2 Time and Place

Place: The Latin word for place is locus from which is derived the word locomotion. A place answers the question “where?” Ubi in Latin. The physical concept of place is tied to the nature of a thing. Place is defined as the measure of moveable bodies. Place remains unchanged when the
body leaves. Thus place is different from the body, which it contains. This is why Aristotle defines place as “the primary motionless boundary of that which contains.” Let us take for example the milk in a jar: If we ask: where is the milk? The answer is that it is in a jar. Thus the jar serves as the motionless boundary, vessel or the container for the milk, it is the place for the milk and different from the milk Place is the inner surface of the body in place. It is a distance connected to quantity.

Time: Time is another difficult concept to grasp. Time is associated with motion and, in fact, it is the measure of motion. Motion is not uniform but time is uniform and physically universal. Time is the number in motion. Let us take this diagram for example 1st

now__________________________2nd now between the first point and the second point, there is a passage of time. The first now stands for the moment and so also the second now. Time is the distance between the first now and the second now. So time is the number of motion

according to before and after or the measure of motion according to before and after. It is the distance between the before and after. Time is a continuum, it flows. Continuum itself is a species of quantity. Time is that indivisible part joining the past and the future. The past is no longer
and the future is not yet. Time is existence by reason of the past or the future but not by reason of its indivisibles. The now of time give reality to the past and the future. Time is a being of reason.


The realities of change and movement, time and place, are very evident in our world but their explanation from the philosophical point of view are not that easy. What is given here is to stimulate your thinking so that you may pay more attention to what is usually taken for granted.


Change or movement is successive in nature while time and place are associated with motion and bodies.


  1. . Describe the movement between the plank of wood and the table; 
  2. What do you understand by the notion “Place?” 


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