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On The Soul   

from any kind of body (if it were, it would again itself be a kind

of body)-it is the presence of fire or something resembling fire in

what is transparent. It is certainly not a body, for two bodies cannot

be present in the same place. The opposite of light is darkness;

darkness is the absence from what is transparent of the

corresponding positive state above characterized; clearly therefore,

light is just the presence of that.

Empedocles (and with him all others who used the same forms of

expression) was wrong in speaking of light as 'travelling' or being at

a given moment between the earth and its envelope, its movement

being unobservable by us; that view is contrary both to the clear

evidence of argument and to the observed facts; if the distance

traversed were short, the movement might have been unobservable, but

where the distance is from extreme East to extreme West, the draught

upon our powers of belief is too great.

What is capable of taking on colour is what in itself is colourless,

as what can take on sound is what is soundless; what is colourless

includes (a) what is transparent and (b) what is invisible or scarcely

visible, i.e. what is 'dark'. The latter (b) is the same as what is

transparent, when it is potentially, not of course when it is actually

transparent; it is the same substance which is now darkness, now


Not everything that is visible depends upon light for its

visibility. This is only true of the 'proper' colour of things. Some

objects of sight which in light are invisible, in darkness stimulate

the sense; that is, things that appear fiery or shining. This class of

objects has no simple common name, but instances of it are fungi,

flesh, heads, scales, and eyes of fish. In none of these is what is

seen their own proper' colour. Why we see these at all is another

question. At present what is obvious is that what is seen in light

is always colour. That is why without the help of light colour remains

invisible. Its being colour at all means precisely its having in it

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