posse esse non corpus

itaque

Member
I am quite baffled from this line from Cicero (Acad. Post. 1.11.39):
[Zeno] nullo modo arbitrabatur quidquam effici posse ab ea (natura) quae expers esset corporis -- nec vero aut quod efficeret aut quod efficeretur, posse esse non corpus
I'm trying to translate this literally, and here is my awful result:
Zeno in no way thought that anything was made in potentiality from its nature, a nature which may be lacking body -- but neither what makes nor what is made, [...?]
What are the grammatical cues I'm missing here? And what does one do with "posse esse non corpus"?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Also, ea isn't genitive, so it doesn't mean "its".

Esset is in the subjunctive just because it's part of indirect speech (it's the rule for finite verbs that are dependent on indirect speech to be in the subjunctive). It should translate to the English indicative.

I'm not sure why you said "was made in potentiality" rather than "could be made". Your way seems roundabout and not very clear.

So:

[Zeno] nullo modo arbitrabatur quidquam effici posse ab ea (natura) quae expers esset corporis

= rather literally: "Zeno in no way thought that anything could be made by that nature which was lacking a body"

More usually in current English you would say "by a nature that was lacking a body". Or probably, in this context a term like "entity" or "being" would be more usual than "nature".
 

itaque

Member
Thanks all. So, does the following seem correct?

Zeno in no way thought that anything could be created by an incorporeal [being] -- but [rather he thought that] neither what created nor what was created could be incorporeal.

And, let me test my understanding. I noticed that efficere is an infinitive (effici) in the first part of the sentence, and a finite verb (efficeret, efficeretur) in the second part of the sentence. Is the reason for this that, in the first part, efficere is the object of posse, whereas in the second part, esse is the object of posse?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Thanks all. So, does the following seem correct?

Zeno in no way thought that anything could be created by an incorporeal [being] -- but [rather he thought that] neither what created nor what was created could be incorporeal.
Yes, that's good.
And, let me test my understanding. I noticed that efficere is an infinitive (effici) in the first part of the sentence, and a finite verb (efficeret, efficeretur) in the second part of the sentence. Is the reason for this that, in the first part, efficere is the object of posse, whereas in the second part, esse is the object of posse?
Effici would be in the infinitive in the first part no matter what, even if it was all direct speech, because, as you say, it's the object of posse. But posse itself wouldn't be in the infinitive if it weren't the main verb of an accusative-and-infinitive indirect-speech clause. In the second part, efficeret and efficeretur are in another form than the infinitive because, indeed, they aren't the objects of posse, nor are they main verbs in the indirect speech clause — rather, they're finite verbs in a subordinate clause (in this case specifically a relative clause) dependent on the main (accusative-and-infinitive) indirect-speech clause.
 
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