Atomism: Democritus And Epicurus



In the Atomists, we see pluralism taken as far as it could possibly go.
We see Democritus and Epicurus divide all the world, as well as the universe,
into two categories; atoms and empty space. Everything else is merely thought
to exist. The atoms are eternal, infinite in size and number and they are
moving through the empty space. There is no motion without empty space. Both
Democritus and Epicurus agreed that motion was impossible in a plenum, but it is
here that their theories diverge. In the cause of the motion, we begin to see a
variety of opinions.

Both Democritus and Epicurus agreed that the “qualitative world of sense
perception arises from the motion of qualitatively ...

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the way in which this complex motion begins is a source of
controversy and disagreement amongst the Atomists.

Democritus assumes that the atoms' motion is perpetual. The atoms are
never at rest. He presumes that their nature is to move, thereby avoiding “the
problem of explaining the origin of the complex motion of atoms by simply
affirming that it is in their nature to move so” (Jones 85). He believes that
atoms are born along with the whole universe in a vortex. The vortex is not an
outside influence, but rather the motion of the atoms themselves. He never
accounts for the initiation of this motion. He simply states that it is an
inherent quality of the atoms themselves.

Epicurus, on the other hand, wanted to find a reasoning behind the
initial movement of the atoms; to find the cause of the initial collisions
which start the creation process of the universe.

Through observation of objects falling “down” within our limited
perceptual space, Epicurus concluded ...

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postulation. In effect, it is no
better an argument than Democritus' nature theory. If we begin to assume that
events simply “happen” arbitrarily, we do not gain any deeper insight than we do
by saying that these events are in the nature of things. Both of these
positions lead us away from Atomism, since we are beginning to affirm the
creation of something out of nothing, a position to which the Atomists are
diametrically opposed.

Modern philosophers like Dr. Jones, allow for Epicurus' swerve theory
since “given one swerve the system can develop, for it is plausible to suppose
that colliding atoms react in different ways. ‘Some leap back at great space
apart, others are thrust ...

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Added: 1/23/2005 05:57:49 PM
Category: Miscellaneous
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 1290
Pages: 5

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