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Atomism: Democritus And Epicurus Essay, Research Paper

Atomism: Democritus and Epicurus

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Doctrine 116

October 17, 1996

In the Atomists, we see pluralism taken every bit far as it could perchance travel.

We see Democritus and Epicurus divide all the universe, every bit good as the existence,

into two classs ; atoms and empty infinite. Everything else is simply thought

to be. The atoms are ageless, infinite in size and figure and they are

traveling through the empty infinite. There is no gesture without empty infinite. Both

Democritus and Epicurus agreed that gesture was impossible in a plenum, but it is

here that their theories diverge. In the cause of the gesture, we begin to see a

assortment of sentiments.

Both Democritus and Epicurus agreed that the? qualitative universe of sense

perceptual experience arises from the gesture of qualitatively impersonal atoms. They believe

that the huge qualitative assortment consequences from the? jostle & # 8217 ; of atoms & # 8230 ; as

they collide and resile apart, and so, invariably organize new groupings? ( Jones 84 ) .

They believe it to be a mechanical procedure happening wholly by opportunity.

Furthermore, although new groupings are invariably being formed, merely the few

that can last are considered the? right? combinations. These are the

combinations we recognize through our senses as being? existent? , although they are

non. However, the manner in which this complex gesture begins is a beginning of

contention and dissension amongst the Atomists.

Democritus assumes that the atoms & # 8217 ; gesture is ageless. The atoms are

ne’er at remainder. He presumes that their nature is to travel, thereby avoiding? the

job of explicating the beginning of the complex gesture of atoms by merely

confirming that it is in their nature to travel so? ( Jones 85 ) . He believes that

atoms are born along with the whole existence in a whirl. The whirl is non an

outside influence, but instead the gesture of the atoms themselves. He ne’er

histories for the induction of this gesture. He merely states that it is an

built-in quality of the atoms themselves.

Epicurus, on the other manus, wanted to happen a logical thinking behind the

initial motion of the atoms ; to happen the cause of the initial hits

which start the creative activity procedure of the existence.

Through observation of objects falling? down? within our limited

perceptual infinite, Epicurus concluded that in the enormousness of infinite infinite

there can be no? down? since there is no point from which, or to which, an

object ( in this instance an atom ) is falling. Since an objects & # 8217 ; natural province

seemed to be remainder, Epicurus decided that it was non gesture, but lack thereof,

that is in a things & # 8217 ; true nature. Therefore it is gesture which requires an

account ( Jones 85 ) .

Since it is agreed that the atoms must clash in order to organize? objects?

that possess different qualities, the frequence of these hits must be

boundlessly big. How else can one history for the assortment of objects

recognized as? normal? ? The infinite in which the atoms are going is big

beyond our every construct of size, and the atoms are little on the really same

graduated table. The chance of even two of these atoms clashing while they fall

through the nothingness is infinitesimal, if non non-existent.

Epicurus efforts to explicate these hits with his? sheer? theory.

In this, he holds there is an arbitrary, unperceivable swerving in the heterosexual?

falling? way of the atoms. Rather than lend the hits to the nature

of the atoms themselves, he is trying to account for the frequence of

hits, and in consequence addition the chance of two atoms clashing in

infinite infinite.

There are many jobs with this predication. In consequence, it is no

better an statement than Democritus & # 8217 ; nature theory. If we begin to presume that

events merely? go on? randomly, we do non derive any deeper penetration than we do

by stating that these events are in the nature of things. Both of these

places lead us off from Atomism, since we are get downing to confirm the

creative activity of something out of nil, a place to which the Atomists are

diametrically opposed.

Modern philosophers like Dr. Jones, let for Epicurus & # 8217 ; sheer theory

since? given one swerving the system can develop, for it is plausible to say

that clashing atoms react in different ways. ? Some spring back at great infinite

apart, others are thrust but a short manner from the blow & # 8217 ; ? ( Jones 88 ) . Equivocal

as it is, Epicurus could non logically come to another decision without

go againsting his earlier instructions.

Another point on which the Atomists disagree is the nature of

qualitative differences such as weight and colour. Although both Democritus and

Epicurus agree that atoms are without these qualities, their accounts of the

phenomenon of their being are rather different.

Democritus, trying to keep the unity of Atomistic natural philosophies,

says that qualitative differences are, in fact, semblances. Neither atoms, nor

empty infinite possess these features, hence, Democritus concludes, they

must be semblances. He supports this theory by stating that the gesture of the

atoms that constitute the perceived object causes some of the atoms of that object

to be flung into the way of the atoms of the centripetal organ, which in itself is

a aggregation of atoms in gesture. Thereby, the hit of the atoms which are

traveling from the object being sensed set the atoms of the sense organ in gesture.

The gesture perpetuates the semblance of qualitative assortment. With this statement,

Democritus is able to account for the differences of sentiment sing an

objects & # 8217 ; qualities. What smells Sweet to one, may smell foul to another.

Antithetically, Epicurus attempts to explicate centripetal phenomenon in a

clearer manner. His account, nevertheless, once more deviates from the nucleus

declarations of Atomism. Epicurus agrees that atoms themselves have no

qualitative differences. However, he declares that groups of atoms can

develop a quality such as colour. He theorized that the qualities we perceive

are a byproduct of the gesture and hit within atomic groups themselves.

As the group moves, the qualities change. These qualities Epicurus called? ?

belongingss & # 8217 ; non? accidents & # 8217 ; of combinations or aggregations of atoms. A belongings

is a characteristic that some entity needfully has ; an accident is a

characteristic that is impermanent and transient. Therefore, in conformity with these

definitions, colour is a belongings of atomic aggregations ( for all such aggregation

hold some colour or other ) , and? ruddy & # 8217 ; is an accident. Though a aggregation is

needfully colored, it is non needfully & # 8220 ; red? ( Jones 89 ) .

Therefore, Epicurus attributed the qualitative differences non to our

perceptual experience, but to the atoms themselves. We come to an impass here. We have

already decided that all that exists are atoms and empty infinite. Epicurus so

goes on to province that the qualities are non semblances, yet they do non be as

portion of the atoms, nor do they be within the nothingness. Where, so, are these

qualities? Epicurus equivocally calls these qualities? concomitants? yet

ne’er explains how they can be outside of world and still be considered


Epicurus changed the philosophy of Democritus in many ways in an effort

to clear up some of the more questionable predications. Epicurus & # 8217 ; theory is non

needfully superior, but surely progressive. There is room for discourse on

a assortment of the Atomists & # 8217 ; theories. Since they are the first school of idea

from which we have so much written record, there is bound to be divergency of

sentiment. The countries I have discussed relate merely the country of natural philosophies. Epicurus

efforts to decide some of the quandary Democritus leaves unresolved in ethical

and psychological quandary every bit good.

Of class, linguistic and interpretative restraints play a portion in all

philosophical theory of the classical period. Yet in our & # 8220 ; modern & # 8221 ; universe, we

rely to a great extent on the thoughts set Forth by these great minds. It would be

foolish to take one construct as superior over another because the range of thoughts

given to us by these minds is excessively great a wealth to judge subjectively.