Friday, 20 April 2012

Leucippus (5th century BCE) and Democritus (C.460-371)

Julia Alsop continues her exploration of early metaphysical philosophers

This article is a little different to my previous metaphysics posts – it covers two metaphysicists together, because these two evolutionary theorists worked alongside each other, similarly considering theories.

Little is known about Leucippus, although it is deemed likely that he was from Miletus, like first metaphysical thinker Thales. More is known about Democritus, from Abdera in Greece, who had written around seventy books, although none survive today – but were written about by Epicurus later, he died at a very old age.

Now, Leucippus and Democritus made huge steps into ideas which are very similar to our knowledge today – they theorized that everything was made up of tiny, indivisible particles, which they referred to as atomos, the greek for “atoms” – sound familiar?

Anyway, they further claimed that empty spaces separated out these atoms and they moved freely. While free, they collided and formed new arrangements of atoms and allowed objects to appear to change around us. They believed that there were an infinite number of atoms, however the number of combinations of alignment is only finite, and hence there is only apparently a certain amount of substances in existence. This logic suggested that when we died, for example, atoms of bodies moved away, dispersed and were reformed elsewhere.

This theory, known as atomism, was considered outlandishly bold, but offered the first full, atheist, mechanistic explanation of the universe, and many crucial parts of our knowledge of matter has been developed around this, and revolutionized our knowledge of metaphysical possibilities.

See other articles in the series:

1 comment:

  1. Cantius notes that Parmenides really put the cat amongst the pigeons with his idea that suggests what is, is and what is not, is not. This is because he also suggests that change is impossible. Whereas Leucippus with his ideas of crashing invisible particles was really on to something. Parmenides and Leucippus would marvel at the amazing properties of dilithium. This crystalline substance regulates the matter-antimatter reaction and channels the changes associated with what is and what is not to provide energy of sufficient power to make warp space travel possible ie faster than the speed of light. Scientists and philospophers alike have much to look forward to....


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