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Atomism, Democritus And Epicurus Essay

1283 words - 5 pages

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 neutral atoms. They believe that the immense qualitative variety results from the 'jostling' of atoms...as they collide and bounce apart, and so, constantly form new groupings" (Jones 84). They believe it to be a mechanical process occurring completely by chance. Furthermore, although new groupings are constantly being formed, only the few that can survive are considered the "right" combinations. These are the combinations we recognize through our senses as being "real", although they are not. However, 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 that in the vastness of infinite space there can be no "down" since there is no point from which, or to which, an object (in this case an atom) is falling. Since an objects' natural state seemed to be rest, Epicurus decided that it was not motion, but lack thereof, that is in a things' true nature. Therefore it is motion which requires an explanation (Jones 85).Since it is agreed that the atoms must collide in order to form "objects" that possess different qualities, the frequency of these collisions must be infinitely large. How else can one account for the variety of objects recognized as "normal"?The space in which the atoms are traveling is large beyond our every conception of size, and the atoms are small on the very same scale. The probability of even two of these atoms colliding while they fall through the void is...

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