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New Buddha

A Brief History of Atomism

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Here is a good brief article by the physicist Carlo Rovelli outlining the history and importance of Atomism and it's reintroduction into Western thought by the rediscovery of Lucretius's On the Nature of Things in 1417.  This work was very influential on Newton, and even Jefferson owned 5 copies of it (Jefferson described himself as an Epicurean in a letter to a friend).  Rovelli is known for his Relational Quantum Mechanics interpretation and Loop Quantum Gravity.  Though he is critical of the Aristotelian influence in the Middle Ages, he is by no means critical of Aristotle in general, and shows in this paper Aristotle's Physics how and why it was so pervasive and not easily overthrown until the 16th and 17th Centuries.

An interesting extract from the AEON article:

The closure of the ancient schools such as those of Athens and Alexandria, and the destruction of all the texts not in accordance with Christian ideas, was vast and systematic, at the time of the brutal antipagan repression following the edicts of Emperor Theodosius, which in 390–391 CE declared that Christianity was to be the only and obligatory religion of the empire. Plato and Aristotle, pagans who believed in the immortality of the soul or in the existence of a Prime Mover, could be tolerated by a triumphant Christianity. Not Democritus.

But a text survived the disaster and has reached us in its entirety. Through it, we know a little about ancient atomism, and above all we know the spirit of that science. It is the splendid poem De Rerum Natura (The Nature of Things, or On the Nature of the Universe), by the Latin poet Lucretius.

Lucretius adheres to the philosophy of Epicurus, a pupil of a pupil of Democritus.

Edit:  Marx's Doctoral Thesis was entitled The Difference between Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature

Edited by New Buddha

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