Democritus and the Causal Theory of Knowledge
27 Democritus and the Causal Theory of Knowledge Keywords: perception, effl uence, qualities, eff ect According to several epistemologists, the history of epistemology begins with Parmenides’s diff erentiation between the way of seeming and the way of truth, and with Zeno’s arguments in favour of Parmenides. How- ever, one of the historically oldest and ideologically most basic approaches to the explanation of knowledge is the causal-mechanistic theory, the roots of which can be found in Democritus. Democritus believed that knowledge could be ex - plained by the eff ect of objects on our receptors (67 A 1). With some exceptions (touch), they do not aff ect us directly (they do not enter us alone). Instead, he assumed that they aff ect us via tiny material particles (effl uences, images) which he assumed are released from the surfaces of things and enter our receptors. All perceivable proper- 28 ties of things are products of detaching (the “outﬂ ow” of images from perceived objects) and an affi liation of atoms – their connection with the atoms of receptors (68 A 49). The essence of the perceived phenomenon is not inherent to the thing or the receptor, but it is some- where between them – in the nature of presenting the effl uences of things (68 A 135). The structure of effl u- ences – images – is materially (atomically) and formally dependent on the shape and surface of objects. Democritus was a realist. He assumed that our per- ception (ἡ αἰσθήσις) is the cause of the eff ect...
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