From Heraclitus to the Sophists
5. The Presocratic Atomists
We do not know much about the life of the Greek atomists, Leucippus (5th century BC) and Democritus (approx. 460 – 370). Democritus came from Abdera, as well as the sophist Protagoras. Today, it is not quite pos- sible to adjudicate the exact share of individual authors in the formulation of atomistic theory. It is possible that Leucippus elaborated the overall character, while Democritus developed it for speciﬁ c areas of interest. Curiously, most of the fragments we have ﬁ rst-hand are about the ethics of Democritus.14 In ontology and natu- ral inquiries we are to a much greater extent dependent on the reports and comments of later authors. 68 5.1. Atoms and Void In the spirit of Pre-Socratic pluralism, atomists also respond to Eleatic philosophy by attempts to reconcile some moments of their concept of existence with the way we experience reality. In accordance with Parme- nides, they argue, therefore, that coming to be and per- ishing do not exist. Since it is impossible that something was created from nothing and something disappeared into nothing, there must be an eternal, permanent, and unchanging existence that is one. For Leucippus and Democritus, this characteristic carries an atom. Against the spirit of the Eleatic doctrine, they argue that the num- ber of atoms is inﬁ nite and thus multiplicity does not deny or exclude rationality. An atom, according to them, is replete, immutable, and internally inviolable. The con- cept of the atom should therefore resolve the diffi culties raised by Zeno’s aporia. According...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.