The atomistic theory of Leucippus – Democritus was a natural result of the development of previous philosophical thought. In the atomistic system of Democritus, one can find parts of the basic materialistic systems of ancient Greece and the ancient east. Even the most important principles — the principle of the preservation of being, the principle of attraction of the similar to the similar, the very understanding of the physical world as originated from a combination of origins, the beginnings of ethical teachings — all this was already laid down in the philosophical systems preceding atomism.

However, the prerequisites of the atomistic teaching and its philosophical origins were not only the “ready-made” teachings and ideas that atomists found in their epoch. Many researchers believe that the doctrine of atoms arose as an answer to the questions posed by the Eleusians, and as a solution to the revealed contradiction between sensually perceived and intelligible reality, clearly expressed in the “aporias” of Zeno.

Atoms and Void

According to Democritus, the Universe is moving matter, atoms of matter (being to on, to den) and emptiness (to unden, to meden); the latter is as real as being. Eternally moving atoms, connecting, create all things, their separation leads to the death and destruction of the latter.

The introduction by atomists of the concept of emptiness as non-existence had a deep philosophical meaning. The category of non-existence made it possible to explain the occurrence and change of things. True, in Democritus, being and non-being coexisted side by side, separately: atoms were carriers of multiplicity, emptiness embodied unity; this was the metaphysical theory. Aristotle tried to overcome it, pointing out that we see “the same continuous body that is liquid, then solidified”, therefore, a change in quality is not only a simple connection and separation. But at the present level of science, he could not give a proper explanation for this, while Democritus convincingly argued that the reason for this phenomenon was a change in the amount of interatomic emptiness.

The concept of emptiness led to the concept of spatial infinity. The metaphysical trait of ancient atomism was also manifested in the understanding of this infinity as an infinite quantitative accumulation or decrease, the connection or separation of the permanent “bricks” of being. However, this does not mean that Democritus denied quality transformations altogether; on the contrary, they played a huge role in his picture of the world. Entire worlds are transformed into others. Individual things are also being transformed, because eternal atoms cannot disappear without a trace; they give rise to new things. The transformation occurs as a result of the destruction of the old whole, the separation of the atoms, which then constitute the new whole. According to Democritus, atoms are indivisible (atomos “indivisible”), they are absolutely dense and have no physical parts. But in all bodies they are combined so that between them there remains at least the minimum amount of emptiness; the consistency of the bodies depends on these gaps between the atoms.

In addition to the signs of Eleus life, atoms have the properties of the Pythagorean “limit”. Each atom is finite, bounded by a certain surface and has a constant geometric shape. On the contrary, emptiness, as “infinite”, is not limited by anything and is devoid of the most important sign of true being — form. Atoms are not sensually perceived. They are similar to dust particles, worn in the air, and imperceptible due to too small a magnitude, until the sun’s ray penetrates through the window into the room. But atoms are much smaller than these dust particles; only a ray of thought, of reason, can detect their existence. They are also not perceived because they do not have the usual sensory qualities – smell, color, taste, etc.

The reduction of the structure of matter to elementary and qualitatively homogeneous physical units than the “elements”, “four roots” and, in part, even the “seeds” of Anaxagoras, was of great importance in the history of science.

But how do the atoms of Democritus differ?

Studying the evidence of Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle, whose comments served as the primary source of many later reports on the philosophy of the Greek Dosocratic people, including Democritus, the English scholar Mac Diarmid noted a certain contradiction. In some places we are talking only about the difference in the forms of atoms, in others – also about the difference between their order and position. However, it is easy to understand: the order and position (rotation) can differ not single atoms, but composite bodies, or groups of atoms, in one composite body.

Such groups of atoms can be located up or down (position), as well as in a different order (like the letters NA and AN), which modifies the body, makes it different. And although Democritus could not have foreseen the laws of modern biochemistry, we know from this science that, indeed, the dissimilarity of two organic substances of the same composition, for example, two polysaccharides, depends on the order in which their molecules are built.

A huge variety of protein substances mainly depends on the order of amino acids in their molecules, and the number of possible combinations with their combinations is almost infinite. The fundamental particles of matter, the existence of which suggested Democritus, combined to some extent the properties of an atom, a molecule, a microparticle, a chemical element, and some more complex compounds.

Atoms also differed in size, on which, in turn, depended heaviness. Democritus was on the way to this concept, recognizing the relative weight of atoms, which, depending on their size, are heavier or lighter. For example, he considered the smallest and smooth spherical atoms of fire that make up air, as well as the soul of man, to be the lightest atoms.

The form and size of atoms is associated with the question of the so-called Amer or “mathematical atomism” of Democritus. A number of ancient Greek philosophers (the Pythagoreans, the Eleians, Anaxagoras, Leucippus) were engaged in mathematical research. An outstanding mathematical mind was undoubtedly Democritus. However, democrit mathematics differed from conventional mathematics. According to Aristotle, she “loosened the math.” It was based on atomistic concepts. Agreeing with Zeno that the divisibility of space to infinity leads to absurdity, to turning into zero values ​​from which nothing can be built, Democritus discovered his indivisible atoms.

But the physical atom did not coincide with the mathematical point. According to Democritus, the atoms had different sizes and shapes of the figure, some were larger, others smaller. He admitted that there are hook-shaped, anchor-like, rough, angular, curved atoms – otherwise they would not be linked to each other. Democritus believed that atoms are physically indivisible, but mentally they can be divided into parts – points that, of course, cannot be rejected, they do not have their weight, but they are also extended.

This is not zero, but the minimum value, further indivisible, the mental part of the atom – “amer” (infrequent). According to some testimonies (among them there is a description of the so-called “Square of Democritus” by Giordano Bruno), in the smallest atom there were 7 Amer: top, bottom, left, right, front, back, middle. It was mathematics, consonant with the data of sensory perception, which said that no matter how small a physical body, for example, an invisible atom, such parts (sides) in it can always be imagined, and it is even mentally impossible to divide to infinity.

Of the extended points, Democritus was extended lines, of which the – planes. A cone, for example, according to Democritus, consists of the finest sensory circles that are not perceived because of their subtlety, parallel to the base. So, by folding the lines, accompanied by evidence, Democritus discovered a theorem on the volume of a cone, which is equal to one third of the volume of a cylinder with the same base and equal height; he also calculated the volume of the pyramid. Both discoveries recognized (and already otherwise justified) Archimedes.

The authors, reporting on the views of Democritus, little understood his mathematics. Aristotle and subsequent mathematics sharply rejected her, so she was forgotten. Some modern researchers deny the distinction of atoms and Amer in Democritus and Amer in Democritus, or believe that Democritus considered atoms indivisible both physically and theoretically; but the latter point of view leads to too much controversy. The atomistic theory of mathematics existed, and it was revived subsequently in the school of Epicurus.

Atoms are infinite in number, the number of atomic configurations is also infinite (diverse), “since there is no reason why they were more like this than others”. This principle (“no more so than otherwise”), which is sometimes referred to in literature as the principle of indifference or different probabilities, is characteristic of the demritritic explanation of the Universe. With it, it was possible to justify the infinity of motion, space and time. According to Democritus, the existence of countless atomic forms causes an infinite variety of directions and speeds of the primary motions of atoms, and this in turn leads to their encounters and collisions. Thus, all world formation is determined and is a natural consequence of the perpetual motion of matter.

Already the Ionian philosophers spoke of perpetual motion. The world is in perpetual motion, for in their understanding it is a living being. Quite differently decides the question of Democritus. Its atoms are not animated (atoms of the soul are only in connection with the body of an animal or human). Perpetual motion is the pushing, pushing away, adhesion, separation, movement and fall of atoms caused by the initial whirlwind. Moreover, atoms have their own, primary movement, not caused by shocks: “shake in all directions” or “vibrate”. The latter concept was not developed; Epicurus did not notice him when he corrected the democratic theory of atomic motion by introducing the concept of an arbitrary deviation of atoms from a straight line.

In his picture of the structure of matter, Democritus also proceeded from the principle put forward by the preceding philosophy (formulated by Melissa and repeated by Anaxagoras), the principle of the preservation of being “nothing arises from nothing.” He associated it with the eternity of time and motion, which meant a certain understanding of the unity of matter (atoms) and the forms of its existence. And if the Eleans considered that this principle applies only to the intelligible “truly existing”, then Democritus attributed it to the real, objectively existing world, nature.

The atomistic picture of the world is simple, but it is a grand hypothesis about the atomic structure of matter was the most scientific in its principles and the most convincing of all created earlier by philosophers. She rejected in the most decisive way the main mass of religious and mythological ideas about the supernatural world, about the intervention of the gods. In addition, the picture of the motion of atoms in the global void, their collisions and cohesion is the simplest model of causal interaction. The determinism of atomists has become the antithesis of Platonic teleology. The Democritic picture of the world is already pronounced materialism, such a philosophical understanding of the world in the conditions of antiquity was the most opposite to the mythological understanding of the world.

Cosmogony and Cosmology

On the basis of observations and, perhaps, of a philosophical rethinking of the traditional mythological idea of ​​the original “chaos”, Leucippus came to his remarkable hypothesis, one of the most fruitful ideas of antiquity about the “whirlwind” (dinos) of atoms, the initial state and the driving force of the cosmos. Democritus, rejecting the doctrine of forces driving matter (“Love” and “Enmity” in Empedocles, Mind – “Nus” in Anaxagoras), fully accepted and further developed the concept of Leucippus. Philosopher Philosopher, the scientific commentator, gives us the following definition of a whirlwind: a whirlwind – “this is such a movement of elements, as a result of which they are separated from each other”. Ancient authors give a number of descriptions of the emergence of the world from the vortex of atoms, which, “colliding with each other and circling in every possible way … are distributed into separate places – similar to the like”; “Everything is born by rallying and bonding (epallaxis) of these first-body”.

The primary movement of atoms is a natural movement, inherent in them, it does not require an external push. Only in the future the interlacing and combination of atoms into complex bodies occurs as a result of shocks, strikes and the force of attraction similar to similar, the recognition of which is characteristic of a number of philosophical systems of that time. This force acts in the cosmogonic picture of Democritus as a law of nature and, according to some researchers, is the primary cause of the formation of the vortex itself.

Whirlwind occurs more than once. Chaotic motion of atoms in space constantly leads to the formation of vortices, from which countless worlds are created. All these worlds, including ours, are born and die, but the Universe is eternal: beginningless and endless. She has no creator, and she has no purpose; everything in it is subject to the universal law of necessity, and nothing happens without a natural cause.

Infinite worlds in the universe! This thought is always in the history of science and in the history of philosophy associated with the figure of Giordano Bruno. However, this idea, advanced by the Italian thinker on a new scientific basis at the end of the 16th century, was a real “rebirth” from the ashes of the ideas of the ancient atomists. About endless worlds consistently, from the point of view of atomism, were taught by Leucippus and Democritus.

According to their views, many worlds exist simultaneously in space; they are different (there are the same), at various distances from each other and at different stages of development. Each of them is born, blooms and dies. The collision of these worlds can cause a cosmic catastrophe. However, according to some researchers, Democritus does not speak about the fall of whole worlds on each other, but only about the fallout (as Plutarch and Hippolyt say) of individual atoms of one world into another (Now this can be called cosmic radiation) in the form of outflows that can have disastrous consequences.

Based on the atomic theory, Democritus draws a grand cosmogonic hypothesis. The whirling motion, according to Democritus, was the cause of education and our world, and this world, which is now in full bloom, is subject to the natural laws of the universe. In the process of vortex motion, a qualitative differentiation of matter was realized.

As a result of the action of the law of attraction of such like, the atoms, more or less homogeneous in form, united together, the Earth and the heavenly bodies appeared, glowing from the speed of movement. But the same law had the opposite effect; dissimilar atoms repelled each other. Thus, the processes of attraction and repulsion led to the formation of the entire surrounding world.

Everything that happens in the world, according to Democritus, is subject not to supernatural power, but only to the law of necessity (ananke, to anankaion). Necessity Democritus, understood as an endless chain of causation. He did not seek the root causes of the world, he denied it. But he was constantly looking for the causal basis of all temporal phenomena. This is indicated by the titles of the whole cycle of his works: “Heavenly reasons”; “Ground causes”; “The causes of fire and that which is in fire”; “Causes of Sounds”; “Causes of seeds, plants and fruits”; “Causes of living beings”, “Mixed causes”. The composition of the technical essays – “Causes of favorable and unfavorable,” and in the ethical notes – “Causes of laws.”

Some scholars tried to challenge the authenticity of “Causes.” However, these attempts are not valid. Although “Causes” are listed separately from the tetralogy in Diogenes Laertius’s list, Diogenes’s final phrase clearly indicates that everything listed above was considered authentic in ancient times, and only “other” works (not included in the list) are either partially reworked or are not authentic. . Find the causes of phenomena – this was, according to Democritus, one of the main tasks of science and the activities of the scientist (“sage”).

Even if the titles of “Causes” are inaccurate and if the famous dictum of Democritus that it is preferable for him to find one reason than to occupy the Persian throne is legend, then the entire content of Democritus’s natural-science and philosophical passages shows that the search for causal regularity was central to the philosopher. phenomena.

Social philosophy, the theory of sensations, the doctrine of the origin of wildlife, questions of zoology, botany, psychology – such was the circle of Democritus’ scientific interests, judging by the fragments that have come down to us. And consideration of each question was saturated with causal explanations. Often these are imaginary explanations, made because of a scarce supply of facts by analogy. But this is always an explanation of the phenomena by natural causes, therefore Democritus has so many correct observations and brilliant guesses.

Beginning with Aristotle, who held a teleological point of view and, ending with Christian writers who believe in “divine providence,” all opponents of the materialist teachings attacked Democritus. Here are a number of statements that demonstrate this. Aristotle: “Democritus left aside the goal and did not talk about it, but erected everything that nature uses, to necessity.”

Christian writer Lactantius: “Start with the question that is presented first in essence: is there providence that directs everything in the world, or is everything created and controlled by chance. The founder of the latter opinion was Democritus, protector — Epicurus. ” Dionysius: Democritus “considers the highest wisdom to comprehend what is unreasonable and unreasonable, and puts chance and the lord and king of the universe and the divine (forces).”

Christian writers call Democritus a philosopher, singing “stupidity” and “chance” in the Universe. The denial of God’s industry, from their point of view, made the philosophy of Epicurus, Lucretius and Democritus “harmful” and “dangerous”, and they rejected it from the threshold, and the denial of the industry itself was considered the introduction of chance as a creator of the world.

In fact, Democritus was so keen on the possibility of a “through” causal explanation of the world that he declared all sorts of random events only a subjective illusion generated by ignorance of the true causes of what is happening. Knowing them, according to Democritus, turns any chance into a necessity.

Democritus, making wide use of the principle of analogy of the microcosm and macrocosm common in antiquity, gave examples in his writings mainly from human practice. Therefore Simplicius believes that the denial of the case by Democritus was not related to the phenomena of nature.

According to Democritus, if a person found a treasure – it is not by chance, because the reason was digging up the ground or planting an olive tree. Another person met someone whom he did not intend to meet; the reason was that he went to the market, etc. Any phenomenon has its cause, so there is no chance. In the same way, both worlds and things do not arise by chance, but due to the repulsion and repulsion of atoms, and the whole cosmos – from a whirlwind. According to some sources, Democritus called the whirlwind a necessity, materializing the concept in a material phenomenon. But, most likely, he called the necessity of the movement of atoms, which was eternal, independent of temporarily arising vortices. But in terms of the teleology of Aristotle and his commentators, the process of self-movement of atoms is characterized as “automatic” (to automaton), i.e. spontaneous, and sometimes “random”, which is a distortion of the views of Democritus.

According to Epicurus, the need for the philosophy of Democritus is fatal. Nevertheless, if you think about the teachings of Democritus, it becomes clear that he was not a fatalist. He rejected the case only in the direct sense, i.e. He denied the blind “fate”, which, like the mythological goddess Tykhe, can make a sudden change in the natural course of events. He was an adherent of necessity as a natural course of phenomena (Aristotelian “automaton”). On the other hand, he denied the inevitable fate of fatalists the fate of “Moira”, which, according to the Greek religion, over the man, too, turned out to be arbitrary, which was sealed by ancient Greek tragedians.

From the point of view of fatalism (which has acquired the classical form in Stoicism), all events are predetermined from time immemorial to present and future by a chain of causes and effects. So interpreted the view of Democritus only Psevdoplutarh. However, in the specified fragment it is said that once the motion of atoms is eternal, then the reasons for the present are laid in it. But for each phenomenon, Democritus was looking for a specific reason, carrying out a dedicated scientific search that would have no meaning if he were on the point of view of fatalism. The ethic of Democritus is also devoid of fatalism and implies the free will of man; it was fully recognized by Epicurus, who, however, saw this as inconsistency and believed that in Democritus “theory comes into collision with practice”.

The question of the character of determinism of Democritus was investigated by the Soviet scientist I. D. Rozhansky. In his book, he compared the cosmological views of Anaxagoras and Democritus. According to Anaxagora, if cosmic formation could occur not only in our country, but also in another place, then this world would be in all respects similar to ours. This point of view was associated with the Anaksagor understanding of the cosmos as a living organism, which reproduces itself. Democritus disagrees. Countless worlds may be different. In some, there is neither the Sun nor the Moon, in others the Sun and the Moon are larger than ours, and thirdly, their number is greater. There may be such worlds where there is absolutely no water and there are no plants and animals.

Thus, although Democritus and the determinist, but according to his view, the laws governing the motion of atoms leave an unlimited field of possibilities (due to the infinite variety of both the atoms themselves and their combinations) for the formation of various worlds. The same variety of atoms creates different chains of causes and effects that require investigation in each individual case. So, in Democritus, chance and necessity do not exclude, but presuppose each other. Epicurus was right, apparently accusing Democritus of not having sufficiently substantiated this view by the atomic motion itself.


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