10. Leucippus of Miletus, Democritus of Abdera (460-371 B.C.): Atoms - Void





Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.

(Happy is (s)he who has been able to understand the causes of things.)



I would give the crown of the King of Persia for a scientific discovery of causation.



He (Democritus) seems to have thought about everything, and in a clear, methodological manner.



Nothing happens by chance, all things occur for a reason, and out of necessity.



Thinking much, not Knowing much, one should cultivate.




Miletus - „Ornament of Ionia“: Act Two

History of Miletus II

To understand this chapter, kindly read and study the previous ones carefully.

Let's recollect the historical description of Miletus in a previous chapter and spice it with more delicious, patrian elegance. From time immemorial, the permanent waves of Thales’ arché caressed the „Ornament of Ionia“ (Herodotus), the ancient polis Miletus; endearingly, they touched the sparsely inhabited shores of Asia Minor.

However, already since the 11th Century B.C., „colonial“ Greeks had begun to convert ancient Miletus into one of the most significant trading centres of the Mediterranean region and the Near East. Periodically, until the 6th Century B.C., various tyrants seized political power; but since 604 B.C. during the tyrannis of Thrasybulus, Miletus approached its zenith as commercial Eldorado - and ever since then, it became a magnetic eyesore for Persian „imperialist“ interests.

About 580 B.C., two tyrants were driven out of the city, and a "democratic" government installed, thereafter various types of ancient political rule ensued. Around that time, the Sait dynasty had opened Egypt for Greek settlers and merchants; Milesians entered the Nile delta, and, at Naucratis, built the famous „Milesian Wall“. Naucratis later became an important centre of Graeco-Egyptian economic and ideological exchange. In that epoch, „wise men“ like Thales and Solon enjoyed unlimited pre-eminence in Naucratis, especially, when calling on Egypt „to do business and to see the world“ (Aristotle).

Miletus was the first Greek polis which had introduced money - mainly gold coins. Milesian citizens came to be honoured, not only for aristocratic birth and pedigree, but also, because „money makes the man“. A 6th Century B.C. Milesian poet expressed this new „capitalist“ development very poignantly: „Get your living - and then think of getting virtue“. Another Ionian poet, Pythermus, even exclaimed: „There’s nothing else that matters - only money.“ (See: Novack, The Origins ..., p. 57) Consequently, Miletus was not only the birthplace of philosophy and materialism, but also of primitive capitalism in embryo. Very clearly these poets reflected the birth of the perverse relation between patrian philosophy and capitalist economy; also that human "virtues", like "human nature", "human being", "human rights" and "humanism", are directly related to "get your living", to "get your money".

In Miletus itself, the centre of commercial activities was the polis’ great north-eastern harbour, guarded by two gigantic lion-statues, reminding the multifarious sailors and traders of the colossus of Apollo, which escorted them into the harbour of Rhodes. On all Mediterranean markets, Milesian traders were most welcome. Milesian woollens, woven and dyed fabrics, decorated garments and carpets, and embroidered cloaks, all these, and many more, were highly prized across the length and breadth of Hellas in floribus.

In its environs, from the Black Sea to Italy, Milesian pottery and olive oil were highly desired household goods. All over Miletus, a flair and flamboyance of the Ionian flower-de-luce could be perceived, especially at extravagant airy-fairy banquets and festivals. In later years, the „crown of Athens“, Pericles, could not help it, but to search among the Ionian models of refinement and culture, to encounter the marvellous Aspasia, the „Jewel of Miletus“; probably, clad in purple, and dolcemente shedding her fragrant perfume of subtle ointments, with an elegance worthy of a royal courtesan, the vraisemblance of an earthly goddess - the „better half“ of a „wise man“.

In Miletus, the richest and most cultured city-state of Ionia, the shrine of the Delphinian Apollo protected marine and maritime economic activities, including the heroic, valiant emigrants and seamen from afar. The Temple of Apollo at Didyma was not only an important place of pagan worship, it was also the City Bank, which minted gold-coins, held deposits and organized colonizing expeditions, including barbarous slave-hunting. The Egyptian King Necho, after having defeated Josiah of Juda, sent as VIP-offering, his complete battle accustrement to Apollo at Didyma. Even Croesus, the legendary wealthy King of Lydia, not only sent fantastic presents to Delphi, but, occasionally, he visited Miletus, to honour its millionaires, by collecting fantasque funds for his luxurious royal dolce vita.

Artisans, artists, politicians, magicians, craftsmen, seamen, sophistaí, hetairaí, refugees, émigrés, hordes of slaves, armies of ruined peasants -- a mobile, mercurial human mass walked the streets and pavilions of Miletus, occupied the temples, palaces, wharves and porticoes of the ancient city-state. Periodically, social frictions occurred, - reflections of the omnipresent gradually stewing objective real social contradictions -- but they were gallantly stamped out, leaving behind burning, human life-torches on the squares of Mammon, acting as eternal premonitions and admonitions of things to come. Furthermore, the huge merchant navy was permanently protected by an omnipotent war fleet. At the battle of Lade, Miletus proudly brought 80 ships into action, and heroically involved her courageous soldiers in the war between Chalcis and Eretria. However, in 510 B.C., because of economic and profit reasons, the destruction of Sybaris, in Magna Graecia by Croton, had afflicted Miletus like a national catastrophe.

After the conquest of Lydia in 546 B.C. Miletus fell to the Persians. An Ionian revolt, led by Miletus, tried to organize resistance, but in 494 B.C., finally, the cradle of science, philosophy and materialism was destroyed by the Persians, and Miletus, thereafter, never regained her former glory. Nonetheless, at the time of the Periclean Age, the polis also was rejuvenated and reconstructed, and Miletus was ready for Act-Two of Materialism: the Atomism of Leucippus.

Later, in 76 B.C., the „Ornament of Ionia“ became Roman, but never really Roman Catholic. However, until today, it remains the ancient scientific capital of the „civilized“ world of Antiquity. The 6th Century Materialist Triune -- Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes -- had changed Miletus into the rhododaktylos Eós (rosy-fingered Dawn) of Atomistic Materialism. Of course, in the contemporary world, ideologically veiled by modern metaphysics, idealism, ideology, newspeak, doublethink, positivism, empiricism, vulgar and mechanical materialism, the illustrissimo of Oxford, Columbia, Harvard or Moscow, inter alia, uses Paris, Rome, Athens or Babylon as familiar household words, but, for il penseroso, interested in emancipatory sophía, philosophía, epistéme, gnosis and praxis-theoría, until today, Valkyrie still is escorting the revolutionary slain from all the materialist, "communist" and "terrorist" battlefields to Miletus, to the ancient Valhalla of wise Science a n d Philosophy.


Leucippus -- Milesian and Father of Atomism

Although his biographical data are uncertain, some even doubt that he ever had lived, yet it is definite that Leucippus of Miletus was older than his reputed pupil, Democritus of Abdera (460 - 371 B.C.), younger than Parmenides of Elea (born around 540 B.C.), and approximately a contemporary of Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (499 - 427 B.C.). Thus, the „Father“ and „Son“ -- Leucippus and Democritus -- of ancient Greek Atomism, which should really be called „Atom-To-Kenonism“, were social products of the Periclean Age, and flourished in the heyday of that Golden Age of virulent, juvenile, patrian creativity and productivity. The School of Atomism, co-created by Leucippus and Democritus in that Victorian epoch, will stretch over seven centuries, until the 2nd Century A. D., spreading and inspiring early materialist thought and praxis as a world philosophy.

It is common knowledge, that Epicurus (341 - 268 B.C.) who was born six years after Plato’s death -- another famous ancient Greek atomist -- doubted that Leucippus really had lived. In modern times, in 1880, writers like Erwin Rohde had resuscitated this obsolete hypothesis; however, meanwhile, impeccable scholarship has vindicated Leucippus’ tellurian existence with a scientific clarity which cannot be claimed for the celestic-telestic Jesus Christ or for Socrates’ real telluric life, as expounded in Plato's works. In fact, this „proof“ did not necessitate superhuman or insuperable intellectual efforts, because our most important historic witnesses are none less than the first two heads of the Lyceum, Aristotle and Theophrastus themselves. In fact, we have two genuine preserved fragments of Leucippus, which concern his doctrines of a „Macrocosmos“, and of „Nous and Anánke“ (reason and necessity).

In his report Theophrastus stated: about Leucippus’ doctrine of atomism,

„he assumed innumerable and ever-moving elements, namely, the átomoI. And he made their forms infinite in number, since there is no reason why they should be one kind rather than another, and because he saw there was unceasing becoming and change in things. He held, further, that What-Is is no more real than What-Is-Not, and both are alike causes of the things that come-into-being: for he laid down that the substance of the atoms was compact and full, and he called them What-Is, while they moved in to kenón (the void) which he called What-Is-Not, but affirmed to be just as real as What-ls“. (See: Novack, op. cit., pp. 136-139)

Well, here we have the universal postulate, the unilogical principle, "What-Is", "Whatness", our Cosmos, to ti en einai, ti estí, essentia, quidditas, Washeit. Also, here Not-Cosmos or better even Non-Cosmos -- of course, not Einai -- is defined as the void (as Space), as to kenón..

Later Democritus will emphasize that „Not-Being (to kenón) exists just like Being (átomos)„ (Frag. 156. Diels, p. 107). Aristotle (de gen. et corr. A 8. 325a 23ff.) reported about Leucippus’ atomistic teachings; inter alia, he stated:

„Leucippus came to intellectual conclusions, which, because they correspond to things of sense-experience, do not contradict, neither coming-into-existence, nor movement and variety of things“.

Other parts of this report indicate, that, originally, Leucippus was either a pupil of Zenon of Elea, or at least he was very much occupied with refutations of the aporiaí of Eleatism. Like Anaxagoras, he attempted to give materialist, hylozoistic retorts to Eleatic Being-At-Rest, which, as we know, negated all motion and variety of things. Aristotle continued to elucidate Leucippus' concept of Manifold-Being; which realizes the conditions of manifold being as Being-In-Itself. Later, Democritus would discard this strict concept of Being, and he simply gave the different átomoi different concrete forms. Unfortunately, only a fragmentary fragment of Leucippus' doctrine about the Macrocosmos is preserved, in which he denied that „the stars are living beings“ (Diels, Frag, 1. p. 96).

In the second fragment, concerning nous and anánke, Leucippus stated: „Nothing happens without a reason, all things occur for a reason, and of necessity“ (Frag 2). This pinpoints a strict mechanical determinism, giving tyché (chance) no chance. Obviously, as a contemporary of Anaxagoras, Leucippus was, at least, acquainted with his conception of nous (intellect, mind, reason), which had negated anánke, perhaps, this is why Leucippus, in his atomism, with such strict fervour, had revindicated the Heracleitean conception of cosmic justice, of anánke - which later on was developed more rigorously by Democritus.


Democritus -- A Philosopher with Enkyklios Paideia

Democritus of Abdera in Thrace (460 - 371 B.C.), another Ionian, had stated that he was young when Anaxagoras was old; also that he had been writing his „Microcosmos“ „730 years after the fall of Troy“ (Diels, Frag. 5, p. 100). Both Aristotle and Theophrastus had confirmed that he was the pupil of Leucippus. Scientific studies and research work enticed him to make numerous voyages within and outside Hellas; he visited Athens, Egypt and the Orient, and, most certainly, Persia (Frags. 116, 299). In Graeco-Roman antiquity, as counterpart of Heracleitus, „The Crying Philosopher“, he received the epitheton „The Laughing Philosopher“.

This was certainly not related to his philosophic credibility; probably, it referred to his cheerful, mirthful weltanschauung, as reflected in Fragment 230: „a life without festive celebrations is like a never-ending road without taverns“. Really, well said! And, as a wandering, wondering philosopher in praxi, he certainly meant what he said, and said what he meant. After all, Democritus, a socio-historical product of the Periclean Age, probably a contemporary of Socrates, was also enjoying the chthonic beauties and goodies of that flourishing economy. (See: C. Bailey, The Greek Atomists and Epicurus, Oxford Press, 1928.)

Furthermore, in Fragment 200, he exclaimed: „Only fools live without enjoying life“; and, „Wisdom, which does not allow itself to be fooled, is worth everything“ (Frag. 216). In this tradition, we are enjoying life, because we are not allowing ourselves permanently to be fooled by CNN and White House global, fascist lies. Ushered in by his dum spiro spero at the eve of the 20th Century A.D., Trotsky's "Life is beautiful, enjoy it to the fullest" encouragingly still rings in our emancipatory ears at the eve of the Third Millennium.

However, the materialist philosophy of atomism did not quite agree with Athenian democracy, namely with Periclean class rule: „I went to Athens, and no one knew me“ (Frag. 116). Surely, Democritus was not the only philosopher that had this "even, uneven and combined"problem; even Plato, Aristotle and Hegel had to wait hundreds of years to be understood or rather to be misunderstood completely by most laureated, erudite, official professors. Even in the "Holy Scriptures", prophets were not especially adored, adorned with laurels in their homeland; even Jesus Christ himself was adorned with a crown of thorns. Generally, in many ways, all real, true thinkers transhistorically surpass their age; in the patria, they simply arrive too "early", too "late" or never ever. However, no matter the age, transhistorically "great minds think alike", id est, they contradict each other fervently; thus, Plato as ancient idealist, in Kristallnacht fever, already hated the very sound of Democritean materialism; on the other hand, the Aristotelian Left simply hailed his philosophic thought.

According to Diogenes Laertius, Plato is reputed to have wished all Democritus’ works burnt. In other words, the forefather of idealism who later inspired the „Great Fathers“ of the Inquisition, had wished to place the titles of the works of Democritus on the Athenian index librorum prohibitorum. However, lucky for us, this authoritarianism and crypto-fascism were „nipped in the bud“, because the Pythagoreans, Kleinias and Amyclas, had advised him to refrain from such intellectual ánoia (stupidity).

However, true to ancient dialectics, everything in Platonism is not completely „fascistic“ or „idealist“. Nevertheless, some idealist writers, like J. Burnet (Early Greek Philosophy, 1920), claim that Plato was completely ignorant of the earthly existence of his contemporary, patrian, internal, materialist negation. A typical case of "CNN" reports in academic philosophy. Another Ionian, Aristotle, knew him very well, and from Athens had highly praised Democritus’ philosophic accomplishments. Another serious, patrian historian of philosophy, Eduard Zeller (Grundriss der Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie, Leipzig, 1928) considered Democritus to have been „superior“ to all ancient and contemporary philosophers, as far as his „wealth of knowledge“, his encyclopaedic education and his „logical correctness of thinking“ were concerned.

Concerning the voluminous and encyclopaedic writings of Democritus, including his universal knowledge, accomplished until a very high biblical age (he lived more than 90 years), only some 300 fragments are extant; a small fraction indeed, but, nevertheless, much more than what we possess of any other „pre-Socratic“ philosopher (see: Diogenes Laertius, Leben und Meinungen berühmter Philosophen, übersetzt von O. Apelt, Berlin, 1955). During the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, the Platonist, Thrasyllus (living around 40 B.C.) re-organized and re-classified the works of Democritus in five major groups, related to physics, mathematics, arts (mainly music and aesthetics), ethics and technology.

Apart from these scientific fields, the preserved fragments indicate that, additionally, he was well-versed in philosophy, poetry, painting, and many other practical and praxical matters, like politics, warfare, medicine and agriculture. In consequence, all his mayor works reflected a precise, scientific method, an analysis of the essential, a penetration and interpenetration into the core of matter, and into the essence of all social matters.

At the same time, as already indicated, his materialist cosmovision, certainly, did not have that ice-cold, inhuman and inhumane air or airiness, which is so typical of many renowned contemporary scholars, but it was vivid, realistic and chthonic, in a few words, it was a dialectical, hylozoistic world outlook, in spite of its strong mechanical determinism. Below, we will cite some fragments to demonstrate the above; also to elucidate Democritus’ permanent struggle against patrian obscurantism, immorality, spiritualism, supernaturalism, idealism and primitive capitalism:

„There are two forms of knowledge, the trueborn and the bastard. To the bastard belong all these: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. The trueborn is quite apart from these.“ (Frag. 11)

This was an early materialist attack against crude, empiricistic, positivistic "facts", against "seeing is believing".

„Tritogeneia (Athena, the ‘Trinity-Born’) means sophía. But wisdom is threefold: To think perfectly, to speak precisely, and to do one’s task with the greatest perfection.“ (Frag. 2)

Here we can still hear the emancipatory, transhistoric ringing of ancient, feminine, mythological bells of threefold wisdom, of the Tritogeneia, of Athena, of the "Trinity-Born": of Essence a n d Existence AND Transcendence, of Cosmos a n d Einai AND Nothing.

„Neither the body, nor money, brings happiness, this is achieved only by straightforwardness and many-sidedness.“ (Frag. 40)

Surely, this is wisdom, "many-sidedness", worth remembering in the "Information Age".

„He, who listens ardently to my gnomes, will be able to perform many deeds, worthy of a straightforward man, and he will evade many an evil act.“ (Frag. 35)

Across the ages, very few people were listening. Hence, Praxis a n d Theory deteriorated into Practice and Ideology.

„To-Be-Good is not yet Not-Evil-Doing; far more important, is the desire of not even wanting to do evil but once.“ (Frag. 62)

Against Humanity, the diverse ruling classes permanently did "absolute evil" a zillionfold.

„Who performs a shameful act, should at first shame him(her)self before him(her)self..... Beastliness, even when one is alone, one should neither utter nor do it; rather one should learn much more, than just to be ashamed of oneself in front of others.“ (Frag. 84, 244)

Shame -- an obsolete word in modern times, especially in the White House.

„Not out of fear, but out of duty, one should avoid erroneous actions.“ (Frag. 41)

Here Democritus underlined "fear" of the gods and of god-men.

„Universal love should not be enacted, with the anticipation of getting back something even greater in material value. ... Charity is not eagerly awaiting a recompense, but, essentially, a voluntary deep desire, from the bottom of one’s heart, to do good.“ (Frag 92, 96)

Except wanting to "do good", Democritus warned about the productive transformation of human values into material, pecuniary relations; he also introduces our anticipatory transjective: Poliversal Love.

„It is of great relevance to rebuke one’s own mistakes, rather than to bother about those of strangers.“

"Those who permanently complain are not made to be friends.“ (Frag. 60, 109)

This was a warning against seeing the "splinters" in the eyes of "communists" and "terrorists", and avoiding to note the heavy fascist, racist "blocks" in our own "Civilized", "Christian" and "Western" eyes.

„The father’s self-control is the greatest warning to children.“ (Frag. 61)

In patrian "history", this patriarchal, paternal self-control degenerated into modern Body, Mind and Thought Control.

„Whose inner self is in order, also, his life is in order.“ (Frag. 61)

In a healthy body, not consuming transgenic rubbish, surely, we will always find a sane, transhistoric mind.

„The hopes of a correct thinking person can be fulfilled, but those of incomprehensible people will never be realized.“ (Frag. 58)

Democritus explaining the "Hope Syndrome", linking "hope" not to pipe-dreams and wishful-thinking, but to thinking, theory and philosophy.

And, finally, about the dialogical „blue shadow“ of Praxis a n d Theory, he stated:

„The Word is the Deed’s shadow.“ (Frag. 145)

Concerning his own social life, the above are just a few praxico-theoretical rays from Democritus’ pantothenic, pantoscopic pansophy; unfortunately, concerning these, we have very few surviving fragments. However, as far as his intellectual and philosophic qualities and capabilities were concerned, he was on par with Plato and Aristotle. But, in bourgeois "history of philosophy", he is treated as a "third class" illegitimate step-son of the „Queen of Sciences“, and the reason is not only because the lion’s share of his works are lost, but in a world of Orwellian "education" and "socialization", because of his revolutionary, explosive, "atheist" and "terrorist" ideas, he left no room for contemporary crude conservatism, raw obscurantism, patrian ruling class ideology and global fascist reaction.

In the field of natural sciences, Democritus was a learned mathematician. In fact, Archimedes of Syracuse (born around 287 B.C.), the most prominent ancient Greek mathematician, physicist and mechanician - the discoverer of P (pi) and many other eurekas - had praised Democritus, for having been the first to formulate two significant theorems concerning the properties of conic sections: that a pyramid is a third of a prism with the same height and base; and, that a cone is a third of a cylinder (See also: Frags. 11 - 15.)

Without the aid of a powerful telescope, immersed in the obscurantist, geocentric world outlook, as a result of true, cognitive scientific self-thinking, using a real scientific method, concepts and theories, based in a self-developed, cosmo-materialist epistemology, in the field of astronomy, Democritus actually succeeded to give adequate explanations of the nature of the Milky Way, and even stated that the moon has mountains. He is an example kat’ exochen of the praxical faculties of a possible emancipatory species, of novus homo, more precisely, of new creative creators, and he was an excellent parádeigma to unravel the real walking encyclopaedic nature of „scholarship“ of Nobel Peace Prize illustriousness. You don't need to study for ages all "facts" in detail, mentally lynched by academic terror, quoting like mad all kinds of eminent experts, in order to know the real flowing, ever-flowing, over-flowing truth about this universal earthly world of labour.


Dialectical Antecedents of Atomism

As mentioned before, eminent bourgeois mechanical materialists of the post-Rennaisance epoch completely misinterpreted Democritus’ hylozoistic, dialectical determinism; in fact, by changing Anaxagoras’ nous into God, they claimed to share Democritus’ conception of matter. Thus, God „gave motion to matter“ (Boyle), and God, as prime unmoved mover activated „matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, movable particles“ (Newton). As we have seen before, as simple and simplistic as all this, Democriteanism certainly was not.

As we have explained before, atomism was a reaction against Anaxagorism, which had introduced nous to set the arché into Universal Becoming-Being, and thus to create Pythagorean order and harmony in the Cosmos, while at the same time negating anánke, and even tyché. Democritus, as mechanical materialist, but also as a naive dialectical materialist, introduced the two categories of ultimate irreducible reality: átomos a n d to kenón, that is, the pléroma and the kénoma, the full and the empty.

According to Democritus, Motion of the átomoi in to kenón was an everlasting, infinite, indestructible, irreducible fact of Universal Existence. Motion became a function, a property of true, concrete totality, átomos a n d to kenón: „there are in reality only atoms a n d void“ (Frag. 125). Thus, the only „trueborn“ objects of epistéme and gnosis are: atoms-void, pléroma-kénoma, that is, Being and Not-Being a n d Motion of Being in Not-Being, that is, Movement of Atoms in the Void. Anything else, is „bastard“ knowledge, derived from aísthesis, from deceptive sense-perception. Surely, this is ancient, materialist, deterministic dialectics, not our Dialogics, but concerning Cosmos, Relation and Einai, we could learn a mighty lot from Leucippus and Democritus.

Of mayor philosophic significance is the fact that Democritus did not „rob“ the senses of their pertinent role in the process of acquiring knowledge; he only stressed the severe limitations of sense-perception, especially of the common folks, and he would certainly have agreed with Epicurus’ statement: „All the senses are the heralds of truth“. This is meant when Democritus stated, „colour is a convention, the sweet is a convention, the bitter is a convention. ...“ (Frag. 125). Contrasting the senses with nous, Democritus made the former argue as follows: „Poor nous (reason) after depriving us of the means of proof, you want to beat us down. Your victory is also your defeat.“ (Frag. 125)

In this way, Democritus had explained a very important patrian, dialectical, universal category: essence-appearance, by differentiating between outward show (appearance) and inner reality (essence) of ever-changing things and processes. Thus, everything that appears „mechanical“ in Democritus’ atomism, may very well also have an internal dialectical „essence“. Certainly, Democriteanism is not Historical Dialectical Materialism, but, it is full of the oriens, the Aurora, the Latency-Tendency, towards this real "negation" within the universal world system, which will be explained by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky later.

However, let us now expound the philosophic background to the doctrine of Atomism. It is pertinent to state that we have difficulties to distinguish between the „trueborn“ Democritean philosophic contributions and those of his teacher, Leucippus. It is much easier to differentiate between the specific contributions of the couplet Marx and Engels towards the development of Scientific Socialism. In the case of the „fathers“ of Atomism, this is practically an impossible venture. Many fragments appropriated to Democritus are, in all probability, results of the compound endeavour of both great thinkers.

At any event, we will make Democritus responsible for the laurels and errors of early mechanical, deterministic Atomism. As such, he will be a „trueborn“ representative of Leucippus. Certainly, both of them had many followers and disciples in Antiquity; consequently, the 4th Century B.C. had also produced other „Atomists“ of „lesser“ philosophic stature. Among them were Metrodorus of Chios, Anaxarchus of Abdera, and, of course, the teacher of Epicurus, Nausiphanes of Teos (born around 360 B.C.). We will deal later with the Epicurean philosophy of nature, with its principle of arbitrium liberum (free will).

As already intimated, the doctrine about átomos and to kenón should really be called Átomos-To-Kenonism, because both elements of Being have the same ontological stature. We would recall that the immediate progenitors of Atomism -- Empedocles and Anaxagoras - in their hylozoistic weltanschauung had attempted to synthesize Eleatism, Pythagoreism and Heracleitism. The early Stoics, for example, Zeno of Citium, will continue this dialectical materialist process. Atomism itself was per saltum a quintessential development within the general epígénesis of hylozoistic materialism. It was per se a logical evolutionary product within the patrian dialectics of Human Nous and Social Existence.


Atoms AND To Kenon

We should recall that "Not-Being", or even "Non-Being", and "Nothing" are completely different philosophic termini. For Leucippus and Democritus, the aporía of „Not-Being - Nothing“ was relatively simple to solve and to resolve. According to them, Being cannot become from Nothing, hence Being cannot be destroyed totally. Obviously, here the concept "Nothing" has its usual, common, "negative", destructive, patrian connotation; it has nothing to do with our transhistoric, transcendental, emancipatory Triagory, Nothing.

Democritus and Leucippus argued: Man is not born from Nothing, hence Man cannot pass away into Nothing. They postulated, by applying the eviternal principle of Heracleitus, that Being can only change, and Change as Motion has polymorphic mensions. Of course, later this differentiation in the eternal, infinite continuum of Motion, Aristotle will introduce. However, for the Atomists, change still implied internal, intensive, qualitative mechanical combination or separation of lesser developed wholes, that is, parts of Total-Being, of Everything, the "opposite" of "Nothing". Surely, different to our philosophy, Atomist Everything was not considered to include "Nothing" too, to be really Everything. Our Simple Logics: A Universal "Everything" without a "Nothing" cannot be an Everything at all! Thus, the Hobson's choice, Everything or Nothing, is formal-logically embedded.

Nonetheless, as noted before, for Democritus, Ultimate Existence, Total-Being, was composed of two contradictory more-developed wholes, the Full and the Empty, átomos and to kenón, pléroma and kénoma. (Frag. 125, 156 and 168). For us, and only for us, this simply means that patrian, philosophic Totality consists of Being (A) and Not-Being or Non-Being (Non-A), is composed of Everything (A) and Not-Everything or Non-Everything (Non-A -- which is not identical to our triagory, Nothing). (See: Frag. 156).

Philosophically, it is not very clear what precisely the various ancient philosophers really have understood by Not-Being, Non-Being or Nothing. From all the above, we can conclude logically, that, in contradistinction to the Sophist, Gorgias, who has negated Being threefold, like Parmenides, who has defended Being; and, like the Milesian naturalists, Thales, Anaximenes and Anaximander, who have vindicated Being, Leucippus and Democritus have postulated a kind of deterministic "unity-and-contradiction-of-opposites": Being - Not-Being, as Totality. However, the Atomists, being less dialectical, differed with Anaximander and Heracleitus in explaining Being-Becoming. Anaximander’s apeiron can change qualitatively and become water or fire; the pýr of Heracleitus can combine with the arché-element of Thales, with water, and produce the psyché - the psychic forerunner of Anaxagoras’ nous, and Democritus’ compound of „fiery atoms“.

The átomoi do not produce to kenón, and vice versa; however, both are necessary for the composition of Anaxagorean chremata and spermata. Change and variety result from the interaction of átomoi, and from their interpenetration of to kenón, where the former are active (like the Aristotelian morphé) and the latter is passive (like the Aristotelian hýle). In fact, later Aristotle will even differentiate between an active and passive nous. And yet, in spite of their independent ontological stature, the atoms and the void are two "sides" of the same one and only arché, of the atoms, of "A".

Now, what did Democritus consider an atom to be? Certainly, it had some theoretical similarities with our current conception of an atom in Physics, but, under no circumstances, Hussein could produce an atomic bomb with it. We can neither split the Democritean atom into protons, nor into neutrons, nor into particles or "wavicles"; it was not even equivalent to an electron or an „elementary particle“; furthermore, it had no positive, negative or neutral mesons, it could not emit gamma rays, and had no alpha, beta or even omega disintegration; it was not matter, though to kenón seemed to be "anti-matter"; in fact, there were no positive atoms and negative atoms, in the sense of positive- and anti-matter.

Similarly, to kenón was not just a vacuum, in the modern understanding of this term, it was not even empty space, not the aether, not an electro-magnetic field, or even „anti-matter“ in Galaxy Messier 87 or Cygnus A. As stated already, to kenón is material Not-Being, which has an equal status and scientific relevance like Being, like átomos. Atomos and to kenón are the two arché-elements of Atomistic materialism, of Atomos-To-Kenonism. The atom was for Democritus not a scientific hypothesis; he considered it to have a real, concrete existence; it was a universal-philosophic entity - its physical existence was only one mension of its universal reality.

Consequently, neither the atoms nor the void, just originated from oudén, from the Nihil, like a bolt from the blue. They had and have a material intellectual existence a priori and a posteriori. However, they are two sides of the same arché, of universal Being. For them, Nothing was ex-philosophic, has nothing to do with Being and Not-Being.

Both philosophic concepts, as indicated already, have historic antecedents. There was a direct relation between the principle of Thales, water, and the atom; also, a direct connection between Anaxagoras’ nous, which fills the empty "space" between the homoiomeries, and to kenón. Furthermore, as stressed already, the historico-social material conditions, which form the sine qua non for the historical evolution of Atomism, were quintessential in the intellectual discovery of pléroma-kenoma.

Atomism was not a scientific product of the age of „Seven Wise Men“, also not of the Roman „Dark Ages“, but, of Pericles’ Golden Age, a real, sprouting, capitalist birth, a tempus mirabilis. In addition, the essential features and conceptions which constitute the átomoi, and, even more so, the kénoma, were borrowed and synthesized from the philosophic accomplishments of Democritus’ naturalist, hylozoistic predecessors; and, conversely, because Atomism was philosophic qua scientific, it postliminarily influenced and posteriorly anticipated central characteristics of future mechanical and dialectical materialist thought, for example, Epicureanism and Lucretianism, but, also modern empiricism and positivism.

By taking the above in mind, we can state that the Democritean atom , his "A", has a similarity to the Milesian single, archaic substances; it was related to the material pýr of Heracleitus; it has an affinity to the arithmós of Pythagoras as material constituent of things; it is uncreated and unchangeable like the hen kai pan of Parmenides, but, as we will see later, it is different from the hen without a pan of the early Stoicism of Zeno of Citium; furthermore, there are now more than one unomnia, but they are unomnia all the same. Moreover, the atoms are related to the six material substances of Empedocles and to the spermata of Anaxagoras, but, at the same time, they have distinctive features which differentiate them from all above-mentioned genetic forms of Matter.

Concerning the above, we would recall that for Anaxagoras the Infinitesimal, that is, the totality of the homoiomeries, was, at the same time, the Infinitely Big; de mal en pis, the ultimate extremes of reality -- Infinitesimal and Infinitely Big -- cannot really exist, and, surely, not as separate entities of Being. The spermata are infinite in number and variety; they are eternal, indestructible and unchanging - thus, to talk about a totality of spermata, homoiomeries and things is already an aporiac polylemma. Each thing-seed contains within itself all the qualities of the others, in fact, of all things, except the fifth arché-substance, the quinta essentia, the nous. Nous, the thinking substance, is mixed only in certain things.

In Democritean materialism, the atom is the smallest element of irreducible reality; as long as we cannot perceive it, it can have any physical size; per definitionem it is „indivisible propter solidatem“ (Cicero), it cannot be cut further, not subdivided or separated into anything anymore. But, like the homoiomeries, the atoms are infinite in number, are eternal, immutable; and uncreated. However, they are qualityless and in eternal self-motion; they possess an intrinsic Aristotelian energeía, an auto-dynamism, and even a potential subjectivity. Later, in Epicureanism, with the help of liberum arbitrium, they will acquire an Aristotelian subjectivity, but one which is void of religious teleology and entelechy.

According to Democritus, qualities, as we perceive them via our senses, in reality, do not exist: „Colour is a convention, sweetness is a convention, bitterness is a convention; truly, there exist only the átomos and to kenón. (Frag. 125) As we could deduce, this does not signify that Democritus had given sense-perception nil scientific-epistemological value. We would recall that Parmenides had negated Not-Being - „Not-Being cannot exist“ --, but for Democritus to kenón „exists just like everything“, just like Being. Summa summarum, without noticing it, Democritus actually had postulated two principles, "A" a n d "B", but he did not realize it, he was caught in the patrian, social barriers of his epoch.

Let us now proceed to expound the relation Being - Not-Being, id est, Motion, which is a function of Total-Being. As stated before, the thing-seeds of Anaxagoras received their primordial motion from a causa efficiens, from nous, which thereafter, like the Epicurean gods, retreats to eternal rest, and which has nothing anymore to do with cosmic Coming-Into-Being and Passing-Away. Change or Movement within the universe is caused by „circulation“; in other words, mechanical motion is kykloeidés (circular or cyclic), which results from mixing - separation. It follows that Democritus, in the final analysis, had not given anánke or tyché divine roles, in spite of his deterministic, mechanical materialism.

However, what he did was to introduce eternal anánke or Heracleitus’ cosmic justice as necessary motion, as auto-dynamism, as causa materialis, directly into the indivisible átomos, into Being, which moves in infinite, permeable, material "space", in Not-Being. As we will explain in the later, the átomos, subjected to their intrinsic laws, which are guided by anánke, cannot „overstep their measures“; they cannot develop a subjective free will of action. In this sense, Necessity was elevated to a universal function, but not to a Superior Intelligence. The atoms group themselves together in whirlpools and form various things, eventually ge (the earth), and consequently numerous worlds, the Universe.

Logically, following the laws of evolution-involution, of the Heracleitean apokatastasis-ekpyrosis, the worlds, the universes -- not diverses or triverses -- can evolve and involve, can come-into-being and pass-away. In this universal process, the possibilities of circulation and circular motion are infinite, thus repetition is not necessarily a feature of this eternal pánta rhei. What remains, what does not change, is Change itself, that is, the eternal, infinite spiral, complex-multiplex process of evolution-involution, and, we ask: why not also of transvolution?


Ananke and Determinism

Nature versus "Big Promises of Hope"

Democritus explicitly denied that anything in the Cosmos happens by tyché (by chance). All occurrences in objective and subjective reality are guided by aitía-akoloúthesis, by cause-effect relations. He would prefer a single scientific explanation of causation to the „crown of Persia“: „all things occur for a reason, and out of necessity“. (Leucippus) This principle Democritus had also referred to human history, to social praxis-theory. „Men had created the conception of Chance, only to beautify their own indeliberateness; only in negligible cases, Chance can challenge Wisdom; for the greater part of human life, a resolute causal insight can bring things in order.“ (Frag. 119) Furthermore, „Chance is spent thrifty, most unreliable; on the other hand, Nature is economical, based in herself. This is the reason, in spite of her seemingly lesser, but all the more reliable force, why, in the last analysis, she is victorious over big promises of hope.“ (Frags. 176, 168)

Consequently, Leucippus and Democritus, in scientific enquiry and investigation of the cosmos, had rejected pure tyché as a quintessential gnostic principle. However, they did not realize that so-called „accident“ is itself a form of necessity; de facto, they neglected the interdialectical relation between these two categorical elements. Mutatis mutandis, they discarded prima causa, ultima causa, psyché, lógos or nous as sine qua non for living, material, universal Becoming Being.

Although they did not use these terms expressis verbis, the „left“ Aristotelian Arab-Renaissance natura naturans, and even, natura naturata, sufficed to explain the processes of objective-subjective reality. Thus, they were consequential quantitative-mechanical determinists, but also quintessential qualitative-dialectical materialists. All existing things, ens and esse, all processes, organic and inorganic, have material antecedents and substrata, in which their essential existence is based, and on which they depend for further existence. Motion is an intrinsic feature of the átomos, and therewith of all things, thus, Motion itself does not necessitate a First Cause, does not tolerate any divine intruder, neither from Heaven nor from the Olympus. Also in this case, to determine, to identify our concept "Relation", Bezug, much can be learned from ancient Atomism.

However, a careful study of the cosmology of Democritus will reveal that virtualiter the creation of things all resulted as much as of chance as of necessity. That they did not cognosce this fact, as stated before, was not a personal defect, but the result of the limits and limitations of their epoch, of the objective-real and subjective-real historical barriers of the Periclean Age. At any event, the entire Ancient World of that epoch was still strongly governed by the multifarious divine forces of fatum; Anánke, Moíra, Kismet, Adrasteía, Karma and Heimarméne - as we will see later, these epitomized in Stoic cynicism, pessimism, nihilism and fatalism, and was crowned by Roman religious fatalitas-necessitas.

Nonetheless, for Democritus, Necessity was not dialectical, but mechanical fatum. The goddess Anánke was now no more floating above the arché, above Chthón and Ánthropos, she was an intrinsic part of Motion, a function of Matter. The danger was that this conception of anánke could end up in eternal cycles of metempsychosis, in repetitions of universal processes, in which nothing new under the sun ever happened, that it could end up in a philosophy which considered that nothing was governed by presight, insight, foresight and farsight; that nothing was created by design, not even the Parthenon.

Of course, the above has nothing to do with an apology for the arguments, sic et non, related to the existence of God, as expounded by Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz and Kant. The danger is, as Bloch had warned, that the roles of Becoming and Rest can be interchanged and exchanged: „Motion not only elevated itself above Being-At-Rest, but it also had placed its crown on its own head“, consequently, it is not just a matter of motion in general, but a specific case of exchange, of mechanics. (See; Ernst Bloch, Das Materialismusproblem..., op, cit., p. 30.)

Evidently, the natural scientists Leucippus and Democritus were still living in the aurora of the science of physics, that is, of quantitative and qualitative physics. Only in the 20th Century, Man wouldl develop the Theory of Relativity, which, in general, postulated that all Time and Space conceptions depend on Man’s adherence to a specific material system, ordered, in his opinion, according to the three "dimensions" of Space and that of Time. Where this „order“ comes from is a modern aporía, is another story, but, at least, it indicates some deterministic will of some Superior Intelligence or of the Subject of Nature, or of Emancipatory History. The second great discovery was quantum mechanics, which allowed a definite indeterminism of an Epicurean nature. Hence, we are right back to the archaic Immense Contradiction, which was already crypto-scientifically contained in Democritean-Epicurean Atomism


Democritus: Psyche and Eidola

From the aforesaid, it is clear that psychology and sense-perception will form "weak points" within the general philosophy of Atomism; correctly Democritus had considered thought to be a kind of motion, and that it can cause motion elsewhere, in a world, whose reality is only moving atoms in the void. Thus, thought - also sense-perception - is a physical process. He differentiated, as we have seen, between sense perception (bastard knowledge), and cognitive perception (trueborn knowledge), which he had called „understanding“.

Similarly, like thought, the psyché or pneuma (soul) is a physical entity or process. Gods are made of extra-fine atoms, but they are mainly interpreted as moral principles (See: Frag. 2, cited before), but, he did not fail to relate divine inspirations to arts, poetry, aesthetics and „higher“ human things (Frag. 18, 21, 112, 129). What a poet writes, he did not consider it to be madness (as Plato would define this later in his doctrine of ideas), but, especially when inspired by the Divine, it is „beautiful“ (Frag. 17, 18). Hence, with reference to our Unigory, to our objective, Beauty, the atomists gave us "higher" guidance.

For Plato, the idea of the Beautiful was the Idea of the Idea. Art was degraded to the reflection of the reflection of barely Nothing - of to kenón. For Democritus, the soul, the res cogitans, is composed of the finest atoms, the fire atoms. And, precisely these Promethean-Heracleitean entities are most lively and active. It is their rigorous penetration and vigorous activity in the human body which cause what we call an active, living human being. Like Alcmaeon, Democritus was of the opinion that the seat of thought and wisdom, of the átomos, was in the human brain, hence, fire-atom activity was not concentrated in petto.

According to Democritus, why the human mind, the lógos, the nous can perceive everyday objects via the senses, is because natural objects permanently emanate images or pictures, eidóla, which then interpenetrate human sense organs; of course, such knowledge could be deceptive. (Frag. 166)

Hence, ideas are after-effects of sense-perception, and, for various reasons -- exempli gratia, bad mnéme (memory) or bad sense-reception -- they could be faulty. As we will see later, for Plato, ideas are original, archetypical, spiritual images or reflections of Being, of the alétheia (Truth), of the kalós (Beautiful) and of the agathós (Good). Relevant is, that Democritus mentioned nothing about athánatos (immortality) of either thoughts, the soul, or of gods. In the last analysis, all „pre-Socratic“ naturalists, including Leucippus and Democritus, were not mechanical materialists, but hylozoistic materialists, progenitors of historical dialectical materialism.

Finally, we should recall, that all is not gold that glitters, and more than other terrestrial living beings, patrian dialectical materialists, including their crypto-dialectical progenitors, -- precisely, because they are scientists and philosophers, analysing an influent, effluent, deliquescent material and intellectual reality -- can err, can be victims of historical conditions which often bar their insight, farsight and foresight.

Democritus was certainly no exception, he disliked everything violent and wildly emotional (Frag. 47, 73, 264), he disapproved of sex or sexual vices (Frag. 32, 77, 74), like a typical "macho" of his epoch, he spoke depreciatively about women (Frag. 105, 110, 111, 195, 273, 274, 236), he had no special love for children (Frag. 275, 276, 279, 228) but, he considered joy, mirth, goodness and cheerfulness as essential homofinal endeavours, he treasured culture, science and philosophy, valued friendship, and was totally in love with democracy. (Frag. 39, 47, 50, 56, 59, 78, 97, 98, 251) There is much Luciferian, but also Mephistophelian, in Democritus Atomism; but, in contradistinction to Epicurus, he did not agree with Goethe’s final conclusion in Faust, that das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan: the eternal feminine draws us upward.

Furthermore, when Leucippus had postulated that naught happens without a reason, without a plan, he was referring to the concept of anticipation, he was underlining Relation. He laid stress on material conditions, which are necessary for anything to become reality, social reality; hence he made emphatic objective-real and subjective-real possibility, fundamental possibility. But, for the ancient determinists, Leucippus and Democritus, even possibility was partial determinedness, in which all the material -- atomic and to kenónic -- conditions, in space and time parameters, are not-yet realized, not-yet existent. E converso, logically, anything, any process, which has no conditions, is impossible.

As Ernst Bloch stressed, any phenomenon, process, aim, optative, which has some material conditions, no matter how faint, but which is located within the historic tendency, for example, emancipation, is, in a Leucippian sense, possible. As far as we are concerned, with reference to the realization of Post-Human Emancipation as necessary historic optative, it is by means of Post-Human Energy, post-intellectual and post-physical labour, by means of Praxis a n d Theory, that we transform Possible-Emancipation into Beautiful-True-Loving-Emancipation -- a scientific qua philosophic endeavour, inter alia, which we inherited from ancient Greek Atomism, and which was enriched by Aristotle, especially the Aristotelian „Left“, as we will note later. In the next chapter, we will continue with the momentous struggle of the Cosmic-Ontic Subject in its ubiquarian praxico-theoretical task to find patrian arbitrium liberum -- towards Historic Emancipation.




Back to Contents        Next Chapter