- 1. (c. 460–c. 370 bc), Greek philosopher. He developed the atomic theory originated by his teacher, Leucippus, which explained natural phenomena in terms of the arrangement and rearrangement of atoms moving in a void.
Powered by Oxford Dictionaries
Democritus was born in Abdera, Thrace, around 460 BC, although there are disagreements about the exact year. His exact contributions are difficult to disentangle from those of his mentor Leucippus, as they are often mentioned together in texts.
Democritus, (born c. 460 bce —died c. 370), ancient Greek philosopher, a central figure in the development of philosophical atomism and of the atomic theory of the universe.
- Life and Works
- Atomist Doctrine
- Theory of Perception
- The Soul and The Nature of Living Things
- Theory of Knowledge
- Indivisibility and Mathematics
According to ancient reports, Democritus was born about 460 BCE(thus, he was a younger contemporary of Socrates) and was a citizen ofAbdera, although some reports mention Miletus. As well as hisassociate or teacher Leucippus, Democritus is said to have knownAnaxagoras, and to have been forty years younger than the latter (DK68A1). A number of anecdotes concern his life, but their authenticityis uncertain. The work of Democritus has survived only in secondhand reports,sometimes unreliable or conflicting. Much of the best evidence isthat reported by Aristotle, who regarded him as an important rival innatural philosophy. Aristotle wrote a monograph on Democritus, ofwhich only a few passages quoted in other sources have survived.Democritus seems to have taken over and systematized the views ofLeucippus, of whom little is known. Although it is possible todistinguish some contributions as those of Leucippus, the overwhelmingmajority of reports refer either to both figures, or to Democritu...
Ancient sources describe atomism as one of a number of attempts byearly Greek natural philosophers to respond to the challenge offeredby Parmenides. Despite occasional challenges (Osborne 2004), this ishow its motivation is generally interpreted by scholars today.Parmenides had argued that it is impossible for there to be changewithout something coming from nothing. Since the idea that somethingcould come from nothing was generally agreed to be impossible,Parmenides argued that change is merely illusory. In response,Leucippus and Democritus, along with other Presocratic pluralists suchas Empedocles and Anaxagoras, developed systems that made changepossible by showing that it does not require that something shouldcome to be from nothing. These responses to Parmenides suppose thatthere are multiple unchanging material principles, which persist andmerely rearrange themselves to form the changing world of appearances.In the atomist version, these unchanging material principles areindivi...
Democritus' theory of perception depends on the claim thateidôla or images, thin layers of atoms, are constantlysloughed off from the surfaces of macroscopic bodies and carriedthrough the air. Later atomists cite as evidence for this the gradualerosion of bodies over time. These films of atoms shrink and expand;only those that shrink sufficiently can enter the eye. It is theimpact of these on our sense organs that enables us to perceive.Visible properties of macroscopic objects, like their size and shape,are conveyed to us by these films, which tend to be distorted as theypass through greater distances in the air, since they are subject tomore collisions with air atoms. A different or complementary accountclaims that the object seen impresses the air by theeidôla, and the compacted air thus conveys the image tothe eye (DK 68A135; Baldes 1975). The properties perceived by othersenses are also conveyed by contact of some kind. Democritus' theoryof taste, for example, shows how differe...
In common with other early ancient theories of living things,Democritus seems to have used the term psychêto referto that distinctive feature of living things that accounts for theirability to perform their life-functions. According to Aristotle,Democritus regarded the soul as composed of one kind of atom, inparticular fire atoms. This seems to have been because of theassociation of life with heat, and because spherical fire atoms arereadily mobile, and the soul is regarded as causing motion.Democritus seems to have considered thought to be caused by physicalmovements of atoms also. This is sometimes taken as evidence thatDemocritus denied the survival of a personal soul after death,although the reports are not univocal on this. One difficulty faced by materialist theories of living things is toaccount for the existence and regular reproduction of functionallyadapted forms in the natural world. Although the atomists haveconsiderable success in making it plausible that a simple ontol...
One report credits Democritus and Leucippus with the view thatthought as well as sensation are caused by images impinging on thebody from outside, and that thought as much as perception depends onimages (DK 67A30). Thought as well as perception are described aschanges in the body. Democritus apparently recognized that his viewgives rise to an epistemological problem: it takes our knowledge ofthe world to be derived from our sense experience, but the sensesthemselves not to be in direct contact with the nature of things, thusleaving room for omission or error. A famous fragment may beresponding to such a skeptical line of thought by accusing the mind ofoverthrowing the senses, though those are its only access to the truth(DK68B125). Other passages talk of a gap between what we can perceiveand what really exists (DK 68B6–10; 117). But the fact that atoms arenot perceptible means that our knowledge of their properties is alwaysbased on analogy from the things of the visible world. More...
The reasons for supposing that there are indivisible magnitudesapparently stem from the problems posed by Zeno of Elea. Some ofZeno's paradoxes concern the difficulty of crossing a finite magnitudeif it is understood to be infinitely divisible, i.e. composed of aninfinite number of parts. The atomists may have sought to avoid theseparadoxes by supposing that there is a limit to divisibility. It is not clear, however, in what sense the atoms are said to beindivisible, and how the need for smallest magnitudes is related tothe claim that atoms are indivisible. Furley suggests that theatomists may not have distinguished between physical and theoreticalindivisibility of the atoms (Furley 1967, p. 94). The physicalindivisibility of the atoms seems to be independent of the argumentfor indivisible magnitudes, since the solidity of atoms—the factthat there is no void within them—is said to be the reason whythey cannot be split. The existence of void space betweenatoms is cited as the reason...
The reports concerning Democritus' ethical views pose a number ofinterpretative problems, including the difficulty of deciding whichfragments are genuinely Democritean (see above, section 1). Incontrast to the evidence for his physical theories, many of theethical fragments are lists of sayings quoted without context, ratherthan critical philosophical discussions of atomist views. Many seemlike commonsense platitudes that would be consistent with quitedifferent philosophical positions. Thus, despite the large number ofethical sayings, it is difficult to construct a coherent account ofhis ethical views. Annas notes the Socratic character of a number ofthe sayings, and thinks there is a consistent theme about the role ofone's own intellect in happiness (Annas 2002). The sayings containelements that can be seen as anticipating the more developed ethicalviews of Epicurus (Warren 2002). It is also a matter of controversy whether any conceptual link canbe found between atomist physics and...
Although the evidence is not certain, Democritus may be theoriginator of an ancient theory about the historical development ofhuman communities. In contrast to the Hesiodic view that the humanpast included a golden age from which the present day is a decline, analternative tradition that may derive from Democritus suggests thathuman life was originally like that of animals; it describes thegradual development of human communities for purposes of mutual aid,the origin of language, crafts and agriculture. Although the text inquestion does not mention Democritus by name, he is the most plausiblesource (Cole 1967; Cartledge 1997). If Democritus is the source for this theory, it suggests that hetook seriously the need to account for the origin of all aspects ofthe world of our experience. Human institutions could not be assumedto be permanent features or divine gifts. The explanations offeredsuggest that human culture developed as a response to necessity andthe hardships of our environme...
Democritus (c. 460 - c. 370 BCE) was a Greek philosopher and younger contemporary of Socrates, born in Abdera (though other sources cite Miletus) who, with his teacher Leucippus, was the first to propose an atomic universe.
- Joshua J. Mark
Democritus (460—370 B.C.E.) Democritus was born at Abdera, about 460 BCE, although according to some 490. His father was from a noble family and of great wealth, and contributed largely towards the entertainment of the army of Xerxes on his return to Asia.
Oct 29, 2019 · Democritus of Abdera (ca. 460–361) was a pre-socratic Greek philosopher who traveled widely as a youth and developed a philosophy and some rather forward-looking ideas about how the universe worked. He was a bitter rival of both Plato and Aristotle.
Democritus, the laughing philosopher, had ideas far in advance of his time.
May 29, 2018 · According to the first, which was followed by Epicurus among others, Democritus was the teacher of the Sophist Protagoras of Abdera and was born soon after 500 b.c. and died about 404 b.c.
Dec 11, 2015 · Democritus is renowned for being a pioneer of mathematics and geometry. He was among the first Greek philosophers to observe that a c one or pyramid has one-third the volume of a cylinder or prism...
Democritus Democritus was born in Abdera, around 460 B.C. Due to the fact that there was no technology, Democritus was unable to perform experiments; therefore, Democritus had no evidence of his theory, but it was proved to be somewhat close to what was discovered 2000 years later.
- related to: Democritus