Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Wisdom of Democritus



"He said that the ordered worlds are boundless and differ in size, and that in some there is neither sun nor moon, but that in others, both are greater than with us, and yet with others more in number. And that the intervals between the ordered worlds are unequal, here more and there less, and that some increase, others flourish and others decay, and here they come into being and there they are eclipsed. But that they are destroyed by colliding with one another. And that some ordered worlds are bare of animals and plants and all water." -- Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, "On Democritus"

Democritus lived in the 5th and 4th centuries BC so how could he possibly have known all this?

When I read this quote it blew my mind. Here we get a sense of Democritus's cosmology which, with the exception of the void, is almost identical to my own, e.g. Euclidean, growing Earth, abiotic planets, and catastrophic with worlds in collision (I suspect Velikovsky takes his treatise title Worlds In Collision from this Hippolytus quote).

Democritus had gone to Egypt to study. It is no surprise then that he is lightyears ahead of modern and contemporary scientists.

6 comments:

Tom Marking said...

@OIM "When I read this quote it blew my mind. Here we get a sense of Democritus's cosmology which, with the exception of the void, is almost identical to my own, e.g. Euclidean, growing Earth, abiotic planets, and catastrophic with worlds in collision"

How could Democritus' cosmology be Euclidean when he died 50 years before Euclid was born? Are you saying he invented Euclidean geometry before Euclid did? Also, what historical evidence is there that Democritus believed in an expanding Earth?

OilIsMastery said...

Tom,

"How could Democritus' cosmology be Euclidean when he died 50 years before Euclid was born?"

Because a line can be extended indefinitely. That is the meaning of "boundless." In Einstein's utterly absurd universe there is no such thing as a straight line or a line that can be extended indefinitely.

"Are you saying he invented Euclidean geometry before Euclid did?"

I am saying that everything was "invented" before the names of those they are attributed to. All Euclid did is write the standard textbook. He did not invent geometry. He did not invent Proposition 1:47. Nor did Puthagoras. So-called "Euclidean" geometry was in use in Egypt with the construction of the pyramids.

"Also, what historical evidence is there that Democritus believed in an expanding Earth?"

He said that ordered worlds "increase" by which he means "become greater in size" and also that they "flourish" by which he means to say that they "grow."

How could Demokritos have known there are planets and moons with no plants, animals, and water on them?

Tom Marking said...

Hippolytus of Rome, who was a Christian writer of the 2nd century CE lived almost 7 centuries after Democritus. Considering the quotation:

"...and that some increase, others flourish and others decay, and here they come into being and there they are eclipsed."

To interpret "increase" to mean physical increase in size seems a bit of a stretch. Assuming that Hippolytus is even correctly representing Democritus' views (which itself is a bit of a stretch given the 7 centuries separating them) I think a more likely interpretation is that Democritus is saying: some worlds are coming into existence, some are maintaining themselves, and some are being destroyed. Note, that the word "shrink" is not used in place of "decay". I don't think any physical change in size is being promoted here.

OilIsMastery said...

Tom,

By increase he means increase in size not in number. He already said they increase in number so why would he repeat himself?

The words flourish and decay refer specifically to growth.

But nice job dodging the question I asked you.

And even if Democritus didn't exist the question then becomes, how did Hippolytus know there are planets and moons with no animals, plants, and water on them?

Seth said...

Tom, there were many more extant accounts of, or even original manuscripts of, ancient writers at that time in the roman world. It was only after Rome moved to Byzantium and became Christian that pagan philosophical manuscripts which did not support Christian philosophy stopped being rescribed or were outright destroyed. Even most of what we have of Aristotle survived because of manuscripts from the Arabic world, and Aquinas probably rescued that much of Aristotle from further loss because he Christianized it.

Tom Marking said...

@OIM "But nice job dodging the question I asked you. And even if Democritus didn't exist the question then becomes, how did Hippolytus know there are planets and moons with no animals, plants, and water on them?"

If we assume that Hippolytus is correctly representing Democritus then the answer is that he didn't know - it was a conclusion to be drawn from his overall philosophy. He was speculating that there were a wide range of worlds, some with flourishing life, others without. If the claim is being made that Democritus had prior knowledge concerning this then it's interesting that he doesn't specify any particulars - e.g., the moon for example is lifeless.