Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Asimov's Alternate History

"... partly because his [Democritus's] views were unpopular, the books were not copied many times." -- Isaac Asimov, author, Atom, 1992

But in fact, Democritus's views were popular and the books copied so many times that it was the cause of complaint.

"And Aristoxenus, in his Historic Commentaries, says that Plato wished to burn all the writings of Democritus that he was able to collect; but that Amyclas and Cleinias, the Pythagoreans, prevented him, as it would do no good; for that copies of his books were already in many hands. And it is plain that that was the case; for Plato, who mentions nearly all the ancient philosophers, nowhere speaks of Democritus; not even in those passages where he has occasion to contradict his theories, evidently, because he said that if he did, he would be showing his disagreement with the best of all philosophers...." -- Diogenes Laertius, historian, Lives and Opinions of the Preeminent Philosophers, Life of Democritus, 3rd century

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