Marx's Notebooks on Epicurean Philosohy
[XIX, 2] "For it is one of Epicurus' tenets that none but the sage is unalterably convinced of anything." p. 1117.
An important passage as regards Epicurus' attitude to Scepticism.
[XIX, 5] but the reflection by which we conclude that the senses are not accurate or trustworthy enough does not deny that every single object presents to us a certain appearance, but, though we make use of the perceptions as they appear to us in what we do. it does not allow us to trust them as absolutely and [infallibly] true. [For it is sufficient that they are necessary and that] they are useful, since there is nothing better availablo6." p. 1118.
[XX, 1] "When he [Colotes] ridicules and scores Socrates for seeking to discover what man is and flauntingly (as Colotes puts it) declaring that he did not know it, we can see that Colotes himself had never dealt with the problem." p. 1118.
[XXII, 1-2] "... he [Colotes] says that Stilpo makes life impossible by the assertion that nothing else can be predicated of one thing. For how shall we live if we cannot say that man is good, etc., but only that man is man ... good is good', etc. p. 1119.
While it really must be admitted that Colotes knows how to feel out an opponent's weaknesses, Plutarch lacks philosophical bearings to such an extent that he does not even know what it is an about, especially when the proposition of abstract identity as the death of all life is formulated and censured. He makes the following foolish retort, worthy of the very stupidest village schoolmaster:
[XXII, 3] "What man's life was ever the worse because of it? Who that heard that assertion [i.e., Stilpo's] did not recognise it as coming from a witty mocker or from one who wished to offer it as a dialectical exercise for others? What is bad, Colotes, is not to refuse to call a man good ... but to refuse to call God God and not to believe in him (and this is what you or your company do), who will not admit that a Zeus exists who presides over generation, or Demeter, the giver of laws, or Poseidon, the begetter. It is this disjoining of one word from another that works harm and fills your lives with contempt of the gods and shamelessness, when you tear away from the gods the appellations attached to them and also annihilate all sacrifices, mysteries, processions and festivals." p. 1119.
[XXIII, 1] "Stilpo's point, however, is this: if we predicate ... running of a horse, the predicate (he maintains) is not the same as that of which it is predicated, but the concept of what man is is one thing, and that of goodness is another for when asked for a definition we do not give the same for both. 'nerefore they err who predicate one of the other......
[XXIII, 2] "For if good is the same as man ... how comes it that [we can] also predicate good of food and of medicine ... ?" p. 1120.
A very good and important exposition of Stilpo.
[XXIV, 4-5] "For they [the Cyrenaics] say we are affected by sweetness and darkness, each of these influences possessing within itself a specific and unchangeable effect ... whereas the view that honey is sweet ... and night air dark, encounters evidence to the contrary from many witnesses,-animals, things, and men alike; for to some honey is disagreeable, while others feed on [it]. Accordingly opinion continues free from error only as long as it keeps to experience; but when it strays beyond and meddles with judgments and pronouncements about external appearances, it is forever getting embroiled with itself and falling into conflict with others in whom the same things give rise to contrary experiences and dissimilar impressions." p. 1190.
[XXV, 2, 4-5] "For the school that asserts that when a round image impinges on us, or in another case a bent one, the imprint is truly received by the senses, but refuses to allow us to affirm that the tower is round or that the oar is bent, maintains the truth of its impressions as real manifestation, but will not admit that external objects correspond ... for it is the image producing the effect in the eye that is bent.... Thus, since the impression produced on the senses differs from the external object, belief must stick to the impression or be proved if it claims being as well as appearance." p. 1121.
What Plutarch says on this subject is confined to the -fact that the Academics recognise three movements: fantastikon, ormhtikon and sugkataqetikon [p. 1122], and the error is in the last; so what is perceptible to the senses disappears neither in practice nor in theory, but opinion does.
He tries to prove to the Epicureans that they doubt much of what is evident.
Published by Eichstät, 1801, Vol. 1
It goes without saying that but little use can be made of Lucretius.
"When human life lay grovelling in all men's sight, crushed to the earth under the dead weight of religion, whose grim features loured menacingly upon mortals from the four quarters of the sky, a man of Greece was first to raise mortal eyes in defiance, first to stand erect and brave the challenge. Fables of the gods did not crush him, nor the lightning flash and the growling menace of the sky.... Therefore religion in its turn lies crushed beneath his feet, and we by his triumph are lifted level with the skies." II. 63-80.
"Nothing can ever be created by divine power out of nothing." I. 151.
"... if things were made out of nothing, any species could spring from any source, and nothing would require seed." II. 160 and 161.
"Be not, however, mistrustful of my words, because the primary principles of things are not visible to the eyes." II. 268 and 269.
"Therefore nature works through the agency of invisible bodies." I. 329.
"Neither are things hemmed in by the pressure of solid bodies in a tight mass.
This is because there is void in things." II. 330 and 331.
"This" (to wit, the knowledge of the void - KM) "will save you from ever brooding about the universe... For there is a space, untouched and void and vacant. If it did not exist, things could not move at all.... Nothing could proceed, because nothing would give it a starting point by receding.... And if there were no empty space ... things could not possibly have come into existence, hemmed in as they would have been in motionless matter." II. 333-346.
"... mingled with the things is void, from whence things first receive the possibility of movement." II. 383-384.
"All ... nature ... consists of two things, bodies and the void." Ii. 420 and 421.
Similarly, time by itself does not exist ... no one can sense time by itself apart from the movement of things and restful immobility." II. 460-464
"Neither bodies exist by themselves nor can [events] be said to be by themselves.
"Events cannot he said to be by themselves like matter or in the same sense as the void. Rather, they must be described as accidents of matter, or of the place in which things happen." II. 480-483.
"... we have found that nature is twofold, consisting of two totally different things, matter and space.... Each of these must exist by itself, without admixture of the other. For, where there is empty space ... there matter is not, where matter exists, there cannot be a void. II. 504-510.
"... matter ... everlasting .... " I. 541.
"... there must be an ultimate point in objects... This point is without pact and is the smallest thing that can exist. It never has been and never will be able to exist by itself." II. 600-604.
"there are certain bodies ... they do not resemble fire or anything else that can bombard our senses with particles or impinge on our organs of touch." II. 685-690.
"Again, if everything is created from four things and resolved into them, why should we say that these are the elements of things rather than the reverse - that other things are the elements of these?" II. 764-767.
"... then nothing can be created from them [the four elements], neither animate, nor, like a tree, with inanimate body. For each element in a composite assemblage will betray its own nature, air will appear mixed with earth, and fire will remain side by side with moisture. But in fact the elements, in giving birth to things, must contribute a nature that is hidden and viewless, so that nothing may show that conflicts with the thing created and prevents it from being distinctively itself." II. 773-781.
"... they make ... things never cease to interchange, migrating (to he precise, fire rising into the air, hence is born rain, then earth, and from the earth all returns againa) from heaven to earth, from earth to the starry firmament. This is something elements ought never to do. For it is essential that something should remain immutable, or everything would be reduced to nothing. For, if ever anything is so transformed that it oversteps its own limits, this means the immediate death of what was before." II. 783-793.
"... because there are in things many elements common to many things commingled in many ways, various things draw their food from various sources." II. 814-816.
"For the same elements compose sky, sea and lands, rivers and sun, crops, trees and animals, but they are moving differently and in different combinations." II. 820-822.
"Add to this that he" (Anaxagoras) "makes the elements too frail.... For which of these things will withstand violent assault, so as to escape extinction... ? Will fire or water or air? Will blood or bones? Nothing, I maintain, will escape, where everything is as perishably as those objects that we see vanishing from before our eyes under stress of some force or other." II. 847-856.
"If flame, smoke and ashes lurk unseen in wood, then wood must consist of unlike matter which rises out of it." II. 872-873.
"Here is left some scanty cover for escaping detection, and Anaxagoras avails himself of it. He asserts that there is in everything a mixture of everything, but all the ingredients escape detection except the one whose particles are most numerous and conspicuous and he nearest the surface. This is far removed from the truth. Otherwise it would naturally happen that corn, when it is crushed by the dire force of the grindstone, would often show some signs of blood.... When sticks are snapped, ashes and smoke ought to be revealed, and tiny hidden fires. But observation plainly shows that none of these things happens. It is clear therefore that one sort of thing is not intermingled with another in this way, but there must be in things a mixture of invisible seeds that are common to many sorts." II. 874-895.
"Now do you see the point of my previous remark, that it makes a great difference in what combinations and positions the same elements occur, and what motions they mutually pass on and take over, so that with a little reshuffling the same ones may produce forests and fires? This is just how the words themselves are formed, by a little reshuffling of the elements, when we pronounce 'forests' and 'fires' as two distinct utterances." II. 906-913.
"... the universe is not bounded in any direction. If it were, it would necessarily have a limit somewhere. But dearly a thing cannot have a limit unless there is something outside to limit it.... Since you must admit that there is nothing outside the universe, it can have no limit, and is accordingly without end or measure." II. 957-963.
"Further, if all the space in the universe were shut in and confined on every side by definite boundaries ... there would be no sky.... As it is, no rest is given to the atoms, because there is no bottom where they can accumulate and take up their abode. Things are happening all the time, through ceaseless motion in every direction; and atoms of matter bouncing up from below are supplied out of the infinite." II. 983-996.
"Nature ... compels body to be bounded by void and void by body. Thus it makes both of them infinite in alternation, or else one of them, if it is not bounded by the other, must extend in a pure state without limit." II. 1008-1012.
"None of these results would be possible if there were not an ample supply of matter to rise up out of infinite space to replace in time all that is lost. just as animals deprived of food waste away through loss of body, so everything must decay as soon as its supply of matter goes astray and is cut off." II. 1034-1040.
As nature in spring lays herself bare and, as though conscious of victory, displays all her charm, whereas in winter she covers up her shame and nakedness with snow and ice, so Lucretius, fresh, keen, poetic master of the world, differs from Plutarch, who covers his paltry ego with the snow and ice of morality. When we see an individual anxiously buttoned-up and clinging into himself, we involuntarily clutch at coat and clasp, make sure that we are still there, as if afraid to lose ourselves. But at the sight of an intrepid acrobat we forget ourselves, feel ourselves raised out of our own skins like universal forces and breathe more fearlessly. Who is it that feels in the more moral and free state of mind -he who has just come out of Plutarch's classroom, reflecting on how unjust it is that the good should lose with life the fruit of their life, or he who sees eternity fulfilled, hears the bold thundering song of Lucretius:
"... high hope of fame has struck my heart with its sharp goad and in so doing has implanted in my breast the sweet love of the Muses. That is the spur that lends my spirit strength to pioneer through pathless tracts of their Pierian realm where no foot has ever trod before. What joy it is to light upon virgin springs and drink their waters. What joy to pluck new flowers and gather for my brow a glorious garland from fields whose blossoms were never yet wreathed by the Muses round any head. This was my reward for teaching on these lofty topics, for struggling to loose men's minds from the tight knots of religion and shedding on dark corners the bright beams of my song that irradiate everything with the sparkle of the Muses." II. 921 ff.
He who would not prefer to build the whole world out of his own resources, to be a creator of the world, rather than to be eternally bothering about himself, has already been anathematised by the spirit, he is under an interdict, but in the opposite sense; he is expelled from the temple and deprived of the eternal enjoyment of the spirit and left to sing lullabies about his own private bliss and to dream about himself at night.
"Blessedness is not the reward of virtue, but is virtue itself." [Spinoza, Ethics, Part V, Prop. 42]
We shall also see how infinitely more philosophically Lucretius grasps Epicurus than does Plutarch. The first necessity for philosophical investigation is a bold, free mind.
First we must appreciate the pertinent criticism of earlier natural philosophers from the Epicurean viewpoint. It is all the more worthy of consideration since it brings out in a masterly manner what is specific in the teaching of Epicurus.
We here consider in particular what is taught about Empedocles and Anaxagoras, since the same points are still more valid for the others.
1. No definite elements can be considered to be the substance, for if everything is included in them and everything arises out of them, what forbids us to assume, on the contrary, that in this alternating process the totality of other things is their principle, since they themselves possess only a determinate, limited mode of existence side by side with the others and are brought forth likewise by the process of these [other] existences? And the other way round (II. 764-768).
2. If a number of definite elements are held to be the substance, then they reveal on the one hand their natural one-sidedness by maintaining themselves in conflict with each other, asserting their determinateness and so dissolving in their opposite; on the other hand they are subject to a natural process, mechanical or other, and reveal their formative ability as one confined to their individuality.
If we concede the Ionian natural philosophers the historical excuse that their fire, water, etc., were not the things perceptible to the senses but something general, then Lucretius as an opponent is completely right in criticising them on these grounds. If obvious elements, obvious to the daylight of the senses, are taken to be the basic substances, then these have as their criterion sensuous perception and the sensuous forms of their existence. If one says that what is in question is a determination of another kind, in which they are the principles of that which exists, then it is a determination which their sensuous individuality conceals; only in internal, therefore external, determination are they principles; that is, they are not principles as given definite elements, precisely not in that which distinguishes each element from the others as fire, water, etc. (II. 773 ff)
3. But thirdly the view that definite elements are basic principles is contradicted not only by their limited existence side by side with others, from which they are arbitrarily singled out, and in respect of which, therefore, they differ only according to the determination of number; but being limited far more by the plurality, the infinite number of the others, they seem not only to be determined as to their principle by their mutual relationship in their particularity, which reveals an exclusion just as much as a formative power enclosed in natural limits; but the process itself by which they are supposed to generate the world manifests their finiteness and changeability.
As they are elements enclosed in a particular natural form, their creativity can only be a particular one, that is, their own transformation, which again has the form of particularity, namely, natural particularity; that is, their creativity is the natural-process of their transformation. So these natural philosophers have fire flicker in the air, so rain is produced and falls down, and so the earth is formed. What is shown here is the elements' own changeability and not their constancy, not their substantial being, which they [the natural philosophers] assert as principles; for their creativity is rather the death of their particular existence, and what proceeds out of them comes rather from their non-persistency (II. 783 ffl),
The mutual necessity of the elements and natural things for each other's existence signifies only that their conditions are their own powers, outside them as well as inside them.
4. Lucretius now comes to the homoeomerias " of Anaxagoras. His objection to them is that
"[he makes] the elements too frail" [II. 847-8481,
for since the homoeomerias have the same quality, are the same substance, as that of which they are homoeomerias, we must also attribute to them the same transience as is evident in their concrete manifestations. If wood conceals within itself fire and smoke, that means that it is a mixture ex alienigeneis [1. 873]. If every body were made up of all the seeds perceptible to the senses, when it was broken up it would be seen to contain them.
It may seem strange that a philosophy like that of Epicurus, which proceeds from the sphere of the sensuous and, at least in cognition, assesses it as the highest criterion, should posit as principle such an abstraction, such a caeca potestas [blind power] as the atom. Concerning this, see lines 773 ff. and 783 ff., where it is seen that the principle must have an independent existence without any particular sensuously perceptible, physical quality. It is substance:
the same elements compose sky, sea and lands, rivers and sun," etc. II. 820 f.
Universality is inherent in it.
An important remark on the relationship of the atom and the void. Lucretius says of this duplex natura [dual nature]:
each of these must exist by itself, without admixture of the other." II. 504 ff.
Further, they are mutually exclusive:
"For, where there is empty space ... there matter is not" loc. cit.
Each one is itself the principle, so that the principle is neither the atom nor the void, but their basis, that which each of them manifests as an independent nature. This mean is enthroned at the consummation of Epicurean philosophy.
On the void as a principle of motion, see II. 363 ff., notably as an immanent principle, see II. 383 ff., to keueu kai to atomou the objectivised antithesis of thinking and being.
"But nothing is sweeter than to stand in a quiet temple stoutly fortified by the teaching of the wise." II. 7 f.
"O joyless hearts of men! O minds without vision! How dark and dangerous the life in which this tiny span is lived away!" II. 14 ff.
"As children in blank darkness tremble and start at everything, so we in broad daylight fear.... This dread and darkness of the mind cannot be dispelled by the sunbeams, the shining shafts of day, but only by an understanding of the outward form and inner workings of nature." II. 54 ff.
"Since the atoms are moving freely through the void, they must all be kept in motion either by their own weight or by the impact of another..." II. 82 ff.
"Remember that the universe has nowhere a bottom: there is no place where the atoms could come to rest. It has been variously proved that space is without end or limit and spreads out immeasurably in all directions alike" II. 89 ff.
"... no rest is given to the atoms in their course through the depths of space ... but [they are driven] in an incessant and variable movement", etc. II. 94 ff.
The formation of combinations of atoms, their repulsion and attraction, is a noisy affair. An uproarious contest, a hostile tension, constitutes the workshop and the smithy of the world. The world in the depths of whose heart there is such tumult, is torn within.
Even the sunbeam, falling on shady places, is an image of this eternal war.
"A multitude of tiny particles ... within the light of the beam, as though contending in everlasting conflict, rushing into battle rank upon rank with never a moment's pause in a rapid sequence of unions and disunions. From this you may picture what it is for the atoms to be perpetually tossed about in the inimitable void." II. 115 ff.
One sees how the blind, uncanny power of fate is transposed into the arbitrary will of the person, of the individual, and shatters the forms and substances.
"Besides, there is-a further reason why you should give your mind to these particles that are seen dancing in a sunbeam: their dancing is an actual indication of underlying movements of matter that are hidden from our sight. There you will see many particles under the impact of invisible blows changing their course and driven back upon their tracks." II. 124 ff.
"First the atoms are set in movement by themselves. Then those small compound bodies that are, as it were, least removed from the impetus of the atoms are set in motion by the impact of their invisible blows and in rum cannon against slightly larger bodies. So the movement mounts up from the atoms and gradually emerges to the level of our senses, so that at last those bodies are in motion that we see in sunbeams, moved by blows that remain invisible." II. 132 ff.
"... when separate atoms are travelling, simple and solid, through empty space, they encounter no obstruction from without and move as single units on the course on which they have embarked. They must certainly have greater speed than anything else and move far faster than the light of the sun" II. 156 ff.
"Even if I knew nothing of the atoms, I would venture to assert on the evidence of the celestial phenomena themselves, supported by many other arguments, that the universe was certainly not created for us by divine power ...". II. 177 ff.
"... no material thing can be uplifted or travel upwards by its own power." II. 177 ff.
The declinatio atomorum a via recta is one of the most profound conclusions, and it is based on the very essence of the Epicurean philosophy. Cicero might well laugh at it, he knew as little about philosophy as about the president of the United States of North America.
The straight line, the simple direction, is the negation of immediate being-for-self, of the point; it is the negated point; the straight line is the being-otherwise of the point. The atom, the material point, which excludes from itself the being-otherwise and is absolute immediate being-for-self, excludes therefore the simple direction, the straight line, and swerves away from it. It shows that its nature is not spatiality, but being-for-self. The law which it follows is different from that of spatiality.
The straight line is not only the being-negated of the point, but also its existence. The atom is indifferent -to the breadth of existence, it does not split up into differences which have being, but just as little is it mere being, the immediate, which is, as it were, indifferent to its being, but it exists rather precisely in being different from existence; it encloses itself in itself against that existence; in terms of the sensuous it swerves away from the straight line.
As the atom swerves away from its premise, divests itself of its qualitative nature and therein shows that this divestment, this premiseless, contentless being-enclosed-in-self exists for itself, that thus its proper quality appears, so also the whole of the Epicurean philosophy swerves away from the premises; so pleasure, for example, is the swerving away from pain, consequently from the condition in which the atom appears as differentiated, as existing, burdened with non-being and premises. But the fact that pain exists, etc., that these premises from which it swerves away exist for the individual — this is its finiteness, and therein it is accidental. True, we already find that in themselves these premises exist for the atom, for it would not swerve away from the straight line if the straight line did not exist for it. But this results from the position of the Epicurean philosophy, which seeks the premiseless in the world of the substantial premise, or, to express it in terms of logic, inasmuch as for it [the Epicurean philosophy] the being-for-self is the exclusive, the immediate principle, it has existence directly confronting it, has not logically overcome it.
Determinism is swerved away from by accident, [i.e.] necessity, and arbitrariness raised to the status of law; God swerves away from the world, it does not exist for him, and therein is he God.
It can therefore be said that the declinatio atomi a recta via is the law, the pulse, the specific quality of the atom; and this is why the teaching of, Democritus was a quite different philosophy, not the philosophy of the age as the Epicurean philosophy was.
"If it were not for this.swerve, everything would fall downwards ... through the abyss of space. No collision would take place and no impact of atom on atom would be created. Thus nature would never have created anything." II. 221 ff.
Inasmuch as the world is created, as the atom refers itself to itself, that is, to another atom, so its [the atom's] motion is not one which presupposes a-being-otherwise, the motion of the straight line, but .one which swerves away from the latter, refers itself to itself. In sensuous imagination, the atom can refer itself only to the atom, each of the atoms swerving away from the straight line.
"For this reason also the atoms must swerve a little, but only a very little, so that we will not imagine slantwise movements, which the fact refutes." II. 243 ff.
"Again, if all movement is always interconnected, the new arising from the old in a determinate order-if the atoms never swerve so as to originate some new movement that will snap the bonds of fate, the everlasting sequence of cause and effect-what is the source of the free will possessed by living things throughout the earth? What, I repeat, is the source of that wifi-power snatched from the fates, whereby we follow the path along which we are severally led by pleasure ... ?" II. 251 ff.
"... on these occasions the will of the individual originates the movements that trickle through his limbs", etc. II. 281 f.
The declinatio a recta via is the arbitrium [free will], the specific substance, the true quality of the atom.
"So also in the atoms you must recognise the same possibility: besides weight and impact there must be a third cause of movement, the source of this inborn power of ours, since we see that nothing can come out of nothing. For the weight of an atom prevents its movements from being completely determined by the impact of other atoms. But the fact that the mind itself has no internal necessity to determine its every act and compel it to suffer in helpless passivity-this is due to the slight swerve of the atom, not determined by place or time." II. 284 ff.
This declinatio, this clinamen,[declination, deviation] is neither regions loci certa nor tempore certo, [defined by place, determined by time] it is not a sensuous quality, it is the soul of the atom.
In the void the differentiation of weight disappears, that is, it is no external condition of motion, but being-for-self, immanent, absolute movement itself.
"But empty space can offer no resistance to any object in any quarter at any time, so as not to yield free passage as its own nature demands. Therefore, through undisturbed vacuum all bodies must travel at equal speed, although impelled by unequal weight." II. 235 ff.
Lucretius asserts this in contrast to motion restricted through conditions perceptible to the senses:
"The reason why objects falling through water or thin air vary in speed according to their weight is simply that the matter composing water or air cannot obstruct all objects equally, but is forced to give way more speedily to heavier ones." II. 230 ff.
"Do you not see then, that although many men are driven by an external force and often constrained involuntarily to advance or to rush headlong, yet there is within the human breast something that can fight against this force and resist it", etc. II. 277 ff.
See the lines quoted above.
This potestas, this declinare is the defiance, the headstrongness of the atom, the quiddam in pectore [something in the breast] of the atom; it does not characterise its relationship to the world as the relationship of the fragmented and mechanical world to the single individual.
As Zeus grew up to the tumultuous war dances of the Curetes, so here the world takes shape to the ringing war games of the atoms.
Lucretius is the genuine Roman epic poet, for he sings the substance of the Roman spirit; in place of Homer's cheerful, strong, integral characters we have here solid, impenetrable armed heroes possessed of no other qualities, we have the war omnium contra omnes [of all against all] the rigid shape of the being-for-self, a nature without god and a god aloof from the world.
We now come to the determination of the more immediate qualities of the atom; we have already clarified its inner, immanent specific quality, which, however, is rather its substance. These determinations are extremely unsatisfactory in Lucretius and on the whole they are among the most arbitrary, and therefore the most difficult parts of the whole Epicurean philosophy.
"The supply of matter in the universe was never more tightly packed than it is now, or more widely spaced out.... The sum of things cannot be changed by any force." II. 294 f.
"In this connection there is one fact that need occasion no surprise. Although all the atoms are in motion, their totality appears to stand totally motionless.... This is because the atoms all lie far below the range of our senses. Since they are themselves invisible, their movements also must elude observation. Indeed, even visible objects, when set at a distance, often disguise their movements." II. 308 ff.
"And now perceive the characteristics of the atoms of all substances, the extent to which they differ in shape and the rich multiplicity of their forms.... When the multitude of them as I have shown, is such that it is without limit or count, it is not to be expected ~ they should all be identical in build and configuration." II. 333 ff.
"There must, therefore, be great differences in the shapes of the atoms to provoke these different sensations." II. 442 f.
"... the number of different forms of atoms is finite. If it were not so, some of the a~ would have to be of infinite magnitude. Within the narrow limits of any single particle, there can be only a limited range of forms. Suppose the atoms consist of three minimum parts, or enlarge them by a few more. When by fitting on parts at top or bottom and transposing left and right you have exhausted every shape that can be given to the whole body by all possible arrangements of the parts, you are obviously left with no means of varying its form further except by adding other parts. Thence it will follow, if you wish to vary its form still further, that the arrangement will demand still other parts in exactly the same way. Variation in shape goes with increase in size. You cannot believe, therefore, that the atoms are distinguished by an infinity of forms; or you will compel some of them to be of enormous magnitude, which I have already proved to be impossible." II. 479 ff.
This Epicurean dogma that the figurarum varietas is not infinita, [the variety of shapes is not infinite] but that the corpuscula ejusdem figurae are infinita, quorum perpetuo concursu mundus perfectus est resque gignuntur [Particles with the same shape are infinite out of whose continual collision the world emerged and the bodies arose] is the most important, most immanent consideration of the relationship of the atoms to their qualities, to themselves as principles of a world.
"For whatever might be would always be surpassed by something more excellent." 1. 507
"And as all good things might yield to better, so might bad to worse. One thing would always be surpassed by another more offensive...... II. 508 ff.
"Since this is not so, but things are bound by a set liniit at either extreme, you must acknowledge a corresponding limit to the different forms of matter." II. 512 ff,
"To the foregoing demonstration I will link on another fact, which will gain credence from this context: the number of atoms of any one form is infinite. Since the varieties of form are limited, the number of uniform aatoms must be unlimited. Otherwise the totality of matter would be finite, which 1 have proved in my verses is not so." II. 522 ff.
The distance, the differentiation of the atoms are finite; were they not assumed to be finite, the atoms in themselves would be mediate, would contain an ideal variety. The infinity of the atoms as repulsion, 'as a negative attitude to themselves, produces an infinity of similars, quae similes sint, infinitas, their infinity has nothing to do with their qualitative difference. If one assumed infinite variety in the shapes of the atoms, each atom would contain the other in itself negated, and then there would be atoms which presented the whole infinity of the world, like the monads of Leibniz.
"It is evident, therefore, that there are infinite atoms of every kind to keep up the supply of everything." II. 568 f.
"So the war of the elements that has raged throughout eternity continues on equal terms. Now here, now there, the forces of life are victorious and in turn vanquished. With the voice of mouming mingles the cry that infants raise when their eyes open on the sunlit world. Never has day given place to night nor night to dawn that has not heard, blended with these infant wailings, the lamentation that attends on death and sombre obsequies." II. 547 ff.
"The more qualities and powers a thing possesses, the greater variety it attests in the component atoms and their forms." II. 587 ff.
"For it is essential to the very nature of deity that it should enjoy immortal existence in utter tranquillity, aloof and detached from our affairs. It is free from all pain and peril, strong in its own resources, exempt from any need of us, indifferent to our merits and immune from anger." II. 646 ff.
"... and the atoms do not merge into the light." I. 796.
"Do not imagine that colour is the only quality that is denied to the atoms. They are wholly devoid of warmth and cold and scorching heat; they are barren of sound and starved of savour, and emit no inherent odour from their bodies." II. 842 ff.
"All these must he kept far apart from the atoms, if we wish to provide the universe with imperishable foundations on which it may rest secure; or else you will find everything slipping back into nothing." II. 861 ff.
"It follows that the atoms cannot be afflicted by any pain or experience any pleasure in themselves, since they are not composed of any primal particles, by some reversal of whose movements they might suffer anguish or reap some fruition of vitalising bliss. They cannot therefore be endowed with any power of sensation." II. 967 ff.
"Again, if we are to account for the power of sensation possessed by animate creatures in general by attributing sentience to their atoms, what of those atoms that specifically compose the human race?" II. 937 ff.
The answer to this is:
"If they [the principles] are to be likened to entire mortals, they must certainly consist of other elemental particles, and these again of others without end." II. 980 ff.
"First, I affirm that it [the mind] is of very fine texture and is composed of exceptionally minute particles." II. 180 f.
"But what is so mobile must consist of exceptionally minute and spherical atoms ...." II. 187 f.
"The stickier consistency is due to the closer coherence of the component matter, consisting of particles not so smooth or so fine or so round." II. 194 ff. "The greater their weight and roughness, the more firmly they are anchored... II. 202 f.
Negation of cohesion, of specific weight.
"... it may be inferred that mind and spirit are composed of exceptionally diminutive seeds, since their departure is not accompanied by any loss of weight. It must not be supposed that the stuff of mind or spirit is a single element. The body at death is abandoned by a sort of rarefied wind mixed with warmth, while the warmth carries with it also air. Indeed, heat never occurs without an intermixture of air." II. 229 ff.
"The composition of the mind is thus found to be threefold. But all these three components together are not enough to create sentience, since the mind does not admit that any of these can create the sensory motions.... We must accordingly add to these a fourth component, which is quite nameless. Than this there is nothing more mobile or more tenuous-nothing whose component atoms are smaller or smoother." II. 238 ff.
"But usually a stop is put to these movements as near as may be to the surface of the body. Because of this we can retain life." II. 257 f.
"One who no longer is cannot suffer, or differ in any way from one who has never been born, when once this mortal life. has been usurped by death the immortal." II. 880 ff.
It can be said that in the Epicurean philosophy it is death that is immortal. The atom, the void, accident, arbitrariness and composition are in themselves death.
"For if it is really a bad thing after death to be mauled and crunched by ravening jaws, I cannot see why it should not he disagreeable to roast in the scorching flames of a funeral pyre, or to lie embalmed in honey, stifled and stiff with cold, on the surface of a chilly slab, or to be squashed under a crushing weight of earth." II. 901 ff.
"Men feel plainly enough within their minds a heavy burden, whose weight depresses them. If only they perceived with equal clearness the causes of this depression, the origin of this lump of evil within their breasts, they would not lead such a life as we now see all too commonly- no one knowing what he really wants and every one for ever trying to get away from where he is, as though mere change of place could throw off the load." II. 1066 ff.
Accident is known to be the dominating category with the Epicureans. A necessary consequence of this is that the idea is considered only as a condition; condition is existence accidental in itself. The innermost category of the world, the atom, its connection, etc., is for this reason relegated into the distance and considered as a past condition. We find the same thing with the Pietists and Supernaturalists. The creation of the world, original sin, the redemption, all this and all their godly determinations, such as paradise, etc., are not an eternal, timeless, immanent determination of the idea, but a condition. As Epicurus makes the ideality of his world, the void, into [the condition for] the creation of the world, so also the Supernaturalist gives embodiment to premiselessness, [namely] the idea of the world, in paradise.