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DRN Book I.

De Rerum Natura - The Classic Poem of Epicurean Philosophy.

Bailey Version   Munro Version

Book I

o       Humanity has long been oppressed under the grim weight of religion, but Epicurus was the first man with the force of mind to discover the truth of the way things really are, showing us the limits, boundaries, and benchmarks set by nature; in so doing he broke religion’s oppressive hold over the minds of men, raising us equal to the heavens.

o       It is religion that is the true mother of wickedness in the world.

o       Religion oppresses men by causing them to fear punishment by the gods both in this life and in eternal hell hereafter.

o       The remedy to the terrors of the spirit manufactured by religion is to study and uncover the true nature of the universe, which will allow us to see that those threats are not real.

o       The true nature of the soul is not obvious to us, so if we are to free ourselves from religious fears we must study nature and determine whether religion is correct when it alleges that we have eternal souls that are subject to the dictates of god here on earth and to eternal damnation after death.

o       Our starting point in this study of nature is this primary observation:  nothing ever comes from nothing — neither gods nor any other forces are observed to create anything from nothing.

o       Once we see that nothing comes from nothing, but that all things come into being in accord with their basic nature, we will see that all things occur without any intervention from the gods.

o       Our method for proving that nothing comes from nothing (the same method we will use to address all questions), is to look at the evidence around us and, using our reason, draw deductive conclusions based on the evidence nature provides to us.

o       As we reason deductively to determine what is true, we will also test our conclusions by showing that the opposite position is NOT supported by the evidence nature provides.

o       We observe that Nature determines qualities of all things, and the limits and boundaries of what is possible to them, including how all things come into being, grow, and pass away.

o       We observe that Nature also contains life-giving particles which, under certain conditions, are capable of springing to life.

o       Our second primary observation is this:  all things pass away and change back into the essential material from which they are made, but nothing is ever absolutely destroyed to nothing.

o       Another reason we know that nothing passes away to nothing is that otherwise in the eternity of time past all things would have passed away and nothing would be left in the universe.

o       We conclude that the basic material of the universe is therefore indestructible.

o       Do not doubt that matter is indestructible simply because the atoms are too small to see – you cannot see the air or odors either and yet you know they exist.

o       We therefore conclude that Nature’s work is done by particles so small that they are unseen, but in addition, within the things you see there is also not just particles of matter, but “void”.

o       We know that void exists because otherwise movement would be impossible; but we see that things do move, so we know void exists.

o       We conclude that the nature of everything is dual – everything is made up of matter and void – nothing exists in the universe except matter and void.

o       We also conclude that the basic material of the universe is immortal, meaning that the universe is itself eternal. (This does not mean that the current form of the universe is eternal, because the material is constantly changing form, but the material from which the universe is made is itself eternal.)

o       We also conclude that there is a limit to divisibility; those smallest particles are indivisible and eternal

o       We must also observe that all things are not made from a single substance, but from many distinct elements.  Fools often admire the things their blindness sees in hidden meanings, and an example is Heraclitus, who argued that all things are made from a single substance – fire.

o       Errors about the nature of things arise from doubting the senses, but all arguments against the reliability of the senses are madness because they are self-contradictory – they amount to arguing against the senses by using the senses, and to use the senses is to accept that they are trustworthy.

o       The basic elements of the universe combine in different ways form all things, in the same way that the same letters form different words when the letters are arranged differently.

o       There is a limit to divisibility (part 2) – There is an absolute smallest

o       As we proceed, remember that our goal is to free the mind from the restrictions imposed by religion.  Although the lesson may seem grim, our goal here is to rim the cup with honey so that you can take what may seem like bitter medicine, and then be healed by it (part 1)

o       The universe is infinite in extent, and has no boundaries no matter how far you travel in any direction.

o       Matter and space are equally infinite.

o       The universe has no center.

o       These basic lessons lead to all the rest that follows.  Applying our method to all questions will lead to successive answers, and each answer will in turn illuminate the next as we proceed.

Bailey Version   Munro Version