Welcome to Episode Fourteen of Lucretius Today. This is a podcast dedicated to the poet Lucretius, author of “On The Nature of Things,” the only complete presentation of Epicurean philosophy left to us from the ancient world.
I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the EpicureanFriends.com forum, we’ll walk you through the six books of Lucretius’ poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. Be aware that none of us are professional philosophers, and everyone here is a a self-taught Epicurean. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, “Epicurus and His Philosophy” by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt. Find out more about the nature and goals of our podcast at Lucretiustoday.com, where you can download a copy of the text that we read from each week.
In Episode 14, we move to the argument that Atoms Are Solid And Indestructible, And Therefore Eternal, and By Means of These Living Things Continue Their Kind. Once again we continue to discuss how the atoms constitute the “seeds” of all things, and thus how the regularity we see around us occurs without the need for any supernatural forces to guide them.
Here is the text that will be covered in Episode Fourteen:
Lastly, bodies are either the first seeds of things, or formed by the uniting of those seeds. The simple seeds of things no force can strain, their solid parts will never be subdued. Though it is difficult, I own, to think that any thing in nature can be found perfectly solid; for heaven’s thunder passes through the walls of houses, just as sound or words; iron in the fire grows hot, and burning stones fly into pieces by the raging heat; the stiffness of the gold is loosed by fire, and made to run; the hard and solid brass, subdued by flames, dissolves; the heat and piercing cold passes through silver; both of these we find as in our hand we hold a cup, and at the top pour water hot or cold: so nothing wholly solid seems to be found in nature. But because reason and the fixed state of things oblige me, hear, I beg, while in few verses we evince that there are beings that consist of solid and everlasting matter which we call the seeds, the first principles of things, from whence the whole of things begin to be.
And, first, because we find two sorts of things unlike in nature, in themselves distinct, body and space, ’tis necessary each should be entire, and separate in itself; for where there is a space which we call void, there nothing is of body; so were body is, there nothing is of empty space: and therefore such things are as solids and first seeds, which nothing in them can admit of void.
Besides, because in all created things there is a void, ’tis necessary some solid matter should still include this void; nor can you prove, by any rule of reason, that any thing contains within itself an empty space, unless you will allow what holds it in is perfect solid; and this is nothing est entire through ages past and infinite, to repair beings perished and dissolved.
But still, if nature had prefixed no bounds in breaking things to pieces, the parts of matter, broken by every passing age, had been reduced so small that nothing could of them be formed that would in any time become mature; for things we see much sooner are dissolved than are again restored; and therefore what an infinite tract of ages past has broken, and separated and dissolved, in future time can never be repaired; so that certain bounds of breaking and dividing must be set, because we see each being is repaired, and stated times are fixed to ever thing in which it feels the flower of its age.
And yet, though the first seeds of things are solid, all beings that are compounded, such as air and water, earth and fire, may be soft, (however made, or by what power formed) and from them be produced, because there is a void still mixed with things; and, on the contrary, if these first seeds were soft, what reason can there be assigned whence hardened flints and iron could be formed, for nature would want the proper principles to work upon; and therefore these first seeds must simple solids be, by whose union close and compact all things are bound up firm, and so display their strength and hardy force.
Again, because each being in its kind has certain bounds prefixed to its increase, and to the preservation of its life, and since by nature’s laws it is ordained to each how far their powers to act or not extend; since nothing changes, and every thing goes on as it began, each kind of birds, most steady in their course, shew the same colors painted on their wings, the principles of matter whence they spring must be fixed and unchangeable; if the seeds of things could change by any means, it would be unknown what could be formed, what not; by what means every being is limited, and stops short within the bounds it cannot break; nor could the course of time in every age, the nature, motion, diet, and the manners of the old sire impress upon the young.