Welcome to Episode Ten of Lucretius Today. This is a podcast dedicated to the poet Lucretius, who lived in the age of Julius Caesar and wrote “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.
Today’s episode is the first of our episodes to be significantly impacted by the coronavirus episode, so we will be more brief than normal, in that Martin and I will be carrying the full show while we await several of our normal panelists to return hopefully next week.
For that reason Martin and I will begin the discussion of the void mainly by introducing the topic and its implications, and then in the next episode we’ll dive more deeply into the details of the text.
So with that, Martin, please read the next section from Book One for us:
This is the text that will be covered in Episode Ten. The Latin version of Book One has this as beginning at approximately line 330 of the
1743 Daniel Browne Edition (click link for English and Latin):
And yet all beings are not formed of close and solid parts; in things there is a void, which in your searches into nature will be of use to know. This will preserve your wandering mind from doubt, prevent your constant toil by judging right of nature’s laws, and make my words believed.
Wherefore there is a place we call a void, an empty space intangible, or else no bodies could be moved, or stir; the quality all bodies have to stop and to oppose does never fail, so that to move would be in vain to try, no body first by yielding would give way. But now we see before our eyes that things move various ways in seas, in Earth, and in the heaven above; but were there no void, they would not be deprived of that activity of motion only, but would not be at all; for matter wedged and crowded close on every side had ever been at rest.
Besides, though things appear of solid parts composed, yet you will find them, in some measure, formed of bodies that are rare; the liquid moisture of the water sweats through rocks and stones, and all things weep with drops abundant; the food that every creature eats disperses through the body; the trees increase and grow and in due season shew their fruit; because the juice is from the lowe roots spread through the trunk, and over all the boughs. Sounds pass through strong partitions, and fly quick through walls of houses, and the piercing cold strikes through the very bones; but were no void, no empty space, that bodies ever should pass, you’d find a thing impossible to prove.
Again, why do we see some things exceed others in weight, though of equal size? For if as much of body went to form a ball of wool as made a ball of lead, their weight would be the same; for the quality of body is to press downward: but a perfect void by nature has no weight; so that a body of equal size, but lighter in its weight, proves it has more of empty space. So again, the heavier body has more of solid parts ’tis plain, and has within it less of void. And this is doubtless what with reason’s searching eye we look for, mixed with things; we call it space.
But I am forced to step before, and answer what some pretend, lest you should be seduced from truth: They say the waters yield to fish making their way, and open their liquid paths; for when the fish have left a space, that instant thither the yielding waters circling flow. By the same rule, all beings may be moved among themselves, and change their former place, though all things should be full: but this, ’tis plain, is false throughout; for how could fish advance at all, unless the waters gave them way? And whither should the waves retire, if the fish did not move, and leave a space behind? So that all bodies must be deprived of motion, or you must say a void is mixed with every thing from whence each being first derives a power to move.
Lastly, if two broad bodies meet, and instantly are separated again, the air must needs fill up the void that is between; but this air, though it should hurry with its swiftest powers, it cannot all at once fill up the space these bodies will disclose at parting; first the nearest part will be filled up, and then the more remote, until the whole be full.
If one should say when these flat bodies meet the air is condensed, but when they part the air is rarefied, ’tis a mistake; for then here must be void where there was none before, and that void that was before must now be full; in such a case, the air can’t be condensed; and if it could, it can’t without a void contract itself, and so reduce its parts into a closer space. Wherefore, perplex the matter as you please, you must confess in things there is a void.