Lucretius Today Podcast Episode Twelve Is Now Available: Nothing But Combinations of Matter and Void
Listen to “Episode 12 – Nothing But Combinations Of Matter And Void” on Spreaker.
Welcome to Episode Twelve of Lucretius Today. This is a podcast dedicated to the poet Lucretius, the 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.
Before we start with today’s episode let me remind you of our three ground rules: 1: Our focus is on Classical Epicurean Philosophy as the ancient Epicureans understood it, not on how modern commentators interpret it today. 2. Our approach is “Not Neo-Epicurean, But Epicurean,” and we aren’t going to try to sell you Stoicism, Humanism, Buddhism, or Marxism – Epicurus was unique and we aren’t going to put him in a box of conventional modern morality. 3. We don’t approach Epicurus as either a minimalist or as a hedonist or an atheist as those terms are commonly used. We’re going to study Epicurean philosophy exactly as Lucretius taught it, and that means that feeling – pleasure and pain – are the guides that Nature gave us to live by, not gods, idealism, or virtue ethics, and it also means that supernatural does not exist, which means there’s no life after death, and any happiness we’ll ever have comes in THIS life, which is why it is so important not to waste time in confusion.
In episode twelve we will continue our discussion of the void, and introduce the issue of the properties and qualities of material things, and what that means for issues such as time, and for existence and non-existence. We will be discussing this over several episodes, and we hope you’ll join us as we continue through Book One.
Now let’s get started with today’s discussion, with Charles reading the first part of today’s text, followed by Elayne with the second part:
Here is the text that will be covered in Episode Twelve. The Latin version of Book One has this as beginning at approximately line 330 of the Munro Latin Edition here.
Review the prior sections of Book 1 of Daniel Browne by clicking here.
1743 Daniel Browne Edition (click link for English and Latin): I could by many arguments confirm this system of a void, and fix your faith to what I say, but these small tracks I have drawn, to such a searching mind, will be enough; the rest you may find out without a guide. For as staunch hounds, once put upon the foot, will by nose soon rouse the mountain game from their thick covers, so you, in things like these, will one thing by another trace, will hunt for truth in every dark recess, and draw her thence.  But if you doubt, or in the least object to what I say, I freely promise this, my Memmius, my tuneful tongue shall, from the mighty store that fills my heart, pour out such plenteous draughts from the deep springs, that tardy age I fear will first creep through my limbs, and quite break down the gates of life, before I can explain in verse the many arguments that give a light to one particular. But now I shall go on to finish regularly what I begun.  All nature therefore, in itself considered, is one of these, is body or is space, in which all things are placed, and from which the various motions of all beings spring. That there is body common sense will show, this as a fundamental truth must be allowed, or there is nothing we can fix as certain in our pursuit of hidden things, by which to find the Truth, or prove it when ’tis found. Then if there were no place or space, we call it void, bodies would have no where to be, nor could they move at all, as we have fully proved to you before.  Besides, there is nothing you can strictly say, “It is neither body nor void,” which you may call a third degree of things distinct from these. For every being must in quantity be more or less; and if it can be touched, though ne’er so small or light, it must be body, and so esteemed; but if it can’t be touched, and has not in itself a power to stop the course of other bodies as they pass, this is the void we call an empty space.  Again, whatever is must either act itself, or be by other agents acted on; or must be something in which other bodies must have a place and move; but nothing without body can act, or be acted on; and where can this be done, but in a vacuum or empty space? Therefore, beside what body is or space, no third degree in nature can be found, nothing that ever can affect our sense, or by the power of thought can be conceived. All other things you’ll find essential conjuncts, or else the events or accidents of these. I call essential conjunct what’s so joined to a thing that it cannot, without fatal violence, be forced or parted from it; is weight to stones, to fire heat, moisture to the Sea, touch to all bodies, and not to be touched essential is to void. But, on the contrary, Bondage, Liberty, Riches, Poverty, War, Concord, or the like, which not affect the nature of the thing, but when they come or go, the thing remains entire; these, as it is fit we should, we call Events.  Time likewise of itself is nothing; our sense collects from things themselves what has been done long since, the thing that present is, and what’s to come. For no one, we must own, ever thought of Time distinct from things in motion or at rest.  For when the poets sing of Helen’s rape, or of the Trojan State subdued by war, we must not say that these things do exist now in themselves, since Time, irrevocably past, has long since swept away that race of men that were the cause of those events; for every act is either properly the event of things, or of the places where those things are done.  Further, if things were not of matter formed, were there no place or space where things might act, the fire that burned in Paris’ heart, blown up by love of Helen’s beauty, had never raised the famous contests of a cruel war; nor had the wooden horse set Troy on fire, discharging from his belly in the night the armed Greeks: from whence you plainly see that actions do not of themselves subsist, as bodies do, nor are in nature such as is a void, but rather are more justly called the events of body, and of space, where things are carried on.