Lucretius Today Podcast Episode Twenty: The Universe Is Infinite In Size

Listen to “Episode 020 – The Universe Is Infinite In Size” on Spreaker.

Welcome to Episode Twenty of Lucretius Today.

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 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.

First: Our aim is to go back to the original text to bring you an accurate presentation of classical Epicurean philosophy as the ancient Epicureans understood it, not simply repeat for you what passes for conventional wisdom about Epicurus today.

Second: We won’t be talking about Epicurus from the point of view of modern political perspectives. Epicurus must be understood on his own, and not in terms of competitive schools which may seem similar to Epicurus, but are fundamentally different and incompatible, such as Stoicism, Humanism, Buddhism, Taoism, Atheism, and Marxism.

Third: We will be approaching Lucretius exactly as he intended, with the goal of understanding the fundamental nature of the universe as the essential base of Epicurean philosophy. From this perspective you will see that Epicurus taught neither the pursuit of luxury nor the pursuit of simple living, as ends in themselves, but the pursuit of pleasure, using feeling as the guide to life, and not supernatural gods, idealism, or virtue ethics. As important as anything else, Epicurus taught that there is no life after death, and that any happiness we will ever have must come in THIS life, which is why it is so important not to waste time in confusion.

Remember that our podcast home page is LucretiusToday.com, where you can download a free copy of the versions of the poem we are reading, and our home for discussion of Lucretius and all other aspects of Epicurean philosophy is Epicureanfriends.com

Now for today in this Episode 20, we will discuss how the universe is infinite in size.

Now let’s join our discussion with Martin reading today’s text from Book One.

Daniel Brown 1743 Edition:

[950] But since I taught the principles of matter are solid, are eternal, evermoving, nor are destroyed; now, come, let us inquire whether they have an end, or are by nature infinite: and since we have found a void or place, or space in which all things are moved, let us now see whether the universe, made up of void and body, be circumscribed, or does to a profound immensity extend.

[957] This All, therefore, does not admit of bounds; for if it did, then it must have something extreme: Now, no extreme can be, unless it lies beyond those things whose bounds, or whose extreme it is, from whence they may be seen, and beyond which our faculty of sight can reach no further. Now since we must own, that nothing can be beyond the All, this All has therefore no extreme, it has no ends, no bounds; nor does it signify what spot of this great All you stand upon; for on what part soever you are fixed, you have a wide and infinite space around you every way.

[966] But if this wide extent of space be finite and circumscribed, let a man stand upon the utmost verge, and from thence throw a dart, whether you choose this dart, with mighty force thus cast, should reach the mark designed, and fly swift on, or whether you think that something should hinder or oppose its flight, and one of these you must confess; now either way you are caught, and can’t escape: You are forced to own this All lies wide extended without bounds. For whether there be something that does hinder and stop its flight, so that it cannot reach the mark designed, and there rest still and fixed; or whether it flies forward, there this end you cannot fix: for if it stops, then something must lie beyond the utmost verge; and if it flies, there is a space beyond the extremist brink. And thus I follow close, and wheresoever you place the extremes bounds, I still demand what comes of your dart? So that no bounds can anywhere be fixed, but space immense will always give a passage to its flight.

[983] Besides, were this All’s extended space shut up by certain bounds in every side, and was by nature finite, then this mass of matter, pressed by its solid weight, had long ere now sunk to the lowest place, and therefore nothing under the vault of heaven could have a being, nor could there be heavens at all, or the sun’s light. For then the seeds of things that had been sinking from all eternity would in confusion lie on heaps; by now the principles of bodies having no rest at all, are ever moving, because there’s no such thing as lowest place, to which they may descend, no fixed abode where they should rest; but things are ever carried by motion never-ending, through every part of this vast All, from whence the active seeds of things arise, and are eternally supplied.

[997] Further, we see one thing bounds another; the air bounds in the hills, the hills the air, the earth shuts up the sea, and then again the sea surrounds the earth; but this great All nothing exterior to itself can bind. For the nature of this place, this empty space, is such, that rivers of the swiftest stream, were they to run for ages infinite, with a perpetual current, could not run through it, or ever by their running prove that they had less of their course to run; so vastly wide this mighty space of things extended lies on all sides, every way, without all bounds.

[1006] Besides, the laws of nature do provide, that this universe of things will not admit of limits to itself, because body is bound to void, and void bound to body; and by this mutual termination it is, that this great All becomes immense; for were not each a bound until the other, were body not a limit set to void, the void would be infinite, and all finite bodies would be dissolved, and so nor sea, nor earth, nor the bright heavens, nor mortal race of men, nor sacred bodies of gods could be one moment of an hour; for the seeds of bodies being disunited in themselves, would fly, and quite dissolved, be carried through the void; or rather, being never joined, had formed no being; for once scattered through this space, they could not be compelled to join again.

[1020] For certainly the principles of things could never range themselves in form or order, by counsel, or by wisdom of the mind, nor any compact make how each should move; but being changed in various forms, and struck with many blows, they are driven through this void for many ages, and having tried all kinds of motion, and of union, they at length by chance are so disposed to frame those bodies of which this Universe of things consists. And these seeds once thrown into convenient motions, and keeping in the same for many ages, is the true cause that rivers, with a large supply of waters from their streams, fill up the greedy sea, and the earth, supported by the sun’s heat, renews the fruits, and the race of living creatures flourish, and the rolling stars of heaven are kept alive; all which could never be, if from this infinite mass a supply of seeds flowed not, from whence decaying things might rise, and live, and be from age to age repaired.