Search Results for democritus
Democritus (460-370 BCE) was a Greek Presocratic philosopher born in Thrace whose surviving fragments reveal that he wrote on physics, math, ethics and music.
His atomic theory, coming to us through Aristotle, posits an infinite number of differently shaped and everlasting atoms(tiny indivisible particles) that randomly combine to create an infinite number of worlds throughout time. Each world displays natural laws but since randomly generated, they are not intelligently directed by a creator.
Democritus was keenly aware of the now common distinction between macroscopic and microscopic reality. This is quite remarkable considering he lived over 1,900 years before the first primitive microscope was invented in 1590 CE. As he writes in Fragment 9:
Conventionally sweet, conventionally bitter, conventionally hot, conventionally cold, conventionally color, but really atoms and void.¹
He was also aware of the need for some kind or locus of consciousness (i.e. the soul) which he sees as the underlying cause of life as perceived through the five senses. For Democritus the soul is composed of tiny round atoms, and instead of being eternal, is subject to death. And again, remarkably, Democritus believed that the soul perceives things when its atoms are impacted by the atoms of worldly objects.²
David John Furley notes that Democritus’ theories met with significant opposition. With the exception of Epicurus and Lucretius, the leading figures of the ancient world preferred the ideas of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics over his own. And by the time of the scientific revolution, when the importance of his ideas became clear, almost all of his complete works were lost.³
¹ John Palmer ” Democritus of Abdera ” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ed. Michael Gagarin. © Oxford University Press 2010. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Toronto Public Library. 5 July 2012 http://www.oxford-greecerome.com/entry?entry=t294.e362
² David John Furley, The Oxford Classical Dictionary Oxford University Press 1996, 2000.
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Providence is a theological term referring to the belief that God is free to choose the course of temporal events in all of creation.
Opponents to the idea of providence stem back to ancient times. St. Thomas Aquinas notes in his Summa Theologica:
Certain persons totally denied the existence of providence, as Democritus and the Epicureans, maintaining that the world was made by chance (“The providence of God,” Prima Pars, Q. 22)
Others ancients add an interesting wrinkle to the debate by claiming that natural events are ruled by God, but particular human events are not. To this idea St. Thomas replies according to standard Catholic teaching:
…all things are subject to divine providence, not only in general, but even in their own individual being (ibid.).
If God really is in control of everything, or, at least, has knowledge of how all events will unfold in the course of human history, many ask why so many bad things are found in our world. This leads to the problem of evil, a theological issue which scholars have called theodicy.
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Thomas Young (1773-1829) was an English scientist, physician and Egyptologist who conducted the double slit experiment in 1803.
In this experiment light was said to behave like a wave due to an observable interference pattern.
This suggested that light is a type of energy, as opposed to a collection of particles.
In 1905 the view of light as energy was confounded by the Hungarian-German Nazi Philipp Lenard, whose own experiments demonstrated that light also behaves like a particle–that is, a unit of matter.
Up to this point in Western intellectual history, a history which Richard Nisbett¹ and others say is almost obsessively concerned with rational categories, matter and energy were thought to be entirely different because, according to previously available observational frameworks, matter behaved differently than energy.
Since the discovery of the apparent duality of light as matter and energy, however, an entirely new series of experiments and theories have arisen about the enigmatic “stuff” of the universe.
This search includes what physicists have called the “God Particle.” If its existence is confirmed, this would apparently resolve some current inconsistencies in theoretical physics.
As an Egyptologist, Young also helped to decipher the Rosetta Stone.
¹ Richard E. Nisbett, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently… and Why. New York: The Free Press, 2003.
In physics a particle is defined as a tiny unit of matter.
Experiments in subatomic physics, together with studies in semiotics have thrown the entire notion of the particle into question.
For others, particles are seen as wave packets of energy.
More recently, particle physicists have postulated a “God Particle.” If its existence is confirmed, this would apparently resolve some current inconsistencies in theoretical physics.
Independent thinkers, sociologists and philosophers, however, ask how we can confirm the independent existence of something when the longstanding philosophical debate about the relation between subjectivity (i.e. biased conscious observers) and objectivity (i.e. apparently unbiased observations) remains unresolved, and might always be.
It seems that modern physicists are playing a high priced game and probably convincing many people that they’re getting at some basic truth when arguably they’re just creating an historically relative paradigm. In so doing, they carry out experiments within the parameters of that paradigm to, consciously or unconsciously, not only advance but also reinforce and legitimize it.
In other words, many alleged high-tech “confirmations” are an essentially invalid way of saying that a particular game is THE game.
But this is not just an abstract game. It’s no secret that the public is easily swayed by glimmering machines and perhaps Photoshopped results, and this popular enthusiasm most likely makes it easier for scientists to get government funding.
Granted, the results of modern physics are theoretically useful and have many practical applications. And our inherent limitations as a species should not stop us from exploring and developing our mysterious universe.
Nevertheless, we should remember that ideas like the “God Particle” are just a culturally relative story, and certainly not the whole story.