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Form: Demokritos.
A Greek philosopher born at Abdera in Thrace about 460 B.C. His father, who had entertained king Xerxes for some time during his expedition against Greece, left him a very considerable property, which he spent in making long journeys into Egypt and Asia. On his return he held aloof from all public business, and devoted himself entirely to his studies. He was more than a hundred years old at his death, and left behind him a number of works on ethics, physics, astronomy, mathematics, art, and literature, written in an attractive and animated manner. We have the titles of some of his writings; but only scanty fragments remain. Democritus was the most learned Greek before Aristotle. In the history of philosophy he has a special importance, as the real founder of what is called the Atomic Theory, or the doctrine that the universe was formed out of atoms. It is true that his master Leucippus had already started the same idea. According to this theory there are in the universe two fundamental principles, the Full and the Void. The Full is formed by the atoms, which are primitive bodies of like quality but different form, innumerable, indivisible, indestructible. Falling forever through the infinite void, the large and heavier atoms overtake and strike upon the smaller ones, and the oblique and circular motions thence arising are the beginning of the formation of the world. The difference of things arises from the fact that atoms differ in number, size, form and arrangement. The soul consists of smooth round atoms resembling those of fire; these are the nimblest, and in their motion, penetrating the whole body, produce the phenomena of life. The impressions on the senses arise from the effect produced in our senses by the fine atoms which detach themselves from the surface of things. Change is in all cases nothing but the union or separation of atoms. The ethics of Democritus are based on the theory of happiness, and by happiness the means the serenity of the mind, undisturbed by fear or by anything else. The control of the appetites, attainable by temperance and self-culture, is the necessary condition of this. To do good for its own sake, without the influence of fear or hope, is the only thing which secures inward contentment. The system of Epicurus is, of all other ancient systems, the most closely connected with that of Democritus.
Type: Standard
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