Atomism

Atomism is the doctrine that the world is made up of small, indivisible (atomos is Greek for uncuttable) elements, goes back to the views of Democritus and Leucippus, and was adopted by Epicurus as reported by Lucretius. This ancient doctrine came to the fore again through the researches of gassendi in the 17th century, and was used by Boyle to explain certain chemical phenomena. It was taken up on a firmer experimental basis by Dalton, and in our own time has become a well-established theory.

Strictly speaking the 'atom' of modern physics is not indivisible (it can be split), but it remains the smallest unit having the property of any stable chemical element. In logic, atomism has inspired the view, favored by some writers, that all complex statements are reducible to atomic statements, logical 'atoms' that cannot be further analyzed.

Leucippus
Leucippus

Atomism is a philosophic doctrine that views indivisible units or entities as the ultimate reality of the physical universe. Usually these entities are conceived as material particles, and the physical universe is seen as embracing all reality.

In ancient Greek philosophy, Leucippus and Democritus, in the 5th century B.C., held that all of reality consists of an infinite number of indivisible, impenetrable, material particles moving in all directions in the void. These atoms are invisible and indestructible, differing from one another only in size and shape. Their random collision produces vortices or whirls, in which, by a sifting action, atoms of like size and shape are brought together. Innumerable worlds, and all things therein, result from such aggregation and combination. Thus all qualitative differences in things are reducible to quantitative difference and mechanical action. Soul consists of the finest and subtlest atoms. Change and variety are explicable as rearrangement of indestructible material particles. In this concept of the universe there is no need for either an ordering intelligence or a divinity.

Following its eclipse in medieval Christian thought, atomism reappeared during the period of early modern science in the mechanistic account of nature given by Pierre Gassendi in the 17th century. It also played a role in the thought of Boyle, Newton, and such Enlightenment thinkers as Diderot and d'Holbach.

More by this Author

  • What is Materialism?
    8

    Materialism in philosophy is the view that everything that exists is either composed of matter or depends on matter for its existence. Materialism is generally contrasted with idealism, which holds that ideas are real...

  • Greek Philosopher Socrates
    5

    Socrates was a Greek philosopher and moralist. He wrote no philosophical works himself, but the discussions he held with the young men who gathered round him af­fected profoundly the subsequent development of...

  • The Philosophy of Epicureanism
    2

    Epicureanism, school of Greek philosophy founded by Epicurus in the late 4th century BC. Opposing the idealistic and skeptical mood of the times, Epicurus wanted to provide security in an unsure world. He grounded his...


Comments 1 comment

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

This is interesting, very. It explains why Christian theists are so against the quantum mechanical universe model, in an indirect way. Very interesting, food for thought as usual, thank you. Though sometimes if you would expand on your topic a little further I definitely would appreciate it. I know there's more.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working