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Greek Philosopher: Leucippus

Updated on March 22, 2009

Leucippus was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Zeno of Elea, probably born in Abdera (though some have said Elea, and others say at Miletus). Virtually nothing is known of his life (hence this hub being so short) and none of his writings survive. He is, however, credited with founding the atomic theory of matter, which was later further developed by his pupil, the Greek philosopher Democritus.

According to his theory, all matter is compromised of identical indivisible particles called atoms. In ancient Greek philosophy the word "atom" was used to describe the smallest bit of matter that could be conceived. This "fundamental particle", to use the present-day term for this concept, was thought of as an indestructible. In fact, the Greek word for atom means "not divisible". Knowledge about the size and nature of the atom grew very slowly throughout the centuries when men could only speculate about it.


Materialism is a philosophy based on the ideas that matter is the only thing in the universe that has reality, and that matter is the basis of all that exists.

The word comes from the Latin materia, which means matter.

Materialists think that physical changes in the body and nervous system cause all mental processes. They justify this belief by pointing out that people can really know only what they see, hear, smell, taste or touch. They deny the existence fo mind or soul as distinct from matter,  and insist that feelings, thoughts and will have no independent existence.

This form of materialism was first expressed by two Greek philosophers, Democritus and Leucippus. They stated that invisible material particles make up the physical world, and that similar particles make up the mind. Some later philosophers, including Epicurus and Lucretius, accepted this idea.

Materialism has always been a popular philosophy among scientists, because, if everything in the world is made of matter, then we can analyze and understand the world according to the laws which govern the way matter behaves. This idea is called scientific materialism.


  • New Encyclopedia, Volume 15, 1971, Funk & Wagnalls. Page 161.
  • New Encyclopedia, Volume 2, 1971, Funk & Wagnalls. Page 424.
  • The World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 13, World Book Inc, 1985. Page 237.
  • Merit Students Encyclopedia, Volume 12, P.F. Collier Inc, 1979. Page 29.


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    • success79 profile image

      success79 8 years ago

      I enjoy reading philosophy. Well written Blog

    • The Real Tomato profile image

      The Real Tomato 8 years ago

      Darkside- I love the historical aspect of this Hub. I have never read anything of this sort. By what I read, materialism must also assume that personalities are formed by our physical (material) make -up. Infants all have distinct personalities.

      I'll be back to read more of your Hubs.

    • darkside profile image

      Glen 8 years ago from Australia

      I'm still trying to get my head around the 'materialism' bit. My upbringing educated me about the Christian version of 'materialism' which is a completely different concept.

      I'm currently researching realism and idealism. Once I've got a good grip on all these I may have clearer understanding. This hub is just another step in the journey :)

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      Is that where materia medica also stems from? Doesn't it also tend to lean towards everything being able to be cured by matter?

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      These beliefs are a basis for a very long debate. You don't say, Darkside ,what your own take on this is, personally I feel that everything is matter and that we create the world around us.