ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Philosopher Democritus

Updated on November 21, 2010

460 - 370 BC

Democritus  was a Greek philosopher and one of the chief exponents of atomism. Democritus' explanation of the universe as made up entirely of minute particles (atoms) moving in empty space (the void) is considered the prototype of materialistic, mechanistic cosmologies.


Democritus was born in Abdera, in Thrace, probably about 460 BC. Although this date makes him 10 years younger than Socrates, he is rightfully considered the last of the pre-Socratic cosmological speculators. The atomic theory developed by Democritus was originally postulated by his teacher Leucippus. However, it is impossible to determine what each of these philosophers contributed to the theory.

Democritus was a prolific writer, but unfortunately only a meager remnant of his writings has been preserved. The ancient catalogs list over 60 works on a wide variety of topics, including cosmology, epistemology, ethics, astronomy, geography, medicine, mathematics, linguistics, and musical theory. Democritus' reputation for self-sufficiency, serenity, and cheerfulness is confirmed by the extant ethical fragments. Reports that he traveled extensively in pursuit of his investigations are probably exaggerated.


The atomists attempted to reconcile the obvious facts of the sensible world with the arguments of the Eleatics (Parmenides, Zeno, and Melissus), who denied the reality of the physical world and the possibility of change. The Eleatic dictum "Nothing cannot exist" was interpreted by the atomists as a denial of the existence of empty space (the void). The atomists thought that by positing the existence of the void they would be able to escape the paradoxes of the Eleatics and account for change and the physical world.

According to Democritus and Leucippus, the world consists of an infinite number of atoms that move in the void. Atoms are imperceptible, eternal particles, which, as their name implies, cannot be divided. They are said to differ only in shape, arrangement, and position, though they would also seem to differ in such qualities as size and speed. Each sensible object is a conglomeration of atoms: the more stable bodies are composed of atoms that are interlinked; the more fluid substances are made of atoms that do not intertwine. Perceptible change is a result of the movement, collision, and rebounding of atoms.

Sensation and thought are likewise explained by Democritus as effects of atoms in motion. Sensation arises when collections of atoms emitted from objects impinge upon the senses. Sensible qualities, such as colors and tastes, are said to exist only by convention, but in reality there exist only the atoms and the void. Knowledge gained through sense experience is obscure, whereas genuine knowledge is the understanding of the atomic theory, which comes solely through reason.

Epicurus adopted the atomic theory, and the exposition of it by his follower Lucretius in his poem De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) had a marked influence on the development of modern science and philosophy.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)