The Atomists Leucippus and Democritus Atomism 1. METAPHYSICS Theory of atoms Non-reality of qualitative properties 2. KNOWLEDGE (epistemology) Reductionism Hierarchy of science Three problems: Science vs. Common sense 3. ETHICS AND POLITICS
1. METAPHYSICS COMMON SENSE VIEW: A solid, wooden, brown colored, possibly beautiful object used for sitting & worth $ = chair SCIENTIFIC VIEW: An ultimately not-sosolid apparent entity, actually composed of invisible atoms. Metaphysical Materialism By convention (nomos), sweet, bitter, hot, color.
In reality (physis), atoms and the void. Atoms (Greek: a-tom, no-cut) the substances are so small they escape our senses. . .They have all kinds of forms and shapes and differences in size. Out of these elements he says, all visible and perceptible bodies are generated. . . . As they move they become entangled . Then some stronger necessity comes along from the environment and shakes them and
scatters them about. Are qualitative properties real? common YES Value qualities may not be, e.g. beautiful or gives me pleasure, but others are: Perceptual qualities like The sky is blue, the desk is brown, etc. The mental qualities I experience when I see these objects are real
Atomists NO Real = underlying physical properties of size, shape, mass, etc. (atoms), but not value qualities Nor perceptual qualities like color, taste, smell, etc. which are subjective Mental qualities are also a function of physical events in the brain. How would an Atomist answer
the old saw, If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Atomist reply There are 2 very different meanings of the concept sound S1 = mental event (subjective) S2 = physical event (objective)
Is there a sound? There is an S1 only if a perceiver P is there to hear it But this is not truly real or objective: only the S2 is that Even S1 ultimately depends on the S2 in Ps brain 2. KNOWLEDGE QUOTE:
There are two kinds of judgment, one legitimate, one bastard. These are bastard: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. IMPLICATION? Basis for knowledge = scientific reason. Ordinary human perception is very misleading about
actual nature of physical reality. Scientific Reductionism When they approach one another or collide or become entangled, the compounds appear as water or fire or as a plant or a human, but all things are atoms; there is nothing else. -- Democritus
Seemingly higher order events or features are explained in terms of simpler elements of which the more complex wholes are composed. Relate to: Human actions Teleology in nature Hierarchy of Science [Psychological/Social Science of Humans and Societies] depends on
/ \ Biological science of living organisms and their interaction and evolution over time depends on / \ Chemical science of organic and non-organic compound entities and their interaction / \
Physics of atoms and their interaction Three Problems 1. Teleology 2. Consciousness 3. Freedom and determinism 1. Teleology If nature = governed by atoms and the void, there is no place for purpose or goals (teloi). Is there a need for
teleological explanation to understand the structures and activities of living things? 2. Consciousness or the Mind-Body Problem If Atomism is correct, consciousness is based on physical events in the brain.
Which is true? 1. Mind or consciousness = identical with the brain and its operations. 2. Mind or consciousness = dependent on the brain and its operations, but different from it 3. Mind or consciousness = separate entity from the body (incl. the brain). 3. Freedom and determinism Whatever happens must happen, since no one could
violate the laws of nature; but then human beings are not morally responsible for their actions. So: either not everything in the world is caused, which means it must occur irrationally; or it is, and human free will is a delusion. Criticism: It was as if someone said that the cause of my being here is that my body consists of bones and sinews, and that the relaxation and contraction of the sinews allows me to bend my limbs and not mention the true cause, namely, that the Athenians decided to condemn me, and that I decided that it was better and more right to endure their punishment than try to escape. - Socrates 3. ETHICS AND POLITICS Hedonism = do what
greatest pleasure in the long run. (moderation) Happiness = a balanced, un-stressful life, pleasures of the mind, shared with friends. Social Contract: Epicureans developed this theory of justice in the Roman era. Cheerfulness arises through moderation and due
proportion. It is best to live as unstressed as possible. This occurs if one learns to take pleasure in friendship and science Natural justice = advantage secured by mutual agreements. Conventional justice often offends natural justice, enslaving some and enriching others.
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