Ideas of Democritus, by Theme

[Greek, c.471 - 410 BCE, Born at Abdera in northern Greece. Probably taught by Leucippus.]

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 1. Nature of Wisdom
Wisdom creates a healthy passion-free soul
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 7. Status of Reason
Reason is a more powerful persuader than gold
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 1. Unifying an Object / b. Unifying aggregates
Democritus denies reality to large objects, because atomic entities can't combine to produce new ones
9. Objects / B. Unity of Objects / 2. Substance / d. Substance defined
Democritus said that substances could never be mixed, so atoms are the substances
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 6. Essence as Unifier
One substance cannot be composed from two, nor two from one
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / a. Qualities in perception
Sensible qualities can't be real if they appear different to different creatures
12. Knowledge Sources / C. Rationalism / 1. Rationalism
All evidence comes from senses, so they are indispensable to the mind
13. Knowledge Criteria / D. Scepticism / 1. Scepticism
We in fact know nothing, but we each restructure our reality with beliefs
We know nothing in reality; for truth lies in an abyss
It is obviously impossible to understand the reality of each thing
Democritus says there is either no truth, or it is concealed from us
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 2. Psuché
Atomists say soul has a rational part in the chest, and a diffused non-rational part
Democritus says soul consists of smooth round bodies brought together in accidental collision
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 2. Free Will Theories / b. Determinism
Democritus said everything happens of necessity, by natural motion of atoms
Some say there is a determinate cause for every apparently spontaneous event
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 1. Acting on Desires
Pleasure and pain guide our choices of good and bad
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 3. Beauty
Beauty is merely animal without intelligence
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / c. Love
Virtuous love consists of decorous desire for the beautiful
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / f. Good as pleasure
Happiness is identifying and separating the pleasures
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / b. Types of pleasure
Good and true are the same for everyone, but pleasures differ
We should only choose pleasures which are concerned with the beautiful
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / c. Value of pleasure
Only accept beneficial pleasures
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / d. Sources of pleasure
Moderation brings more pleasures, and so increases pleasure
The great pleasures come from the contemplation of noble works
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / e. Role of pleasure
Immoderate desire is the mark of a child, not an adult
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 3. Pleasure / f. Dangers of pleasure
It is as brave to master pleasure as to overcome the enemy
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / g. Moral responsibility
Behave well when alone, and feel shame in you own eyes
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
Be virtuous from duty, not from fear
Virtue doesn't just avoid evil, but also doesn't desire it
A bad life is just a drawn-out death
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / d. Teaching virtue
Repentance of shameful deeds is salvation
Virtue comes more from practice than from nature
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / e. Character
Good breeding in men means having a good character
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / i. Absolute virtues
One must avoid even speaking of evil deeds
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / c. Justice
The wrongdoer is more unfortunate than the person wronged
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / c. Wealth
Small appetite makes poverty equal to wealth
Democritus says wealth is a burden to the virtuous mind
The endless desire for money is a crueller slavery than poverty
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / d. Friendship
It is better to have one intelligent friend than many unintelligent
23. Ethics / D. Deontological Ethics / 2. Duty
It is a great thing, when one is in adversity, to think of duty
25. Society / C. Political Doctrines / 5. Democracy / a. Nature of democracy
It is better to be poor in a democracy than be rich without freedom
26. Natural Theory / B. Concepts of Nature / 4. Time / d. Beginning of time
Democritus (unlike Plato alone) thinks that time must have been created
26. Natural Theory / C. Causation / 1. Causation / a. Causation
I would rather discover one cause than gain the kingdom of Persia
27. Natural Reality / A. Physics / 1. Matter / c. Atoms
Because appearance is infinitely varied, atomists assume infinitely many shapes of atom
If a cone is horizontally sliced the surfaces can't be equal, so it goes up in steps
Movement is impossible in a void, because nothing can decide the direction of movement
When atoms touch, why don't they coalesce, like water drops?
There must be atoms, to avoid the absurdity of infinite division down to nothing
'Full' and 'Void' secularised Parmenides's Being and Not-being
Atomists say there are only three differences - in shape, arrangement and position
Experiences are merely convention; only atoms and the void are real
28. God / D. Proofs of Evidence / 3. Teleological Proof critique
Democritus said people imagined gods as the source of what awed or frightened them