Ideas of Democritus, by Theme

[Greek, 460 - 370 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 / B. Laws of Thought / 2. Sufficient Reason
Everything happens necessarily, and for a reason
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / a. Nature of Being
True Being only occurs when it is completely full, with atoms and no void
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / d. Non-being
Being does not exist more than non-being
The non-existent exists as much as the existent, because it has causal powers
7. Existence / A. Nature of Existence / 3. Being / g. Particular being
The only distinctions are Configuration (shape), Disposition (order) and Turning (position)
7. Existence / B. Change in Existence / 1. Nature of Change
Nothing comes from non-existence, or passes into it
7. Existence / E. Categories / 5. Category Anti-Realism
It is not possible to know what sort each thing is
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
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 / B. Perception / 3. Representation
Man is separated from reality
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
It is obviously impossible to understand the reality of each thing
We know nothing in reality; for truth lies in an abyss
Democritus says there is either no truth, or it is concealed from us
We actually know nothing, and opinions are mere flux
14. Science / D. Explanation / 2. Types of Explanation / g. Causal explanations
Democritus was devoted to discovering causal explanations
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 2. Psuché
Democritus says soul consists of smooth round bodies brought together in accidental collision
Atomists say soul has a rational part in the chest, and a diffused non-rational part
The soul is the same as the mind
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 7. Animal Minds
Animals have a share of reason
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 8. Brain
The directive centre is located in the whole head
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 6. Determinism / a. Determinism
Democritus said everything happens of necessity, by natural motion of atoms
Some say there is a determinate cause for every apparently spontaneous event
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
Democritus says the soul is the body, and thinking is thus the mixture of the body
20. Action / C. Motives for Action / 1. Acting on Desires
Pleasure and pain guide our choices of good and bad
22. Metaethics / B. The Good / 1. Goodness / f. Good as pleasure
Happiness is identifying and separating the pleasures
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / f. The Mean
Contentment comes from moderation and proportion in life
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 4. External Goods / c. Wealth
Democritus says wealth is a burden to the virtuous mind
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / d. Atomism
'Full' and 'Void' secularised Parmenides's Being and Not-being
Atomists say there are only three differences - in shape, arrangement and position
When atoms touch, why don't they coalesce, like water drops?
Experiences are merely convention; only atoms and the void are real
Because appearance is infinitely varied, atomists assume infinitely many shapes of atom
Atoms cling together, until a stronger necessity disperses them
Atoms are irregular, hooked, concave, convex, and many other shapes
There could be an atom the size of the world
There must be atoms, to avoid the absurdity of infinite division down to nothing
The basic atoms are without qualities - which only arise from encounters between atoms
If a cone is horizontally sliced the surfaces can't be equal, so it goes up in steps
27. Natural Reality / C. Space-Time / 1. Space / a. Void
Movement is impossible in a void, because nothing can decide the direction of movement
Growth and movement would not exist if there were no void to receive them
27. Natural Reality / C. Space-Time / 2. Time / d. Beginning of time
Democritus (unlike Plato alone) thinks that time must have been created
27. Natural Reality / D. Cosmology / 1. Cosmology
There are unlimited worlds of varying sizes, some without life or water
28. God / B. Proving God / 3. Proofs of Evidence / c. Teleological Proof critique
Democritus said people imagined gods as the source of what awed or frightened them
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / a. Immortality
The soul is destroyed with the body