The natural philosopher Democritus from Abdera

The natural philosopher Democritus from Abdera

Even in ancient times there were great social differences between rich and poor citizens. Democritus of Abdera was fortunate to be one of the sons of wealthy parents, and from an early age Democritus was fond of spending large sums of money on trips to distant lands.

In his notes he even claimed later that of all the people of his time he had got to know most of the foreign countries. Traveling educates, as does his thesis, which is why he counted himself among the most educated men of all living people of his time.

Democritus, the laughing philosopher

demokrit vorstellung 1Probably born in Abdera in 460 or 459 BC, Democritus was first one of Leucippus' most important students and, like him, later lived and taught as a pre-Socratic and great natural philosopher in Abdera, an Ionian colony in Thrace. In ancient times, Abdera was considered a town of shield citizens, we have already reported on the connections, which is why Democritus probably also got his reputation as the "laughing" philosopher who affirmed life and aimed in his theses that the human soul through the theory of should attain a serenity and serenity in the nature of things, and should not be perpetually guided by fear or mere hope. He described this mood as "good spirits" or "euthymia", which, according to his view, should be counted among the highest good on earth. Both Democritus and Leucippus had great influence on Plato and Aristotle, who studied extensively the teachings of the two Abderian scholars.

Even if today only a few fragments of the actual writings of Democritus have been preserved, the surviving indexes of writings show that Democritus was able to accumulate an all-encompassing knowledge, which even includes the art of war, physics and chemistry: "The question of the but movement, where and where things come from, they too, like the others, have left aside without racking their brains about it.”

Democritus claims, comparable to his teacher Leucippus, that all of nature consists of the smallest, indivisible particles or units, the atoms. According to a second-century document by Galen, Democritus' central statement on this is this: “It only appears that a thing has a colour, only apparently it is sweet or bitter; in reality there are only atoms in empty space.”

Democritus: A thing only appears to have a color...

According to his ideas, each of these atoms should be solid and massive, but not equal. There would be an infinite number of atoms: round, smooth, irregular and crooked. When these approached each other, fell together, or intertwined, some appeared as water, others as fire, as a plant, or as a human being. In his opinion, sensory perception and soul existence can also be traced back to atomistic principles, in that the soul consists of soul atoms. When a person dies, these soul atoms scatter and can join a new soul that is just forming. Everything that moves in space is based on chance and necessity. This teaching is a consistent and atomistic materialism.

Colliding atoms lead to lateral movements

demokri 3Neither with the atoms nor with their properties, just as little as with their movement, one may not ask for a cause. They are all eternal. But it is in the nature of gravity that the larger (ie also heavier) atoms assumed a faster movement – ​​namely downwards. This displaces the smaller (and consequently lighter) ones and pushes them up. Lateral movements are created by the colliding atoms and this in turn creates a gradually expanding vortex, which brought about the formation of the world.

Just as when the grain is winnowed, chaff comes to chaff and grain to grain, so the whirling motion of natural necessity meant that the lighter had to reach the lighter, the heavier had to reach the heavier, and through the constant entanglement of the atoms the reason for the formation of larger atom aggregates (body) and entire body worlds. One of the bodies that came into being in this way is the earth, which originally, like everything else, was in motion but gradually came to rest, from whose moist state organic beings emerged.

Democritus is said to have lived to be almost 100 years old in this way of looking at the world. He probably died in 400 or 380 BC. Whether all known statements and writings are based solely on his own findings or were taken from his compatriot Leucippus, who is usually mentioned at the same time but is even less well known, cannot be clearly proven due to a lack of evidence.

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