28 May 2013

Lucretius Carus' phenomenally modern (1st Century B.C.) ideas

Here are some precepts divined by Stephen Greenblatt in his book The Swerve, from Lucretius' Epicurean philosophy, as expressed in the 1st Cen. B.C. poem, De Rerum Natura ("on the nature of things"):
• Everything is made up of invisible and indivisible particles.
• These particles are eternal.
• Particles are in motion in a vast void.
• Particles exist in unimaginably vast numbers, but have a limited number of forms.
• The universe was not created nor designed.
• Slight deviations from predictable motions (“swerve” or “inclination”) is the source of variation and free will.
• Nature ceaselessly experiments with new forms.
• Human beings are not special; they are made up of particles and void like everything else, and are animals much like other animals.
• Human society never experienced a golden age in the past, but began in primitive struggle for survival; through learning and experience it has become possible to improve human life.
• The “soul” dies with the body; it is not other than the particles and void that all things are made of.
• There is no afterlife.
• Death is nothing to us, because it is, in fact, nothing.
• All organized religion is superstition and delusion.
• Religions always result in cruelty and suffering.
• The highest goal of life is well being and avoiding pain.
• The greatest obstacle to well being is not pain, it is delusion, because suffering is mostly mental.
• Real understanding of the nature of things generates awe and wonder.

The breathtaking modernity of these concepts is amazing.

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