Lucretius’s Naturalism

Lucretius gives a proof that nothing exists but matter and void:

Whenever something exists, it needs to be something that,
If it comes into contact with something,
no matter how light and insignificant it is,
it will increase it or make it greater…
Or else it will be intangible, and not be the sort of thing
That can resist the passage of something
and this is what we can the void.

nam quod cumque erit, esse aliquid debebit id ipsum
augmine vel grandi vel parvo denique, dum sit;
cui si tactus erit quamvis levis exiguusque,
corporis augebit…
sin intactly erit, nulla de parte quod ullam
rem prohibere queat per se transire meantem,
scilicet hoc id erit, vacuum quod inane vocamus.

De rerum natura, 433-99

This is as good as Naturalist arguments get.

1.) The real = the tangible.

2.) The tangible = what gives resistance or not (in the same way that we hear sounds and silence)

3.) What resists the sense of touch = physical.

4.) What does not resist touch = void.



  1. David said,

    March 22, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Can we generalize “the tangible” to “the sensible”? The real = the sensible; the sensible = what resists/alters/interacts with the senses; what alters the senses = physical; what does not = void.

    Any cosmological argument would be an argument against the first premise.

    • March 23, 2017 at 8:58 am

      You’re raising the question whether all sensation a sort of touch. I think the way in which this is true would probably generalize to all action: growth is just a sort of assimilation of parts, counsel is just a way of pushing air around in a meaningful way, etc. Here again the real is the tangible, understood as the object of touch and so including both what resists and what gives no resistance.

      This generalizes to the sensible but keeps going to the point of nature itself. That’s the next post.

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