workshop: Work in progress on Epicureanism
|07.12.2023, 10:55 - 11:00 Uhr
|Residenzplatz 2 (Residenz), Griechischbibliothek / Greek library
This paper is an exploration of two related topics in Epicureanism: the foundations of Epicurean biology and the richness of Epicurean microcosm, the world beneath the threshold of perception. The focus is on microscopic compounds, most importantly the presence of the four elements of earlier Greek physics in Epicureanism and their relation to the emergence of life and consciousness. After a first attempt to survey the population of the microcosm, based mostly on Lucretius, the rest of the paper tries to go beyond Lucretius by considering 1) some of the more recently edited papyrus sections of Epicurus’ On Nature, namely, the discussion of elements and mixtures in the very scanty remains of Books 14 and 15; 2) the material foundations of soul in Epicurus and Lucretius and, more briefly, 3) Book 2 on the eidola. Following others, I argue that Epicurus adopted a modified version of the traditional four elements of Greek physics. He understood these elements not as concentrations of one type of atom, as in Plato’s Timaeus and perhaps Democritus, but as compounds of at least two differently shaped atoms.