CategoriesWestern Mysticism and PhilosophyNeoplatonism and Greek Philosophy Lucretius: On the Nature of Things

Lucretius: On the Nature of Things

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Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus, ca. 99–ca. 55 BC), was the author of the great didactic poem in hexameters, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things).

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Publisher's Synopsis
In six books compounded of solid reasoning, brilliant imagination, and noble poetry, he expounds the scientific theories of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, with the aim of dispelling fear of the gods and fear of death and so enabling man to attain peace of mind and happiness.

  • In Book 1 he establishes the general principles of the atomic system, refutes the views of rival physicists, and proves the infinity of the universe and of its two ultimate constituents, matter and void. 
  • In Book 2 he explains atomic movement, the variety of atomic shapes, and argues that the atoms lack colour, sensation, and other secondary qualities. 
  • In Book 3 he expounds the nature and composition of mind and spirit, proves their mortality, and argues that there is nothing to fear in death. 
  • Book 4 explains the nature of sensation and thought, and ends with an impressive account of sexual love. 
  • Book 5 describes the nature and formation of our world, astronomical phenomena, the beginnings of life on earth, and the development of civilization. 
  • In Book 6 the poet explains various atmospheric and terrestrial phenomena, including thunder, lightning, earthquakes, volcanoes, the magnet, and plagues.

The work is distinguished by the fervor and poetry of the author.

Reviews
"Lucretius, who was born about a century before Christ, was emphatically not our contemporary. He thought that worms were spontaneously generated from wet soil, that earthquakes were the result of winds caught in underground caverns, that the sun circled the earth. But, at its heart, On the Nature of Things persuasively laid out what seemed to be a strikingly modern understanding of the world. Every page reflected a core scientific vision—a vision of atoms randomly moving in an infinite universe—imbued with a poet’s sense of wonder. Wonder did not depend on the dream of an afterlife; in Lucretius it welled up out of a recognition that we are made of the same matter as the stars and the oceans and all things else. And this recognition was the basis for the way he thought we should live—not in fear of the gods but in pursuit of pleasure, in avoidance of pain.

As it turned out, there was a line from this work to modernity, though not a direct one: nothing is ever so simple. There were innumerable forgettings, disappearances, recoveries, and dismissals. The poem was lost, apparently irrevocably, and then found. This retrieval, after many centuries, is something one is tempted to call a miracle. But the author of the poem in question did not believe in miracles. He thought that nothing could violate the laws of nature. He posited instead what he called a 'swerve'—Lucretius’ principal word for it was clinamen—an unexpected, unpredictable movement of matter."       ~The New Yorker

Excerpt
"First, goddess, the birds of the air, pierced to the heart with your powerful shafts, signal your entry. Next wild creatures and cattle bound over rich pastures and swim rushing rivers: so surely are they all captivated by your charm and eagerly follow your lead. Then you inject seductive love into the heart of every creature that lives in the seas and mountains and river torrents and bird-haunted thickets, implanting in it the passionate urge to reproduce its kind."

Author Lucretius
Translator Rouse, W.H.D.
Cotranslator Smith, Martin
Book Type Hardcover
Page Count 672 pp.
Publisher Harvard University Press 1992
Series The Loeb Classical Library
Browse these categories as well: Neoplatonism and Greek Philosophy, Gods, Goddesses and Archetypes

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