Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
173. Leucippus and the Eleatics 175. The Void

From Chapter IX., Leukippos of Miletos

174. Atoms
We must observe that the atom is not mathematically indivisible, for it has magnitude; it is, however, physically indivisible, because, like the One of Parmenides, it contains no empty space.18 Each atom has extension, and all atoms are exactly alike in substance.19 Therefore all differences in things must be accounted for either by the shape of the atoms or by their arrangement. It seems probable that the three ways in which differences arise, namely, shape, position, and arrangement, were already distinguished by Leukippos; for Aristotle mentions his name in connexion with them.20 This explains, too, why the atoms are called "forms" or "figures," a way of speaking which is clearly of Pythagorean origin.21 That they are also called φύσις22 is quite intelligible if we remember what was said of that word in the Introduction (§ VII.). The differences in shape, order, and position just referred to account for the "opposites," the "elements" being regarded rather as aggregates of these (πανσπερμίαι), as by Anaxagoras.23

Burnet's Notes


18. The Epicureans misunderstood this point, or misrepresented it in order to magnify their own originality (see Zeller, p. 857, n. 3).

19. Arist. De caelo, A, 7. 275 b 32, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εἶναί φασιν αὐτῶν μίαν. Here φύσις can only have one meaning. Cf. Phys. Γ, 4. 203 a 34, αὐτῷ (Δημοκρίτῳ) τὸ κοινὸν σῶμα πάντων ἐστὶν ἀρχή.

20. Arist. Met. A, 4. 985 b 13 (R. P. 192); cf. De gen. corr. A, 2. 315 b 6. As Diels suggests, the illustration from letters is probably due to Demokritos. It shows, in any case, how the word στοιχεῖον came to be used for "element." We must read, with Wilamowitz, τὸ δὲ Ζ τοῦ Η θέσει for τὸ δὲ Ζ τοῦ Ν θέσει, the older form of the letter Z being just an H laid upon its side (Diels, Elementum, p. 13, n. 1).

21. Demokritos wrote a work, Περὶ ἰδεῶν (Sext. Math. vii. 137 ; R. P. 204), which Diels identifies with the Περὶ τῶν διαφερόντων ῥυσμῶν of Thrasylos, Tetr. v. 3. Theophrastos refers to Demokritos, ἐν τοῖς περὶ τῶν εἰδῶν (De sensibus, § 51). Plut. Adv. Col. 1111 a, εἶναι δὲ πάντα τὰς ἀτόμους, ἰδέας ὑπ' αὐτοῦ καλουμένας (so the MSS.: ἰδίως, Wyttenbach; <> ἰδέας Diels). Herodian has ἰδέα . . . τὸ ἐλάχιστον σῶμα (Diels, Vors. 55 B 141). So Arist. Phys. Γ, 4. 203 a 21, (Δεμόκριτος ) ἐκ τῆς πανσπερμίας τῶν σχημάτων (ἄπειρα ποιεῖ τὰ στοιχεῖα). Cf. De gen. corr. A, 2. 315 b (R. P. 196).

22. Arist. Phys. Θ, 9. 265 b 25; Simpl. Phys. p. 1318, 33, ταῦτα γὰρ (τὰ ἄτομα σώματα) ἐκεῖνοι φύσιν ἐκάλουν.

23. Simpl. Phys. p. 36, 1 (Diels, Vors. 54 A 14), and R. P. 196 a.

Created for Peithô's Web from Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, 3rd edition (1920). London: A & C Black Ltd. Burnet's footnotes have been converted to chapter endnotes. Greek unicode text entered with Peithô's Younicoder.
Web design by Larry Clark and RSBoyes (Agathon). Peithô's Web gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Anthony Beavers in the creation of this web edition of Burnet. Please send comments to:
agathon at classicpersuasion