Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
174. Atoms 176. Cosmology

From Chapter IX., Leukippos of Miletos

175. The Void
Leukippos affirmed the existence both of the Full and the Empty, terms which he may have borrowed from Melissos.24 He had to assume empty space, which the Eleatics had denied, in order to make his explanation of the nature of body possible. Here again he is developing a Pythagorean view. The Pythagoreans had spoken of the void, which kept the units apart; but they had not distinguished it from atmospheric air (§ 53), which Empedokles had shown to be a corporeal substance (§ 107). Parmenides, indeed, had formed a clearer conception of space, but only to deny its reality. Leukippos started from this. He admitted, indeed, that space was not real, that is to say, corporeal; but he maintained that it existed all the same. He hardly, it is true, had words to express his discovery in; for the verb "to be" had hitherto been used by philosophers only of body. But he did his best to make his meaning clear by saying that "what is not" (in the old corporealist sense) "is" (in another sense) just as much as "what is." The void is as real as body.

Burnet's Notes


24. Arist. Met. A, 4. 985 b 4 (R. P. 192). Cf. Melissos, fr. 7 sub fin.

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