Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
176. Cosmology 178. The Eternal Motion

From Chapter IX., Leukippos of Miletos

177. Relation to Ionic Cosmology
The general impression we get from the cosmology of Leukippos is that he either ignored or had never heard of the great advance in the general view of the world which was due to the later Pythagoreans. He is as reactionary in his detailed cosmology as he was daring in his general physical theory. We seem to be reading once more of the speculations of Anaximenes or Anaximander, though there are traces of Empedokles and Anaxagoras too. The explanation is not hard to see. Leukippos would not learn a cosmology from his Eleatic teachers; and, even when he found it possible to construct one without giving up the Parmenidean view of reality, he was thrown back upon the older systems of Ionia. The result was unfortunate. The astronomy of Demokritos was still of this childish character. He believed the earth was flat and rested on the air.

This is what gives plausibility to Gomperz's statement that Atomism was "the ripe fruit on the tree of the old Ionic doctrine of matter which had been tended by the Ionian physiologists."28 The detailed cosmology was certainly such a fruit, and it was possibly over-ripe; but the atomic theory proper, in which the real greatness of Leukippos comes out, was wholly Eleatic in its origin. Nevertheless, it will repay us to examine the cosmology too; for such an examination will serve to bring out the true nature of the historical development of which it was the outcome.

Burnet's Notes


28. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, Vol. i. p. 323.

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