Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, with Burnet's notes
183. Importance of Leucippus 185. Moisture

From Chapter X., Eclecticism and Reaction

184. The "Bankruptcy of Science"
WITH Leukippos our story should come to an end; for he had answered the question first asked by Thales. We have seen, however, that, though his theory of matter was of a most original and daring kind, he was not equally successful in his attempt to construct a cosmology, and this seems to have prevented the recognition of the atomic theory for what it really was. We have noted the growing influence of medicine, and the consequent substitution of an interest in detailed investigation for the larger cosmological views of an earlier time, and there are several treatises in the Hippokratean corpus which give us a clear idea of the interest which now prevailed.1 Leukippos had shown that "the doctrine of Melissos,"2 which seemed to make all science impossible, was not the only conclusion that could be drawn from the Eleatic premisses, and he had gone on to give a cosmology which was substantially of the old Ionic type. The result at first was simply that all the old schools revived and had a short period of renewed activity, while at the same time some new schools arose which sought to accommodate the older views to those of Leukippos, or to make them more available for scientific purposes by combining them in an eclectic fashion. None of these attempts had any lasting importance or influence, and what we have to consider in this chapter is really one of the periodical "bankruptcies of science" which mark the close of one chapter in its history and announce the beginning of a new one.

Burnet's Notes


1. Cf. what is said in Chap. IV. p. 150, n. 2, of the Περὶ διαίτης. The Περὶ ἀνθρώπου φύσιος and the Περὶ ἀρχαίης ἰατρικῆς are invaluable documents for the attitude of scientific men to cosmological theories at this date.

2. Cf. Chap. VIII. p. 329, n. 2.

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