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ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix
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Chapter XIX.—Epicurus; Adopts the Democritic Atomism; Denial of Divine Providence; The Principle of His Ethical System.

Epicurus, however, advanced an opinion almost contrary to all. He supposed, as originating principles of all things, atoms and vacuity.130130    The atomic theory is, as already mentioned by Hippolytus, of more ancient date than Epicurus’ age, being first broached by Leucippus and Democritus. This fact, however, has, as Cudworth argues, been frequently overlooked by those who trace the doctrine to no older a source than the founder of the Epicurean philosophy. He considered vacuity as the place that would contain the things that will exist, and atoms the matter out of which all things could be formed; and that from the concourse of atoms both the Deity derived existence, and all the elements, and all things inherent in them, as well as animals and other (creatures); so that nothing was generated or existed, unless it be from atoms.  And he affirmed that these atoms were composed of extremely small particles, in which there could not exist either a point or a sign, or any division; wherefore also he called them atoms. Acknowledging the Deity to be eternal and incorruptible, he says that God has providential care for nothing, and that there is no such thing at all as providence or fate, but that all things are made by chance.  For that the Deity reposed in the intermundane spaces, (as they) are thus styled by him; for outside the world he determined that there is a certain habitation of God, denominated “the intermundane spaces,” and that the Deity surrendered Himself to pleasure, and took His ease in the midst of supreme happiness; and that neither has He any concerns of business, nor does He devote His attention to them.131131    Or, “that neither has He business to do, nor does He attend to any. As a consequence of which fact,” etc. As a consequence on these opinions, he also propounded his theory concerning wise men, asserting that the end of wisdom is pleasure. Different persons, however, received the term “pleasure” in different acceptations; for some (among the Gentiles132132    “Among the Gentiles” seems a mistake. One reading proposed is, “some (intended) our sensuous passions;” or, “some understood the passions.” The words “among the Gentiles,” the French commentator, the Abbe Cruice, is of opinion, were added by Christian hands, in order to draw a contrast between the virtuous Christian and the vicious pagan. understood) the passions, but others the satisfaction resulting from virtue. And he concluded that the souls of men are dissolved along with their bodies, just as also they were produced along with them, for that they are blood, and that when this has gone forth or been altered, the entire man perishes; and in keeping with this tenet, (Epicurus maintained) that there are neither trials in Hades, nor tribunals of justice; so that whatsoever any one may commit in this life, that, provided he may escape detection, he is altogether beyond any liability of trial (for it in a future state). In this way, then, Epicurus also formed his opinions.


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