The Atomic Theory Of The Origin Of The Universe
During the Pre-Socratic period, Parmenides posed a challenge of the origin of the cosmos. Is the universe derived by one single prime matter? How does something come into being when it was not a being before? An example is how can trees exist if it wasn’t there before? What created the trees? Parmenides said that the answer to this question should display characteristics of being unchanged, whole, and showing motion. Earlier philosophers had different ideas and perception in regards to this challenge. Democritus was able to answer Parmenides question with the Atomic Theory.
Pre-Socratic philosopher Thales argued that there is an arche which is water. Arche is the principle of which things emerge from. An arche is also a physical substance that underlines the base of the universe. Thales said that the earth is resting and floating on water. He believed that everything originated from water. Matter can vary and be mixed with other stuff, but it will always contain water. He said that one must obtain water in order to live. For example, animals and human beings need water in order to survive. Therefore, he was determined that everything is derived from water. However, his theory failed because Parmenides said that for something to come into being, it has to be changeless and water can change from liquid to solid. In addition, Anaximander argued that everything originated from the unlimited. Unlimited or boundless matter can never become old in age therefore it can only be destroyed and form new matter, but essentially matter never dies.
Adding on, Anaximenes believed that everything comes out of air because when the air is thin, it becomes fire and when it is thick it becomes wind or water. Air can also transform into other matter which means that everything comes from air. For example, air can transform into lightning and storms. According to Anaximenes, matter has different properties of air that create different things.
Philosopher Heraclitus response was that everything is derived from cosmology. He believed that the Gods did not create the universe and that the universe will never banish. Cosmology is derived from the word Cosmo which is order. Therefore, cosmology is the account of how everything comes into order and into place. The universe comes from cosmology and there are changes developed over time. As a result, all of these theories are incorrect because matter has to be unchangeable and these theories are based on development which makes it changeable.
Moreover Democritus, an Ancient Greek Philosopher, answered Parmenides challenge by evolving and enlarging the Atomic Theory. Democritus lived during the 5th century BC and he valued knowledge and wisdom. He is viewed as the “Father of Modern Science” due to his accomplishments and discoveries he made that are useful in our modern world. Democritus explains that atoms emerge and transform themselves into compound bodies. A compound body can also be described as a compactness of atoms. He explains his theory in Fragment 584 of the Course Reader for Classics 36. The philosophical context reads that atoms move infinitely through a void space. A void space is not only an empty space between atoms, it is also nonexistent. The void is critical to the motions of the atoms because it allows for the atoms to maneuver through the empty spaces. Without the void, atoms wouldn’t be able to move and therefore they would’ve been motionless which would fail the characteristics that Parmenides mentioned.
An atom is a miniature property of an element that is not visible to the naked eye. Atoms have the property of motion which agree with the features of Parmenides which is changing in place. Atoms help perceive compound bodies by aggregation and association. Aggregation can help atoms come into being. Each atom has different structures in terms of its size, shape, and form. Due to the different size and form that each atom has, they collide and arranged into compound bodies. Atoms are like a piece of a puzzle. Each puzzle piece varies from shape and position. These certain shapes help them find other pieces of the puzzle that can be connected and pieced together. Once every single piece of the puzzle is attached to each other, it forms a nice image. Atoms play a similar role because the shape and size that each individual atom displays can become joint to another atom that is compatible and in accordance to each other. Atoms have to be congruent to one another in terms of shape, position, and size in order to be intertwined.
Therefore, atoms are whole once they become aggregated. This ties back to what Parmenides said in terms of being perfect and complete because once atoms are aggregated, they are complete by forming compound bodies. Furthermore, Democritus argued that atoms are not divisible, which means they cannot be torn apart. He said that things can be divisible at first, but once it becomes Atomos, atoms in Greek, it becomes indestructible. If something is indivisible, conceptual or physical, then it means it cannot be destroyed because it is compacted. This aligns with what Parmenides said because if atoms are indivisible then it means that it is whole and perfect. Democritus was the only one who answered the question in accordance with the characteristics that Parmenides outlined.
In conclusion, Democritus answered Parmenides question by emphasizing the importance of the Atomic Theory. The Atomic Theory helps the world understand how things and the universe come into being. He said that the characteristic that each atom caries is essential and vital because these features helps matter mold. Atoms are physical things, uncuttable, changeless, and have motion which align with the traits that Parmenides stated.
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