From Epicurus Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

According to Sextus Empiricus, Epicurus used terms holon (whole) and pan (all) as equivalent terms to denote the entire universe.

Epicurus believed that the universe was a vast (indeed infinite-sized) system consisting of matter and void; being such, it was subject to all the natural laws applicable to matter: as matter consists of atoms, those must move according to the principles of atomic motion (i.e. both "downwards" and "swerving"); and all that is contained within the universe must, of necessity, also be mutable and perishable (although, of course, atoms themselves do not simply vanish into nothingness, but are "released" in the course of the disintegration of one physical entity, only to "regroup" in the course of the constitution of some other one).

The universe, however, does not exhibit any signs of a "Creator's hand". Material entities (e.g. entire worlds and celestial bodies) come into being just as spontaneously and/or accidentally as living things emerged on Earth in particular. Thus the Epicurean view is perfectly "scaleable": the matter-driven, designer-less process that gives birth to all that exists functions on the "micro"-scale of individual species of terrestrial life, on the broader scale of life on Earth in general, and on the all-encompassing, "macro"-scale of the universe (which, by definition, includes all there is, ever).

[edit] Infinite Size

According to Epicurus and his followers, the universe is infinite. This was demonstrated by the "javelin-thrower" argument, famously featured (though not invented) by Lucretius: if a man were to stand at the hypothetical outermost boundary of the universe, and hurl a javelin with all his might into the vacuum gaping before him, what would happen? If there is nothing to impede the javelin's trajectory, it will finally descend and land somewhere, and that spot would have to be the "new" outermost boundary of the universe (i.e. and not the spot where the man stood); if there is some sort of wall, or barrier delimiting the universe, the javelin would hit it, and then it (the wall) would be the next outermost barrier -- and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.

Personal tools