Monday, September 1, 2008

On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius: A World View

Atomism is incompatible with Judeo-Christian principles. It is because atomism views matter as independent of God that atomism was demoted by St. Augustine from the predominating world view, a view that held sway for nearly 1000 years. St. Augustine turned it into the skeptical position against theism
1) because atomism declares existence exists from eternity, and denies creation by a God; or
2) because atomism's justification for the cause-and-effect laws of nature are independent of control by a God. (Quentin Smith; " The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism";

All men have a world view that for each, in some way, is his explanation of the meaning of existence, of the world. For those who have not "examined" his or her own world view, Ayn Rand defined that view as "sense of life, a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence." “Philosophy and Sense of Life,” The Romantic Manifesto, 25 Whether a person has a world view, a sense of life, or a fully examined cosmology, it sets up the psychology of a his/her emotional responses and the nature of his/her character.

"He who does not know what the world is," wrote Marcus Aurelius, in "Meditations", "does not know where he is. And he who does not know for what purpose the world exists, does not know who he is, nor what the world is. But he who has failed in any one of these things could not even say for what purpose he exists himself." So it is true that some people--perhaps many people in the twenty-first century where the major metaphysical question seems to be, "How can I be sure?"--do not know "for what purpose he himself exists."

But having a world view is something that almost every man, woman, and child have described, only a few hundred years ago, when certainty was required for staying alive.

This concept of a world view is called "metaphysical cosmology," vs. a purely science-related cosmology that explains a physics-oriented world view. World views have been described as: "A [ ] set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world." (James Sire.) As: "A person's fundamental 'world outlook,' or life perspective." (borrowed from the German word "weltanschauung."

You can even take a test to determine what your world view is.

"In the 5th century B.C., some Greeks reasoned that matter cannot be infinitely divisible, and they called the smallest particles in nature 'atoms.'' [ ] Many Greeks believed that atoms 'existed from eternity, for they had not been created.' Lucretius supposed, in like manner, that nothing is ever annihilated and that matter exists in the form of invisible atoms.

"The [atomists] supposed that life had developed out of a primeval slime, man as well as animals and plants. Man was a microcosm of the universe, for he contained every kind of atom. As this is the viewpoint of modern evolutionists, the reader may appreciate that Lucretius, not Darwin, has been the principal spokesman for evolution during the last two millennia.

"Lucretius (c.100-c.55BC), chief proponent of atomism, still offers the prevailing world view of reality. No less than twelve English translations of his poem "On the Nature of Things" are readily available in print, the most recent being published in 1995."

"On the Nature of Things," is a description of what Thomas Paine in 1794 in "The Age of Reason" referred to as "the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness" of religion.

"It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind;" Paine wrote, "and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel."

So did Lucretius, and this is his telling of his world view, of Man's place in it, and of the evil influence of religion against the better judgments of men. This is only a very small part of it. Go to the link below the title information to see all of it, or search for other sources.

"Lucretius' scientific epic "De rerum natura" is considered a masterpiece of Epicurean philosophy. Epicurus taught that the world could be understood by reason and that religion only arouses unnecessary fear. Lucretius denounced popular beliefs in deities and supernatural creatures.

"As a poem, "De rerum natura" is remarkable [as] a lyrical presentation of what would otherwise be tedious information." "De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things): Introduction." Epics for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1998. January 2006. 1 September 2008.

On the Nature of Things
By Titus Lucretius Carus (c.99-55 BCE)
Written 50 B.C.E Translated by William Ellery Leonard

pro·em noun
1 : preliminary comment : preface 2 : prelude
Mirriam-Webster Online
Part I
by Lucretitius

Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men,
Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars
Makest to teem the many-voyaged main
And fruitful lands- for all of living things
Through thee alone are evermore conceived,
Through thee are risen to visit the great sun-
Before thee, Goddess, and thy coming on,
Flee stormy wind and massy cloud away,
For thee the daedal Earth bears scented flowers,
For thee waters of the unvexed deep
Smile, and the hollows of the serene sky
Glow with diffused radiance for thee!
For soon as comes the springtime face of day,
And procreant gales blow from the West unbarred,
First fowls of air, smit to the heart by thee,
Foretoken thy approach, O thou Divine,
And leap the wild herds round the happy fields
Or swim the bounding torrents.
Thus amain, Seized with the spell, all creatures follow thee
Whithersoever thou walkest forth to lead,
And thence through seas and mountains and swift streams,
Through leafy homes of birds and greening plains,
Kindling the lure of love in every breast,
Thou bringest the eternal generations forth,
Kind after kind.
And since 'tis thou alone
Guidest the Cosmos,
and without thee naught
Is risen to reach the shining shores of light,
Nor aught of joyful or of lovely born,
Thee do I crave co-partner in that verse
Which I presume on Nature to compose
For Memmius mine, whom thou hast willed to be
Peerless in every grace at every hour-
Wherefore indeed, Divine one, give my words
Immortal charm. Lull to a timely rest
O'er sea and land the savage works of war,
For thou alone hast power with public peace
To aid mortality; since he who rules
The savage works of battle, puissant Mars,
How often to thy bosom flings his strength
O'ermastered by the eternal wound of love-
And there, with eyes and full throat backward thrown,
Gazing, my Goddess, open-mouthed at thee,
Pastures on love his greedy sight, his breath
Hanging upon thy lips. Him thus reclined
Fill with thy holy body, round, above!
Pour from those lips soft syllables to win
Peace for the Romans, glorious Lady, peace!
For in a season troublous to the state
Neither may I attend this task of mine
With thought untroubled, nor mid such events
The illustrious scion of the Memmian house
Neglect the civic cause.
Whilst human kind
Throughout the lands lay miserably crushed
Before all eyes beneath Religion- who
Would show her head along the region skies,
Glowering on mortals with her hideous face-
A Greek it was who first opposing dared
Raise mortal eyes that terror to withstand,
Whom nor the fame of Gods nor lightning's stroke
Nor threatening thunder of the ominous sky
Abashed; but rather chafed to angry zest
His dauntless heart to be the first to rend
The crossbars at the gates of Nature old.
And thus his will and hardy wisdom won;
And forward thus he fared afar, beyond
The flaming ramparts of the world, until
He wandered the unmeasurable All.
Whence he to us, a conqueror, reports
What things can rise to being, what cannot,
And by what law to each its scope prescribed,
Its boundary stone that clings so deep in Time.
Wherefore Religion now is under foot,
And us his victory now exalts to heaven.
I know how hard it is in Latian verse
To tell the dark discoveries of the Greeks,
Chiefly because our pauper-speech must find
Strange terms to fit the strangeness of the thing;
Yet worth of thine and the expected joy
Of thy sweet friendship do persuade me on
To bear all toil and wake the clear nights through,
Seeking with what of words and what of song
I may at last most gloriously uncloud
For thee the light beyond, wherewith to view
The core of being at the centre hid.
And for the rest, summon to judgments true,
Unbusied ears and singleness of mind
Withdrawn from cares; lest these my gifts, arranged
For thee with eager service, thou disdain
Before thou comprehendest:
since for thee I prove the supreme law of Gods and sky,
And the primordial germs of things unfold,
Whence Nature all creates, and multiplies
And fosters all, and whither she resolves
Each in the end when each is overthrown.
This ultimate stock we have devised to name
Procreant atoms, matter, seeds of things,
Or primal bodies, as primal to the world.
I fear perhaps thou deemest that we fare
An impious road to realms of thought profane;
But 'tis that same religion oftener far
Hath bred the foul impieties of men:
As once at Aulis, the elected chiefs,
Foremost of heroes, Danaan counsellors,
Defiled Diana's altar, virgin queen,
With Agamemnon's daughter, foully slain.
She felt the chaplet round her maiden locks
And fillets, fluttering down on either cheek,
And at the altar marked her grieving sire,
The priests beside him who concealed the knife,
And all the folk in tears at sight of her.
With a dumb terror and a sinking knee
She dropped; nor might avail her now that first
'Twas she who gave the king a father's name.
They raised her up, they bore the trembling girl
On to the altar- hither led not now
With solemn rites and hymeneal choir,
But sinless woman, sinfully foredone,
A parent felled her on her bridal day,
Making his child a sacrificial beast
To give the ships auspicious winds for Troy:
Such are the crimes to which Religion leads.
And there shall come the time when even thou,
Forced by the soothsayer's terror-tales, shalt seek
To break from us.
Ah, many a dream even now
Can they concoct to rout thy plans of life,
And trouble all thy fortunes with base fears.
I own with reason: for, if men but knew
Some fixed end to ills, they would be strong
By some device unconquered to withstand
Religions and the menacings of seers.
But now nor skill nor instrument is theirs,
Since men must dread eternal pains in death.
For what the soul may be they do not know,
Whether 'tis born, or enter in at birth,
And whether, snatched by death, it die with us,
Or visit the shadows and the vasty caves
Of Orcus, or by some divine decree
Enter the brute herds, as our Ennius sang,
Who first from lovely Helicon brought down
A laurel wreath of bright perennial leaves,
Renowned forever among the Italian clans.
Yet Ennius too in everlasting verse
Proclaims those vaults of Acheron to be,
Though thence, he said, nor souls nor bodies fare,
But only phantom figures, strangely wan,
And tells how once from out those regions rose
Old Homer's ghost to him and shed salt tears
And with his words unfolded Nature's source.
Then be it ours with steady mind to clasp
The purport of the skies- the law behind
The wandering courses of the sun and moon;
To scan the powers that speed all life below;
But most to see with reasonable eyes
Of what the mind, of what the soul is made,
And what it is so terrible that breaks
On us asleep, or waking in disease,
Until we seem to mark and hear at hand
Dead men whose bones earth bosomed long ago.

Any variation in this publication of "On the Nature of Things" that varies from Latin hexameter verse, in which each line has six "feet," or units of rhythm, is purely accidental, and the fault of the copy/paste procedure allowed by the copyright from the website listed above.

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