D O C . 2 6 0 I N T R O D U C T I O N L U C R E T I U S 2 5 5
260. Introduction to Lucretius, De rerum natura
[Einstein 1924f]
Dated June 1924
Published 1924
In: T. Lucretius Carus, De rerum natura, Vol. 2, Lukrez, Von der Natur, trans. by
Hermann Diels, Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1924, pp. via–vib
The work of Lucretius will work its magic on anyone who does not completely
wrap himself in the spirit of our time and, in particular, occasionally feels like a
spectator of the intellectual attitude of his contemporaries. One sees here how an
independent man equipped with lively senses and reasoning, endowed with scien-
tific and speculative curiosity, a man who has not even the faintest notion of the re-
sults of today's science that we are taught in childhood, before we can consciously,
much less critically, confront them, imagines the world.
The firm confidence that Lucretius, as a faithful disciple of Democritus and Ep-
icurus, places in the intelligibility, in other words, in the causal connectedness of
everything that happens in the world, must make a profound impression.[2] He is
firmly convinced, he even believes he can prove, that everything is based on the
regular motion of immutable atoms, ascribing to atoms no qualities other than geo-
metric-mechanical ones. The sensual qualities, warmth, coldness, color, odor, taste,
are to be attributed to the movements of atoms, likewise all phenomena of life. He
conceives of the soul and mind as formed from especially light atoms, by assigning
(in an inconsistent way) particular qualities of matter to particular characteristics
of experience.
He states as the primary objective of his work the liberation of humanity from
the slavish fear, induced by religion and superstition, that he sees as nourished and
exploited by priests for their own purposes.[3] This certainly is a serious issue for
him. Nonetheless, he does seem to have been guided mostly by the need to per-
suade his readers of the necessity for the atomistic-mechanical worldview, al-
though he dare not say this openly to his much more practically oriented Roman
readers. His reverence for Epicurus, Greek culture and language, which he consid-
ers greatly superior to Latin culture and language, is altogether moving. It redounds
to the glory of the Romans that this could be said to them. Where is the modern
[p. via]
[p. vib]
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