Posted by: Mark | June 15, 2017

De Rerum Natura: Chapter 1

De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things or On the Nature of the Universe) is a 2,000 year old poem by the Roman philosopher Lucretius. I picked it as one of my New Year’s Resolutions. Was that sensible? Was reading Finnegans Wake?

“Chapter One: Matter and Space” dealt with ideas that ranged from modern to antiquated.

His first point was “Nothing can ever be created by divine power out of nothing.” It’s apparent from the start that Lucretius was a philosopher, not a scientist. The scientific method hadn’t been invented so he used decent reasoning and rhetoric but it sounds off to modern readers.

Same with his next point: “Nature resolves everything into its component atoms and never reduces anything to nothing.” He made many points that hold up today but without scientific reasoning it feels off.

“There is vacuity in things” was absolutely right–matter is not completely solid but has much empty space. Again, good logic but scientific subjects without scientific reasoning just sounds odd.

It really comes across when Lucretius is dead wrong: “No species is ever changed,” “The universe is not bounded in any direction,” and when he seems to argue against the existence of gravity.

I’m probably not going to learn much about the actual nature of things but it gives a better insight to the Roman method of thinking.


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