Posted by: Mark | July 5, 2017

De Rerum Natura : Chapter 4

Book Four of Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura is entitled “Sensation and Sex.” A better title might be “Sensation, More Sensation, Even More on Sensation, Another Thought on Sensation, and Girls are Icky.”

I must say I  was disappointed.

Lucretius claimed that:

  • vision is possible because objects are constantly shedding outer layers of atoms which strike the eye.
  • touch and sight are produced through the same process  (of outer layers of objects).
  • roosters contain certain atoms that when shed and strike a lion’s eye causes maddening pain, but is harmless to humans.
  • sufferers of jaundice see everything as yellow because of yellow particles that constantly stream from their bodies.

He got close to modern physics (which will seem painfully out of date in 2,000 years) with reversed images in mirrors and distortion of light through water. However, he still maintained truth was possible only through the senses.

At the very end of the chapter was Lucretius’s philosophy on sex. He didn’t think much of it.

For the most part, Lucretius seemed to think sex was a distraction from important matters like philosophy bit he had some definite ideas.

“The one stimulus that evokes human seed from the human body is a human form.” Clearly old Lucretius was blissfully unaware of the coming of the fleshlight.

I might seem rough on Lucretius but he wrote in a very arrogant manner, only Descartes comes close. The difference is that Descartes stuck to subjects that were unprovable (mostly) but Lucretius wandered into the middle of empirical science.

I’m still looking forward to the next chapter but my enthusiasm has waned.


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