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By Eudora Olsen From Atoms to Cosmos: The Genius of Lucretius By Eudora Olsen.

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Presentation on theme: "By Eudora Olsen From Atoms to Cosmos: The Genius of Lucretius By Eudora Olsen."— Presentation transcript:

1 By Eudora Olsen From Atoms to Cosmos: The Genius of Lucretius By Eudora Olsen

2 Meet Lucretius  Birth in 94 BC, death in either 54 or 51*  Epicurean poet  Wrote in the middle years of the first century BC  Member of aristocratic clan, Lucretii or possibly a former slave  Cicero: ‘flashes of genius’ and ‘craftsmanship’ characterize Lucretius' poetry *Little known about exact dates of birth/death (early Christianity branded Lucretius an enemy of religion)

3 Historical Context  First Century BCE  91 BC: “Social War”  88 BC: Lucius Cornelius Sulla starts Civil War and becomes dictator  Rise of Sulla to fall of Catiline  Bloodshed, war, tumult

4 What’s Epicureanism?  (On Epicurus): O you who out of the vast darkness were the first to raise A shining light, illuminating the blessings of life, O glory of the Grecian race, it is you I follow (Bk 3, 1-3)  Seeks to link Physics, Ethics, and Canonic  The universe consists of matter and void  All matter made of imperishable atoms that are homogenous in substance but differ in shape and size

5 Epicureanism cont.  The universe is an ongoing cosmic event  Epicurus was a materialist, not an atheist (Gods do not have interest in human affairs)  Objects send off “idols” of themselves to travel through air and thus we have senses

6 De Rerum Natura  “On the Nature of Things”  Epic Poem  6 Books  “Unfolding of a complex philosophical argument” (utm.edu)  Wide range of themes: philosophy, love, reason, luxuries  Unfinished

7 The Structure of De Rerum Natura Book I: Invocation of Venus, explains Epicureanism Book II: Atomic motion Book III: Proof of materiality, death Book IV: Epicurus’ theory of vision/sensation Book V: Proliferation and extinction of life forms Book VI: Meteorology, geology

8 Selected Passages “All life is a struggle in the dark.” (Bk II, 54) “Such is the power of reason to overcome inborn vices/That nothing prevents our living a life worthy of gods.” (Bk III, ) “If she stutters or lisps, she speaks ‘musically.’ If she’s dumb, she’s ‘modest’; and if she’s hot- tempered And a chatterbox, she’s ‘a ball of fire.’ (Bk 4, )

9 The Lucretius Legacy  One of the principal sources for Epicurean thought  Spurred innovative scientific thought in the sixteenth/seventeenth century  Neo-Epicurean philosopher Pierre Gassendi ( )  Published elaboration of Epicurean science  Milton, Whitman, Wordsworth  Darwin

10 Bibliography tml


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