Democritus. The doctrine of knowledge

The world, according to Democritus, is not created for the sake of man, and in the infinite Universe there are spaces without people. Man is also not a creation of the gods, but a product of nature.

The earth, filled with moisture, saturated with atoms of fire, gave birth to grasses and plants, as well as animals that ripened under protective shells down to humans. And if so, then man is the son of earth and water. So the Roman writer Censorin understood Democritus, who claimed that, according to Democritus, “people were first made of water and mud”.

The Christian writer Lactantius instructively reminded that the world, according to Scripture, was created for the needs of man, therefore, “Democritus was mistaken, believing that people left the earth as worms (come out), without any creator and reasonable purpose.” However, did these authors of Democritus understand correctly? Of course, man arose without a “creator”, and this was already claimed by the Ionian materialists. But from the land?

According to the above theory presented by Diodorus and Hermipp, only in very remote times, when the earth was semi-fluid, it was capable of producing animals of noticeable size. But under the influence of the scorching rays of the sun, the earth dried up, hardened and only grass, trees, fruits and reptiles could arise from it. In the end, the land “proved incapable of producing any large animals; all animate beings began to be born of mutual confusion. ” So, according to this statement, reptiles are the last animals born of the earth.

Man, as an animated being, could not appear in this way. But if people arose “by mutual mixing” of living beings already existing on earth, then man, according to Democritus, came out of the animal world. No other conclusion can be made, although this is the missing link in the sources. But such a conclusion would not be a stretch, if we recall that, according to Anaximander, man was descended from fish.

A similar theory of the origin of living beings is presented by the medieval scholastic, John Tsets, and ascribes it to “Hellenic philosophers.” From the early Christian writer Hippolytus, we learn that this theory was from Anaxagoras. Empedocles taught about the division of living beings into species, according to the predominance of one of the four elements in them.

Thus, we have some grounds for supposing that Democritus, relying on the teachings of Anaxagoras and Empedocles, put forward his own, according to which sentient beings arose after plants and small animals and arose by birth. It is also clear from the teachings of Democritus and Anaxagoras about the first people and the creation of society by them that these philosophers did not consider that the first people appeared “from the earth”; although these people are inexperienced and live “bestial”, there is no hint that they were born differently than normal.

According to Democritus, human organs, as well as animals, were formed out of necessity, according to the principle of utility. Democritus investigates the structure and functioning of organs, both of the animal and of the human body, clearly not seeing in them the fundamental difference. Thus, in his opinion, the same reason for the growth and loss of teeth, the structure of the lungs, esophagus, nostrils and other organs, and the human and animal bodies themselves consist of the same matter – air and water.

Here, as well as in the whole biology of Democritus, the atoms are not directly spoken of. However, not so long ago “democritical studies” was enriched with a new fragment, which, although, apparently, and distortedly, interprets the atomistic structure of the human body. This fragment is connected with the well-known comparison of atoms and their natural movement with random (like “Brownian”) movement of dust particles in the sun’s beam. Let us dwell on this comparison.

There was an ancient Pythagorean look, according to which motes that are worn in the air and visible in the sun’s ray represent the souls of the dead and unborn people. In Anaxagoras, these motes became a model for scientific observation, with the help of which he explained the movement of air.

According to Plutarch, “Anaxagoras said that the air is set in motion by the Sun, which has the character of jitter and vibrations, as is clearly seen in the example of light crumbs and fragments, which are eternally worn in the rays of the Sun and are called motes.” Later, the Pythagorean Ekfant from Syracuse, who, perhaps, under the influence of Democritus, turned the Pythagorean monads into physical atoms, made them a model of atoms.

But the strongest image of dust particles in the beam of the sun is associated with the teachings of Democritus. This is reported by Aristotle, his commentators Simplicius, Philoponus, Themisties, Zephanias, and Jerome, Lactantius, the Courts. Democritus spoke of dust as a model of moving atoms, but, above all, atoms of the soul. Themistiys quite clearly explained this: “It is not surprising that the soul is invisible, although it is the body. After all, as Democritus notes, and the so-called motes, which are observed in the rays (of the sun) transmitted through the window, it would be impossible to observe when the sun is not shining. The air seems to us completely empty, although it is filled with solid bodies.

But atoms are still much smaller than these dust particles, and move much faster than they, and especially the spherical atoms that make up the soul. Christian writers, not understanding the philosophical significance of the teaching of Democritus on the invisible atoms, directly identified them with dust, and Jerome found it possible even to refer to the lines from the Old Testament, which speaks about dust.

In 1968, a German philologist from Germany G. Stromaier discovered an unknown (apparently genuine) fragment of Democritus in Arabic. This is a quote given in the medical composition of the court physician Sultan Saladin Ibn al-Matran (mind 1191) “The Garden of Doctors and the Gold of Reasonable”. The passage reads “The statement of Democritus is a person with dust and particles that do not divide. He says: the body consistency is the finest dust that is crushed in the air and visible in the beam of the sun.

The proof for this is the following: if you stand up under the sun and scratch your body, then it is just such dust that rises from it and is removed from the skin, so that the skin exfoliates all the time while scratching continues. He said: and this peeling occurs due to the grinding of what is destroyed in the body composition of those parts that do not divide. ” Using philological research, the researcher concluded that the quotation of a Roman physician in the 2nd century. ne Claudia Galen, which was translated into Arabic. On the basis of the fragment, he concluded that Democritus, who, unlike Epicurus, recognized atoms of different, even large, sizes, really considered “motes in the beam of the sun” as atoms.

This is the only fragment about the atomistic structure of the human body. However, with regard to the direct identification of atoms with dust particles, such an interpretation is hardly correct. Although Galen did not distort the name of Democritus, as is often the case in the Middle Ages, the whole quotation can hardly be considered accurate. All Greek sources close in time to Democritus indicate that the dust particles were only a model, an analogy. So, the view of Democritus was no more naive than that of Epicurus.

According to Lucretius, the primordial set in motion are small compounds of atoms, the larger ones, etc., until, at last, the movement reaches our senses and becomes visible in dust particles in the sunlight.

As we have already seen, according to Democritus, the essence of the living is the fiery atoms. If the body consists of air and water, then the atoms of fire (and they are akin to air) make up the soul of man. It is the presence of the soul (that is, a large concentration of atoms of fire, which cause heat as a secondary phenomenon) to distinguish man from animals.

The commentator of Aristotle Philopon noted that the atoms of the soul are the most disembodied of all bodies only because of their smallness. The soul is the same fire, but its atoms are even smaller and thinner than the atoms of fire. It moves and revives a person, only being in connection with his body and because this body is able to hold these small and mobile atoms in the pores of the body, where they alternate with other atoms of the body. Atoms of the soul are especially concentrated in the voids of the brain, and therefore in it the center of the mind (according to other sources – in the heart). Perhaps Democritus did not recognize one center of reason, or his view on this issue changed.

The unreasonable part of the soul is scattered throughout the body. Most of the fiery atoms in the air, so that when breathing it becomes a source of replenishment of the atoms of the soul. Democritus considered the fiery atoms of air and soul to be the most subtle, and only in a living organism were they concentrated sufficiently and were “in proper proportion” with cold atoms.

A man is alive while he is breathing; breathing provides a person with balance: it aligns the number of fiery atoms leaving with exhalation and entering from the air with a sigh. The souls, according to Democritus, perish, “for that which is born with the body must necessarily perish with it.”

The denial of the existence of an immortal soul separate from the body was also a break with mythology, especially this was in contradiction with the views that were spread by the Orphic, the Pythagoreans (the doctrine of metempsychosis – the transmigration of souls), and then Plato. It confirms the atheistic nature of the teachings of Democritus. For, according to Feuerbach, “the very subject of religion is an independent, distinct and independent being from man, which is not only external nature, but also the internal nature of man as something independent and different from his will and mind.” He denied the “immortal soul” – and this was of fundamental philosophical significance.

The democritus doctrine of the atomic structure of the soul, Aristotle, as usual, criticizes for the absence of an indication of a goal: “But he did not say a word that nature arranged it for just such a purpose”; Lactantius, on the other hand, collapses on the “idle talk” of Democritus for reducing the soul to the material: “But suppose that joints and bones, and nerves, and blood can be formed by joining atoms. But feelings, thought, memory, mind, talent – from the combination of which seeds can they be formed? ”.

Here the Christian writer gropes for the weak side of Democritus’ naive materialism: the mechanistic reduction of the ideal to the material. Nevertheless, Democritus anticipated the modern achievements of science, which discovered the complex structure of the human brain and the physiological basis of the psyche. The doctrine of Democritus, including the correct guess about the material basis of consciousness, was incompatible with the doctrine of the immortality of the soul in the next world. According to the teachings of Democritus, all of nature, together with man, is the unity of living matter, which is based on the fundamental unity of the world: atoms and emptiness. Besides the world of atoms and emptiness, there is no other.

The motion of atoms Democritus explained and old age and death. Why are living organisms aging and is it possible to delay death? Instead of praying, Democritus recommended hygiene and moderation as the best way to prolong life. As I already wrote, Democritus himself, according to legend, lived for many years – more than 100 years. Legend says that Democritus, because of his old age, did not want to continue living, and with each passing day he diminished his food. When he felt that he was dying, not wanting to spoil Femporium feast for women in the house, he artificially prolonged his life, ordering to put a vessel of honey around him, and ate for some time only its vapors (according to another version, bringing hot bread to his nostrils) .

Theory of knowledge and logic

Man for Democritus is not only a biological being, consisting of a body and a “soul” (ie, psyche and consciousness). Man is the complex formation of atoms and the subject of knowledge, the whole “microcosm”. “Man is what we all know,” said Democritus, but this phrase was cut short by the skeptic Sextus Empyric, who didn’t like such a “dogmatic” statement. According to Aristotle and his commentators, Democritus wanted to say that we all know the person in appearance, in his appearance, but we must explain something that is not clear about him. It is not enough clarified, from the point of view of Democritus, the material essence of man. The question of the cognition of the world by man was also unclear.

The development of ancient Greek science and philosophy, which have accumulated many unresolved problems, persistently raised questions of the theory of knowledge. As we have already seen, the gnoseological problems that emerged in the Eleatic doctrine, and the questions posed by them, led to the emergence of atomistic materialism. In the system Leucippus – Democritus was recognized the difference and the opposite of sensory perception and rational thinking.

Like the Eleatic, Democritus doubted the absolute certainty of the testimony of the senses. In his doctrine of knowledge there was a considerable share of skepticism, and it was not by chance that in the continuity tables of philosophers one line of followers of Democritus led to Pyrrho’s founder of skepticism, and the skeptic Sextus Empyric very often quotes Democritus. But the latter had propaedetic skepticism, which led to a deeper knowledge; Democritus’s doubt serves to pose the question, and the question must be resolved. Democritus does not stop at a simple statement of contradiction, which led Parmenidov’s dilemma and Zeno’s aporia to a metaphysical impasse, to tearing away the apparent from the real. He seeks his solution, seeing in this search the real meaning of the life of the philosopher. Many contradictions remain theoretically unresolved, but the elements of dialectics help to overcome them intuitively and continue to build a system that Aristotle called the most consistent of the previous ones.

Antique materialism was not yet developed materialism, but contained in itself its “imperishable foundations.” In the XIX century. empirio-critics “in a new way” proved that space and atoms are “working hypotheses”. “We are not idealists at all,” V.I. Lenin expresses ironically for them, “this is slander, we are only working (together with idealists) at refuting the epistemological line of Democritus, we have been working for more than 2000 years, and everything is in vain!” To this we can add that the “complaint” of empirio-critics is the voice of subjective idealists of our time.

In the knowledge of man, Democritus saw a reflection of an authentic reality that exists objectively outside of our consciousness. The process of cognition consists of sensations as well as rational knowledge. Particularly highly valued Democritus second, because only the mind can reach an understanding of the atomic structure of matter, to the comprehension of atoms and emptiness. The sense organs do not testify directly about them. Therefore, Democritus argued with the sophists, refuting their sensationalism and relativism. Some of them believed that all sensations are true, and therefore, “what every thing seems to me, it is for me, and what is it for you, it is that, in turn, for you”. According to this thesis, Protagoras stated that each thing “is no more than such,” while Democritus “wrote much convincing against him”. In particular, Democritus logically refuted the thesis that everything is true. After all, if someone believes that not everything is true, then this thesis will be true, and, thus, the position that everything is true turns out to be false. Democritus refuted the skepticist sophist Xeniad, who claims that everything is false: after all, if everything is false, then that everything is false.

But, refuting relativism, based on extreme sensationalism, Democritus spoke out against speculation, divorced from sensory data. Democritus distinguished two types of knowledge: sensual and reasonable. He called sensory cognition “dark”, as it is obscured by the deception of sensations, the individual characteristics of the cognizing subject, etc., but he called the rational, theoretical thinking “light”, because it penetrates deeper into the essence of things, is capable of discovering the existence of atoms and emptiness . But the mind has no special nature. He is the same as the soul, consists of the same atoms of fire. In his distinction of reason and feelings, Democritus is somewhat contradictory. Now he identifies sensations and thoughts, then he opposes them to each other. But in actual fact it turns out that in one Democritus sees identity: in the bodily character of both, in a single material substrate, the opposite (or rather, the difference) is in their role and significance for cognition.

Sensory perception and thinking, reason appear in Democritus as two levels (or two levels) of knowledge: lower and higher, which complement each other. This distinction is due to the psychology of the ancient scholar, who operated, although not yet consciously, with the concept of the threshold of sensation. According to Democritus, the essence of each world is the minimum size of atoms and emptiness, as well as the primary combinations of atoms, and all this is inaccessible to the senses of man and animals.

Shortly before Democritus, Empedocles taught that matter can be in a very rarefied state (air is a substance that occupies a very large space) and cannot be directly detected by the senses. And Anaxagoras, mixing a drop of white and black liquid, showed that we do not comprehend minor changes to a certain limit, therefore, feelings are inaccurate, although not entirely erroneous witnesses of reality. Democritus is even closer to understanding the threshold of sensations. Sense organs are so arranged that they perceive only things, whole conglomerates of atoms, and those properties that arise from their combinations, as well as from the interaction of objects with the senses. So, for example, there is no sharp taste in nature, but it appears in perception and in “opinion”, when a substance composed mainly of atoms of acute, angular shape acts on the senses. Color depends on the rotation of atoms, etc. Thus, warm and cold, color, taste and smell exist “in opinion”, and “in truth” – atoms and emptiness.

So, thinking cannot reveal truths without feelings, and sensual feelings are deceptive, they obscure it. Hence the difficulty of knowing the truth. This Democritus expressed, using the dictum, which has long been used in popular speech and literature, and then went into the saying: “the truth is hidden in the depths” or “at the bottom of a deep well.” This maxim expresses the difficult path to truth, and does not indicate agnosticism, which many idealistic historians of philosophy ascribe to Democritus.

Democritus justified the difficulty of knowledge as the individual properties of each person. According to Sextus Empiricus, who in every way exaggerates skeptical moments in the philosophy of predecessors, Democritus said: that reacts to this influx. ” The formulation of the question of the role of the subject in knowledge was also fruitful in the development of philosophy and, in fact, correct. But this, to some extent, brought Democritus closer to Protagoras, which was the reason for many idealistic interpreters of Democritus’s philosophy to attribute agnosticism to him and reject objective truth. However, in the teachings of Democritus and Protagoras there was a significant difference: according to Protagoras, there is no criterion for distinguishing between truth and falsehood; a person, both as a collective and as an individual, is the measure of all things, moreover, it was his sensual perception of the surrounding that was meant; Democritus, on the other hand, had a different point of view: “For all people, the same good and truth, but one is pleasant to one thing, another to another”, i.e. he limited the purely subjective side of knowledge. Protagoras, like Democritus, recognized the basis of being real “fluid matter.” But Democritus, moreover, considered the real world, consisting of atoms, the basis of sensations; he declared the existence of atoms to be truly true and did not doubt this truth, for it explained the whole nature, its formation, structure, this truth did not contradict, but, on the contrary, confirmed the data of sensory experience.

The teaching of Democritus on the relationship of mind and feelings in the process of knowledge was a great achievement of ancient philosophy. This relationship was understood, in fact, as the unity of opposites.

Place of Democritus in the history of philosophy

The materialism of Democritus was of great importance for antiquity. For two centuries after the death of the philosopher, there was controversy over the materialistic system of the great thinker from Abder. Many prominent scientists considered themselves followers of this materialist of the ancient world; among them were such philosophers as Epicurus (342–270 BC) and Lucretius Kar (99–55 BC).

Thus, the most diverse schools of materialists existed in ancient Greece; their development is mainly associated with the progress of philosophical and scientific thought in Greece.

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