Monday, October 29, 2007


Lucretius

Book I opens with the invocation of the goddess Venus. He then asserts that his philosophy will deliver man from the pernicious effects of religion. At 159 he makes a denial of the doctrine of creation ex nihil. His reasoning is that if things came from nothing then they will have no fixity of form and any species can beget any other species.

Lucretius also spends a great deal of time here with the idea that there is a mixture of matter and void. His terminology is slightly different, but in essence he’s talking about matter here.

I find Lucretius, at least in the translation that I’m using, not very congenial to my taste, so I probably won’t blog in as much detail as I did when I was blogging about Aristotle.

November 1, 2007—Book II largely address the concept of matter. If I understand it correctly, Lucretius believes that there is an infinite supply of matter, but that what determines the properties of objects is the shape of the atoms (“first beginnings”) that make up the objects.

November 5, 2007—Book III is mainly concerned with the soul and the senses. If I understand the text correctly, Lucretius believes that the soul is made of matter, but it is somewhat more subtle and refined than the matter of our bodies. The soul, however, is mortal, and dies with the body.

In the opening of Book IV I think there are signs that Lucretius has not been getting the response he’s looking for from his would-be patron. I get the feeling that Lucretius is offering his own self-affirmation. This looks like a positive feedback loop that is in danger of spiraling out of control, and may point to his alleged madness. Lucretius spends most of the book on expounding his theory of vision, and concludes with some ruminations on love and sex.

November 8, 2007—Book V breaks into two parts. The first part deals with the heavens and heavenly bodies. The second part deals with the development of society. This book, in my view, is not terribly interesting.

I should be able to finish up tomorrow, and then move on to Aristotle and the Metaphysics.

November 15, 2007—It’s been a week since I last blogged about Lucretius. I’m sure that the one or two people who read this have been waiting with bated breath for the latest installment, so here goes. I’ve been busy getting ready for a visit from my son for Thanksgiving, and haven’t gotten much reading done.

Book VI deals primarily with meteorology, and to some extent geology. Lucretius recognizes that lightning is associated solely with storm clouds. He also observes that there is a difference in the intervals between observing the lightning flash, and hearing the thunder. So he has the idea that there is a difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound, but he doesn’t have any idea of the relative difference between the speeds.

He attributes vulcanism to winds in caverns under volcanoes. He appears to be on the right track with regard to magma chambers, which do exist under volcanoes, but of course is completely off base with the wind idea.

He concludes by describing the plague at Athens. He attributes it to something in the air, and provides a detailed description of the plague mentioned by Thucydides.

Next up is Aristotle’s Metaphysics. After that I’m going to break for Faulkner. I’ll be doing the first volume from the LOA Faulkner set, Soldiers Pay, Mosquitoes, A Flag in the Dust (Sartoris), The Sound and the Fury.

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