History of Democritus: philosopher with an atomistic vision

Without a doubt, one of the most influential Greek thinkers in history is Democritus, who is considered by many to be the father of physics, and even of modern science. Democritus's main contribution to the sciences was the conception of the universe as a structure made up of emptiness and atoms, and nothing else.

Among the most peculiar characteristics of this Greek thinker is the skeptical view of him in general. For Democritus the truth of things was not on the surface, but in the depths of knowledge; therefore, according to Democritus, humanity knew nothing about the universe and everything around us.

Life of Democritus

This Greek mathematician and philosopher was born in 470 BC. C. approximately in Abdera, a city located towards the north of Greece. Democritus was also known as Abderita, probably due to his origin.

From a very young age he had access to theological and astrological knowledge, and in his youth he made many trips to Egypt, Babylon, Ethiopia, Persia, Mesopotamia and India in response to his concerns and his motivation to obtain knowledge.

In historical records he is described as a man with a certain extravagance and an easy laugh, in fact he is known as the laughing philosopher: for him the most important thing in life was to maintain joy.

The philosopher Leucippus of Miletus was the main influence of Democritus, he was his teacher and co-founder of the atomist school. The influence of this and his own studies led him to determine that both the void and the atoms correspond to the beginning of all things that exist.

Democritus is believed to have died in 370 BC. C. approximately exceeding one hundred years of age; some sources indicate that he died voluntarily.

Main contributions of Democritus

Atomist theory

Following the guidelines of Leucippus, his teacher, Democritus determined that matter was a mixture of compounds that are eternal and immutable, which he called atoms. According to Democritus, atoms are indivisible, invisible and homogeneous, and the different forms of grouping in matter determine its properties.

Likewise, Democritus determined another component that is part of everything that exists: the void. This basically corresponds to the space in which the atoms move, which allows them to be differentiated from others.

Mathematical theorems

Another area developed by Democritus was mathematics. Two theorems related to the volumes of cones and pyramids are attributed to this thinker.

According to Democritus's first theorem, the volume of a cone is equivalent to one-third the volume of a cylinder whose height and base are equal.

On the other hand, Democritus' second theorem indicates that the volume of a pyramid corresponds to one third of the volume of a prism with an equivalent base and height.

On nature and vision

Much of the work carried out by Democritus has to do with the natural world, especially with minerals and plants.

Likewise, Democrit backed the emission theory, according to which the eyes project small particles through which objects can be recognized, and thus vision arises.

Democritus considered himself adverse to empiricism, since his explanations of phenomena were based on logic and rationality. According to this thinker, reason constitutes the most important knowledge, since from there the essence of things can be understood.

On politics and art

For Democritus, both politics and the State are fundamental for societies. He advocated the generation of harmony even in times of war and believed that criminals should be punished with the death penalty.

As for art, for Democritus culture and its evolution were very important. He considered that art was a consequence of the human being's ability to imitate nature and that the ultimate goal of art was pleasure.


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