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Democritus on social and psychological harm

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Chapter Summary

One might take the view that at least within some general areas of philosophical thought, Democritus did take a systematic line. It seems clear that, despite various particular difficulties of reconstruction or interpretation, Democritus’ physics and epistemology were intended to form a coherent body of thought. Democritus can be offered a coherent and consistent account of the effects of crime and other forms of harm and their social and political importance. This chapter suggests in turn a tantalising clue to a possible interconnection between Democritus’ ethical and political thoughts and his psychological theories and the famous doctrine of atomic emanations, or eidola. Democritus cites the presence of ‘ancestral laws’ as support for his recommendation. Democritus was able to offer a physical, atomist account of the mechanism of interpersonal psychic harm.

Keywords: Democritus; eidola ; psychological harm; social harm



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