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Out of touch: Philoponus as source for Democritus

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Chapter Summary

There is also solid evidence that the principle of ‘like to like’ played an important part in Democritus’ physics. Atomic motion, such as the formation of compounds consisting of atoms of the same shape and more or less the same size, may therefore be explained by attraction, and attraction also explains why they stay together. Philoponus says that fire atoms are spherical, and that water happens to consist of cubical atoms. Spherical atoms because of their swiftness are the cause of fire and of our perception of heat. This chapter concludes that the early Atomists believed that the very small atoms are so hard that, when colliding and briefly striking each other with great force, they cannot fuse at the split second of physical contact because of this density and solidity and because of the great velocity of their movements.

Keywords: atomic motion; Democritus’ physics; Philoponus



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