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Between Atoms and Humours. Lucretius’ Didactic Poetry as a Model of Integrated and Bifocal Physiology

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Chapter Summary

Lucretius has often been regarded as one of the fathers of modern science. This chapter analyses the importance of the poet's 'eclectic' attitude in physiology from the point of view of his Fortleben in early modern thought. It suggests that the typical eclectic combination of physics and biology, atomism and macroscopy, which the De rerum natura shows in its didactic structure both through its images and through its conscious scientific reflection, built an attractive basis for attempts in the modern period at harmonising corpuscularian theories and qualitative doctrines. In order to appreciate this dialectic relationship the chapter opens with a discussion of Lucretius' own versatile use of vitalism and biology, referring especially to the Peripatetic tradition and then goes on to consider the influence of such a powerful model, which for the sake of argument is called bifocal and integrative, on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century authors like Fracastoro, Telesio and Bruno.

Keywords:atomism; bifocal physiology; biology; De rerum natura; didactic poetry; Lucretius; modern science; physics



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