Plutarch against Colotes on Democritus’ νόμω‐Thesis

Eleni Kechagia

in Plutarch Against Colotes

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199597239
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731495 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Classical Monographs

Plutarch against Colotes on Democritus’ νόμω‐Thesis

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This chapter examines in detail Plutarch's arguments in response to Colotes' criticism of the well-known Democritean thesis that everything other than atoms and the void is what it is ‘by convention’. Colotes took Democritus' thesis to imply eliminitativism and claimed that such a philosophical view makes life impossible to live. Whilst acknowledging that Democritus' thesis leads to absurd consequences, Plutarch still turns the tables on Colotes: he convincingly argues that, despite its attempt to diverge from Democritus' materialist ontology by highlighting the objective reality of sensible qualities, Epicurean atomism ultimately fails to give the explanations necessary to escape the eliminativist corollaries of the atomic theory. Plutarch provides an insightful critique of atomism and highlights the atomists' general difficulty to conjure up a wholly new being out of material, unaffected, and qualityless primary entities.

Keywords: atomism; atoms; by convention; Democritus eliminativism; materialist ontology; objective reality; primary entities; sensible qualities; void

Chapter.  15458 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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