Atomism's Eleatic Roots

David Sedley

in The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780195146875
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


Atomism's Eleatic Roots

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Presocratic atomism was one of the most influential of the early theories: both Plato and Aristotle thought of it as a major competing theory, and it was an important source for post-Aristotelian Hellenistic theories. It has been commonplace that the atomism developed first by Leucippus of Abdera and then by Democritus of Abdera was a reaction to the Eleatic arguments of Zeno and Melissus, but the details of that influence have sometimes seemed rather hazy. This article brings them into sharper focus. This article considers the Eleatic foundations of atomism, especially the question of the importance of Zeno and Melissus for Democritus. By concentrating on some of the less-studied aspects of atomism and especially of the development of the concept of the unlimited into the notion of the infinite, it furthers the understanding of not only the development of early atomism but also the Eleatics Zeno and Melissus.

Keywords: Presocratic atomism; Plato; Aristotle; post-Aristotelian Hellenistic theories; Democritus

Article.  14567 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Philosophy of Science

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