Boo the Cat. 1987-2002.
Alexander Ross (1652) Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chapter 17, pp. 185-188.
Epicurus his Atomes rejected by nineteen reasons.
BEcause the Doctor speaks oftentimes in his Book of Epicurean Atomes,1 which first were hatched in the brains of Leucippus, then entertained by Democritus, and by him recommended to his Scholar Epicurus; and because some giddy heads of this age loathing wholsome doctrine, desire to embrace any trash, like women troubled with the Pica, who preferre ashes, chalk, coals, tarre, and such like stuffe, to nourishing meats. I will propose to the Readers view, the absurdities of this whimsical opinion concerning Atomes, that they may see how little reason there is to fil young brains with phantosms, and to reject Aristotles wholsome and approved Doctrine of Principles. The inventers of these Atomes at first, out of a vain-glory that they might seem singular, rejected the common received principles of naturall Bodies, obtruding on the World their idle dreams; which are greedily embraced by the vain-glorious wits of this age, but upon what grounds let us see: 1. Either many bodies are made up of one atome, or one body of many atomes. But neither are true; not the first, because an atome is indivisible; not the second, because they cannot unite together in respect of vacuity in which they are distant from each other. 2. It is a maxime among them (saith Aristotle) That there is no passibility but by the means of vacuity. Now atomes have no vacuity in them, because they make them solid, therefore they are not subject to passibility; it will follow then, that where there is no passion, there can be no action; for passion is the reception of action, and therefore where no patient it, there no agent can be, because that is wanting on which the agent should act. Hence it will follow, that where there is no action and passion, there can be no generation. 3. There can be no action where there is no contrariety; but contrary qualities are not in atomes: for Leucippus (as Aristotle saith) placed heat in them, but not cold; hardnesse, but not softnesse; gravity, but not levity. 4. These Atomists contradict themselves: for they hold their atomes impassible, and yet place in them degrees of qualities, making some heavier then others; by which it will follow, that some atomes are hotter then others, and consequently they cannot act one upon another: For the greater heat acts upon the lesser, as the stronger upon the weaker. 5. If compounded bodies are made up of atomes, then the qualities which are in these bodies, were first in the atomes, or were not; if not, whence have compounded bodies their qualities, being they are not in their principles? If they are in atomes, either they are singly, so that in each atome there is but one quality, as frigidity in one, hardnesse in another; or else there be divers qualities in one atome. If the first be granted, then it will follow, that each atome hath a different nature from the other, and so no possibility for reception of the quality of another, and consequently no action; if the second be granted, then it will follow that atomes are divisible: for there must be one part for reception of one quality, and another part for the other quality. There must be also besides, integrall parts, matter and form, act, and passibility, which we call essentiall parts; so will it follow, that atomes are compounded bodies, which cannot be principles. 6. The uniting of these atomes must be either by themselves, or by another; if by another, then they are passible, which is repugnant to Democritus; if by themselves, then they are divisible into parts, to wit, into the parts moving, and the parts moved: For nothing can move it selfe; because contrarieties cannot be in the same thing secundum idem. 7. They make some of the atomes to be soft; it will follow then, that some of them are passive: for soft things are apt to receive impressions, and so to suffer. 8. If these atomes be smooth and round, as some will have them, they can no more unite to make up a mixt body, then so many small seeds or grains, which onely make up a body aggregate, as a heap of stones; but if they be rough, cornerd, or hooked, as others say, then they are divisible, and so not atomes. 9. If there be innumerable worlds, as Epicurus holds, and innumerable atomes must concurre to make up any one of these Worlds, how many innumerable atomes are there to make up innumerable Worlds? There must needs be more atomes then Worlds, and consequently degrees of more and lesse in innumerability and infinity, then which nothing can be more absurd. 10. If all things are made of atomes, to what end was seed given to vegetables and animals for procreation? What needs the Husbandman sow corn, or the Gardiner cast his seeds into the ground? What needs he dig or plow, plant, & water, whereas all fruits, herbs and plants, can be produced by atoms? Birds, saith Lactantius, need not lay eggs, nor sit upon them for procreation, seeing of atomes both eggs and bird can be produced. 11. The souls and their faculties are made of finer and smaller atomes then the bodies which are compounded of a grosser sort. It must then follow they have degrees and magnitude, and consequently divisibility. 12. Those atomes have neither knowledge, reason, wisdome, nor counsell, and yet can produce by hap-hazard, worlds and all things in them, which neither Men nor Angels can effect by their wisdom. 13. If the statue or picture of a man cannot be effected, but by art, reason, & wisdom, what impudency is it, saith Lactantius, to affirm man himselfe by chance to be made, or by a temerarious and fortuitall conglobation of atomes. 14. We see the World and the creatures therein governed, not temerariously, but by an admirable providence and wisdome, how then can any imagine these should be made by chance, and not by wisdome. 15. I would know whether Towns, Castles, Temples, Ships, & other buildings, are made up of atomes? If these are not, how shall we believe that celestiall or sublunary bodies, or the whole World should be made of them. 16. When Epicurus gives to his atomes magnitude, figure and weight, hee makes them perfect bodies, and consequently unapt for Physical mixtion: For the uniting of perfect bodies makes up an aggregative body; so that in the generation of bodies there is no mixtion but aggregation, which is ridiculous. 17. Hee gives figures to his atomes, and yet makes them invisible, which is a plain Bull and contradiction: For an invisible figure is like an invisible colour, an inaudible sound, an inodorable smell, an ungustible sapor, an untangible hardnesse. To make the senses proper objects insensible, is a senselesse toy. 18. He makes his atomes move downward in a straight line, by reason of their gravity; but fearing lest by this motion there would never be any concurring of them for generation, he assignes them in another motion, which he calls declination, and so to one simple invisible indivisible body, he gives two motions, but tells us not the cause of this motion of declination, which as Tully saith, argues his grosse ignorance in Natural Philosophy: For I would know whether this motion be from an internal or external cause; not from an internall, for there is no other internal cause of the atomes motion downward, but gravity, which cannot produce two motions; the cause cannot be external, because Epicurus his Gods doe not move or work at all: Beside that, his Gods are also of atomes, as Cicero shews. 19. Most ridiculously did he invent this motion of Declination, lest he should seem to deprive man of his liberty of will: For he thought mans will must be necessitated, if those atomes of which the the soul is made, should have no other motion but downward, which is a naturall and necessary motion. And by the same means also he took away Fate or providence. Thus have I briefly touched the absurdities of this opinion, which is so hugged, and greedily swallowed without chewing, by some unsetled and vain-glorious men, nor regarding the dangerous consequences arising thence, nor the impiety of the Authour, being both an Atheist and a prophane wanton, and unsetled in his opinions, saying and unsaying at his pleasure: For when he saw the envie and danger he had brought upon himselfe by his impious Dictates, he sweetens them a little in effect, as Tully saith, denying all Divinity, and yet in words allowing Divine Worship, which is most ridiculous: to pray and praise, to feare and love, to serve and worship such Gods as neither love nor hate us, such as take no notice of our good and evill, such as have no relation to us, nor we to them. So he palliates sometimes his swinish pleasures with the delights of the mind, clothing a foul Strumpet with the habit of a modest Matron; whereas by the delight of the minde, he meant nothing else but mentall thoughts, or the delightfull remembrance of his fleshly pleasures, which we leave to him and his Disciples, Epicuri de grege porcu.
1. Not so very often; see Pseudodoxia II.i, II.ii, II.iv, II.vii, III.xxi, etc., for the various uses of "atom". Ross needs this chapter as underpinning for his arguments in the following chapters. As his use of authorities is (as usual) suspect, I shall not makes notes to the alleged sources. On early atomist theory, there are many good pages on the web; see, for instance, John Burnet: Early Greek Philosophy -- Leucippus of Miletus; The Atomist Philosophy of Leucippus and Democritus; The Atomism of Democritus
This page is by James Eason