March 29, 2011

Atomism took some nerve.

So, atomism.  Yes, this is something that I think about even though it was proven obsolete This is an ancient Greek concept for the makeup of objects and substances and such. It's generally attributed to Democritus, and sometimes also his alleged teacher Leucippus, but I don't recall ever reading anything written by Leucippus, and from what I've retained of my ancient philosophy course there may be some question about his existence.

Because all of this ancient Greek business happened before the sciences were well-defined, all of the math and sciences fell under the "Philosophy" umbrella, which makes sense because the majority of folks working on any kind of science were mainly sitting around thinking about things.

An atom was originally posited to be the smallest possible particle, and therefore indivisible.  A series of other philosophers added onto this basic concept with thoughts on the different types of atoms to explain different substances (hint: they were all wrong).

I feel like this kind of speculation is both foolish and commendable, in that it requires a lot of guts/balls/gumption/whatever to hypothesize about the physical world without any means of proof or references other than analogy, and perhaps knowing that somebody else would eventually be able to see what the facts were (what sorts of tiny things there were, how they fit together, etc.) 

Of course, you might respond to me with the idea that any philosophical speculation is in exactly the same precarious position.  I would however, have to draw the line between theorizing on the physical world versus theorizing on more abstract concepts (e.g. ethics, epistemology, etc).
While there may in fact be a future invention to objectively measure, say, a full catalog of what someone knows, I must say that as it has not yet come about, it requires (required?) a great deal more planning than, say, the tools that allowed for the first inspection of an actual atom.  

To clarify, I will run with the epistemological issue.  I find myself concerned with the added difficulty of the jump from brain composition to composition of thoughts, which may be a speed bump in solving that particular problem, or may turn out to be insurmountable.  These potential barriers lead me to believe that we may be arguing these topics forever, though Democritus probably thought that his concerns were just as murky and unanswerable.

(Note: I'm really going to post more again.  I had a pretty strange Winter, but I'm back.)

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