Lucretius: On the Nature of Things (Loeb Classical Library No. 181) (Bks. 1-6)

Lucretius: On the Nature of Things  (Loeb Classical Library No. 181) (Bks. 1-6) - 'Titus Lucretius Carus',  'W.H.D. Rouse',  'M.F. Smith' If I were to try to prove that time machines were possible, this is the book I would submit as exhibit one for my evidence. There is really no other explanation for this book than the fact that Richard Feynman had built a time machine and had the opportunity to talk with Lucretius for one hour (but no more) and explain to him what he (Feynman) has said is the most important statement he could say in the fewest words, "that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another".

Lucretius gets the concept. I once learned a long time ago that to understand the universe one must understand entropy, and nobody really understands entropy. There are many ways we explain entropy the most succinct is "heat always goes to cold", or another is "order goes to disorder", and Lucretius clearly gets those two explanations better than most modern people. Technically the real definition of entropy involves Boltzmann's constant, a temperature and a rearrangement of possible states, but that doesn't really let one understand what entropy is but just defines it.

Lucretius uses the language of his time period, with abstract thinking, and the belief that everything is made up of atoms in motion but repelling upon being squeezed into one another and is able to get at the essence of reality better than most modern people do.

It's clear why this book was suppressed by the superstitious and myth believers of various religious tribes. The arguments made for using reason instead of pretending to know things you don't know (i.e. faith) in understanding are devastating and even when they might be wrong they are better than citing authority based on nothing but faith.

Lucretius hits it out of the ball park on many things. His explanation and effects about outer space, pre-explaining Newton's optics, physics and gravity in terms that are remarkably spot on, and his discussion of the nature of the human senses as all being separate attributes of nature as perceived by humans and can be explained by 'everything is made of atoms'. (I've just read Spinoza's Ethics and Lucretius' discussion on the five senses gave me insight into Spinoza's "one substance" and its infinite attributes of that substance but only two are known by us, extension (body) and thinking (mind), but each are separate but reside with in the one substance (God or Nature depending on how you read Spinoza).

It's clear why Thomas Jefferson had multiple copies of this book in his library, because in 1800 what was said in this book was vastly superior to what was being preached by others. I would say that no myth believer could appreciate this book and its incredibly brilliant spin on the essence of reality.

A point or two: Democritus has the atom part correct hundreds of years before Lucretius, but he doesn't know how to take it further. Epicurus has a philosophy built around pursuit of pleasure (of the contemplative type) and avoidance of pain (of any kind), but leaves the essence of reality alone. Lucretius doesn't dwell too much on ethics except a couple of statements to the effect that learning about the world and its true nature is our highest calling. What he does do is writes a book that destroys the Gods, demonstrates (he says proves) that the after life is a fairy tale best left for children and sets about explaining the world better than any other single writer until Newton comes along. That is no mean feat. (Yes, Copernicus takes the earth out of the center of the Universe, and Lucretius is wrong regarding the firmament, but Lucretius touches about everything with in nature and gives a marvelous way to think about them. It takes Newton (or perhaps Galileo) to get it as well.