« PreviousContinue »
the world, that many of the phenomena of the universe CHAP. are far more intelligibly explained by matter and motion than by substantial forms and real qualities, few free and unprejudiced minds do now scruple. But because these little particles of matter may give a tolerable account of many appearances of nature, that therefore there should be nothing else but matter and motion in the world, and that the origin of the universe should be from no wiser principle than the casual concourse of these atoms, is one of the evidences of the proneness of men's minds to be intoxicated with those opinions they are once in love with; when they are not content to allow an hypothesis its due place and subserviency to God and providence, but think these atoms have no force at all in them, unless they can extrude a Deity quite out of the world; for it is most evident that it was not so much the truth, as the serviceableness of this hypothesis, which hath given it entertainment among men of atheistical spirits. Epicurus himself, in his Epistle to Pythocles, urgeth that as a considerable circumstance in his opinion, that he brought no God down upon the stage to put things in order, και η θεία φύσις προς ταύτα μηδαμή προσαγέσθω, which Diog. Laer. his paraphrast Lucretius hath thus rendered :
Nequaquam nobis divinitus esse paratam
Naturam rerum. If this opinion then be true, the history of the creation quite falls to the ground; on which account we are obliged more particularly to consider the reason of it. The hypothesis then of Epicurus is, that before the world was brought into that form and order it is now in, there was an infinite empty space, in which were an innumerable company of solid particles, or atoms of different sizes and shapes, which by their weight were in continual motion ; and that by the various
1. x. p. 290. Lucret. de Nat. v.199. II.
Euseb. Præp. Evang.
not. in Senec. de Provid.
BOOK occursions of these, all the bodies of the universe were
framed into that order they now are in. Which is fully expressed by Dionysius in Eusebius, and very
agreeably to the sense of Epicurus, in his Epistles to eskiz : 23. Herodotus and Pythocles, and to what Plutarch rede Placitis ports of the sense of Epicurus, though he names him Phil. 1. i. not, (if at least that book be his, which Muretus deMuret . An-nies. The words of Dionysius are these, concerning
the Epicureans, οι μεν γαρ ατόμους προσείποντες άφθαρτά τινα και σμικρότατα σώματα, πλήθος ανάριθμα, και τι χωρίον κενόν, μέγεθος απεριόριστον προβαλόμενοι, ταύτας δή φασι τας ατόμους ως έτυχεν εν τω κενό φερομένας, αυτομάτως τε συμπιπτούσας αλλήλαις διά ρύμην άτακτον και συμπλεκομένας διά το πολύσχημον, αλλήλων επιλαμβάνεσθαι, και ούτω τόν τε κόσμον, και τα εν αυτώ, μάλλον δε κόσμους απείρους αποτελεϊν. So that, according to this opinion, all the account we have of the origin of the world is from this general rendezvous of atoms in this infinite space; in which, after many encounters and facings about, they fell into their several troops, and made up that ordered battalia which now the world is the scheme of. It was not imprudently done of Epicurus to make the worlds infinite, as well as his space and atoms; for by the same reason that his atoms would make one world, they might make a thousand ; and who would spare for worlds, when he might make them so easily? Lucretius gives us in so exact an account of the several courses the atoms took up in disposing themselves into bodies, as though he had been muster-master general at the rendezvous ; for thus he speaks of his atoms :
Lucret. i. 1023. ed. Oxon.
Sed quia multimodis, multis, mutata, per omne
Id. v. 423
And more particularly afterwards :
Sed quia multa modis multis primordia rerum
et in taleis venere meatus, Qualibus hæc rerum genitur nunc summa novando.
Thus we see the substance of the Epicurean hypothe-
For those two things which make any principles in philosophy to be rejected, this atomical hypothesis is unavoidably charged with; and those are, If the principles be taken up without sufficient ground in reason for thein ; and if they cannot give any sufficient account of the phenomena of the world. I shall therefore make it appear, that this hypothesis, as to the
BOOK origin of the universe, is, first, merely precarious, and
built on no sufficient grounds of reason ; secondly, that it cannot give any satisfactory account of the origin of things.
1. That it is a precarious hypothesis, and hath no evidence of reason on which it should be taken up; and that will be proved by two things. 1. It is such an hypothesis as the Epicureans themselves could have no certainty of, according to their own principles. 2. That the main principles of the hypothesis itself are repugnant to those catholic laws of nature which are observed in the universe.
1. The Epicureans, according to their own principles, could have no certainty of the truth of this hypothesis. And that, 1. Because they could have no certain evidence of its truth. 2. Because their way of proving it was insufficient.
1. That they could have no certain evidence of the truth of it, I prove from those criteria, which Epicurus lays down as the only certain rules of judging the truth of things by; and those were, sense, anticipation, and passion. Let sense be never so infallible a rule of judgment, yet it is impossible there should be any evidence to sense of the truth of this hypothesis ; and let him extend his tò mpoo ulevólevov as long as he please, which was his great help for correcting the errors of sense, viz. as it was in the Roman court, when the case was not clear, ampliandum est: so Epicurus would have the object represented every way it could be before he passed his judgment; yet this prudent caution would do him no good for this hypothesis, unless he were so wise as to stay till this world were crumbled into atoms again, that by that he might judge of the origin of it. There is but one way left to find out the truth of things inevident to sense, (as by
Epicurus's own confession all these atoms are, which CHAP. are now the component particles of bodies; much more those which by their fortuitous concourse gave being to the world,) and that is, if something evident to sense doth apparently prove it, which is his way of proving a vacuity in nature from motion : but though that be easily answered by principles different from those of Epicurus, and more rational, yet that very way of probation fails him in this present hypothesis. For what is there evident to sense which proves a fortuitous concourse of atoms for the production of things? Nay, if we grant him that the composition of bodies is nothing else but the contexture of these insensible particles, yet this is far from being an evidence to sense, that these particles, without any wise and directing Providence, should make up such bodies as we see in the world. And here, when we speak of the evidence of sense, we may well ask, as the Stoic in Tully doth, whether ever Epicurus found a poem made by the casual throwing of letters together; and if a concourse of atoms did produce the world, cur porticum, cur Cicero de templum, cur domum, cur urbem non potest? why 1. ii. did it never produce a cloister, a temple, a house, a city? which are far easier things than the world. I know Epicurus will soon reply, That things are otherwise in the world now than when it was first produced. I grant it, and from thence prove, that because no such thing ever happens in the world now, as a merely casual concourse of atoms to produce any thing, Epicurus could have no evidence from sense at all to find out the truth of his hypothesis by. And as little relief can he find from his second criterium, viz. anticipation ; for by his own acknowledgment all an- V. Gassend. ticipation depends on the senses, and men have it only Epicuri
. one of these four ways. 1. By incursion, as the species c. 7. can. 7.
Op. tom. i.