Known as “the Laughing Philosopher.” 460?-370? BC
Greek philosopher who developed one of the first atomist theories of the universe and espoused the doctrine that pleasure, along with self-control, is the goal of human life.
From Ancient Greek Δημόκριτος (Dēmokritos).
- In the theory of Atomism taught by Leucippus and Democritus we have the basis of the modern mechanical conceptions of cosmic evolution.
- Yet, in falling back, with a difference, upon the atomism of Democritus, Epicurus had to face some questions of logic. In the inference from phenomena to further phenomena positive verification must be insisted on.
- The fragments that remain of the moral treatises of Democritus are sufficient, perhaps, to convince us that the turn of Greek philosophy in the direction of conduct, which was actually due to Socrates, would have taken place without him, though in a less decided manner; but when we compare the Democritean ethics with the post-Socratic system to which it has most affinity, Epicureanism, we find that it exhibits a very rudimentary apprehension of the formal conditions which moral teaching must fulfil before it can lay claim to be treated as scientific.
- Thus the pseudo-Democritus, who was reputed the author of the Physica et Mystica, which itself concludes each of its receipts with a magical formula, was believed to have travelled in Chaldaea, and to have had as his master Ostanes l the Mede, a name mentioned several times in the Leiden papyrus, and often by early Christian writers such as Tertullian, St Cyprian and St Augustine.
- The treatises are nearly all anterior to the 7th century, and most appear to belong to the 3rd and 4th centuries; some are the work of authentic authors like Zosimus and Synesius, while of others, such as profess to be written by Moses, Democritus, Ostanes, &c., the authorship is clearly fictitious.