Monday, October 3, 2011

The Swerve

Excellent review in yesterday's Times by Montaigne biographer Sarah Bakewell, on a new account of ancient atomism in Lucretius (and before him Democritus and Epicurus)...

The Swerve - How the World Became Modern - By Stephen Greenblatt - Book Review -
“What human beings can and should do is to conquer their fears, accept the fact that they themselves and all the things they encounter are transitory, and embrace the beauty and the pleasure of the world.”
Montaigne, too, was a fan of ancient atomism. He scooped Nietzsche on eternal recurrence:

“Since the movements of the atoms are so varied, it is not unbelievable that the atoms once came together in this way, or that in the future they will come together like this again, giving birth to another Montaigne.”

In a separate review, Dwight Garner finds a Woody Allen angle and adds that for Lucretius
“there is no master plan, no divine architect, no intelligent design.” Religious fear, Lucretius thought, long before there was a Christopher Hitchens, warps human life... living a full life include[s] friendship and philanthropy and fundamental happiness.
As for the atomism itself,
the philosopher George Santayana would call this “the greatest thought that mankind has ever hit upon.” 
Well, maybe... 'til Darwin had the best idea ever.

'via Blog this'

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