Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Of The Nature of Things [ebook]

Availability: Ready to download

"A Metrical Translation" xvi, 301 pages Translation into English Notes: Translation from the Latin of De rerum natura http://www.gutenberg.org/files/785/78... OCLC Number: 1891198 (OCoLC) 635554959


Compare
Ads Banner

"A Metrical Translation" xvi, 301 pages Translation into English Notes: Translation from the Latin of De rerum natura http://www.gutenberg.org/files/785/78... OCLC Number: 1891198 (OCoLC) 635554959

30 review for Of The Nature of Things [ebook]

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fergus

    ALL MATTER? NEVER MIND! -Bertrand Russell’s Grandmother (Mocking his Materialist Philosophy) When I was in my late teens I had a stunning Lucretian prise de conscience that utterly knocked the wind out of my youthful sails. It seemed the overwhelming answer to Eliot’s “overwhelming question.” Or was it really? Perhaps it is only the crass materialist’s non-workable answer to life’s big puzzle, I later reckoned, when my early Faith reappeared and took deep root - giving me a harbour of peaceful refuge ALL MATTER? NEVER MIND! -Bertrand Russell’s Grandmother (Mocking his Materialist Philosophy) When I was in my late teens I had a stunning Lucretian prise de conscience that utterly knocked the wind out of my youthful sails. It seemed the overwhelming answer to Eliot’s “overwhelming question.” Or was it really? Perhaps it is only the crass materialist’s non-workable answer to life’s big puzzle, I later reckoned, when my early Faith reappeared and took deep root - giving me a harbour of peaceful refuge from the materialists’ amoral typhoon. When the eminent American philosopher George Santayana was a green undergrad he carried a copy of Lucretius everywhere he went... So go figure. I think back then, at the dawn of the Twentieth Century, it was probably the now conveniently forgotten Loeb Classical Library - English and Latin on facing pages - that he packed in his vest pocket (yes, even Freshmen wore suits to classes in those days). Santayana, like Bertrand Russell though, was a dyed-in-the-wool member of the New Freethinkers, which is where it was at in American and European colleges for this New Generation. Bright young things all, as Evelyn Waugh waspishly muttered at the time, a more wary undergrad himself. “All the Fun of the Fair!” Sam Beckett would later rejoinder. Gaudeamus igitur Juvenes dum sumus! So it goes... What this new Brains Trust - and their young confederates around the world - were about to do of course, was... throw out the Baby with the Bathwater. Totally Dis tradition and all its values: all the accumulated wisdom, mystery, legends, and profound insights of our classical cultural heritage - and pave the way to our Shining Instant Society, with all its myriad Instant Gratifications... and build a shining highway to the Total Devaluation of Mankind. And I, of course as an undergrad thought Santayana was so incisive - until I read the Lucretius bit - and only much later cottoned to his game... So I DID finally read Lucretius (and no, it wasn’t this new jazzed-up translation). Yikes! Was this the Cult Classic of the great Santayana - who even had the temerity to gush over the mystical chorus at the end of Faust - this lengthy Latin lay written by a gregarious, morally bankrupt Roman Materialist? All this book does is sweep the table clean of the priceless family silverware and china plates - and replace it all with cheap plastic. Including the dying vision of that redeemed fallen hero Faust, the last gasp of our forgotten all-encompassing worldview. Plastic? In exchange for that great Western vision? Welcome to the Real World of smoke and mirrors, kids! We grow too soon old... And too late smart. Well, all that took place starting a hundred years ago, way before we were born - and you know what? If this Roman dude who crowned Aphrodite as queen of the world could see all the hordes of stressed-out happy-camper shoppers now, materialists just like him - He might finally see that on Aphrodite’s well-rutted road his philosophy has now constructed a dead end - to block and alienate idealistic dreamers - in a soulless neon jungle. Built on the cracked foundation of a dead empire’s empty materialism.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    First, an apology for only giving it three stars. I am well aware that this is a brilliant piece of poetry, but my Latin is very poor, and I rapidly abandoned my initial plan of reading it in the original with the English translation alongside. In a way, though, I'm following Lucretius's advice: he explicitly says at one point that it's wrong to allow yourself to be swayed by beautiful words, and you should judge an idea on its merits. Reading him in my barbarian's tongue is certainly one way to First, an apology for only giving it three stars. I am well aware that this is a brilliant piece of poetry, but my Latin is very poor, and I rapidly abandoned my initial plan of reading it in the original with the English translation alongside. In a way, though, I'm following Lucretius's advice: he explicitly says at one point that it's wrong to allow yourself to be swayed by beautiful words, and you should judge an idea on its merits. Reading him in my barbarian's tongue is certainly one way to do that. I have often debated the question of whether it is right to call atheism a religion, and with Lucretius it seems natural to argue that it is. The poem reminded me rather strongly of Dante - when I got to the bibliography, I was interested to see that Santayana had written a book comparing Lucretius, Dante and Goethe - but while Dante loves the One, Lucretius goes a step further and praises the Zero. His noble goal is to convince you that divine intervention is never required in order to explain what happens in the world, and that, if we just stop and and think carefully enough, we can liberate ourselves from irrational terror of the supernatural. Given that he's writing in the first century BC and science barely exists yet, this is ambitious indeed. But Lucretius has faith in his project; it's hard to avoid using the word. The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    Epicurian Physics 31 July 2013 Well, here I am, once again sitting in the passenger seat of my Dad's car on our final trek to Melbourne, and since I have been reading, sleeping, or driving for most of the day, I might as well fix up a couple of my reviews while I am sitting here (and since I have a smartphone, and my Dad has this adapter that allows me to plug my laptop into the cigarette lighter, I might as well make use of it – such are the benefits of having an electronic engineer as a father) Epicurian Physics 31 July 2013 Well, here I am, once again sitting in the passenger seat of my Dad's car on our final trek to Melbourne, and since I have been reading, sleeping, or driving for most of the day, I might as well fix up a couple of my reviews while I am sitting here (and since I have a smartphone, and my Dad has this adapter that allows me to plug my laptop into the cigarette lighter, I might as well make use of it – such are the benefits of having an electronic engineer as a father). Lucretius (I wonder if there is a connection with Star Trek) wrote this treatise on the natural world some time during the 2nd century BC. The period is important because it gives us an idea of the background in which the text was written. In a way it is probably one of the last ancient texts that have a scientific feel to it since most later philosophical texts (unless they dealt with medicine) focused mainly on ethics (with maybe the exception of Ptolemy), as opposed to scientific explanation (though there are probably a lot that have been lost). It wasn't until the renaissance that people began to once again question the nature of the world in which they lived. The reason behind this is probably two-fold. Firstly, there was no need for industrial development namely because the culture was a slave based culture. Who needed machines when you had slaves to do all of the menial tasks. This can actually be seen in the United States in the lead up to the civil war, as well as in England, because in the North, where slavery was illegal, there was a lot of industrial development, while in the South, where slavery was legal, the society was still very much an agrarian society. The second reason was simply that nobody saw a need to actually question the world around them. As far as anybody was concerned, if something happened, then it was because the gods had willed it to happen, and there was no need to venture beyond that (and even then, to suggest that the gods didn't exist, even in Rome, was nothing short of blasphemous). Lucretius wrote at an interesting time: it was after the decline of the Greek culture and during the rise of the Roman culture. Lucian wrote in Latin, but at this time Latin was still a very basic language, used mostly for trade and war. However the Greeks had already had a developed language that was being used much more culturally, which suggests that what Lucretius began was the slow morphing of the Latin language, as well as the Roman culture, into the culture that ended up producing the greats such as Cicero and Tacitus, among many others. Lucretius was not the first to write a treatise that was enquiring into the nature of the world. This had been begun centuries early, almost as early as the Seven Sages of antiquity. There were sages like Democritus who developed the idea of the atom, Aristotle who wrote treatises on zoology, and even Plato dabbled in writing a scientific treatise (not that there was a distinct field of study at the time because back then everything was philosophy). The person, however, who influenced Lucretius the most was a guy named Epicurus. Now, during this period there were three popular philosophies: the Epicurians, the Stoics, and the Cynics. I will describe these philosophies in a nutshell: Epicurians pretty much believe 'if it feels good, do it'; Stoics believe 'no pain, no gain'; and Cynics believes 'life sucks, and then you die'. Okay, that is probably being very basic description of each of these philosophies, but that is how I remember them. Mind you, we get the term stoic from the stoic philosophers, and the word cynic from the cynic philosophers. It is interesting to see how Lucretius understands the universe, and in a way there is a lot of what we understand in his ideas: such as the idea of the atom, that everything is made up of atoms, that there is space between the atoms which determines the hardness of the objects. We also know that Lucretius comes to his understandings through observation, something that is done very much today, however there is no well defined scientific method in the way that he performs his enquiries. Another aspect that we see is the idea of the vacuum, which Lucretius suggests is the space between the atoms. However his understanding of a vacuum is different to our understanding because he does not necessarily see the air as molacules. Because he can see anything (despite being able to feel wind, which demonstrates, at least to me, that there is something there) then he assumes that there is nothing there. Further there is no concept that nature abhors a vacuum. Lucretius seems to see everything in the form of atoms, though this is not unusual today in modern physics where certain elements have both wave and particle like properties, however we must remember that much of what Lucretius was writing about was little more than educated guesses. Basically he had come up with a theory, based on observation, and used this basis to try to explain everything. Light (and darkness) are particles that hit the eyes, which allows us to see. Sound is also made up of particles, however we note that he does not seem to understand the concept of waveforms. By saying this I refer to where he tries to understand why one can hear sound through solid objects. We know this because the sound hits the object causing the object to vibrate, which then causes the air behind the object to also vibrate and thus continue the sound wave. We also notice, interestingly, that his concept of colour comes, once again, from particles. An object has a certain colour because the particles on that object also have that colour. It is ideas like this that makes a typical modern like me baulk, namely because even though I may have only completed year 12 physics, I still remember quite a lot of it, and as such know that what he is suggesting is basically wrong. I know that an object has a certain colour because the object absorbs that particular part of the colour spectrum. However, Lucretius was not working from much because there was not all that much before him. In a way Lucretius is no different from the early scientists of the modern era in that much of what he was writing about were educated guesses, and it was only after further study and experimentation that we have come to understand that the beliefs of those that came before us were, well, wrong. Once again I point to the idea of light travelling as a wave. Many of us who do not understand, or have not been taught, advanced Physics believe that is the case, but those of us who know advanced Physics know that light can also travel as a particle (it's called a photon). The funny thing that I have noticed is how much of our science is still actually based on the findings of Lucretius. The wave particle duality of light aside, we still understand sight as working on the basis of things striking the retina in our eyes. Lucretius had an understanding that the eyes were more than simply windows, or doors, that allowed the brain to see out (namely because he points out that if you remove the eyes then, well, you can't see) but rather an integral part of how we see. The same goes with the idea of smell, that we smell things because particles drift into our nose which causes the nerves in our nose to react to the particle. While Lucretius may not have had a full understanding of the nervous system, he still understands the reactions and senses that are caused when the body feels pain. As for religion, I was going to suggest that Lucertius is a 'functional Athiest' namely that while he believed in the gods, he does not believe that they have any power or control over the way the universe functions. However I thought about this for a bit and realised that it is not that he is an Atheist, but more of what one would consider an ancient version of a Deist. The reason I say that is because he still believed in the polytheistic religion of the time, but responded in the same way to the gods that a modern Deist would respond to Christianity, namely that while God may exist, he has little or no influence, or care, over the operation of the universe in which we live. This brings me onto Lucretius' idea of the soul. He believes in the soul but not in its immortality. In fact he goes to great pains to demonstrate that before birth the soul, and the mind, of that particular individual, does not exist, and as such, after death the soul ceases to exist as well. Lucretius has no interest or time for theories and ideas relating to the afterlife (which is probably why he holds to the Epicurian idea of if it feels good, do it). In fact, he seems to think that the whole idea of the afterlife, and in particular Hades, is absurd (and spares no haste in pointing that out). As such, Lucretius does not believe in reincarnation either, so it is clear that his ideas are purely materialistic, in much the same way that modern materialism holds their beliefs. It is interesting to compare some of Lucretius' thoughts to the what modern evolutionists accept today. One of the things that I noted was Lucretius' ideas of the origins of various parts of the body, such as the limbs. The modern belief is that a need arose therefore the body adapted an organ to meet that need. However Lucretius holds the opposite view in that the organ exists prior to the need arising, and when the need became apparent, the body was able to meet that need with the limb. As such it appears that Lucretius is not an evolutionist (and the evolutionists claim that it is the Christians that are backward). Further, Lucretius believes in a young Earth, but his argument in this regard is incredibly flawed. His argument is that because there is no recorded history dating back before the Theban and Trojan wars then, ergo, there must not have been anything, therefore the Earth is young. Obviously he is not an anthropologist (nor has he read Herodotus, which I would find very surprising from such a learned person). Mind you, similar flawed reasonings (and educated guesses) are still made today in relation to the arguments verses the young Earth and old Earth theories. As for me, I find both postulations (namely, the Bible says the Earth is 6000 years old, therefore it must be so, to which I respond by saying, no it doesn't; and it is the best theory we have, so we might as well stick to it, to which I respond, but what if it is wrong) have their flaws. Mind you, Lucretius' section of cosmology seems to read more like an evolutionist's, in that it is suggested that he may have come up with something similar to the big bang theory thousands of years before modern science had postulated it. It seems that he believes, just as the modern cosmologist believes, that the universe began as a chaotic mess and that it was only through the collision of particles (which is the word that I feel obliged to use, because that is what I understand Lucretius' atom to be, though it is interesting that in the modern world we seem to continue to break this building block into smaller and smaller things – these days we have quarks, which are sub-subatomic particles). However, I also notice that Lucretius believes that the Earth is stationary and that the stars, sun, and moon, move around the Earth. In reponse to that, I wonder why the Catholic Church branded Galileo as a heretic when their ideas were actually taken from the pagans. Also, finally, it is interesting to see how he describes that lightning is caused by the collision of particles in the clouds (which themselves are made up of particles) and points to the sparks that are created when certain rocks are smashed together. Once again, it goes to show how many of Lucretius' theories came about through observation and educated guessing, which in many ways is how modern scientists come up with their theories.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Introduction Further Reading A Note on the Text and Translation Acknowledgements --The Nature of Things Notes Glossary of Proper Names

  5. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    The antiquity of this book calls for respect and appreciation. However, for a modern reader it is very boring to read. It's a long (300 pages) poem written in the first century BC in which the author pontificates about the physical sciences for the purpose of defending Epicureanism philosophy. It is of some interest for the modern reader to see where the author is correct and not so correct when judged from the perspective of modern science. However, Lucretius was a poet in his day, not a mathem The antiquity of this book calls for respect and appreciation. However, for a modern reader it is very boring to read. It's a long (300 pages) poem written in the first century BC in which the author pontificates about the physical sciences for the purpose of defending Epicureanism philosophy. It is of some interest for the modern reader to see where the author is correct and not so correct when judged from the perspective of modern science. However, Lucretius was a poet in his day, not a mathematician or noted natural philosopher, and thus he is not necessarily a qualified spokesperosn for his era's understanding of the physical universe. For example, in this poem Lucretius makes fun of the absurdity of people walking upside down on the other side of the earth. Well, it so happens that Eratosthenes of Cyrene who lived approximately 100 years before Lucretius calculated the circumference of the Earth (and tilt of the Earth's axis) to a remarkably level of accuracy. This is an example of the poet (Lucretius) not being the best spokesperson for the science of his day. The purpose of this poem was to explain to the Romans in Latin verse the ideas of Epicurus who lived approximately 300 years before Lucretius. Lucretius honors the teaching of Epicurus with the use of richly poetic language and metaphors. He presents the principles of atomism; the nature of the mind and soul; explanations of sensation and thought; the development of the world and its phenomena; and explains a variety of celestial and terrestrial phenomena. The universe described in the poem operates according to these physical principles guided by probability, not by the divine action of the traditional Roman deities. Most of what may be original and creative with regard to science contained in this book should probably be credited to Epicurus. Lucretius' role is to give it poetic form in Latin.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    The Nature of Things is a long narrative Latin poem which sets out Epicurean philosophy. This I read in an English prose translation. The Epicureans believed in atomic theory and so this aspect of the work feels most familiar and recognisably modern and one can be impressed that people through speculation, raw brain power, and idle after dinner conversations over olives and watered wine had a perception of reality very close to what scientists have achieved today after much experimentation and The Nature of Things is a long narrative Latin poem which sets out Epicurean philosophy. This I read in an English prose translation. The Epicureans believed in atomic theory and so this aspect of the work feels most familiar and recognisably modern and one can be impressed that people through speculation, raw brain power, and idle after dinner conversations over olives and watered wine had a perception of reality very close to what scientists have achieved today after much experimentation and great efforts and expenditures. Lucretius is also recognisable in his handling of the gods, the Epicureans were rather sceptical over the traditional stories of gods chasing each over about full of adulterous intent pausing only to swallow their own children, rape their nieces, aid mortals to abduct beautiful women and so on. On the other hand his teachings on the causes of winds (view spoiler)[ not the type due to human digestion (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ the meteorological variety are caused he teaches by subterranean caves collapsing (hide spoiler)] or dreams (view spoiler)[ much too curious for me to explain in a spoiler(view spoiler)[ even if I use nested spoilers(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] but he thinks something along the lines of things slough off an outer layer that permeate the mind and the combination of which produce dream images, as these outer layers can float about and collide, before physically drifting in through our eyes and catching on our brains, this is how we come up with ideas of centaurs (view spoiler)[or rainbow sparkly flying unicorns I suppose (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] seem all the odder by comparison. Despite which his rediscovery in the Renaissance made an impact by opening up new worlds of scepticism, doubt and atoms. The most impressive and moving section for me was towards the end when he describes the descent of man from the age of Gold, to the silver age to his own age of iron when men fight in armies and train animals as weapons of war, he wrote and died it seems just before the series of vicious civil wars which would give birth to Rome's Imperial era. I came to this book in a curious way, tempted by Brian Aldiss who bookends his Helliconia Trilogy with quotes from Lucretius which acted on my imagination as the taste of honey lures the child to drink the bitter wormwood medicine. Beware of reading and where it leads you!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Wow, this was a real surprise. Lucretius was just so shockingly ahead of his time. It's probably more important than Newton in terms of the sheer range of thought he originates. His conception of atomic theory is surprisingly accurate, down to recognizing that atoms are composed of about three different parts. He also figured out the law of conservation of matter, realized that the majority of matter is made up of empty space, recognized the basic principles of gravitation, heat, light, relativi Wow, this was a real surprise. Lucretius was just so shockingly ahead of his time. It's probably more important than Newton in terms of the sheer range of thought he originates. His conception of atomic theory is surprisingly accurate, down to recognizing that atoms are composed of about three different parts. He also figured out the law of conservation of matter, realized that the majority of matter is made up of empty space, recognized the basic principles of gravitation, heat, light, relativity, hell, he even realized that chaos and randomness played a role in atomic activity, several millennia before Heisenberg and Schrodinger. On top of that he tears down religious dogmatism as a means of understanding the natural world and replaces it with a system of secular observation and understanding, all while creating a totally original synthesis between hard science and humanism centuries before either would really be codified. Oh, and did I mention the whole fucking thing is a poem?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Matter, for sure, is not one solid mass Close packed together. We see that everything. Diminishes, and through the long lapse of time We note that all things seem to melt away As years and age withdraw them from our sight. And yet the sum of things stays unimpaired. This is because when particles are shed From a thing they diminish it as they leave it, And then increase the object that they come to. They make the one grow old, the other flourish, But do not linger there. The sum of things Is thus f Matter, for sure, is not one solid mass Close packed together. We see that everything. Diminishes, and through the long lapse of time We note that all things seem to melt away As years and age withdraw them from our sight. And yet the sum of things stays unimpaired. This is because when particles are shed From a thing they diminish it as they leave it, And then increase the object that they come to. They make the one grow old, the other flourish, But do not linger there. The sum of things Is thus forever renewed, and mortals live By mutual interchange one from another. Some races increase, others fade away, And in short space the breeds of living creatures Change, and like runners pass on the torch of life. Now if you think that atoms can be at rest And can by resting beget new movements in things, You are lost, and wander very far from truth. For since the atoms wander through the void, All must be driven either by their own weight Or by some chance blow from another atom. For often when, as they move, they meet and clash, They leap apart at once in different directions. No wonder, since they are extremely hard And solid, and there is nothing behind to stop them. To see more clearly that all particles of matter Are constantly being tossed about, remember That there is no bottom to the universe, That primal atoms have nowhere to rest, Since space is without end or any limit. And I have shown by many words, and proved By surest reasoning that it extends Boundless in all directions everywhere. Since that stands true, no rest, we may be sure, Is given to atoms in the void abyss But rather, as unceasing different Movements impel them, some, colliding, leap Great intervals apart, while others recoil Only a short distance from the impact. And those whose union being more closely packed Leap back short distances after a collision, Being fast entangled by their own complex shapes, These constitute strong roots of stone and the brute bulk Of iron, and other objects of that kind. Of the rest, which wander further through the void, A few leap far apart, and far recoil Over great intervals; these make for us Thin air, and make the shining light of sun. And many wander through the mighty void Rejected from all union with others, Unable anywhere to gain admittance And bring their movements into harmony. An image and similitude of this Is always moving present to our eyes. Consider sunbeams. When the sun's rays let in Pass through the darkness of a shuttered room, You will see a multitude of tiny bodies All mingling in a multitude of ways Inside the sunbeam, moving in the void, Seeming to be engaged in endless strife, Battle, and warfare, troop attacking troop, And never a respite, harried constantly, With meetings and with partings everywhere. From this you can imagine what it is For atoms to be tossed perpetually In endless motion through the mighty void. To some extent a small thing may afford An image of great things, a footprint of a concept.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    There are a handful of books that seem to float above the rabble. They are certainly not scripture, but belong on a shelf above philosophy. Reading Lucretius is like reading the dreams of Darwin or Newton interpreted by the hand of Shakespeare. On the Nature of Things belongs on the shelf next to Bacon, Dante, Montaigne, Marcus Aurelius and the rest of my demi-Gods.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shya̋m

    But, as I have said before, the majority of people suffer from a common disease, as in a plague, with their false notions about things, and their number is increasing (for in mutual emulation, they catch the disease from one another, like sheep). —Oenoanda Inscription, fr. 3 By the end of the poem the reader will have passed from birth to death, and in the process come to see like Lucretius, that the angst-ridden activity of everyday life is pointless, and that true happiness must be sought elsew But, as I have said before, the majority of people suffer from a common disease, as in a plague, with their false notions about things, and their number is increasing (for in mutual emulation, they catch the disease from one another, like sheep). —Oenoanda Inscription, fr. 3 By the end of the poem the reader will have passed from birth to death, and in the process come to see like Lucretius, that the angst-ridden activity of everyday life is pointless, and that true happiness must be sought elsewhere. —Don/Peta Fowler, Introduction __________ Of matters high I make my theme, Proceeding to set free the minds of men. (1.931) My purpose is With the sweet voices of Pierian song To expound my doctrine, and as it were to touch it With the delicious honey of the Muses. (1.944) __________ De Rerum Natura or On the Nature of Things (or On The Nature of the Universe, as the translator, Ronald Melville, has chosen to render it) is a didactic poem by Lucretius in Six Books, expounding both Epicurean Physics and Ethics. When it comes to poetry, I prefer the natural and emotional lyrics of the Ancients, and there are definitely flashes of this to be found in Lucretius, but there is no denying that the majority consists of a blend of Atomic and Physical theory with Ethics. In this sense, the poem is very unusual, and can almost be read as non-fiction. For this reason, I would not recommend this to anyone new to Ancient Poetry, but rather to anyone with an interest in Epicureanism, and how the Ancients viewed science, the world around them, and indeed, the entire universe. I also gather the poem is much better in the original Latin; unfortunately, possessing none myself, I cannot comment on this point. __________ N.B. The references to lines are not exact, but an approximation, as this particular translation renders, at times, single lines in the original Greek, into multiple lines in English. For you the earth well skilled puts forth sweet flowers. (1.8) . . . reap some fruit of live-giving delight. (2.971) __________ For oft my doctrine seems Distasteful to those that have not sampled it And most shrink back from it. (4.17-19) Learned in ancient lore. (2.600) Thus inspired With mind and purpose flourishing and free . . . I traverse, where no foot has ever trod. (1.924-5, 927) Preserved intact from endless ages past. (1.549) Fall through endless tracts of time . . . (1.1001) . . . glide eternal through the course of ages . . . (5.1216) Always everything's the same. (3.945) . . . There is no change, even if you live Longer than anyone on earth, and even more If it should be your fate never to die. (3.948-949) So each man flies from himself . . . And hates himself because he is sick in mind And does not know the cause of his disease. Which if he clearly saw, at once he would Leave everything, and study first to know The nature of the world. For what is in question Is not of one hour but of eternity . . . (3.1068-1073) __________ But nothing sweeter is than this: to dwell In quiet halls and lofty sanctuaries Well fortified by doctrines of the wise, And look thence down on others wandering And seeking all astray the path of life— (2.6-10) In . . . tranquil peace Live ever quiet in a life serene. (2.1094-1095) Why do you moan and groan and weep at death? For if your former life now past has pleased you And if your blessings through a broken jar Have not run out, all wasted, unenjoyed, Why don't you, like a man that's wined and dined Full well on life, bow out, content, and so Your exit make and rest in peace, you fool? (3.934-939) There is no escape from death and we must die. (3.1078) Live though you may through all ages that you wish, No less that eternal death will still await . . . (3.1090-1091) He resents that he was born mortal. (3.884) __________ Ah, steeped in art . . . (4.792) with a snow of roses falling, falling . . . (2.627) He therefore who has mastered all these vices And cast them from the mind by words, not arms, Will it not then be right to find him worthy To be counted in the number of the gods? (5.49-51) Men do not care, and no one lifts his head To look up to the shining realms of heaven. (2.1038-1039) For once your reason, born of mind divine, Starts to proclaim the nature of the world The terrors of the mind flee all away, The walls of heaven open, and through the void Immeasurable, the truth of things I see. (3.14-18) And as the days passed, more and more they learnt To change their former life and way of living . . . (5.1105-1106 __________ The racing tides of youth . . . (4.1031) Burn with Venus . . . (5.897) _____ When the shafts of Venus strike . . . (4.1052) [The blood is stirred, the flesh is thrilled All through with feeling . . . (3.248-249) With flowers, anoints the proud doorposts with perfumes, And plants his love-sick kisses on the door. (4.1178-1179) Mouth pressed to watering mouth and lips to lips Drawing deep breaths as body calls to body. (4.1108-1109) . . . Moistens his mouth with hers to prolong his kisses. (4.1194)] . . . sticks And burns like fire in his yearning heart. (4.1137-1138) And by avoiding love you need not miss The fruits that Venus offers, but instead You may take the goods without the penalty. (4.1072-1074) __________ Let Venus radiate from all her body . . . (4.1071)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    The Nature of Things (or De Rerum Natura in the original Latin) by Lucretius is a combination of poetry, science and philosophy. The poem explores Lucretius’ belief about the gods, humanity, the senses, the world, and the universe, all through the philosophical framework of Epicurus. It was written in the first-century BC and has been lovingly translated by A. E. Stallings into rhyming fourteeners in this Penguin Classics edition. Stallings’ translation cannot have been an easy task, but it is a The Nature of Things (or De Rerum Natura in the original Latin) by Lucretius is a combination of poetry, science and philosophy. The poem explores Lucretius’ belief about the gods, humanity, the senses, the world, and the universe, all through the philosophical framework of Epicurus. It was written in the first-century BC and has been lovingly translated by A. E. Stallings into rhyming fourteeners in this Penguin Classics edition. Stallings’ translation cannot have been an easy task, but it is a thing of beauty that elevated the reading experience into something truly special. Full review on the blog: https://wp.me/p4pZUw-iq

  12. 4 out of 5

    G.R. Reader

    Why doesn't anyone write pop science books like this any more? You know, full of cutting-edge particle physics and cosmology (who cares if it's all wrong? it's magnificently wrong) but with bits about earthquakes and evolution, mixed up with hot sex tips and complaints about why women are all such fucking bitches. And the whole thing done as exquisite poetry. Brian Greene, eat your heart out. No one's going to be reading you a couple of thousand years from now.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Lucretius wrote this explication and celebration of Epicureanism in the first century BCE. The text was lost for many years but apparently rediscovered during the Renaissance, and it has been influential ever since. There is probably no translation from the Latin that perfectly combines the poetic beauty and the philosophical insights of the original, although there have been many attempts to do so. I was particularly interested during this reading in having as clear a delineation of Lucretius’ Lucretius wrote this explication and celebration of Epicureanism in the first century BCE. The text was lost for many years but apparently rediscovered during the Renaissance, and it has been influential ever since. There is probably no translation from the Latin that perfectly combines the poetic beauty and the philosophical insights of the original, although there have been many attempts to do so. I was particularly interested during this reading in having as clear a delineation of Lucretius’ arguments as possible, and so I chose the translation (with notes) by Martin Ferguson Smith. I discovered, in fact, that Smith was able to write surprisingly poetically, with alliteration and creative metaphors as well as pleasing meter, despite the prose format. The work is divided into six books, each addressing different topics. Lucretius appeals to the Muses for help and refers on occasion to the gods, but it is clear that he views them as being removed from the realm or concerns of the world and humanity, uninterested in and inattentive to them. In Book I, Lucretius outlines his theory of atomism, basing all of material existence on the presence of indivisible particles in a surrounding and interpenetrating void. His ideas are prescient, and if the theory cannot truly be described as a scientific one, it at least can be classified as a natural philosophy that he uses in subsequent books to develop a cosmology and anthropology. In Book II he further describes the motions and characteristics of atoms, their shapes and functioning, and he posits the evanescence of all material objects, including the earth and celestial bodies themselves. Book III describes the soul, comprised of both mind and spirit, that is limited to the existence of the body, having no existence apart from or subsequent to the latter, and in this book, the most interesting to me, he discusses death and why there is no reason to fear it. Any kind of personal afterlife is rejected. In Book IV Lucretius explains thought and sensation as well as various vital functions such as locomotion, sleep, nourishment, sex, and the like. He moves on in Book V to discuss the formation of the earth and astronomical phenomena, the beginnings of life on earth, and the development of civilization. Finally, in Book VI, he talks about meteorological phenomena and plagues, ending rather abruptly – was the work truly finished, or did Lucretius die before completing it? The work is interesting on several levels. It allows a view into an important philosophical tradition of the Greco-Latin period, Epicurianism, and it allows the reader to gain insights into how this particular philosophical school contrasted with other intellectual strains of the times. It is also interesting as a description of natural philosophical thinking that formed the background for subsequent more rigorous scientific reasoning. I found myself most interested in the portions of the work addressing philosophical issues of relevance to humankind in whatever era, including death and meaning in life. There are admittedly parts of the treatise that are less interesting, and many parts of Lucretius’ cosmology can now be seen as fanciful and scientifically not only implausible but obviously incorrect. Nonetheless, the work is well worth reading and is not so lengthy as to be tedious. It is an important work, the rediscovery of which several hundred years ago was fortunate.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    "True piety lies in the power to contemplate the universe with a quiet mind." This is a truth even C.S. Lewis, a sincere Christian, assented to, remarking that only the atheist can believe. So it is with Lucretius, whose poetry here anticipates many scientific discoveries, including several of Galileo's and Newton's, along with the general structure of atomic theory, although widely missing the mark in the theory of "films" (supposedly an explanation of what Locke would later call secondary sub "True piety lies in the power to contemplate the universe with a quiet mind." This is a truth even C.S. Lewis, a sincere Christian, assented to, remarking that only the atheist can believe. So it is with Lucretius, whose poetry here anticipates many scientific discoveries, including several of Galileo's and Newton's, along with the general structure of atomic theory, although widely missing the mark in the theory of "films" (supposedly an explanation of what Locke would later call secondary substances). However, apart from the schooling in atomic physics and natural phenomena, the book's main task is to rid the reader of superstition, that is, to end the fear of the gods that causes our moral characters to sacrifice human happiness for some strange, quite illusory dream (depending upon your cultural location). Using "honeyed" words to allow the layman to swallow the "bitter draught" of Epicureanism, Lucretius weaves a deft tapestry, interspersing beautiful phrases with dry explanation, denouncing romance and religion as both stupid and insane, and strangely ending it all with a description of a horrifying plague. Lucretius logically notes that, since the earth had a birth, it will have a death; there is nothing eternal about our surroundings, so why do people infer that human beings are eternal? It's a very good question, but the answer is simple: fear. The question for our times is, will the enlightenment, based on Epicurean philosophy, that has advanced science thus far quash religious fear before it destroys us all in order to confirm its belief? I think so; in the meantime, this belongs on every scientific atheist's bookshelf, and for those believers wavering in delusion, pry your mind open just enough to appreciate the contents of this book - proof that science contains a philosophy and beauty more moral and aesthetically pleasing than any religious morality and concomitant artistic outgrowth.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    When was the last time you read an ancient Roman text that predicts quantum theory and genetics, promotes sustainable agriculture, and is written in the form of an epic poem? Anyone? Anyone? Jesus Christ this was weird. And good. And nothing like it will ever be written again. I dig all wildly interdisciplinary, utterly anti-parochial writers (see also: Sebald, Vico, Browne), and Lucretius joins their ranks in my mind. A poetically beautiful, prescient, coruscant puzzle-box of a book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erick

    It might have taken me longer than it should have to finally read this work, but I was fairly sure I wasn't going to be that impressed with it before I started; and now that I am done with it, I can now say for certain that I am not that impressed. My procrastination was warranted as far as I am concerned. I am really glad to be done with this piece of materialistic pretension. I will admit I am probably a biased. The two schools of ancient Hellenistic philosophy that always left me bemused (only It might have taken me longer than it should have to finally read this work, but I was fairly sure I wasn't going to be that impressed with it before I started; and now that I am done with it, I can now say for certain that I am not that impressed. My procrastination was warranted as far as I am concerned. I am really glad to be done with this piece of materialistic pretension. I will admit I am probably a biased. The two schools of ancient Hellenistic philosophy that always left me bemused (only because I couldn't understand the attention they gained) is Epicureanism and Pyrrhonism. I have always held that philosophy was originally geared toward those who were enamored with a sense of the transcendent; people who investigated nature, or the cosmos, with a profound sense of wonder and a sense that there is meaning to be had for those who search for it. People like this find it self-evident that the universe is rational and intelligible because there is a mind behind it. Materialism and severe skepticism nullifies any of the former; there is no meaning to be gleaned because there is no inherent meaning. The Atomists were probably the first materialists of note. Leucippus and Democritus are credited as the founders of this philosophical school. Their works no longer survive; what is left is fragments and quotations in other writers. Most of Epicurus' materialistic philosophy was borrowed directly from the Atomists. Even though Epicurus and the Atomists have been adopted by current “philosophical” atheists as their philosophical forbears, the truth is, they were really more akin to deists, not atheists. While both deism and atheism are practically atheistic, deism is at least theoretically theistic. What I mean by this is that both may claim that God (or the gods) do not intervene in life, and are thus of no religious consequence, deists at least acknowledge that some mind must be behind the order inherent in the cosmos; atheists, of course, deny any such thing. Like Epicurus and the Atomists, Lucretius acknowledges the gods in theory, but denies any role to a divine mind in the order of the cosmos. For him, as for Epicurus, atoms and void are the essential substantia of the cosmos. Everything is formed from the chaotic flux of atoms. There is no rhyme or reason behind it. Indeed, Lucretius denies a mind to anything that does not have a body. For Lucretius, everything is atoms. Some atoms might be finer particles and some might be more a bit more substantial, but all are atoms. Even fire is made up of these atoms. While admittedly we have to acknowledge the word “atom” itself and the overall theory behind it as being influential on how we currently view the physics of matter, it would be a mistake to think that the ancient atomistic thinkers viewed atoms the same way we do. Like other philosophical schools, the Atomists apparently did believe that atoms had a definite size and shape. These various types of atoms could combine and form different kinds of substances—even whole worlds, potentially. The combination is ad hoc; it is random and not indicative of intention. Materialists haven't progressed that much since the days of the Atomists; Atheistic materialists and their randomly selective universe are not all that different from Lucretius. Here's a quote from Lucretius: “In those days also the telluric world strove to beget monsters that upsprung with their astounding visages and limbs...some widowed of the hands, dumb horrors too, without a mouth, or blind ones of no eye... And others prodigies and monsters earth was then begetting of this sort – in vain, since nature banned in horror their increase and powerless were they to reach unto maturity...” The Darwinian idea of natural random selection is not that different than that put forth above. In theory, natural selection must have formed many failed organisms. Environment is key for materialistic Darwinians, just as it was for Epicureans like Lucretius. If the formation of life is entirely random, there would of course be a plethora of animals like Lucretius mentioned above, i.e. without hands, eyes, mouth, etc. None of these could survive for long because of these deficiencies. Of course, the fossil record doesn't help this kind of theory at all. There are almost no examples of these kinds of monstrosities—even though there should be more of these than successful animals in theory. We only have examples of animals that really were successful for large stretches of time. Barring cataclysm, almost all animals in the fossil record were successful. Lucretius was no less naive than current materialist Darwinians. Chaos never breeds order; even if one were to postulate vast stretches of time, the view is still absurd. No gambler's fallacy helps the scenario seem anymore rational. It wasn't rational a millennia ago and is no more rational now. Lucretius more or less presents his book as a great philosophical index of answers for all natural questions; and a means of diminishing religious fears. Many of these natural theories were later proven quite wrong, but some were stock theories of the time (e.g. earthquakes were caused by wind trapped in subterranean caverns). Reading all of Lucretius' theories made this book incredibly tedious and tiresome. I suppose the novelty is lost on me given that I know these theories are wrong. At the time, for those who needed to be comforted that the gods weren't behind every lightning bolt, these theories might have served their purpose. I feel like poetry that is literally false, but figuratively true, is better than poetry that attempts to be literally true and never attempts a figurative meaning. If that literalistic poetry is found to be literally false, there certainly isn't any other meaning that can be gleaned. It fails at its intent and becomes a passé guide to antiquated thought. I can't see much utility beyond this. Lucretius wastes almost no time in attacking earlier philosophers like Anaxagoras and Heraclitus. Anaxagoras believed that everything started as some kind of seed. Heraclitus saw fire as the quintessential substance. Even though Lucretius often refers to his atoms as seeds, and his theory on atoms is not all that essentially different from Anaxagoras, he still manages to find fault with him. I found the thought amusing that if Lucretius had seen his supposedly indivisible atoms divided and a fiery inferno ensue, he might be left quite dumbfounded. Undeniably, Heraclitus saw something just as basic in fire as Lucretius saw in atoms. Neither were wholly wrong in their theories—however rudimentary those theories might have been. One thing that Anaxagoras and Heraclitus had in their respective systems that Lucretius certainly didn't, was a mind behind everything. Lucretius ignores this aspect of their philosophy. For Lucretius, the cosmos is mindless. Heraclitus believed in a transcendent Logos; Anaxagoras believed in a transcendent Nous. I, for one, prefer a philosophy that is rational deductively and inductively—from top to bottom and from bottom to top. Beyond Anaxagoras' seeds there is mind; beyond Heraclitus' fire there is reason. Beyond Lucretius' atoms there is only mindless void. His void is as impenetrable to mind as his atoms are supposedly to division. Certainly the latter was proven wrong, undoubtedly the other is wrong as well—regardless if there are self-deluded people still around that deny a basic rationality to the cosmos. While Lucretius may use words like “nature” in a sense that indicates personification, one must acknowledge that this is about the only example of poetic language one can really find in Lucretius. Lucretius' nature is mindless and thus cannot be a personification of anything really. It is simply a fanciful name for atoms and void. When one can constantly keep this in mind when reading through this work, one is struck by how well Lucretius can ramble about a nature that is essentially pointless. Maybe materialists have a gift I lack, i.e. deluding themselves into a meaning despite essential meaninglessness. I suppose cognitive dissonance is really not my strong suit. To sum up, I found this about as interesting as Sextus Empiricus' Outlines—that is, not very. Both are philosophically impotent as far as I'm concerned. Epicureanism/Atomism was often attacked by other philosophers and it is hardly surprising that there are few examples to be found from this school that gained any widespread popularity. Indeed, few such works survive. It probably is a miracle that this work did. It's a notable example of the Epicurean philosophy, but reading what remains of Epicurus is probably better. Lucretius pretty much just parrots Epicurus. I personally found Epicurus' philosophical remains more interesting. As philosophy I find this lackluster, and as poetry, it fails to inspire. I also can't say much for the translation. I really hope that the Latin was better than the English here. I would prefer to fault the translator first, but even the ideas behind the prosaic English words are uninspiring. If one is a student of ancient philosophy, I suppose this is essential reading, but I have to posit many works as being superior and are far more worthy of being read first.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nemo

    Philosophy is Supposed to be Fun! Cicero, because of his personal aversion to the Epicurean philosophy, didn't quite do it justice in his book The Nature of the Gods, which introduced the Greek philosophical schools to the Romans (He all but made the Epicurean the laughing-stock of all the other philosophers). However, he also prepared and edited the transcript of this book by Lucretius, arguably the best exposition of Epicureanism, as a counterpoint. Lucretius made a strong case for Epicureanism Philosophy is Supposed to be Fun! Cicero, because of his personal aversion to the Epicurean philosophy, didn't quite do it justice in his book The Nature of the Gods, which introduced the Greek philosophical schools to the Romans (He all but made the Epicurean the laughing-stock of all the other philosophers). However, he also prepared and edited the transcript of this book by Lucretius, arguably the best exposition of Epicureanism, as a counterpoint. Lucretius made a strong case for Epicureanism with epic poetry and systematic reasoning. His thoughts and presentation with creative use of analogies are eminently clear and logical to a modern reader, in spite of his relative lack of scientific knowledge. In this book, he sought to dispel the notion of gods governing the universe, and demonstrate the natural causes of all things based on a few premises, from thunderbolts to earthquakes, from the nature of disease to the nature of the mind, from the beginning of the earth to the development of society. Highly recommended for its epic scope, clarity of thought, beauty of narrative, richness of humor and compassion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    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 perpetu 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Wonderful translation by AE Stallings, one of my favorite poets. Lots of playful language. The lines flow nicely, and the sentence structure to get the rhymes is not obtrusive. Quite startling prescience at times about atomic structure, while other explanations of natural occurrences are pretty amusing. The section on death and its aftermath--or not--is very good.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    The De Rerum Natura is the sole surviving work of Lucretius, a Roman poet writing in the 1st century BC. The book summarizes and explains the principles of Epicureanism, a philosophy founded by the Greek philosopher Epicurus around 300 BC. Epicureanism emphasized that while gods existed, they did not interfere in human affairs, and free will instead of fate governed people’s lives. Epicurus also rejected the existence of an afterlife, believed in a rudimentary kind of atomism, and argued that th The De Rerum Natura is the sole surviving work of Lucretius, a Roman poet writing in the 1st century BC. The book summarizes and explains the principles of Epicureanism, a philosophy founded by the Greek philosopher Epicurus around 300 BC. Epicureanism emphasized that while gods existed, they did not interfere in human affairs, and free will instead of fate governed people’s lives. Epicurus also rejected the existence of an afterlife, believed in a rudimentary kind of atomism, and argued that the pursuit of pleasure was the most important goal in life. This focus on pleasure led critics of Epicurus to characterize his philosophy (often unfairly) as a kind of irresponsible, hedonistic creed that was against the best interests of society. Lucretius’ poem, presented as a long letter to a man named Memmius, aims to convert its recipient to the Epicurean way. Lucretius adopts two main strategies. First, he effectively skewers traditional explanations for natural phenomena based off of mythology and legend. Now Lucretius was writing in the first century BC, not the ninth. The Greeks had been poking holes in the logic of mythology for centuries, and Lucretius is taking aim at low-hanging fruit by setting out to explain that creation was not in fact contingent on Zeus cutting Cronus’s balls off and volcanoes in Sicily are not explained by giant fire breathing monsters chained beneath a mountain. But his arguments are logical and very clever at times, and enjoyable to read. Second, Lucretius attempts to provide a better explanation for “the way things are” using the atomic principles of epicureanism. This stuff is less effective. Lucretius’ explanations are usually closer than mythology’s to the truths we know today, but he obviously did not have the benefits of modern technology and was flying by the seat of his pants a bit. Nobody in the modern world should read this book for its scientific knowledge. Also, atomic theories had been kicked around for a couple hundred years by Lucretius’s time, so he doesn’t get major originality points here either. The De Rerum Natura is probably the oldest “must read” Roman text, in the sense that it makes virtually every shortlist of the Roman classics. I would recommend it to any reader interested in Latin literature for a few reasons. Epicureanism was a big-time philosophical wave in the last century of the republic, and this book does an excellent job in describing its tenets. Also, while I wouldn’t put Lucretius in Virgil or Ovid’s class, aesthetically the poem is well put together and pleasant to read. Most of all, I enjoyed this poem’s enlightened attitude towards the world and its dogged determination to tear down superstition wherever it could. It cheers the human spirit to think how Lucretius and his successors fought and clawed to drag their unwilling societies that much closer to the light of reason and all that good stuff. Progress! Of course, Lucretius’s accomplishments were kind of short lived: just a few short decades after his death, the Roman Republic was no more and reason was largely out to lunch for the next 1500 years. But I guess you can’t win ‘em all. We’re left with an odd poem that doesn’t have any real characters and nothing in the way of plot. It’s basically a versification of a largely forgotten belief system, and its scientific forays seem well-intentioned at best and silly at worst. But for all that, there is a lot to enjoy here. I read the Rolfe Humphries translation, which was excellent, and I’ll leave you with a quote from him. “It is poetry without illusions: sober and manly, a Roman poem republican in its modesty and imperial in its domains and claims.” 4 stars, highly recommended for readers interested in the history of philosophy or Roman literature.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Genni

    3.75 stars. Lucretius thoroughly convinced me that Roman mythology is bosh. :-) But his materialistic apologetics failed to convert me. Lucretius's poem follows the general outline of epicureanism as presented in Epicurus's Letter to Herodotus. His ontology begins and ends with atoms. While he is not the first in the ancient world to propose the existence of atoms, he is the first (that I could find) who posited their existence while insisting on a sensory epistemology. The way he "proves" their 3.75 stars. Lucretius thoroughly convinced me that Roman mythology is bosh. :-) But his materialistic apologetics failed to convert me. Lucretius's poem follows the general outline of epicureanism as presented in Epicurus's Letter to Herodotus. His ontology begins and ends with atoms. While he is not the first in the ancient world to propose the existence of atoms, he is the first (that I could find) who posited their existence while insisting on a sensory epistemology. The way he "proves" their existence in this way makes for a fascinating, and sometimes amusing read. Ultimately, though, it seems Lucretius is not really concerned with completely understanding how things work as much as he is interested in debunking paganism and the fear of death by positive evidence for materialism. This is the heart of his entire work. I felt a certain affinity for this ancient man, trying to make sense of the world around him and attempting to bring others to his "truth". The struggle was real then, and it is real now. This aspect of his work really resonated with me (especially my second time through). I cannot fault him too much for some of his wild expositions. This work is also of historical interest as he fleshes out Epicurean doctrine with didactic poetry (a form I was not aware of until reading this). I had a lot of incorrect assumptions about Epicureanism coming to this work, namely, that Epicureans were hedonists. But Lucretius does not see sensory pleasure as the highest good as much as he does the absence of pain. Any activity that brings pain for self or others is to be avoided. So the drunken orgies I pictured them participating in were way off base. Where did these assumptions come from anyway? I cannot remember. Anyway, reading these philosophical considerations in poetic form was a new and interesting experience for me. I was also under the impression that Epicureans were atheists. Not so. Basically, I liked it. Read and enjoy!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    It's easy to read this book and snicker at all the things he got wrong, all the while being impressed and amazed at the bit he got right. He figured out that ball of wool and a ball of metal would fall at the same rate in a vacuum and yet he couldn't quite wrap his head around how a mirror works. But what makes this book great is the insight it offers into the thinking of someone trying to understand the universe without the aid of superstition and religion well over two millennia ago. Truly a h It's easy to read this book and snicker at all the things he got wrong, all the while being impressed and amazed at the bit he got right. He figured out that ball of wool and a ball of metal would fall at the same rate in a vacuum and yet he couldn't quite wrap his head around how a mirror works. But what makes this book great is the insight it offers into the thinking of someone trying to understand the universe without the aid of superstition and religion well over two millennia ago. Truly a human experience! My favorite part was the section on sex, which of course wasn't about sex at all but rather love. Oh God, Lucretius, you have been hurt. You have been hurt by somebody, that much is clear. Who hurt you? Who hurt you? Who hurt you?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Barry

    The importance of reading influential classic books as original texts is an idea that has been drummed into me by well-meaning academics, but I have long been skeptical of the value of this practice. I have come to believe that I can often learn more from an expert on a particular thinker than reading the actual writings of the thinker himself. This book is further evidence. Yes, it’s interesting that 2000 years ago Lucretius had these ideas about all matter consisting of similar atoms, etc, but The importance of reading influential classic books as original texts is an idea that has been drummed into me by well-meaning academics, but I have long been skeptical of the value of this practice. I have come to believe that I can often learn more from an expert on a particular thinker than reading the actual writings of the thinker himself. This book is further evidence. Yes, it’s interesting that 2000 years ago Lucretius had these ideas about all matter consisting of similar atoms, etc, but I think a knowledgeable expert on his writings and philosophy could have more effectively brought the important details to life. And that would be better, because frankly, this treatise is just too longwinded and boring. There I said it. I’m sorry Lucretius, but it’s true. Maybe next I’ll try The Swerve by Greenblatt.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jawad

    'And of the souls likewise, whatever are said to be in the profundity of Acheron, all the sufferings happen to ourselves, not in death, but in life. Tantalus, torpid with vain terror, does not (as it is reported) fear the huge rock impending over him in the air; but such terror rather dwells with us in life; a groundless fear of the gods oppresses mortals, and they dread that fall which fortune may assign to each. Nor do vultures penetrate into Tityus, lying in Hades; nor, however they might sear 'And of the souls likewise, whatever are said to be in the profundity of Acheron, all the sufferings happen to ourselves, not in death, but in life. Tantalus, torpid with vain terror, does not (as it is reported) fear the huge rock impending over him in the air; but such terror rather dwells with us in life; a groundless fear of the gods oppresses mortals, and they dread that fall which fortune may assign to each. Nor do vultures penetrate into Tityus, lying in Hades; nor, however they might search in his huge breast, would they be able to find, through infinite time, any thing to devour of however vast an extent of body he may be, even though it be such as may cover, with its limbs outspread, not merely nine acres, but the orb of the whole earth; nor yet would he be able to endure eternal pain, or to supply food incessantly from his own body; but he is a Tityus among us, whom, lying under the influence of love, the vultures of passion tear, and anxious disquietude devours; or whom cares, with any other unbecoming-feeling, lacerate. A Sisyphus, likewise, is before our eyes in life, who sets his heart to solicit from the people the fasces and sharp axes, and always retires repulsed and disappointed. For to seek power, which is empty, nor is ever granted, and constantly to endure hard labour in the pursuit of it, this is to push with effort the stone up the hill, which yet is rolled down again from the summit, and impetuously seeks the level of the open plain. To feed perpetually, moreover, an ungrateful nature, and to fill it with good things, and never to satisfy it; a kindness which the seasons of the year do to us, as they come round in their course, and bring their fruits and various charms; whilst we, notwithstanding, are never satisfied with the blessings of life; this is, I think, that which they relate of the damsels in the flower of their youth, that they pour water into a punctured vessel, which, however, can by no means be filled. But also Cerberus and the Furies are mentioned, and privation of light, and Tartarus, casting forth fires from its jaws, objects which are no where, nor indeed can be; but there is, in life, an eminent dread of punishment for enormous crimes; there is the prison, the reward of guilt, and the terrible precipitation, of those who are condemned, from the rock; there are stripes, executioners, the wooden-horse, pitch, hot iron, fire-brands; and though these may be absent, yet the mind, conscious of evil deeds, feeling dread in anticipation, applies to itself stings, and tortures itself with scourges, nor sees, in the mean time, what end there can be of its sufferings, nor what can be the limit of its punishment, and fears rather lest these same tortures should become heavier at death. Hence, in fine, the life of fools becomes, as it were, an existence in Tartarus.' -- 'On the Nature of Things' (De Rerum Natura), Titus Lucretius Carus (tr. J. Selby Watson)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Laurent

    At first, The Nature of Things seemed to me quite an extensive attempt at explaining the world without the use of mythology. Although undoubtedly interesting, Lucretius’ poetry read like a manual, a compilation of rational thought processes which ultimately jumped to barely founded conclusions — to be expected from a two thousand year-old epic philosophical poem. And it seemed to me as though the poem lacked just that: philosophy. However, as I dragged myself through the endless explanations of At first, The Nature of Things seemed to me quite an extensive attempt at explaining the world without the use of mythology. Although undoubtedly interesting, Lucretius’ poetry read like a manual, a compilation of rational thought processes which ultimately jumped to barely founded conclusions — to be expected from a two thousand year-old epic philosophical poem. And it seemed to me as though the poem lacked just that: philosophy. However, as I dragged myself through the endless explanations of natural phenomena ranging from magnetism to lightning, a more subtle aspect of the book became apparent, and indeed the aspect I had set out to discover. Between his endless explorations and rationalisations of the ’nature of things,’ Lucretius draws out what I consider to be the real value of his work: the tenets of Epicurean philosophy. Although in modern terms an ‘epicure’ is someone who takes pleasure in fine food and drink — material things, in other words — Epicurus and Lucretius, his disciple, were anything but epicures. In fact, at the basis of Epicureanism lies an austere lifestyle and an exploration of human existence without the constant pursuit of personal gain. Besides advancing Epicureanism, Lucretius’ poetry serves another, more controversial purpose: to dismiss mythology as the fundaments of nature and of human existence, making The Nature of Things, in my opinion, one of the first recorded works of atheism in modern literature. Many of Lucretius’ arguments, in fact, could be recognised in any modern theological debate. Needless to say, he was centuries ahead of his time. One passage I found surprisingly avant-garde and quite humorous: Men observed the orderly movements of the heavens, And beheld the cycling of the year with its returning seasons, But could not fathom how these came about, and lacking reasons, Found an escape by handing these things over to the gods, And supposed that all things came about from supernatural nods. Ultimately, this poem not only seeks to explain then unexplainable natural phenomena, but to explore human nature from an Epicurean perspective — to expose the insatiable greed in each of us, our interminable quest for all but temporary pleasures and material possessions, and, essentially, our inherent inability to be satisfied.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1391691.html This is one of the best-argued cases for atheism I have read (speaking as a non-atheist). Millennia before Dawkins, Hitchens, or even Bertrand Russell, Lucretius argued the nature of the universe from first principles, concluding vigorously that there is no God and no afterlife, just matter made of atoms. There is no tedious sniping at current beliefs (apart from a rather funny bit towards the end about why Jupiter does not hurl thunderbolts; and he has http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1391691.html This is one of the best-argued cases for atheism I have read (speaking as a non-atheist). Millennia before Dawkins, Hitchens, or even Bertrand Russell, Lucretius argued the nature of the universe from first principles, concluding vigorously that there is no God and no afterlife, just matter made of atoms. There is no tedious sniping at current beliefs (apart from a rather funny bit towards the end about why Jupiter does not hurl thunderbolts; and he has a go also at the beliefs of Heraclitus and Empedocles about elements), just an explanation in detail of the philosophy of Epicurus and how that helps us understand the way the world around us works. As with all such books, it is tempting to give the author marks out of ten for the accuracy of his scientific explanations as compared to our current understanding, but that would be a mistake; it is amazing how far Lucretius got given his starting point. It reminded me a bit of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, but is of course much shorter; also Lucretius, writing in 55 BC or thereabouts, had two millennia less of scientific research to fit in. Unfortunately he doesn't appear to have finished it; the text ends rather abruptly after a description of the effects of plague.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Sometimes boring, sometimes astonishing in its perception, sometimes silly because it is a very early attempt at seeing the entire universe (including our minds and spirits) as made up entirely of tiny seeds. Nothing exists except the seeds and the void. Various combinations of these atoms (Lucretius doesn't use that word) make the world we perceive seem to be made up of different things. Everything eventually perishes; there is no immortality. The only proper attitude towards this truth is the Sometimes boring, sometimes astonishing in its perception, sometimes silly because it is a very early attempt at seeing the entire universe (including our minds and spirits) as made up entirely of tiny seeds. Nothing exists except the seeds and the void. Various combinations of these atoms (Lucretius doesn't use that word) make the world we perceive seem to be made up of different things. Everything eventually perishes; there is no immortality. The only proper attitude towards this truth is the calm acceptance encouraged by Epicureanism. The work only seems silly and primitive because it is an early attempt at so much of the scientific view of things that we now take for granted. Widely admired for its passionate poetry, which only barely peeks through this literally accurate prose translation. I'm now looking forward to reading secondary works about the poetry and influence. Stephen Greenblatt (very good book on Shakespeare: Will in the World) has a book on Lucretius coming out this month titled Swerve, referring to the only thing that caused the first atoms to collide and start to form the world we know. I'm looking forward to that book as well as several others.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Whatever happened to didactive poetry? The instance of De Rerum Natura shows one of many ways the Romans were different from us. Lucretius was known to his contemporaries as much for his poetic style as for the Epicurean atomism he preached. While I tried with my little Latin to appreciate this style by reading much of the reconstructed original's text aloud, I was unable to confirm Cicero's positive judgment and had to satisfy myself with appreciating the scope of the author's "science" and, let Whatever happened to didactive poetry? The instance of De Rerum Natura shows one of many ways the Romans were different from us. Lucretius was known to his contemporaries as much for his poetic style as for the Epicurean atomism he preached. While I tried with my little Latin to appreciate this style by reading much of the reconstructed original's text aloud, I was unable to confirm Cicero's positive judgment and had to satisfy myself with appreciating the scope of the author's "science" and, let's face it, hubris. Will our own science someday be viewed as being similarly naive? My favorite portion of the poem is Lucretius' description of the felicity of grazing cattle.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This translation is beautiful.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    The idea is great but the problem with this book is that it's extraordinarily long and mostly boring and I don't remember a single word of it.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.