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On The Nature Of Things
 
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Lucretius
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On The Nature Of Things

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  5,567 ratings  ·  238 reviews
Titus Lucretius Carus lived ca. 99-55 BCE. Details of his career are unknown. He's author of the didactic hexameter poem, De Rerum Natura. In six books compounded of solid reasoning, brilliant imagination & noble poetry, he expounds the scientific theories of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, with the aim of dispelling fear of the gods & fear of death & so enabli...more
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sckenda
Nov 10, 2013 sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to sckenda by: Great Books Society
Atoms or Order? Lucretius says that nothing exists but “atoms and the void”—matter and empty space. Into the God-intoxicated world came an ancient voice that stated with calm authority that there are no gods and there are no souls. “Leave all foolishness behind and devote your study to the way things are.” In “The Way Things Are” (55 B.C.E.), Lucretius argues, in Epicurean verse, his case for rationalism and his case against faith, but he does so without excessive resort to bullying, ridicule, o...more
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...more
sckenda
Atoms or Order? Lucretius says that nothing exists but “atoms and the void”—matter and empty space. Into the God-intoxicated world came an ancient voice that stated with calm authority that there are no gods and there are no souls. “Leave all foolishness behind and devote your study to the way things are.” In “The Way Things Are” (55 B.C.E.), Lucretius argues, in Epicurean verse, his case for rationalism and his case against faith, but he does so without excessive resort to bullying, ridicule, o...more
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...more
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’...more
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.
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...more
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...more
Robert Farwell
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.
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...more
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...more
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.
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.
Alex
Review forthcoming...I'll probably wuss out on all the quote-heavy analysis I plan to do and end up half-assing it anyway.
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...more
D
…The kind of things we look at in our dreams
When altars seem to lift a swirl of incense
(We are all, of course, the hosts of images.)

The big deal here isn’t quite so much the content as the quality of the delivery. You can get all the nice ideas about atoms and guesses as to this and that, storms, volcanoes, fertility, contraception, etc. elsewhere and bits of it might be curious and interesting but most of it would be quite forgettable. The reason this book is still around is that it is fantasti...more
Beluosus
Cum Lucretii librum De Rerum Natura perlegissem, pagina evoluta ultima multa de doctrina, scientia et disciplina epicurea in mente animadverti. Carmen legere diu volueram, quod libri in quo physica et philosophia per poemata explicantur me maxime delectaret. Insolitum videtur, saltem temporibus hodiernis ; nemo nisi doctrinae infantum carmina de physicis nunc componit.

Scientia antiqua me semper adlicet. De philosophiis religionibus scientiis antiquis legere soleo, Aegypticis praecipue et magis m...more
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...more
James
The philosophy of Epicurus is seldom presented any better than in the classic poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius. We know little about Lucretius life other than he lived during the turbulent era of the Roman Empire that saw the rise of Sulla and Pompey and, ultimately, Julius Caesar. On the Nature of Things was his poetic plea to the Roman elite that they change course. The poem by Lucretius has the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. It was wri...more
William Herbst
This spring I read Greenblatt's book "The Swerve" which argues (unconvincingly) that the discovery of a manuscript of Lucretius'' De Rerum Natura led to the Renaissance. It made me recall a course I took on Lucretius many years ago at the CUNY graduate center. This summer, for a sight reading session with some other local Latin teachers I chose Lucretius' lines on the swerve to read and discuss. Wow - tough job working through the Latin and then trying to piece together the threads of what seeme...more
John Doe
I liked this book, though it wasn't always a pleasure to read. The explanations of natural phenomenon are incredibly rigorous!

While I don't blame him for not knowing about things like electromagnetism, I still would be interested in reading the views of modern physicists and meteorologists on some of the issues he discusses (I suspect that Lucretius would do pretty well, considering). However, his views on thoughts, ghosts, and celestial phenomenon are less persuasive. But, it is as the astute o...more
Zelda
What a strange and wonderful thing this book is. You probably could not have sold it to me on the description alone. A 200+ page epic poem translated into rhyming fourteeners on the subject of science. You see what I mean? And yet it is absolutely fascinating how close the ancients were to understanding science the way we understand it now (I'm allowing for the possibility that we still don't have it quite right). Well, fascinating if you weren't aware of it which I wasn't. I mean, I did underst...more
Matt
As myrrh cannot be readily stripped of scent
without destruction of its substance, too,
so mind and soul cannot be readily drawn
out of the body but that all three must die. pg. 64, Bk. III, lines 327-330
Titus Lucretius Carus, a Roman of whom little is known, presumably wrote the poem The Nature of Things to convert his friend and/or associate Gaius Memmius to Epicureanism. In the pursuit of pleasure- not unbridled hedonism, but the tranquil pleasure of learning (ataraxis)- Lucretius rejects relig...more
Bob
Lucretius wrote to convince his contemporaries that the world stood completely revealed to our senses, that gods or spirits or immortal souls were harmful fables, and that the purpose of life was the moderate enjoyment of vitality and sense and curiosity. To a modern, his explanations seem alternately inspired and delusional. Latham's prose translation focuses on the philosophical elements, and the book includes a useful index.
His examples reveal a markedly alien worldview, reminding me how v...more
Ben
If I had to choose one ancient text for ancient / medieval people to look to as a guide for living I would probably choose this work. The physics and biology and neuroscience (particularly) are way off and the aesthetics are far more cold and austere than those of a mystery cult, but the depth at which Lucretius - and the other Epicureans before him - investigated the workings of the world is truly staggering compared to say Plato or even Aristotle. Along the same thread, the backbone of the phi...more
Jim Robles
Someone has won a Nobel prize for figuring out that the universe is still expanding. The prize should be shared (see Book 1, Lines 1052 to 1072) with Lucretius. Actually given how long it has taken modern physics to catch up, the prize should just be given to Lucretius.

Anyone who happens to believe that heavier atoms are carried straight through the void more swiftly than lighter ones, fall on them from above, and so cause the blows capable of producing the movements necessary for creation, is d...more
Kelly
I wish I had read this book when I was younger. Heretical and scandalous, it should be required reading across the educational spectrum. It’s brilliant and beautiful and wise.

From Wikipedia: “De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) is a 1st century BC didactic poem by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius with the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. The poem, written in some 7,400 dactylic hexameters, is divided into six untitled books, and explores Epicurean physic...more
Elizabeth
This book was fascinating. In terms of science, it was interesting to see how much and how little people knew about the natural world. Some of what Lucretius believed was accurate, and some was highly inaccurate; but even when his facts are wrong, his way of seeing the world makes for a terrific reading experience. He states a few scientific principles, and then he ponders them deeply, looks at the same principle in several different examples, and then, often, draws moral or philosophical conclu...more
Alexander
A very readable and poetic translation of De Rerum Natura. Unlike other translations I've encountered, Englert's translation attempts to preserve the poetry of Lucretius, rather than rendering it into a prose work. The notes and outline are helpful, and Englert is conscientious, informing the reader several times when he is altering the structure of the poem to increase readability.

Lucretius' work in and of itself is interesting; it posits a world-system dramatically different from those that in...more
Carla_Collette
I read this book, ancient Epicurean philosophy in the form of an epic poem, to follow up on The Swerve, a discussion of the book and how it changed human thinking during the Rennaissance, when it was rediscovered. I must admit that I had a hard time getting through it, but it is truly amazing how much Epicurus and his followers figured out about our world and life just by observation and logic. Except for the tracts on astronomy and disease, much of the explanations are accurate. At its core, th...more
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  • The Nature of the Gods
  • The Enneads
  • The Eclogues: Dual Language Edition
  • Ptolemy's Almagest
  • Pharsalia: The Civil War
  • The Discourses
  • Odes and Epodes (Loeb Classical Library)
  • The Complete Poems
  • Plutarch's Lives, Volume 2
  • Fasti
  • Timaeus
  • Fragments
  • The New Organon
  • The Sixteen Satires
  • Physics
  • Euclid's Elements
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(ca. 99 BCE – ca. 55 BCE) Also know as simply, Lucretius, was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is an epic philosophical poem laying out the beliefs of Epicureanism, De rerum natura, translated into English as On the Nature of Things or "On the Nature of the Universe".
More about Lucretius...
Sensation and Sex De Rerum Natura V De Rerum Natura VI De Rerum Natura: Vol 1 of 3 (Academic Monograph Reprint) On Matter and Man (Alpha Classics)

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“All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher.” 67 likes
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