Democritus’ Understanding of HistoryJune 26, 2021
Democritus is a true philosopher of history.
He is primarily concerned with placing man within the framework of history. What Democritus wants to know: How did humanity come to its present state from the beginning, that is, how did the evolution of human history occur?
Natural philosophers wanted to learn about the beginning of natural events, the essence of nature, and the structure of nature. Democritus, on the other hand, as a philosopher of history, also wanted to know the beginning of human history and the facts underlying this history. It is unacceptable for Democritus to answer this subject based on observations and experiments. Concerning the initial state of human society, he puts forward only one vision: man led an animal-like life at the beginning of history. It was fed by collecting the fruits offered by nature and took shelter in caves or tree cavities. In summary: In the beginning, people did not have a culture. Culture, that is, the making of tools by humans, is only the product of a later development.
In terms of sickness and death, humans led a life similar to the same animals in this first period. They were helpless in the face of sickness. People living in this first and primitive form of society were in despair and fear. Living in desperation led people to solve this desperation and to find something for it. In other words, desperation forced people to make inventions. For example, man had to protect and preserve the fruits he collected until these fruits were not found. Houses were built to protect themselves from the cold and heat. According to Democritus, while making these discoveries, much was learned from the lives of animals. For example, birds also build nests. The weapons that nature gave to animals for their protection gave birth to the idea of making weapons for human protection. With the help of inventions caused by such desperation and troubles, man has saved himself from the primitiveness that resembles animal life and has passed into the cultural life.
Undoubtedly, “language” was the invention that should be considered the greatest achievement of man in this development. Through language, people have the opportunity to communicate with other people.
According to Democritus, history consists of the history of human culture and human inventions. The history of inventions documents an ever-increasing development. Democritus is the thinker who makes development the focal point of history. With his attitude, he contradicted the Greek thought up to him.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook, Lecture Notes of Ernst von Aster