What is Atomism?

What is Atomism?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

The School of Atomism (Indivisibility) is a school of philosophy known for the atomic thought that Leucippos and his student Democritus created and developed in line with a similar materialism, following the materialist philosophers Empedocles and Anaxagoras.

In general terms, atomism is the doctrine that objects are made of indivisible parts.

The thinkers of Empedocles, Anaxagoras and Abdera (Leucippus and Democritus) (Epikurus and Lucretius da N.) gather under the name of Atomism School. According to these thinkers, the uncreated, immutable, unchanging entity is the material atom.


The atom is not sensuous or visible, but only intelligible or conceptual, and as such the original substance is the archae. Democritus thinks of atoms as an infinite number of tiny particles. They are indestructible and completely filled, they do not contain any empty space. So they are not mathematically indivisible things like Pythagoras’ monas, but physically indivisible particles. Because of this indestructibility, they are eternal.

The fact that the Atom, which means “indivisible” or “indivisible,” is still shaped, is due to the weakness of Democritus’ speculative thought. Extrinsic compositions are impossible without such shaped atoms.

Today Known Structure of the Atom

Philosophy has progressed through two main channels since Ancient Greek times.

The first of these is the changer channel led by Heraclitus, which says that change is essential in the universe and motto of his famous saying “Everything passes by”. The other is Parmenides’s channel against change, which denies change and says that the entire image of the universe is an illusion.

It is in this polarization that the thinkers after Heraclitus and Parmenides took a stance, although not as strict as they did. Atomist philosophy, on the other hand, went beyond these two channels and proposed a kind of ‘Thesis + Antithesis = Synthesis’ equation. According to this, the uncreated, indestructible, unchanging ‘One entity’ Parmenides sought has been disintegrated by atomists and made too small to be seen with the naked eye. This is the main principle of atomic thought.

Another important contradiction emerging from the atomist thought is that between Parmenides’ monism and Empedocles’ pluralism. According to Empedocles, earth, air, water and fire are the 4 main elements. Multiplicity occurs when these are mixed in different proportions. However, in atomists, the number of main elements is not limited to 4 but infinite.

Also, the relationship between atomism and Anaxagoras is important. As it is known, the greatest achievement of Anaxagoras was for the first time separating the moving power, nus (spirit and mind), which gives movement and dominance, from that matter. Dualism in philosophy begins with Anaxagoras. This idea, later passed on to Plato and Aristotle, has survived to this day in the history of philosophy. Here, Democritos did not fall into this trend and stated that the soul is also composed of material atoms and revealed the strongest materialist thought in the history of philosophy.

The fact that atomism did not fall into the basic mistakes in Greek thought is its most important plus. Namely, the well-known paradoxes of that period were put forward despite the effort to explain nature mathematically. However, the atoms of Democritus and Leucippus are physically indivisible, not geometrically. In this way, this theory has gained a solid place for itself.

The atomist school developed as a kind of reaction to the monist approach of Parmenides on the one hand and the pluralistic approach of Anaxagoras on the other; especially against the first one. Democritus carried materialism forward by considering not only the beings but also the soul as something composed of atoms, and created one of the strongest starting points for the materialism tendency in the history of philosophy.

Atomic philosophy is known by three names in history. Leucippus and Democritus in ancient Greece, Epicurus in Rome. The subject of this seminar is the first atomists Leucippus and Democritus and their atomic philosophies.

Atomism (Indivisibility) as a form of materialism was later advocated by Epicurus and Lucretius and lost its influence after a long period of time. It will be seen that the understanding of atomism, which lost its influence in this process, revived in scientific studies and theories in the 17th century.

Atomism, through Epicurus and Lucretius, reached Gassendi and Bacon, giving birth to the natural sciences. Pedrus Gassendi, a Renaissance man, defended the mechanistic understanding brought by atomism against the Aristotelian scholasticism, which treated nature as an organism. According to this understanding, nature was realized with atoms and their movements.


According to the atomic school, the universe consists of composite bodies, which are composed of atoms, which are considered the smallest and indivisible part of matter. From another point of view, this school holds that everything in the universe comes into being as a result of movements in vacuum, therefore there is an absolute causality in the universe, and the human soul consists of the movement of more refined atoms