Weight in Greek Atomism

Philosophia 45 (1):76-99 (2015)

Authors
Michael J. Augustin
Purdue University
Abstract
The testimonia concerning weight in early Greek atomism appear to contradict one another. Some reports assert that the atoms do have weight, while others outright deny weight as a property of the atoms. A common solution to this apparent contradiction divides the testimonia into two groups. The first group describes the atoms within a κόσμος, where they have weight; the second group describes the atoms outside of a κόσμος, where they are weightless. A key testimonium for proponents of this solution is Aëtius 1.3.18. It apparently denies weight as a property of the atoms, and supposedly describes the atoms when they are outside of a κόσμος. I argue against this interpretive solution by demonstrating, first, that Aëtius 1.3.18 does not deny that weight is a property of the atoms. Second, I argue that the report does not describe the atoms when they are outside of a κόσμος. Although these are largely negative conclusions, I contend that we are not left without a solution to the present interpretive difficulty. Once our testimonia concerning weight in early Greek atomism are examined thoroughly, it is clear that there is no conflict among them.
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