Aristotle: Critic or Pioneer of Atomism?


Abstract
Aristotle is typically construed as a critic of atomism. He was indeed a critic of atomism of the extreme kind formulated by Democritus, according to which bulk matter is made of nothing other than unchangeable pieces of universal matter possessing shape and size and capable of motion in the void. However, there is a weaker kind of atomism involving the assumption that macroscopic substances have least parts which have properties sufficient to account for the properties of the bulk substances that they are least parts of. Insofar as atomism has been vindicated by modern science, it is the weaker version of atomism that has proved to be profitable. The beginnings of the weaker version of atomism are to be found in Aristotle. Far from being an opponent of atomism, there is a sense in which Aristotle was one of its pioneers.
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