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02/12/2007
Lefkipos

Bala Katerina
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Eastern Macedonia – Thrace Region
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We do not have a clear picture of the life and homeland of Lefkipos and, as a result, there are doubts on his actual existence. Lefkipos is supposed to be older than Democritus, who was a student of his and younger than Parmenides who influenced his philosophy. We do not know when he was born, but he lived between 480-400 B.C. and is synchronous to Ebedoklis and Anaxagoras. It is possible that he was born in Miletus and that he went to Elea of Great Greece, after its capture and destruction from Perses (Iranians). There he listened to Parmenides. After Elea, Lefkipos went to Thrace, where he settled in permanently, developed his theory and became the head of the school. This school inspired Protagoras and Democritus also.
Lefkipos established the atomic theory. The traces of atomism can be found in the whole course of thought after Parmenides. But Lefkipos established atomic theory that was elaborated and developed by his student, Democritus.
The atomic philosophers, like the Ionians, were searching for an answer to the question: How possible is the change of things. This question occupied philosophical thought, especially after the eleatic theory. According to the members of the eleatic school, being is unique, immovable and invariable. In Parmenides’ ontology, denying the multiplicity of ‘being’ is based on the fact the beyond being there is nothing. Not being, blank, does not exist, since reality is full of being. Multiplicity of things surrounding us appears as being, but it is just a phenomenon.
The atomic theory targets to bringing the eleatic point of view of unique and invariable being with the basic characteristics of the empirical reality, as it is given in the sensory one.
Lefkipos agrees with Eleates on that space does not exist and movement is not comprehensive. He accepts that not being exists, meaning space. So being is unique, immovable and invariable as Eleates believe, but it consists of small, unlimited particles in space. The concept of not being is a primal condition for Lefkipos to explain the natural world, the existence of which is based on movement. Separating space from being and admitting that this space exists as room without material, size or weight -contrasted to Eleates who thought that everything that does not subsist cannot exist- makes the movement of particles possible.

Lefkipos thinks that composition, different order or place and redistribution of complex connected atoms, which are different in size and shape, create genesis, decline and change objects. Otherness and complexity of the phenomenal visual world comes from repeated collisions that create new combinations and forms of bodies. At this point, Lefkipos introduces for the first time the law of casualty in philosophical cogitation. Nothing is accidental but everything is motivated by necessity. Lefkipos rise necessity in the place of supreme deity and dislocates the accidental from his theory, since it cannot be defined by cause.

Man, according Lefkipos, is the one in a group of people that is born and declined, while his communicating with others is accomplished through the senses. In Lefkipos’ theory everything is or musters a body and senses are limited in a remote contact and every kind of sense, ends in being a kind of touch, as Aristotle who does not approve this theory, mentions,. Connecting senses to touch is based on the theory of idols of Ebedoklis, according to which these idols are fluid pictures deriving from objects, keeping their shape and they are the only ones which come in touch with our perceptive organs. According to Lefkipos, eyesight consists of the perception of a picture with visible objects where picture is then reflected in the pupil of the eye […]. In this way, some idols which are constantly abstracted from visible objects, keep their shape, penetrate the eyes and produce eyesight. As a result, bodies release vapors and what is caused to our senses is similar to the fingerprint on wax (entiposis=effect). Sense and perception, according to Lefkipos, are born when idols fall on us. We cannot try any of them without the picture on us. The other senses work in a similar way. This theory on senses was espoused by Democritus.

According to some excerpts of Aristotle, Lefkipos had written down his theory in books. His mentioned works are: “Grand decoration” [Megas diakosmos] and his essay on knowledge “On mind” [Peri nou].