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Published: Kem. Ind. 51 (9) (2002) 385–392
Paper reference number: KUI-36/2001
Paper type: Conference paper

Atomism in Greek Philosophy

N. Raos


The concept of atom, "indivisible particle", stems from a speculative answer of Greek philosophers Leucippus and Democritus to the paradoxical concept of Being as proposed by Parmenides. The atomic theory was further elaborated by Epicurus, who gave new answer to the questions concerning the problem of movement and indivisibility of atoms. The concept of atom was criticized by Aristotle, who denied the real existence of empty space (void), and claimed that matter was infinitely divisible. Plato, however, viewed "atoms" as regular geometrical solids constructed from immaterial elements - triangles. Along with the overview of development of atomic theory among the Greeks, the paper deals with the influences of Greek philosophy on the development of dynamic atomism in the 18th century, especially the theory of Croatian scientist Josip Ru|er Boskovic. The reflections of Greek atomism may be found in modern mechanistic explanation of chemical and physical problems (Democritus), stoichiometric concept of atom (Epicurus), quantum-chemical and stereochemical models (Plato), and models based on molecular volumes (Leucippus). Atomic theory proposed by J. R. Boskovic has, however, its counterpart in force-field methods of theoretical chemistry. Key words: Democritus, Leucippus, Plato, Boskovic, molecular volumes, quantum chemistry We know nothing truly, for the truth lies hidden in the depth (Democritus)

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Democritus, Leucippus, Plato, Bošković, molecular volumes, quantum chemistry