LEUCIPPUS (/luːˈsɪpəs/ ; Greek : Λεύκιππος, Leúkippos;
fl. 5th cent. BCE) is reported in some ancient sources to have been a
philosopher who was the earliest Greek to develop the theory of
atomism —the idea that everything is composed entirely of various
imperishable, indivisible elements called atoms .
appears as the master to his pupil
Democritus , a philosopher also
touted as the originator of the atomic theory. However, a brief notice
Diogenes Laertius ’s life of
Epicurus says that on the testimony
Leucippus never existed. As the philosophical heir of
Democritus, Epicurus's word has some weight, and indeed a controversy
over this matter raged in German scholarship for many years at the
close of the 19th century. Furthermore, in his Corpus Democriteum,
Thrasyllus of Alexandria , an astrologer and writer living under the
Tiberius (14–37 CE), compiled a list of writings on atomism
that he attributed to
Democritus to the exclusion of Leucippus. The
present consensus among the world's historians of philosophy is that
Leucippus is historical. The matter must remain moot unless more
information is forthcoming from the record.
Leucippus was most likely born in
Miletus , although Abdera and Elea
are also mentioned as possible birthplaces.
* 1 Biography
* 2 See also
* 3 Notes
* 4 References
* 5 External links
Bearded head with
Corinthian helmet , thought to be of
Leucippus, sitting dog (Molossian hound?) on the reverse.
Leucippus was indeed a shadowy figure, as his dates are not recorded
and he is often mentioned in conjunction with his more well-known
pupil Democritus. It is therefore difficult to determine which
contributions to an atomic theory come from
Democritus and which come
Leucippus of record was an Ionian Greek (
Ionia , being the
Asiatic Greece or "
Asia Minor ", forms western Turkey today). And he
was a contemporary of
Zeno of Elea
Zeno of Elea and
Magna Graecia , now
part of southern Italy). He belonged to the same Ionian School of
naturalistic philosophy as
Anaximander , and Anaximenes , and
he was interested in reality and not idealism as the Italic Eleatics
Aristotle and his student
Theophrastus , however, explicitly credit
Leucippus with the invention of Atomism. In Aristotelian terms
Leucippus agreed with the Eleatic argument that "true being does not
admit of vacuum" and there can be no movement in the absence of vacuum
Leucippus contended that since movement exists, there must be empty
space. However, he concludes that vacuum is identified with nonbeing,
since "nothing" cannot really be. According to
differed from the
Eleatics in not being encumbered by the "conceptual
intermingling" of being and non-being, and
Plato made the necessary
distinction between "grades of being and types of negation".
The title most attributed to Leucippus' is the lost work Megas
Diakosmos (Big World-System, but this title was also attributed to
Democritus whose companion work was Micros Diakosmos, (Little
Fragments and doxographical reports about
Leucippus were collected by
Hermann Diels (1848–1922), firstly in Doxographi Graeci (Berlin,
1879, reprint Berlin: de Gruyter, 1929) and then in Die Fragmente der
Vorsokratiker, Berlin, 1903, 6th ed., rev. by
Walther Kranz (Berlin:
Weidmann, 1952; the editions after the 6th are mainly reprints with
little or no change.) Diels was the leading proponent for a historical
Some sources claim that around 440 or 430 BCE
Leucippus founded a
school at Abdera, with which his pupil, Democritus, was closely
associated. And there is mention that a
Leucippus founded the city
Metapontum , which honored this
Leucippus with a coin.
* ^ Jonathan Barnes, Early Greek Philosophy, 1987
* ^ The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy, p. xxiii.
Democritus was a resident of Abdera. Some said Leucippus
from Elea, perhaps since he was unsuitably associated with the Eleatic
Diogenes Laërtius says "
Leucippus was born at Elea, but some
say at Abdera and others at Miletus,"
Diogenes Laërtius 9.30.
Simplicius refers to him as "
Leucippus of Elea or Miletus,"
Simplicius, Physica 28.4.
* ^ Ancientlibrary.com Archived 2011-06-05 at the