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Atomism is not finished. The discreteness of divisible atoms, upon which the Greeks’ cosmologies were based, runs from Democritus to Epicurus and Lucretius, and right up to the gates of modern aleatoricism and theories of contingency. At which point Vilém Flusser joins in: “It is utterly uncanny how contemporary this myth is.” (Kommunikologie weiter denken, 2009, p. 214; translated from the German) This may be because atomism contains a theory of chance that derives from the spirit of motion and deviation. The course of things is determined not by a sovereign sensing subject, but by an unpredictable deviation untraceable to any cause. The Democritus–Epicurus–Lucretius–Wittgenstein line conceives the world as raining eventualities: “Everything is a rain of tiny droplets. […] But it may happen that one droplet deviates just slightly, minimally, from its trajectory, so that it falls onto the droplet on the adjacent trajectory. […] One droplet falls onto another. The droplets have something like little hooks on them.” (ibid., p. 213; translated from the German)

This materialistic droplet philosophy of minimal chance is the “birth of the atomistic worldview,” which “becomes, first with Epicurus and later with Lucretius, that colossal edifice we call Epicureanism” (ibid., p. 214; translated from the German). Like Michel Serres, Flusser sees the beginning of the “calculatory mentality” and the “calculation of probability” (ibid.; translated from the German) And, continuing to think along these ultramodern lines, the concepts of “providence” and “plan” (ibid., p. 215; translated from the German) are swept away as well. With this gesture, the lineage may be extended as far as François Jullien’s theory of the effectiveness of active nonaction and the “potential energy of the situation” (Jullien, A Treatise on Efficacy, 2004, p. 18). Instead of swimming against the current, one must allow oneself to be carried along by it, following the deviations of motion and random little shifts. And the line can be extended further: to Adam Thirlwell’s experimental, knowledge- teeming, and somewhat cryptic work The Delighted States (2008), which contains, in its German incarnation, the following Epicurean statement: “Causes follow effects. Origins keep turning out to be crazy.” (Thirlwell, Der multiple Roman, 2013, p. 152; translated from the German) Perhaps that is the reason for the Epicurean breezes wafting through Laurence Sterne’s novel of digressions, Tristram Shandy (1759–1767), as well as through Flusser’s thinking – entropies included, where the product of chance is sometimes chaff.

Original article by Thomas Düllo in Flusseriana

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epicurus.txt · Last modified: 2021/11/05 17:47 by