Observations Upon a Blazing World

Observations: Worlds

But con∣cerning the World, it seems, Epicurus doth not mean by the dissolution of the world, an absolute annihila∣tion, but onely a reduction into its former principles, which are Atomes; however, if this be his meaning, he contradicts himself, when he affirms, that the uni∣verse, whose portion the World is, was ever such as it is now, and shall ever be thus; for if it shall continue so for ever as it is now, how is it possible, that it should be reduced into Atomes. He says also, That the Vni∣niverse is immovable and immutable. If he mean it to be so in its Essence or Nature, so that it cannot be changed from being material; and that it is immovable, so that it cannot be moved, beyond, or without it self; I am of his opinion: For Nature being purely and wholly ma∣terial, cannot be made immaterial, without its total destruction; and being infinite, has nothing without it self to move into: Otherwise, Nature is not onely a self-moving body, but also full of changes and varie∣ties; I mean, within her self, and her particulars. As for his infinite Worlds, I am not different from his o∣pinion, if by Worlds he mean the parts of infinite Na∣ture; but my Reason will not allow, that those infi∣nite Worlds do subsist by themselves, distinguished from each other by Vacuum; for it is meer non-sense to say, the Universe consists of body and Vacuum; that is, of something, and nothing; for nothing cannot be a constitutive principle of any thing, neither can it be measured, or have corporeal dimensions; for what is no body, can have no bodily affections or properties. God, by his Omnipotency, may reduce the World into nothing; but this cannot be comprehended by na∣tural reason. 

2. The Matter or Principle of all natural Beings, Epicurus makes Atomes: For, say he, There are Simple, and Compounded bodies in the Universe; the Simple bodies are the first matter, out of which the Com∣pounded bodies consist, and those are Atomes; that is, bo∣dies indivisible, immutable, and in themselves void of all mutation; consisting of several infinite figures; some big∣ger, and some less. Which opinion appears very Para∣doxical to my reason; for if Atomes be bodies, I do not see how they can be indivisible, by reason where∣soever is body, there are also parts; so that divisibi∣lity is an essential propriety or attribute of Matter or Body. He counts it impossible, that one finite part should be capable of infinite divisions; but his Vacuum makes him believe there are single finite parts, distin∣guished from each other by little spaces or intervals of vacuity, which in truth cannot be; but as soon as parts are divided from such or such parts, they immediately join to other parts; for division and composition, as I mentioned before, are done by one act; and one countervails the other. 'Tis true, there are distin∣ctions of parts in Nature, or else there would be no variety; but these are not made by little intervals of vacuity, but by their own figures, interior as well as exterior, caused by self-motion, which make a diffe∣rence between the infinite parts of Nature. But put the case there were such Atomes, out of which all things are made; yet no man that has his sense and reason regular, can believe, they did move by chance, or at least without sense and reason, in the framing of the world, and all natural bodies, if he do but consider the wonderful order and harmony that is in Nature, and all her parts. Indeed I admire so witty and great a Phi∣losopher as Epicurus, should be of such an extravagant opinion, as to divide composed bodies into animate and inanimate, and derive them all from one Principle, which are senseless and irrational Atomes; for if his A∣tomes, out of which all things consist, be self-moving, or have, as he says, some natural impulse within them∣selves, then certainly all bodies that are composed of them, must be the same. He places the diversity of them onely in figure, weight and magnitude, but not in motion, which he equally allows to all; nay, more∣over, he says, that although they be of different fi∣fiures, weight and magnitude, yet they do all move equally swift; but if they have motion, they must of necessity have also sense, that is, life and knowledg; there being no such thing as a motion by chance in Na∣ture, because Nature is full of reason as well as of sense, and wheresoevever is reason, there can be no chance; Chance is onely in respect to particulars, caused by their ignorance; for particulars being finite in them∣selves, can have no Infinite or Universal knowledg; and where there is no Universal knowledg, there must of necessity be some ignorance. Thus ignorance, which proceeds from the division of parts, causes that which we call chance; but Nature, being an infinite self-moving body, has also infinite knowledg; and therefore she knows of no chance, nor is this visible World, or any part of her, made by chance, or a casual concourse of senseless and irrational Atomes; but by the All-pow∣erful Decree and Command of God, out of that pre∣existent Matter that was from all Eternity, which is in∣finite Nature; for though the Scripture expresses the framing of this World, yet it doth not say, that Na∣ture her self was then created; but onely that this world was put into such a frame and state, as it is now; and who knows but there may have been many other Worlds before, and of another figure then this is: nay, if Nature be infinite, there must also be infinite Worlds; for I take, with Epicurus, this World but for a part of the Universe; and as there is self-motion in Nature, so there are also perpetual changes of particulars, although God himself be immovable; for God acts by his All∣powerful Decree or Command, and not after a na∣tural way. 
3. The Soul of Animals, says Epicurus, is corpo∣real, and a most tenuious and subtile body, made up of most subtile particles, in figure, smooth and round, not perceptible by any sense; and this subtile contexture of the soul, is mixed and compounded of four several natures; as of something fiery, something aerial, some∣thing flatuous, and something that has no name; by means whereof it is indued with a sensitive faculty. And as for reason, that is likewise compounded or little bo∣dies, but the smoothest and roundest of all, and of the quickest motion. Thus he discourses of the Soul, which, I confess, surpasses my understanding; for I shall never be able to conceive, how senseless and irra∣tional Atomes can produce sense and reason, or a sen∣sible and rational body, such as the soul is, although he affirms it to be possible: 'Tis true, different effects may proceed from one cause or principle; but there is no principle, which is senseless, can produce sensitive effects; nor no rational effects can flow from an irra∣tional cause; neither can order, method and harmo∣ny proceed from chance or confusion; and I cannot conceive, how Atomes, moving by chance, should onely make souls in animals, and not in other bodies; for if they move by chance, and not by knowledg and consent, they might, by their conjunction, as well chance to make souls in Vegetables and Minerals, as in Animals.

4. Concerning Perception, and in particular, the Perception of sight, Epicurus affirms, that it is per∣formed by the gliding of some images of external ob∣jects into our eyes, to wit, that there are certain effluxi∣ons of Atomes sent out from the surfaces of bodies, preserving the same position and order, as is found in the superficies of them, resembling them in all their li∣neaments; and those he calls Images, which are per∣petually flowing in an interrupted course; and when one Image goes away, another immediately succeeds from the superficies of the object in a continued stream; and this entering into our eyes, and striking our sight, with a very swift motion, causes the Perception of seeing.

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