Elizabeth Asmis describes and analyzes the scientific method and
physical theories of the Greek atomist philosopher Epicurus
(341-271 B.C.), proposing that Epicurus had a far more coherent and
systematic approach to scientific inquiry than most classicists and
historians of science have recognized. She argues that Epicurus
held that all scientific theories must be inferences drawn from
empirical observations and that he adhered to this principle
consistently in constructing his own scientific system.
Epicurus' writings on the principles of scientific investigation
have largely been lost, but Asmis attempts to reconstruct them from
Epicurus' surviving works and from other relevant sources-including
the writings of Philodemus, Lucretius, Cicero, Diogenes Laertius,
and Sextus Empiricus. Asmis first studies Epicurus' two rules of
scientific investigation-the requirement for initial concepts and
the requirement for observation-and reconsiders the meaning of the
famous Epicurean claim that all sense perceptions are true. She
then shows how Epicurus used his principles of investigation to
generate his natural philosophy.
Her discussion sheds new light on the significance of Epicurus'
thought. Epicurus derived his method of inquiry from the early
atomists, Asmis concludes, and his philosophy was part of an
important empirical tradition-largely overlooked by historians of
science-that once was a rival to the scientific methods of Plato
and Aristotle. A significant study of Epicurus and of ancient
scientific method, this book will interest classicists,
philosophers concerned with the history of empiricism, and
historians of science.
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