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.