On the Nature of Things

On the Nature of Things

Book - 2011
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This great poem stands with Virgil's Aeneid as one of the vital and enduring achievements of Latin literature. Lost for more than a thousand years, its return to circulation in 1417 reintroduced dangerous ideas about the nature and meaning of existence and helped shape the modern world.
Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2011.
ISBN: 9780393341362
0393341364
Branch Call Number: 187 Lucretiu
Characteristics: xxi, 176 p. ;,21 cm.
Additional Contributors: Copley, Frank O. (Frank Olin), 1907-1993
Alternative Title: De rerum natura.
Nature of things

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lukasevansherman
May 11, 2016

While I was dimly aware of the Roman writer, it wasn't until reading Stephen Greenblatt's book about the Renaissance, "The Swerve," that I learned more about him. The book, which takes its title from Lucretius's theory of atomic movement, is centered on the rediscovery of "On the Nature of Things" by a 15th century Florentine. The subtitle of Greenblatt's book is "How the World Became Modern" and for him, Lucretius is not just a great poet, but a radical thinker whose ideas helped man emerge from the dark ages. He, perhaps, overvalues Lucretius's contributions, which isn't to say there aren't some fascinating ideas in here. Lucretius develops both a scientific line of inquiry, using the theory of atoms developed by the Greek Democritus, and a philosophical one, based on Epicurus. The upshot is that all is material, avoiding pain is desirable, and while there are gods, they are in no way involved in our lives. These certainly would have been subversive ideas in their time and at the end of the middle ages, but it does feel more as if Lucretius is synthesizing many ideas rather than offering original thoughts. A compelling and provocative read, nonetheless. Translator Frank O. Copley provides a useful introduction and helpful footnotes.

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