Nature: It must be noted, to begin with, that Marx wrote his dissertation on the idea of nature in Democritus and Epicurus in 1841 -barely 3 years before his 1844 manuscripts. Of course, one is invited to go through the entire volume of Marx’s thesis, that is a scholarly work that might be absolutely valid and called for an intellectually rigorous figure like Marx. However, for our purposes, we can turn towards the shortened and published version of his dissertation with the same title. In short we will see a few ideas of nature in Marx’s 1841 to 1844 period.


1841: 1) Nature as everything 2) Nature as chance 3) Nature as something within the individual atom (later in 1844 as something withing the individual human),
1844: 4) Inorganic Nature, 5) Organic Nature (concerning natural bodies).
We will briefly elaborate these ideas of nature briefly in the subsequent posts.


1) Nature as everything: In his study on the Difference Between Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature Marx focuses on the contradiction between the similar yet diametrically opposite ideas of nature in the atomistic idea of Democritean and Epicurean philosophy. The term nature itself is scarcely used in the published version. However, what we get instead is a study of the difference between a scientific and philosophical ideas of the working (and perhaps even the making) of the world. When pushed to its limits, we get a study of the making of the universe itself -also a term not used in the book. The basic idea of atomistic thinking is that everything is made out of indivisible principles called atom. For Democritus the atom can have any size and shape -and by some accounts the atom can be as big as the world itself. However, it was Epicurus who designated atoms as the smallest and indivisible unit. The question then arises is what enables the atoms to come together and create something at all?


2) Nature as Chance: Democritus posited that atoms come together by necessity by pushing against each other. The analogy that we see here is in that of a straight line. A straight line can be imagined as a series of points moving in a direction. The point is subsumed in the line. But does that mean that only the line exists and not the point? If that were true, then what we get is a pure causality. One atom pushing the other atom and so on until infinity. If that were true then, how would different kinds of things exist at all? Democritus’ solution to this is to posit ideas that would differentiate atoms in three ways: 1) shape (rhysmos), 2) position (trope), 3) arrangement (diathige ). As Aristotle notes Elements are the “full and the void… These are the basis of being matter. Just as those who assume only one fundamental substance generate all other thing by its affections, assuming rarity and density as the principles of qualities -in the same way Leucippus and Democritus also teach that the difference between the atoms are the causes of the other things, for the underlying being differs only by rhysmos, diathige and trope… That is, A differes from N in shapre, AN from NA in arrangement, Z from N in position.” ( Marx, 1841).


One can extrapolate this and imagine that what differentiates one kind of thing from another is the rarity and density of arrangement of atoms of different shapes and size, distributed in the void (space).
Epicurus on the other hand posits that it is repulsion or declination that enable atoms to escape the straight line and collide into another atom -enabling the free bumping and meeting of atoms- that actually enables the creation of various things. Hence, it is not by necessity but by pure chance -or chance encounter of atoms- that multiple things get produced and formed. As Marx notes “Lucretius therefore is correct when he maintains that. the declination breaks the fati foedera, [bonds of fate] and, since he applies this immediately to consciousness, it can be said of the atom that the declination is that something in its breast that can fight back and resist… Lucretius is therefore correct when he says that, if the atoms were not to decline, neither their repulsion nor their meeting would have taken place, and the world would never have been created.”
Immediately, another problem emerges from this proposition, what enables the declination and repulsion of atom?

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