nee declinando faciunt primordia motus
principium quoddam quod fati foedera rumpat,
ex infinite ne causam causa sequatur,
libera per terras unde haec animantibus exstat
unde est haec, inquam, fatis avolsa potestas,
per quam progredimur quo ducit quemque voluntas,
declinamus item motus nee tempore certo
nee regione loci certa, sed ubi ipsa tulit mens ?
nam dubio procul his rebus sua cuique voluntas
principium dat et hinc motus per membra rigantur.
nonne vides etiam, patefactis tempore puncto,
carceribus, non posse tamen prorumpere equorum
vim cupidam tarn de subito quam mens avet ipsa ?
omnis enim toturn per corpus material
copia conquiri debet, concita per artus
omnis ut studium mentis conixa sequatur ;
ut videas initum motus a corde creari
ex animique voluntate id procedere primum,
inde dari porro per totum corpus et artus.
nee similest ut cum impulsi procedimus ictu
viribus alterius magnis magnoque coactu :
nam turn materiem totius corporis omnem
perspicuumst nobis invitis ire rapique,
donee earn refrenavit per membra voluntas.
iamne vides igitur, quamquam vis extera multos
126 THE ATOMIC THEORY OF LUCRETIUS.
6 For beyond a doubt, in these things, for each man his
own will makes the beginning, and from this the motions are
spread in a stream through the limbs. Do you not see too,
when the barrier has at a given moment been flung open, that
still the eager might of the horses is not able to break away so
suddenly as their mind longs to do ? For the whole store of
matter throughout the whole body must be sought out in order
that it may be stirred up all over the frame, and may with one
united effort obey the desire of the mind, so that you see that
the beginning of motion is horn fmm jTP_>.ppTf an d tha it
issues in the first place frojD *be desire of lhe-mind. From
this it is next distributedthrough the whole of the body and
limb's^ Itis^quite different when we move on impelled by a
blow, inflicted by the strong power and strong compulsion of
another, 1 for then it is plain that all the matter of the whole
body moves and is hurried on against our desire until the
will has reined it in throughout the limbs. Do you see now,
therefore, although an outside force in many cases drives men
on and often compels them to go forward against their will
and to be hurried on headlong, that still there is within our
breast something which is able to fight against and to resist it ?
And at the beck of this something also, the whole amount of
matter is compelled sometimes to change its course all over the
limbs and frame, and after it has been driven forward, it is
pellat, et invitos cogat procedere saepe
praecipitesque rapi, tamen esse in pectore nostro
.quiddam quod contra pugnare obstareque possit ?
cuius ad arbitrium quoque copia material
cogitur interdum flecti per membra, per artus,
et proiecta refrenatur retroque residit.
quare in seminibus quoque idem fateare necessest,
esse aliam praeter plagas et pondera causam
motibus, unde haec est nobis innata potestas,
de nilo quoniam fieri nil posse videmus.
pondus enim prohibet ne plagis omnia fiant
externa quasi vi ; sed ne mens ipsa necessum
intestinum habeat cunctis in rebus agendis
et devicta quasi hoc cogatur ferre patique,
id facit exiguum clinamen principiorum
nee regione loci certa nee tempore certo. ii. 251-93.
1 Viribus alterius magnis magnoque coactu.
The repetition of magnis in this line has a pointed force : it is intended to
contrast with the small beginning of self- originated motion.
ATOMIC DECLINATION AND FREE-WILL. 127
reined in and settles back into its place. Wherefore in atoms
as well * you must admit the same, that in addition to blows 2 and
weights there is another cause of motions whence this power has
been begotten in us, since we see that nothing can come from
nothing. For weight forbids that things should be done
altogether by the agency of blows, through as it were an out-
ward force ; but that the mind itself does not feel an internal
necessity in all its actions, and is not completely overpowered,
as it were, and compelled to bear and put up with this, is
caused by a minute swerving of the first-beginnings at no
fixed part of space and at no fixed time.'
It is worth while to retrace Lucretius's reasoning, and keep
as close to it as we can. It is pretty nearly this.
If the whole world of nature and man is a mechanism in
which cause follows cause and motion follows motion in a fixed
order from everlasting, we could not possibly have Free-will.
Here Lucretius apj^eals emphatically to our inner conscious-
s._ ( Beyond a doubt' we feel and know that, when jwe
move, our own will makes a beginning of motion, and-this
motion ^mdually_iiicreases. We see the same thing in horses
which, when the signal has been given in a race, cannot start
at once, though eager to do so. The motion has to begin at
the heart, and spread through the limbs Lucretius considers
tKTgradualness felt and discerned in the movements of Hying-
things (which originate from within and gradually grow) a<s_a
proof of^Free-will. Movement caused by Necessity is quite
different. The tendency of outside force is to make the body
acted on move all at-Qnce. Thus when a man is violentlyjjushed,
he moves all at once. Here again (11. 271-83) Lucretius
makes a confident appeal to the facts of personal experience,
a consciousness so clear and vivid that it cannot be counter-
said. 3 How clearly we discriminate between moving of our
1 i.e., in atoms as well as in human beings.
2 plagae, i.e., the blows of atoms in collision. Plagae is Lucretius's
term for mechanical force.
3 Mr. Henry Sidgwick, in his ' Method of Ethics,' has emphatically
expressed the convincing force of this argument from individual experi-
128 THE ATOMIC THEORY OF LUCRETIUS.
own accord and being pushed ! In the latter case we are pro-
pelled forward, but all the time we feel with positive conviction
that there is ( something within our breast ' which can resist the
outer impulse, and finally checks it. The same is the case
with atoms, too. 1 In the world of nature 2 all motion is caused
by ' blows ' and ( weights ; ' but there must be in all atoms, and
particularly in the atoms forming the soul, another cause of
movement, namely, the power to decline at will. This is neces-
sary, since if the soul-atoms have not this power, while the
soul has it, we violate the first principle nothing can come
from nothing. In thus applying his axiom f ex nihilo nihil fit '
(1. 287), Lucretius draws the final conclusion a bold enough
one, too of a close-reasoned argument. He reasons thus :
( I cannot account for Free-will appearing in human beings, the
highest product of atomic evolution, unless it were there from the
first. If men have Free-will, then Matter which they come
from must have Free-will too, since nothing can come from
Lucretius goes on, still speaking strictly of the mind, to dis-
criminate pointedly between two kinds of necessity which may
enslave it, an external one and an internal one externa vis on
the one hand, and necessum intestinum on the other. 3 The
ence. After first allowing that there is ' an almost overwhelming cumu-
lative proof that human Free-will does not exist, he speaks as follows :
This evidence ' is more than balanced by a single argument on the other
side, the immediate affirmation of consciousness in the moment of delibe-
rate volition. ... No amount of experience of the sway of motives ever
tends to make me distrust my intuitive consciousness that in resolving,
after deliberation, I exercise free choice as to which of the motives acting
upon me shall prevail.'
1 The inference conveyed by quoque must not be forgotten. It refers to
the preceding illustrations of free-will action in men and animals. It
means ' in atoms as well as in human beings.'
2 In the appendix we have discussed an apparent difficulty in this part
of Lucretius's argument.
3 M. Guyau has clearly enforced this, and has very aptly shown with
reference to this passage that ancient philosophers held weight (as causing
ATOMIC DECLINATION AND FREE-WILL. 129
natural gravity of the mind-atoms would offer a certain
amount l of resistance to ' blows ' from without that is, to the
Necessity which reigns everywhere in Nature. But though
weight is less of an externa vis, still it is fatal within the mind,
and would, even more hopelessly, imprison mens ipsa the mind
within her own house. 2
Therefore, if the mind is to be free, the atoms composing it
must possess Free-will. Nothing else can deliver the mind
Such is the reasoning by which Lucretius proves that this
marvellous power of Declination exists everywhere around us,
in the atoms composing every form of Matter. What then
omes of it ? we cannot help asking. Does a power like this
exist, yet produce no effect in the world? On this subject
M. Guyau has built up a theory which he endeavours to prove
from' historical evidence to have been the actual teaching .of
Epicurus ; nay more, M. Guyau seriously accepts this theory
as scientifically true from a nineteenth century standpoint.
According to him ' Declination ' does not disappear without
motion to originate from within) to be less of the nature of necessity than
aii outside force was. Compare Cicero, * De Fato,' xi., ' De ipsa atomo
lici potest enim, quum per inane moveatur gravitate et pondere, sine causa
moveri, quia nulla causa accedat extrinsecus.'
1 These, it must be remembered, are exceedingly minute as compared
with dead-matter atoms. The word omnia here is emphatic.
2 M. Guyau (pp. 85-7) has done service by referring to the very inge-
aious attempt of Carneades to show that Declination was unnecessary
aecause, just as it is the 'nature ' of the atom to move by its own weight,
similarly it is the ' nature ' of the mind to move of its own accord. * Thus,'
says M. Guyau, * by the idea of nature that is to say, of a cause which
should in reality be neither free nor necessary Carneades hopes to
reconcile the regularity of movements in the universe with their arbitrary
Freedom in man.' The ' nature ' by which Carneades explained the diffi-
culty appears to be a kind of * inherent potency,' like that of which we
lave heard a good deal lately. It is not impossible that, as Guyau seems
o imply, in this passage Lucretius is expressly combating the very
arguments of Carneades.
130 THE ATOMIC THEORY OF LUCRETIUS.
any result, but produces wondrous effects in Nature. His
theory is one of the most remarkable castles-in-the-air which
have ever been raised, and will certainly not be forgotten in
the history of philosophy.
In insisting on the importance of our personal consciousness
of Free-will, and in reasoning back, after a fashion, from it to
the origin of all Force, as well as in supposing Will to exist
everywhere in every form of matter, Epicurus strongly reminds
us of a very remarkable modern philosopher, Schopenhauer.
According to Schopenhauer, the only direct knowledge which
we have is that of our Will, and our personal consciousness of
Will is the only key to the essence of nature and of natural
forces. Science, he says, can never teach us what a law is, nor
yet what a force is, nor what a cause is. All the physical
sciences have one common defect their method is exterior.
They remind us of ' a man who wanders round and round a
castle, vainly seeking for an entrance, and meanwhile sketches
the outside of it.' It is only our own sense of free-will action,
in the body by which we are rooted in the world, that enables
us to solve the riddle, and tell what the essence of force is.
Schopenhauer insists on reducing all the forces of nature to
Will. ' I consider,' he says, ' every natural force as a Will.
Will is essentially identical witji all the forces which act in
nature, the various manifestations of which belong to the
species of which Will is the genus. It is the direct conscious-
ness which we have of Will which alone conducts us to the indirect
knowledge of the other Forces? .... c If, then, we reduce the
notion of Force to that of Will, we reduce the unknown to a
thing much better known, to the only thing directly known,
and this greatly extends our knowledge. If, on the opposite,
we reduce, as has hitherto been done, the concept of Will to
that of Force, we abandon the only immediate knowledge of
the world which we have : we allow it to be lost in an abstract
conception which is derived from phenomena, and with which
ATOMIC DECLINATION AND FREE-WILL. 131
we shall never be able to get beyond them.' Many critics have
charged Schopenhauer with simply exalting Force under the
name of Will. 1 According to them, his ( Will ' simply requires
to be translated by the name of ( Force.' This criticism is
only very partially true. We must remember that Schopen-
hauer's derivation of his doctrine from our own direct con-
sciousness of effort, when we will any act, affords a real basis
for his conception, and to a considerable extent justifies his
application of the term Will to denote the essence of all
things. In thus claiming that we understand the operation of
natural forces only in virtue of our own acts of conscious Will,
Schopenhauer can reasonably claim that he proceeds from the
known to the unknown. If on one side, as he says, his ( Will '
is ( only an x, an absolutely unknown quantity,' on the other it
is, he asserts, e infinitely better known to us, and more certain
than all else. ' In reality Schopenhauer's philosophy, which
reduces the world to a 'manifestation of 'Will,' is a kind of
Pantheism, but Pantheism of a kind peculiar to himself. We
cannot here reproduce the elaborate argument in which Schopen-
hauer insists on reducing the concept of Force to that of Will. 2
There are several points of contact, some of them pretty close,
between Schopenhauer and Lucretius, but at present we can
only remind our readers how Lucretius too intimately associates
Will with the origin of Force.
There are two aspects from which we may consider Lucre tius's
doctrine of atomic Declination.
I. In the first place, it is well to observe how simple, yet how
1 So, according to M. Eibot (' La Philosophic de Schopenhauer,' Paris,
1874, p. 152), 'This blind unconscious Will can only be Force;' and
again, p. 177, Schopenhauer '.places .Force at the crown of things under
the name of Will.' Schopenhauer himself utterly refuses to allow his
concept of ' Will' to be thus reduced to Force. See M. Kibot, pp. 67-8.
2 We may refer to the admirable chapter, 'La Voloute,' in Kibot's
excellent little work above mentioned.
132 THE ATOMIC THEORY OF LUCRETIUS.
efficacious a part it plays in the Epicurean system. Its role
is a double one. According to Lucretius the atoms, which are
conceived to fall straight downwards, from all_ieinity, in
parallel lines ljke_^Oj3s_ojrj:ain,^ would never meet and by
meeting create the world but that occasionally they swerve
a very little from their path, and so come into, collision. If
we can move at will, Lucretius argues, therefore the jitom
mustbe able to move at will, 'and if it move at Free-will, it
must go off the perpendicular line of Necessity, and byjtSus
declining the atoms are brought into contact. Thus the Epi-
curean explanation of Free-will at the same time explains the
origin of the world.
II. The doctrine is far more interesting, however, when we
consider the philosophical consequences implied in it.
1. The reasoning of Lucretius which we have before abstracted
is cogent enough. We see that Lucretius is not merely daring
but also logical in assigning Will to matter. That which is in
the effect must also be in the cause ; therefore, if Free-will be
in man, it must also exist in the atoms of which he is composed.
A human creature endowed' with Free-will cannot comelrbm
toms whinli dn not, possess volition. From Lucretius's stand-
oint, this is a logical Necessity. (It is certainly surprising
lowever, that the author of a materialistic system should have
llowed the existence of Free-will at all.) Very noteworthy
too is the manner in which Lucretius strengthens his argumen
by appealing to our personal consciousness of effort. The vivid-
ness and directness of this feeling is, he implies, something
unanswerable. No arguments for Necessity can do awaj
A theory substantially the same as Lucretius's, but more
subtle, has been stated in our own time. We refer to Professoi
Clifford's doctrine of ' Mind- Stuff,' which runs so closely paralle
with that of atomic Declination that it is worth while to giv<
some account of it here. The two doctrines illuminate eacl
ATOMIC DECLINATION AND FKEE-WILL. 133
other. Professor Clifford's theory, stated shortly, is, as nearly
as we can reproduce it, the following l :
Along with every fact of consciousness in our mind, there
goes some disturbance of nerve-matter. When a man is con-
scious of anything, ' there is something outside of him which
is matter in motion, and that which corresponds inside of him is
also matter in motion.' Both are made of the same stuff ; the
object outside and the optic ganglion are both matter, and
that matter is made of molecules moving about in ether. Thus,
whenever the ganglion of the brain is disturbed because cer-
tain pieces of grey matter there have arranged themselves in
the figure of a square, the consciousness of a square is pro-
duced in my mind. Thus there are two classes of facts which
always run parallel, 'physical facts and mental facts.' But
there exist far lower and less complex forms of feeling than such
as make up human consciousness. ' We are obliged to assume,
in order to save continuity in our belief, that along with every
motion of matter, whether organic or inorganic, there is some fact
which corresponds to the mental fact in ourselves. The mental
? act in ourselves is an exceedingly complex thing ; so also our
3rain is an exceedingly complex thing. We may assume that
the quasi-mental fact which corresponds and which goes along
with the motion of every particle of matter, is of such incon-
ceivable simplicity, as compared with our own mental fact,
with our consciousness, as the motion of a molecule of matter is
of inconceivable simplicity when compared with the motion in
our brain.' According to Professor Clifford our consciousness
is a very complex thing indeed. 'When a stream of feelings
is so compact together that at each instant it consists of (l)new
feelings, (2) fainter repetitions of previous ones, and (3) links
1 It is worked out in two papers, * Body and Mind ' and * On the nature
of Things-in-themselves,' in his ' Essays and Eernains,' vol. ii., 1879. The
first statement of the doctrine is said to be found in Wundt's ' Grundziige
der physiologischen Psychologie.'
134 THE ATOMIC THEORY OF LUCRETIUS.
connecting these repetitions, the stream is called a conscious-
ness.' No single feeling of ours is a unit. Every feeling of |
mine is a most complex structure, built up from a great many
different- elementary feelings which are grouped together in
various ways, just as the action of my brain is made up of a
great many elementary actions in different parts of it, grouped
together in the same ways. Thus each elementary feeling
corresponds to a special, comparatively simple, change of nerve-
matter. It is a popular error to suppose that a feeling cannot
exist by itself without forming part of some consciousness. If
then we go back along the line from the organic to the inor-
ganic, and if ( according to the complexity of the organism is
the complexity of the consciousness,' where are we to stop ?
Where does the breach of continuity take place ? Where does
some degree of feeling cease to accompany the motion of matter ?
' There is only one way out of the difficulty, and to that we are
driven. Consciousness is a complex of ejective facts, of ele-
mentary feelings, or rather of those remoter elements which
cannot even be felt, but of which the simplest feeling is built
up. Such elementary ejective facts go along with the action of
every organism, however simple ; ' but it is only with a complex
nervous structure that the complication of feelings called Con-
sciousness co-exists. ' But as the line of ascent is unbroken,
and must end at last in inorganic matter, we have no choice
but to admit that every motion of matter is simultaneous with
some ejective fact or event [i.e., elementary feeling] which might
he part of a consciousness.' From this follows the important
corollary, ( A feeling can exist by itself without forming part
of a consciousness. It does not depend for its existence on the
consciousness of which it 'may form a part.' These elements
of feeling, of which our simplest ordinary feeling is a complex,
Professor Clifford calls Mind-Stuff. ( A moving- molecule of
inorganic matter does not possess mind or consciousness, but it
possesses a small piece of mind-stuff.'
ATOMIC DECLINATION AND FREE-WILL. 135
By a process of reasoning which is very hard to apprehend, 1
Professor Clifford decides that the thing-in-itself, the reality
which underlies all matter, is the same stuff which, when
compounded together, produces mind. It is not the same thing
as mind, but is made of the same stuffl Thus the universe
consists entirely of mind-stuff. ' There is no matter without
something like mind behind it.' According to this theory all
matter is mind-stuff on one side, on what may be called its
interior side. We naturally ask then, Is there no mind-stuff
on a vast scale, answering to the inner side of the vast material
universe ? and may we not then conceive the reality under-
lying the whole world as one great mind ? No, says Professor
Clifford, ' Human consciousness is, so far as we know, the
highest that exists.'
Of course Professor Clifford's theory does not by any
means explain the origin of Consciousness. ( Every mental
picture,' says Clifford, f is made up of exceedingly simple
mental facts, so simple that I feel them only in groups.' For
one thing, if a single elementary feeling does not produce
consciousness, why should mere complexity produce it ?
If every molecule of my body possesses some degree of
sentiency, does this account for my conviction of personality ?
Yet the theory, however insufficient, is instructive. The
materialist feels that it is a hopeless task to explain the
origin of Consciousness or of Free-will out of dead atoms, with-
out some break in the continuity of development, some new
entrance of Energy into the field. His only escape from the
difficulty is this: the atoms are not c utterly dead,' but con-
tain in a faint and weak form the faculties of consciousness
and mind which are found in the highest product of Evolu-
tion, man. Thus Professor Clifford, in order to explain the
evolution of Mind from atoms, asserts that every atom of
1 'Lectures and Essays,' vol. ii., pp. 85-7.
136 THE ATOMIC THEORY OF LUCRETIUS.
matter corresponds to an atom of Mind- Stuff, that is, of some-
thing analogous to Mind. He thus builds up Mind out of a
multitude of mind-atoms, that is to say, of elementary feelings
which can exist by themselves as 'individuals,' simplicitate,
as much as can the Lucretian atoms, but which are almost as
small in comparison with the consciousness of any one human
being as Lucretius's atoms are in comparison with a human
body. Lucretius again, who believes in Free-will, can only
explain it by assigning Free-will to the atoms. The reasoning
of both, starting from a similar standpoint, is substantially the
same, and the two theories of 'Mind-Stuff' and of Atomic
Declination deserve to be placed side by side. Both are based
upon the same principle,
unde haec est nobis innata potestas
de nilo quoniam fieri nil posse videmus,
and apply it with equal boldness. Both moreover show to us
Materialism confessing its own weakness to account, unaided,
for the origin of Mind.
2. Lucretius is a most ardent believer in individual Free-will,
which indeed was one main dogma of Epicureanism. He sup-
poses Declination to be amply potent in the way of making
this possible. In giving an account of Epicurean psychology,
we quoted a most important passage from Herschel, showing
that unless we suppose the will to exert some amount of Force,
however slight, we can hardly conceive its action. Is not this
same principle most clearly implied in Lucretius's account,
already explained at full, of the method by which Will sets
our body in motion ? The Will acts directly on the smallest
soul-atoms, those of the fourth principle ; these in turn move