General Principlesby Titus Lucretius Carus
First Law: Nothing is made of nothing.
This darkness of the mind is a terror that must be scattered not by the rays of the sun and the gleaming shafts of day, but by the outer view and the inner law of nature.
Its first rule is that nothing is ever begotten of nothing by divine will.
Men behold many things come to pass on earth, the cause of whose working they cannot see.
- They think that a divine power brings them about.
Therefore, when we have seen that nothing can be created out of nothing, then we can better discern that which we search, both:
- whence each thing can be created, and
- how all things come to be without the aid of gods.
Proof: All things require fixed seeds.
For if things came to being from nothing, every kind might be born from all things without needing a seed.
- The first men might arise from the sea
- The race of scaly creatures might arise from the land
- Birds might burst forth from the sky
The same fruits would not stay constant to the trees. They all would change. All trees might avail to bear all fruits.
- If they have fixed substance, how could things have a fixed unchanging mother?
All things are produced from fixed seeds. Each thing is born and comes forth into the coasts of light, out of that which has in it the substance and first-bodies of each. This is why all things cannot come from one thing – in each thing there dwells a power set apart.
- If they have fixed substance, how can there be fixed seasons of birth?
Or why do we see the roses in spring, the corn in summer’s heat, the vines bursting out in autumn if the fixed seeds of things have flowed together?
But if they sprang from nothing, suddenly would they arise at uncertain intervals and in hostile times of year, since there would be no first-beginnings which might be kept apart from creative union at an ill-starred season.
- If they have fixed substance, they would require fixed periods for increase.
There would be no need for lapse of time for the increase of things upon the meeting of the seed, if they could grow from nothing.
- Little children would grow suddenly to youths
- Trees would come forth at once, leaping from the earth.
But in reality, all things grow slowly from a fixed seed. As they grow, they preserve their kind.
- If they have fixed substance, they would require fixed nourishment
Without fixed rain-showers, the earth could not put forth its produce, nor renew its kind or preserve its life.
- There would be a fixed limit of growth
Why could not nature produce men so large that could walk through the ocean or rend asunder mighty mountains with their hands?
Therefore, nothing can be brought to being out of nothing, inasmuch as it needs a seed for things, from which each may be produced and brought forth into the gentle breezes of the air.
The earth has first-beginnings of things, which we call forth to birth by turning the teeming sods with the ploughshare and drilling the soil of the earth.
But if there were none such, you would see all things without toil of ours of their own will come to be far better. Otherwise all things would be destroyed at once.
It follows that nature breaks up each thing again into its own first-bodies. She does not destroy something into nothing.
For if anything were mortal in all its parts, each thing would on a sudden be snatched from our eyes, and pass away.
For there would be no need of any force, such as might cause disunion in its parts and unloose its fastenings.