The Second Law: nothing is resolved into nothing.
11 minutes • 2175 words
All things are put together of everlasting seeds, until some force:
- batters them asunder with its blow, or
- makes its way inward through the empty voids and break things up
Nature does not suffers the destruction of anything seen.
Moreover, if time utterly destroys whatsoever through age it takes from sight, and devours all its substance,
nor could the world be replenished;
how is it that Venus brings back the race of living things after their kind into the light of life, or when she has, how does earth, the quaint artificer, nurse and increase them, furnishing food for them after their kind? how is it that its native springs and the rivers from without, coming from afar, keep the sea full?
how is it that the sky feeds the stars? For infinite time and the days that are gone by must needs have devoured all things that are of mortal body.
But if in all that while, in the ages that are gone by, those things have existed, of which this sum of things consists and is replenished, assuredly they are blessed with an immortal nature; all things cannot then be turned to nought.
The same force could destroy all things alike; And again, the same force and cause would destroy all things alike, unless an eternal substance held them together, part with part interwoven closely or loosely by its fastenings. For in truth a touch would be cause enough of death, seeing that none of these things would be of everlasting body, whose texture any kind of force would be bound to break asunder.
But as it is, because the fastenings of the firstelements are variously put together, and their substance is everlasting, things endure with body unharmed, until there meets them a force proved strong enough to overcome the texture of each. No single thing then passes back to nothing, but all by dissolution pass back into the first-bodies of matter.4. as it is, the loss of one thing means the increase of another.
Lastly, the rains pass away, when the sky, our father, has cast them headlong into the lap of earth, our mother; but the bright crops spring up, and the branches grow green upon the trees, the trees too grow and are laden with fruit; by them next our race and the race of beasts is nourished, through them we see glad towns alive with children, and leafy woods on every side ring with the young birds’ cry; through them the cattle wearied with fatness lay their limbs to rest over the glad pastures, and the white milky stream trickles from their swollen udders; through them a new brood with tottering legs sports wanton among the soft grass, their baby hearts thrilling with the pure milk. Not utterly then perish all things that are seen, since nature renews one thing from out another, nor suffers anything to be begotten, unless she be requited by another’s death.
The existence of invisible particles is supported by other invisible bodies.Come now, since I have taught you that things cannot be created of nought nor likewise when begotten be called back to nothing, lest by any chance you should begin nevertheless to distrust my words, because the first-beginings of things cannot be descried with the eyes, let me tell you besides of other bodies, which you must needs confess yourself are among things and yet cannot be seen.
First of all the might of the awakened wind lashes the ocean and o’erwhelms vast ships and scatters the clouds,
This scours the plains with tearing hurricane it strews them with great trees, and harries the mountain-tops with blasts that rend the woods: with such fierce whistling the wind rages and ravens with angry roar.
There are therefore unseen bodies of:
- wind which sweep sea and land
- clouds of heaven, and tear and harry them with sudden hurricane
They stream on and spread havoc in no other way than when the soft nature of water is borne on in a flood o’erflowing in a moment, swollen by a great rush of water dashing down from the high mountains after bounteous rains and hurling together broken branches from the woods, and whole trees too; nor can the strong bridges bear up against the sudden force of the advancing flood.
In such wise, turbid with much rain, the river rushes with might and main against the piles: roaring aloud it spreads ruin, and rolls and dashes beneath its waves huge rocks and all that bars its flood.
Thus then the blasts of wind too must needs be borne on; and when like some strong stream they have swooped towards any side, they push things and dash them on with constant assault; sometimes in eddying whirl they seize them up and bear them away in swiftly swirling hurricane.
Wherefore again and again there are unseen bodies of wind, inasmuch as in their deeds and ways they are found to rival mighty streams, whose body all may see. Then again we smell the manifold scents of things,
Yet we do not ever descry them coming to the nostrils, nor do we behold warm heat,
nor can we grasp cold with the eyes,
nor is it ours to descry voices;
yet all these things must needs consist of bodily nature, inasmuch as they can make impact on our senses. For, if it be not body, nothing can touch and be touched.
Garments hung up upon the shore, where the waves break, grow damp, and again spread in the sun they dry. Yet never has it been seen in what way the moisture of the water has sunk into them, nor again in what way it has fled before the heat. Therefore the moisture is dispersed into tiny particles, which the eyes can in no way see.
- The evidence of Decay
Nay more, as the sun’s year rolls round again and again, the ring on the finger becomes thin beneath by wearing, the fall of dripping water hollows the stone, the bent iron ploughshare secretly grows smaller in the fields, and we see the paved stone streets worn away by the feet of the multitude; again, by the city-gates the brazen statues reveal that their right hands are wearing thin through the touch of those who greet them ever and again as they pass upon their way. All these things then we see grow less, as they are rubbed away: yet what particles leave them at each moment, the envious nature of our sight has shut us out from seeing.
Whatever time and nature adds little by little to things, impelling them to grow in due proportion, the straining sight of the eye can never behold, nor again wherever things grow old through time and decay. Nor where rocks overhang the sea, devoured by the thin salt spray, could you see what they lose at each moment. ’Tis then by bodies unseen that nature works her will.
- The Void
Yet all things are not held close pressed on every side by the nature of body; for there is void in things.
To have learnt this will be of profit to you in dealing with many things; it will save you from wandering in doubt and always questioning about the sum of things, and distrusting my words. There is then a void, mere space untouchable and empty.
Without void, motion is impossible.
For if there were not, by no means could things move; for that which is the office of body, to offend and hinder, would at every moment be present to all things; nothing, therefore, could advance, since nothing could give the example of yielding place. But as it is, through seas and lands and the high tracts of heaven, we descry many things by many means moving in diverse ways before our eyes, which, if there were not void, would not so much be robbed and baulked of restless motion, but rather could in no way have been born at all, since matter would on every side be in close-packed stillness.
Void accounts for the perviousness of seeming solids, Again, however solid things may be thought to be, yet from this you can discern that they are of rare body. In rocky caverns the liquid moisture of water trickles through, and all weeps with copious dripping: food spreads itself this way and that into the body of every living thing: trees grow and thrust forth their fruit in due season, because the food is dispersed into every part of them from the lowest roots through the stems and all the branches. Noises creep through walls and fly through the shut places in the house, stiffening cold works its way to the bones: but were there no empty spaces, along which each of these bodies might pass, you would not see this come to pass by any means.
Differences in weight in bodies of equal size. Again, why do we see one thing surpass another in weight, when its size is no whit bigger? For if there is as much body in a bale of wool as in lead, it is natural it should weigh as much, since ’tis the office of body to press all things downwards, but on the other hand the nature of void remains without weight. So because it is just as big, yet seems lighter, it tells us, we may be sure, that it has more void; but on the other hand the heavier thing avows that there is more body in it and that it contains far less empty space within. Therefore, we may be sure, that which we are seeking with keen reasoning, does exist mingled in things—that which we call void.
The false theory of motion without void.Herein lest that which some vainly imagine should avail to lead you astray from the truth, I am constrained to forestall it.
They say that the waters give place to the scaly creatures as they press forward and open up a liquid path, because the fishes leave places behind, to which the waters may flow together as they yield: and that even so other things too can move among themselves and change place, albeit the whole is solid. In very truth this is all believed on false reasoning.
How can things move without room to go to? For whither, I ask, will the scaly creatures be able to move forward, unless the waters have left an empty space? again, whither will the waters be able to give place, when the fishes cannot go forward? either then we must deny motion to every body, or we must say that void is mixed with things, from which each thing can receive the first start of movement.
Lastly, there is a momentary void between two rebounding bodies. if two broad bodies leap asunder quickly from a meeting, surely it must needs be that air seizes upon all the void, which comes to be between the bodies. Still, however rapid the rush with which it streams together as its currents hasten round, yet in one instant the whole empty space cannot be filled: for it must needs be that it fills each place as it comes, and then at last all the room is taken up.False idea of the condensation of air: But if by chance any one thinks that when bodies have leapt apart, then this comes to be because the air condenses, he goes astray; for in that case that becomes empty which was not so before, and again that is filled which was empty before, nor can air condense in such a way, nor, if indeed it could, could it, I trow, without void draw into itself and gather into one all its parts.which is impossible without void.
The growth of knowledge.Wherefore, however long you hang back with much objection, you must needs confess at last that there is void in things.
Besides, by telling you many an instance, I can heap up proof for my words. But these light footprints are enough for a keen mind: by them you may detect the rest for yourself.
For as dogs ranging over mountains often find by scent the lairs of wild beasts shrouded under leafage, when once they are set on sure traces of their track, so for yourself you will be able in such themes as this to see one thing after another, to win your way to all the secret places and draw out the truth thence. But if you are slack or shrink a little from my theme, this I can promise you, Memmius, on my own word: so surely will my sweet tongue pour forth to you bounteous draughts from the deep well-springs out of the treasures of my heart, that I fear lest sluggish age creep over our limbs and loosen within us the fastenings of life, before that the whole store of proofs on one single theme be launched in my verses into your ears.