(Greek atomos, indivisible)
The venerable philosophical concept that all things are ultimately composed of imperishable, indivisible particles called atoms.
1. The atomists theorized that nature consists of two fundamental principles: atom and void.
2. In India the Jain, Ajivika, and Carvaka schools of atomism may date back to the 6th century BCE. The Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools later developed theories on how atoms combined into more complex objects.
In the West, atomism emerged in the 5th century BCE with Leucippus and Democritus. Whether the Greek and then Indian theories evolved independently is not known.
3. Kanada, founder of the Vaisheshika school, believed that the world was composed of many kinds of atoms, as many as there are elements.
4. "Aristotle and others reproached him [Leucippus] and Democritus for not accounting for the original motion of the Atoms, but in this the Atomists were more scientific than their critics.
Causation must start from something, and wherever it starts no cause can be assigned for the initial datum.
The world may be attributed to a Creator, but even then the Creator himself is unaccounted for. The theory of the Atomists, in fact, was more nearly that of modern science than any other theory propounded in antiquity."
(Russell, History of Western Philosophy, 66)
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