Charles H. Kahn
Anaximenes (1), of *Miletus (traditional floruit 546–525
Atomism, a term used of theories that posit the existence of small indivisible particles as the ultimate components of matter. The Greek term atomon, used by some ancient philosophers to describe these ultimate components, means ‘uncuttable' or ‘indivisible'. The theories in ancient philosophy that fall under the general term ‘atomism' share certain features: all posit an infinite number of these microscopic particle-type entities (atoma, atoms) as the physical occupants of the universe; these atoms are in motion through empty space, and the space itself has neither boundaries nor distinct places within it; atoms come in different varieties, which are differentiated in shape and have certain fundamental features such as solidity, resistance, texture, and possibly weight. The atom's intrinsic features never change, but when the atoms gather together to form larger bodies (either collections of several atoms of the same sort, or an assortment of different kinds) their intrinsic or primary qualities account for other secondary effects that are features of larger bodies, including the appearance of colour, flavour, and scent (what we might call secondary qualities). These derivative effects can change as the arrangement of the atoms in a body or collection of bodies change, even though the atoms themselves do not acquire or lose any properties of their own.
W. E. Gladstone's 19th-cent. philological studies of Greek colour terms led him to conclude that the Greeks suffered from defective vision (1858). More recently, in the wake of Berlin and Kay (1969), ancient colour perception has been a locus for debating cross-cultural universals and cultural relativism.
Ancient concepts of colour were in fact contested and negotiable even amongst ancient theorists. The Greeks could certainly distinguish hues (paceGladstone), and the etymology of the Greek chrōma implies that Greek conceptions of colour were closely related to skin, bodily complexion (chrōs, chroia), and to the surface of the body as an index of what is subjectively felt or lies within. But Greek colour terms do not organize visual experience primarily according to hue as does the modern English lexicon, but, rather, luminosity, texture, contrast, and further properties of the objects or phenomena they qualify.
J. L. Moles
James I. Porter
Materialism, the belief that matter is a primary constituent of reality, is a constant feature of ancient Greek and Roman thought, and also one of its most contested and productive ideas: matter was a never-ending source of fascination and ambivalence in antiquity, while modernity inherited these same obsessions. Homer is an intuitive materialist. Later philosophers were divided over the definition and value of matter. Because a “pure” definition of matter proved so difficult to maintain in any coherent fashion, cross-overs between materialism and immaterialism, mostly unacknowledged, were the rule in antiquity. Immaterialism gradually gained the upper hand, thanks to the offices of Platonism, then of Christianity, and, from the advent of the secular age, of classicism. But not even immaterialism could rid itself of the lures of matter. Only now are the attractions and complexities of matter and materialism in ancient thought and experience being appreciated once again.
The Socratic school of philosophy founded by *Euclides(1) of *Megara in the early 4th cent.
Its preoccupations were ethical and metaphysical. The combined influence of *Socrates and *Parmenides is captured in its slogan ‘The good is one thing, called by many names’. It taught the unity and invulnerability of virtue, reduced potentiality to actuality, and espoused some provocative metaphysical theses. ‘Megarian questionings’ became a byword for sophistry.
An independent branch, the Dialectical school, was founded by Dionysius of Chalcedon and included *Diodorus(2) Cronus and *Philon(6) among its members. Its work became a formative influence on Stoic logic (see