ATOMISM (α, priv.; and
to cut,—that which cannot be cut or divided is an atom), the theory of
the universe which traces its origin to primitive indivisible particles
of matter, differing in form and in their relations to each other.
The theory is that which accounts for
existence by the action, interaction, and combinations of atoms.
Leucippus and Democritus were the founders of the School of
Atomists (Diog. Laert., bk. IX. pp. 30-49). The conception, however, belongs
to eastern thought, as in the Nya'ya Philosophy, according to Kanada's aphorism,
No. 7, "ultimate difference is that which resides in eternal substances," as in
the case of two atoms (The Bhaiska' Parichchhada and its commentary, by V. P.
Bhatta, with an English version, Calcutta, 1851).
Under the theory, atoms differing in size and form, endowed with power of
motion, explain attraction and repulsion, and account for the homogeneous and
the different. Along with an atomic theory, there has quite commonly been held
the existence of an intelligent First Cause,—and incorporeal Deity. The natural
tendency with such a theory, however, is towards Materialism.
Ueberweg's History, I., Leucippus and Democritus, p. 67, Epicurus, p. 205; Schwegler's
History, pp. 25, 26; Lucretius, p. 138; Cud worth's Intellectual
System, bk. I. ch. I. sec. 18; Stewart's Active Powers, vol. II. note A,
VII. 369, " Various Hypotheses in explanation of the activity apparent in the