Study Questions for Lucretius on Ontology, Cosmology, and Cosmogony

All of the assigned passages begin at the beginning of a paragraph and end at the end of a paragraph. Use the study questions set out on the Ontology-Cosmology Readings page (where you just clicked on this Study Questions link), also. You should try to answer those questions after you have worked your way through the readings using these questions.

Book I.146-634

1. Does Lucretius explain how matter itself—atoms, seeds—is created? Where does it come from?

2. If atoms are invisible, how do we know that they exist?

3. In addition to matter, what else exists? What are all observable things made of?

4. What are properties? What are “accidents” or incidentals?

5. Which kind of bodies can be destroyed? Which kind cannot? What happens when a body is destroyed?

6. Why isn’t everything in the world in a state of constant rapid change and flux?

Book I.951-1083

7. How big is the universe?

8. What is the shape or architecture of our world?

Book II.62-112

9. What two important characteristics do atoms have?

Book II.168-293

10. Is there a conscious, intelligent design or purpose to the universe?

11. In what general direction do atoms move?

12. What significant, random event affects atoms from time to time and enables the creation of worlds?

Book II.333-568

13. What do atoms look like?

14. How many different kinds of atoms exist? How many atoms of each kind exist?

15. How do the different kinds of atoms affect human beings?

Book II. 1040-1171

16. How did our world come into being?

 Book V. 64-180

17. What are the basic characteristics of the gods? What is their relationship to our world?

18. What is going to happen to our world? When?  (Compare and contrast this passage in Book V to the passage in passage in Book II.1040-1171.)

Three further discussion topics, a couple of which refer to passages of the poem that were not assigned:

Note Lucretius’s remarks on teleological cosmology at I.1021; II.180, 1058; IV.825; and V.156, 419. What does he say about the world having a purposive order in these passages?

Contrast those remarks to what he says in I.584-624 and V.132. Is Lucretius consistent? Is his description of atoms consistent with a completely random, undersigned ontology?

Note Lucretius’s comments on the gods at II.646 (see the whole passage of II.600-660) and V.146-180. Is Lucretius an atheist? Does he give us any reason to pray?