On the nature of things

by Titus Lucretius Carus

Paperback, 2011

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Available

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Publication

New York : W.W. Norton & Co., [2011]

Description

An epic novel featuring the Russian role in the Napoleonic wars and providing a complex panorama of the life of the time.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jwhenderson
The philosophy of Epicurus is seldom presented any better than in the classic poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things) by Lucretius. We know little about Lucretius life other than he lived during the turbulent era of the Roman Empire that saw the rise of Sulla and Pompey and, ultimately, Julius Caesar. On the Nature of Things was his poetic plea to the Roman elite that they change course. Thankfully we can still enjoy the vision of the good life as presented in this beautiful poem. The basics of Lucretius' philosophy include acknowledging pleasure (or the absence of pain) as the highest good, basing ethics on the evidence of the senses, and extolling plain living and high thinking. He also is a committed atheist, denouncing the gods in Book I of the poem, and advocating free will in Book II. This lucid translation by Anthony M. Esolen reminds me why Lucretius is still worth reading.… (more)
LibraryThing member IronMike
On The Nature of Things is a marvelous read. The personality of Lucretius comes through, and he's obviously an affable guy. I was really moved by Lucretius's search... seeing him come so close to understanding what we now understand, but missing the mark ever so narrowly. A truth seeker I would have been proud to know had I lived all those years ago.… (more)
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
The philosophy of Epicurus is not presented any better than in the classic poem, On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura) by Titus Lucretius Carus. We know little about his life. He was probably born in the early first century B.C. This meant that he lived during the turbulent era of the end of the Roman Republic and beginning of the Empire that saw the rise of Sulla and Pompey and, ultimately, Julius Caesar. On the Nature of Things, posthumously edited by Cicero, was his poetic plea to the Roman elite that they change course.

The poem by Lucretius has the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. It was written in some 7,400 dactylic hexameters, divided into six untitled books, and explores Epicurean philosophy and physics through richly poetic language and metaphors. It is a rational and materialistic view of the world that presents the principles of atomism; the nature of the mind and soul; explanations of sensation and thought; the development of the world and its phenomena; and explains a variety of celestial and terrestrial phenomena. The universe described in the poem operates according to these physical principles, guided by fortuna, "chance", and not the divine intervention of the traditional Roman deities. He extols the life of contemplation as seen in these lines from the opening of Book Two:
"But nothing is sweeter than to dwell in the calm
Temples of truth, the strongholds of the wise." (II, 7-8)

Thankfully we can still enjoy the vision of the good life as presented in this beautiful poem. The basics of Lucretius' philosophy include acknowledging pleasure (or the absence of pain) as the highest good, basing ethics on the evidence of the senses, and extolling plain living and high thinking. He also is a committed atheist, denouncing the gods in Book I of the poem, advocating free will in Book II, and reassuring his readers that they have nothing to fear from death in Book III. This lucid translation by Anthony M. Esolen reminds me why Lucretius is still worth reading.
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LibraryThing member jpsnow
Lucretius was an Epicurean. Epicurus defined one of the primary descendent philosophies of Plato. Epicureanism is similar to Stoicism in the lack of fear of death and the drive for self-sufficiency but almost opposite in meaning. Epicurus held that pleasure the measure and in and of itself good. He advocated health (in body, in diet, in mind) and did not advocate the hedonistic excesses that have since become sometimes implied by the term "epicurean." (I'm still not completely clear on the development of these ideas since Lucretius.) Summarizing the philosophy, the combination of mind and body see good and pleasure together and the pleasant life is best achieved with simple pleasures, as these allow pleasure while causing minimal pain and disturbance. Lucretius, in his De Rerum Natura, expounds on the Epicurean ideals with what is perhaps the most developed argument. His efforts concentrate on the physical ideas (the atom, evolution, nature) in an attempt to sufficiently explain things so as to qualm human fears of death.… (more)
LibraryThing member JBD1
I read the Frank Copley translation, and found his notes and introduction quite useful. The poem itself is exceedingly strange and seems surprisingly modern in certain places (though decidedly less so in others). Glad to have finally read it, though; I can see why it's stood the test of time.
LibraryThing member dham340
Read this in preparation for reading "The Swerve" about the discovery of Lucretius' poem. Have to say that it is a difficult read. The translation is not "modern" in any sense. That said, the ingeniousness of Lucretius is evident: very nearly explaining the true scientific nature of the world at a time when humankind ascribed everything to "the gods".

My recommendation is to find a different (better) translation (although I don't know if one exists).
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LibraryThing member booksontrial
Philosophy is Supposed to be Fun!

Cicero, because of his personal aversion to the Epicurean philosophy, didn't quite do it justice in his book The Nature of the Gods, which introduced the Greek philosophical schools to the Romans (He all but made the Epicurean the laughing-stock of all the other philosophers). However, he also prepared and edited the transcript of this book by Lucretius, arguably the best exposition of Epicureanism, as a counterpoint.

Lucretius made a strong case for Epicureanism with epic poetry and systematic reasoning. His thoughts and presentation with creative use of analogies are eminently clear and logical to a modern reader, in spite of his relative lack of scientific knowledge. In this book, he sought to dispel the notion of gods governing the universe, and demonstrate the natural causes of all things based on a few premises, from thunderbolts to earthquakes, from the nature of disease to the nature of the mind, from the beginning of the earth to the development of society.

Highly recommended for its epic scope, clarity of thought, beauty of narrative, richness of humor and compassion.
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LibraryThing member richardhobbs
According to 'Wing' only other known copy is at Harvard. (This volume is their duplicate - and released by them)
LibraryThing member Narboink
I wish I had read this book when I was younger. Heretical and scandalous, it should be required reading across the educational spectrum. It’s brilliant and beautiful and wise.

From Wikipedia: “De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things) is a 1st century BC didactic poem by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius with the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. The poem, written in some 7,400 dactylic hexameters, is divided into six untitled books, and explores Epicurean physics through richly poetic language and metaphors. Lucretius presents the principles of atomism; the nature of the mind and soul; explanations of sensation and thought; the development of the world and its phenomena; and explains a variety of celestial and terrestrial phenomena. The universe described in the poem operates according to these physical principles, guided by fortuna, "chance", and not the divine intervention of the traditional Roman deities.”… (more)
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This is both poetry and philosophical treatise proposing to explain the views of the Epicurean school. Physics written by a poet, for here Lucretius goes into physics as well as metaphysics explaining everything from the theory of the universe being composed of atoms, to the nature of the soul--and without resorting to God or Gods for an explanation. It's not atheist so much as theist. There are Gods, but we need not fear them since they're far removed from human affairs. The world's creation and operation can all be explained by natural law and there is no afterlife. Death is just an ending, and we should no more fear it than fear the eons before our beginning. In its arguments it is often strikingly modern, this poem written in the first century. Certainly aspects of the science presented is dated (there are references to the idea of spontaneous generation and the sun goes around the earth), but the spirit of the ideas is timeless--and the poetry beautiful--that comes through even in translation. This is the opening, a hymn to Venus:

First, goddess, the birds of the air, pierced to the heart with your powerful shafts, signal your entry. Next wild creatures and cattle bound over rich pastures and swim rushing rivers: so surely are they all captivated by your charm and eagerly follow your lead. Then you inject seductive love into the heart of every creature that lives in the seas and mountains and river torrents and bird-haunted thickets, implanting in it the passionate urge to reproduce its kind.

This is not dry stuff, although it is dense--packing a lot of complex ideas in verse. It's not always easy reading no. Philosophy and physics don't make for page turners or escapist reading. But it often has a lyrical beauty and intensity, one devoted to this Earth and the world of the senses and its pleasures and the wonders of science in a way at times inspired and inspiring.
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LibraryThing member Fledgist
Epicurean thought turned into Latin verse, then into English prose.
LibraryThing member jmcdbooks
Rated: D
The New Lifetime Reading Plan: Number 19

Perhaps if I knew Greek and had read the Greek version, I would have enjoyed it more. This is a epic poem written by Lucretius explaining Epicurean and Atomist theory as known in the first century B.C. While some ideas were amazingly close to what we know today, much of it was off the mark and tedious. Interesting, however, is asking yourself how the nature of things really works. I'm not sure I could give a good explanation of how disease spreads or what makes lightning or if the earth is dissolving into nothing. Interesting. A classic. A chore to get through.… (more)
LibraryThing member TJWilson
This is an astounding poem. I can’t believe such deep understanding of the world occurred so long ago. Makes the evolution of our sciences through the ages seem rather depressing. If only the spark came from this book! Regardless, an invigorating read into a person who lived so long ago and who was so wise in [insert title here].… (more)
LibraryThing member serogers02
I thoroughly disliked this book, both the text and the translation. The arrogant tone made it extremely difficult to get through, and it was not helped by versed, rhyming poetry. The honey on the cup approach turned me off. Nonetheless, this man was brilliant. Obviously many of his ideas are preposterous, but to have ideas about atoms and that like gives rise to like, and other such thoughts was really stunning.… (more)
LibraryThing member librorumamans
This verse translation works well. One might anticipate that the rhyming couplets would become tiresome. Stallings has, however, arranged her syntax so that most of the time phrases and clauses carry past the line breaks and so the text reads much like prose. At the end of paragraphs and sections, Stallings does align the syntax with the rhyme with the result that these breaks are emphasized.

The translation does not attempt to capture the deliberately archaic language that Lucretius wrote in. I was skeptical at first of some of Stallings' more modern and colloquial word choices, but a check with the Latin showed that these still stayed close to the original meaning.

This is an accessible and recommendable translation of an important work.
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LibraryThing member mykl-s
Philosophy, poetry, ancient physics all in one work. Very fine.
LibraryThing member fpagan
A present-day-English translation, of the 7400-line Latin didactic poem _De Rerum Natura_, that's not only metrical (iambic heptameter) but also in rhyming couplets (which I just love). A delight to read, especially after plowing through the old prose translation by John Selby Watson.
To choose a good translation of Lucretius, I would say,
One ought to pick a version in the English of today.
And metered verse is called for too -- a poem needs to chime.
The bill was filled when Stallings crafted pairs of lines that rhyme.
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LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
A solid piece of classical literature.
LibraryThing member Heduanna
Finally finished this! This was my January poetry read, but just a bit too dense to read all in one month. It's poetry, but it's not poetry as I've ever seen it before; it's not about love, it's not an epic, doesn't tell a story, really.

It's a physics/philosophy (they didn't really draw lines between these things back then) textbook written in verse by an Epicurean Roman two thousand years ago. And frequently, decoding the verse to figure out what worldview created it, what assumptions he's making about the nature of the universe, and from there to what his point is... well, it was heavy lifting. And I complained often.

But now that I've gotten through it once, I can fairly easily see myself dipping back in occasionally. And now, I can read The Swerve about how this book influenced the Renaissance!
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LibraryThing member ritaer
Not unexpectedly, a philosophical treatise in the form of a poem is not an easy read. But it easy to see how Lucretius' exposition of the Epicurean theories about the nature of the universe would have contributed to the growth of modern science once rediscovered by Renaissance Europe. Just the idea of deriving information from the evidence of the senses rather than from preconceived theory or authority entailed a new way of approaching knowledge.

I am rather struck by Lucretius insistence on the mortality of the soul; his preoccupation with the subject seems obsessive.
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Language

Original language

Latin

Barcode

3418
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