Harman has raised the question of who the most underrated philosopher might be in the history of philosophy. For me this would have to be Lucretius. Lucretius has it all: beautiful poetry, deep compassion, a powerful critique of injustice and superstition, a deep existential strain about the suffering that accompanies life, charming observations of nature and animals, a model of how to achieve peace of mind and overcome fear, and a universe that contains a little bit of turbulence. You’ll also find doctrines of evolution and emergence in there. But what I love most is that he asks such bizarre questions as a consequence of his ontology. Because he’s a materialist, any relation requires a causal connection. Thus, for example, vision can only take place if delicate entities fly through the air to excite the eyes. But wait! That takes time, entailing that we only ever see the past of things! Likewise we can hear sounds through walls. This must mean that all objects contain voids allowing the transport of particles. And how is it that water changes color when the wind blows across it? It must be that the atoms composing the water have different shapes and that the wind recombined them generating colors as emergent properties? And why is ice cream sweet and jalapenos spicy? The former must contain smooth round atoms, while the latter has spiky atoms. What glorious thoughts, and all in one slender volume!
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