On The Nature of Things

On The Nature of Things - Titus Lucretius Carus Full Disclosure: my version is Books I-III only of On The Nature of Things, although if I had more, I probably would've stopped.

First of all, I debated about one or two stars, but I think I'll save one-star ratings for books that are really repugnant. This one, I just didn't like.

Well, I'm reading all these classic books, so I picked up Lucretius.

Imagine an old, dated science text-- say, 100 years old. It's more or less completely irrelevant today, as technology has advanced far beyond what we knew then. Might be worth a chuckle or two for content, but not for real instruction. Now, imagine that someone had taken the effort of writing that science text in iambic pentameter-- no illustrations, no equations, just long-form, non-rhyming poetry.


This is one of those books that I couldn't wait to pick up just so that I could say I slogged through it and got back to something interesting. I do feel like I'm in a video game, leveling up my intelligence stats, but to be completely honest, this one was a snooze.

I do think I need to address the content of the book, though: For one, it is pretty astonishing to see the amount of real science (matter is indestructible, atoms exist, matter is mostly empty space, air is a gas that fills available spaces, etc.) that Lucretius and the Epicureans could come up with out of mere thought experiments and observation. (on a related note, Lucretius and the Epicureans is a wicked band name.)

I got pretty tired of the text, though. Also, Lucretius' stated purpose was to talk about the mortal nature of the soul and to try to convince his rich patron not to be so scared of dying. I have two problems with that:

1) Metaphysics: I HATE METAPHYSICS. As someone classically trained in science, I HATE IT when people try to extrapolate scientific principles into realms in which they aren't really applicable. This, of course, was Lucretius' method to talk about the soul and [lack of] afterlife, etc.

2) "Don't be scared, you're going to cease to exist, but so has everyone else" is a pretty darn weak argument, Luc...