Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If not for Poggio...

NPR has two recent, worthwhile stories about the reawakening of the text of Lucretius -- relevant here since Ovid weaves a strain of scientific thinking into his Metamorphoses:

Lucretius, Man of Modern Mystery - NPR's Robert Krulwich talks with Stephen Greenblatt about De Rerum Natura:

As Greenblatt describes it, Lucretius (borrowing from Democritus and others), says the universe is made of an infinite number of atoms ...

... moving randomly through space, like dust motes in a sunbeam, colliding, hooking together, forming complex structures, breaking apart again, in a ceaseless process of creation and destruction. There is no escape from this process. ... There is no master plan, no divine architect, no intelligent design.

and about the Renaissance bookworm who recovered him:

...the unlikely hero of this tale, a young man, who, when he wasn't trying to gouge out the eyes of his fellow secretaries at the Vatican, turned out to be a pretty lucky book hunter. Without Poggio Bracciolini, nobody today would be reading Lucretius.

'The Swerve:' Ideas That Rooted the Renaissance is Stephen Greenblatt's story not just of Lucretius, about whom we know very little, but of his text, of how it almost was lost forever, and of the intellectual bombshells it dropped upon Europe after it was recovered and returned to currency by Poggio..
joy in existence — not suffering, or atoning or endurance — is the point of life. Greenblatt says that some of the world shakers who would be directly influenced by Lucretius' ideas are Galileo, Einstein and our very own American apostle of the "pursuit of happiness," Thomas Jefferson.

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