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Democritus (460 – 370 BC) was the pre-Socratic Greek laughing philosopher of atomic theory and happiness. Moderation multiplies pleasures, and increases pleasure.
The first principles of the universe are atoms and empty space; everything else is merely thought to exist.
Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.
By convention sweet is sweet, bitter is bitter, hot is hot, cold is cold, color is color; but in truth there are only atoms and the void.
Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.
Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.
Our sins are more easily remembered than our good deeds.
It is greed to do all the talking but not to want to listen at all.
If thou suffer injustice, console thyself; the true unhappiness is in doing it.
The wrongdoer is more unfortunate than the man wronged.
By desiring little, a poor man makes himself rich.
If your desires are not great, a little will seem much to you; for small appetite makes poverty equivalent to wealth.
Moderation multiplies pleasures, and increases pleasure.
Throw moderation to the winds, and the greatest pleasures bring the greatest pains.
Men achieve cheerfulness by moderation in pleasure and by proportion in their life excess and deficiency are apt to fluctuate and cause great changes in the soul. And souls which change over great intervals are neither stable nor cheerful. So one should set one’s mind on what is possible and be content with what one has taking little account of those who are admired and envied and not dwelling on them in thought but one should consider the lives of those who are in distress thinking of their grievous sufferings so that what one has and possesses will seem great and enviable and one will cease to suffer in one’s soul through the desire for more.
It is better to destroy one’s own errors than those of others.
Men have fashioned an image of Chance as an excuse for their own stupidity. For Chance rarely conflicts with intelligence, and most things in life can be set in order by an intelligent forethought.
Believe not everything, but only what is proven: the former is foolish, the latter the act of a sensible man. Fools are shaped by the gifts of chance, but those who understand these things, by the gifts of wisdom.
Good means not merely not to do wrong, but rather not to desire to do wrong.
Hope of ill gain is the beginning of loss.
It is godlike ever to think on something beautiful and on something new.
Men should strive to think much and know little.
I would rather discover a single demonstration, in geometry, than become king of the Persians.
No power and no treasure can outweigh the extension of our knowledge.
Now as of old the gods give men all good things, excepting only those that are baneful and injurious and useless. These, now as of old, are not gifts of the gods: men stumble into them themselves because of their own blindness and folly.
Everywhere man blames nature and fate yet his fate is mostly but the echo of his character and passion, his mistakes and his weaknesses
Good breeding in cattle depends on physical health, but in men on a well-formed character.
The wise man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world.
The man who is fortunate in his choice of son-in-law gains a son; the man unfortunate in his choice loses his daughter also.
Raising children is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of battle and worry.
No one regards the things before his feet, But views with care the regions of the sky.
One will seem to promote virtue better by using encouragement and persuasion of speech than law and necessity. For it is likely that he who is held back from wrongdoing by law will err in secret but that he who is urged to what he should by persuasion will do nothing wrong either in secret or openly. Therefore he who acts rightly from understanding and knowledge proves to be at the same time courageous and right-minded.
Medicine cures the diseases of the body; wisdom relieves the soul of its sufferings.
There are many who know many things, yet are lacking in wisdom.
It is childish, not manly, to have immoderate desires.
Education is an ornament for the prosperous, a refuge for the unfortunate.
The needy animal knows how much it needs, but the needy man does not.
The complete man is he who overcomes not only his enemies but his pleasures. There are some men who are masters of cities but slaves to women.
It is hard to fight with desire; but to overcome it is the mark of a reasonable man.
The laws would not prevent each man from living according to his inclination, unless individuals harmed each other; for envy creates the beginning of strife.
Disease occurs in a household, or in a life, just as it does in a body.
No power and no treasure can outweigh the extension of our knowledge.
Strength and beauty are the blessings of youth; temperance, however, is the flower of old age.
The best way for a man to lead his life is to have been as cheerful as possible and to have suffered as little as possible. This could happen if one did not seek one’s pleasures in mortal things. The right-minded man is he who is not grieved by what he has not, but enjoys what he has. He is fortunate who is happy with moderate means, unfortunate who is unhappy with great possessions.
People are fools who yearn for what is absent, but neglect what they have even when it is more valuable than what has gone. The hopes of right-thinking men are attainable, but those of the unintelligent are impossible.
One must either be good, or imitate a good man. It is a bad thing to imitate the bad and not even to wish to imitate the good. More men become good through practice than by nature. Do not say or do what is base, even when you are alone. Learn to feel shame in your own eyes much more than before others. Repentance for shameful deeds is salvation in life.
Democritus is most well known for his Atomic-Space theory. It is 2,400 years old and what little is available of what he wrote still seems remarkably prescient. The quotes still available from the original sources are few considering that he is said to have written many books. The first principles of the universe are atoms and empty space; everything else is merely thought to exist. This was written when the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water were considered to be the constituents of reality. Democritus’ ideas are as compatible with modern cosmological science as could be postulated by someone with his limited access to controlled observation.
Democritus’ statement Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity still is unacceptable to the vast majority of humanity, and yet it is the accepted theory by the experimental theorists in the field of Cosmic evolution.
So many of the quotations found on the web under his name seem like they were derived much later by Stoics, and yet Democritus is reported to have lived his life as an exemplar of Stoic principles. The best way for a man to lead his life is to have been as cheerful as possible and to have suffered as little as possible. This could happen if one did not seek one’s pleasures in mortal things. The right-minded man is he who is not grieved by what he has not, but enjoys what he has. He is fortunate who is happy with moderate means, unfortunate who is unhappy with great possessions. Democritus is known as the laughing philosopher, and why shouldn’t he be; he learned wisdom and demonstrated to others the happy life.