Biography of Leucippus

Leucippus was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher born in Abdera, or Miletus, in the 5th century BC, a contemporary of Socrates and Anaxagoras. According to the testimony of Diogenes Laertius, Leucippus was a disciple of Zenon of Elea.

Leucippus is said to have been associated with the philosophy of Parmenides, but ended up following a different path from the Eleatic philosophy.

Little is known about his life, and some ancient philosophers, such as Epicurus, and modern scholars of ancient philosophy, such as Erwin Rohde, believe that he did not even exist.

However, Aristotle claims that Leucippus was the originator of the theory of atoms (atomism), and the founder, therefore, of the atomistic school, the last pre-Socratic school. The atomistic doctrine was further developed by his disciple Democritus.

Atoms, for Democritus, have the following characteristics:

  • The beginning of all things;
  • Beings are born and die through the union and separation of atoms;
  • Invisible
  • Indivisible
  • Immutable
  • Naturally endowed with movement
  • Possess no qualities, only geometric shapes, and occupies the void.


Two works are attributed to him:

  • The Great System of the World;
  • On the Spirit;

However, only one fragment remains from his work On the Spirit, which says: “Nothing derives from chance, but everything from a reason and under necessity.”

The atom as arche

The pre-Socratic philosophers sought to define a principle (arche) that could explain the origin of all things.

For Leucippus of Abdera, the arche, that is, the principle, is the atom. The innumerable atoms, which are invisible particles, and move in the void.

These extremely small particles are indivisible, so they are called atoms, which in Greek literally means non-divisible. They are the whole-being, geometrically different from each other.

These atoms are uncreated, immutable and indestructible. The atomists agreed with Parmenides’ theory that non-being does not exist, and that birth and death is just a process in which atoms aggregate or separate.


The worlds are made up of a diversity of atoms of varying shapes, which come together in this immense void. When they come together, they end up forming a single whirlpool, and then go through processes of union and separation.

Some atoms move into the outer void, and the rest remain in the center; from there, they unite and solidify to form a spherical structure

The universe is unlimited, and has a full and an empty part, which he calls elements.

For Leucippus, all things are of an unlimited nature, which transform into each other.

The whole is empty and occupied by bodies. When bodies enter the void, they mix with each other giving rise to worlds. From the movement and agglomeration of these bodies, the stars also arise.

Theory of Perception

Leucippus of Abdera elaborated a theory to explain the process of human perception.

For him, perception and thought are generated through modifications of the body, and as a result of small images, composed of atoms, which come to us from outside.

Cite This Work

Vieira, S. (2021, December 03). Leucippus. Filosofia do Início. Retrieved from https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/leucippus/.

Vieira, Sadoque. “Leucippus.” Filosofia do Início, December 3, 2021. https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/leucippus/.

Vieira, Sadoque. “Leucippus.” Filosofia do Início, 3 Dec. 2021, https://filosofiadoinicio.com/en/leucippus/.


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