It began, if you will, in the 5th century BC with Democritus of Abdera when he declared:
“According to vulgar belief, there is color, the sweet and the bitter; but in reality, only atoms and the void.”
Not long thereafter, let us note, his materialist atomism was attacked by Plato (ca. 427–347) and in effect disqualified. For the remainder of antiquity — and actually, for about two thousand years — it was regarded as heterodox by the well-informed, until it reemerged in the seventeenth century to pave the way to what historians term the Enlightenment.
—Excerpt from Physics: A Science in Quest of an Ontology
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