Thursday 24 September 2009

Infinite Monkeys

In Book II, section XXXVII of "De Natura Deorum" Cicero writes;

Is it possible for a man to behold these things, and yet imagine that certain solid and individual bodies move by their natural force and gravitation, and that a world so beautifully adorned was made by their fortuitous discourse? He who believes this may as well believe that if a great quantity of the one-and-twenty letters, composed either of gold or any other matter, were thrown upon the ground, they would fall in such a fashion as legibly to form the Annals of Ennius. I doubt whether fortune could make a single verse of them. How, therefore, can these people assert that the world was made by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, which have no colour, no quality-which the Greeks call 'poiotes', no sense? or there are inummerable worlds, some rising and some perishing, in every moment of time? But if the concourse of atoms can make a world, why not a porch, a temple, a house, a city, which are works of less labour and difficulty?

The beginnings, I think, of the Infinite Monkey theory. :))


  1. An interesting blog, Ana! Of course, the counter to Cicero's first argument is that the universe has had plenty of time in which to cast the letters of the alphabet in rapid succession ; and to his second argument, that the universe hasn't got round to making porches yet!

    And yet, his argument is sound, I think. For, if all is due to random actions of inanimate objects (such as atoms) what guarantee is there that human intelligence has any meaning? And, if our intelligence has no meaning, then all our theorems and pontifications are, well .... nonsense. We are back in the realm of Bramah - everything is just a dream.

  2. I believe in the infinite monkey theory and someday soon I will write a poem to match Paradise Lost. (No smiley faces, so I must be serious :-) )

    No doubt, like myself, you will be awaiting with excited anticipation the second instalment (of a trilogy, I believe) of Robert Harrisssess fictional biograghy of Cicero entitled Lustrum, for sale at the beginning of next month. I will have to hastily re-read Imperium.

  3. Thanks, guys. :-)

    Jamie, I sometimes think it is all a dream!

    Yes, JW, I am. It's nice to see you here. Incidentally, I have a blog on Lovecraft. Let me locate it for you.

  4. JW, it's one of my very early blogs in the April section, fourth from the bottom, headed Life and Art, My Thoughts on H. P. Lovecraft

  5. It's hard to disagree with your assessment of HP's work. I also read your Algernon Blackwood blog and a whole lot of 'nothers. Very interesting and enlightening, your mind is very active indeed.:-)

    I came across a website which has a lot of the old writers short stories online. It's called Lots of Blackwood, Machen and MR James. A busy life just got busier.

  6. Thanks, J. Overactive, more like. :-)

    Thanks also for that link. I shall have a look.