Greek Philosopher: Empedocles
493 - 433 BC
Empedocles the son of Meton, was a Greek philosopher, statesman and scientist, born in Agrigentum, a Greek colony in Sicily. He was a disciple of the scholars Pythagoras and Parmenides. He is credited as being the first philosopher to attempt the reconciliation of Eleatic and Hercalitean philosophy.
He was not only a philosopher but a magician and religious teacher.
Of an aristocratic family, Empedocles opposed tyranny. According to tradition, he refused to accept the crown offered to him by the people of Agrigentum after he had aided in the overthrow of the ruling oligarchy, and instead instituted a democracy.
He is said to have forbidden the winds to enter Agrigentum and to have halted them by stretching asses' skins across the hollows through which the winds ordinarily passed.
On his own evidence, he was a healer of the sick, one who recalled the dead to life and a believer in the transmigration of the soul.
As a starting point for this thought, Empedocles adopts he implications of Parmenides' philosophy of being.
Aristotle called him the father of rhetoric.
Modern knowledge of his philosophy is based on the extant fragments of his poem on nature and hymns of purification. He asserted that all things are composed of four primal elements: earth, air, fire and water.
Two active and opposing forces, love and hate, or affinity and antipathy, act upon these elements, combining and separating them into infinitely varied forms.
Empedocles believed also that no change involving the creation of new matter is possible; only changes in the combinations of the four existing elements may occur.
He also formulated a primitive theory of evolution in which he declared that man and animals evolved from antecedent, monstrous forms.
Forced to leave Agrigentum for political reasons, according to one version of his death he threw himself into the crater of Mt Etna.
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New Encyclopedia, Volume 9, 1971, Funk & Wagnalls