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Greek Philosopher: Empedocles

Updated on December 9, 2016

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.

References

  • Early Greek Philosophy, 4th Edition, 1964, Milton C. Nahm
  • The Standard English Desk Dictionary, Volume 1 A-L, Bay Books, 1983
  • New Encyclopedia, Volume 9, 1971, Funk & Wagnalls

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      dominic 

      6 years ago

      thank you very much

    • Maylinda Arons profile image

      Maylinda Arons 

      10 years ago

      oooh, really interesting. Nice stuff, educational, and a whole different arena as compared to the other hubs I've read

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 

      10 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Love to see hubs about great topics like this! Well done.

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