- Empedocles M.R.Wright INTRODUCTION Empedocles was a native of Acragas (Agrigento) in Sicily, a Doric colony founded on the south coast of the island in the sixth century BC, which soon grew to rival Syracuse in its prosperity. A line of temples, many of which are still standing, attested to its wealth and public piety; behind the city rose the dramatic volcano of Etna, and the plains further into the hinterland were held sacred to Demeter and her daughter Persephone, and their associated mysteries and cults. Empedocles’ lifetime spanned the greater part of the fifth century, probably from 494 to 434 BC. His family was aristocratic, but more inclined to democracy than oligarchy. There are various anecdotes supporting his own pro-democratic outlook, and his part in overthrowing a tyrannical regime in the city. He had a reputation as an experienced orator, and taught, or at least influenced, the great Sicilian rhetorician Gorgias. He is also credited with giving practical help in various emergencies, and his work shows a detailed interest in anatomy, embryology and physiology, as well as in more general biological and botanical themes. He claims to have travelled extensively, and to have been both wellknown and popular: Whenever I enter prosperous towns I am honoured by both men and women. They follow me in countless numbers, to ask what is best for them, some seeking prophecies, others, long pierced by harsh pains, ask to hear the word of healing for all kinds of illnesses. (fr. 112.7–12) As a result of such claims, and of the confidence in his understanding of natural science, he acquired a reputation as a wonder-worker. There was however no sound basis for this, or for the legend, preserved in the same context, of his suicide leap into the volcano at Etna. Despite their romantic appeal, a life-style as a magician and this dramatic death are both firmly rejected as fabrications by the early local historian Timaeus. As was often the case such biographical details probably arose from particular interpretations of the philosopher’s own words in different contexts. Because of his known political sympathies Empedocles is more likely to have ended his years in exile in south Italy or mainland Greece; he is reported to have been barred from Sicily when the descendants of his political enemies opposed his return. Empedocles’ travels through the towns of south Italy, for which there is evidence independent of his own words, would have brought him into contact with the philosophical activity there. He is likely to have known of the Pythagorean communities around Croton and the pan-Hellenic foundation of Thurii in 443 BC, which involved the sophist Protagoras and later attracted the historian Herodotus. He was certainly influenced by Parmenides in Elea and was a contemporary of Zeno there. His place in the history of pre-Socratic thought is further confirmed by the notice in the first book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics that he was younger than Anaxagoras but his philosophy came earlier. Like Parmenides, Empedocles wrote in verse, in the epic hexameters and style of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. It is reported from Timaeus that part of his work was recited at the Olympic games as one of the display pieces, and his talent as a poet later earned praise from Aristotle. Although he is credited with various writings in the Life of Empedocles by Diogenes Laertius—a Hymn to Apollo, an essay on Xerxes’ invasion of Greece, a medical treatise, political works, tragedies and epigrams—there is reliable evidence for just two poems, known as Physics (or On Nature) and Katharmoi (Methods of Purification). These titles were probably assigned later, and have since been understood by some as alternatives for one comprehensive work. All in all there are over 450 lines extant from the Empedoclean corpus, more than from any other pre-Socratic, in over 130 fragments, some in continuous blocks and others as individual verses or phrases. From various surviving summaries and doxographical evidence it appears that these form a nucleus of the original which allows for a reasonably confident reconstruction of the main topics of his philosophy and his treatment of them. There are two main themes: one deals with scientific and cosmological principles, set out in the fragments traditionally assigned to the Physics, and is addressed to the student Pausanias; the second, the subject of the Katharmoi, has the form of a public proclamation to the citizens of Acragas, and is concerned more with psychology, purification and related ritual. The fragments may be attached to one or other of these themes according to explicit citations from ancient authors, the use of the second person singular or plural for the addressee and other criteria, but the placing of many is dubious. Recently there have been attempts to relocate some important fragments from the Katharmoi to a Proem of the Physics, and so significantly reduce the content and subject-matter of the public poem, or to take them all as from a single work. In whatever way the fragments are arranged (and the case for two separate works is still the stronger) scholarship on Empedocles has always been much concerned with the problem of reconciling a complex scientific philosophy explained to a particular individual with public exhortations to a moral and religious life-style that appears to be incompatible with it. In Empedocles’ case the problems of compatibility and consistency are increased by the the fact that he expounded his ideas in the form of epic poetry rather than through the medium of prose, which had first been developed by the Ionians in the sixth century BC as a medium more appropriate than verse for philosophical exposition. The exotic vocabulary and complex style that characterize Empedocles’ talent often make his work ambiguous and obscure, especially when contrasted with the simpler language and more direct argument of Parmenides’ poem, but they also add to its fascination. As with later figures in the history of ideas, it is not necessary to assume a ‘conversion’ from science to religion or a disillusioned rejection of religious principles in favour of the rigours of science, since obviously a common issue may be approached from different points of view, appropriate to the immediate context and level of understanding assumed. Nor is it as obvious now as formerly appeared that there is such a great divide between science and theology that the two cannot be expected to engage the same mind at the same time. Few ancient Greek philosophers would have recognized such a division, and now once more the distinctions are blurring. The last sentence of God and the New Physics (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1984), for example, by the contemporary cosmologist Paul Davies shows an innate sympathy with the comprehensive approach found two thousand years earlier in Empedocles: It is my deep conviction that only by understanding the world in its many aspects—reductionist and holistic, mathematical and poetical, through forces, fields and particles as well as through good and evil—that we will come to understand ourselves and the meaning behind this universe. (Davies, 1984:229) In some recent developments which are likely to dominate scientific studies into the next millennium it is possible to view Empedocles as a distant precursor. First the combined study of physics, chemistry and biology is apparently unlocking the secret of life itself as the mapping of the sequences of the DNA molecule progresses. These rest on the myriad variations of a genetic alphabet of just the four letters A, T, G and C (the initials of adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine), the basic building blocks of protein being in principle something like Empedocles’ four ‘roots’. As with Empedocles the results cover the whole spectrum of life, from the simplest plant forms to humans, and show large areas of overlap in genetic material between what were thought to be widely differing species. It is expected that there will be great rewards in improved understanding of disease, in new cures and in the manipulation of the limits of life in birth and death; those who work in these areas are given Nobel prizes, the modern equivalent of being ‘crowned with ribbons and garlands, honoured by all’. Then the latest theories in cosmology also have great popular appeal, and books on the subject become best-sellers. A particular interest here which is relevant to the student of the pre-Socratics and especially of Empedocles is the search for a unified theory which will explain the complexity of phenomena from the immensely large to the most minute as a seamless manifestation of basic principles. A third focus of modern science comes in new research into the old mind-body problem, where the study of the brain, and advances in parallel neural computing, might well engender a more sympathetic attitude to the reductionism of the early thinkers as well as providing a context in which it is still worthwhile to discuss the working of individual sense-organs in something akin to Empedoclean terms. Finally it becomes necessary to find a way of life for humans in the light of the latest discoveries, to deal with individual emotions (especially the polarities of erotic attraction and aggressive hostility) and to direct decision-making towards the development of viable relationships and societies that do not conflict with other living creatures and the natural environment. It is in these four main areas, in the theories of elements, of cosmology, of perception and cognition, and of the unity of life, that Empedocles’ position in the history of philosophy is assured. THE THEORY OF ELEMENTS Empedocles started from a basic principle that was his most influential discovery in the history of science: the understanding of the nature of an element, and the reduction of all apparent generation, alteration and destruction, along with the particular and changing characteristics of what is perceived, to a limited number of persisting and unchanging basic entities. Empedocles had assented to the conclusion from the ‘Way of Truth’ of his predecessor Parmenides that there could be no absolute birth or death, since these entail temporal non-existence, which was found to be logically unacceptable; his wording here follows the Eleatic argument closely: It is impossible for there to be a coming into existence from what is not, and for what exists to be completely destroyed cannot be fulfilled, nor is to be heard of. (fr. 12) Parmenides had likewise denied the corresponding spatial non-existence; Empedocles identified this as void (what is empty or kenon) and then, on similar logical grounds, refused its admittance as a divider between the continuity and homogeneity of being, for ‘there is no part of the whole that is empty’ (fr. 13). This also meant that there could be no addition to or subtraction from the total sum, for, as he says elsewhere, ‘What could increase the whole? And where would it come from?’ (fr. 17.32). The common acceptance of additions and subtractions as births and deaths should consequently be understood as merely ‘names’ mistakenly used in human speech: When there has been a mixture in the shape of a man which comes to the air, or the shape of the species of wild animals, or of plants, or of birds, then people say that this is to be born, and when they separate they call this again ill-fated death; these terms are not right, but I follow the custom and use them myself. (fr. 9) Empedocles then developed from the hint of the two forms of light and night in Parmenides’ ‘Way of Opinion’ the concept of a minimum number of elements, with permanent and unalterable characteristics, which could account for a world of plurality and variety according to their proportion and arrangement in compounds. Like Parmenides, Empedocles was also a poet wrestling with a new vocabulary, and for his opening move, instead of saying in a straightforward manner that the number of elements was four, and that they correspond to fire, air, earth and water, his words translate as: Hear first the four roots of all things: bright Zeus, life-bringing Hera, Aidoneus and Nestis, whose tears are the source of mortal streams. (fr. 6) The botanical term ‘roots’ (rizōmata) indicated the vitality of the sub-structures, their unseen depths and the potential for growths from them, while the divine names were an indication of their potency and sempiternity. Why were these four chosen? Perhaps Empedocles had in mind the Homeric division of the world which allotted the sky to Zeus, the sea to Poseidon, the underworld to Hades, and left the earth common to all, and then adapted this division to apply to two pairs of male and female principles, one higher (Zeus the fire above, and Hera the air), and one lower (Aidoneus for earth, and Nestis as water). Four was the economical minimum number, reinforced by the importance of the opposites of hot and cold, dry and wet for the earlier Milesians, and by the adoption of different basic principles:—of air (by Anaximenes), of fire (by Heraclitus), of water (attributed to Thales) and the general tradition of earth as the mother of all. A group of four (the first square number and associated with justice for the Pythagoreans) also allowed for mutual activity within a structure of balance and equilibrium. Most obviously the four comprised the natural masses visible in a coastal town of Sicily:—the earth below, the sea at its edge, the air above and fire visible in the bright sun and also in the lava pouring from the volcanoes. This is confirmed by one fragment of Empedocles which states that an understanding of the true nature of things can come simply from looking around: since all these—sun and earth and sky and sea—are one with the parts of themselves that have been separated off and born in mortal things. (fr. 22) At their first appearance the four were given divine names, since they had now taken the place of the traditional gods as the true immortals, but Empedocles’ vocabulary was not consistent. As well as the names of gods and goddesses, he also listed them by the common terms of fire, air, earth and water, or by their most obvious manifestations as sun, sky, earth (chthōn as well as gaia), and sea or rain. He posited just these four, no more and no less, eternally existing, ever the same, equal in privilege and power, but capable, as they mingle, separate and reassemble, of producing a variety of phenomena. The evidence for their individual characteristics, as for their very existence, was to be found in their appearance as conglomerates in the natural world: sun with its radiant appearance and pervading warmth, heavenly bodies bathed in heat and shining light, rain everywhere dark and chill, and earth the basis of firmly rooted solids. (fr. 21.3–6) Such qualitative differences as hot and cold, wet and dry, light and dark, remain whether the four are separated out in perceived stretches of bright sky, mist, land and sea, or brought together in compounds, in which the characteristics of the predominating elements may be apparent, but others imperceptible because of the smallness of the component particles. Empedocles therefore considered the four roots or elements to be basic and permanent corporeal entities, forming temporary arrangements as their parts were brought into compounds of different shapes, although they themselves were not subject to alteration of any kind. He constantly rammed the point home: these are the only real things, but as they run through each other they become different objects at different times, yet they are throughout forever the same. (fr. 17.34–5 and cf. 21.13–4, 26.3–4) Birth and death, generation and destruction have to be accepted as illusory, the consequence merely of the mingling and separating of parts of the elements in various proportions, which give to the different structures their apparent individuality. The context in fragment 21 explains further: From them (the four ‘roots’) comes all that was and is and will be hereafter —trees have sprung from them, and men and women, and animals and birds and water-nourished fish, and long-lived gods too, highest in honour. For these are the only real things, and as they run through each other they assume different shapes, for the mixing interchanges them. (fr. 21.9–14) To illustrate the possibility of the wide diversity of phenomena generated from just four elements Empedocles used the simile of a painting, which can show in two dimensions a variety of plant, animal and human life, although it consists basically of pigments of a few primary colours in a particular arrangement: As painters, men well taught by wisdom in the practice of their art, decorate temple offerings when they take in their hands pigments of various colours, and after fitting them in close combination—more of some and less of others—they produce from them shapes resembling all things, creating trees and men and women, animals and birds and water-nourished fish, and long-lived gods too, highest in honour; so do not let error convince you that there is any other source for the countless perishables that are seen… (fr. 23.1–10) This fragment also throws light on how parts of elements are placed together in a compound. Empedocles is not speaking of a complete fusion, like blue and yellow blending to form green, but, according to the common practice in Greek painting, of the juxtaposition of pigments or washes (usually black, white, red and yellow) to produce the effect of figures and objects. The parts of elements involved in a compound may be very small, as when for example they form the alternating channels of fire and water in the eye, or are compared to metals ground down to fine powders, but even so they are not reducible to absolute minima. In positing elements in Aristotle’s phrase (On the Heavens 305a4) that are ‘divisible but never going to be divided’, Empedocles’ philosophy here contrasts on the one hand with the complete infinite divisibility of compounds in Anaxagoras’ theory and on the other with Democritean atomism. Empedocles’ far-reaching conclusion that despite appearances to the contrary all animate and inanimate forms should be understood as particular arrangements in different proportions of a small number of unchanging, qualitatively distinct elements immediately became standard, and was taken into account by philosophers, cosmologists, natural scientists and medical writers throughout antiquity, and into the Middle Ages and beyond. As a basic principle it foreshadows contemporary assumptions in a number of areas, for example that the main ingredients of living things are the elements of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, that language, literature and mathematics can be expressed as encoded variations of the binary numbers zero and one, and that the genetic range of species is reducible to an arrangement of the four basic letters of the DNA strings. Some further motive force however was required in Empedocles’ scheme to explain how the four elements come into compounds and separate into their own masses. For this role he posited opposed principles of attraction and repulsion which, in his vivid vocabulary, he called philia (‘love’, ‘friendship’) and neikos (‘strife’, ‘hate’). As the visible masses of earth, sea, sun and sky had provided evidence for the four elements and their characteristics in the composition of individual constructs, so a further inference was drawn from the power which these two basic drives have in human experience and action to their involvement in the widespread generation and destruction of forms of life. Empedocles attributed the continual grouping, separating and regrouping of elements in temporary compounds to the beneficient or destructive effects of these forces: For all these—sun and earth and sky and sea—are one with the parts that have been separated off and born in mortal things. In the same way, those that are more ready to combine are made similar by love and feel mutual affection. But such as are more different from each other in birth and mixture and the moulding of their forms are most hostile, inexperienced in union, and grieving at their generation in strife. (fr. 22) The same patterns of constructive unity and corruptive separating could also be found on a larger scale, in the different kinds of life found in the distinctive elemental masses: This is well known in the mass of mortal limbs: at one time, in the maturity of a vigorous life, all the limbs that are the body’s portion come into one under love; at another time again, torn asunder by evil strifes, they stray on the borderline of life. So it is for plants, and for fish that live in the water, and for wild animals who have their lairs in the hills, and for the wing-sped gulls. (fr. 20) From such quotations it is clear that Empedocles’ arguments for the existence of universal principles of attraction and repulsion were derived from empirical observations in the natural world of the processes of birth and growth being countered inevitably by decline and disintegration, and from consideration of the powerful stimuli to action engendered by love and hate in human experience. In addition a crucial significance had been given to love (as erōs) in Hesiod’s Theogony which Parmenides had adapted for his cosmology, and Anaximander and Heraclitus had used the political terminology of aggression and war for the tensions and oppositions necessary to the maintenance of the present world order. Love and strife in this theory are, like the elements, ungenerated, unchanging and indestructible, and Empedocles presented them as set against each other in eternal rivalry for universal government. They are not however material, as fire, air, earth and water are, or like them visually recognizable on a large scale; instead the student is told to ‘contemplate love with the mind’: She is acknowledged to be inborn in human bodies, and because of her their thoughts are friendly and they work together, giving her the name Joy, as well as Aphrodite. No mortal has perceived her as she moves among them, but pay attention to my line of argument, which will not mislead you. (fr. 17.21–6) The existence of the opposed stimuli is to be inferred from an understanding of how the elements act and react to each other, and any apparent personification is a question of allegory or poetic licence. Empedocles described his principles of attraction and repulsion in terms of equal balance and power. They are able to extend over the elements and act on them, with expanding and contracting areas of application as the four are brought together or held further apart. Love ‘increases’ and takes up more place in the sense that more and more elemental particles may be brought together to mingle, and the converse holds ‘when Strife rises to its honours as the time is completed’ (fr. 30), and the elements move out of their combinations to group with their own kind. The two principles are manifest in the patterns of attraction and separation of the elements, and are contained within the same limits as them. In Empedocles’ theory the consequences of this wide-ranging polar opposition are to be found at different levels: in the repeated patterns of movements and arrangements of the elements within the cosmos, in the genesis and destruction of successive generations of mortal life, and for individuals in their friendships and enmities. COSMOLOGY Empedocles’ four-element cosmos was a spherical everlasting plenum. Parmenides had previously argued that it is peculiarly self-contradictory to assert the existence of ‘what is not’ (mē on). Applied temporally this meant that there could be no generation or destruction (which would entail earlier or later nonexistence), and in spatial terms there had to be continuity, balance and homogeneity ‘as in the bulk of a well-rounded sphere’. Empedocles took this as the literal shape of the cosmos, and, as has been shown, further adapted the Eleatic argument by equating the non-existent with kenon (empty space), and then denying its existence: ‘there is no part of the whole that is empty or overfull’ (fr. 13). The atomists later agreed with this identification of non-being with empty space, but then reinstated it as an existing void. In Empedocles’ theory, however, the elements are contained within the cosmos with no spaces between them, nor did he allow the possibility of variation in consistency; this possibility had been adopted by the Ionian Anaximenes previously, to account for differences between solid, liquid and gaseous substances by assuming a process of rarefaction and condensation of primary matter. For Empedocles, earth, air, fire and water assimilate and separate in the plenum, shifting together and moving apart in continually changing arrangements and rearrangements, while each keeps its character inviolate. The evidence on the whole suggests that the activity of the elements under the principles of attraction and repulsion follows certain patterns in recurring cycles. There is an unceasing alternation of all the elements at one time coming into a unity through Love (where their particles are so completely and finely mingled that no part can be distinguished from any other) and then at another of separating into their respective masses under the influence of Strife. At this stage they are probably to be envisaged in the traditional form of concentric spheres, with earth at the centre, surrounded by water and air, and the fiery sky (the ouranos) enclosing the whole. The processes of elemental movement from one extreme to the other and back again result in a generation of mortal things, as is explained in part of one of the longest fragments: A twofold tale I shall tell: at one time it grew to be one only from many, and at another again it divided to be many from one. There is a double birth of the mortal, and a double passing-away; for the uniting of all things brings one generation into being and destroys it, and the other is reared and scattered as they again divide. And these things never cease their continual exchange of position, at one time all coming together through love, at another again being borne away by strife’s repulsion. So in so far as one is accustomed to arise from many and many are produced from one as it is again being divided, to this extent they are born and have no abiding life; but in so far as they never cease their continual exchange, so far they are forever unaltered in the cycle. (fr. 17.1–13) Empedocles took the description of the elements as logically prior (‘hear first the roots of all things…’), and, although there can be no chronological beginning to eternal recurrence, for the purposes of the narrative he apparently started with an account of the elements in separation, indicating how in such a state earth, water, air and fire would cling to their own kind, shunning association with each other, in a sterile and unharmonious lack of order (akosmia). When, however, the power of Strife began to wane, the principle of attraction gradually pulled the separated parts together until eventually their individual characteristics (as earth, air, sea and sun) were no longer manifest, but they became completely united, taking the form of a unique cosmic divinity: held fast in the close covering of harmony…two branches do not spring from his back, there are no feet, no swift knees, no organs of generation, but he is equal to himself in every direction, the same all over, a rounded sphere, rejoicing in encircling stillness. (frs. 28–9) Empedocles said however that inevitably, at a time ascribed somewhat enigmatically to a ‘broad oath’, Strife would enter and begin to cause the disintegration of the divine harmony. In the resulting movements, as the elements ‘run through each other’, the present world order would be generated, with its teeming variety of plant, animal and human life. During this time Love should be envisaged initially as the more powerful force, and, on the analogy of a craftsman, as engendering well-constructed forms of life in sympathy with each other. But Strife, with increasing power and ferocity, is preparing to tear them apart, and eventually to bring down the cosmic edifice in the return once more to akosmia. The limits of the powers of both attraction and separation are presumed to be held, like the elements which they control, within the circumference of the sphere, the kuklos, that persists throughout; beyond these lies what is described in the doxography without further explanation as ‘idle matter’ (argē httlē is the term at Aetius I.5.2). Some of the details of the process are controversial, and even the basic idea of cosmic phases being repeated has been challenged, and, given the fragmentary nature of the primary sources, there can be no certainty. But the consensus of opinion, supported by such testimony as we do have from the primary and secondary sources, suggests a reconstruction along the following lines, with Empedocles’ poetic skill giving a vivid character to his descriptions of elements reacting to contrary forces. At one time the four (‘fire and water and earth and measureless height of air’) were completely separate under Strife, and Love lay inactive at the circumference; then came the increase of her power, initiated (in the metaphor of the invasion of foreign territory) by a move to the centre, and the consolidation of her position as Strife was pushed back. This alternation was manifest in the elements consequently ‘running through’ each other, and so causing the rise of a generation of mortal beings. Some monsters and strange shapes emerged at first, even separate limbs and ‘heads without necks’, but these were short-lived, whereas those that were well formed and fitted for survival became a viable generation of living creatures. Love was eventual victor in the cosmic battle, bringing all the elements into one, and so generating the blessed god (theos eudaimonestatos), in which Strife had no part. But the ideal state came to an end, and, when the time was completed, Strife struck as Love had done by rushing to claim the centre. This caused a mighty disturbance as ‘one by one all the parts of the god began to tremble’ (fr. 31). Empedocles saw the emergence of the present world as a consequence of this upheaval. In the succeeding phase of his cosmogony, as Strife began the process of separation, he introduced the important concept of a rotation (a vortex or dinē) starting in the centre, which was the immediate cause of the separating of the closely mingled parts of the different elements. First it seems that air was drawn out and flowed round in a circle, followed by fire, which solidified some of the air into the ouranos as aithēr and brought down the heavier particles as atmospheric mist. The force of the rotation also compressed parts of the earth into the centre, and water consequently exuded from it to form the sea (‘sea is the sweat of earth’ as Empedocles expressed it in a typical homology, fr. 55). Such fire as was still in the earth warmed some of the remaining water to produce hot springs, and hardened lumps of earth into rocks; as it moved upwards to join its counterparts it also created the conditions of warm, moist clay which would be capable of engendering life, first in the form of trees and plants, and then of animals and humans. This imaginative narrative, pieced together from direct quotations and indirect report, was in the tradition of the early pre-Socratics, but treated with much more acumen and sophistication. The use of a swirl in the original mixture to start the separation, the outward movement of the lighter air and fire, and what looks something like an early theory of gravity, when the bulk of earth at the centre drew parts of earth elsewhere towards itself, show a remarkable mind at work. Further evidence of Empedocles’ achievements comes in the wealth of insight preserved on many of the individual aspects of the subsequent phenomena. Starting with the initial formation of the elemental masses—‘earth and swelling sea, moist air and Titan sky’ (fr. 38.4)—Empedocles included explanations for the spherical shape of the earth, volcanoes beneath the earth’s surface and the salinity of the sea. Of particular interest in this section was the recognition that the moon is a satellite of earth reflecting the sun’s brightness (‘a circle of borrowed light moves swiftly round the earth’, fr. 45), and that solar eclipses are caused by the moon coming directly between sun and earth; and when Empedocles says that ‘earth causes night by coming under the sun’s rays’ (fr. 42) it is tempting to assume that he realized that this meant that night on the upper surface of a spherical earth would be complemented by day in the antipodes. THE NATURAL WORLD At some time into the present era, once the main bulk of the elements were separated out into the distinct masses of earth, sea and air, with fire visible in the sky as sun and stars and as volcanoes erupting from the earth, then living creatures began to emerge. Empedocles described this genesis, in a typical blend of poetry and science, as derived from amorphous lumps which bubble up from the earth’s surface during the separating process: And now hear this—how fire, as it was being separated, brought up by night the growths of men and pitiable women, for the account is to the point and well-informed. First whole-nature forms, having a share of both water and heat, emerged from the earth; fire as it tended to reach its like, kept sending them up, when they did not yet show the lovely shape of limbs, or voice, or language native to men. (fr. 62) With the passage of time the forms were further articulated until they become recognizable as the human race, able then to reproduce sexually and communicate by language. In a world antithetical to the present one Empedocles found a place for the biform monsters of myth in a kind of genetic nightmare: Many creatures with a face and breasts on both sides were produced, human-faced bulls and again bull-headed humans, others with male and female nature combined. (fr. 61) Some of these were put together from different parts—heads without necks, arms without shoulders—but, despite the bizarre nature of the concept, a more serious point was being made. As Aristotle reports: Wherever all the parts came together as though for a purpose, the creatures survived, being organized spontaneously in an appropriate way. Those that did not then died out (and continue to do so), as Empedocles said of his ‘human-faced bulls’. (Physics 198b29–32) It would be an exaggeration to read into the reports of Empedocles’ views here a precursor of a Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest, but he does seem to have been prepared to recognize that for survival a species or ‘animal-kind’ must be able to reproduce itself, and have organs that are mutually supportive in nutrition and growth: teeth to masticate food, a stomach with which to digest it, and a liver to transform it into blood and tissue. In any case the unsuccessful hybrids were shunted into a different era, complementary to the present one, when the cosmos was coming out of a state of disorder into one in which unity would eventually prevail. The world which the human race now inhabits is by contrast to be understood as coming from a better past into a more turbulent future. In Empedocles’ terms Love has not yet relinquished her hold on the elements, and in the battle against the forces of dissolution she has considerable if temporary success in the formation of harmonious wholes. These depend on the formula of elements in the compound, again a crucial scientific point lurking behind Empedocles’ loose poetic language: And the kindly earth received into its broad hollows of the eight parts two of the brightness of Nestis and four of Hephaestus; and these came to be white bones, marvellously held together by the gluing of harmony. (fr. 96) Aristotle quoted these lines in a compliment to Empedocles for realizing that it was not so much the elements of which something is made which give it its character but the logos or ratio of their combination; it was rare to find among the pre- Socratics a foreshadowing of what later came to be known as Aristotle’s ‘formal cause’. The particular ratio here of four parts fire: two earth: two water (or on an alternative version one each of water and air) is a simple one, but the achievement is in the understanding of the principle of proportion in the formation of organisms rather than any sophistication in its development. The last line of the quotation—‘marvellously held together by the gluing of harmony’—shows the ‘bonding’ of the elements, not as an additional ingredient, but inherent in their attraction when they come together in the right formula. Another way for the poet to express this is was to envisage the artisan-goddess fashioning living forms as artefacts: When Kypris was busily producing forms, she moistened earth in water and gave it to swift fire to harden. (fr. 73) In other fragments she acted as a baker or sculptor, and sometimes as a carpenter, joining the organic parts together. More conventionally, she personified the sexual urge, the mutual desire that brings male and female together, and ensures the continuation of the species. The theme continued in a section devoted to embryology, which included an account of sex differentiation within the womb. This was a subject which interested many pre-Socratics, and Empedocles’ medical experience may have sharpened his concerns in this area. On one occasion, when he maintained that both the male and female contribute to the embryo’s substance, matching like the two parts of a tally, he was closer to the truth of the shared parental donation of chromosomes than was Aristotle with his preference for the domination of the male. In his account of life now on earth Empedocles had explanations for a wide variety of phenomena, from the structure of trees, plants and fruits through to a broad range of animal species. He comments for example on the normal combination of hard bone surrounded by soft flesh as an instance of a chance compound developing a formal structure, represented as the artisan at work: bones within and flesh as an outer covering, a kind of flaccidity chanced on at the hands of Kypris (fr. 75) but in some creatures the hard and soft tissues are reversed: In those with heavy backs who live in the sea…you will notice that earth is on the top surface of the flesh of sea-snails and stony-skinned turtles. (fr. 76) Here the collecting and hardening of earth ‘on top’ is a means of protection for the organism, and this prevails over the tendency of earth to come to the centre. But the carapace is also the sea-turtle’s bone structure. In this and in many other fragments Empedocles shows a remarkable first awareness of biological analogy and homology in similarities found between plant and animal structures. The elements themselves are first called rizōmata, or root clumps, and this type of language is extended throughout the natural world in a variety of contexts. Empedocles regarded humans as plants that grow from ‘shoots’, he called the auricle of the ear a ‘sprig of flesh’, he had a common word for the bark of a tree and for the skin of a grape and apple peel, olive trees were said to bear ‘eggs’, and amnion was the term used both for the skin of an egg and the caul of an embryo. Processes similarly correlate, and it seems to be a similar change in the liquid, a sēpsis, which makes wine of water, yoghurt of milk and colostrum of blood. Connections between primitive and more advanced species were drawn when horses’ manes were seen as analogous to the spines of hedgehogs, and a famous fragment took this further: Hair, leaves, the close-packed feathers of birds and scales on strong limbs —as the same they grow. (fr. 82) The shared function here of covering and protection crosses the forms of life and the different elements to link humans and plants in land, birds in the air, and fish in water. PERCEPTION AND COGNITION Another advance in the history of science came when Empedocles originated the concept of pores and effluences to explain the workings of the organs of senses in animals and humans, a theory which also extended the range of homology through the various species. The medical philosopher Alcmaeon had previously suggested that channel-like pores led from the eye to the brain, but Empedocles set up a universal theory of perception, according to which all bodies have pores close packed on their surfaces, and effluences like films ‘from everything in existence’ are capable of entering the opening of these pores where there is symmetry between them. According to his method Empedocles gave some common examples of the theory at work before arguing for its extension over a wider range. He cited the way in which water can mix with wine but not oil as evidence for symmetry and asymmetry of the pores and ‘thick parts’ of the liquids. Another example was when saffron dye became firmly fixed into a piece of linen, and the magnet could be explained by effluences dragging the iron until it closes with the pores in the stone. Something like this also happens in nutrition and growth, where nourishment is broken up in the organism and distributed to appropriate parts of the body according to their fit, for like substances are attracted to their like, and unite with them: So sweet seized on sweet, bitter rushed to bitter, sharp came to sharp, and hot coupled with hot. (fr. 90) The application of the theory could then proceed to cover the range of human and animal perception, which also occurs in the context of the attraction of likes, as given in the Empedoclean lines most widely quoted in antiquity: With earth we perceive earth, with water water, with air divine air, with fire destructive fire, with love love, and strife with baneful strife. (fr. 109) In more straightforward terms this means that the element within a sense-organ draws to itself the corresponding elemental part of an external object and assimilates it in the act of perception. As we perceive fire outside ourselves, for example, by means of fire within, then the fire in the constitution is increased, and so with earth, air and water. Further, we have control to some extent over our perceptions, with the implication on the moral plane that the inner strength of love or strife can be increased by concentrating on its like in the external world, with consequent profit or loss in general well-being or disharmony. In the extension to human relations such compatibility between likes produces unity and friendship, whereas those who are most different from each other ‘in birth and mixture and the moulding of their form’ wander alone, hostile and in deep grief (fr. 22). A good example of Empedocles combining scientific theory with poetry— here in a Homeric-type simile—comes in his account of vision: As when a man who intends to make a journey prepares a light for himself, a flame of fire burning through a wintry night; he fits linen screens against all the winds which break the blast of the winds as they blow, but the light that is more diffuse leaps through, and shines across the threshold with unfailing beams. In the same way the elemental fire, wrapped in membranes and delicate tissues, was then concealed in the round pupil— these keep back the surrounding deep waters, but let through the more diffuse light. (fr. 84) This and some related fragments show that Empedocles’ account of the structure of the eye is remarkably accurate. He explains how the fiery part of the eye, i.e. the lens, is concealed behind the dark opening of the pupil and protected by membranes and tissues composed of earth and air. Surrounding the membranes, and prevented by them from quenching the fire, is water. There are pores in this fire and water, and vision occurs when effluences from objects fit into these pores, dark colours being seen when they fit into the pores of water, and light colours in the pores of fire. Eyes that have less fire (i.e. a smaller pupil and lens) see better by day, and those with more by night. The particular point of the lantern simile is to show the function of the membranes, which keep the water in the eye from the fire, but allow the fire to penetrate through it. In his explanation of the sense of hearing Empedocles supposed that external sounds, which are emanations of air particles, enter the channel of the outer ear (which he called a ‘sprig of flesh’, again linking plant and animal organs); if they fit the pores there they then reverberate within as ‘in a trumpet bell’. Empedocles accounted for smell in a similarly modern way as the entry of odorant particles into receptive sockets on the surface of the organ—of the nostrils in the higher animals, but extending over the whole body in lower forms of life. All skin surfaces may be sensitive to odours, and so ‘all are apportioned breathing and smelling’ (fr. 102). The theory extended beyond that of simple perception, according to the lines which probably followed on fragment 109, quoted above: all things are fitted together and constructed out of these (the elements), and by means of them they think and feel pleasure and pain. (fr. 107) Pleasure might occur as a result of the appropriate conjuncture of elemental compounds within the body’s physical structure, but also as a response to external stimuli that harmonize with this structure, or from the replenishment of a deficiency by a complementary mixture of similar proportions. Conversely pain was thought to be caused by ill-adjusted coalitions, the clash of contraries or excessive replenishment. Examples of such painful experiences could be found in nutrition when the food absorbed could not be assimilated to the body, and in harmful perceptual encounters such as with a bright light or loud noise where the intake overwhelms the organ. Asymmetry of pores in the senseorgan and the effluences from the external object were also able to provide an explanation for organs being unable to distinguish each other’s objects, for the eye sees colours but not sounds, whereas sounds as effluences or ‘waves’ from a distant object are symmetrical with the pores of the ear, and odours enter and fit with the nostrils. Empedocles recognized that pores through the surface of the body in simpler animal forms could be aware of and assimilate odours from distant objects in a way analogous to humans taking them in through the nostrils, or hunting-dogs sniffing spoors in the form of odorous effluences left by their prey, which enable them to follow a trail. Skin and nostrils are not only the organs of smell, but are also involved in respiration; this again is widespread, so that Empedocles was ready to claim that ‘all things are apportioned breathing and smelling’ (fr. 102) in a way similar or analogous to human respiration. One of the longest fragments deals with this topic, and, as with the quotation on the eye, uses an engaging simile: This is the way in which all things breathe in and out: they all have channels of flesh which the blood leaves, stretched over the surface of the body, and at the mouth of these the outside of the skin is pierced right through with close-set holes, so that blood is contained, but a passage is cut for the air to pass through freely. Then, when the smooth blood rushes away from the surface, a wild surge of blustering air rushes through, and when the blood leaps up, the air is breathed out again. It is like a girl playing with a clepsydra… (fr. 100.1–9) The clepsydra was a common household utensil for transferring liquid from one container to another, and for measuring. It had a narrow opening at the top, which could be plugged by hand, and a perforated base. Empedocles compared the movement of air into and out of the body through skin pores (and in human and higher animals through the two large pores that are the nostrils) to that of water into and out of the perforated base of the clepsydra. He used the clepsydra as a model (comparable to Harvey’s use of a pump as a model for the heart), rather than as a specific experimental device. For the first time in extant Greek physiological theory respiration was here connected with the movement of the blood. Empedocles recognized that the blood is in continuous motion as air is breathed in and exhaled, not yet understanding that the movement involves a circulation but taking it as oscillatory, from the heart to and from the body’s surface in small-scale channels. Taking the perforations in the clepsydra to correspond to these channels or pores, Empedocles explained inhalation as blood moving inwards followed by air entering the pores, and exhalation (comparable to the child unplugging the clepsydra) as the blood returning to the surface as the air is expelled again into the atmosphere. No void is involved, but, as is obvious, the heart and chest area expands with the intake of air and returns to normal as the air goes back out through the channels. The comparison is not exact in every detail for the blood obviously does not pour out of the body into an external container, but Empedocles did not claim an exact correlation. The model works admirably in showing a mutual movement of air and blood in respiration, the corresponding oscillation of the blood within the body, and the way in which it can be held in the capillaries at the extremities by the pressure of the air outside. Empedocles took these discoveries further in suggesting that the blood acts as a kind of neural system between the individual sense organs (which in touch and smell can include the whole of the body surface) and the centre of the cognitive system which, like most Greek philosophers apart from Plato, he located in the heart: In seas of blood coursing to and fro, there above all is what men call thought, because for humans blood around the heart is thought [noēma]. (fr. 105) The basis for this apparently strange statement is not only that blood travels incessantly to and from the organs to the heart and so acts as a conduit (the ‘broadest path of persuasion’ goes from the eyes and hands to the cognitive centre according to fragment 133), but also because of its physical construction. It contains all the elements, and in a ratio closer to equal amounts of each than in any other part of the body; and Empedocles attributed the sophistication of this compound to the powerful principle of attraction (here personified as the goddess of love): And earth, anchored in the perfect harbours of Aphrodite, chanced to come together with them in almost equal quantities, with Hephaestus and rain and all-shining air, either a little more, or less where there was more. From these came blood and the different forms of flesh. (fr. 98) Earth here is a crucial ingredient in the formation of the tissues: with less of this element there is blood, and with more there would be flesh. Aristotle’s pupil Theophrastus wrote a history of early theories of perception and in it interpreted Empedocles’ theory as it would be when stripped of its poetic vocabulary: We think chiefly with the heart-blood, for there the elements are more fully mingled than in any other part of the body. Those who have an equal or almost equal mingling of these elements are the most intelligent and have the keenest sense perceptions, but those whose condition is the reverse are the most stupid. (Theophrastus On the Senses 10–11) The proportion of ingredients (as in any chemical formula) is crucial for the performance of the compound; here the best intelligence comes from the mixture most approaching equality as, in other examples cited by Theophrastus, the orator has a good mixture in his tongue and the craftsman in his hands. On the mind-body problem all the pre-Socratics were in principle reductionists, since in Aristotle’s terminology they recognized only ‘material cause’. In Empedocles’ theory the centre of cognition was explained as constituted of the same elements as everything else, i.e. of earth, air, fire and water, but the quality of thought is dependent on their increase and decrease, and consequent proportion relative to each other. This means, as he says, that Human wisdom grows according to what is present. (fr. 106) and it is also the case that As one’s constitution changes, so the present thoughts are always changing. (fr. 108) The continual modifications here of incoming and outgoing thoughts are taken to correspond both to fluctuations in the outside world and to alterations in the inner condition. The less intelligent (including in particular those who infer erroneous general conclusions too quickly from inadequate evidence) quite literally have inadequate means of ‘grasping’ the truth, whereas a wealth of appropriate thoughts results in proper understanding (frs 2, 3, 132). Although the medical terminology of heart and lungs (phrenes), midriff (prapides) and intestines (splangchna) even in the Homeric poems was losing its literal meaning, Empedocles’ constant use of it points to a consistent theory of a physical basis for rational activity. In this way he can envisage a struggle in the phrēn between deceit and persuasion (fr. 23), introduce evidence to strengthen feeble conviction (fr. 35), speak of thoughts entering the phrontis of the Muse (fr. 131), and describe a wise man, perhaps Pythagoras, stretching his prapides when he remembers generations that are past and makes prophecies for the future (fr. 129). Similarly Empedocles sees the instruction of his student as a literal transfer via speech from one to the other. This is shown when he asks that a ‘pure stream’ of thoughts in the form of the words that express them might pass from his lips to his pupil (fr. 3), and he advises Pausanias to ensure that his sense-organs are in their different ways receptive to the transfer of truth: do not keep back trust from seeing, hearing, taste or any other channel for thinking, but think each thing in the way in which it is clear. (fr. 3) When Pausanias has taken in the account the argument is to be divided into its component parts and almost literally digested like food in the stomach area (fr. 4. 3). And Empedocles gives a final exhortation: If you put the words I say firmly into your crowded thoughts, and contemplate them with clear and constant attention, assuredly they will all be with you through life, and you will gain much else from them, for of themselves they will cause each [new thought] to grow into your character, according to its nature. But if you should reach out for things of a different kind, for the countless trivialities that dull human meditation, straightaway they will leave you as the time comes round… (fr. 110.1–8) The meaning here would seem to be that the mixture of the bodily components reflects or represents whatever is thought about in the external world, while the continual physical changes in the structure of the body alter that mixture, with corresponding shifts in the nature and range of the thinking. The resulting thoughts may be further confused or dulled according to the intention or effort of the thinker, or correspondingly made purer. There is further a great confidence, an optimism that the consequent scientific knowledge of the processes of nature will bring with it the power to control them. Empedocles suggests to his student that the understanding of the elements of earth, air, fire and water alone and in combination, in virtue of one’s own thoughts being akin to them and made up of like parts, will allow their manipulation. In this way it might be possible for the internal elements that make up the intelligent mind to control their like in the external masses; the chance would most obviously come in the vagaries of the weather: You will check the force of tireless winds, which sweep over land and destroy fields with their blasts; and again if you wish you will restore compensating breezes. After black rain you will bring dry weather in season for people, and too bring tree-nourishing showers after summer dryness. (fr. 111.3–8) The knowledge of the working of elements within the body’s structure could also form the basis of medical skill, allowing the avoidance and curing of illness and the postponement of old age. The climax would be a restoration to life: You will lead from Hades the life-force of someone who has died. (fr. 111.9) Whether the story is true or based on this line, the biographers report that Empedocles did resuscitate a women who had been in a coma; it would be consistent with Empedocles’ interest in respiration that an understanding of its mechanism would enable one to restart the heart and so renew the life of a patient. THE UNITY OF ALL THINGS The series of fragments in the Physics has shown an original, sharply observant and analytical mind suggesting solutions to a comprehensive range of problems in the realm of natural science. Empedocles’ second poem Katharmoi (Methods of Purification), which a minority have taken to be another part of the same poem, is superficially quite different in tone and content from what has been discussed so far. The Physics had been in the form of instruction to a single student, but the Katharmoi opened with an address in the plural, to Empedocles’ fellow-citizens of Acragas, and went on to celebrate the high esteem in which the philosopher was held. He travelled he says ‘as an immortal god, mortal no longer’, on his journey through prosperous towns, and people flocked to him for prophecies and cures. The most important fragment, which needs to be quoted in full, gives an explanation of his position: There is a decree of necessity, ratified long ago by gods, eternal, and sealed by broad oaths, that whenever one in error, from fear, [defiles] his own limbs—daimons to whom life long-lasting is apportioned—having by his error made false the oath he swore, he wanders from the blessed ones for three times ten thousand years, being born throughout the time as all kinds of mortal forms, exchanging one hard way of life for another. For the force of air pursues him into sea, and sea spits him out on to earth’s surface, earth casts him into the rays of blazing sun, and sun into the eddies of air; one takes him from another and all abhor him. I too am now one of these, an exile from the gods and a wanderer, trusting in raging strife. (fr. 115) After this comes the statement: before now I have been at some time boy and girl, bush, bird, and a mute fish in the sea. (fr. 117) Empedocles then went on to describe a journey to an unfamiliar place, a cave, peopled by pairs of personified opposites, including ‘Earth and Sun, Discord and Harmony, Beauty and Ugliness, lovely Truth and blind Uncertainty’, as well as ‘Birth and Death, Sleep and Wakefulness, Movement and Rest’. This is followed by an account of a time in the past that was an adaptation of the ‘golden age’ under Kronos in traditional mythology, when there was no war, all creatures were tame and friendly, and the ruling power was Kypris, another name for Aphrodite, goddess of love. A universal law, extending ‘through wide-ruling air and measureless sunlight’, was then said to bring about a change which was a degeneration from this ideal state. Empedocles in his own person expresses regret for a crime he committed, described as ‘the cruel deed of eating flesh’, and, in verses which recall Agamemnon killing his daughter Iphigenia at the altar of Artemis, the standard pious ritual of the sacrifice of an animal is shown to be comparable to the impious slaying of kin. Furthermore, the traditional meal of the meat of the sacrificed animal enjoyed by the community becomes a re-enactment of the tragedy of a Thyestes, who unwittingly consumed his own children: The father will lift up his dear son in a changed form, and, blind fool, as he prays he will slay him, and those who take part in the sacrifice bring [the victim] as he pleads. But the father, deaf to his cries, slays him in his house and prepares an evil feast. In the same way son seizes father, and children their mother, and having deprived them of life devour the flesh of those they love. (fr. 137) The citizens of Acragas are urged to give up such practices, which further the work of strife, and instead to honour the power of love, personified as Kypris, in the old way: with holy images and painted animal figures, with perfumes of subtle fragrance…and libations of golden honey. (fr. 128.5–7) Empedocles apparently extended the injury to the common bond of life displayed in animal sacrifice even to plants, for Plutarch, in the context of fragment 140: ‘keep completely from leaves of laurel’, reports a prohibition against tearing off leaves because of the injury to the parent tree. He also links the themes once more in another fragment, which gives a ranking of the highest types of plants and animals in a scale of an exchange of lives: Among animals they are born as lions that make their lair in the hills and bed on the ground, and among fair-leafed trees as laurels. (fr. 127) And finally the highest human lives are listed, as the last stage before becoming a god: And at the end as prophets, minstrels, healers and princes they come among men on earth; and from these they arise as gods, highest in honour. (fr. 128) The ways in which the subject-matter of these fragments bears on those already discussed as from the Physics may now be explored. Any interpretation should be based on the direct quotations as far as possible, for there is very little reliable external evidence, and the comments of ancient authors, even when giving a quotation, have to be used with caution, and stripped as far as possible of their own particular bias. It is appropriate to start with the four elements. A daimōn is the term given in the Katharmoi to an individual divinity, the enhanced form of life that is superior to a human but still a temporary compound of the true immortals, the four elements. When, in fragment 115 quoted above, it is said that the air drives the daimōn into sea, sea casts him on to earth, earth into sun, and sun back to the swirling air, these areas of banishment refer explicitly to the masses of the four elements described and explained in the Physics. The language of ‘a changing of the paths’ for the combining of living creatures from elemental parts, the separating of them at death and their subsequent rearrangement into other forms is common to both poems. The boy, girl, bush, bird and fish of fragment 117 are obvious examples of the types of mortal life that the daimōn assumes as he goes from one hard way of life to another, and they are lives in different elements. Empedocles has explained that, according to necessity and universal law, coming under Strife results in so-called birth as tbnēton, ‘a mortal thing’; so, finding himself as prophet, leader, minstrel and healer at the highest stage of mortal life he would suppose that the law had run its course in his case. Since this involves lives in different elements, he might well consider that he has himself been born in some way as a bird in the air, fish in the sea and plant on earth. This need not imply that he remembers being in these states; it is an inference from the law that the daimōn of necessity takes on a variety of forms. Like the four roots, Love and Strife have their place in the Katharmoi; the terminology is similar, and it is the account of their nature and function in the Physics that helps in the understanding of their role in this second context. The principle of Philia throughout is responsible for universal friendship, unity and the good of the cosmos; Strife, ‘raging’ and ‘destructive’, is the cause of hatred, enmity and separation. In the Physics bodies were said to grieve at their birth in hatred and anger, and to be ‘torn apart by evil strifes’ (frs. 20 and 22); the theme is repeated in the representation of this world in the Katharmoi as ‘a joyless place’ and ‘the field of blind delusion’ (fr. 121). The traditional mythology of anthropomorphic gods was rejected by Empedocles, and instead he gave the elements the names of Olympian gods— Zeus, Hera and Hephaestus—to signify immortality and universal power. He also replaced the former age of the Titan Kronos, the time of ‘the golden race of mortals’ in Hesiod’s poem, with the past sovereignty of Love as Kypris, and this in turn reflected the description of the cosmic sphere under Love as an ideal and blessed state of harmony, with strife absent. A place was found however for the more conventional ‘long-lived gods, highest in honour’ as the original daimones ‘who have a share of blessed life’, and as divinities in the final stage of a series of lives that include plants, animals and humans (fr. 128, quoted above). These are all temporary arrangements of elements, in which the combinations that are gods are distinguished merely because they last longer before their inevitable dissolution than the other forms of life, as he explains: trees sprang from [the elements], and men and women, animals and birds and water-nourished fish, and long-lived gods too, highest in honour. (fr. 21) This erasing of the dividing line between men and gods, which in the epic tradition was fixed and except in rare cases impassable, has two effects. One is to reduce the level of these gods by showing them superior only in having a longer and happier existence than other forms; the second is to raise the status of plants, animals and humans by recognizing in them a nature akin to that of honoured gods, but with a shorter and less fortunate term of existence as particular arrangements of elements. Empedocles, as has been shown in the famous example of the comparability of hair, leaves, feathers and fish-scales, demonstrated that the functions of the different structures were similar in different life forms and also that they all in some analogous way were ‘apportioned breathing and a sense of smell’ (fr. 102). But he went further to say: As chance wills, all things have the power of thought. (fr. 103) and later reiterated the point: All things have intelligence and a share of thought. (fr. 110.10) The inadequacy that Aristotle’s successor Theophrastus complained of in all the pre-Socratics—that they failed to distinguish perception and thought—becomes an advantage here for Empedocles. In his universal ascription of the power of thought (phronēsis) he was able to show a seamless stretch of activity from the simplest awareness of a part of one element for another of its kind and an attraction towards it, through a range of more sophisticated perceptions in animal life to human ratiocination. So the physical and biological theory, which removes the traditional distinctions between life as god, man, animal, bird, fish and plant and sets them along the one spectrum, makes the suggestion of a transition from one form of life to another less startling. The accepted frontiers of birth and death were also broken down. Empedocles thought that humans generally have a narrow outlook: After observing a small part of life in their lifetime…they are convinced only of that which each has experienced, yet all boast of finding the whole. (fr. 2.3–6) Instead of rash generalizations based on limited experience people should realize that their life does not begin with birth and end with death but is part of a broader scheme. And this conclusion is supported with the arguments from Parmenides that nothing comes from nothing, and that what is cannot cease to be. Birth and death in Empedocles’ theory are merely names, to be understood in reality as the mingling and separating of eternally existing elements, which are subject on the cosmic and the human scale to the alternating control of Love and Strife. Since, therefore, birth is not to be considered as generation from what was not there before, nor death the annihilation of that which now is, it is no surprise to learn that there is some kind of existence before and after this present life: Someone who is wise in such matters would not surmise in his mind that people are, and meet with good and ill, for as long as they live, for a lifetime as they call it, and that before they were formed, and after they have disintegrated, they do not exist at all. (fr. 15) One more connecting topic that is present in the two aspects of Empedocles’ work deals with the elemental structure of blood, and its significance for life and intelligence. In fragment 105 Empedocles said that, Tor humans, blood around the heart is thought [noēma].’ This is explained by Theophrastus, in his history of previous views on sensation, as meaning that the elements in the structure of the blood and tissues of the heart are mingled in a better proportion (that is, closer to the ratio of one to one of the minimal parts) than elsewhere in the body. Here therefore is the cognitive principle; it is analogous in its composition to the physical structure of the sphere under Love, in the state that was described as ‘holy mind’ and ‘most happy god’. The combination of elements that comes nearest in this world of increasing Strife to such an optimum condition is said to be found in the blood around the heart, so the controversial prohibition against bloodshed can be seen to have a place in the overall scheme. There are three reasons: first, the shedding of blood is given as a cause of the exile of the daimōn from a happier state; second the earlier age of Kypris/ Aphrodite was characterized by the absence of animal sacrifice; and third the continuing shedding of blood in war, and in the name of religion, is given as grounds for the continuing misery of human life. The themes of Physics and Katharmoi are not therefore diametrically opposed, but connect on several issues. The theory of four elements helps to explain the exchange of lives of the daimōn in earth, sea, air and sun, and the account of the cosmic activity of Love and Strife is necessary to show how one can come under these powers, and the inevitable consequences. The frontiers of birth and death no longer hold, and traditional theology has to be revised. Plants, animals, men and gods have a common origin and nature, and there are no fixed boundaries marking off the kinds of life. And the principle of thought, based on a materialistic structure, has features common to the individual and the cosmos as a whole. Throughout Empedocles’ work there is emphasis on an alternation between god and human, mortal and immortal. The elements united under Love are a cosmic god; when held apart by Strife they are separate but still immortal; and in the intervening times they take on mortal forms. The god-like daimones are born as mortals, and in turn ‘many-times dying men’ become immortal gods. But in the Katharmoi the alternation of the states ‘mortal’ and ‘immortal’ takes on a vividly personal tone. Notions of wrongdoing, banishment and return to happiness give individual histories to gods and mortals, which at first sight appears incompatible with a theory that explains particular forms of life as a temporary arrangement of elemental parts. A solution to this difficulty can be found in an appreciation of the different contexts in which the underlying ideas are set. Before the present state of the world all things were said to have been united under Love; this was an ideal state, and the present one a degeneration from it. In physical terms the elements were exactly mixed and held fast in harmony, with Neikos, the principle of enmity and separation, having no control. The interpretation of this for publication to the people of Acragas was in terms of a previous ‘golden age’ comparable to the era of general happiness and universal friendship traditionally ascribed to Kronos in the Isles of the Blessed. Then, at a fixed time, there came an end to the ideal state. Strife entered the cosmic sphere, causing tremors that resulted in elements separating out from the mixture; it was as a consequence of this further disturbance that the conditions arose that were appropriate for the emergence of varied forms of life. In the language of the Katharmoi Strife gained control of some of the daimones and separated them from their fellows, causing them to take on ‘an unfamiliar garment’ of skin and tissues (fr. 126); that is, the substance is reconstituted as forms of lives in different elements. That this is the same process viewed in two ways is confirmed by the mention of the oath at the appropriate moment in each case: the time for the end of the state of harmony, for the rise of Strife and the consequent generation of mortal lives, is held secure by the ‘broad oath of necessity’, a striking way of indicating the inevitability of universal law. Empedocles sees himself involved in these cosmic events. The elements of which each individual is composed have, in this present phase of the cosmic cycle, been pulled apart from their original unity and plunged into rounds of socalled births and deaths. Life on earth is therefore to be viewed as an exile from an earlier true home. In terms of human law exile is the standard penalty for blood-shedding and perjury, and so these are given as the acts committed by the daimōn, who consequently takes on a series of mortal forms, and lives in one element after another. Although the daimōn has come under the power of Strife and so is said to have acted ‘wrongly’, this does not imply wrong intention or opportunity for choice on the part of the daimōn, for it was ‘according to necessity’ that Strife would gain control. And when Empedocles says that he has been born as boy, girl, plant, bird and fish, no personal remembrance of such states is involved, but it is an inference from the universal law ordaining that the daimōns be born in different elements as different kinds of mortal life. There would however seem to be some constant factor to justify Empedocles’ use of egō (‘I’ as first person) at each stage of his history, which would be incompatible with the theory of the complete dispersal at death of the elemental parts that make up the individual. Now in the Physics, as has been shown, the elements, eternal and unchanging, are called gods, which, when the time comes round, adopt the form of mortal things. The supreme cosmic god (theos eudaimonestatos, where the adjective has connotations of a good and happy daimonic status) is the union of the whole under Love, resulting in holy mind (phrēn hierē), until attacked and broken into separated parts by Strife. The daimones of the Katharmoi similarly were united under Love, then forced to separate by Strife, but will again return, after being prophets, minstrels, doctors or leaders, as ‘gods highest in honour’. It is said that they will share ‘hearths and tables’, but this is to be taken as a standard adaptation of the ancient tradition of privileged people winning admittance to the banquets of the gods, and implies no more than achieving some kind of divine status. It is the wisdom shown in the most advanced types of humanity which would be enhanced when the mortal life returns to the divine; in this condition it would approach and perhaps even be expected to share in the supreme ‘holy mind’ (phrēn hierē). In this context comes Empedocles’ own advice to his student cited earlier (p. 196) If you put the words I say firmly into your crowded thoughts, and contemplate them with clear and constant attention, assuredly they will all be with you through life, and you will gain much else from them, for of themselves they will cause each [new thought] to grow into your character, according to its nature. But if you should reach out for things of a different kind, for the countless trivialities that dull human meditation, straightaway they will leave you as the time comes round… (fr. 110. 1–8) If the thinking, the phronēsis in which all things partake, becomes most perfect, in physical terms the combination of elements in the structure becomes completely integrated, and in Katharmoi language the wise man is about to return to daimonic status. In the complete blending of elements which provides the structure for the perfected phronēsis the individual qualities of the elements would so balance each other that their individual characteristics would no longer be apparent. This state would be similar to the characterless and unvarying composition of ‘the most blessed god’, which, as has been shown, described the condition of the cosmos in the harmony of Love, before the intrusion of Strife and the emergence of mortal life. Other pre-Socratic philosophers had made use of a similar principle (or archē) which had no perceptible features. Anaximander, for example, had posited a neutral source of becoming in the apeiron, and Anaximenes had generated a cosmos from characterless air, which he regarded as a mean between the rarer and the more compact; Anaxagoras, soon after Empedocles, spoke of an initial state of affairs as ‘all things together’, where no colour or other distinguishing feature could be picked out. Empedocles adapted such notions to link the nature of the individual daimonic thought to that of the original cosmos, and our present cognitive powers to what survives of that original now at the circumference of the sphere. In this he also foreshadows the Aristotelian theory of a fifth element (the quinta essentia) eternally encircling the cosmos, to which the human psuchē is related. The historian of Greek philosophy, W.K.C.Guthrie, said in the introduction to his chapter on Empedocles that ‘in the union of rational thought with mystical exaltation, he sums up and personifies the spirit of his age and race’ ([2.13] II: 125–6). But it would be more appropriate to see Empedocles in the light of recent developments in modern science as the search is renewed for ‘a theory of everything’. In investigations that range from the study of the very smallest atomic structures to the vastness of the cosmos, and in the latest attempts to bridge the gulf between life on earth and activity in outer space, a fresh sympathy might be found for an original thinker from the ancient world, sometimes dismissed as an engaging eccentric, who found ways in which the familiar earth and the forms of life it contains were involved in the history of the whole. Enriched by the poetic style, and the exotic and often archaic language in which they were expressed, Empedocles’ ideas still hold interest. His achievements are especially to be found in the comprehensive theory of elements subject to opposed forces, in the reduction of all life forms to greater or less sophistication on a single scale, in the perceptive insights into human origins and behaviour, and general biological structures and functions, and in the first attempts to link these themes to the cycles of regeneration at the outer limits of cosmic space.1 NOTE 1 General interest in the philosophy of Empedocles has recently been increased by the discovery of nearly forty scraps of papyrus fragments in the archives of the University of Strasbourg, first reported in The Times for 16 April 1994. The scraps, which range from a single letter to a portion of some contiguous verses, come from an early Greek papyrus found in a burial site in upper Egypt. They have been identified as Empedoclean, connected with citations from the cycle of birth and death in the contexts both of natural science and ‘purifications’. The publication with commentary by Professor Alain Martin of Brussels is eagerly awaited. BIBLIOGRAPHY Texts and Translations 5.1 Bollack, J. Empédocle, vol. 1, Introduction à l’ancienne physique; vol. 2, Les Origines: édition et traduction des fragments et des témoignages; vol. 3, parts 1 and 2, Les Origines: commentaire, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1965–9. 5.2 Dumont, J.-P. Les écoles présocratiques, 2nd edn, La Flèche (Sarthe), Gallimard, 1991. 5.4 Gavalotti, C. Empédocle: Poema fisico e lustrale, Milan, Mondadori, 1975. 5.5 Inwood, B. The Poem of Empedocles,—a text and translation with an introduction, (Phoenix suppl. vol. 29), Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1992. 5.6 Wright, M.R. Empedocles: The Extant Fragments, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1981; rev. ed. (with additional bibliography and ‘Afterword’), London, Duckworth (Bristol Classical Press), and Indianapolis, Ind., Hackett, 1995. 5.7 Zafiropoulo, J. Empédocle d’Agrigente, Paris, Budé, 1953. Commentaries and Interpretations 5.8 Barnes, H.E., ‘Unity in the thought of Empedocles’, Classical Journal 63 (1967): 18–23. 5.9 Brown, G. ‘The cosmological theory of Empedocles’, Apeiron 18 (1974): 97–101. 5.10 Darcus, S.M. ‘Daimon parallels the Holy Phren in Empedocles’, Phronesis 22 (1977): I75–90. 5.11 Graham, D.W. ‘Symmetry in the Empedoclean cycle’, Classical Quarterly NS 38 (1988): 297–312. 5.12 Hershbell, J.P. ‘Empedocles’ oral style’, Classical Journal 63 (1968): 352–7. 5.13 ——‘Hesiod and Empedocles’, Classical Journal 65 (1970): 145–61. 5.14 Imbraguglia, G. et al., Index Empedocleus, 2 vols, Genoa, Erga, 1991; vol. I, text, commentary and essays, Vol. II, index. 5.15 Johnston, H.W. Empedocles: Fragments, Bryn Mawr, Bryn Mawr College, 1985. Basic commentary. 5.16 Kahn, C.H. ‘Religion and natural philosophy in Empedocles’ doctrine of the soul’, Archiv fiir Geschichte der Philosophie 42 (1960): 3–35, repr. in Anton and Kustas [2. 16] and Mourelatos [2.19]. 5.17 Lambridis, H. Empedocles: A Philosophical Investigation, Alabama, University of Alabama Press, 1976. 5.18 Long, A.A. ‘Thinking and sense-perception in Empedocles: mysticism or materialism?’, Classical Quarterly NS 16 (1966): 256–76. 5.19 ——‘Empedocles’ cosmic cycle in the sixties’, in Mourelatos [2.19]. 5.20 Longrigg, J. ‘The “Roots of all things’”, Isis 67 (1976): 420–38. 5.21 Millerd, C.E. On the Interpretation of Empedocles, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1908. 5.22 O’Brien, D. Empedocles’ Cosmic Cycle, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1969. 5.23 ——Pour interpréter Empédocle (Philosophia antiqua 38), Leiden, Brill, 1981. 5.24 Osborne, C. ‘Empedocles recycled’, Classical Quarterly NS 37 (1987): 24–50. 5.25 Reiche, H. Empedocles’ Mixture. Eudoxan Astronomy and Aristotle’s ‘Connate Pneuma, Amsterdam, A.Hakkert, 1960. 5.26 Rostagni, A. ‘II poema sacro di Empedocle’, Rivista di Filologia 1 (1923): 7–39. 5.27 Rudberg, G. ‘Empedokles und Evolution’, Eranos 50 (1952): 23–30. 5.28 Sedley, D. ‘The proems of Empedocles and Lucretius’, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 30 (1989); 269–96. 5.29 —— ‘Empedocles’ theory of vision and Theophrastus’ De Sensibus’, in W.W. Fortenbaugh and D.Gutas (eds.) Theophrastus: His Psychological, Doxographical and Scientific Writings, Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 1992:10–31. 5.30 Solmsen, F. ‘Love and strife in Empedocles’ cosmogony’, Phronesis 10 (1965): 109–48. 5.31 ——‘Eternal and temporal beings in Empedocles’ physical poem’, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 57 (1975): 123–45. 5.32 van der Ben, N. The Proem of Empedocles’ Peri Physeos, Amsterdam, B.R. Grüner, 1975. 5.33 van Groningen B.A. ‘Empédocle, poète’, Mnemosyne 9 (1971): 169–88. 5.34 Wellmann, E. ‘Empedokles (3)’, in Pauly-Wissowa (ed.) Realencyclopädie, vol. V, cols 2507–12, Stuttgart, J.B.Metzler, 1905. 5.35 Wilford, P.A. ‘Embryological analogies in Empedocles’ cosmology’, Phronesis 13 (1968): 10–18. 5.36 Zuntz, G. Persephone Book 2: Empedokles’ Katharmoi, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1971.
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