The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

EMPEDOCLES.

^ a poem said to have consisted of 3000 verses, seems to have recommended particularly a good moral conduct as the means of averting epi­demics, and other evils. (See the fragments in Karsten, p. 144, vers. 403, &c.; comp. Aristot. Eth. Nic. vii. 5 ; Eudem. vi. 3.) Empedocles was undoubtedly acquainted with the didactic poems of Xenophanes and Parmenides (Hermipp. and Theo-phrast. ap.Diog. Laert. viii. 55,56)—allusions to the latter can be pointed out in the fragments,—but he seems to have surpassed them in the animation and richness of his style, and in the clearness of his descriptions and diction; so that Aristotle, though, on the one hand, he acknowledged only the metre as a point of comparison between the poems of Empedocles and the epics of Homer, yet, on the other hand, had characterised Empedocles as Homeric and powerful in his diction. (Poet. 1, ap. Diog. Lacrt.viu. 57.) Lucretius, the greatest of all didactic poets, speaks of him with enthusiasm, and evidently marks him as his model. (See especially Lucret. i. 727, &c.) We are indebted for the first comprehensive collection of the fragments of Em­pedocles, and of a careful collection of the testi­monies of the ancients concerning his doctrines, to Fr. W. Sturz (Empedocles Agi*ige,ntwm, Lipsiae, 1805), and lately Simon Karsten has greatly dis­tinguished himself for what he has done for the criticism and explanation of the text, as well as for the light he has thrown on separate doctrines. (Philosophorum Graecorum veterum reliquiae, vol. ii., containing Empedoclis Agrigentini Carmin. Re­liquiae^ Amstelodami, 1838.)

Acquainted as Empedocles was with the theories of the Eleatics and the Pythagoreans, he did not adopt the fundamental principles either of the one or the other schools, although he agreed with the latter in his belief in the migration of souls (Fragm. vers. 1, &c., 380, &c., 350-53, 410, &c.; comp. Karsten, p. 509, &c.), in the attempt to reduce the relations of mixture to numbers, and in a few other points. (Karsten, p. 426, 33, 428, &c., 426; compare, however, Ed. Zeller, die Philosophies der Griecfi. p. 169, &c., Tubingen, 1844.) With the Eleatics he agreed in thinking that it was im­possible to conceive anything arising out of nothing (Fragm. vers. 81, &c., 119, &c., 345, &c.; comp. Parmenid. Fragm., ed. Karsten, vers. 47, 50, 60, &c., 66, 68, 75), and it is not impossible that he may have borrowed from them also the distinction between knowledge obtained through the senses, and knowledge obtained through reason. (Fragm. 49, &c., 108; Parmenid. Fragm. 49, 108.) Aris­totle with justice mentions him among the Ionic physiologists, and he places him in very close rela­tion to the atomistic philosophers and to Anaxagoras. (Metaphys. i. 3, 4, 7, Phys. i. 4, de General, et Corr. i. 8, de Caelo, iii. 7.) All three, like the whole Ionic physiology, endeavoured to point out that which formed the basis of all changes, and to explain the latter by means of the former; but they could not, like Heracleitus, consider the coming into existence and motion as the existence of things, and rest and tranquillity as the non-existence, because they had derived from the Eleatics the conviction that an existence could just as little pass over into a non-existence, as,fece versa, the latter into the former. In order, never­theless, to establish the reality of changes, and consequently the world and its phaenomena, against the deductions of the Eleatics, they were obliged

13

EMPEDOCLES.

to reduce that which appears to us as a coming into existence to a process of mixture and separation of unalterable substances ; but for the same reason they were obliged to give up both, the Heracleitean supposition of one original fundamental power, and the earlier Ionic hypothesis of one original sub­stance which produced all changes out of itself and again absorbed them. The supposition of an origi­nal plurality of unalterable elementary substances was absolutely necessary. And thus we find in the extant fragments of the didactic poem of Em­pedocles, the genuineness of which is attested be­yond all doubt by the authority of Aristotle and other ancient writers, the most unequivocal state­ment, made with an evident regard to the argu­mentation of Parmenides, that a coming into existence from a non-existence, as well as a complete death and annihilation, are things impossible ; what we call coming into existence and death is only mixture and separation of what was mixed, and the expressions of coming into existence and de­struction or annihilation are justified only by our being obliged to submit to the usus loquendi. (Fragm. 77, &c., 345, &c.) The original and un­alterable substances were termed by Empedocles the roots of things (recrtrapa twv irdvruv pi^Wjuara, Fragm. vers. 55, &c., 74, &c.); and it was he who first established the number of four elements, which were afterwards recognized for many centuries, and which before Empedocles had been pointed out one by one, partly as fundamental substances, and partly as transition stages of things coming into existence. (Aristot. Metaphys. \. 4, 7, de Generat. et Corr. ii. 1; comp. Ch. A. Brandis, Handbucli d. Gesch. der Griech. Horn. Philos. i. p. 195, &c.) The mythical names Zeus, Hera, Nestis, and Aidoneus, alternate with the common terms of fire, air, water, and earth ; and it is of little importance for the accurate understanding of his theory, whether the life-giving Hera was meant to signify the air and Aidoneus the earth, or Aidoneus the air and Hera the earth, although the former is more probable than the latter. (Fragm. 55j &c., 74, &c.; comp. Brandis, /. c. p. 198.) As, however, the elementary substances were simple, eternal, and unalterable (Karsten, p. 336, &c.), and as change or alteration was merely the con­sequence of their mixture and separation, it was also necessary to conceive them as motionless, and consequently to suppose the existence of moving powers—the necessary condition of mixture and separation—as' distinct from the substances, and equally original and eternal. But in this manner the dynamic explanations which the earlier physio­logists, and especially Heracleitus, had given of nature, was changed into a mechanical one. In order here again to avoid the supposition of an actual coming into existence, Empedocles assumed two opposite directions of the moving power, the attractive and repulsive, the uniting and separat­ing, that is, love and hate (Net/cos, Arjpts, kotos<&i\iri, 4»tAoT77s, 'Apjuovfy, 2rop7^), as equally original and elementary (Fragm. 88, &c., 138, &c., 167, &c.; Aristot. Metaphys. i. 4; Karsten, p. 346, &c.); whereas with Heracleitus they were only different manifestations of one and the same fundamental power. But is it to be supposed that those two powers were from the beginning equally active ? and is the state of mixture, i. e. the world and its phaenomena, an original one, or was it preceded by a state in which the pure elementary

Pages
About | First

12

13

14
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.