Who is Empedocles?

Who is Empedocles?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

Empedocles WhoEmpedocles BC 494 to BC He was a philosopher and scientist who belonged to one of the mentioned families of the city of Akragas (or Agrigentum) on the southern coast of the island of Sicily between 434 BC.

Empedocles, one of the natural philosophers, was the first to use water, fire and air, which was determined as the basic substance (arkhe) by the natural philosophers before him, by adding earth and using them all together.

According to Empedocles, these four basic elements are united and separated by the power of love and discord. In other words, love and discord are also prime substances that make up matter and are used to explain changes.

He experimentally proved that air is a separate substance and partially explained the centrifugal force. His arguments about the mechanics of breathing and the mechanics of eclipses, his assertion that the Moon shines with reflected light, that plants have sex and that the Earth is spherical, and that it takes time for light to travel from one place to another show his scientistic side.

According to Empedocles, who said that blood is the main carrier of human life and the center of thinking, the basic elements came together in the blood in the most mature way. All human abilities depend on the maturity of this mixture.


Empedocles, whose family is known to be influential in the political life of the city, was also in the political arena for a while and was even offered a kingdom. But he did not accept this, he advised democracy.

He traveled around the cities of Southern Italy as a physicist, physician, orator, and priest who performed miracles and purified. The death of Empedocles is also legendary: he is said to have thrown himself into Mount Etna. This may be considered as one of the efforts to deify him. For it is more likely that Empedocles died in the Peloponnese as a political exile.

He has two works named “Peri physeos” (On Nature) and “Katharmoi” (Purifications).


The starting point of Empedocles’ teaching is, on the one hand, Parmenides’ thesis: There is no such thing as emergence and destruction. But on the other hand, Empedocles tries to explain a phenomenon that the senses show us, the appearance of coming into being and disappearing, these events.

According to him, what people call coming into being is a mixing of basic substances, and what they call extinction is the dispersion of this mixing. The basic substances, which are composed of very large pieces, did not come into being, they do not disappear, they do not change, they are like the eternal existence of Parmenides. It can be said that Empedocles was the first to introduce the concept of element, which has a very important place in the development of natural knowledge.

Element here means matter of a kind in itself, which does not change in terms of its quality, cannot be divided anymore, can only pass into various states of motion. With this understanding, Parmenides’ concept of “Being” has been made useful. According to Empedocles, these elements are four: earth, water, fire, air. According to Empedocles, these four elements are only the tools of the universe structure. The universe is built from these materials.

Since the four elements are themselves immutable substances, like Parmenides’ “Being”, no cause for action can be found in them; that is, they cannot mix with each other on their own accord, they cannot break a mixing by themselves. Therefore, in the explanation of nature, besides these four elements, a cause of movement, a motive force, is also necessary.

According to Empedocles, the reason that mixes the four main elements with each other and dissolves their mixtures is love and hate. In this understanding of Empedocles, matter and force (the cause of being) became, first of all, two separate principles.

For Empedocles, arkhe is the four elements.

Empedocles, who was also a physician, showed a close interest in the world of living things. According to him, plants are the first organisms and are alive like animals. Empedocles also has interesting observations on man: blood is the main carrier of human life and the center of thinking. Elements in the blood are mixed with each other in the most mature way. All human abilities depend on the maturity of this mixture.

According to Empedocles’ sensualist theory of knowledge, which emphasizes what the senses show as a natural scientist, we know the universe because we are the same essence with it, since we ourselves are composed of four elements, we know a being formed from the same elements.

Parmenides argued that Being exists and is material. Empedocles adopted not only this position, but also Parmenides’ basic idea, that being cannot be born or perish, because it cannot be born out of nothingness and cannot pass into non-existence.

Matter, then, is beginningless and eternal; is indestructible. On the other hand, change is an undeniable phenomenon and it is no longer tenable to dismiss change as an illusion. The only thing to do then is to introduce the phenomenon of change and the existence of movement