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Doesn't he deserve credit for formulating the principle of empiricism, too? -- April

Though it can be disputed, most of modern sources credit Empedocles as the first to formulate the theory of four elements (Classical_element actually links here), which stayed the most popular (al)chemical theory for more than a thousand years. His fame as miracle worker and doctor was somewhat connected to the story of his successful action against the plague in Selinuntos, and an epidemic in Acragas (where he let a break be cut into the mountains, so that north winds could drive away unhealthy miasms from nearby marshes); he also established the Italian school of medicine, comparable to the schools of Kos and Knidos. As a note of minor interest, Empedocles theorized that the speed of light may be finite, though still too fast for us to notice the delay in its movement. He was exiled from Acragas after an aristocratic coup, and Diogenes Laertius relates two possible versions of his death: either he threw himself into Etna's crater (possibly to leave an impression of his ascent to heavens), or he died in Peloponnesos, as a refugee. (Diogenes Laertius's biography of Empedocles in Peitho's Web: [1]) -- Oop

Aristotle endorsed Empedocles?[edit]

The article states that "He maintained that all matter is made up of four Elements...water, earth, air and fire. In addition to these, he postulated something called Love (philia) to explain the attraction of different forms of matter, and of something called Strife (neikos) to account for their separation. This theory was endorsed and developed by Aristotle and remained in place until the Renaissance."

What is the basis for the claim that Aristotle endorsed this view? This seems patently false to me. In Metaphysics Book I (Chapter 4), Aristotle does give a sort-of compliment to Empedocles for having grasped (to an extent) two of the causes in nature: "matter and the source of movement" (i.e., the material and efficient causes). He also gives Empedocles credit for being the first to posit TWO (rather than just one) sources of movement. But he adds that Empedocles grasped these causes only "vaguely...and with no clearness," comparing him to a drunken brawler who goes about his fighting in an imprecise (unscientific) way. He says that Empedocles and "these thinkers do not seem to know what they say." This is not only because Empedocles has altogether failed to recognize the other causes in nature (i.e., the formal and the final causes), but also because even his use of the recognized causes is both insufficient and inconsistent.

The claim seems to be based on a gross misunderstanding of Aristotle, so I am removing it from the article.


{{Fact}} tags[edit]

It seems to me there are way too many {{Fact}} tags here; are there really doubts about all these things? Why were they put there? Is someone pressing for any old source that backs them up (e.g. Internet Encyclopedia of Phil, which has several of these claims) or should we be looking for where these claims were first made? The latter could be an interesting and valuable project, but not central enough to Wikipedia's mission to justify all these {{Fact}} tags. I'm not sure what is gained by simply including links to other internet encyclopedias to "verify" that Empedocles actually wore purple, was said to have invented rhetoric, or was said to have jumped into a volcano. As you can see from the google searches, those claims are ubiquitous enough that they are generally accurate (or at least represent long-repeated inaccurate information); what is really gained from a link to another encyclopedia making the same assertion? On the other hand, a link to whoever first said that Aristotle said that Empedocles invented rhetoric on perseus would be great, but I don't think it is "needed." It's my understanding that the {{Fact}} tag should be used when a claim is suspect, or simply not that common. But not for every single fact that isn't linked to source material -- should I put a {{Fact}} tag on this page because there is no source cited for the claim that the sun is the nearest star to earth? Now, if someone has a reason to suspect these claims are inaccurate, then by all means let's hear about it.--csloat 03:16, 28 February 2006 (UTC)

Please see Wikipedia:Verifiability and Wikipedia:Citing sources where these questions are thoroughly discussed. Jkelly 04:30, 28 February 2006 (UTC)
This sort of situation is not addressed there, to my knowledge. I don't see anything requiring citations be provided in the text of an article for well known and widely accepted facts. I don't see the point of citing other encyclopedias to "prove" that Empedocles wore purple, for example, when every encyclopedia contains that information (and the claim may be equally verifiable or unverifiable). The pages you link to indicate that when questions of verifiability are raised, published sources should be brought to settle such disputes, but I don't see such questions raised here. The above google links take you to plenty of sources to verify these claims; can we now remove the {{Fact}} tags? Or do you really insist that we cite other encyclopedias for every sentence here, most of which is easily verified in any such sources? And where do we draw the line - can you explain why there is no reason to put a {{Fact}} tag next to a sentence like "The first scientific description of fish occurs in Aristotle, who mentions various facts about 118 species." on this page? While it would be great to have a link to Aristotle on perseus there, or even just a citation, would you advocate putting {{Fact}} tags there, and would you want to see a link to another encyclopedia making the same claim?--csloat 06:06, 28 February 2006 (UTC)
Some of your Google results are mirrors of Wikipedia. We do prefer to reference secondary sources over "tertiary" ones such as other encyclopedias. It would be nice to WP:CITE that Aristophanes reference, yes. The Template:fact tags are useful pointers to places where references would be appropriate. A reference to Perseus, as you suggested, would be an aid to both the reader and future editors. Why not simply add it? Jkelly 06:16, 28 February 2006 (UTC)
If I had such links I would add them; and I definitely encourage anyone to do so. Perhaps it is from hanging around the current events pages, but to me the "fact" tags suggest that a given claim is doubted and should not be trusted until a cite is provided. I could easily add cites for other encyclopedias (true there are some wikipedia mirrors there but there are also other encyclopedia sources) but does that really improve Wikipedia in any measurable way? I'd rather see the claims cited with original (or secondary) sources than nothing, but I think I'd rather see nothing than a bunch of links to other encyclopedias that repeat information but don't really verify it.--csloat 07:00, 28 February 2006 (UTC)
We have come across a point of agreement. In our "wore purple" example, we might pay lip-service to WP:V by referencing some random university webpage that mentions the fact, but would fall far short of the improvement that actually tracking down where that bit of trivia originated and referencing that. "Empedoclephobos wrote that Empedocles was arrogant and wore purple clothes, whereas Empedoclephilos wrote that the philosopher was humble and had quite good fashion sense.", for instance. Jkelly 17:24, 28 February 2006 (UTC)
On the subject of "citation needed" tags, I was the one who originally put into the article that "there is some evidence that he actually died in Greece." I did so because that's what it said at the article on Mount Etna (though it no longer does, and I don't know who it was that put it there) and I thought the articles should be consistant. I don't know what evidence there is that he actually died in Greece. Should the statement even remain in the article?

Patricia Curd's A Presocratics Reader includes most, if not all, of the challenged facts. Someone with more skill than I could definitely feel free to put in that source and end this silly debate. 20:20, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

Empedocles demonstrated the material nature of air using a clepsydra ("water thief"). This was an extremely important early experiment and deserves mention. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:22, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

Aristotle refers to such an experiment in his Physics, but he doesn't mention Empedocles. The only reason to connect this experiment to Empedocles seems to be because he talks about clepsydras in Fragment 100 when explaining respiration. The evidence that Empedocles was the one who performed the clepsydra experiment is very weak. Singinglemon (talk) 18:35, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

i have read 2 books that talk about his theories of evolution.[edit]

i read in 2 books that empedocles had a theory of evolution also that needs to be discussed. in will durant's book he says it was primitive for today but very advanced for 2,500 yo. it included survival of the most fit or maybe survival of the most properly adapted. i am not an authority but i would love it if someone could get that stuff in here.

and philosophy is NOT the Love of Wisdom. Philo does not mean love and it did not mean love in ancient greek either. Philo means and meant Friend. so philosophy means friend of wisdom. the entire internet has it wrong. i have no idea how to use this so i hope my comments get saved. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:42, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

This article does already mention his "evolution" theory in the "Cosmogony" section. It can't really be equated with the modern theory of evolution, Empedocles was writing mythology not science, but he does describe what can be called "natural selection".
philos can be perhaps better defined as a loving friend. :) Singinglemon (talk) 22:07, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

Pausanias and Empedocles[edit]

Can we just pin things down as to whether Empedocles and Pausanias were lovers. I've had to revert edits on this three times now, I think. The line from Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 60 reads:

ἦν δ' ὁ Παυσανίας, ὥς φησιν Ἀρίστιππος καὶ Σάτυρος, ἐρώμενος αὐτοῦ

which apparently translates as:

Pausanias, according to Aristippus and Satyrus, was his eromenos.

Have I made a mistake? Naturally one would not expect Victorian translations of Diogenes Laërtius to state this explicitly. I should add that I've no particular interest in Ancient Greek homosexuality, but as I understand it, it was quite common. Singinglemon (talk) 22:27, 18 October 2008 (UTC)

You're understanding this properly. There is, I suppose, room to doubt whether Aristippus and Satyrus had good information about Empedocles' relationship, but the erastes-eromenos relationship was common in classical Greece, and what Diogenes Laertius says seems plausible. --Akhilleus (talk) 03:57, 19 October 2008 (UTC)


I will quote the previous discussion on this:

Empedocles demonstrated the material nature of air using a clepsydra ("water thief"). This was an extremely important early experiment and deserves mention. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:22, 13 February 2008 (UTC)
Aristotle refers to such an experiment in his Physics, but he doesn't mention Empedocles. The only reason to connect this experiment to Empedocles seems to be because he talks about clepsydras in Fragment 100 when explaining respiration. The evidence that Empedocles was the one who performed the clepsydra experiment is very weak. Singinglemon (talk) 18:35, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

I first heard the clepsydra story from Carl Sagan, so I don't think it's a fringe theory. It was in an episode of his science series on TV. Also check out: Simanos (talk) 13:04, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

Unlike a jstor article, Segan is not a reliable source on anything apart from astronomy, particularly not ancient philosophers or philosophy.—Machine Elf 1735 (talk) 22:23, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

An opinion on the posit "Nothing comes from Nothing"[edit]

It is noted that there was an Important idea in ancient Greek philosophy which is "Nothing comes from Nothing" and an explicit statement of this along with the further principle that nothing can pass away into nothing was found in Empedocles (490 BC - 430 BC). It is said that the third theorem of Sir Issac Newton, a great scientist explains the same idea that was expressed by Empedocles. As for the period of these two stalwarts are concerned, Sir Issac Newton belongs to 18th Century,whereas Empedocles belongs to very early century namely 490 -430 BC. It may be astonishing to note that what was advanced by a scientist in 18th century was very easily pronounced by a great Greek thinker, Empedocles in 430 BC i.e. about 2200 years ago without any sceintific instruments for his support. It is in the same breath, I am to add, the declaration of this scientific fact dates back still earlier to Empedocles. In India there was a school of thought namely "Saankya" advocated by a sage called "Kapila Munivar". He announced to the world among other Philosophical ideas that no matter can be destroyed nor be created, the very same idea as Empedocle broke to the world. A deep scrutiny of the annals of Kapila Munivar reveals that he hailed from Tamilnadu, deep South of India and in his later period went North to preach a school of thought known as "Saankya". This is very much corroborated by the name Kapila which means stark black, by the by, you may note that Tamilians are black. Hence this idea was originally permeated in Tamilnadu and a great saying still found in Tamil Saiva Siddhantha literature which goes tersly as, "Illadhu thondradhu(Nothing comes from Nothing); ulladhu sidhaiyadhu (No matter can be destroyed)" testifies to the fact. It may be deciphered, rightly therefore, that the scientific fact said above originated in the minds of Tamil sages, travelled to the teritory of Greece as a result of great deluge in the wake of upheavel of sea, along with those travelled in boats to various parts of the world from Tamilnadu and therefrom to Sir Issac Newton in the 18th century. Therefore the seed of the idea is Tamilian. Opinions by M.P.Sathiyavel Murugan, —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:56, 10 February 2011 (UTC)


If we compare the extended quote in this section with this text [2], p.81, there seems to be a significant difference, viz "in your eyes". Any comment, please? Spicemix (talk) 21:39, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

Applause! Great page![edit]

Thank you each and every one, for giving me a clear summary of what is known. Clear writing I find! Praises and praises! I love and appreciate greatly the links to the secondary sources-- I applaud your tracking to sources like Aelian and Simplicius-- and thanks for taking out the NotVeryUseful notes to "enclyclopedias". Great job, everybody! --Rednblu (talk) 14:09, 21 November 2015 (UTC)

Wasn't he born in Akragas not Agrigentum?[edit]

That is the Latin name vs Greek name. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Paolorausch (talkcontribs) 09:30, 28 May 2016 (UTC)


Russell's so-called humorous quote manifests the lanky logician's superficiality. He misses the enormous importance of Empedocles' attribution of the world's formation as due to love/strife, instead of to mind/intelligence. (talk) 19:48, 8 July 2017 (UTC)WalterShandy

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