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The origin of Ancient Greek philosophy dates back to 585 BCE. During these times,the pythogorean influence was highly evident in Greek. It is said to have reached a climax with the works of Aristotle. However, of all presocratics, Empedocles perhaps presents us with the widest range of philosophically interesting topics. This ranges from his theory of biology, theory of perception and knowledge, and his arguments about basic physics. Born in Sicily, Empedocles a pluralist and a great philosopher, was a man of many talents. He was a politician who supported democracy despite the fact he was born of a wealthy aristocratic family, a factor that made his stand against oligarchy unexpected. Empedocles was not only a distinguished philosopher but also a famous medic. He believed in reincarnation and was a stringent vegetarian who dressed extravagantly a factor that contrasted with his preference for the simple life. As such, this paper explores critically reviews and appraises the current literature concerning the philosophy and perceptions of Empedocles which have not only had great contribution to the literal domain but also science domain.
Empedocle's thoughts and perceptions are indeed, a baffling unity-they raise concerns that can be argued as philosophical and religious. As such, it is no longer a matter of contention that natural science and philosophy should not be distinguished in the early period of Greek thought, at least down to Aristotle (Inwood 22). However, it is equally necessary to recognise that religious ideas were integral part to the philosophical enterprise as understood and perpetrated by at least, some of the presocratics of the time. Essentially, the bracing assumption, despite naïve in a way, behind the thought and perceptions of Empedocles seem to be two. One, there is only a single reality "out there" to be understood and of which admits of no significant subdivisions. Two, that when external reality is understood, one's life will profoundly be affected. In other words, his perceptions postulated that people either do or should at least live according to their understanding of what is "out there" (Inwood 22). In essence, the first assumption by Empedocles eliminates among others things, the gap between philosophy cum science and religion while the second assumption guarantees that ethics and other behavioral norms at least do not have any independent and ultimately non-philosophical foundation. As such, his assumptions not only broadened but also in a way, de-rationalized philosophy while underpinning the inspiring yet somewhat naïve unity of vision-this defined Greek philosophy from its very foundations and beginning.
Empedocles work was highly defined by the Pythagoras' ideas. In fact, he is recognised as being the first philosopher to contend that there are four primordial elements-air, water, earth, and fire (Cohen, Curd, and Reeve 18) This assertion in a way presented a statesman-like compromise between the perception and ideas of the Pythagoras who strongly defended water as the primordial substance, Heraclitus who contended that fire was the origin of everything, and Anaximenses who believed air was the primordial element. It is the ingenious combination of all these philosophical views that made Empedocles' main contribution to the understanding of the primordial element, a contentious matter that lasted for many years-as long as the Greek philosophy. Empedocles' main specialty was synthesizing and unifying perceptions and visions hence arrived at new cosmology that united the conflicting ideas of earlier philosophers such as Heraclitus and Parmenides for example, by reconciling flux and fire with "monism" (Cohen et al 40). Empedocles' conclusion was that motion and change truly existed while time reality is phenomenon that is fundamentally changeless. By so doing, he actually validated Heraclitus's and Parmenides' doctrines by combining them into a new and interesting concept, what came to be referred to as "the forces of Love and Strife".
Empedocles understanding of love and strife was not literal rather he addressed them as diametrically opposing cosmic concepts where he spoke of love as a uniting force that functions to attract and unite different things and referred strife or discord as the separating force Cohen et al 40). In essence, he was of the opinion that the world mostly exists in the intermediate level where the two forces are constantly trying to dominate each other. This is the explanation as to why the universe is characterized by constant change that explains the physical world that we live in. When force of love rules the universe, the world arrives at harmonious state with only diversity being the four elements. On the hand, when strife controls the universe, tension builds between opposites and distinct entities are revealed through the individualistic nature objects adopt.
Empedocles Response to Paramenides
Empedocles was indeed a great thinker and philosopher. This is evident from his sound response to Parmenides who maintained that real things do not change or move. In other words, Parmenides was of the idea that the world was actually static (Preus 93). This was a strong challenge to Empedocles perceptions of real things since by being a pluralist, he could not support eleactic thinking-the challenge was how to reconcile Parmenides' concepts of changelessness and multiplicity with his perception of a rapidly changing world. In this regard, Empedocles developed a model in which he outlined his four basic elements of the universe of which, they greatly shared the Parmenidean realism. In his accord, he explained that the four elements could interact and separate from each other thereby explaining the nature of the physical world we live in without violating Parmenidean most basic demands (Macauley 123).
While Parmenides and likeminded philosophers maintained that nothing like change existed in a real world, Empedocles responded by dividing the world into two: "more real and less real". In a more real world, he argued that there were only the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and tow motive forces-love and strife. Since there is neither generation nor destruction among the four elements and two forces, he concluded there was no change. In essence, he meant that "the earth in the world" remained constant meaning that a qualitative change was not possible on earth. Therefore, the four elements and two motive forces supported Parmenidean Reals (Macauley 123). However, Empedocles argument in the above assertion was that there was inherently a lower level of reality. As such, he related the world of sensory experience as belonging to this level of reality-the world we experience by seeing and hearing. His philosophy was that this sensory world is as a result of both interaction and separation of the four basic elements as dictated by force of love and strife. According to him, despite there being a change and destruction, this did not violate Parmenidean demands since the changes were not occurring at the level of "the most real things".
In my opinion, I agree with Empedocles ideas on the four element system and the two motive forces that influence the interactions of various entities of the world causing thus changes we experience in life. Also, I support his concept of two opposing forces that best explains scientific forces of repulsion and attraction. In addition, his view of primordial substances- earth, wind, water and fire can be taken to explain the three basic states of matter that lays foundation for modern science-air, liquids, and solids. Finally, do agree with his view that everything has a pre-existing origin and that nothing comes out of nothing!
Objections to Empedocles Philosophy
Empedocles ideas and beliefs present him as believer of an unheard-of double cosmogony. He presents two contrasting worlds, one of love and another of discord (Cohen et al 53). In addition, both motive forces would, suppose on a symmetrical view, account for, behold doubt various ambivalent aspects in the lives of human beings since as Empedocles argument was that they are both creative and destructive. Astoundingly, existing evidence strongly reveals Empedocles unswerving devotion to love (Cohen et al 350). As such, one strong argument against them is that despite the seemingly asymmetrical reading and intuition underpinning it, it is far much more difficult to picture how it could be used in response to Parmenideans concepts.
In addition, Empedocles' perception on reincarnation seems to conflict with laws of physics. Scholars have for many years, vehemently disputed any relationship between elemental physics and immortal-reincarnated soul. However, other philosophers like Plato in Phaedo defended him by arguing that Empedocles assertion on reincarnated soul should not be understood as immaterial (Preus 93). By and large, despite the obvious controversies surrounding this, various extant fragments prove Empedocles view in some types of postmortem survival. Nevertheless, it does not justify his belief fully rather creates a bizarre situation. Based on the physiological evidence, this has little significance and his beliefs can simply be said to be highly conjectural. For example, his belief that eating meat can result in cannibalism conflict with modern science that maintains that when an organism dies it decomposes and is broken into various components that are absorbed into the atmosphere. These objections are quite critical and strongly point out weak areas Empedocles should have clarified.
This paper critically analyzed Empedocles ideas, perceptions, and beliefs. Empedocles, pluralist, was indeed great philosopher who contributed immensely to the world of philosophy and science. He was of the opinion that the world mostly exists in the intermediate level where the two forces are constantly trying to dominate each other-love and strife. This explains why the universe is characterized by constant change. In essence, he argued that when force of love rules the universe, the world arrives at harmonious state with only diversity being the four elements. On the hand, when strife controls the universe, tension builds between opposites and distinct entities are revealed through the individualistic nature objects adopt. While to a greater degree he proved that there is a level where real things change, his belief on two contrasting worlds of love and strife and his perception of reincarnation create areas of contention in modern philosophy.