Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Besides being a philosopher, Empedocles was a democratic statesman, the founder of an important school of medicine, and a religious leader and reformer. He also claimed to be a god.

Empedocles was the first thinker to try seriously to reply to the Greek philosopher Parmenides. Parmenides, a great genius and the founder of logic, claimed that all that really exists is a solid sphere within which there is no differentiation, no change, and no motion. He showed that three assumptions, taken as self-evident by all investigators up to and including himself, logically entailed his worldview. The first of these assumptions was that nothing can come from nothing or disappear into nothing. Nothing just pops up or vanishes without a trace. The second was that there is fundamentally just one reality, one stuff of which particular things are modifications. The third was that whatever really exists is identical with whatever properties it really has. This last assumption was so taken for granted that no one had ever stated it explicitly, and it is doubtful whether anyone at the time could have done so, as no alternative had yet been conceived. Modern thinkers distinguish between water itself and its properties of being wet and cold, but to the early Greeks, water was simply “the cold and wet.”

Once the nature of this last assumption is grasped, it becomes obvious that Parmenides was right, for if there is only one kind of stuff, then that stuff, being...

(The entire section is 532 words.)