Jacques Maritain Center : A History of Western Philosophy Vol. I / by Ralph McInerny

Part I: Presocratic Philosophy

Chapter IV

Empedocles of Acragas

Empedocles was said to have been in his prime in 450 B.C., to have been younger than Anaxagoras, whom we shall consider next, but to have begun his philosophical career earlier. A native of Acragas in Sicily, he was very active politically, an ardent democrat to whom many wondrous feats were attributed and duly recorded by Diogenes Laertius. It is possible to argue, as Freeman has, that these anecdotes are more likely than not based on elements in the works of Empedocles rather than on independent knowledge of what he did. The same is perhaps true of the stories that he was a miracle worker.

We possess some one hundred and fifty fragments of the writings of Empedocles, and the survivals of two poems, which together originally totaled five thousand lines, the one called On Nature, the other Katharmoi or Purifications. We are, then, in a rather better position to grasp the teaching of Empedocles than of earlier thinkers. The fragments reveal a man interested both in knowledge about the natural world and in religion. A prose work on medicine, numerous tragedies and other poems were also said to have been written by Empedocles; but the assumption is that the fragments we possess are from the two poems first mentioned and that, whatever the truth about other writings, our estimate of Empedocles must be based on his On Nature and Purifications. We will see that it has been thought difficult to reconcile the contents of these two poems. We indicated in an earlier chapter that Aristotle did not have a high opinion of Empedocles as a poet, saying that about the only thing he had in common with Homer was the fact that he wrote in verse, that he should be classified as a physiologue rather than a poet, and that his verse is a poor vehicle for expressing scientific views, since it is filled with ambiguity. (Poetics, 1447b17) He is one of those, Aristotle feels, who writes in verse to conceal the fact that he has nothing to say. (Rhetoric, 1407a31) As an example of these defects, Aristotle observes that to call the sea the sweat of the earth, as Empedocles did, makes a good metaphor but is not a scientific statement. (Meteorology, 357a24)

Given this judgment, one is permitted to wonder if there is not a little irony in Aristotle's calling Empedocles the father of rhetoric as Zeno is the father of dialectic. Lucretius, of course, had a different view of Empedocles and praised both his style and his doctrine. (De rerum natura, 714ff.) Empedocles' poem On Nature is addressed to his pupil, Pausanias; Purifications addresses itself to the citizens of Acragas.

Empedocles is said to have been, with Zeno, a student of Parmenides, and Theophrastus says that he is an imitator of Parmenides, something which surely has in view the fact that both men wrote in verse. He is also said to have listened to Pythagoreans.

A. On Nature

Before turning to the intrinsic evidence of the influence of Parmenides on Empedocles, we shall examine the introductory portion of the poem, for that too reveals a debt to the great Eleatic thinker. Empedocles asks Pausanias to give ear to what he has to say that he might learn all that a man can learn. That it is difficult for a man to acquire wisdom is clear from the severe limitations on each of us; we are necessarily restricted to our own particular experience, which is ours largely by chance, and which is circumscribed by birth and our all too swift death. Moreover, the senses constantly break in upon and disrupt our thought.

For straitened are the powers that are spread over their bodily parts, and many are the woes that burst in on them and blunt the edge of their careful thoughts. They behold but a brief span of life that is no life, and, doomed to swift death, are borne up and fly off like smoke. Each is convinced of that alone which he had chanced upon as he is hurried every way, and idly boasts he has found the whole.

Pausanias is fortunate to have found the way here, but Empedocles promises him only what a man can learn. Empedocles then appeals to the gods to turn his own tongue from the madness of those who think they possess knowledge, and asks that he might "hear what is lawful for the children of a day. Speed me on my way from the abode of Holiness and drive my willing car." Fr. 4) The allusion to Parmenides' own divinely directed chariot ride seems clear.

The influence of Parmenides is seen in the content of the poem as well. "Fools! -- for they have no far-reaching thoughts -- who deem that what before was not comes into being, or that aught can rise from what in no way is, and it is impossible and unheard of that what is should perish; for it will always be, wherever one may keep putting it." Fr. 11,12) "And in the All there is naught empty and naught too full." (Fr. 13) We could ask for no clearer indication that Empedocles has accepted the argument of the way of truth as utterly inescapable. Being cannot come from nothing nor can it become nothing; the all is a plenum, with no more being here than there, and the void or non-being is impossible. Now we have seen that, for Parmenides, this argument leads to the view that the physical or natural world, the world of change and becoming, is only an illusion. If Empedocles had accepted that consequence, he would hold considerably less interest for us than he does. What gives him importance in the story we are attempting to follow is the fact that he accepts the position of Parmenides, the way of truth, and yet writes a work on nature. He does not, as we shall see, discount the testimony of the senses, nor is he willing to dismiss the world around him as an illusion that simply cannot be what it so clearly is, a world of many things which come and go. The reconciliation of this unquestioned presupposition of Ionian cosmology and the way of truth of Parmenides is Empedocles' great contribution and the surest indication that Parmenides had indeed posed a problem that later thinkers did not feel they could ignore.

First of all, Empedocles comes to the defense of the validity of sense perception.

Hold not thy sight in greater credit as compared with thy hearing, nor value thy resounding ear above the clear instructions of thy tongue; and do not withhold thy confidence in any of thy other bodily parts by which there is an opening for understanding, but consider everything in the way it is clear. (Fr. 4)

The senses are to be accepted for what they are, the paths to understanding, the openings we have on the world through which reality can come to be known by us. With this departure from Parmenides, the difficulty of the task Empedocles sets himself becomes even more acute. Trust in the senses is to be coupled with the acceptance of the austere and non-natural argument of the way of truth. How is this to be accomplished?

"Hear first the four roots of all things: shining Zeus, life-bringing Hera, Aidoneus and Nestis whose tear-drops are a well-spring to mortals." (Fr. 6) Empedocles is here assigning the four roots or elements out of which all things grow and he gives them names of gods, names which were intended to convey fire, air, earth and water. The mythological flavor of Empedocles' poem is clear here, and there has been some discussion as to which divine name was to be taken for which element. Nestis is clearly water; Zeus and Hera are probably fire and air respectively, and Aidoneus earth. (See Freeman, p.181) These roots are uncreated. (Fr. 7)

And I shall tell thee another thing. There is no nature (physis) of any of all the things that perish, nor any cessation for them of baneful death. They are only a mingling and interchange of what has been mingled. Nature is but a name given to these things by men. Fr. 8)

The things around us that come and go are not anything other than a coming together of the four roots, a coming together that cedes to separation.

But they (hold?) that when Light and Air (chance?) to have been mingled in the fashion of a man, or in the fashion of the race of wild beasts or of plants or birds, that that is to be born, and when these things have been separated once more, they call it woeful death. I follow the custom and call it so myself. (Fr. 9)

It is just here, in Diels' ordering of the fragments, that we find Empedocles repeating the argument of the way of truth. This suggests that what we call being and becoming and perishing is not truly being, becoming and perishing; for they apply to things like men and beasts and plants which are simply the coming together of the four roots or elements. This is no true becoming and such collections have no true nature (physis) of their own. What truly are, are the four elements and of them there is no becoming or perishing. We can begin to see here how Empedocles is going to eat his Parmenidean pie and keep it, too. The senses tell us that there are many things in the world, things that come and go, and in our language we speak of nature, of becoming and perishing. But these are not the things which truly are and consequently we should not take the language of change too seriously, as if it applied to being in the rich sense. What brings about what we call becoming and perishing?

I shall tell thee a twofold tale. At one time it grew to be one only out of many; at another, it divided up to be many instead of one. There is a double becoming of perishable things and a double passing away. The coming together of all things brings one generation into being and destroys it; the other grows up and is scattered as things become divided. And these things never cease continually changing places, at one time all uniting in one through love, at another each borne in different directions by the repulsion of Strife. Thus, as far as it is their nature to grow into one out of many, and to become many once more when the one is parted asunder, so far they come into being and their life abides not. But, inasmuch as they never cease changing their places continually, so far they are ever immovable as they go round the circle of existence. But come, hearken to my words, for it is learning that increaseth wisdom. As I said before, when I declared the heads of my discourse, I shall tell thee a twofold tale. At one time it grew together to be one only out of many, at another it parted asunder so as to be many instead of one; -- Fire and Water and Earth and the mighty height of Air; dread Strife too apart from these, of equal weight to each, and Love in their midst, equal in length and breadth. Her do thou contemplate with thy mind, nor sit with dazed eyes. It is she that is known as being implanted in the frame of mortals. It is she that makes them have thoughts of love and work the works of peace. They call her by the names of Joy and Aphrodite. Her has no mortal yet marked moving around among them, but do thou attend to the undeceitful ordering of my discourse. For all these are equal and alike in age, yet each has a different prerogative and its own peculiar nature, but they gain the upper hand in turn when the time comes round. And nothing comes into being besides these, nor do they pass away; for, if they had been passing away continually, they would not be now, and what could increase this All and whence could it come? How, too, could it perish, since no place is empty of these things? There are these alone; but, running through one another, they become now this, now that, and like things evermore. (Fr. 17)

This lengthy passage contains the nub of Empedocles' cosmology. We now learn that, besides fire, air, earth and water, there are two other principles, the causes of their coming together to form beings and of their separation in the destruction of those things. There seem to be opposite poles at one of which love has collected the elements together in a whole or one, at the other of which strife has driven apart into a many. There is a continuous shuttling back and forth between these two extremes in a cosmic cycle that is ever repeated. This cycle does not entail that being, the four elements, change, for they are ever the same throughout the cycle. This, we have seen, is Empedocles' way of accepting the strictures of Parmenides. Nothing really real comes to be or ceases to be but only compounds of the things that really are. Empedocles further observes that the process itself is unchanging. We have, then, overtones of Heracitus as well as of Parmenides. What is more, it is difficult to avoid being reminded of Anaximander when we read Empedocles' description of the way in which what we call beings arise. Notice that Empedocles draws our attention to the "undeceitful ordering of his words," as opposed doubtless to the goddess' deceptive ordering of words when she speaks to Parmenides of the world of nature. The principles of Hate and Love differ in this, that Hate is outside the elements whereas Love is in them, though both are of equal weight with fire, air, earth and water. And, Love, while it is described as that which men name as in themselves, is described, as is Strife, in bodily terms; both have length and breath. When the elements are brought together by Love to form a one, we find yet another instance of affinity with Parminides. "But he was equal on every side and quite without end, spherical and round, rejoicing in his circular solitude." (Fr. 28) This notion that the one brought about by the influence of Love is spherical is repeated in many other fragments. Strife is excluded from this sphere, doubtless explaining the earlier description of it as outside. Somehow or other, Strife begins to work its way into the sphere which is described in personal terms as a god.

But when Strife was grown great in the limbs of the god and sprang forth to claim his prerogatives, in the fulness of the alternate time set for them by the mighty oath . . . for all the limbs of the god in turn quaked. (Fr. 30,31)

This conjures up the image of the breaking up of the sphere by Strife and the consequent dispersal of the elements, capable, however, of lesser comings-together which produce the things of our sense experience. Before seeing a cosmogony in this disruption of the sphere, we might point out that the oath of Love and Strife seems to introduce a seventh element into Empedocles' picture of ultimate explanations. The echo of Anaximander is here, too, of course, and with it a mythological element which seems to go contrary to Empedocles' assertion that he is simply describing the way things have to be; the oath may be a metaphorical expression of this natural necessitation, but it is a factor that has been the occasion of no little discussion.

Empedocles' doctrine as to how the world we are in came to be constituted by the disruption of the sphere has not come down to us in the fragments, although ancient writers have things to say on the subject. From them we learn that air was first separated off from the sphere, then fire which hardened the air thus forming the outer sphere of our world which is half fire and causes day, the other mainly air and the cause of night. Earth was separated off and retains a central position in the cosmos because of the whirling movement of the heavens, kept in place, Aristotle suggests, in the way water stays in a swung bucket. Water is squeezed out of the earth. All this happens by chance, Empedocles insists. (Fr. 53)

Empedocles has a good deal to say about how living things arose. The following passage from Aetius indicates how strange Empedodes' doctrine was.

Empedocles held that the first generations of animals and plants were not complete, but consisted of separate limbs not joined together; the second, arising from the joining of these limbs, were like creatures in dreams; the third was the generation of whole-natured forms; and the fourth arose no longer from the homoeomerous substances such as earth or water, but by generation, in some cases as the result of the condensation of their nourishment, in others because feminine beauty excited the sexual urge; and the various species of animals were distinguished by the quality of the mixture in them . . . . . (Diels, A72; Kirk and Raven)

We have, in the fragments, some indication of these various stages. "The kindly earth received in its broad funnels two parts of gleaming Nestis out of the eight, and four of Hephaistos (fire). So arose white bones divinely fitted together by the cement of proportion." (Fr. 96)

And the earth, anchoring in the perfect harbours of Aphrodite (Cyprus), meets with these in nearly equal proportions, with Hephaistos and Water and gleaming Air -- either a little more of it, or less of them and more of it. From these did blood arise and the manifold forms of flesh. (Fr. 98)

We are asked to notice the influence of the Pythagorean notion of proportion or harmony in this description of the formation of bone, flesh and blood by the coming together of the elements. Once these have been explained, the existence of limbs seems accounted for, and Empedocles says "Solitary limbs wandered seeking for union. (Fr. 58) Or, yet more graphically, "On it (the earth) many heads sprung up without necks and arms, wandered bare and bereft of shoulders. Eyes strayed up and down in want of foreheads." (Fr. 57) These surrealistic scenes answer to the first stage mentioned by Aetius. The second stage is covered by other fragments. "But as divinity was mingled still further with divinity, these things joined together as each might chance, and many other things besides them continually arose." (Fr. 59) Empedocles tells of many handed creatures (Fr. 60) and of:

Many creatures with faces and breasts looking in different directions were born; some, offspring of oxen with faces of men, while others, again, arose as offspring of men with the heads of oxen, and creatures in whom the nature of women and men was mingled, furnished with sterile parts. (Fr. 61)

Aristotle suggests that successful compounds survived, others perished.

Wherever, then everything turned out as it would have if it were happening for a purpose, there the creatures survived, being accidentally compounded in a suitable way; but where this did not happen, the creatures perished and are perishing still, as Empedocles says of his 'man-faced ox-progeny.' (Physics, II, 8, 198b29)

Fragment 63 seems to describe the third stage mentioned by Aetius, and, of course, the fourth stage is covered by all the fragments in which Empedocles is speaking of the world as we know it.

Empedocles' explanation of how sensation takes place has always occasioned comment. "For it is with earth that we see earth, and water with water, by fire destroying fire; by love do we see love, and hate by grievous hate." (Fr. 109) We perceive what is outside us through the same thing within us, so that perception involves like answering to like. Moreover, Empedocles speaks of things as giving off a stream of particles which are picked up by the same element within us in sensation. "Know that effluences flow from all things that have come into being." Fr. 89; Burnet) Plutarch tells us that Empedocles saw this as an eroding process the term of which was the destruction of the thing from which the effluences flow. This theory of knowledge would seem to entail that we ought to get into the presence of the right things in order that their effluences might flow into us and transform us. Fr. 106) We saw earlier Fr. 4) that the senses provide an opening for understanding. All knowledge seems to involve the response of like to like; to know is to become what we know, in what would seem to be a physical change and, consequently, a resultant physical resemblance.

For, if, supported on thy steadfast mind, thou wilt contemplate these things with good intent and faultless care, then shalt thou have all these things in abundance throughout thy life, and thou shalt gain many others from them. For these things grow of themselves into thy heart, where is each man's true nature. But if thou strivest after things of another kind, as it is the way with men that ten thousand sorry matters blunt their careful thoughts, soon will these things desert thee when the time comes round; for they long to return once more to their own kind; for know that all things have wisdom and a share of thought. Fr. 110)

Somehow one retains possesion of what he has learned by contemplation; distraction leads to the escape of what is gotten by knowledge back to like things outside of man. It is not surprising, on this explanation of thought, to learn that all things have a share of thought; this is repeated in another fragment. "Thus have all things thought by fortune's will . . . ." ( Fr.103) Indeed, what we call thought is identified with the flow of blood. "(The heart), dwelling in the sea of blood that runs in opposite directions, where chiefly is what men call thought; for the blood round the heart is the thought of men." (Fr. 105) Both sensation and thought are explained in a purely materialistic fashion, then; knowledge is picking up the particles of things which flow ceaselessly from them until they are destroyed. By the same token, distraction can cause what we have learned to seep from us. As for blood as thought, Theophrastus conjectures that this was chosen because it is in the blood that the elements are especially blended.

Empedocles had begun his poem on nature with a somber description of the evanescence of the life of man, the brief span of time allotted to him, his being buffeted hither and thither, until all too soon his life is snuffed out. While this description is by way of preparing Pausanias for the recognition that wisdom has hitherto gone undiscovered by man, Empedocles will promise to teach only what a man can learn. Fragment 111 suggests that Empedocles thought the working of marvels to be among such objects of learning, and his theory of knowledge would seem to lend itself rather easily to magical interpretations. However, the note we want to end on here, one which provides a bridge to the consideration of Empedocles' other poem, is that our Sicilian wise man has such a view of human existence that we could expect him to seek consolation somewhere to offset the chancey aspects of our existence. This is something that he seems to have done in his other poem.

B. Purifications

We have mentioned earlier that this poem is addressed to Empedocles' fellow citizens of Acragas. Approximately one-third of the fragments of Empedocles are thought to be survivals of this poem, so that we have somewhat less to go on than we had in discussing the other work. What appears to be the opening passage has its startling aspects.

Friends that inhabit the great town looking down on the yellow rock of Acragas, up by the citadel, busy in goodly works, harbors of honor for the stranger, men unskilled in meanness, all hail. I go about among you an immortal god, no mortal now, honored among all as is meet, crowned with fillets and flowery garlands. Straightway, whenever I enter with these in my train, both men and women, into the flourishing towns, is reverence done me; they go after me in countless throngs, asking of me what is the way to gain; some desiring oracles, while some, who for many a weary day have been pierced by the grievous pangs of all manner of sickness, beg to hear from me the word of healing. (Fr. 112)

Empedocles had a reputation for being arrogant, and it is not unlikely that the view was based on such passages as this. His modesty is superhuman. "But why do I harp on these things, as if it were any great matter that I should surpass mortal, perishable men?" (Fr. 113) Empedocles goes on to explain how it is that he is immortal.

There is an oracle of Necessity, an ancient ordinance of the gods, eternal and sealed fast by broad oaths, that whenever one of the daemons, whose portion is length of days, has sinfully polluted his hands with blood, or followed strife and forsworn himself, he must wander thrice ten thousand seasons from the abodes of the blessed, being born throughout the time in all manners of mortal forms changing one toilsome path of life for another. For the mighty Air drives him into the Sea, and the Sea spews him forth on the dry Earth; Earth tosses him into the beams of the blazing sun, and he flings him back to the eddies of Air. One takes him from the other, and all reject him. One of these I now am, an exile and a wanderer from the gods, for that I put my trust in insenate strife. (Fr. 115)

An exile from the gods due to a lapse, Empedocles is rejected in turn by each of the elements -- rejections which of course involve the taking on of different and varying forms of life. "For I have been ere now a boy and a girl, a bush and a bird and a dumb fish in the sea. (Fr. 117) A god, Empedocles has fallen from a state of honor and bliss (Fr. 119) that make the earthly honors of which he is the recipient (Fr. 112) pallid things indeed, and scant consolation for what he has lost.

Empedocles' description of himself as a fallen god making retribution for a past fault by a cycle of incarnations finds its parallel in the view that all men are now in a fallen condition which calls for purification in order that they might escape from it. Indeed, Empedocles is often interpreted as uttering a fact common to all men when he speaks of himself as a fallen daimon, so that transmigration, the cycle of incarnations, is not his personal affliction but the common lot. In one fragment he seems to describe a golden age prior to the alliance with strife which has brought about the need for the thrice ten thousand seasons of wandering through various forms of life.

Nor had they any Ares for a god nor Kudoimos, no nor King Zeus nor Kronos nor Poseidon, but Kupris as Queen. Her did they propitiate with holy gifts, with painted figures and perfumes of cunning fragrancy, with offerings of pure myrrh and sweet-smelling frankincense, casting on the ground libations of brown honey. And the altar did not reek with pure bull's blood, but this was held in the greatest abomination among men, to eat the goodly limbs after tearing out the life. (Fr. 128)

The golden age is ended by the eating of the flesh of animals, and Empedocles seems to adopt many of the taboos we have seen to have been part of Pythagoreanism. Kupris here is Aphrodite or Love, and Empedocles seems to be describing what is called the reign of love in the poem on nature. At this time the kinship of man with all life -- another Pythagorean view -- was recognized. "For all things were tame and gentle to man, both beasts and birds, and friendly feelings were kindled everywhere." (Fr. 130) We remember that Empedocles attributes his own fall to putting his trust in strife; the god Ares, absent from the golden age, can be taken to stand for strife and, to draw a parallel between what Empedocles says in the Purifications and in On Nature. With strife, dissolution enters in and we have a descent from unity and wholeness.

Empedocles has some things to say about divinity which deserve attention; he himself does not think it a small matter what view men have of the gods. "Blessed is the man who has gained the riches of divine wisdom; wretched he who has a dim opinion of the gods in his heart." (Fr. 132) Now, God is not something which can be grasped by the senses. "It is not possible for us to set God before our eyes, or to lay hold of him with our hands, which is the broadest way of persuasion that leads into the heart of man." (Fr. 133) We have already seen how the senses are openings into man's understanding; here Empedocles suggests that there is another way to wisdom. Since man cannot attain knowledge of divinity from the things around him in any direct way, there must be some other mode of access. God is not like any of the things we encounter in the world around us.

For he is not furnished with a human head on his body, two branches do not sprout from his shoulders, he has no feet, no swift knees, nor hairy parts; but he is only a sacred and unutterable mind flashing through the whole world with rapid thoughts. (Fr. 134)

This description bears a remarkable similarity to the description of the sphere of being during the reign of love, contained in a frag ment thought to belong to the poem On Nature. "Two branches do not spring from his back, he has no feet, no swift knees, no fruitful parts; but he was spherical and equal on every side." (Fr. 29) Such parallels make it quite likely that Empedocles is striving for a unity of thought in these two poems, the first of which speaks of the world, the second of man's relation to reality. It is man's misdeeds which disrupt the unity of things and bring him into his present sorry state. Crimes of bloodshed, not only of man against man, but the slaying and devouring of animals, cry out for punishment and man is punished. Father slays son, son father. The consumption of animals, too, leads to impurity. "Ah, woe is me that the pitiless day of death did not destroy me ere ever I wrought evil deeds of devouring flesh with my lips." (Fr. 139) The picture of the dissolution of the sphere formed by love, when strife waxes strong in it and separates the elements bringing into being our present cosmos, is paralleled by man's fall from a state of innocence in a lost golden age, the commission of crimes which leads to the soul's migration through various forms of life. There is an escape for man from the cycle of incarnations just as our cosmos must give way once more to the reign of love. When the soul has made the rounds of forms of life, it reaches the state in which Empedocles, the immortal, finds himself.

But, at the last, they appear among mortal men as prophets, songwriters, physicians, and princes; and thence they rise up as gods exalted in honor, sharing the hearth of the other gods and the same table, free from human woes, safe from destiny, and incapable of hurt. (Fr. 146, 147)

Finally, the soul is set free from the wheel of birth and enjoys a life of bliss with the gods, where the sorrows of this life can no longer touch it.

There are, of course, great difficulties in reconciling the fragments of the two Empedoclean poems that have come down to us. In the first, the view of life and knowledge that is expressed seems to reduce them both to the material elements out of which they arise. Thought, we remember, was referred to the movement of blood about the heart. In the Purifications on the other hand, the soul comes to the body as to its exile; it is a fugitive from the realm of the gods and must pass through a cycle of birth, until it reaches the stage occupied by Empedocles himself, after which there is a transition to a life of bliss with the immortals once more.

Empedocles is under a number of influences and he responds to each of them. He accepts the Parmenidean way of truth, and yet finds a way to account for the validity of sensation and the reality of the world the senses report. With Parmenides he rejects the Pythagorean notion of the void or non-being, but the Pythagorean notion of harmony or proportion is employed by Empedocles; what is more, the taboos of the Pythagorean society find their counterpart in Empedocles. Fragment 141 even warns us about beans. There is certainly an echo of Anaximander in the description of the becoming of the things we sense, and the Heraclitean notion of the unchangeability of the ceaseless change of reality from one stage to its opposite is reflected in the alternating reigns of Love and Strife. Xenophanes seems to be exerting an influence in the negations Empedocles makes about divinity.

We have in Empedocles, then, a kind of summation of what has gone before. There is the linking of the scientific and religious motifs of philosophy in his two poems, a great sensitivity to what he feels is valuable in his predecessors, but no slavish adherence to previous positions. If he learns from everyone, he seems to do so by way of assessment, rejecting some things, accepting others. For the moment, we would stress his way of continuing to account for the natural world despite the grave dilemma posed by the Parmenidean way of truth. Empedocles attempts to bypass the difficulty by beginning with a multiplicity of elements which are truly beings and consequently do not become nor perish.

When we speak of becoming and ceasing to be we are not speaking of things which truly are, but of the things of our sense experience. Since they are not truly beings, we do not violate the Parmenidean logic even when we say, as doubtless we must, that they come to be and cease to be. The further question of the relation of Empedocles' views to earlier mythological doctrines -- a point much stressed by Cornford -- and to Orphicism is not one we shall discuss now. Later, when we look back over the terrain of Presocratic philosophy, we shall try to exhibit the relevance of the questions we raised in our opening chapter. For the present, we must now turn to the attempt of Anaxagoras to meet the difficulty posed for natural philosophy by Parmenides' way of truth.

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