From Heraclitus to the Sophists
Parmenides’ work was a major breakthrough that con- sisted in separating a single, integral, and eternal exist- ence from the area of appearance where we encoun- ter multiplicity and change. This separation naturally evoked controversy and the pursuit of harmony between them. One of the ﬁ rst signiﬁ cant reactions came from the scholar, Empedocles (492 – 432), in whose person- ality meets the reputation of a major poet, magician (“thaumaturge”), physician, politician, and soothsayer. He came from Acragas (Argigentum), a Greek colony in Sicily, supposedly from a wealthy family, and he could aff ord to pay a dowry to the Acragas’ maidens. He is also attributed as having performed miracles, exceptional healing deeds, and pro-democratic political activity. Per- haps most interesting is that in the surviving fragments, he declares himself a god who has committed a sin and 48 fallen from a blissful state to a cycle of reincarnation to be puriﬁ ed. This aspect of his work obviously became the target of legends and anecdotes, especially concern- ing the mysterious circumstances of his death. For our purposes, it is interesting that Empedocles’ fragments point to a Pythagorean inﬂ uence. In addi- tion, Empedocles draws from Parmenides and responds to Ionian thinking. This tradition attributed two writ- ings, On Nature, and, Puriﬁ cations, to Empedocles. The treatise, On Nature, is usually characterised as cosmo- logical and cosmogonic writing, which also deals with the ontological and epistemological consequences of Parmenides’ thought. In contrast, Puriﬁ cations, should have been more focused on issues...
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