Empedocles: Physical and Mythical Divinity

Oliver Primavesi

in The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780195146875
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:


Empedocles: Physical and Mythical Divinity


This article considers how the new finds have affected one's view of Empedocles, and suggests how interpretation of that material might help solve (or dissolve) some longstanding problems about the structure and content of Empedocles' writings. A basic account of the teachings of Empedocles would distinguish between two main components. On the one hand, there is a “Presocratic” physics, including a theory of principles, a cosmology, and a biology. On the other hand, there is a mythical law, clearly inspired by Orphic or Pythagorean legends, which imposes on guilty gods (called daimones) a punishment consisting in their transmigration through a series of mortal beings. The purpose of this article is to show that Empedocles has the habit of referring to divine entities of his physical system both in a physical and in a mythological way and that his uses of the word daimon form part of this twofold language.

Keywords: Empedocles; Presocratic physics; cosmology; biology; Pythagorean legends; daimones

Article.  16188 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Classical Philosophy

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