Empedocles ĕmpĕd´əklēz [key], c.495–c.435 BC, Greek philosopher, b. Acragas (present Agrigento), Sicily. Leader of the democratic faction in his native city, he was offered the crown, which he refused. A turn in political fortunes drove him and his followers into exile. Empedocles taught that everything in existence is composed of four underived and indestructible roots, material particles identified as fire, water, earth, and air. He declared the atmosphere to be a corporeal substance, not a mere void and in the absence of the void or empty space he explained motion as the interpenetration of particles, under the alternating action of two forces, harmony and discord. Believing that motion, or change of place, is the only sort of change possible, he explained all apparent changes in quality or quantity as changes of position of the basic particles underlying the observable object. He was thereby the first to state a principle that is now central to physics.
See studies by C. E. Millerd (1980) and M. R. Wright (1981).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Philosophy: Biographies
Browse By Subject
- Earth and the Environment +-
- History +-
- Literature and the Arts +-
- Medicine +-
- People +-
- Philosophy and Religion +-
- Places +-
- Australia and Oceania
- Britain, Ireland, France, and the Low Countries
- Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Nations
- Germany, Scandinavia, and Central Europe
- Latin America and the Caribbean
- Oceans, Continents, and Polar Regions
- Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the Balkans
- United States, Canada, and Greenland
- Plants and Animals +-
- Science and Technology +-
- Social Sciences and the Law +-
- Sports and Everyday Life +-