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- PublicationAristotle, Empedocles, and the Reception of the Four Elements Hypothesis(Brill, 2021-01-25)In this paper I discuss the meaning and significance of Aristotle’s claim that Empedocles “was the first to speak of the four so-called elements of the material kind” (Metaph. I.4, 985a32). I argue that this claim tells us a great deal about the reception of the four elements hypothesis, i.e., the hypothesis that that fire, air, water, and earth are the elements of bodies. Firstly, it indicates that the hypothesis is a familiar one among Aristotle’s contemporaries. Secondly, the fact that Aristotle highlights the priority of Empedocles is evidence that Empedocles’ priority was not well known to his contemporaries. I suggest, moreover, that we should not presume that it was well known to Aristotle’s contemporaries that Empedocles held the four elements hypothesis. Empedocles’ theory is best understood as a version of a view that had become popular already by Plato’s time.
- PublicationReview of John Dillon, The Heirs of Plato: A Study of the Old Academy (347-274 BC)(Blackwell Publishing, 2004-04-01)In The Heirs of Plato John Dillon explores the development of the Academy in the seventy years after Plato's death in 347 bc, the period generally known as the ‘Old Academy’. This period of ancient philosophy has suffered much neglect, due mainly to the poverty of the surviving evidence, but also, in part, due to the perception of the Old Academy's major figures as philosophically sterile followers of Plato. Dillon argues that there is sufficient secondary evidence for a coherent reconstruction of the philosophical activities of Plato's immediate successors; and, furthermore, that their activities merit our serious attention.
- PublicationReview of G.E.R. Lloyd, In the Grip of Disease: Studies in the Greek Imagination(Taylor & Francis (Routledge), 2004-12)This book is an ambitious attempt to chart the impact of ideas about disease, its provenance and treatment, upon all facets of the Greek imagination, from the Archaic to the Graeco‐Roman period. The scope is truly impressive: Lloyd moves nimbly between literature and historiography to philosophy, religion, and politics, as well as medical theory itself.
- PublicationAristotle's 'So-Called Elements'(Brill Academic Publishers, 2008-01-01)Aristotle's use of the phrase τὰ καλούμενα στοιχεῖα is usually taken as evidence that he does not really think that the things to which this phrase refers, namely, fire, air, water, and earth, are genuine elements. In this paper I question the linguistic and textual grounds for taking the phrase τὰ καλούμενα στοιχεῖα in this way. I offer a detailed examination of the significance of the phrase, and in particular I compare Aristotle's general use of the Greek participle καλούμενος (-η, -ον) in other contexts. I conclude that his use of the phrase τὰ καλούμενα στοιχεῖα does not carry ironical or sceptical connotations, and that it ought to be understood as a neutral report of a contemporary opinion that the elements of bodies are fire, air, water, and earth. I leave aside the question as to whether or not Aristotle himself endorses this opinion.
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- PublicationThe Musical Man and the Bronze Statue: Aristotle's Examples in Physics I,7(Faculty of Arts, University College Dublin, 2000-09-01)In the first book of the Physics, Artistotle is concerned with the principles of natural philosophy, or more specifically, with the principles of change; for this is the common characteristic of natural phenomena, viz, that they are in a constant state of change or alteration. Having customarily begun with a discussion of the views of his predecessors - the Prescoratics Parmenides, Melissus, Anazimander, Empedocles, and Anazagoras, as well as Plato - in Chapter 5 Artistotle concludes that they all share the view that the principles must be contraries (188a19).