Aristotle, Empedocles, and the Reception of the Four Elements Hypothesis

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Title: Aristotle, Empedocles, and the Reception of the Four Elements Hypothesis
Authors: Crowley, Timothy J.
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/12916
Date: 25-Jan-2021
Online since: 2022-06-16T09:30:31Z
Abstract: 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.
Type of material: Book Chapter
Publisher: Brill
Start page: 352
End page: 376
Keywords: Empedoclean elementsStoicheiaOriginalityLove and strifeMoving causeEfficient causeAristotle
DOI: 10.1163/9789004443358_013
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Is part of: Harry C., Habash J. (eds.)., Brill's Companion to the Reception of Presocratic Natural Philosophy in Later Classical Thought
ISBN: 978-90-04-31817-5
This item is made available under a Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ie/
Appears in Collections:Philosophy Research Collection

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