Empedocles an ancient philosopher of Agrigentum, "distinguished himself by his knowledge of natural history and medicine, and his talents for philosophical poetry. It is generally believed that he perished in the crater of Atna. Some suppose him to have been a disciple of Pythagoras or Aichytas (Diog. Laert. 8:54 sq.); others, of Parmenides. He cannot have been an immediate scholar of the first, inasmuch as Aristotle (Met. 1:3) represents him as contemporary with, but younger than Anaxagorar, and because he appears to have been the master of Corgias. His philosophy, which he described in a didactic poem, of which only fragments have come down to us, combined the elements of various systems, most nearly approaching that of Pythagoras and Heraclitus, but differing from the latter, principally,
1. Inasmuch as Empedocles more expressly recognizes four elements, earth, water, air, and fire: these elements (compare his system, in this respect, with that of Anaxagoras) he affirmed not to be simple in their nature, and assigned the most important place to fire.
2. Besides the principle of concord (φιλία), opposed to that of discord (νεῖκος) (the one being the source of union and good, the other of their opposites), he admitted into his system necessity also, to explain existing phenomena. To the first of these principles he attributed the original composition of the elements. The material world (σφαῖρος, μῖγμα) he believed, as a whole, to be divine, but in the sub lunar portion of it he detected a considerable admixture of evil and imperfection. He taught that at some future day all things must again sink into chaos. He advanced a subtle and scarcely intelligible theory of the active and passive affections of things (comp. Plato, Menon. ed. Steph. page 76, C. D.; Arist. De Gener. et Corr. 1:8; Fraym. ap. Sturz. 5:117), and drew a distinction between the world as presented to our senses (κὀσμος αἰσθητός), and that which he presumed to Le the type of it, the intellectual world (κόσμος νοητός). He looked for the principle of life in fire, admitting, at the same time, the existence of a Divine Being pervading the universe. From this superior intelligence he believed the daemones to emanate, to whose nature the human soul is allied. Man is a fallen daemon. There will be a return to unity, a transmigration of souls, and a chancre of forms. The soul he defined to consist in a combination of the four elements (because cognition depends upon the similarity of the subject and object), and its seat he pronounced to be principally the blood" (Tennemann, Manual Hist. Philippians § 106). Lewes differs from all other historians respecting the place occupied by Empedocles, making his system to include elements from the Pythagorean, Eleatic, Heraclitic, and Anaxagorean systems (History of Philosophy, Lond. 1867, 2 volumes, 8vo, 1:89 sq.). See Sturz, Empedocles Agrigentinus, De Vita et Philo: ophia ejus exposuit, Carminum Reliquias er Antiquis Scriptoribus collegit, recensuit, illustraiit Fr. Guil. Sturz (Lips. 1805, 8vo); J.G. Neumanni Pror. de Empedocle Philosopho (Viteb. 1790, fol.); Lommatzsch, Die Weisheit des Emped. (Berlin, 1830); Stein, Emped. Agrigent. fragmnenta (Bonn, 1852); Winnefeld, Die Philosophie des Emped. (Rastadt, 1862); Steinhart, in Ersch und Gruber, Alygem. Encyklop. s.v. Empedocles.