The fifth century brought out other philosophers who
attempted to explain this very strange Eleatic world. Each accepted the
Eleatic one, but attempted to explain it in terms of the sensual
world. Empedokles, for example, took a step beyond all
He announced that he was a god. In an attempt to answer the
problems inherent in Parmenides view of reality, he announced
that he would reveal as much truth as the divine law would permit
ordinary creatures to hear. There are "four roots" of all things
he said, Zeus, Hera, Aidonis, and Nestis. In response to
Parmenedes' impossibility of the many, he stated that the many
are six: Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Love and Strife. All six make
up all that we find in the world. The supreme god, the One of
Parmenedes is only a sacred and unutterable mind. It is most
perfect when it is completely integrated under the influence of
love. During the cosmic period when the power of love is growing
there is a good deal of free play in nature. Love is a supreme
power that makes for perfection. Strife, on the other hand,
makes for imperfection. During cosmic periods when love is in
control the one emerges from the many. Love as expressed by
Greek philosophers is the most fundamental formative force.
Remember that both Hericlitus and Anaximander used the concept of
conflict and strife as the engine of change in the world. But
both are destructive in their actions. Love is the power that
compels the initiation of a creative or constructive act.
Nothing begins without a desire and love is the foundation of
desire. During cosmic periods when strife is under control the
many are produced out of the one. Strife is the source of evil.
Hericlitus and the Milesians made use of the concept of strife as
the primary cause of eternal motion, but to all early
philosophers, change is the ultimate source of evil and strife is
the ultimate source of change. Empedokles was the first to introduce love as the opposite of
strife and the source of the emergence of perfection in the world.
Empedokles is well known for his developments in medicine. In
this form he is considered to have made a contribution to
science. However, we must remember that, as basically a
pythagorean, his approach to medicine was more religious than
This would be a good time to review the developments of these
first centuries of Western civilization from our three
perspectives, science, religion, and philosophy. The gods of
Homer and Hesiod represented the powers of the universe in terms
that could be communicated by poetic genius to the people of the
period. The Milesians turned from poetic expression to develop
explanations that could base their authority on human reason
rather than poetic imagination. Out of this came the concept of
an underlying substrata out of which the world we know emerged.
As Thales said, this world was filled with gods. Gods, remember,
have always represented the powers of the universe
This description was hylozoistic, meaning all of the forces for
the generation and emergence of the world existed within the
world itself, actually within the substratum. By the time of
Anaximenes this had evolved to what Hack called a "cosmogenetic
god", or the supreme cause of the universe. Anaximenes' air,
when it was most finely dispersed was "aither", or divine fire.
As such it was boundless, as his master had taught. It was also
the source of eternal motion, a fact brought out by Hericltus who
made it the universe.
The Orphic Pythagorus recognized the authority of mathematics in
the relations of the world. He made the divine fire of
Anaximenes the number one, that which contains all of the
opposites, the odd and the even. Xenophanes distilled the ideas
further into the One God, who was boundless, and pure causation.
Parmenides showed that the application of pure reason to these
basic premises led to the inevitable conclusion that all that
falls under being could not be many, and it could not change.
Empedokles' most important contributions to philosophy were
first, the idea that what is, that is whatever we recognize as
existing in the world, must be simply mixtures of the basic
elements, earth, water, fire, and air. This is a major change in
concepts because all before him had taught that these were not
separate elements but were just elementary conditions of the
underlying substrata. And second the idea that love is the
source of all perfection in the universe.